Thursday, 23 June 2016

Let's Vote Leave, Eh?

So here we are then, EU referendum day.

By now you should have worked out that I intend to vote Leave, but in case you missed it, here is why.
[M]y objection to the EU has always been based on the handicapping effect of never-ending regulation that is impossible to avoid from such an institution. If you dedicate a few hectares of a major European city to thousands of highly-paid people whose livelihood depends on dreaming up new regulations, what else are they going to do but regulate? 
But, I hear you say, regulations keep us safe don't they? We need them. Well up to a point yes, but that point passed decades ago in the case of the EU. I've written about EU regulations in my industry before which have absolutely nothing to do with safety whatsoever, but instead impose unnecessary costs on businesses, inhibit employment and push up prices for consumers. 
We are well beyond the time where what we actually need is an institution which deregulates, but instead we pay billions to the EU to turn the ratchet further without ever bothering to repeal anything that is unhelpful. Anyone who has kept a close eye on the corrupt shenanigans surrounding the Tobacco Products Directive - particularly towards e-cigs where nothing has been made safer at all, but where innovation and consumer satisfaction has been thrown to the dogs - will attest to that. 
The message that Brexit the Movie conveyed wasn't even a new one. It's incontestable that free markets, competition, light regulation and transparency are the most successful drivers of growth, employment, social mobility and betterment of wealth and disposable income. This has always been the case and no amount of governments pretending they "create jobs", by handing back only some of the taxes they take which could have been paid directly to workers, will change that.
Heavy regulation does, though, protect big businesses at the expense of small and medium-sized ones; props up failing business models; inhibits employment; strangles innovation; and raises prices to consumers. 
I was commenting after the first screening of Brexit: The Movie which I now understand has attracted over 3 million views in all formats. If you haven't yet seen it, I can highly recommend you do**, so here it is.

If that doesn't sway you, perhaps this excellent article from Tom Slater at Spiked will.
The EU exists to limit democracy, preferring backroom deals over public contestation, directives over debate. But it is not an imposition from without: it is the creation of our own national elites – the starkest manifestation of a fear and loathing of the masses that is as common in London, Paris and Berlin as it is in Brussels. The EU liberates leaders from their electorates, allowing them to make decisions in spite of us, and shrug their shoulders afterwards. 
This referendum is not about Britain’s deal with Brussels – it is about the chasm between politicians and publics that cuts across Europe. A Brexit would not only be a blow for freedom at home, and wind in the sails of the Eurosceptic masses abroad; it would also be an affirmation of a truly European principle. From English rebellions to German revolutions, French commune experiments to Greek struggles against military dictatorship, for 300 years or more the key European value and the thread that has bound the people of this continent together, has been democracy. If modern European history could be summed up in one line, it would be people saying: ‘Give us more control.’
This is what European elites seek to undermine. The EU as we know it was born in 1992, in the wake of the reunification of Germany, fed by the fear of what Europe’s largest national demos, a country with a dark history now reunited as a free people, might do if left unfettered. Today, that same fear pervades. That Greece, the birthplace of democracy, has, in recent years, been so brutalised by EU-imposed austerity serves as a grim reminder of how, in the name of Europe, the EU has desiccated Europe’s most defining ideal. 
A vote to Leave, we’re told, would be inward-looking, Little Englander, xenophobic. spiked rejects this view. The EU isn’t a wellspring of European-wide solidarity and cooperation – it’s a hiding place for our elites, an alliance of technocrats huddled together in fear of the masses. Real internationalism means believing in all peoples’ capacity for self-determination, for the freedom to carve out their lives as they see fit. A vote to Leave is a vote of confidence in all European publics, not just our own.
A Brexit would not be the solution to the dearth of democracy in Britain, let alone across Europe. But it would be a start. It would clarify the problem of democracy and allow us to begin peeling away the anti-democratic forces that still temper our political passions, from unaccountable quangos to unelected upper chambers to medieval monarchies. And it would be a break with the deadening, technocratic status quo that stifles new ideas for fear of an uncertain future. 
spiked wants a more open and outward-looking Europe. For us that means more trade and cooperation; liberal immigration – both for those within Fortress Europe and without; and a return of intellectual risk-taking and political daring, so that we might rejuvenate democratic debate and steer humanity into a more prosperous, freer future. But democracy comes first. What a post-Brexit Britain will look like is up to us, the demos. And that’s what makes the opportunity we are being presented with on Thursday so radical, so exhilarating, so European.
Hear hear. Removing one level of stultifying bureaucracy and injecting some much needed optimism certainly gets my vote.

Whatever you decide, best of luck and see you on the other side.

** And if you watch it with the subtitles supplied, it might interest you to know they were added by the boy P during his work experience with Martin Durkin earlier this month. Proud? Course I bloody well am!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

A Review Of A Billion Lives ... I Didn't Hate It

Last time I wrote about the A Billion Lives film it attracted quite a bit of reaction. In fact it attracted the third most numerous comments in this blog's history.  I was also called all sorts of names by both smokers and vapers, which probably means I wasn't that far wrong in what I was saying.

Well, I finally got to see it as a preamble to the Global Forum on Nicotine conference on the 16th of June in an incredibly dark Warsaw Kinoteca cinema. It's not your usual multiplex, situated as it is in the old communist Palace of Culture building.

In case you were wondering, yes they sell popcorn and Coca-Cola and were heavily promoting Finding Dory as we entered the place. Stalin would spin in his grave and I'm sure it made some of the 'public health' conference attendees tut to themselves as well. Good. 

Having read early reviews of the film I was expecting to hate the thing. This one, for example, appeared to suggest it was mostly an excoriating attack on the tobacco industry which - in my humble opinion - is not the biggest enemy of vaping by a long chalk. 

I was sat next to forthright Fergus who has had his say on it here. I certainly wasn't as enthusiastic as Fergus about the production but I have to say my fears that I'd hate it were thankfully not realised, in fact I thought it was a good film. 

Not that it started out that way. The first 27 minutes (I know because I noted the time) was solely taken up by historic accounts of tobacco industry malfeasance from decades ago - at one point I turned to a fellow attendee and said that I thought the production was about e-cigs not the history of smoking. However it later became clear why this tactic was employed as Director Aaron Biebert tidied it all up at the end, more on that later. 

Once we got to the overarching point of the film - the attack on e-cigs and vaping - the barbs came thick and fast. Astutely identifying the Bootleggers and Baptists coalition which has been behind every moral panic in human history, Biebert did fire his first salvo at the tobacco industry, but only briefly. It's true that companies like Reynolds in the US have tried to close down their smaller competitors in the nascent vaping business, but mostly they've been scrambling to get on the bandwagon themselves so Biebert soon turned to the real villains. 

Being US-centric, he focussed on the appalling intiatives being employed by American states to keep revenue rolling in from the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) of 1998. For those who are not familiar with it, it was a settlement which handed local authorities in the US billions of dollars of funding from the sale of tobacco to spend on just about whatever they chose to. Being politicians they obviously spent it unwisely and some spent it before they'd even received it! This, naturally, leads to a situation where the prospect of a decline in smoking could bankrupt some of them and led to disgraceful campaigns such as California's lie-fest Still Blowing Smoke which Biebert assaulted with venom. 

He also turned extensively on both the pharmaceutical industry and their overt lobbying to destroy e-cigs which are contributing to a disatrous decline in their nicotine replacement therapy products (patches, chewing gum and other abject failures) and also pointed out that the tobacco control industry is a $15 billion movement which sees its future severely threatened by a product which quite simply doesn't need their input unless they forcibly insert their unwanted, unnecessary, mendacious, money-grubbing tentacles into the debate to try to make themselves relevant. Health, after all, can take a back seat when there are careers to save, or as Fergus put it.
Most disturbing of all, though, is the revelation that tobacco control themselves have a lot to lose if smokers switch to vaping en masse. Biebert informs us that tobacco control is far from a handful of dedicated activists scraping by on public donations; it’s a $15 billion industry that gives a lot of people very comfortable salaries. Is it a surprise that they dislike threats to their income and status? Perhaps it shouldn’t be, but the fact that people whose business should be protecting our health are willing to sacrifice it for money is not a comfortable one.
Explains a lot, doesn't it?

Biebert rolled out an impressive roll call of public health voices to prove the points he was making and the credits at the end of the film highlighted those who declined to take part, they being - as you can imagine - generally those who routinely lie about vaping so were probably not keen about doing so in public and on film. 

Overall, I came away thinking that Biebert - contrary to my expectations - had produced a pretty good summary of the vaping debate and the disingenuous people lined up against the concept for reasons that have little to do with health or, indeed, choice. 

If I had any criticisms they were minor. Such as that the sound bites were sometimes far too long and could have been more snappy. By that I mean that there were many occasions where the vox pops lingered beyond which would have been most effective, there were times where a killer line was not at the end of the clip but instead got superseded by something less relevant. Also, I could have done with less of Biebert looking to the side of the camera as if he was an expert himself, it almost seemed at times that he was missing a commentator or two that he wanted to put there so inserted himself instead ... oh hold on, there was that list of those who declined so maybe he did. Other mostly inconsequential stuff too which are hardly worth mentioning. 

I did say that I'd get back to the long-winded beginning detailing the MSA in a lot of depth. Well, we here are well aware of the history but many will have no clue about any of it. It may have seemed tedious and unnecessary but if the film is truly intended for a wider audience it's very much worth highlighting the 1998 settlement in detail and describing how it was enthusiastically hailed as a massive boost to public health, only to subsequently turn out to be just a politician's cash cow. And Biebert did a good job of making sure you remember that in the crucial last round-up of the arguments he had presented.  

As for the "billion lives" stat which causes so much controversy, well I have to say that without being overtly shoved in the face of tobacco control, it was subtlely hinted that this was a 'public health' figure being referenced. Clive Bates (who has written on the factoid here) specifically mentioned that it was the number of lives 'claimed' by tobacco controllers during one of his contributions, so as I've said before can be justified as a film title in my opinion. 

So no, I didn't hate it, in fact I liked it. I think it makes a good contribution to the debate and a positive one. And I really didn't expect that at all.

Tough Times At Puddlecote Inc

I was at the Global Forum on Nicotine at the back end of last week which featured a showing of A Billion Lives. As many readers will remember, I was not enamoured with the the trailer in the slightest last year so I shall be writing a review about it at some point when I get time.

Time being the operative word because the Puddlecote Inc re-organisation/refurbishment is in full flow with a hell of a lot going on at the moment. It was expected that we were going to endure a very tough few months to deliver a necessary office building project and a large new piece of business all at the same time, but needs must and my team is doing incredibly well under some pretty tough conditions.

For those of you not on Twitter, here is a glimpse of the state of our offices at the moment. For example, this is my desk yesterday.

Behind that plank of wood (don't ask me what it's intended for) is a newly-created hole in the wall behind which were a couple of guys using a kango and a 'big breaker' to dig out a channel to serve one of the new toilets being built and installed.

The noise has been unbearable so yesterday - despite being incredibly busy with contract mobilisation efforts - we had no choice but to give the office staff the day off. A couple of key personnel had to work remotely from home to provide a skeleton service but that was about it. After a relatively peaceful day today (just the odd circular saw buzzing away), we have to do the same again tomorrow for one last day of hellish noise.

It also doesn't help that there is no water, what with not having much of a kitchen to speak of ...

... so the only way of providing tea and coffee is by buying in big bottles of mineral water from the Sainsbury's Local round the corner.

And as for the loos, well they're at the rear of the maintenance yard for the next week or so at least.

And all this while the clock is ticking for getting finance, new vehicles, staff recruitment, route schedules, PR materials and more in place in time for the new contract start date.

I've got plenty of things I want to write and only a few hours tonight to get some thoughts down - maybe even publish something else - before the pressure kicks in again in the morning. It's never been more uncomfortable at Puddlecote Inc and also never been busier, but wouldn't we be so bored otherwise, eh?

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Democracy Rules

You may have worked out by now what my stance on the EU referendum is, but if not watch this because I think it's really very good.

Toby Young presents the democratic case for leaving the EU.

You can also read the transcript here to pull out quotes.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

End Of An Error

The Guardian has reported on the departure of the Faculty of Public Health's nagger-in-Chief John Ashton. Staying true to the ethos of 'public health' - and comparing the country's kids to "livestock" - he has marked the occasion by being a pompous sneering prick.
The government should give parents lessons on how to raise their children, according to Britain’s leading public health expert.
I'd say he's going out with a bang but regulars here will remember one of his even more arrogant and condescending moments one Saturday back in 2014.

So as he makes way for someone equally appalling, let's reprise John Ashton's biggest hit.
Last week, the BBC rolled out their latest e-cig 'expert' to regurgitate the fantasies of Big Pharma and the irrational prejudices of rent-seekers - you can listen to his bizarre claims here and here. Said expert - the head of the Faculty of Public Health, no less - was naturally challenged with facts and proper evidence to counter his stark scaremongery such as that e-cigs cause blindness, amongst others. 
He wasn't impressed on Wednesday.
This "abuse" was something of a surprise to vapers on Twitter seeing as the tweets were merely ones questioning his evidence and offering opposing views. It was even more bizarre considering he had pre-blocked a slew of prominent vaping tweeters so couldn't have seen what they said anyway. 
Some discussion ensued but it had moved on by the following day and Ashton was largely forgotten. However, last night, sober thoughtful public health industry spokesman Prof John Ashton unfathomably decided to trawl some of the accounts he had blocked and offer contemptuous replies. It must have taken him a while since he went back six months to find this one!
And nearly three weeks to find this innocent tweet to attack.
But that was just a small indicator of the astonishing meltdown to come. About the time it takes to down a bottle of Merlot later, the unhinged insults began ...

... and continued for a further hour.

In a riveting Saturday night tour de force, Ashton toggled between the astounding ...

... and the truly surreal.
One of his own side tried to get him to tone it down, but to no avail.
You can read the whole article here. How he wasn't sacked for that episode is anyone's guess, but it seems 'public health' have lower morals and standards than the rest of society.

So farewell then John Ashton, waning star in the smug condescending people-hating 'public health' firmament, you will be sorely pissed missed.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

ASH Attempts To Grind Vaping Into The Dirt

I've written a lot recently about how ASH have been furiously lobbying in favour of the restrictions placed on e-cigs by the TPD (see here, here, here, and here).

Their latest huge effort managed to sway Labour into opposing Lord Callanan's fatal motion and downgrade it to one merely expressing regret. You'd think Arnott and her pals would be happy with that, wouldn't you?

Not so, unfortunately, because it seems they won't rest until they see vaping ground into the dirt. Thanks to fellow jewel robber NT by email, you can read what ASH has been sending to MPs in the run up to the (pretty impotent) amended 'regret' motion.
Subject: Potential debates on the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations in both Houses
Thank you for the support you have given for measures to reduce smoking prevalence in general, and for standardised 'plain' packaging of cigarettes in particular. 
We are writing to update you about likely future debates on the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations which include important measures on tobacco regulation as well as on the regulation of electronic cigarettes. 
Lord Callanan's motion to annul the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations (TRPR) has been turned into a regret motion, and there are two other regret motions from Labour and the Liberal Democrats. A date for a debate in the House of Lords on the motions has not yet been tabled and is highly unlikely to be before the referendum recess. 
In the House of Commons the application by Anne Main MP for an emergency commons debate on the TRPR was turned down by the speaker. 
I attach a brief endorsed by ASH, Cancer Research UK, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royals Society of Public Health. All these organisations support the use of electronic cigarettes by smokers as an alternative to smoking. While the regulations will not force the vast majority of the products used by vapers off the market, there are important issues to be discussed with respect to electronic cigarettes which could be discussed in any debate. 
If and when debates are tabled in either House we will be in touch. 
Best wishes.
Deborah Arnott MBA FRCP (Hon)
Chief Executive
Action on Smoking & Health
And here is the brief that was circulated with the e-mail. Pay special attention to points 10 to 16 which show the level of contempt that ASH hold for vapers and their efforts to highlight the dangers of the TPD.

Staggered? You should be.

Remember that it is a specific term of the annual grant ASH receive that they must not use any of the cash to "support activity intended to influence or attempting to influence Parliament, Government or political parties, ... or attempting to influence legislative or regulatory action".

I wonder where lobbying MPs in advance of a parliamentary vote and suggesting biased points that they can make during the debate fits in with that premise?

Monday, 13 June 2016

The Blind Fanaticism Of ASH Wales

My ears have just stopped ringing from having a Sikh and a Derryman employing an incredibly loud kango to knock down internal walls at Puddlecote Inc today - for SIX BASTARD HOURS - as part of our reorganisation plans.

Back in the comparative peace of home, I now find that ASH Wales have been up to their old tricks again. You may remember that in March they were thrilled to "fully welcome" an outdoor smoking ban on Little Haven beach in Pembrokeshire which also encompasses e-cigs, so much so that their logo (and that of fellow 'vape-friendly' Cancer Research UK) is proudly displayed on the sign which announces the fascistic and pointless policy to the public.

Well, now they seem just as enthusiastic about a similar Orwellian initiative in mid and west Wales.
A PA system is being launched at hospitals in mid and west Wales to discourage smokers from lighting up. 
Hywel Dda University Health Board is the first in Wales to launch the "Push the Button" system to curb smoking at Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire hospitals. 
It enables people to anonymously push a red button which triggers an announcement reminding them hospitals are smoke-free. 
The policy also includes e-cigarettes.
ASH Wales loved it enough to eagerly retweet it to their slavering smoke-hating followers on Twitter, though.

Can you think of anything more like handing vile playground bullies a knuckle duster and the promise of a gold star from teacher than that? If you read here regularly I've often written about how state-funded anti-smoking organisations actively pander to the most vile, intolerant and anti-social in society, and there is your proof.

A loud-hailer bully button for the prejudiced and hateful in society to express their bigotry without fear of reproach. And this is apparently to be welcomed. Good grief.

Aside from that, to many people who have previously had no opinion either way the conflation of vaping with smoking will be taken as evidence that both are just as dangerous as each other, including outdoors. But, d'you know, I don't think ASH Wales could give a shit about it. In fact I think they know very well that the public might believe that and quite like the idea.

It's also interesting that they felt the need to share screaming junk science research from America on their Twitter timeline just a few hours ago too.

To save you the trouble of reading it, this is a study which comes to the conclusion that youth use of e-cigs means that they are more likely to smoke.

It's cobblers, of course, as most tobacco control 'research' is, but what is fascinating is that it had already been soundly rubbished by other tobacco controllers both here and in the US hours before ASH Wales decided to eagerly tweet it. I'm pretty sure they would have seen the controversy over 'gateway' studies like these too. After all, what else do professional anti-smoking lunatics have to do all day except monitor sources of information in the areas in which they are active?

They happily tweeted it anyway though. Speaks volumes, doesn't it?

On this evidence it doesn't appear to be coincidence that Wales has come closest yet to being subject to a ban on e-cigs in public. ASH Wales are so fanatical about attacking smokers and supporting bans on tobacco use even outdoors - where it is a mere inconvenience only to fruitcakes, fucktards and the insane - that they're willing to sacrifice vaping on their altar of extremist cult zealotry too.

I'd love to hear their lame and transparent excuses this time, because there is no way in the world they can claim any of it is about health.

SEE ALSO: Grandad on the Hywel Dda "Push the Button" plan and our right to tell them where to stick it.