Don’t bomb Syria. Here’s why:
1) What problem will it solve?
It won’t stop terrorists – they’re already here. It won’t stop ISIS – just as it didn’t stop Al Qaeda, which just morphed into something else. Anyway – the actual problem is Saudi Arabia.
2) “We have do do something!”
Fine. Build a wall, fence it off, let it knaw itself to death. The main difficulty here, again, is that the main problem is Saudi Arabia – i.e. if you wall it off, properly wall it off, then you’ll need to account for the commensurate kick-off in oil prices. But you’d have to do that accounting anyway, if you start a war in Syria.
And the other difficulty, you say, is humanitarian. What about all the people we fence in. Well, I expect they’d prefer to be bombed. Alternatively, you could just open Europe’s borders. Oh.
3) Who are you actually going to bomb?
See “1)”. What, specifically, are you trying to eradicate? And how will you verify you’ve done it? You can bomb fundamentalists but you can’t bomb fundamentalism.
4) How will you know when to stop bombing?
You’re going to lose. The “win” here is Assad retaining control of Syria. That’s arguably a win, relatively speaking, for the territory of Syria, but it doesn’t do anything about what you think you’re bombing, which is fundamentalist terrorism. You’ll be needing to bomb, say, Libya (again) next, to continue what you started. Then Morocco. There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.
5) What evidence would ever be provided to convince you not to bomb?
What if all the terrorists are still Belgians from Morocco? Or Frenchies from Algeria? Is it because you didn’t bomb hard enough? What about when they’re revealed as Saudi-sponsored?
6) You’re just a massive lefty
No I’m not. Things worth bombing are discrete regimes with an enclosed singular purpose, whose eradication would be verifiable, whose threat is direct and mortal to our country itself.
And also, I’d quite like to bomb individual terrorists. Pot-shots. Fuck ’em. Anyway, I expect we’ve been doing that for years – what’s that you say? You weren’t offered stories about it to read in the papers? Oh.
But anyway I don’t at all trust Dave to do pot-shots like that openly, for and of itself – it has to be a Grand Stategic Adventure for the Greater Glory. A Campaign. This is what’s on the table. Aggrandisement of politicians. And this is bollocks.
Also – it’s possible to not bomb Syria and for Corbyn & Stop The War etc. to be utter mongs at the same time. Shocking, I know.
[Update : I’ve tried a new experiment – un-muting a promoted tweet a/c I’d previously muted as per below. Their promoted tweets started appearing again pretty much straight away. Which seems to confirm the whole approach of muting not blocking]
Twitter’s ‘promoted tweets’ are a gimpfarm, right? Right. Leaving aside the usual dumb-mute defence of “but .. you might miss out on a commercial opprtunity that you’re interested in!“, the Twitter ad model & monetization is particularly crass, like the inherent clumsiness of radio ads – changing the channel doesn’t really work in what is essentially a linear feed of information, and there’s no handy AdBlocker (without which the whole interweb itself would be completely unusable).
[Disclaimer : in the interests of not just making a childish demand to receive services for free, personally I’d far rather simply pay. (a) I then cease to be being sold commercially myself – my own data – if you can’t see where to pay for the product then you ARE the product; and (b) you can easily do it anonymously with anon credit cards. I’m also aware of the irony of WordPress inserting random ads all around this blog post.]
Anyway, you’re still reading this at all, so I assume you’re interested in killing off promoted tweets somehow. Fine. Long story short, there are lots of things you’d think might work, and one solution that actually might work. Don’t block them (there’s no point), Do chew them out (for the LOLZ), and Do mute the accounts (as it appears to work).
1. I can just block them, right?
*bzzzzt* Wrong! For a start, you don’t block tweets, you block accounts. And anyway, it simply doesn’t work. You can block accounts which send promoted tweets OK, it just doesn’t make any difference to their promoted tweets – they get through in any case.
This assertion is easy, if a bit tedious, to verify – just try it. Block a promoted-tweeter, and then just wait until another one of their promoted tweets appears. Which it will, if they send one at you.
2. What if I can contrive them to block me?
Good thinking. This is supposed to stop you, the blockee, being able at all to view anything of them, the blocker, right?
Yes – except for promoted tweets. Obvs. Duh. If you are blocked by a promoted tweeter then it, as per “1.” above, simply makes no difference – their promoted tweets get through to you in any case.
This is a bit trickier for you to verify, as involves you managing to get a promoted tweeter to block you and then waiting until they promoted-tweet at you again. I’ve managed it a few times myself (mainly by pissing them off enough with the #OTAPTTFOBERTTTCTM gambit as per below), and it definitely confirms this point. See below – the LHS is a promoted tweet I got from the account who, as per the RHS, had already blocked me.
3. But I don’t get promoted tweets on a 3rd-party Twitter client
Correct. You don’t. This is one potential solution. The main problem is just the basic quality of Twitter experience.
3rd-party Twitter clients rely on the public Twitter API – a service which Twitter elect to provide, to enable independent developers to make apps etc. for Twitter users. The original aim for Twitter being just to grow their social media presence as much as possible. (More apps, more users).
And the API helps us, the poor beleaguered users, because 3rd-party apps can elect to simply not download promoted tweets. You don’t see promoted tweets in Janetter/Tweetbot/etc because that programs simply chooses not to poll them from the Twitter server. YAY!! #zomg
However – now, for Twitter, the commercial game has changed. Twitter aren’t a small kooky meeja startup any more – they have shareholders, and tedious meetings where words like “asset leverage” get used. So instead of trying to just grow-grow-grow, users now need to be productive for the company as well as merely being extant.
So Twitter are somewhat less benevolent with API developments than they used to be. Desktop apps are OK – still – for how long, who knows – but mobile apps are becoming unusable – for the following reason.
One of the simplest ways Twitter can ramp down the party of free 3rd-party API access to tweet data, is just incrementally to reduce the rate at which those 3rd-party apps can access it. Don’t kill them off, but choke them down quietly so no-one notices. And right now, IMHO this has already rendered 3rd-party mobile Twitter apps unusable. [Disclaimer : I’ve only tried on Android]. “Unusable” means the refresh rate – you get X pings to the API per-15-minutes or so, and when they’re gone they’re gone. If you want Twitter to refresh live, as I do, then you very quickly use up your allocated server pings, and you just sit there for many minutes waiting for a few tweets to emerge from the hundreds that may be passing. And this is especially noticeable if you back-to-back it against the regular Android Twitter app (which has no such refresh-rate limit) – it’s an utterly different, and better, experience than the 3rd-party app case.
(BTW this goes for all 3rd-party apps. It’s nothing to do with their own features and foibles; it’s a single issue they all face, of the single server-side API they’re all pointing at.)
So you can use 3rd-party apps to dodge promoted tweets. But (a) the effectiveness of this on mobile appears to have been crippled by Twitter via the side-route of the effective refresh limit (making the thing as unusable as it is with promoted tweets in place), and (b) we have cause to think this will probably get inflicted on desktop apps at some point also. Because monetization.
4. Can’t we just fight the commercial aspect head-on?
The customer is king, right?
Well. Twitter’s commercial model for promoted tweets works like this. You, a promoter, take out a contract for a certain amount, e.g. $2000; things happen, e.g. tweets are promoted, ads are posted etc., which incrementally reduces your contract balance. And when it’s at zero, your tweets stop being promoted, until you buy another bundle.
(Note: this is relatively hard to verify, from public data. Twitter are actively reticent, as it’s straightforward commercial-competitive data; and I infer there’s a term in their contracts preventing clients disseminating much info. I did have some links to illustrate all this, but either (a) stupidly I have lost them, or (b) they’re dead.)
So what, specifically, costs money to the promoter? Promoting a tweet itself, clearly; and also, various adjoints to that :
- If someone responds to your promoted tweet
- If someone RTs it
- If someone follows you directly after it
.. and so on. In each of these cases, these actions will chip a bit off your outstanding promotion balance.
However – it turns out that ANY response to a promoted tweet counts. ANY response. A blank space; random characters; active abuse. You can verify this relatively easily by just looking at some responses to some promoted tweets; I’m not the only one who’s figured this out, apparently, as quite often you see people just pinging back with random letters. (As distinct from just generic “please go away” responses).
How much does this cost the promoted tweeter? Well, typically (under the caveat of what public info on all this is available, as per note above), it’s about $0.10-$1 or so. I mean, any response you make to a promoted tweet will cost them about that much money off their current promotion balance.
SO – in the interests of making a proactive commercial point, to try and drive tweet promotion down as a remunerative ad activity, and also because I’m basically a bit of a wanker, I myself have decided to take this head-on. Any promoted tweet I get, I reply to with “Fuck off. #OTAPTTFOBERTTTCTM”. Which stands for “Operation ‘Tell All Promoted Tweets To Fuck Off Because Each Response To Their Tweet Costs Them Money'”. Catchy, no? BTW you can program this as a shortcut into the standard Android keyboard – in my case, all I actually type is “fo”, which auto-fills to the above kickback.
You can easily “verify” = spectate on this, just on the hashtag #OTAPTTFOBERTTTCTM. Sometimes there’s not a lot on display, but this is because I delete all my tweets every night automatically (a separate story), so I might not have got around to cussing anybody out at the particular time of day you check it out. Soz.
[Editor’s note – not sure what’s going on with Twitter search, but right now the #OTAPTTFOBERTTTCTM search returns loads of results on the native Android interface but none on the native web interface.]
5. None of this sounds especially helpful
Wait for it. WAIT FOR IT.
The latest option I’ve twigged, is to mute the promoting account. (After chewing them out, as per above).
This, appears to be different to blocking – and it appears to work. [Disclaimer : only tested on the native Android app]. I have, recently, begun simply muting accounts which post promoted tweets – and thus far, I have not seen in my TL a single repeated promoted tweet from an account which I’ve muted. And I do check – as you can infer from all the other info, I’m a bit anal.
You can verify this too, just by trying it. And in particular, look out for any evidence that contradicts. It’s easy to demonstrate that e.g. blocking doesn’t work, as a single example of a fail is enough, but demonstrating that muting does work is a long-tail test. It has worked for me so far, but that isn’t formal proof it works.
A bit more context, too. In the Android native Twitter client, there is a reasonably well-known bug relating to the mute feature itself, whereby you can read tweets of accounts that have blocked you. Go to their profile, mute them and then unmute them, and lo! you can read their tweets despite still being as blocked as you were beforehand. So if muting promoted tweets does indeed work as it appears to, it might just be a bug.
You – yes, YOU – are a tax avoider.
That baddie Tory donor (zomg! spit!1!!1) on your TV screen? The one whose evil tax-avoidance activities have single-handedly torn unicorn toys from the hands of nurses’ babies? YOU do the same thing. Ed Miliband’s avoidance of inheritance tax on his family home? YOU are of the same cloth. You EVIL FIEND.
Every time you buy [cold] food, you avoid tax. Because you take advantage of the loophole in Govt tax legislation which sets food as zero-rated for VAT. Your ISA? Another “loophole”. A shocking, underhand loophole which you exploit (like the monster you so clearly are) to avoid – yes, AVOID – paying income tax on the returns that you’ve chiselled on your personal wealth. And the duty-free gin you bought Granny on the way back from the USA? She’ll be getting a knock, soon. Midnight. Blanket over the head, into the back of the Black Maria. The tax avoidance mob are FEWMIN’.
But how? How, you blub, bedazzled under the high noon glare as you’re papped again outside Asda – how can this be?
I’m only following the rules, you venture. I did what I was allowed. It wasn’t “aggressive”. I looked at my personal circumstances, and at the public statutes, and I charted a course in my own favour. The Govt even offered it to me – it’s an incentive, they said, to use a pension scheme, because saving is GOOD. (weep, choke, gnash etc.).
But the other guy, you say, as you point wide-eyed at the front pages of the newspapers. His circumstances are different to mine. He looks like he’s got more money, too, so whatever calculation he may be doing must be somehow dishonest, and he can certainly afford to pay MOAR. And I DEFINITELY don’t like the sound of “schemes” and “deeds” and anything involving a lawyer – because tax law just enforces itself, right? There’s no need for professionals to measure and advise on the tax rules, because only the ones I personally understand (because I saw an ad on daytime telly) can be in any way valid.
So, you say, what must I do? How do I expunge this mortal stain on my own small private world? CLEARLY I’m the good guy here, yet it’s IMPOSSIBLE for me not to avoid tax in some way.
Really, you only have two choices. Firstly, you must compute, exhaustively, every single tax wheeze you’ve taken advantage of over all these years (you criminal bastard, yadda yadda), and then you must voluntarily grant the balance to the Govt. Ideally in public – local newspapers can help with this #TopTaxTip – so as to add to the SHAME of those others yet to do the same. You better bend right over, though, because paying the Govt e.g. the extra 20% on all food you’ve ever bought, is going to sting. Soz.
Secondly, you need to demand – nay, raise a veritable ARMY of outrage – that the Govt begins to arrest everyone doing 30mph in a 30 limit. It’s only fair, right? Because since you don’t understand the actual boundary of the rules, and since anyone who even inadvertently takes advantage of them (like you) is a flower-raping Satan hugger, then the only way to be SURE everything’s all lefty-pukka is to shame Granny – your poor, gin-addled Granny, in her dark police cell – into following some other, imaginary set of rules whereby everyone slows down to 15mph in the 30 limit.
And these imaginary rules – these “right” rules on tax that are “fair” simply because you personally think you understand them and also it looks like the evil Tory guy is sweating a bit – these imaginary rules ultimately will be enforced not by law, the Govt, but by you. YOU, personally, will decide what’s “fair”. Mainly, of course, this means that what YOU do is fine, but it’s the OTHER guy who’s going to be picking up the soap with his back to the wall.
Look. We all want out of the EU, right? Let’s just take that as read. Here are some thoughts on what that actually means.
On an EU exit referendum
I don’t know why this itself is such a point of fixation. Not only do you have to get one; you have to win it, and then see the result honoured. (Personally I think that if one were called today, Dave would “win” i.e. he would coerce a vote to remain in the EU. People are scareable idiots, and it’s easy to keep producing cash-based scare stories to trump the other scare stories about all the sketchy fellows living next door. Your wallet is nearer your heart than is your neighbour’s driveway).
And honouring the result, seeing an actual British exit in all due effect, is so completely impermissible by the EU that it simply can’t be allowed to happen. They have all sorts of options: such as the ol’ divide-and-conquer to characterise those who voted “exit” as violent fanatics; and also simply prevarication, when X Y and Z blocking practicalities are declared critical as points of international law, so inconveniently unchangable by the EU, isn’t that such an awful shame, etc. etc., “we will have to delay or even, *gasp*, re-vote!”.
So in practice, you’re only getting out of the EU in one or other of three ways:
1) If it implodes, and leaves you.
2) If you rise up against it with violence.
3) If you physically leave, by emigrating. (Note – exit visas ..)
On immigration & welfare
If you think immigration should be banned because migrant labour lowers the wages of the incumbent natives, then you’re basically demanding that I pay for someone else’s grossly uncompetitive lifestyle expectations. That’s just dumb protectionism, and welfarism; the EU writ small, in fact. Some other guy’s willingness to work for less than you isn’t the problem; your own wage expectation is the problem. Up-skill, lower your lifestyle expectations, or ship out. If you demand I pay you via State subsidies and taxation to make up the difference, then we have a major problem.
If you think immigration itself should be banned because the fellow next door is a funny colour, then you’re an idiot. He must live under the same laws, rules and customs as you. If he doesn’t, and especially if he digresses in a manner that affects others in a significant way, he must be brought to book. Do not, though, conflate the crimes of an individual, or even those associated with a whole ethnic group, against and to trump the idea of free movement of labour. You have laws; use them, and fight them being hamstrung by stupid PC fascism.
Anyway – immigration itself is critical, because it is the profound freedom of markets and the free movement of labour. Equally critical though is to stop your private wealth being used as a honey-pot for political ends. Open all borders, but kill all welfare also – see how quickly then does the situation stabilise with prosperity following for the citizens.
Freedom of speech has an interesting history in law – largely based on various Governments’ attempts to avoid getting lynched whilst simultaneously preventing as much sedition as they can possibly get away with. A good place to start is Blackstone’s “Commentaries on the Laws of England”:
The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity.
.. where we see the principle of freedom of speech being that of no prior restraint – no limitations on what may be said prior to it actually being said – and afterwards, take what consequences may come. Or, to deliberately misinterpret an unrelated quote, “publish and be damned”. [What?? It’s free speech. Fuck you, pedants. Ed.]
The history in Western law can be followed from British Common Law through to the development of the US Constitution i.e. the Bill of Rights. Common Law allowed prosecution for sedition itself, irrespective of inconveniences such as truth or public interest; the Americans took exception to this and developed the First Amendment (… although not without some spectacular attempts by Congress to subvert their own laws just passed; there’s a good summary here).
What the Americans actually developed from the British starting point was not only protection in law of speech from prior restraint, beyond that of speech against the Government, but also the principle that “.. speech was not deemed worthy of protection because self-expression was considered necessary for personal self-fulfillment; it was deemed worthy of protection because it served a necessary civic function”. It’s of fundamental importance that things should be said freely simply on the virtue of them being said freely. Throughout all this, though, remains the principle from Blackstone that one shall accept the consequences of one’s actions.
So free speech means (1) the right to speak against your Government; and anyway (2) the right to say as you wish without prior restraint, combined with the responsibility to accept the consequences. So far so good. So where’s the beef?
Leaving aside for now formal sedition itself; subversion of Government; as that game, the struggle of State against the individual, is age-old; then the modern problem appears to be what, and who, defines these “consequences” of saying what you wish.
Consequences are, and always have been, defined in law. If you act illegally you’re liable for it, with a variety of consequences depending on what you did. Don’t like it? Tough shit. Either change country, change the law, or change your behaviour.
Consequences are also defined in practical terms. If you cuss out the fat slapper barmaid in a biker pub “because she smells like the packets of scampi fries in the dog’s bed” then you’re liable to get a pool cue upside the head. Is that a bad thing? Well, that’s up to you, really – it usually depends on the level of lolz gained.
Consequences are not, though, defined by anyone’s personal views. By words like “unacceptable”, “offensive”, “upsetting”. These are all words which just suggest some individual has chosen to take personal dislike to something said, and appears to think something should be done about it. Because offence.
What used to happen, pre-Interweb, was that said offendomatic person would write a tight-lipped letter to the local Parish magazine, and Mrs Miggins down the road would tut a bit, but nothing really happened and noone gave a fuck. Now, however, there appears to be a new problem – the problem of collective offence. The idea that because (e.g.) your group of Twitter followers happen to find something offensive or unacceptable etc. then some magic power is accrued granting the right to prevent the thing from being said. “It’s not acceptable; I find it grossly offensive; and everyone I know thinks the same way, so you have to stop doing it.”
Why does this matter? Well there are at least some hollowly-amusing ironies; such as “anti-Fascists” trying to coerce State force to prevent free expression, and also those who have been the victim of actual online abuse then choosing to preemptively bully anyone they see as a threat or dissent. (I know the last one is a bit of a non-sequitur, but I’ll leave the details of all that for some other conversation).
The main point, though, goes back to the original concept of free speech. Free speech isn’t about some offendotron going off on one on Twitter; there is no real power there, just amusement and the Hamster Wheel Of Rage. Governments, though, do have power; and are increasingly discomfited by exposure of their ill-use of it.
But every time you cry “Offence!”, or “That’s unacceptable and something MUST be done!”, you weaken the power of us the citizens against that which we actually should fear – the State. When you demand that your own personal views on speech be enforced, beyond the existing legal framework, you demand that those who would actually oppress you be granted greater power. And furthermore, you imply that you yourself, unaccountable as you are, should have some private arbitrary magic power over others. And you also assume some moral rightness, some absolute right to detemine what is civil and what is not – and that’s merely childish.
You have the right to be offended, but you don’t have the right to stop me being offensive, and you don’t have the right to make anyone do anything about it. Your expectations simply aren’t relevant in the world of free speech, as you have no authority no matter how much of a Twitter storm you might muster. It’s we, the individuals, ultimately against the Government and anyway simply acting under the laws of the land – and the rest of you can fuck right off. All 7Bn of you.
The recent MtGox hilarity has kicked off all sorts of commentary about the concept of wealth and credibility. Whose pogs are more valuable; the Govt’s, or a cryptographer’s? The Govt will let you use theirs for “legal tender”, yet the zealots declare this not to matter – who’s correct? And how will you know?
Anyway, for me, the argument goes as follows.
Bitcoin is a method for secure anonymous trading and payments. It isn’t a store of wealth, except just insofar as anything is a store of wealth if you can convince someone of its non-transitory value – e.g. piglets, magic beans, or some random drawing on a sheet of A4, or a piece of paper – a dollar. So you wouldn’t “invest” in Bitcoin in the same sense that you wouldn’t “invest” in PayPal.
However, it is also, currently, rather valuable. I’m using “valuable” here in the deliberately naive sense that if you Google “bitcoin value” you will see numbers like, say, $500/BTC, rather than ones like $0.0003. Why is this significant? Well, look at it from Grandma’s point of view. Grandma likes the idea of secure anonymous transactions in an “oooh, that sounds nice, dear” sort of sense, but she doesn’t actually understand what it means. She doesn’t understand, for example, that the PayPal window she sees with numbers in is not the same as the Bitcoin-Qt client window that also has “transactions” and stuff. Nonetheless, because she senses something is different and she’s not an idiot, Grandma Googles “bitcoin value” to try and understand what her new numbers mean; and she thus, inadvertently, makes the error of confusing a transaction method with the nominal and temporary value of its particular tokens. (As an aside, the sub-error here is confusing the concept of cryptocurrencies themselves as a trading mechanism with the particular random value of just one or other of their member’s tokens).
Compounding this error, though, and making it into a problem for Bitcoin itself, is the (say) $500/BTC number that Grandma is going to see. This, looks significant to her. It’s not pennies; and furthermore, a link or two down the Google page are stories from (say) the New York Times like “Wild variations in Bitcoin again due to arrest of exchange proprietor”. This, and the $500 number, make Grandma think “feck! me Christmas will be ruined!” (she’s Irish). So Grandma holds off; she doesn’t understand what the gains might be, she’s nervous because of the numbers that appear to be involved, so she just holds off. She’s not right, obviously, but she’s also not unreasonable; she’s simply ignorant. But, critically, at this stage in the whole cryptocurrency concept, ignorant or otherwise she – the people, as it were – holds the power and the wealth. Wild speculations in the Bitcoin value are a problem not despite the nominal high $ involved but because of it. If something is pumped to an obviously absurd and arbitrary price it’s simply a credibility problem.
Because the problem for Bitcoin, especially its zealots, is that it’s not enough merely to be technically correct. Technical correctness will not entice Grandma to pass actual wealth through a new system. I follow a number of people on Twitter whose view on all this is simply “well it doesn’t matter if Gox went tits-up because the technology is sound!”. And whilst being an entirely correct view, technically, it’s simply not relevant. The real world doesn’t work on SHA-256; the real world depends on people who don’t understand things, who have worked hard for their wealth, and believe, rightly or wrongly, that the Govt is more likely to honour its paper than a Latvian script kiddie is to honour a trading contract on some strings of numbers. Even if “the technology” is indeed adequate to keep security against the kids.
I’ve also had various conversations with people on mining pools whose objective, it appears, is simply to see numbers increment on a screen. The argument is essentially “My numbers [$ per guffcoin or something] are going up! w00t! If the coins can’t be transferred easily into goods or services then it doesn’t matter at all because TECHNOLOGY!!”. I believe, and it took me a while to grasp, that the cryptocurrency community in general genuinely doesn’t understand the difference between nominal $/coin values on an online exchange and actual $ (wealth) in your pocket. There’s a good ongoing story http://buttcoin.org/easy here from Buttcoin; see also my last blog post about the ridiculous un-anonymity required to get your trading cards anywhere near any actual wealth. And this leads into the obvious piss-fight about unregulatable Bitcoin only becoming truly interoperable with the world of actual wealth via regulation. Until Bitcoin rules the world. Which it can’t until it means wealth in its own right. Which it can’t until it rules the world.
So the actual value of Bitcoin will depend on either (a) it becoming a genuine form of transaction up to and including the point of actual wealth in your pocket, not merely numbers on a screen on an online exchange, or (b) it becoming intrinsically valuable in the sense that gold is intrinsically valuable, i.e. a store of wealth in its own right. These are linked to a degree; but in any case, they’re the only things that matter. All else is merely speculation and hubris.
So. We all know about Bitcoin, right? The new magic currency-beans that enable you to make seamless and anonymous transactions across borders, integrating smoothly with real-world commerce. And which has an exchange value of about $1000/BTC*, being entirely accurately & rationally matched across all different exchanges to the same rate without wild +/-25% variations for arbitrage. *Actual dollar value can, and will, randomly vary +/-50%
Anyway, let’s assume that Johnny Fiat-Currency wants in to this brave new world, and wants to buy some BTC. To, say, make an anonymised payment to a VPN provider. Because that’s what BTC should be for, right? Let’s also assume Johnny is a UK resident, doesn’t know about mining, doesn’t know what SHA-256 is, doesn’t really want to randomly lose £50, and has been well taught by teh kidz that you don’t post personal info on-line.
Basically, Johnny’s my Grandma (what? fuck the system, man) – because BTC needs to be accessible to these people, else the current “exchange values” really are just so much obscurantist hubris.
So Johnny goes to Google, and she finds the (current) most obvious way to try and buy some of these BTC with actual money in the UK. And she decides it’s this site. It kinda looks legit, because “SSL-secured” logo JPGs aren’t especially easy to just arbitrarily paste into a dumb HTML2 site, and anyway Johnny’s girl-pals down the old folks’ home tea-room just nod and say “oooh, that’s nice” when asked for an opinion.
After a bit, our heroine twigs that she’s going to have to make some sort of account on this site. Else these BTC sellers, who appear to exist, won’t be able to build up any trust. “Fine”, she says. “Anonymous web accounts are just standard practice. Obviously I’m not going to have a high trust rating first-off because I’m a n00b, but how else can I get started”.
And on we trundle.
– “I wonder what sort of payment mechanisms I can use to actually submit my hard-earned pension”
Well, Johnny, you’re kinda limited. Credit cards are an outright no-no, apparently; PayPal too; there are a few Russian “e-currency” methods; or, a regular UK bank transfer.
– “Ooooh, bank transfer. That’s probably safe, right? I mean, I’m just putting pounds into this thing, to give to these sellers, rather than giving them permission to take money out *sips tea, has a bit of a nap*”
Not quite. The seller has to receive your bank transfer into a regular account of their own. (Remember – banks are evil). And banks really don’t like fraud. And because most things with the word “Bitcoin” in might be fraud, then the act of labelling your bank transfer with “BTC” or the word “BITCOIN” or anything else will, apparently, “get the seller’s bank account closed” [sic.]. And this, then, just labelling your money transfer with a rational and correct label for your (and your bank’s) records, is an insta-ban crime which will get your ID permanently kicked off the site.
– “…. oh. And, um, wait, what? You said ‘ID’. This is all anonymous, right?”
No. No, it isn’t. Because, once you expose the imagino-value of BTC to actual currency, then all sorts of sketchy characters pop up. And this trading site, this BTC-point-man of the UK at the vanguard of free anonymous global finance, requires an awful lot of ID:
- Photo ID
- Photograph of additional ID with address verification
- Photograph of you, personally, physically holding up your photo ID
- .. with your elbows showing, else no-go-potato
.. see the image below. Basically, about as much ID as, and possibly more than, is required to get, say, a valid passport – or a bank account. And bank accounts don’t go +/-50% value in a day. (Except in the EU, but that’s another story, and Grandma’s fallen asleep again.)