Friday, 30 July 2010

Atlas Shrugged - The Movie

Nothing to see here tonight as it's the time of year where we splurge an obscene amount of money, at a plush hotel, on thanking our staff for their efforts via the medium of rich food and copious quantities of alcohol.

We've pushed the boat out this time, too, with a cabaret singer and roving magician thrown in. Should be fun ... especially if we manage a fourth successive year without a punch up.

For a little interest, though, you may like this behind-the-scenes look at the making of a new film based on Atlas Shrugged, a book well-regarded by libertarians the world over. In order to do do it justice, I understand this is to be the first part of a trilogy, though there is much debate about whether the makers will capture the essence of Ayn Rand's original work.

Something tells me, though, that however good (or bad) it turns out to be, it won't pop up at your local neon-bedecked, chav-encrusted, popcorn-littered multiplex alongside the latest 3D blockbuster or The Rock 'visual chewing gum' offering. You may have to scan the specialist movie theatres or wait for the DVD release.

It's also interesting to note that, although it's taken 53 years from the book's publication, just the fact that such a project is being undertaken at all is further proof that libertarian ideas are gaining significant attention in the US. Which is rather encouraging.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

New Boy Nick, Righteous Prick

You've heard of the unseen 'elephant in the room', I take it? Well, how about the unseen 'people in the country'? Because Labour's newly-elected provincial pillock, Nick Smith, seems to have completely forgotten us already.

Speaking in the summer adjournment debate, just 17 minutes after his colleague, John Cryer, had described it as a platform for "whingeing gits", Smith gittily whinged that government simply wasn't heeding quangoes and fake charities enough in stamping on the people he is elected to serve.

And he whinged at length, too.

Despite its shortcomings and omissions, I am proud of Labour's record on public health, especially with regard to tackling smoking in public places.
Oh dear, not a great start, is it? This, of course, is the blanket smoking ban that no-one voted for; that a majority didn't want according to ONS stats; and which has divided and destroyed communities nationwide. Nick, though, is proud - proud, no less - that no heed was taken of the public's reservations.

Because, you see, once he has gone through the rigmarole of getting votes, the only people that matter to Nick are lobbyists and his fellow Westminster navel-gazers.

However, I am dismayed by the coalition Government's recent abdication of their responsibilities on public health.
There are no responsibilities on public health for government to abdicate. The only, and I do mean only, responsibilities government should be concerned with is doing as we - his employers - ask.

Yet Smith barely mentions the public in the rest of his speech. Here are a few nuggets of 24 carat professional politico brainwash-speak.

Only a few weeks ago, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence set out proposals to curb excessive drinking. However, its recommendations of a ban on alcohol advertising and a minimum price for a unit of alcohol have proved controversial. Indeed, the Secretary of State for Health has already ruled out minimum pricing [...]
No-one voted for NICE. No-one asked for NICE to start dictating on lifestyle choices. No-one wants alcohol adverts to be banned. Very few want minimum pricing, and those who do have ignored the fact that it won't work; that it contravenes EU rules; and that collective punishment is not a valid government response to the small minority who drink at hazardous levels.

The Secretary of State says that he is worried that minimum pricing disproportionately affects the poor, but so do public spending cuts and increasing VAT, and that has not stopped the Government, so I doubt that that is his main reason.
No, Nick, the real reason is that people don't want it. Remember the people? You saw a few of them prior to May 6th.

Indeed, we do not know whether that is true. Academics argue that the better-off spend far more on alcohol than the poor. Logic leads us to believe that young people have the least to spend on alcohol, so raising the price might mean that they consume less. Surely that would be a worthy public health outcome. The fact that Tesco has come out in favour of a minimum price is a helpful start. I would like a sensible discussion about minimum pricing [...]
We've had the discussion, Nick. The majority don't want it. Academics? Tesco? Err, hello! People here ... waving at you with both hands!

[...] because I believe that it would gain the support of the majority of the public.
Woo hoo! We get a mention. But only as something to be manipulated.

Nick understands fully that we, the public, are against minimum pricing, but we are wrong so must be persuaded by discussion. Of course, by 'discussion', he means a wide-ranging spunking of government funds on advertising, more quangoes, pressure groups, and assorted righteous fucknuts in order to convince us that people like Nick know better than people like us how to live a 'proper' life, and that we all deserve to be soundly punished for the behaviour of a few.

The Labour Government gained such public support over time for their ban on smoking in public places and then, with the universal support of the medical profession and health campaigners, they legislated to remove cigarettes from public display and to ban cigarette vending machines from pubs. However, the introduction of those public health initiatives has stalled.
They gained support 'over time' by ignoring objections, paying for biased 'evidence', rigging consultations, and pumping out propaganda. Then, when there was still no majority, they just ignored the public again ... as Nick did in that entire paragraph, while simultaneously hanging on every word from state-paid medicos and fucking 'health campaigners'.

As for tobacco displays and vending machines ...

Labour prefers to tackle the challenges of smoking-related deaths and illness, and their devastating human cost and costs to the national health service. As Action on Smoking and Health has said:
"After all the election promises about public health, surely the coalition can make a better start than by caving in to the tobacco lobby".
Err, no Nick. They caved due to a distinct lack of support from the public - large scale objection, in fact - and because both ideas are fucking stupid, as well as potentially damaging to businesses and to young people.

Nick seemingly didn't feel that mentioning the views of 25,000 directly-affected shopkeepers, many of them from his own constituency, was more important than quoting a bleating cry from eight state-funded lobbyists in Shoreditch.

Oh yeah, and get your calculator out, sunshine. I know you're from Wales, but even a dullard like you must know that £10bn duty is larger than the £2.7bn constantly trumpeted as a cost to the NHS. We'll leave the VAT and pension provision figures for now, eh, seeing as you're new and still finding your feet as a professional fuckstick?

Of course, the coalition Government have given in not just to the tobacco industry, because the food industry's advances have also been successful. [...] Linked to that, the Government are to weaken the Food Standards Agency.
Boy, does this lad love his quangoes, and no mistake?

Again, the public has repeatedly shown where their preferences lie, they do so whenever they visit the supermarket yet, again, Nick prefers to defend the interests of wasteful public sector busybodies rather than respect the choices of his electorate.

I don't know where Labour found this guy - perhaps they run fuckwittery academies or something, I dunno - but he is everything that is wrong with politics and a perfect example of Westminster ignorance and lack of respect for those who pay their wages.

As such, he'll undoubtedly go far, the righteous prick.

Mascot Watch (9) - The 4 Play Edition

Our esteemed mascot came out to play with Channel 4 execs yesterday. Amongst other queries, he wanted to know why they claim to be an 'equal opportunities employer' whilst offering bursaries only to certain ethnic minorities.

Watching the clip below, the body language of the Channel 4 delegation suggests that they've never experienced anything quite like it. Davies, on the other hand, appears to rather enjoy embarrassing them with information they willingly provided in their own report.

The Freedom Association add more.

Speaking later on the issue, Philip Davies stated: "I am totally against positive discrimination and think that every job should be appointed on merit, not based on the colour of someone's skin, religious beliefs or sexuality. As an employer I want the best person who can do the job and couldn't care less what their personal attributes are, as long as they are qualified, efficient and responsible."
And, as an employer myself, I would tend to agree.

Low Cost Air Wars - Round Two?

Fresh from being forced to apologise to Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou for portraying him with a Pinocchio nose and dubbing him "Mr Late Again", Ryanair have changed tack ... slightly.

Their latest ad appeared in Tuesday's Guardian. As you can see, they've, err, toned things down a bit.

2010 could be a bumper year for EasyJet's solicitors, I fancy.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The BBPA: Backsliding Into Oblivion

It would seem that Mark Hastings, of the British Beer & Pub Association, has never been taught the concept of metaphorically, and vehemently, drawing a line in the sand.

He was afforded a brief vox pop on Radio 5 today stating his industry's case in response to Teresa May's proposal to charge pubs and clubs for policing anti-social behaviour. It went very much like his organisation's press release.

“We would also like to see a renewed focus on individual responsibility. While it is absolutely right to hold business to account, it is equally vital to hold individuals responsible for their behaviour – drunken louts need to be penalised for the menace they cause to their communities."
An admirable sentiment, and one with which I would wholeheartedly agree. Except for the fact that Hastings has been backsliding on individual responsibility for quite a while now ... to his industry's detriment.

In 2004 when blanket smoking bans were first mooted, for example, he was bullish in defending pubs and their customers.

British Beer and Pub Association spokesman Mark Hastings believes a total ban would prove costly and be legally complicated to implement.

He added: "Clearly they (the chains) recognise non-smoking is on the increase and they want to reflect that. But we also believe in freedom of choice.

"While customers want more restrictions on smoking, only 20% would support a total ban in pubs - that is (from) a Department of Health survey on this".

Mr Hastings also claims Ireland has seen a 15% drop in trade following the introduction of a total smoking ban in pubs.

He says that if the same thing happened in the UK and had the same impact, 5,000 pubs would be shut and 75,000 jobs lost.
He was correct on all counts. Uncannily so, in fact, when predicting pub closures and job losses. He possessed all the aces, he merely had to bravely play them again and again.

But rather than stick to his guns, he subsequently seems to have lost his balls on the London Underground between media spots.

In 2007, he downgraded the damage, which he had correctly predicted, when faced with opposition from a few anti-smoking fanatics.

Mark Hastings, communications director of the British Beer and Pub Association, said that although the ban may lead to a small decline in beer sales, pubs would also see an increase in the sale of food.
I don't know where the 'freedom of choice' part had managed to lose itself in the interim, nor the quite correct assertion that a significant majority didn't want to see a total ban (which they still don't).

Forward to March 2008 and Hastings was probably wishing he'd been more heroic as his initial fears began to disastrously materialise.

BRITAIN'S pubs are at the heart of every community – yet they have never been under such pressure. We are experiencing a "perfect storm" of rising costs, falling demand for our key product, draught beer, and grappling with the impact of a smoking ban that has hit sales hard.
Food wasn't helping 'sales' after all. It was full-on devastation ... and well before any recession had been felt, you notice.

What's more, the government wasn't just walking all over Hastings and his weak will, they had also ensured that his own members would be the ones to enforce their own demise. If Hastings was on the ball, he would have noticed this potential development quite early considering the Times had mentioned it in 2005.

In licensed premises the responsibility for enforcing the law would be placed on landlords and it would be policed by health and safety officers from local councils. Failure to comply would result in a fine.
And now? When much of the hospitality trade is calling for a sensible amendment to a law which has wrought so much damage? Which Hastings predicted? What say the pubs' stalwart and defender?

Mark Hastings, director of communications, British Beer and Pub Association ("We do not want to see a return to smoking in pubs. It would be a backward and unwelcome step.").
Game, set and match to the government over a quite limp and apologist approach from the gibbering wreck that used to be the proud BBPA.

Now. Taking into account the abject capitulation by Hastings over the smoking ban, it was almost pitiful to hear his weak attempt to deflect government focus away from pubs, with regard the 24 hour drinking debate, in favour of a reliance on individual responsibility.

Weak because he surely must know by now that government doesn't attach much importance to individual responsibility or freedom of choice, and pitiful because - by his own inaction - the state has established a precedent whereby pubs are to be solely responsible for policing their customers.

Hastings allowed that to happen. His organisation, despite the political clout it used to carry, woefully failed to rigorously stand up for its members and their right to self-determination. He presided over a period of time where his members became unpaid enforcers for the state, and he did so with an inconsistent whimper and a cowardly retreat from conflict.

The BBPA are now busted. Government know they are an easy touch and will fleece pub owners for everything they can get. What's more, once the precedent has been established for city centre barns - who can confidently assert that all licensed premises won't be charged for policing costs in the future? That the landlords won't, for example, be invoiced for the cost of squad cars parked outside rural pubs to catch those who may have had more than one pint?

Why not? After all, in Hastings' words, they "need to be penalised for the menace they cause to their communities".

And, like the scourge of city centre 'binge drinkers', the government won't be too willing to foot the bill themselves when they have a proven spineless industry just sitting there bravely turning tail and fleeing whenever a battle presents itself.

Lynne Featherstone's Big Fat Selective Condemnation

Lynne Featherstone's drooling was well-reported again yesterday.

Her hips are probably the most hypnotic on television, and now Christina Hendricks, who plays Joan Harris (nee Holloway), and is reportedly a size 14, has had her body officially endorsed by the British government.

"Christina Hendricks is absolutely fabulous," says Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone, who held up Hendricks' outline as an ideal shape for women.
The Guardian quoted more of this eulogy on Sunday (emphasis mine).

"Christina Hendricks is absolutely fabulous. We need more of those role models," she said. Instead, young girls and women were continually confronted with false images of incredibly thin women, which could create lifelong psychological damage. It was an issue that should worry "any of us who have children".

"All women have felt that pressure of having to conform to an unrealistic stereotype, which plagues them their whole life. It is not just the immediate harm; it is something that lasts a lifetime. Young girls are under intense pressure the whole time," she said, adding: "I was a young girl many moons ago."

Featherstone stressed the pressure to conform is also felt by men: "The pressure is on for everyone to look perfect."
We're right there with you, Lynne. The harassment of the more fully-proportioned amongst us has gone on far too long, as Dove soap highlighted in their hugely successful Campaign For Real Beauty.

You must remember it. You know, the one which asserted that larger women - or any woman, or man for that matter - should not be held up for ridicule and condescension based on their weight, size, looks or shape.

The ad campaign was successful for a very good reason. That being its popularity with everyday men and women who feel they are judged and criticised for, well, just being them.

Dove used images like the one below to convey the message that we are a - yes - 'diverse' nation, and that bland conformity to a physical ideal is not only crass, but also potentially damaging to an individual's self-esteem.

Featherstone seems very keen to emphasise the deletorious effect of the advertising industry in promoting such thinking.

"[...] the advertising standards code says no advert should place children at risk of mental, physical or moral harm, but adverts do contain airbrushed images of unattainable beauty in magazines aimed at young teenagers."
So, based on the same premise, we should likewise expect her to condemn others who use psychological pressure in a more direct way than advertisers.

'Slim and fit' 11year-old rated obese by NHS

The letter encouraged his parents to help him become more active and eat healthily to increase his chances of being a healthy adult.

It said: "If we carry on as we are, nine out of ten children today could grow up with dangerous amounts of fat in their bodies. This can cause diseases like cancer, type two diabetes and heart disease."

Tom's father Dan, 46, a school governor, has written to NHS Barnsley demanding that they stop sending out the letters. He said: "These letters are doing more harm than good. You might as well send a T-shirt with "fatty" on it.

"The impression it gives is that your child is fat, it's your fault and they will die from a horrible disease. You can't use tinpot psychology like this on kids or their parents."
Perhaps Lynne could also excoriate those who promote websites revelling in scaremongery towards people who don't - to quote Featherstone - 'conform to an unrealistic stereotype'.

The above advice is currently being offered to size 14 women - like Christina Hendricks, funny enough - on the NHS Choices website. It's free at the point of delivery and the health terrorism is doled out without charge too.

Now, I'm sure Lynne will be entirely consistent with her message, so I eagerly await her equal condemnation of deeply disturbing government-sanctioned eugenicists.

Or is psychological abuse only OK if the public sector is the abuser?

Now They're Just Being Silly

Eh? You mean they've reduced it again?

Drinking alcohol can not only ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis it appears to reduce disease severity too, research suggests.

The patients in the study did not drink more than the recommended limit of 10 units of alcohol a week.
When did it change from 21 units? I must have missed the announcement.

So let's translate. That's one bottle of wine or three pints of Stella ... per week. I reckon, on that premise, the entire membership of CAMRA just became classed as binge-drinkers.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Do Unto Others ...

Oh joy!

Reports from Westminster that some MPs were so strapped for cash under the new expenses regime that they were dossing down in their offices were, I assumed, apocryphal. Not a bit of it. The Clerk of the House, Michael Jack, has been forced to issue an edict warning that sleeping on the premises is strictly verboten.
And the best bit? To stop the poor, innocent, destitute, borassic souls from dossing in their offices, Jack is invoking the nation's catch-all precautionary leviathan for anything that isn't strictly illegal but which someone, somewhere, doesn't particularly approve of. Yep ... health and safety.

the Clerk if the House has seized on health and safety, pointing out that the Palace of Westminster has no overnight fire marshal cover [...]. He adds: “So, in the event of a fire in the quiet hours, we could not ensure building evacuation, nor could we tell search and rescue teams from the emergency services of anyone trapped in a building
Such a small story, so much schadenfreude.

1) £65k salary, extra living allowance if you're a London MP, a second home if you're not, subsidised food and drink, but you need to sleep in your office? You've got to be shitting me?
2) How are those overweening health and safety regs - which you fuckers inflicted on us - working for ya', boys and girls?

and, of course ...

3) Remember that you're not being banned from a legal activity ... you are merely required to step outside the building to do so. Not much to ask, is it?

The other foot bloody enjoys wearing the boot occasionally.

Move Over, Odor Eaters


Had a right moody curry last night but important meetings to attend today? Feel you shouldn't have eaten beans on toast for breakfast prior to that long train journey? Worried that your flatulence will ruin a promising career?

Never fear! Your worries are over with the Subtle Butt.

This pack of 5 saving graces (also affectionately known as fart pads or fart filters) effectively filters the odor caused by flatulence; simply stick one in the right place and you're ready for a chili cook-off.

Each 3.25" square filter is made of soft fabric with an antimicrobial treatment on the side touching the skin. The fabric is impregnated with activated carbon, which faces the underwear or the pants and has a vast surface area for bad odors to adhere to and get neutralized.
Hey! Don't just take it from us. Our many satisfied customers swear by them.

Cracking one off has never been so hassle-free!

I can highly recommend the Subtle Butt, I wouldn't have got where I am today without them. Whether it be in a TV studio or the House of Lords, these little beauties liberate my unpredictable 'arris.

Baron P, Hull
Why allow wind to let the bottom fall out of your world, when you can let the world fall out of your bottom without a care?

Bulk discounts available for inveterate pie-munchers.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Hey, It Was Only A Joke!

Four out of ten Lib Dem voters were only kidding

Four in 10 people who say they voted Lib Dem would not have done so had they expected the party to actually wield some power.

"This isn't what I voted for at all!", exclaimed Bob Cross from Kingston, "By placing my X in the Lib Dem box I was just advocating anyone but the Tories. After all, I couldn't admit to supporting Labour in this area as I'd be viewed as a bit of a crank."

Peter Llewellyn of Cardiff was equally irritated, "It was such a laugh being condescending to other parties as we dreamed up crowd-pleasing policies funded by imaginary money. But that's all it was ... a laugh!"

In Chester, Mary Hubbyknowsbest added, "My Derek said that the Lib Dems knew how to painlessly solve the country's problems without fear of being elected and disproving it. I feel cheated."

Meanwhile, Dick Puddlecote of Puddlecoteville was rather blunt. "See, the problem with Lib Dems is that only a precious few of them understand what the word Liberal actually fucking means. So this level of disillusion in the face of harsh reality doesn't come as much of a surprise, to be honest.".

Don't Pay The Bully

Smoking Hot has noticed that government doesn't care much for smokers. I dunno, maybe it was the subtle, hardly noticeable signals which alerted him ... like their DISMISSING EVERY FUCKING WORD WE SAY, for example.

In return, SH advocates not giving them what they truly desire above all else. Our taxes.

I'm in, and as such will be sauntering over to Antwerp for the weekend on August 6th with a box of cash in the boot.

He's even set up a Facebook group and everyfink, where tips, tricks and cheap travel deals will no doubt be discussed.

Up yours Cleggy-boy, we didn't used to pay the playground bully, so your lot can go swivel too.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Short But Sweet

Well, our quick jaunt around the near South West was very refreshing.

Surprisingly, we stayed in a hotel which not only entertained the idea of smoking rooms, but also actually provided one in line with my online request. Sadly, although when staying on the continent you can be pretty certain your wishes will be met, I can't remember the last time I managed to get one in the UK. It doesn't matter too much, as I'm buggered if I'm going to jump in the lift in my jim-jams, and trot down to stand at the front of the building, if I fancy a smoke with the in-room tea-making facilities ... unless they ban windows or install CCTV in the guest bedrooms, of course.

I'm not remotely alone either, so if you're a nutty anti-smoker I'm sorry to bust your bubble ... your pristine room will have seen some smoking activity before your precious body entered it.

It's also interesting to note that the chambermaids were able to clean our room without dropping dead, while it's apparently too dangerous (according to deranged anti-tobacco loons) for pub staff to do the same for separate smoking rooms in pubs even if well ventilated.

It's been a bastard of a drive back - the M3 was being particularly spiteful - but a couple of stories led me to the keyboard.

Firstly, it was very sad to hear of true legend Alex Higgins's passing, but also quite encouraging that those who knew him are sending him off in the correct manner.

Despite squandering his snooker winnings in a life blighted by drink and gambling, friends were adamant that Higgins would be given a proper send off. Some £10,000 raised to help Higgins receive medical treatment prior to his death will go towards his funeral, it was revealed.
The more usual response, of course, for the estate of those who succumb to cancer, is to give money to an organisation which increased its income by 5% to £498m last year. Considering that, in its 108 years of existence, there has been an increase in cancer deaths from 10% to over 40% (page 10), and that any such money not only starves local charities of funds but also doesn't make much of a dent in the salaries of the 23 employees who earn from £100k to £260k (up from 20 last year - page 37), such donations are pretty useless.

So good on Alex's folks for using that money to treat those who loved and cared for him instead.

Secondly, via Iain Dale, I understand that Somerset apparently has speed cameras.

The camera networks in Devon and Cornwall, Somerset and Northamptonshire are also under review after the government’s decision to claw back £38m from English local authorities’ 2010-11 road safety budget of £95m, and to remove funding for new speed cameras.
I can't say I encountered even one! In fact, the SatNav beeped on my way out on Friday somewhere near Bracknell and didn't mither me again till returning on the A303 in Wiltshire ... after which it barely stopped.

Great that the bloody things are being restricted to roads that are proper blackspots, though, as the only consequence of them on dual carriageways and the like is to cause drivers to over-compensate to unnecessarily slow speeds which can sometimes be a danger in itself. And I'm allowed to comment as, unlike Dale, I haven't had points on my licence for 15 years.

Finally, if you live in the South West, you don't half have some cheek charging so much for the cheese and fudge that Mrs P just had to buy. Bastards.

#Silly Week The Second

Last year was good fun, so Man in a Shed is taking entries once again this summer.

2nd annual Blogger's Silly week is go for 26 July to 1 August

Its that time of year again. The MSM is on holiday (or wish they were) and any daft story gets coverage.

So its time for Blogger's Silly week.

The Aim is to Entertain (whilst not being sued in any legal jurisdictions that your country has extradition treaties with).

That means making stuff up and even reporting true stuff. (Examples from last year here).

Add #SillyWeek to any tweets and we may as well use it as a blogging keyword also! (I'll keep an eye on them and try to keep tags on the daftness here).
My offerings in 2009 didn't pull up any trees. Must try harder. Though I reckon the concept mostly suits Widdicombe and the Moaner.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

How Do Lefties Love Climate Scares? Let's Count The Ways

"The goal now is a socialist, redistributionist society, which is nature's proper steward and society's only hope."

- David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth
It's a bit scary, that.

But then, so are these.

"Isn't the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn't it our responsiblity to bring that about?"

- Maurice Strong, founder of the UN Environment Programme

"We've got to ride this global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic and environmental policy."

- Timothy Wirth, President of the UN Foundation

“The models are convenient fictions that provide something very useful.”

- Dr David Frame, climate modeler, Oxford University
And there are plenty more.

Isn't it curious that all enviro-roads tend to lead directly to policies which would be instantly rejected by, well, just about everybody if they weren't terrified witless?

Convenient, huh?

Link Tank 24/07

Fabulae in absentia

Getting round the Digital Economy Act? Swedish Pirate Party unveils the world's first anonymous ISP

Sorry Veggies. Why eating greens won't save the planet

Spy Anna Chapman offered movie role by porn company

Obama could yet become BP’s greatest casualty

Six surprising ways that alcohol is good for you

Why protests don't work

Black Tea Partiers compared to Jewish guards at Nazi concentration camps

Asking a football to guard an Argentinian jail doesn't stop prisoners escaping ... oddly enough

What can monkeys, porn and celebrities teach us about autism?

Books have feelings too, you know

Friday, 23 July 2010

How To Enrage The Enviros

Set the bait ...

Number of birds killed by the BP oil spill: at least 2,188 and counting.

Number of birds killed by wind farms: 10,000-40,000 annually.

Number of birds killed by cars: 80 million annually.

Number of birds killed by cats: Hundreds of millions to 1 billion annually.

Don't worry there is some good news.

Number of birds killed by fisheries: tens to hundreds of thousands annually (fortunately for the birds, some of these fisheries are now shut down).
... and watch them bite.

Stuffing The Righteous

They've only gone and done it again!

Just when you thought Brewdog's wind ups of the holier-than-thou (with 18%, 32% and 41% beers) had reached the end of the road ... they excel themselves yet again by lobbing weapons grade magnesium into the calm waters of righteousness.

A beer served in bottles made from stuffed animals has been criticised as "perverse" and "pushing the boundaries of acceptability".

The End of History, made by BrewDog of Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, is 55% and £500 a bottle.

The bottles have been made using seven dead stoats, four squirrels and a hare, said to be roadkill.
One can only applaud in awestruck admiration. Bravo, gents. Bravo.

Advocates for Animals policy director Libby Anderson told the BBC Scotland news website: "It's pointless and it's very negative to use dead animals when we should be celebrating live animals. This seems to be a perverse idea.

She added: "I think the public would not waste £500 on something so gruesome and just ignore it."
Err, they sold out in just 4 hours.

However, [Brewdog co-founder, James] Watt argued that criticism of the beer's high strength was "totally misguided".

He said: "This artisan beer should be consumed in small servings whilst exuding an endearing pseudo vigilance and reverence for Mr Stoat. [...] I can think of no grander way to celebrate these animals than for them to be cherished by the lucky owners.
Thereby showing immense self-control as he suppressed his urge to collapse in hysterical laughter.

These guys have necks of pure polished brass and a huge wooden spoon to boot. We are not worthy.

Industry Brings Its Just Rewards

Bliss! The little Puddlecotes have been packed away for the weekend so Fanny P and I can trot off down to Bath and surrounding areas till Sunday. The laptop has been banned, but considering the huge volume of luggage Mrs P is bringing, it wasn't hard to squirrel it in when her back was turned.

Actually using it may be a trifle more difficult, though, so don't expect too much thoughtful prose here (yes, very funny, I heard the quip about there not being any for the rest of the year either, ta very much).

But before I go, congratulations are in order after the announcement of a most prestigious award.

(Click on the pic for full enjoyment)

And may their industry, innovation, and willingness to please be free of government interference for the upcoming 12 months.

Sirs, we salute you.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

A Little Knowledge ...

Ignore, for a moment, the calls for Billie Piper to be sectioned, locked up or sterilised, along with the plethora of other ad homs and vile insults towards smokers.

Because Daily Mail crazies readers, knowledgeable as they are, inevitably sometimes come out with valuable conclusions based on solid, incontrovertible science.

There ARE statistics that prove second hand smoke is just as bad as smoking yourself.

- Lynn, UK, 22/7/2010 9:23
OK, noted.

hugging a child while covered in a layer of chemicals deposited by smoking, or lifting you child with the hands you held your cigarettes in is even worse than 2nd hand smoking, as the chemicals are transfered though contact

- ton, london, 22/7/2010 8:26

Active smokers are in the clear, then. A 40 per day habit is no more dangerous than getting the occasional whiff of someone's clothes after they've been outside for a gasper, apparently.


Puff away folks. Just keep clear of surfaces and clothes on which smoke may have landed.

Picture This

I could have sworn the coalition had promised to do something about this?

An investigation is under way after police seized a photographer's camera and images were later deleted from it.

"The officer came after me in a police car, grabbed hold of me and told me he was going to arrest me," he said. "He took my equipment but when it was brought back I had a look at the images and they were not there. [...] My role is to photograph news so the general public can see what's going on."

Thames Valley Police confirmed the camera had been seized and a complaint had been made. "A roads policing inspector immediately called the photographer and his camera and images were returned to his home address," they said.
OK, it's not as outrageous as the case of the 16 year old detained for taking pictures of a public parade, but it's wrong nonetheless, and considering the police promptly returned the pictures, I reckon they've come to the same conclusion.

So how does one solve this?

Well, suspending policemen who invent non-existent laws to persecute photographers - or anyone else for that matter - without pay pending investigation, should see this particular problem vanish pretty sharpish, I reckon. The unions might have something to say about that, but surely it's not too outlandish to classify making laws up on the fly as 'bringing the police force into disrepute'.

Of course, the above solution relies on the government exhibiting some kind of will to do the right thing. Their apparent reticence to treat this as a matter of urgency (the last lot even went to court to extend their right to harass) suggests they don't give too much of a shit, or perhaps even quite like things the way they are.

H/T My friend in the north

Obvious-Stating Of The Week

A transvestite had sex with a dog in the moat of an English Heritage castle.

The cross-dressing man was caught with the animal in the dry moat of King Henry VIII's Pendennis Castle overlooking Falmouth Bay in Cornwall.

The 33-year-old mounted the pet after it chased him out of sight of its woman owner.

A spokesman for English Heritage said: "This was a very rare incident".
You don't say!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Doing Lines

[...] any run-in with a council always shows up laughable procedures and jaw-dropping incompetence, so it's tantalising as to what this particular one will bring.
So commented I with regard to our ongoing bit of fun with the council local to my business (more background here).

And, as predicted, this dispute doesn't look like it will disappoint ... in fact on current form, it could be a long-running seam of amusement.

On Monday a council truck turned up unannounced to paint yellow lines in the car park entrance. Not that it bothers us as we never parked there anyway, but a couple of local residents did, so the collateral damage from a vindictive anonymong complaint has begun already (more on that later).

Four of us poured ourselves a cuppa and went out to watch at close quarters as the council workers (decent guys, as it happens) - sweltering in the heat under their obligatory dayglo jackets - got to work, painting a double yellow on one side in double quick time. Very impressive. The problems started when they attempted to do the same on the other side.

After prodding a broom at a few bits of gravel, they came to the conclusion that the paint wouldn't stick as the surface wasn't flat enough. So they did the municipal equivalent of calling for back up.

"We'll have to get someone with a bigger broom", said one of the two, before they offered a cheery adieu and drove off. One would have assumed that a team detailed to paint yellow lines would be supplied with all equipment required for the job they were sent to do, but hey, I'm a private sector businessman, what do I know? No sign of the mythical nuclear broom thus far, though.

The result is a shiny new double yellow line on the side of the entrance no-one ever parked on, and nothing on the side that they did.

Since then, two residents have complained that the parking in the street, which the council have said they are happy for us to be forced to use, is now so crowded that they are experiencing a lot of problems, including one household occupied by an MS sufferer with an autistic kid. Fortunately, none have blamed us (especially as we are on the ground and trying to co-ordinate the parking that the council have offered no thought towards), but are spitting feathers at the council instead. As is a resident of the home, himself a former councillor, who is angry at being made to buy a permit to solve a non-existent problem, and has marched up to the town hall to forensically question their procedures.

Meanwhile, the 20 space car park is still, tauntingly to the local residents, empty.

To be continued, I'm sure.

Anatomy Of A Government-Funded Fraud

If you ever believed that your government remotely cares about truth and process. That they value the concerns of individuals and businesses over and above civil servants, quangoes, and those who they fund to tell them what they want to hear ... perhaps you should read this.

It's chapter and verse on how a law was passed, contrary to the overwhelming objections from those it would affect, utilising extraordinarily manipulated statistics; intentional exclusion of anyone who raised objection; wilful distortions of fact; hideous arrogance; and bastardisation of democratic process. All in the face of evidence from other countries that the law quite simply doesn't work as intended.

Remember that this was passed in this country, not a banana republic. And it was passed last year, not in the dusky parliamentary times when Old Etonians did as they damn well pleased.

The whole sorry catastrophe is catalogued in 39 simple-to-digest pages HERE - I urge you to read it.

Do also remember three things:

1) That this is merely one tiny area of government policy where mendacity has been used to drive legislation.

2) That just one MP is standing in the way of this nonsense being repealed ... in a government which is boasting of a Great Repeal Bill.

3) That ... are you absolutely sure, after reading the report, that you haven't been lied to consistently by MPs before?



Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Today In Parliament

I've once again been corralled into a quiz team for the evening so have been trawling online Welsh papers today ... the guy who organises it is from there and 10% of the questions are usually about the place. It'll be interesting to see if the World Cup gets a mention (should be inevitable, really) seeing as his lot haven't qualified since 1958. I'll be trotting up there soon through the clouds of flying ants currently making a nuisance of themselves in Puddlecoteville - I swear they're getting bigger, and less able to navigate - by the year.

In the meantime, how about some appropriate reading matter for the evening?

As mentioned over at Taking Liberties, MPs had an opportunity to hear about the quite shameful shenanigans perpetrated by the Department of Health and ASH in advance of the vote to ban tobacco displays. How many actually bothered to turn up and learn how they were duped we won't know till later.

However, the evidence is pretty damning, as I mentioned in September.

The report to be presented is an updated version of The Dark Market [pdf], which was compiled after a huge amount of internal DH correspondence had to be released following a hail of FOI requests. If you haven't already, I highly recommend you read it with a cushion under your jaw for health and safety reasons.

I'm sure there will have been retailer representatives there. They are still smarting over the fact that their input to the 'public consultation' was entirely air-brushed from the official report to government.

And all to bring in a measure which has been trumpeted as a success ... despite the fact that in every country in which it has been implemented, youth smoking rates have soared, and cigarette consumption overall has increased. In Thailand, the measure was such a disaster that it has recently been abandoned, and the public health approach been drastically revised. For more on that, read here.

What a mess, eh? And, as I understand it, just one MP (a Lib Dem) is standing stubbornly in the way of a rethink of this daft legislation, which was rushed through in the dying days of Brown's government.

Right. I'm off. But I'm sure this subject will pop up again in the next day or so.

UPDATE: Just as I was hitting 'publish', I received word of how many MPs were in attendance to hear today's evidence ... ONE.

UPDATE: The updated report, as presented at Westminster today, is available to view HERE. It might look bad at first glance, but it's far worse than that.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Rolling Out The BS

I really want to like this 'Big Society' thing, truly I do.

If I understand it correctly, the BS (oh dear, that's an unfortunate acronym, isn't it?) is libertarian by its very nature. A reduction of public reliance on the state is very long overdue after the country has, over decades, allowed itself to be seduced into believing that any problem - however inconsequential or unrelated to the original role of government - can only be solved by a larger state, unsustainable expenditure, and higher taxes to pay for it.

I'm sure we can all point to tasks which are currently undertaken by the state, or local authorities, which shouldn't be their concern and can, and arguably should, be handled by the public or by community associations. Better not go there or we'll be listing them all night.

Community can only benefit by a greater contribution from citizens, rather than just expecting someone else to do it on their behalf ... hand-in-hand with the inflated cost in taxes that involving the public sector brings. Plus, people always, but always, do things better than anything which gets within an inch of authority.

It all sounds so good, doesn't it?

Except that I can't quite get past this bit without feeling a trifle irked.

Also announcing plans to use dormant bank accounts to fund projects, Mr Cameron said [...]
Err, sorry, I wasn't hearing what he said after that. Because isn't this, as Longrider calls it, theft? And, as others have mentioned, if not theft, how is this different from taxation?

It's not government's money, every penny of it belongs to an individual. The banks have the investors' names - God knows they make damn sure of that - and even if addresses have changed, with modern technology it's easily possible to allow them the opportunity to reclaim it, though I don't see anything here which mentions such a thing.

If the account holder has been pushing up daisies for decades, there will still be a value which could come in very handy (especially with compound interest added) for their next of kin, and it should be returned there. Good for a re-energising of the economy, no?

Even if - and I certainly don't subscribe to this view - you believe that one loses the right to claim your money after a certain period of inaction, why is this liquidity to be taken away from the banks?

Horace Arkwright's nest egg of £8 10s 6d which he invested with the National Provincial Bank in 1951, before dying of a stroke whilst 'on the job' with Maud from the baker's, has been pinging around the system for so long, it's now quite a tidy sum. It's probably overnighted so many times that Horace would be applauding jealously from his cloud, and each investment by the bank grew his contribution to the financial sector's reservoir of ... lending cash.

Add these little pots together and you have a great big financial monster bucket of cash to lend to, well, those who are crying out for ... more lending in a recession. Horace may have once dreamt of buying a new pigeon loft, but his dormant money has probably helped facilitate any number of newly-wed love nests over the years, and maybe even a few business start-ups too.

Cameron says this isn't a clever way of disguising cuts. I believe him. Instead, it's a clever way of redirecting privately-held money into a new state-administered 'Big Society Bank'. And that is quite obviously nothing to worry about at all, is it? No, not in the slightest. None would ever be so cynical as to suggest such a thing, eh?

Well, maybe one.

- The Big Society Bank will of course be controlled by the politicians, or their chosen appointees.

I wonder if the government will be able to keep their sticky little fingers off the millions that will be hoovered up by the Big Society Bank?
Hmmm, whaddya think?

There was someone talking perfect, and incontrovertible, sense today though.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Tessa Jowell called Mr Cameron's speech "a brass-necked rebranding of programmes already put in place by a Labour government".
Yep. Can't argue with that.

It was the Labour government, while Gordon was scrabbling around squeezing every possible financial lime till its pips squeaked to pay for his excesses, who introduced the legislation which allows Cameron to steal other people's money.

Blogroll Update

A little birdie once told me that Mark Wallace of The Taxpayers' Alliance often thought it would be fun to write a blog. His position as an instantly recognisable face of the TPA effectively ruled such a thing out, though. Not necessarily because the TPA would frown on it, but for the fact that detractors would almost certainly assert that his personal points of view represented the organisation's official line.

However, now he has impressively served his time (quite hilariously too, at times) and moved on to a new challenge, his blog is now open for business.

So, Kaboom!, Crash Bang Wallace goes on the blogroll.

And a belated addition for the IEA blog. One I meant to add months ago ... but then I got high. Figuratively speaking, of course.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Latest Threat To Public Health - Freedom And Responsibility

Only a newspaper in the Guardian stable could possibly come out with an editorial - an editorial, no less, not some CiF fruitcake-scribbled psychobabble - which can send a chill down the spine of the free-thinking, while simultaneously exhibiting elements of profoundly subtle satire.

How else does one describe a paragraph such as this?

Barely 10 weeks into office, the coalition seems to have made it a priority to dismantle key elements of what most doctors thought was a settled consensus on key public health measures. Labour's use of intervention, exhortation and regulation has now been junked in favour of a reliance on individual freedom, personal responsibility and industry behaving itself.
And this is a bad thing?

By 'settled consensus', they presumably mean a circular jerk of doctors deciding how best to issue orders to those who pay their wages. All to produce a society where intervention and regulation are considered utopian goals, and - this concept truly baffles me - where individual freedom and personal responsibility are evil qualities which should be eradicated.

Oh, believe me, there's more where that came from. Straw men, absurd comparisons, opinions held up as fact, juvenile hyperbole, you name it.

It's like Orwell never existed.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Moat, Facebook, And The Failure Of Political Discourse

There has been much written in the past week of Raoul Moat and that Facebook page. Generally, it's been much of a muchness with the consensus being total contempt for Moat, and disgust with those who saw it fit to join "RIP Raoul Moat - You Legend".

Of all the pieces I read holding this view, probably the best-written were this eloquent pair from Anna Raccoon.

My own thoughts were very much on a par with Anna's, at least to begin with, especially after reading some of the 'get in there, my son' type comments in support of what Moat had done, on the group's wall.

But by around Wednesday, I'd come round to understanding exactly why the group was set up, and why so many were happy to put their name to it.

Whoa! Drop those hackles and step away from the window's X button for a second. I didn't say they were right to do so, just that I understand their motive. OK?

I can see there is some explaining to be done here.

Fortunately for me, such a job was made easier last night as JD, in an excellent article at the 'blog of the oft-invited rancour' has almost articulated my thoughts to a tee.

People like me do not see the massive state machinery as representing protecting or serving us. That machinery can be embodied by the police, or the tax man, or the quangocracy or the NHS or the schools or pretty much anything that bears the symbol of Leviathan.

I have grown to detest and hate with every sinew of my soul the very authority which I was once, years back, proud to support in a Burkeian conservative sense.

Authority now is distant and aloof. As Orwell and other libertarians came to understand, the state when it grows serves only itself, and citizens get in the way of their agendas and motives.

In these paragraphs, JD has described exactly why entire communities have lost respect for instruments and departments of the legislature. The only difference between his view and mine - if I understand him correctly - is that JD focusses most of his ire on the actions of the police, whereas I see the blame lying further up the command chain than that.

Like JD, I find myself partially agreeing - probably for the first time ever - with George Galloway!

The former Respect MP, George Galloway, said he believed the tribute page reflected the beliefs of a section of society.

He said: "I think it is a cry from the heart from poor, white, working class, unemployed people who are drifting on to dangerous shores.

"They hate the government, they hate the police, they hate society and feel left behind."
Could be truth in that. And, as I've written before, the feeling of being 'left behind'; of being marginalised and ignored, is not altogether unintentional.

The main parties have an incredibly forensic approach to elections. On count nights, they will corral their supporters to intensively scrutinise the ballot papers to see which ballot boxes, in which areas, are most likely to gain them support. Districts which show a willingness to vote, especially for their candidate, will be targeted first in the next election - areas where people 'don't do politics' are a waste of time to canvass.

Similarly, areas which offer a rich seam will attract market researchers to pinpoint what are the most pressing issues in their lives. The information will then be fed to the relevant central office, spreadsheets and databases updated, and policy formed accordingly.

It doesn't bode well for those who don't understand the process, those for whom politicians may as well be talking in a different language, those who haven't a clue what the word fiscal means, and those who can't really be arsed.

They all have valid concerns, and will talk about them at length to one another, but politicians won't give a stuff. It's not in their self-interest to do so.
As I never tire of mentioning, I grew up with working class people, I employ working class people, and I mainly socialise with working class people. The overwhelming feeling amongst them is that politicians are not interested in their meagre concerns. Nor will they ever be, as Nick Clegg recently illustrated with perfect clarity.

I'd venture to suggest that Boaty & D's initial motivation to blog may have had something to do with this ivory tower attitude from our politicians - I know it was for me. Likewise, Old Holborn's impressive visitor figures are testament to the fact that millions of us feel that however loud one shouts, however hard one tries to point out that swathes of respectable middle and working class people are being blithely ignored ... Politicians. Just. Don't. Care.

It's frustrating enough that - even in the face of informed and well-articulated debate - government is happy to ignore widely held opinions in favour of their quangoes and selected righteous arse-lickers. However, it's even more exasperating for those who have no realistic outlet to express their concerns, and no skill in conveying such even if they tried.

Owing to the electoral machinery described above, many of those who admired Moat have probably not seen a politician in the flesh for years. Even at election time they'll receive little by way of literature, and their complaints will mostly be ignored if they are in an area of no electoral importance for the main parties.

They are fundamentally dissatisfied with how they are treated by the state, and their main interaction with the state is through the police. So when Moat leads the police on a merry old dance, he is 'sticking it to the Man' and, in their minds, is to be applauded.

It's true that many of the working classes bring a lot of this misery on themselves by not voting, but their worries and concerns should still be addressed. Bullying and coercion to fit into a proper way of living as perceived by those who do vote only serves to further erode their trust in the system as a whole, makes their participation in the process less likely, and further escalates the anger and sense of isolation.

It's why many of the lowest of the working classes I have met are able to start an argument in an empty room. Issues which would appear inconsequential to most are magnified to a position of huge importance - for many, personal relationships are the only part of their lives over which they feel they have some kind of input. A perfect example is the fact that Samantha Stobbart's sister is apparently not allowed to visit her in hospital, at the behest of her Mother with whom she "has had a difficult relationship". Under the circumstances, can you imagine the same attitude in any other class of life? I know I can't. Whatever the feud, such a hideous attack would see family drawn together, not stubbornly adhering to some argument over who done what at Christmas three years ago.

It's the consequence of decades of being ignored; of being dictated to by those who they feel impotent in engaging with; of being bossed around by the state with no avenue of objection.

Rather than take the Facebook group as a sign of degenerative behaviour, maybe all parties should be looking at why, for very large sections of the public, a social networking site is now a more realistic method of registering dissent than by trying to talk to a politician.

Link Tank 17/07

Another dozen. Can you see a pattern of themes emerging here?

A council in New Jersey proposes jail sentences for smoking in a park

The culture of protecting kids from any conceivable risk is raising a generation incapable of fending for themselves

UK tax laws prevent Usain Bolt and other sports stars competing here

Pfizer go after the Viagra counterfeiters

Facebook sued for 84% ownership stake

32 years jail for producing films people want to buy

Soft drink ban starts to bite in Soviet Francisco

Why are blacks great at sprinting and whites good in the pool? Belly buttons, of course

Etch a Sketch turns 50

Female Czech politicians pose for glam calendar

Harriet Harman argues for shorter checkout queues at Tesco ... sort of

17% of US women are worth meeting

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Righteous Cliché-Busting

I've thought for a while that it might be worth listing, and rejecting, the clichés that are proffered regularly on internet fora and article comments by anti-smokers.

It was always envisioned as a stand-alone piece, but seeing as a cartoon in yesterday's Evening Standard has indirectly, and inadvertently, busted one for me, why not set the ball rolling now, eh?

The particular yawn-inducing defence of smoking bans in question, which is supposed to be a debate-killer apparently, is this one.

"Your right to smoke ends where my nose begins"
It's a cracker, ain't it?

So perfect is it, that it has occasionally even cropped up at Westminster. Here's an example from Labour MP (natch) Judy Mallaber during a debate on the very loosely-related topic of the tobacco display ban last October.

Judy Mallaber (Amber Valley, Labour)

Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that one person's choice to smoke affects other people's choice not to smoke? One person's freedom stops at my nose when it comes to smoking.
It's one of the ASH classics. Originating around 1994 in the USA, it fails on many levels. For example, it kinda presumes that non-smokers don't possess a pair of legs, let alone that smokers are somehow inferior to those who don't like the smell. But that's not why it is fundamentally flawed.

This is.

The cartoon above was light-heartedly appended to an article on property rights - entirely unrelated to smoke emissions - in the Standard. The homeowner may well have a right, in this case, to object to such a thing spreading onto his property.

Of course, when used to justify smoking bans in, say, a pub, it is less than useless.

You see, an anti-smoker complaining about his right to clean air on private property forgets one thing. He/she doesn't own that property. The right to smoke has nothing whatsoever to do with their nose, and all to do with the whim of the person who owns the land on which they are standing. Or should have in a free country, anyway.

This holds true for everywhere that the cliché can possibly be trotted out.

A smoker's right to smoke ends where a non-smoker's nose begins in the High Street? No, not really, as the Queen owns that land, and the local authority administers it. If the LA wants to make it a smokefree zone, they would be required to jump through a few hoops like, I dunno, legislative process. The non-smoker's nose has absolutely nothing to do with it.

There is no legislated 'right' to clean air. Nor, I suggest, will there ever be. Can you imagine the huge can of worms that would open up as anti-car pressure groups queued up to call for their legislated 'rights'?

You may be able to demand rights on your own property - you might succeed, you might fail - but you have no right whatsoever to demand any kind of rights on someone else's property.

Unless you're a deluded lefty, of course, in which case you just demand the right to the world on a stick.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Sticks And Stones

F2C have covered the story of Jon Gaunt, who yesterday lost a court case after calling Redbridge Health Nazi Councillor, Michael Stark, a 'health Nazi'. They are carrying a recording of the subsequent heated Radio 5 interview with Richard Bacon where the latter defends Ofcom's right to censor radio presenters like, err, himself. Well worth a listen if you have 15 minutes or so to spare.

The Beeb have another go at the story on their website today, in an article entitled "Is it ever OK to call someone a Nazi?" where Mike Godwin (Godwin's Law creator) is quoted thus.

"No-one can justify calling someone a Nazi simply because their views differ on matters of healthcare policy," he says. "When you get these glib comparisons you lose perspective on what made the Nazis and the Holocaust particularly terrible."
'Fraid I have to disagree with you there Mike, old chum.

You see, whilst the use of the word 'Nazi' as an insult may be clunky, lazy and even a bit crass, employing the above logic to argue for not using it is rather simplistic.

The slang term 'Nazi' was used by the allies well before the true horrific nature of Hitler's regime was evident. It described those who were members of the party and who, presumably, subscribed to the policies of that party. The Nazis didn't start by rounding up Jews and gassing them, that was merely the long term aim - the final solution. However, prior to that, Jews - and other minorities - were marginalised and judged as a homogenous group based on illegitimate prejudice.

Yes, yes, yes, Dick - I hear you say - we all know that. What's your point?

Well, Godwin is conflating the holocaust (which was, indeed, particularly terrible) with the Nazi ethos of marginalisation of minorities, which was by no means nice, but isn't comparable with later atrocities. There is a difference.

Prior to the concentration camps, Jews were, for example, held up as mean-spirited, ugly and harmful to other citizens via their business dealings. That was a Nazi policy ... to exorcise Jews from polite society whether they be decent people or not, purely on ideological grounds.

Similarly, Michael Stark's policy of excluding smokers as foster parents took no account of the nature of the prospective foster parents, nor did it consider the potential threat to the health of the children. He merely homogenised smokers as a group to be marginalised, and excluded, for dogmatic reasons.

It is very much a Nazi-esque policy.

Add into the mix the fact that Stark also suggested during the interview that Gaunt's aggressive nature could be attributed to the fact that his foster mother was a smoker, and the insult is even more understandable.

Rejecting the term 'Nazi' on the basis that it is supposed to compare with the murder of Jews, rather than the inherent bigotry that led to there, is deep into straw man territory, in my opinion ...

... though some may very well disagree.


The ASI suggests that Jon Gaunts loss is Britain's too.
Longrider says Godwin can stick his law 'where the sun don't shine'

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Thanks For Your Suggestions, HMG

Hi Government

I'd have produced a slick video - somewhere down-with-the-proles like 'Tea Boy Nick'** did - to deliver this touchy feely message but, unlike you, taxpayer funding can't provide me with top quality filming equipment so it'll have to be the written word, I'm afraid.

Shame, as I was going to strike a jaunty pose, get the make-up girl to accentuate my dimples, and put on my best genial smile. Never mind, here goes anyway.

Firstly, I'd like to thank all of the people in Westminster who have offered suggestions as to how I should live my life in the past few years. It's been a really exciting way of doing things.

I've seen over 4,000 laws enacted, around 20,000 articles of pointy-fingered behavioural hectoring from hundreds of fake charities and quangoes, all promoted by about 650 besuited chimps who make life difficult for everyone.

And some of the ideas are ideas I am looking at very very actively, straightaway.

Of course, there are other suggestions which aren't going to be taken up by me like, I dunno, paying duties on tobacco in this country, or voting for one of the three main parties, but at least the debate is now really alive and that's the most significant thing.

Actually, there are a few other ideas that I've decided to discard. For example, your suggestion of segregating all my rubbish and trotting down to the recycling point once a week isn't really working for me, so since yesterday I've decided not to. Instead I've bought a garden incinerator to burn anything that I can't pack down into the bin. I can't burn glass bottles, of course, but I'll just buy thicker black bags to disguise them.

I like your idea about taxes too, but again, since yesterday, I don't feel like paying too much of that. So a tax specialist is popping by my company next week to work out ways I can prevent you from getting it. I'll probably pay him as much as I'll save, but the tax consultant will respect me for giving it to him, whereas ... well, you can fill in the rest, can't you?

You tell me quite regularly that I shouldn't buy counterfeit goods, and I've listened intently to the points you raised. However, that oriental guy around my way sells newer DVDs than the ones in the shops for £2 a pop and doesn't charge VAT, so although I've never bought from him before, I will try him out.

I've also listened to your ideas about litter, and have always wandered around looking for a bin to discard that food wrapper or empty sweet bag. However, it's all rather inconvenient and, considering that I'm now officially a filthy anti-social non-person, I've worked out that I may as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb. Especially since I pay quite a lot of money for the street cleaners anyway.

But please don't let this put you off. I hope you continue with your many suggestions; with your criticisms. It makes a huge difference to hear directly from you what your ideas are. I'm looking at them, I will keep responding at frequent intervals on some of the suggestions that have been made.

So let the debate continue! I hope you have felt it is as helpful as I have, to be able to have this new way of driving a wedge between the both of us, and I thank you very much for the dull-witted gobshite you've already burbled out of your ivory tower.
And ... that's a wrap, guys (is what I would have said if it was filmed, natch).

** © Shark boy

Monday, 12 July 2010

The Great Repeal Swindle

It's taken a couple of months, but this 'new politics' is beginning to properly reveal itself. As I now understand it, it means two parties telling us what to do instead of one.

It also involves awe-inspiring levels of spin which would have Tony Blair applauding in delight and rapturous admiration.

Remember this?

In a speech delivered this morning the deputy prime minister promised the coalition government will introduce the "biggest shake up of our democracy" since the 1832 Great Reform Act.

"As we tear through the statute book, we'll do something no government ever has: we will ask you which laws you think should go," he added.
Note that he didn't actually say that they would listen, as proven by cuddly Clegg's cosy little cafe chat with us over the weekend.

Got that? Not only is an amendment to the smoking ban not to be considered, it is "of course" not going to be considered. With a smile and a cheeky chuckle. The cunt.

At time of writing, discussions on amending the smoking ban have attracted more than double the comments of those on any other subject. Not only that, the number of people 'asking' Nick for such an amendment was so large that the moderators were forced to close their additions to the debate and redirect the many contributors to other threads. That, too, presented problems as there were so many threads that moderators became confused as to where they were supposed to be redirecting, leading to commenters being pointed to discussions which had also already been closed.

Cleary, then, there was a very hefty reaction to Clegg's stimulus, just as John Redwood experienced when asking the same general question as that posed by the Your Freedom site, back in May.

The most popular repeal from contributors to my website would be to repeal the section in the Health Act that bans smoking in all public places, to allow smoking again in specified rooms and areas.
Now, if Clegg was truly asking the public which laws to revisit, such a weighty response would merit at least a debate on the matter. But instead the issue has exposed the entire 'crowd-sourcing' exercise as a highly elaborate con trick.

Liberal Vision's Tom Papworth (from whom I pinched the headline) predicted as much last month.

In practice, however, one has to wonder just how genuine this exercise will be. Please don’t misunderstand! I do not think for one moment that our new Ministers are consciously planning to provide us with a sham consultation. But do you really think that in practice they will approach this exercise with an open mind?
There can't be a more closed mind than one which states that 'of course' the coalition aren't even going to consider widescale antipathy and resentment towards a law enacted without electoral mandate and which was forced through, employing skullduggery and lies, thereby roughly bludgeoning reasonable democratic process along the way.

Especially when it can easily be argued to fit Clegg's three criteria for consideration.

The Deputy Prime Minister asks people to concentrate on three areas:

- Laws that have eroded civil liberties (1).

- Regulations that stifle the way charities and businesses work (2).

- Laws that are not required and which are likely to see law-abiding citizens criminalised (3).
Arguably ...

1) There cannot be a more egregious contravention of civil liberties than to deny a property owner and his/her customers some form of self-determination over their own interaction.

2) Especially when it stifles the way pubs, for example, work, and have done for hundreds of years. Thousands have closed, over 1,400 before any recession showed itself, and the government itself have conceded that businesses are suffering under the Health Act, and are entitled to a rebate on their rates. Remember too that Clegg's blithe dismissal means that the ridiculous and entirely health-irrelevant 50% rule for outside shelters is also not to be reconsidered.

3) As the government never tire of telling us, the smoking ban is wildly popular so why would a law be required (unless there are porkies being told here)? What's more, I reckon Nick Hogan may have something to say about the criminalisation - and incarceration - of property owners by government sanction.

All criteria have been satisfied; all questions have been answered; boxes ticked; engagement entered into; time spent; co-operation delivered. Yet the coalition have abjectly failed to meet the basic requirements expected from a government which professes to embrace liberty and inclusion ... while at the same time proving that they are as wedded to single interest pressure groups, fake charities, state-funded quangoes and the hideously self-centred in society who demand an absolute veto over the lives of others, as the last lot.

Listening to the people, my arse.

The Your Freedom website has been a disastrously implemented (the thing crashed repeatedly for the first couple of days and is still slow) exercise in futility. For the public, anyway. For Clegg, it gave him the chance to pretend he was something that he is not ... a liberal.

Instead, he was the school teacher asking his pupils what kind of play they would like to stage. Brightly responding to every reply with "good idea, Johnny", "great suggestion, Jane", before settling on the one response which matched the scenery he had already instructed the caretaker to produce. The class are convinced they had an input, but 'teach' knows exactly how he manipulated his charges.

Clegg quite clearly isn't interested in listening to the public on this, he only wishes to repeal laws which the coalition have already discussed and decided upon. And when tabling the bill that they have already written, he will point to suggestions from Bill in Rochdale, Margaret in Swansea and Rob in Maidstone as being the sole motivation.

More applause from Tony Blair.

So what are we to take from this charade? Well, I'd venture to suggest that we're now governed by yet more fuckwitted morons who wish to dance through life doing as they please, whilst simultaneously being baffled as to why the public trust them less than they would a beardy beggar on heroin.

All of which leaves only one suggestion as valid for the website. That the entire site be consigned to the dustbin as a waste of our taxes. It's a fucking sham.

H/T Taking Liberties

UPDATE: There is still one topic left on the Your Freedom site which is relevant.

This "consultation" is a sham, give us free speech

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Spirit Level Delusion And Lefties On The Defensive

Oh dear.

Natalie Evans of Policy Exchange has upset CiF residents by mentioning that her think tank have rubbished a modern lefty bible.

For those not aware of The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, its premise is that, almost without question, countries boasting more equality - that being the difference in income between the top 20% and the bottom 20% of the population - fare better in every known sphere of life. Apparently eschewing the notion that growth is a good thing for all of society, the authors (Wilkinson & Pickett) point instead to a definitive correlation between a nation's equality, and its people's happiness, health and longevity.

It seems remarkable that anyone could claim a nation to be better off if the poorest earn only £10,000pa compared with another where the lower limit is £20,000, but Wilkinson and Pickett do so by reference to the disparity between their earnings relative to those at the top of the scale.

The sole premise for this is that if the difference between rich and poor is large, those less well off are exposed to stress and inferiority which damages them in a plethora of ways. Far from being happy with rising global prosperity, the fact that others have more than them is enough to poison their existence.

Sounds a bit like self-destructive envy to me, but what do I know, eh?

Still, lefties love it. Wilkinson and Pickett have been fêted for putting into cold statistical fact what the left have been banging on about for generations. That the rich are evil, despite the fact that absolute poverty diminishes as economies grow on the back of entrepreneurial endeavour.

Roy Hattersley was so impressed with the book that, reviewing it for the New Statesman, he wrote:

It demonstrates the scientific truth of the assertion that social democrats have made for a hundred years – sometimes more out of hope than intellectual certainty.
The problem seems to be, though, that the book itself appears to have been written 'more out of hope than intellectual certainty' ... which is why it is coming under sustained, and well-referenced, attack.

As well as Policy Exchange, whose extensive report is particularly damning ...

The evidence in The Spirit Level is weak, the analysis is superficial and the theory is unsupported. The case for radical income redistribution is no more compelling now than it was before this book was published.
... the Taxpayers' Alliance have also waded in this week with their own rebuttal of the book's methodology.

The Spirit Level is flawed in two ways: The correlations shown do not withstand scrutiny; and a depth of existing research into the causes of the social ills that the authors cite has been overlooked. Policy makers need to be aware of the fact that The Spirit Level is not a reliable book based on objective science.
Both organisations quite rightly pick holes in the way the authors present their evidence, and also their selective sampling of data.

Wilkinson and Pickett have given their response to the Policy Exchange report, but it consists of little more than their saying that others have said the same and that it has been peer-reviewed ... the customary old pals act which allows any old junk to be presented as legitimate.

CiF commenters, as one would expect, merely perform the usual trick of dismissing any criticism of their idols as right of centre spin. By sticking their fingers in their ears and repeating "they would say that, wouldn't they", they can convince themselves that all those graphs they saw really did prove something quite ludicrous and illogical after all.

Unfortunately for them, Christopher Snowdon, an author who is not politically-affiliated to anyone, had already covered all the methodological discrepancies highlighted by PE & the TPA in his book, The Spirit Level Delusion.

What's more, he goes further than both of this week's reports by widening the scope to draw comparisons with similarly daft lefty tomes.

Snowdon also quickly spots the exclusion of countries such as Slovenia, Hong Kong and Singapore. What's more, he exposes systematic cherry-picking of data such as the authors' use of 2004 life expectancy data rather than the freely available stats from 2005 or 2006 which don't provide the results the book requires.

On mental illness, Snowdon refutes the idea that the huge increase witnessed in the 80s and 90s was a result of Thatcherite/Reaganite economics. A rather silly notion as it ignores the indisputable fact that psychiatrists of the time had adjusted the way data was collected to include hundreds of conditions previously not considered as mental illnesses. A schoolboy error from the lefty dreamers.

Similarly, Snowdon points out that high imprisonment rates in countries considered unequal was less to do with incomes and more to do with government policy. By looking at crime rates instead, the same reasoning used by Wilkinson and Pickett could equally prove that egalitarian countries suffer more from crime ... because they don't jail those who commit it as much as their unequal counterparts.

Considering this week's defence by the authors - stating previous research as proof of their assertions, remember - Snowdon, almost prophetically, rubbishes that by mentioning that a huge proportion of it since 1992 was written by, err, Mr Wilkinson himself.

And, as mentioned, by comparing The Spirit Level with similar middle class lefty nonsense such as Affluenza (written by an Old Etonian, oddly enough), Happiness, Status Syndrome, and All Consuming, Snowdon paints a vivid picture of a quite terrifying tranche of political opinion who would seek to catapult us back to 1940s-esque policies of widespread rationing of food and fuel, as well as the promotion of new initiatives to enforce crippling taxation, restriction of liberties, and across-the-board increases in benefits (and believe me, these are just scratching the surface. Some of the madness proposed would result in Britain more resembling a soviet state than the historically successful economy that we see today).

And all this to deliver the benefits of a more equal society ... which are wholly unproven once Snowdon pulls apart the cherry-picking, statistical contortions, and occasional outright fantasy exhibited in The Spirit Level.

The Spirit Level Delusion is a masterful book, written in a calm fashion which is both informative and wide-ranging, whilst also being very entertaining.

As with other manufactured 'proof' covered on this blog, Snowdon shows that the ideology behind The Spirit Level was a theory desperately crying out for some evidence. Wilkinson and Pickett have provided it, but only at the expense of epidemiological principles and scientific rigour.

If you haven't read The Spirit Level Delusion, I'd heartily recommend you do so.

To buy it, click on the cover in the 'Recommended Reading' rolling sidebar widget.