Registering with the Raw Tobacco Scheme – Revisted

HMRC are watchingLong term readers here may recall that a while back I registered with the HMRC for their raw tobacco scheme as I sometimes grow the stuff for various purposes, mainly wine making, and of course because the regulations are insane. Well as it’s a new year I received a letter asking me to let them know if “Raw Tobacco approval” was still required, which was all quite expected. As the decorative varieties didn’t take that well and the smokable varieties are getting out competed by the cobb nut trees and grape vines I’m not bothering this year, though maybe next year as I’ll want more wine by then. All of which is not terribly interesting what was far more interesting was the net page of the letter, which said:
“HMRC regularly reviews the contents of internet websites and entries on the websites from Giolla were seen with the dates refered below:”

So hello HMRC, pull up a chair and have a cuppa.

They then proceed to detail aspects of the previous article telling of my success with registering with them, noting that the sample letter “Mirrored the details submitted in your application to HMRC dated…”. They then further note:
“A copy of your approval letter that HMRC issued to you was linked to the above entry with your name, address and approval number details greyed out but HMRC details were displayed in full”

Which makes me wonder quite a few things, firstly just what are they looking for as part of their reviews? Secondly how did they identify the letter? This could just be that so few people applied that it was obvious or it could be that in the HMRC details there was a non-obvious identifier. I accept I could have done a better job with blocking out my details, but all the HMRC details looked fairly generic.
Baccy approval - page 1
To get from the greyed out details to something in their records would take a bit of effort, and the rest of the letter looks fairly generic so I wouldn’t have though that traceable. Unless they had very few applicants which is more than possible given how badly they advertised the scheme. I’d love to hear other peoples thought on this one, as it may be relevant for anyone else wanting to share HMRC correspondence. Also is it just me or does their tone seem a bit peeved about the HMRC details not being greyed out? I would have thought HMRC contact details would be public knowledge.

The next paragraph is where it gets even more interesting as it reads:
“Please provide an explanation for the above entries on the Anonymong website, in particular how a copy of the Raw Tobacco approval letter issues by the HMRC to yourself appeared on this website.

Please provide the information requested above by….”

I’ve checked all my previous correspondence and no where does it say that I have to keep the information in the letter confidential, and the relevant approval and such numbers were obscured anyway so that shouldn’t be an issue in any case. When I asked them why they needed the information the very nice lady who wrote to me claimed it was to make sure my data hadn’t been stolen or anything, which I don’t really find very convincing especially given the tone of the letter. So if not that, which I’m really not convinced by, anyone want to suggest why the HMRC would be concerned that a fairly generic letter with identifying details obscured was published? The letter then went on to say that if I didn’t reply then my Raw Tobacco approval would not be renewed and “may affect any future RTAS application”. They then very thoughtfully included a fact sheet about excise compliance checks. I would have thought it would have made more sense to provide that when I first registered if it was just to be helpful, otherwise one might thing it was a hint of a threat. If they were that concerned about my data having been stolen or comprised I would have hoped they might have got in touch sooner rather than waiting for the next time they had to write to me, though perhaps the problem was just in a report attached to my file and no one was looking at it. Though that does rather make the value of their internet surveillance rather questionable, as any harm that could have happened from the registration would have happened by now. I don’t for a moment think they only happened to discover it just before writing to me, if I had a few spare hours looking back through server logs might be illuminating.

All very interesting, HMRC are it seems watching and paying attention – though for just what purposes and how they’re matching what’s on the internet to their systems is a very interesting question. Maybe they just had so few registrations they assume that everyone that registered for non-business purposes was a wrong-un. Anyone else had the HMRC in touch about a blog post?

The wonderful world of newspeak

I think this week I may have to finally give up on hoping for any coherence or consistency when it comes to politics. Now obviously I gave up on that years ago with the press and politicians but I liked to give my friends a little more credit. Now a lot of my friends are rather left leaning but they’re still good people and in the normal course of events individually tend to be well-informed and able to hold a reasoned argument – but as with so many of us let them on the internet and social media and you can forget all that*.

This has been a week of people pivoting on news stories fast enough to get whiplash.

A soon as it was announced that we may be paying a sum of money to the EU as part of the exit negotiations, the narrative swapped from:
“It’s not a divorce bill, it’s just honouring our commitments”
“What a disaster Brexit is we’re continuing to pay for less than we currently have with no influence”

It was announced that India might want to be looked upon more favourably as part of a trade deal and this wasn’t welcomed as a fantastic chance to open our borders to the wider world beyond white Europeans. Nope this was “See we’re leaving the EU and still can’t control immigration”.

British farmers complained that they couldn’t get cheap immigrant labour and that British people wouldn’t do the work for the wages and there was no protests about the farmers not paying a living wage, or their previous exploitation of immigrants. Not a bit of it this was again purely a Brexit problem, as leaving the EU will stop us having cheap food. Cheap food being far more important than paying decent wages, and of course ignoring that there used to be seasonal work visas which allowed workers from all over the world to benefit from underpaid back-breaking labour on British farms.

Then to wrap it up President Trump retweeted 3 videos allegedly showing the actions of some Muslims. Horrifyingly the person he re-tweeted is ( apparently, I didn’t know ) a senior person with Britain First. Now I’ve always though that Britain First were a largely insignificant group within UK politics, but apparently I’m wrong. Apparently they are so important that the President of the USA should know who their senior members are. So important in fact that who they are far outweighs the content and legitimacy of the videos, though I’ve only seen claims that one of the three is misrepresented. So in this day and age the messenger is more important than the message and sharing an article is the same as endorsing. So because of who he retweeted, not what, there is a diplomatic spat between the UK and the USA that may damage future relationships.

At this point I may as well accept that up is down and I can see how ever many fingers they want me to see.

* In aggregate not individually, obviously if any of my friends are actually reading this I didn’t mean you. No you are fine I was talking about my other friends.

From hashtag to witch hunt #MeToo

It’s now just under a month since the #MeToo hashtag took off. Amongst my friends this happened shortly after someone moved from a bit dodgy to violence. The initial idea that people post if they had been subject to assault or harassment to show how wide-spread the problem is, had (in my opinion) merit and caused some interesting discussions. I posted a somewhat lengthy “#MeToo” myself, as like quite a few people of both sexes I’ve been on many sides of “#MeToo”. I’ve been assaulted (not seriously), harassed and taken advantage of but I’ve also not always been quick to spot when my attentions weren’t welcome, had false accusations made about me quietly behind my back and I’ve not got involved when I probably should have to stop things. None of my experiences did me any lasting harm thankfully and just taught me to be more careful and to avoid some people – also if you are a teenager about to go out cycling for the day and get asked to come into work as an emergency remember to take a change of clothes. How one reacts to such events is down to the individual and what they’ve been taught. I’d been mainly taught that as a man I should just suck it up and anyway I couldn’t be sexually assaulted/harassed. The views in universities in the mid-90’s with regards to men’s desires being coercive and invalid has done me far more harm. Of the things that happened to me I wouldn’t have classified them then as I would now, and if I used current ideas of harassment then the list of what I’ve both experienced and done would be far longer. I’ve seen this change in attitude in what’s considered acceptable amongst my friends within our own group and by and large that’s been a good thing we’re a more considerate bunch because of it.

This change in attitude makes judging past behaviour very difficult, the past is indeed a foreign country even to those of us that were there. It gets even stranger when other people insist that something you experienced was something other than what you experienced it as. Despite all of this I think the initial desire of the “#MeToo” tag to illustrate how wide-spread experiences were was a good thing. But of course these things drift, past behaviour gets reinterpreted through the haze of memory, ever smaller things get counted so that people can jump on the band wagon to get attention or write an article ( like this one) and so forth. The claims have to become ever more inflated to keep getting attention and to make the headlines. After all “he touched my knee and I wasn’t fussed” doesn’t normally make for much of a story. Then hot on the heels of #MeToo came the self-flagellation of men promising to do better, confessing their sins and asking forgiveness for unspecified past misdeeds #Idid #Iwill.

With such a febrile atmosphere on social media the time was ripe for yet another Westminster scandal – a leaked document of vague hints and allegations of MPs doing utterly normal things. just imagine MPs looking at legal porn or having consensual relationships with people! The horror! Burn them! As other people have observed listing such mundane things among more serious allegations both Jonathan Pie at Westminster.

Hopefully it goes without saying, though these days if you don’t say it you’re in trouble, that rape and assault are serious offenses and in no ways acceptable. Not all unwanted interactions are preludes to violence. Though of course it gets wearing not knowing which ones might be so one can easily start to see every interaction as a potential source of violence especially when the media mainstream and social is pumping out a relentless message that a clumsy come on is the same as assault or will lead to it. It’s as though the attitudes from the mid-nineties universities have risen from the dead and escaped into the wider world. Social pressure to get people to improve their behaviour is a good thing, by and large, and used to be called manners (so terribly old-fashioned). Casting all men as offenders or will-be-offenders doesn’t help that, the people who will listen to such messages by and large have probably already heard them and try to be polite – those that need to learn how to behave aren’t going to pay attention to even the wittiest hashtag or vice article. Those that listen will either end up assuming that any interaction is a mine field and best avoided or you might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, those that aren’t listening aren’t listening. Ironically as I type this a friend of mine is dealing with a perfect decent and friendly chap not understanding why they don’t want a particular photo on-line. They acquiesced but there was a failure of manners and understanding. You can almost start to see the appeal of chaperones and rigidly enforced codes of manners except that didn’t work so well last time, it’s almost as if some sort of mutual middle ground were needed, that maybe treating people as homogeneous blobs rather than individuals is a bad idea. Of course being of the wrong gender by current mores I shouldn’t speak about this no matter how it affects me or those around me. So here’s someone of an acceptable gender on the subject:
“Belittling the real, devastating crime of rape doesn’t do real, devastated victims of rape any good, either. In fact, as with all the shoots of the monstrous Triffid, New Puritanism, it is strangling compassion and blinding empathy.”

I don’t know what the answer is a lot of my friends feel unsafe which is bad, people should feel safe going about their normal lives and normal human interaction shouldn’t be a mine field where an ill-judged comment can cost someone their job. Perhaps turning down the hysteric reporting and stop treating a wink or scarcely brushed knee as being anything like assault it might help make people feel safer. Perhaps it might even make it easier to deal with the actual problems that remain, as at the moment if “assault” can be anything from a brushed thigh to rape it’s impossible to react properly or gauge the problem being dealt with. People are complex, social problems more so – who knew – but one thing that’s fairly certain puritanism and witch hunts have a really bad track record.
Anyway here’s a debate among people far more erudite than me.