Friday, 31 December 2010

Won't Be Long Now

Well, yes, the above title could refer to the upcoming predictable nannyfest commonly known as 2011, but is actually prompted by today's realisation that this blog is fast approaching the 10,000 comment mark.

So close, in fact, that it may very well be breached before midnight, who knows?

Now, considering I hold the commenters here in the highest regard, I planned to offer a prize or something for whomever posts it. And since I'm regularly accused of working for the tobacco industry, attractive giveaways must be stacked up to the rafters here, surely.

Sadly, on scouting round, all I could find were a pristine spare copy of Ten Years On by Lee Rotheram (the TPA sent me two for some reason) and a boxed retro pink toothbrush in the shape of a woman's leg, which I inexplicably bought from a boot sale about 7 or 8 years ago ... so perhaps that idea isn't really a goer.

As such, I'll just heartily thank everyone who has read this stuff in 2010 - especially if you've offered your own views in the comments - and sincerely wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year.

I'll point out which is the landmark comment when it arrives, though I can't even stretch to a banner, brass band fanfare and wide-smiled PR girl for the occasion. How bloody mean from a tobacco-funded tycoon, eh?

Enjoy the pyrotechnics all ... we get 'music' this year.

Today Europe, Tomorrow ...

While you may be dreaming about our getting out of the EU, it would seem President Barroso is mulling ideas to the contrary.

We have come to Tripoli to identify sustainable solutions to today's challenges. These solutions will bring our peoples, our businesses, our cultures and our youth closer together.

We have come to Tripoli with the fascinating long-term perspective of a Euro-African economic area in mind – an area which will provide opportunities for 2.5billion citizens by 2050.
Some of us are old enough to remember when it was merely a European 'economic area in mind', but that was many EC directives ago.

Barroso's vision may be understandable though, just look at how many citizens we are talking here. 2.5bn is a lot of units for megalomaniacal people to play with, the scope for paper-shuffling fees and increases in self-importance is enormous.

Sometimes you wish they would just be honest about it all by hollowing out a volcano and filling it with flashing gadgets, inept uniformed foot soldiers, and some hungry sharks for if an inconvenient spy should turn up.

Oh, and a big fluffy white cat, natch.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

The, Err, Imperfect Study

The Weasel yesterday waxed lyrical about his idea of a perfect study, recalling evocative descriptions of historical and fictional British 'workstations'. You know the type.

He then goes on to describe his own.

As I sit writing this, in front of me, on the desk is:

A calculator
A pile of empty cds
A pile of music cds
A ball of string
A box set of Fred Astaire movies
A coffee cup
An OS map of Skegness
A packet of Postcards
A Magnusson metal tape measure
Bits of assorted paper

No. This place in which I sit is not a study at all, it is a collection of accusations.
Oh, I dunno. That all seems rather quaint in comparison to the bombsite I am currently looking at.

A 2009 Stan James diary
A tin of fuse wire for the box which was removed in May
A water damaged mobile
A tape measure (Bingo!)
A pint of Carlsberg
A Brahma beer towel
Two mini screwdrivers
A picture of Hazel O'Connor, Toyah and Susan Anne Sulley (Brit Awards 1983)
A half eaten bag of Haribo jelly babies
Revenge of Arcade CD
Scattered No2ID and Big Brother Watch stickers
A tub of broken or leaking pens
An unopened £10 webcam
An empty T-Mobile bag
A menu for the Bluu Bar in Birmingham
A mess of incomprehensibly scribbled post-it notes
A pair of girl's gloves (?)
Dust ... lots of it

And that's without glancing to the upper shelf which I try not to do for the sake of my peace of mind - I think it's high time I did a spring clean.

I'm tagging Al Jahom, Mark Wadsworth and Man Widdicombe meme-like to see if they'll share their own 'study' experience ... nosey bonk that I am.

Addendum: Sod it, let's ask what an upside-down desk is like too, if and when he leaves the grog alone and gets back to it, that is.

Surely That's Cheating?

Who knew darts players could play so dirty?

(click to enlarge)

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Sit Down And Shut Up

Here's a guide on how to make your voice heard in 21st century Britain.

1) Decide from an early age that you would rather take money from other people than generate it yourself.
2) Study politics.
3) Join a large political party - any one will do.
4) Schmooze your way through the selection process and become a parliamentary candidate (remember, your own money not required).
5) After bravely bullshitting in a couple of unwinnable outposts, earn a safe seat.
6) The world is your oyster, buddy boy.

Err, that's it.

Well, according to Paul Flynn anyway. Because, d'you see, a career politician knows a hell of a lot more than you about absolutely everything.

The public is to be given an X Factor-style say in setting the political agenda under Coalition proposals.
What a fucking stupid idea that is! Letting the public set the agenda for a democratic government? How absurd.

In theory the public proposals could become law.

Critics warned the system would be dominated by populist ideas, such as restoring the death penalty, withdrawing from the European Union and giving householders the right to kill a burglar.
It's quite clear that the public are all wackos and should have no say in any policy whatsoever. Withdrawing from the EU? How dare the public even think about questioning something which affects their lives on a daily basis.

Don't they know that career politicians have already done their thinking for them?

Private property? Do me a favour, some chinless cock who left university and promptly joined the SDP as a wonk (half the Lib Dems) knows much more about that than you. Are you stupid or something?

Besides, all these things are already legislated upon, and some are even subject to supra-national agreements that politicians have signed without the bothersome process of having to go to the country. Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be for those to be renegotiated on the flimsy premise that the electorate don't like them? By Christ, it would cause an argument and the ligging opportunities would dry up pretty damn quick.

No, it's better left as it is. For everybody concerned ... in Westminster.

Those million people who marched on London to stop the war in Iraq? Nutters, all. The consistent majority who don't want a comprehensive smoking ban? Loopy. The million or so who disagreed with road pricing on the e-petitions site? Barking.

The cheek of it, what do they know? Did they learn about demographics and vote maximisation? Did they climb the greasy political pole? Did they suck up to some old codger at turgid conferences so they might be well regarded in selection committee circles?

No! So they should jolly well sit down and shut up, then.

The bloody public, eh? Always trying to muscle in on what politicians have decided is best for them. For crying out loud, some of them even believe that because they pay a barrowload of taxes they should be entitled to dictate how it is spent! I mean, really, the nerve.

Why can't they just be happy with having no real choice once every five years, the ungrateful bastards.

UPDATE: Paul Flynn, who campaigns for relaxing of drug laws and rails against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, says this about those who share a different view to his.

"Take defeat gracefully. The smoking ban has been a great succes."
I think that translates as 'sit down and shut up, I'm an MP doncha know'.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Top Lies Of 2010

Apologies for being subdued in the past couple of days, I have a separate existence (since 2002) providing info for a subscription sports betting website, so while things are quiet politically (and righteously) I've been writing quite a lot of stuff for publication there.

I'd give you the info too but you'd only help to ruin the prices.

So, swiftly moving on, I thought this might be of more interest. I have two tags here at my tabloid corner of the blogosphere which are perennially relevant. "Lies", and "ASH Troughers".

You see, the anti-smoking industry is founded on telling lies. Everything you have ever heard about passive smoking is weapons grade bullshit. Quite a lot of what you read about smoking itself is bollocks too. It's not completely the liars' fault, they are paid to spout it by those who would seek to enrich themselves on the back of quite nonsensical science paid for by those who stand to make a lot of cash from the misdirection.

Take, for example, Great Ormond Street Hospital - an institution very much loved and respected by the general population - who were so misled by tobacco control fanatics last year that they uploaded a page on their website warning of the appalling consequences of 'thirdhand smoke'. It read thus:

"Kids are put at risk by smokers even if they are in a different room or outside, researchers say. Poisons in cigarette smoke get stuck in hair and clothes. This means smokers carry the chemicals around. But less than half of smokers knew the risks of what scientists call 'third-hand' smoke."
At the time, e-mails were sent to GOSH pointing out that the 'science' they referred to was nothing more than a phone poll asking, after a few leading questions, if those contacted believed it could be a risk.

It was, of course, an archetypal exercise in tobacco control funded scaremongery. Or, to be more accurate, lying. It still made the GOSH website though.

They were contacted about the daft claim and asked to take it down, but the reply was brusque and rude in its dismissal. They acknowledged that the science was flawed but insisted that the page would stay because, after all, what harm could it do?

The page has since disappeared. Even they couldn't say 'fuck off' for long when defending pure fiction.

The problem is that many, many people would have read that bollocks. It was cast-iron fantasy, and all shame on GOSH for publishing it in the first place, but its being posted has done its job. Around the country, there are now a few more fuckwitted morons who believe in a danger which has about as much scientific grounding as the wardrobe monster.

What is so very laughable about anti-smoking organisations is their insistence on painting the tobacco industry as hideous profit-led liars. Yet tobacco control - itself led by spite and the profits engendered by pharmaceutical cessation products - lie on a daily basis. They're not even good at hiding it anymore.

So much so that Michael Siegel, a tobacco control advocate himself for 25 years, has drawn up a shortlst of his top ten lies of 2010.

Note he doesn't say "inaccuracies" or "misunderstandings". No, these are lies, pure and simple. He had a hell of a lot to choose from too. To narrow it down to just ten takes a lot of effort and also noticeably relies on the cult of the now. The latest yarn is more fresh in the mind than the outrageous guff pumped out earlier in the year.

Anti-smokers lie every single day. Let alone a best ten of the year prize, we could almost point out ten every fucking week!

MPs, of course, are happy to believe all of them. They're in the same business, remember. Truth sits bobbing up and down on the Thames whilst those inside Westminster talk only about what might help them in their careers.

Read Siegel's nominations and you'll wonder how any sane-minded individual could possibly believe such nonsense. But politicians do.

Once you understand that they are so easily misled, it'll make you wonder why we invest so much power in those who exhibit the same independent intellect as a dry stone wall.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

The Immaculate Cessation

Anyone see The Royle Family last night? Quality, weren't it?

Here's the Wikipedia rundown of the characters.

Sue Johnston as Barbara Royle

She is often forgetful and a little scatter-brained. She and Denise chain smoke.

Caroline Aherne as Denise Best

Denise is known for pulling right back on a ciggie. Her and Barbara love smoking and often fill the ash tray.
Perhaps someone should tell the BBC then. Chain-smokers both, apparently, they somehow managed to survive an entire politically-incorrect 2010 Christmas without even a hint of the existence of tobacco or sight of an ashtray. Barbara hasn't smoked for two years, and Denise enjoyed just a sneaky one last Christmas in a caravan.

The Beeb seem happy to portray chavs eating shite, dubiously claiming benefits, binge-drinking cheap crap and generally being stupid or borderline criminal, but it would appear that some unapproved behaviour is now simply too shocking to be shown.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Xmas Everybody

On Xmas Eves past I've posted a letter to Santa, but my hopes for an end to 'hysterical nannying' are never fulfilled, sadly.

Therefore, this Xmas I shall wish for something far more likely to be granted, like these guys did in their criminally underplayed seasonal offering.

Yes, there really is more chance of taking a 23-eyed alien as a pet than our maternal state leaving us to go about our lives unfettered. We can't, it would appear, change the cards we are dealt (without blowing things up, of course), we can merely play the hand in such a way as to mitigate the worst excesses our hideous legislators seek to force upon us ... and boy have we seen some of those in 2010! Let's hope we can be more optimistic come Xmas 2011.

By the way, if you thought my using Xmas throughout this post was lazy or irreverent, it isn't. In fact, in doing so I've added a traditional flavour to the piece, as the Churchmouse - a good friend of this blog and a perfect person to link to at this time of year - explains fully here.

The ‘X’ comes from the Greek ‘chi-rho’ symbol, illustrated at left. These are the first two letters of ‘Christ’ in Greek. This was the way ‘Christ’ was written in English until the advent of the printing press, which couldn’t handle the symbol, for obvious reasons. So, printers used an ‘X’ for ‘Christ’. Xmas is pronounced ‘Christmas’.

So, it isn’t disrespectful at all to write ‘Xmas’ in a seasonal greeting. In fact, it’s the oldest way.
And there were Slade, probably thinking they were being a bit edgy back in 1973, eh?

So Merry Xmas to everyone who has popped into this grumpy grotto during the year (apart from ASH nosey-bonks, natch). Whether you've been naughty or nice, may you and yours enjoy a fantastic festive period.

Let the over-indulgence commence!

10 Ways Christmas Is Good For You

In case you haven't already seen it ... after a year of putting up with a constant drone from the miserabilist health lobby, here's the perfect Christmas antidote courtesy of Patrick Basham and John Luik.



There is overwhelming scientific evidence that moderate drinkers live longer than teetotalers. Moreover, the recent Million Women Study in the UK, which looked at the link between drinking and cancer, found that nondrinking women had a higher incidence of cancer than those women who had one drink a day. American researchers found men consuming two alcoholic drinks a day had a 36 percent less risk of developing diabetes.


There is considerable evidence that one’s longevity is directly linked to one’s plumpness. In a massive study of weight and mortality, Dr Katherine Flegal from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the longest lived were not the thin but rather those who were overweight, a finding confirmed in many other studies. Increases in overweight and obesity have been paralleled by falls in US mortality from coronary heart disease and stroke. And life expectancy continues to increase, despite the supposed massive increase in obesity.


British research has found that high-fat cheeses, such as stilton, protect against tooth decay. They are also rich in cholesterol from which the hormones estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone are synthesised. Cholesterol is also essential to the production of vitamin D, which regulates calcium levels. And while at the dining or buffet table, be sure to pile on the turkey. It’s full of tryptophan, which raises the level of serotonin in the brain, which in turn reduces stress, improves mood, and improves sleep patterns.


Few women need a research study to tell them that chocolate boosts mood, activity levels, and even sex drive – well, dark chocolate, anyway. Nevertheless, scientists inform us that dark chocolate may also reduce risk of a stroke or a heart attack. American research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Science found that cocoa, when consumed at doses equivalent to two dark chocolate bars per day for humans, significantly reduced chemical markers for heart disease in a group of lab animals on a high-fat diet.


The body uses down-time to repair tissues and rebuild immunity. American researchers have found that unrelieved stress can decrease one’s immunity by up to 40 percent. Consequently, Professor Peter Axt argues that time spent lazing around each day is a better way than exercise to ensure you live longer. In On the Joy of Laziness, Axt writes, ‘We always think we have to be doing something but doing nothing … could be better’.


A post-Christmas dinner walk is almost certain to make one feel better. An article published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice found two dozen physiological ailments and psychological conditions that walking may prevent.


Spending Christmastime with people one loves – assuming that includes one’s family – can improve one’s mental health. Psychologist Edward Diener’s research has found a very strong connection between research subjects’ unhappiness and their poor social relationships. Economist Andrew Oswald controversially theorises that better family relationships would be far better for societal well-being than a financially richer society.


Whether one finds comic relief in a favourite TV programme or a favourite relative, American researchers have found that laughter boosts one’s immune system, reduces tension and stress levels, exercises one’s heart, and releases feel-good hormones in the brain.


For most of us, our mood improves when we receive a Christmas card. American research has found that the more Christmas cards we receive, the higher our self-esteem and the better our mood.


‘Tis the politically incorrect season, so we would be amiss to ignore a study recently published in the British Medical Journal that found the act of praying slows down one’s breathing rate and has a calming effect on the heart.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Political Entertainment With Farage

It's at about this time of evening that I usually crack my knuckles and write something witty turgid and incisive clunky, but with all the seasonal gubbins going on, I have things to do. Presents don't wrap themselves, you know.

Well, actually Mrs P wraps them, but she can't wrap her own (that would be far too mysogynistic for a 'new man' like me), so it's time for that annual knee-crippling task of cutting wonky 'straight' lines in wrapping paper, having sellotape curl up on itself just at the moment when the fold has been wrestled into place, and then having to bodge it all again after realising the prices hadn't been peeled off.

After such a palaver, the only thing I'll be able to contemplate tackling with any seriousness will be a large G&T and, since they've been few and far between on TV this year, a Scrooge film from the DVD shelf (Patrick Stewart appeals at the moment).

In the meantime, I can heartily recommend the video below for anyone who couldn't make it to the IEA's end of year event in London last week. I attended and it was good-natured, down-to-earth, political entertainment.

IEA Director General, Mark Littlewood, questioned Nigel Farage on a number of issues (lifestyle choices included around 31:00) in an interview that was revelatory as well as being amusing - and sometimes very funny - throughout.

Peppered amongst more serious comment, Farage gives a personal account of the Van Rompuy 'damp rag' incident, as well as the subsequent 'disciplinary' with Jerzy Buzek; talks of UKIP's controversial burqa ban; and answers the question of what he would do the day after his being elected as Prime Minister!

The format worked well and the film is definitely worth watching after pouring yourself a favourite beverage.

Speaking to Mark afterwards, he was keen to hold further one on one interviews such as this, but wondered if there are any other politicians entertaining enough for such an informal approach. Any suggestions?

Knowing What's Best For You

This isn't a perfect quality video but the sound is adequate enough to understand what is going on, including the usual objections by the police to being filmed. I found it rather disturbing and reminiscent of the cases Christopher Booker has been highlighting for the past couple of years.

It's true that we don't know the full story, but it's also clear that the teenager concerned was adamant that he wished to stay with his father, and doesn't appear to be under any duress. Can it really be in the best interests of the kid to be ordered by police to put his shoes on or be removed forcibly into council care, a few days before Christmas?

Most disturbing of all to my mind, though, is the policeman's repeated assertion that a piece of paper in his hand is justification for over-riding the will of a teenager as to where he wishes to live.

For the chiiildren? Hmmm.

UPDATE: Jackart has written an incredibly thoughtful piece after watching the video. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

ASH, Pharma, And Their Supporting Charities, Need Smokers ... Not Vapers

Sorry to bang this drum again, but while it's quite obvious that the anti-smoking drive is purely an exercise in rent-seeking and pursuit of pharmaceutical profits, some still don't get it.

The Independent - without seemingly being able to spot it - has picked up on further proof in its reporting of this research* on the harm reduction potential of e-cigs.

"Few, if any, chemicals at levels detected in electronic cigarettes raise serious health concerns," the authors said. "Although the existing research does not warrant a conclusion that electronic cigarettes are safe in absolute terms and further clinical studies are needed to comprehensively assess the safety of electronic cigarettes, a preponderance of the available evidence shows them to be much safer than tobacco cigarettes and comparable in toxicity to conventional nicotine replacement products."
Ah, but d'you see? E-cigs aren't made by pharmaceutical companies, nicotine replacement products are.

The report reviewed 16 laboratory studies that identified the components in electronic cigarette liquid and vapor. The authors found that carcinogen levels in electronic cigarettes are up to 1,000 times lower than in tobacco cigarettes.
You'd think the anti-smoking lobby would be ecstatic, wouldn't you?

No, silly.

Since coming onto the market in the United States more than three years ago, electronic cigarettes have proven to be controversial. The FDA has threatened to ban the sale of e-cigarettes and six national anti-smoking groups – the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Legacy Foundation, and Action on Smoking and Health – have also called for the removal of electronic cigarettes from the market.
Ooh, look at all those 'concerned' charities listed there. All normally seen desperately attempting to halt the tobacco industry, and the use of its products, for the sake of the nation's health.

They hate cigarette companies, so they do ...

"Taking these products off the market would force thousands of users to return to cigarette smoking," Siegel said. "Why would the FDA and the anti-smoking groups want to take an action that is going to seriously harm the public's health? The only ones who would be protected by a ban on e-cigarettes are the tobacco companies, as these new products represent the first real threat to their profits in decades."
... but not enough to allow e-cigs to dent tobacco company profits, it would seem.

So, just what is their problem? Well, I have explained this a few times before**, but in essense you just have to follow the money. And anti-smoking organisations really need money from two sources; firstly, their supporting charities who benefit greatly from pharmaceutical patronage; and secondly - which is especially true in the US - the fines levied on tobacco companies themselves which is then funnelled into funding, you guessed it, anti-smoking organisations.

E-cigs undoubtedly help wean many people off tobacco, or if not, at least reduce harm - a result anti-smokers should be pleased about - but they do so in a way which doesn't financially benefit the tobacco control industry or its allies.

As such, the burgeoning e-cig industry is in the firing line ... even if that means driving vapers back into the sales figures of tobacco companies.

You see, it really never has been about health.

E-cigs are now in the same category as one of the other methods of quitting smoking which doesn't enrich ASH and their pals. Books.

Today Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the public health charity has apologised to Allen Carr’s Easyway Organisation for unfounded comments made by its Director in November 2006.

In November of last year, Deborah Arnott, Director of ASH claimed that specific success rates quoted by Allen Carr Easyway were “plucked out of the air” and “basically made up.” She made these comments whilst on the BBC Radio 4 “PM” programme during a piece concerning the death of Allen Carr, founder of Allen Carr’s Easyway organisation.

Deborah Arnott’s comments referred to two independent studies conducted by eminent experts in the field of smoking cessation which had already been published in peer reviewed journals indicating a 53% success rate for Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking Clinics after 12 months.
Using a book doesn't put food on Deborah Arnott's table; it doesn't help pay her mortgage; it doesn't even cover the maintenance on her broomstick.

If you quit using a book, an e-cig, or just by good, old-fashioned, stubborn willpower, there is no money in it for tobacco control and therefore it must be derided and denormalised as much as smoking itself.

Just think of those huge figures quoted for the sales of banned drugs in this country and others. The sky-high profits being earned by drug cartels and their profit-fuelled immunity to the best efforts of huge investment in prohibition. Then multiply those mind-boggling sums by about 50 to get an idea of the value of the worldwide nicotine delivery market.

That's one hell of an incentive, huh?

The nicotine war used to be a straight fight between tobacco and pharma. Books deny both, as does quitting cold turkey, so that's bad enough for ASH et al. But e-cigs are another thing entirely, they're a new entrant to the market. And anyone who has even the most cursory knowledge of business (which tobacco control most certainly is nowadays) will know that all industries will do their very utmost to stifle any new challenge to their income.

If smokers are banned from using e-cigs and consequently return to far more dangerous tobacco products, then so be it. Who cares if their health is consequentially harmed as a result? Certainly not tobacco controllers. At least then there is still a chance of earning a shilling or two out of them, as opposed to their cash escaping pharma's order book, or tobacco control's 'polluter pays' schemes, for good.

ASH, their supporting charities, and the pharmaceutical industry need a constant supply of smokers, not vapers. Even if tobacco was prohibited tomorrow, there would still be a role (and money) for them - they know this from observing the war on drugs. Their approach would change, but the cash would still flow.

What they really can't be doing with is smokers getting out of the system without bunging them a few bob. Since e-cigs have massive potential to do just that, it scares the willies out of them.

Many believe that tobacco control wishes to see a reduction in smoking for altruistic reasons, but if that were truly the case, the anti-smoking stance on e-cigs would appear to be biscuit contraception (fucking crackers).

With this research, we again see that nothing could be further from the truth. Tobacco control is, and always has been, about money and personal enrichment. No more, no less.

* Conducted by an anti-smoker of 25 years standing
** Previous related articles
here, here, and here

Give Us A Clue, And That's All

Personally, I find the most trying part of Christmas is to be tasked by Mrs P to buy items that are entirely alien to me.

"Get some icing sugar", she says, "oh, and some ready to roll puff pastry. And don't forget the crackers for the cheeses. Make sure you get a good selection of those for Boxing Day, nothing with that blue mould in it though, we don't like that.".

We? I don't buy or eat cheese. I also never buy pastry or icing sugar. This is a big store we are talking about, and whereas one usually has an idea of either where most of the shopping list is situated or what it looks like, instructions like this leave me scrambling for clues after vainly attempting to find the stuff myself (I found the cheeses OK).

The only thing to do is ask the staff, it used to be quite straightforward. They'd tell you it was in the same aisle as 'so and so' or give you the aisle number to look for.

Now, though, asking such a question means that you are considered incapable of independent thought. Numbers are apparently too difficult to comprehend, so you must be led there.

You could be in aisle 32 asking for a product in aisle 4, but the employee has been told to instantly forget the job he is currently doing, in order to walk ahead of you and point at the item you were seeking.

Listen guys and girls in the supermarket industry, please just give us directions. We really aren't that fucking stupid. It's demeaning to you to be some Sainsbo sherpa, just as it is hideously annoying to be presumed so vacant as to not understand basic instructional information.

It's not customer service, it's just irritating.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

That Binge-Drinking 'Epidemic'

A bit of an exclusive, this.

Small voices in a hurricane of alarmism we may have been, but myself and VGIF have been pointing out the undeniable fact that Britain's drinking levels have been declining for quite a while now.

For a long time, Britain's falling alcohol consumption has been a well-kept secret. It doesn't fit the narrative of boozy Britain and doesn't support the neo-prohibitionist's scare-mongering.
Indeed. This was also the first of the Devil's now legendary 'Five myths about alcohol'.

Such inconvenient truth is solidly backed up by official sources too, as confirmed by the last published statistics from the ONS.

Following an increase between 1998 and 2000, there has been a decline since 2002 in the proportion of men drinking more than 21 units a week, on average, and in the proportion of women drinking more than 14 units.
Yet still we see emotive pictures from the more, ahem, excitable of our mainstream press.

So, although consumption is most definitely decreasing, the behaviour of those out on the razzle must be appalling. After all, there wouldn't be the great call for minimum alcohol pricing to stop all those youths 'pre-loading' otherwise, right?

To find out, it's best to ask the experts. And this is where the Freedom of Information Act can be so very useful. For example, if you asked a large police force - the Metropolitan Police is a good one - how many people have been arrested for 'drunk and disorderly' since 2001, what do you think the response would be?

Well, as it happens, someone has done exactly that. As expected, it looks bad ...

... for those who believe our government, their state-funded quangoes, and the quite absurdly gullible mainstream media, that is (yes, even Ed West).

For the record, here are the exact totals.

2001 - 12138
2002 - 11915
2003 - 11069
2004 - 9688
2005 - 6541
2006 - 5718
2007 - 5142
2008 - 5149
2009 - 5232
2010 - 4516
It must be noted (since lies don't appear here) that the last figure only encompasses 11 months, but extrapolation would still suggest that 2010 is on course for producing the lowest London D&D arrest rate of the decade.

I'm guessing that the trend is probably a nationwide thing. Why not try asking your nearest police force the same question?

Now then. Ever felt utterly and comprehensively lied to?

UPDATE: More detail on page three (click the zoom icon).

Reduction in drunk arrests

Monday, 20 December 2010

Unfortunately, He Can't Be With Us Tonight ...

We have a winner in our midst.

Tobacco Control Rhetoric Poll Winner Announced

James Watson (also known as jwatso or Junican) won the TC website poll for best ideas for new ways to talk about tobacco control with 77% of the vote. Some of Mr. Watson’s colleagues on several pro-tobacco blogs may have helped push his good idea over the top
This refers to a competition conducted by the BMJ to find new linguistic tricks with which to further dehumanise smokers. It was heavily supported by the very few anaemic wallflowers for whom the whiff of smoke from twenty paces is akin to armageddon ... as you can see from the voting. Or perhaps not. It more accurately suggests that no-one really cares unless they are paid to do so.

Those who have stayed long enough to read more than a week's worth of the shite blogging offered here will be aware that Junican is a regular contributor to our comments threads.

Congratulations, Junican, you are now free to claim your prize.

In any case, Mr. Watson has won the poll and we sincerely hope that he will use his free subscription to the journal to educate himself further about how the tobacco industry has funded and used ‘smoker’s rights’ groups and others to advance its interests while misleading smokers and undermining even the most reasonable public health protections.
Reasonable? Are they fucking serious? Reasonable flew out the window once the bansturbatory effete - including those at the BMJ - demanded all 60,000 pubs, clubs, and bingo halls as their exclusive domains. Along with coffee shops, greasy spoons, restaurants, bus stops, and every other place that the cunts don't own.

And while it's nice to know that we are 'undermining' their efforts (quite a fillip, that, ta), it's a bit rich to talk of anyone but publicly-funded health professionals doing the 'misleading'.

Consider this, for example.

[...] comparisons showing increases in cardiovascular events after a smoking ban were not submitted for publication because the results were considered implausible. Hence, the true distribution from single regions would include both increases and decreases in events and a mean close to zero, while the published record would show only decreases in events. Publication bias could plausibly explain the fact that dramatic short-term public health improvements were seen in prior studies of smoking bans...

The IOM and other policymakers have relied on the weight of the published literature when making decisions. However, it appears that publication bias did not receive sufficient attention. Our results suggest that only positive studies have been published thus far, and the true short-run effects of governmental workplace smoking bans would be more modest in the U.S.
See, that's what I call 'misleading', and it ain't the tobacco industry doing it. The BMJ - and the similarly 'impartial' BBC - seem strangely silent on such huge studies from a source as comprehensively unimpeachable as the RAND corporation (you may remember that they are implicitly trusted by the EU for tobacco research, and as far removed from the tobacco industry as one can possibly imagine).

Unlike here, of course. I mentioned it back in April 2009. The difference is that the study has now been officially published.

Hyperbolic claims about drops in heart attacks following smoking bans, like hyperbolic claims about the mortal danger posed by the merest whiff of tobacco smoke, fit the agenda of the anti-smoking movement too well to ever be re-evaluated simply because they happen to be a load of crap. If the activists and officials who have endorsed these claims were concerned about telling the truth, they would not have been so reckless to begin with.
Now then, BMJ blog, where's your article on "how the pharmaceutical and public health industries have funded and used ‘non-smoker’s rights’ groups and others to advance its interests while misleading the public and undermining even the most reasonable exemptions to health tyranny"?

Come on guys, you claim editorial impartiality. Let's see it.

Cold Beer, Popsicles And A Sceptic In Cancun

I doubt this guy will ever get an enviro-pass again.

Watch out for the ubiquitous preachy jock (who flew in, natch) and the rather ingeniously employed Dickens quote as denouement.

Public Sector Demand

I've seen a vision of the future.

Yesterday, a post office van stopped outside Puddlecote Towers and mercifully delivered two rather large packages ordered online about a week or so before. After this unexpected relief (they were the little Ps' major pressies), I watched through the window as the same guy distributed five other smaller packages to houses in the near neighbourhood.

On a Sunday.

I've been ordering online for nearly a decade now but I've never seen that before. But this year's two bouts of snow-wrestling must have put such a strain on postal backlog that something had to be done about it.

Such items are regularly too big for a postman to carry on his round, so who could blame them for not doing so? Apart from the Daily Mail, of course. As such, and since online shopping will become increasingly prevalent in the future, we could soon be seeing the Sunday delivery round becoming a fairly regular occurrence.

It's good to see adaptation from the Royal Mail. A state funded organisation identifying that they must change to fit the preferences of the public who pay their wages.

It would be nice if the NHS could follow the same principle. You know, adapt their state funded service to the lifestyles of those who pay for it, instead of taking our money then ordering us all to change our way of life.

Just saying.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Porn, And Ed Vaizey's Handbag

Here go the government again, desperately assuaging the massed ranks of middle England Mail readers.

Internet pornography sites will be automatically blocked from home computers unless households request access under an ‘opt-in’ system.

Ministers want to reverse the current situation in which such sites are accessible to anyone surfing the internet, including children, unless a lock is installed.

Under the plans, those who want access to pornography sites would have to ask their broadband firm to make them available.
Well, that was perhaps the aim, anyway. Unfortunately, the comments seem to suggest that even Mail readers think this is an idea so fucked up as to render the coalition a laughing stock.

The Coalition is hoping to persuade Internet firms to devise this system voluntarily, but would legislate if they fail to comply.
Ah, the old 'do as we say voluntarily, or we will force you' trick. Previously seen in tobacco control, alcohol awareness, music and games classification, and the latest bête noir, fast food.

13 years of Labour and they still can't stop bloody interfe ... oh, hang on.

The [Tory] Communications Minister [Ed Vaizey] told the Sunday Times: ' This is a very serious matter. I think it is very important that the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) come up with solutions to protect children.

'I am hoping they will get their acts together so we don't have to legislate, but we are keeping an eye on the situation and we will have a new communications bill in the next couple of years.'
Well, screw me sideways with a glass dildo last seen in "Where the men aren't: Connossieur's Collection". It's a Tory suggesting this? Seriously?

Oh, I get it now. It's that new 'Nudge' thing, innit. You know, opting in rather than out? Or, in this case, being presumed to be an irresponsible cunt until you prove otherwise by giving your name and porn preferences to the state.

Quite remarkable.

Of course, Man Widdicombe has quickly spotted a couple of flaws in such desperately frown-ridden nonsense.

How will they know which homes and have kids? Will you have to provide that information to your ISP when you sign up?
Or even be required by law to notify your ISP when anyone in the household gives birth? No. Silly me. A government department will be set up to monitor such things and then pass forms - in triplicate - to your ISP once a birth certificate crosses their desk.

What exactly is pornography? Bill Hicks famously paraphrased in one of his routines that "pornography is anything without artistic merit that causes sexual thought, that's their definition, essentially." So what does our Government define as porn?
Another good question. Who decides?

Here's a picture currently carried on fun retro-site, victoriporn.

Hmm, very nice too.

Does that count? There are more revealing ones, just as there are ones with all subjects clothed. Does the entire site get blacklisted, or just some pages?

My guess is that it would be the lot. After all, now the UK government has fully signed up to the precautionary principle, banning everything is the only way to ensure that no-one sees something which will almost certainly have NO FUCKING ADVERSE EFFECT ON ANYONE!

Hands up if you didn't witness - in fact, actively seek out - porn in your teen years despite the best efforts of your parents to hide it (admittedly, ladies may be different here). Anyone?

It's been a natural thing for time immemoriam. Pubescents will kill for a view of whatever they can find (and they are comprehensively resourceful), kids will not, and even if they do see it, they will probably just ignorantly giggle. If there is a significant conversion rate from youth porn-viewing to hideous sex cases, it's been hidden for quite a few millenia now.

We are led by astoundingly myopic fools. A modern day bunch of arrogant King Canutes, as the Moose has pointed out.

Do they really believe that every pornographic image can be blocked. There is a hell of a lot of porn out there, I've looked.
Err, are we not in the midst of public sector cuts? Yet here is a lumpen-headed Tory - I'll say that again - a lumpen-headed Tory, promoting legislation which would require an infinite number of civil service monkeys, sitting around an infinite number of computers, just to keep track of one day's worth of newly-set up porn sites.

And if they fail? The Moose has done me a favour again by morphing into Mystic Meg on unintended consequences.

What happens when some gets through and children see it because there is no parental filter in place on the PC, as will obviously happen? Does the parent then sue the Internet provider and get compensation?

That's the usual consequence of taking responsibility away from the individual. They start to believe that they need not do anything as the government is looking after them. When something then goes wrong, they want compensation.
Oh, but you see, it's that other top-down illiberal cunt soup so beloved of our hideous parliamentarians - the next logical step.

The initiative comes following a successful trial by British ISPs to stop innocent people accessing child pornography websites.
Innocent people accessing kiddie porn? Err, I don't suppose they could name one? I mean really, just one.

I seem to remember a heck of a lot of defendants saying that they stumbled across child porn by accident, followed by about the same amount of sentences stating that they had been added to the sex offenders' register. No-one just stumbles across child porn, that is pure unadulterated bollocks.

In fact, the nearest we have seen is when a state organisation ballsed up so much that they directed the world and his wife to a Scorpions album cover from the 1970s.

As scaremongering justification for the state as mother and father goes, it's incredibly weak.

No. What we have here is Vaizey and cohorts vainly thinking they are clever enough to succeed where prurient fucknuts have failed for thousands of years.

People will watch porn. Teens will try to access it (I used to sell Mr P Snr's stash at school for 50p a pop mag). All this initiative will do is throw good money - our money - at irrelevant employment, with no possible positive outcome.

Ed Vaizey - a guy I thought I had respect for - has illustrated quite comprehensively today why MPs should be given a 5 year sleeping pill the day they are elected. Every time the dozy fucks open their gob, the country suffers the potential of a further spiral into terminally-expensive futility.

All this without pointing out what should be crystal clear to a conservative MP. What people indulge in is none of your business, Ed. Nor you, Claire Perry, the self-righteous mare who thought this crock up when scrambling for an original angle which could make her fuckwitted name. It's not your life, there is no problem, and they are not your kids.

John Major was arse-whipped for his talk of 'back to basics' and the Victorian mindset. Ed Vaizey seems to think that a return to some puritan crone-like hand-bagging of those who paid their penny to see 'What the Butler Saw' is the way forward. Worse still, he and prissy Perry naively believe that they are capable of defying the lessons of history.

Listen. This is as pathetic an initiative as I have seen in the past decade. If parents wish to throw their keks around their ankles and get jiggy to "Gang Bang Auditions 13", what the fuck has it to do with Westminster, and why the fuck are they wasting time and money on such poppycock.

Hey, Ed, didn't you see the memo that talked of cutting public sector bullshit? Shut the fuck up, eh?

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Guardian Radio Does It Again

Considering the BBC's self-proclaimed impartiality, I always find it amusing that they should have never noticed the latent lefty mindset of the vast majority of their Radio 5 guests.

Richard Bacon's show - his own Guardianista views are markedly transparent, most notably in almost screaming at rare right of centre invitee Jon Gaunt and repeatedly cutting him off in the summer, and again in November - seems to have them lined up on some kind of rota at times. It's not a scientific sample, of course, but my experience of his godawful show consists of either his fawning over vacant ideologies put forward by lefty slebs, or arguing with the few who rock up to his studio with opinions which aren't right-on enough. Oh yeah, and his mutual ego massaging with fellow lefty Boyd Hilton can sometimes raise eyebrows ... their disagreement about whether Rush Limbaugh was just insane or very insane was perfectly, err, politically-balanced, I thought.

But then, it would seem the execrable Bacon is only following the general ethos of his channel. For example, The Freedom Association are rightly irked at their 'impartial' BBC treatment at the hands of Alan Davies and privately-educated lefty, David Baddiel this morning.

Speaking 1h 23m into the Alan Davies Show on Radio 5 Live today, David Baddiel called the libertarian Freedom Association "a very, very right wing kind of sub-BNP, slightly posher version of the BNP".
Davies's quips about TFA founder Norris McWhirter possibly being a friend of Mosley and wondering if he owned a brownshirt didn't help matters, either.

Quite heavy political fare for a radio programme about ... football!

It got me thinking, because I attended TFA's Freedom Zone at the Tory Conference in October and all I saw was a whole load of MPs, MEPs, Councillors, journalists, policy wonks, and at least one Marxist talking about free trade, civil liberties, and freedom of movement. Considering the BNP's manifesto advocates trade restrictions, top-down control and immigration bans, I must have been lax in missing the debates where kicking out the 'fuzzy-wuzzies', protectionism, re-nationalisation, and the introduction of the death penalty for drug dealers were discussed.

Yet they may as well have been, since BBC listeners will now be of the opinion that TFA's founder, Norris McWhirter, was not averse to sticking pins in golliwogs while he was alive, and that TFA - who almost none of the show's listeners will have been aware of before today - don their ties every morning and set off to restore the purity of the 'indigenous' English race.

One could argue that Baddiel and Davies's nonsense was just a bit of larking around and not an attempt at lefty bias, but being tagged as a racist organisation is deeply insulting, very damaging to any reputation, and a demonstrable inaccuracy by a BBC presenter and his politically-naïve guest who was childishly pissed off that McWhirter didn't talk about the Guinness Book of Records show when he visited Baddiel's private school.

The Freedom Association's Director, Simon Richards, is complaining to the BBC about it and asking others to do the same. I don't blame him, to be honest.

Link Tank 18/12

For consumption during Soccer AM's boring bits.

Sean Gabb on why the latest WHO passive smoking report is 'worthless'

Liberals: The secret elitists

European Court of Justice rules that Dutch coffee shops can ban sales to foreign customers

The week's big political story in South Korea ... fried chicken

'Experts' quietly admit they were wrong about 'cancer-causing' saccharin

The cheapest beer in the world

A non-smoker writes ...

Slutty squirrels

And the NHS aggressively prescribe this stuff?

Chernobyl: The new Disneyland?

The latest in advertising - burning a company logo into the viewer's retina

Santa is a public menace, say doctors

Friday, 17 December 2010

The War On Fast Food Is Officially Declared

Listen, guys and gals, I did kinda warn you that anti-smokers were/are the most dangerous bastards the world has ever encountered.

And this looks very much like proof.

A mother of two from Sacramento, Calif., says that McDonald’s uses toys as bait to induce her kids to clamor to go to McDonald’s and to develop a preference for nutritionally poor Happy Meals. With the help of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, today the mom, Monet Parham, is filing a class action lawsuit aimed at stopping McDonald’s use of toys to market directly to young children. The suit will be filed in California Superior Court in San Francisco shortly after the court opens for business Wednesday morning.

According to Parham, the main reason her six-year-old daughter, Maya, asks to go to McDonald’s is to get toys based on Barbie, i-Carly, Shrek, or Strawberry Shortcake. The food seems almost beside the point to the kids, says Parham, because the toy monopolizes the attention of Maya and her two-year-old sister Lauryn.

“I am concerned about the health of my children and feel that McDonald’s should be a very limited part of their diet and their childhood experience,” Parham said. “But as other busy, working moms and dads know, we have to say ‘no’ to our young children so many times, and McDonald’s makes that so much harder to do. I object to the fact that McDonald’s is getting into my kids’ heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat.”
Yes, you did read that right. McDonalds are being sued (text of the claim here) by someone who has no concept of personal, or parental, responsibility.

But hold on, Dick, I hear you cry. How is that anything to do with the war on tobacco?

Well, since you asked, this case is very reminiscent of the early anti-tobacco suits filed by US lawyers on behalf of those who claimed they were suckered into smoking by the wiles of the tobacco industry. Many, many failed, for over a decade in fact, but eventually - bolstered by massive pharmaceutical investment - the Master Settlement Agreement stuck. Anti-tobacco then had their precedent and the rest of their descent into absurdity is history.

Not only that, the flood of cash it unlocked was generous enough to fund the very same lawyers in pushing for more censorious actions - aided and abetted by fellow newly-enriched dodgy epidemiologists providing junk science bullets - which has consequentially given us the quite ludicrous claims we are now seeing.

Now then. What is the link? Well, the world's most obscene anti-smoking lawyer (who made himself obscenely rich from anti-smoking) has been pursuing such legal action for quite a while.

You see, money is running out for anti-smokers. They need to find another way to please their pharma masters, and obesity drugs are the new game in town.

Here we are witnessing the opening salvo (in California, natch) of the war against fast food.

Funds are drying up for tobacco controllers, but there is a vast untapped wealth just sitting there taunting them in the form of multi-national food outlets (oh sorry, did you still think it was about health?).

You would probably have missed the early exchanges. Like tobacco, advertising bans were first, for the ease of getting them past legislators with minimal resistance. But it's all part of the template.

Where there's a government staffed by pompous authoritarians, there's a public health angle; where there's a public health angle, there's someone to blame; where's there's blame, there is a claim.

And where there's a claim, there is someone to profit from it, and 'scientists' to secure their funding for the next decade or so by pumping out shonky research.

This suit will fail, almost certainly. But the idea of a malevolant industry preying on kids for profit has laid its foundations in the minds of the terminally health terrified. Sooner or later they will make an absurd claim like this stick. And when that happens, the gates will open to a vast new seam of public health rent-seeking on the polluter pays principle.

Plus, numpty-packed governments aren't going to resist too much seeing as they can profit by it too. It is, as in this case, all for the chiiildren, after all.

I've lost count of the times I've listened to people stating that "I'm a libertarian, but I love the smoking ban". I generally tend to smile sweetly before looking around for someone more clever to talk to.

As I've mentioned before:

You simply cannot pick and choose which freedoms you like and which you don't. You either stand up to all of the dictatorial bullying, or you will inevitably become a target.
Where tobacco control leads, interference in other areas will gleefully follow. Often helped along by the very same joyless bansturbators who have so demonised tobacco.

If you like bans on any particular lifestyle choice, fine. Just prepare to be next in the firing line is all.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Tobacco Control: Nazis, Hypocrites AND Terrorists

Now, I've argued before with reference to a BBC radio debate that there are anti-smokers who can quite legitimately be termed as Nazis, but via Taking Liberties we find a post by Dizzy where he was astonished by a claim made by Cecilia Farren of ASH (that's the jolly gal on the left).

You can listen to the short Radio 4 article by scrolling to 50mins 30secs on iPlayer here, but in case that is time-limited, the relevant quote from Farren is as below:

"On the other side is long campaigning by the tobacco industry for, you know, frightening businesses. It is, it's an absolute terror campaign."
Of course, being part of ASH, she is on the moral high ground here. Because frightening businesses is a tactic that ASH find appalling! They would never even consider such a method suitable for their own ends. Oh no. Never!

ASH has sent a registered letter to all the UK's leading hospitality trade employers, warning them that the "date of guilty knowledge" under the Health and Safety at Work Act is now past, and that employers should therefore know of the risks of exposing their staff to secondhand smoke. Employers who continue to permit smoking in the workplace are therefore likely to be held liable by the courts for any health damage caused. ASH and Thompsons intend to use the letters in any future court cases as evidence that employers have been fully informed of the issue.

ASH and Thompsons are also planning further steps to encourage employees who believe their health has been harmed by smoking in the workplace to seek legal advice on making a claim for compensation. These will be announced shortly.
Oh, that? That's just threatening pub owners with an avalanche of crippling no win no fee claims, and pointing out that if the hospitality industry were to resist smoking bans, then ASH would actively encourage employees to sue. That's not 'frightening businesses' at all. Not really.

Shall we move on?

There was something else Cecilia talked about too, namely that Holland's sensible smoking ban amendment had been engineered by ...

"[...]vested interests of the tobacco industry."
See, that's another thing that ASH really hate ... people profiting from political campaigning. Cecilia would never dream of doing anything so gauche.

Oh, hold on.

"I started smoking at university," confesses Cecilia Farren, founder of GASP, a highly successful mail order company stocking everything and anything connected with stopping - or not starting - smoking.
So successful, in fact, that they incorporated earlier this year. But I'm sure Cecilia takes no salary from such a profitable venture because that would tend to suggest that she was a 'vested interest' in yesterday's debate, and she is definitely against that sort of thing.

Of course, this is all leaving aside the fact that the Dutch case was brought by small bar owners, not the tobacco industry. In fact, to illustrate exactly who was involved in a more user friendly way, I thought a pie chart might help.

Oh dear. It looks like the only vested interest yesterday was Cecilia herself. Someone who personally profits by the demonisation of tobacco, whilst also being a member of an organisation which is quite happy 'frightening businesses' with financial 'terror campaigns'.

Since it's nearly Christmas, perhaps it might be timely to send her a gift-wrapped dictionary with Rank and Hypocrisy highlighted in dayglo orange.

This Is Turning Into A Saga

Since we are enjoying (?) such cold weather at the moment, this article in which I mention sweltering heat, seems such a very long time ago.

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.
Guess what! It turned up on Thursday, a mere five months after their initial attempt.

A big truck - complete with vital big broom - rolled to the mouth of the car park, and one of the council workmen asked our maintenance guy to move the two cars parked where they wanted to paint the lines. Unfortunately for them, they aren't our cars. We do vans, you see.

"So, whose are they, then?", the driver asked.
"Local residents'"
"Do you know what numbers they live at?"
"Haven't a clue"

He returned to his cab, had a chat with his colleague, and presumably rang someone at council HQ while the engine idled loudly for about ten minutes. Following which, they drove off.

We expected them back soon after accompanied by someone to help locate the car owners, but nothing yet.

Who knew painting yellow lines was such a convoluted business, eh?

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Education, Education, Education

Hmm, I wonder what happened with that 1997 buzz-bite?

Standards are falling in this country. We're now below Japan, the US, France and Germany.

Depressingly, they show that, despite the millions of pounds poured into narrowing the attainment gap between the richest and the poorest pupils, the UK is still more beset by problems of class segregation than many of its rivals.

The raw data reveals pupils in private schools are streets ahead of their state-school peers. The average reading score of a privately educated teenager in the UK is 553, while it is 492 for a state-educated pupil. (The OECD average last year was 493 points.)
Well, as the author pointed out, it's not investment which is at fault here.

D'you know what? I think it might be the 'narrowing the attainment gap between the richest and the poorest' bit which is causing the problem.

With such an ideologically-blinkered approach to delivering education, how could anyone believe that standards were going to rise?

Look. The way to give children of the less well-off a better education is by raising the standards of state schools - and the teaching therein - to a level of excellence. This would entail spending more time on, err, education, rather than quite ludicrous flights of dogmatic right-on self-pleasure.

Unfortunately, this quite simply doesn't happen. Instead of trying to match the very best UK schools, the massed ranks of public sector educational administrators (egged on by hideous legislation, in their defence) prefer to litter - and I do use that word in its literal sense - the syllabus (syllabi?) of our kids with lashings of politically-correct garbage.

It's great for equality in the state system - kids are all as poorly-served as each other - but private educators, for example, plough on regardless with proven methods of excellence and an emphasis on core subjects which will exponentially benefit pupils as they grow. Like a savings account, the more you put in at the start, the more compound interest will accrue on your initial deposit.

By handicapping kids with trendy irrelevances at an early age, their future all-round educational prowess is inevitably weakened.

However. And it is a big however. Those parents who may be well-off or highly-educated themselves have the wherewithal to escape the state schooling trap by offering top-up teaching, either as an extra after-school resource (paid or free) or as a stand-alone home education. Richer kids, by the simple rules of life, will always manage better when equality is the prime concern in schools.

Yet again, the left's best efforts at egalitarianism only serve to disadvantage the less well-off.

Teaching kids to be the very best they can be, even if little Andrew turns out to be the type of genius that little Wayne will never be able to aspire to, should be the only consideration for teachers. Some kids will always be more clever than others, or better resourced. But by focussing on pushing them all to their limits, rather than making them all equal, we stand a better chance of raising standards across the board - and improving our country's future prospects - than some slavish adherence to a big pile of theoretical steaming horseshit.

Just let the teachers teach, how hard can that be? Or, as someone once said ... "education, education, education", not equality, equality, equality.

Fingerprinting And Kids? Perfectly Natural

Iain Dale was shocked a few months ago. Appalled, so he was, that fingerprinting of kids was occurring at state schools as a way of registering lunch payments.

Fingerprinting children is just plain wrong. Sorry, but it just is. No matter how many assurances that are given, you're still trusting the state to look after the most personal of information.
This is true.

However, it's not an isolated practice anymore, nor is it even small-scale. In October, we had a tour round the prospective secondary school of one of the little Ps (the girl). Our guide was a very bouncy year 8 kid who was subdued when showing us the science labs, but incredibly enthusiastic when explaining the lunch money machine.

Bouncy boy enthused, "It's really good! You just put your finger here and put your money in. It's well mega! But ...", he tailed off as his enthusiasm waned, "... you can use a card instead 'cos some people don't like using fingerprints", said he with an almost disappointed shrug.

A mum who was on the same tour appeared crestfallen and exasperated, "Why on earth would anyone not like that?", she gasped with a Helen Worth-style astonished look on her face as she glanced down at her kids whilst shaking her head in genuine disbelief.

After all, the recording of personal information is perfectly normal now, isn't it?

Child's play, even.

Have lots of fun experimenting with this Fingerprints kit! Keep your blast lab safe from intruders by learning how to search, lift and record fingerprints!
If you listen very carefully, you may just be able to hear Alex Deane's head pop.

Monday, 13 December 2010

EU Consultation On Tobacco - Have Your Say

Back in September, an EU-savvy friend sent me a 345 page report (yes, I read the lot) on proposed EU 'interventions' on the sales of tobacco in Europe, intended to be included in an update of the EC’s Tobacco Product Directive. It's the kind of haughty psychobabble we have come to expect from public health tax-spongers officials, ignoring evidence from anyone with even a tenuous link to the tobacco industry ...

"[...] it should be noted that any source of evidence linked to the tobacco industry should be carefully considered in the light of this industry’s long history of trying to influence tobacco control policy."
... while accepting as gospel all research put forward by those funded by pharma, the WHO, or other vested interests who could be accurately described as an industry specifically set up "to influence tobacco control policy". Even our friend, Anna 'anything for a tobacco control grant' Gilmore is soberly regarded as a paragon of impartiality in the document ... despite her income relying heavily on producing stats favourable to tobacco control funders.

It is standard heavy-handed, gleefully authoritarian fare.

The purpose of this hefty pdf was to assess the impact of a variety of EU tobacco control proposals. They were very thorough, too. It was found that tobacco industry employment in the EU (47,000 in manufacturing and 150,000 in retail) would be hit by such measures but, err, oh well.

They looked rather harder at the potential loss of excise duty that would be receivable under their plans, though. They looked at that very closely indeed, in fact, with each proposal measured for its potential damage to state coffers.

Finally, they concluded that some of the suggestions were worth submitting for consultation. Well, actually, they concluded that all of them were worth submitting, except one.

The result is this 11 page consultation document which Simon Clark has summarised into an even more precise form.

- introduce plain packaging
- enlarge the size of graphic health warnings
- ban vending machines
- prohibit the display of tobacco products, and, oh,
- ban ALL smokeless tobacco products
Additionally mooted are regulations on e-cigs, health warnings inside packets, picture warnings to be compulsory on shisha pipes, and a first move towards banning flavoured tobacco (such as menthol/liquorice) as is already underway in the US.

Now, since it's still under consultation until the end of the week, it means that YOU get to have your say. Below is a video (complete with out-takes) giving a brief rundown of the many drawbacks associated with these proposals.

As is customary, the design of this consultation is such that yer average Joe would have no clue as to how to make their view known, whilst state-paid organisations will be wading in with long responses slapping their EU counterparts on the back for such brilliant ideas.

However, Forest have organised an online response form which takes about a minute to fill in. In doing so, you would be sending a message to the EU along the lines as set out below (click to enlarge).

The closing date is Friday, but to be certain that Forest can collate your response and submit it in plenty of time, try to fill in the petition as soon as you can.

Oh yeah, and don't forget to alert your like-minded friends by e-mailing them the URL -

It goes without saying that if you've already added your voice to the chorus of common sense, crack open a nice cold one and give yourself a pat on the back from me. At the same time, you could pop over to Iain Dale's place and have a chat with some of the, err, nice people he has attracted simply by showing his support for participation in an EU consultation exercise.

Run Away! Run Away!

There's an interesting snippet in this Melissa Kite article for the Telegraph. If true, it's rather a damp ending to Nick Clegg's self-declared ignition of the debate over government interference where it is not wanted.

Mr Clegg himself has abandoned a Bill to "get rid of bad law", palming it off on the Home Office, and so appears to have distanced himself from Tory attempts to free the citizen from unnecessary interference.
Hold on, Nick. This was your great big bells and whistles triumph. Your attempt to stamp your mark on history. Or, as you yourself termed it:

"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,"
Then came that video, of course. You know, the one where it became apparent that people were asking for things that Clegg's party didn't much fancy.

So what was originally couched as ...

[...] the "biggest shake up of our democracy" since the 1832 Great Reform Act.
... would actually consist of a politician running away as fast as he possibly can from any kind of meaningful discourse with the public.

After all the grandstanding, it's clear that Clegg is little more than a gutless, inept, pointless, Walter Mitty-esque bell end.

H/T Gawain

Not Skiving, But Working

There was a timely and positive smoking-related piece yesterday in The Independent, surprisingly.

David Randall: The many benefits of the cigarette break

[...] we go outside primarily because we want a fag. But – those whose time spent discussing The X Factor, tweeting, eBaying, Facebooking, or YouTubing is not being similarly registered and made into An Issue should note – there are other things we do outside besides lighting up, inhaling, and stubbing out.

First, we talk. Ideas are hatched, problems solved, theses unpicked, and gossip exchanged. We confide and commune, and get to know each other. There are shyster companies charging organisations exorbitant prices for "bonding weekends" which do not achieve a fraction of the camaraderie forged on the pavements of commercial Britain. As a result, tip-offs are received, channels opened, and paths smoothed. Here, indeed, is a fully functioning network of the naughty; a masonry of the outcasts which works to the advantage of all.

Of course, Barbara Righteous in accounts, who turns up at 9:01 and has her running shoes on by 4:59 after spending the day watching the big and little hand crawl round the clock, will never understand this.

Do go read the whole article. There's a comments section and everyfink.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Can We Have Our NI Contributions Back Yet?

It's been coming for a while, but NHS West Kent have become the first health authority to actively pursue a comprehensive policy of restricting treatment based on social criteria.

From this month, patients who smoke and need planned surgery will have to complete a NHS Stop Smoking course before their operation.

Patients who are clinically obese or with a BMI (body mass index) of more than 30 will also have their surgery delayed and will have to carry out a weight loss programme.
One presumes that should the patient refuse, the delay becomes a permanent one.

One thing it fails to mention, though, is a refund of national insurance payments to reflect the lesser quality service they will receive from now on. In fact, if treatment is withdrawn altogether they should be entitled to the return of every damned penny they have paid in during their lifetime.

It's not called 'universal' healthcare for nothing. If the end product isn't universal, the state have no right to demand money with menaces from everyone - irrespective of lifestyle choices - to pay for it.

UPDATE: WfW found this on the West Kent PCT website:

"We are committed to delivering equality of opportunity for all service users, carers, staff and wider communities."
I don't know about you but, in light of their latest policy, that looks very much like a lie to me.