Monday, 31 January 2011

The Liddites Are Coming

Man Widdicombe has spotted that politicians in Norn Iron have opened up another front in criminalising those who are happy to take calculated risks with their own lives.

A bill to make it an offence in Northern Ireland not to wear a helmet while cycling is due to be voted on in the Assembly later.

The legislation has been proposed in a Private Member's Bill tabled by the SDLP's Pat Ramsey.

It proposes to fine anyone caught on a bike without a helmet £50.
It won't surprise readers of this blog that the issue of mandatory cycle helmet use is awash with astounding lies and policy-based evidence making from Liddites (those who advocate helmets, or 'lids', on spurious grounds), so it's deeply depressing that some in the UK are falling for the nonsense swallowed so readily by legislators in helmet-compulsory New Zealand and Australia primarily, as well as Canada, Denmark and Mexico who have also interfered dabbled.

Having said that, I was waiting for this since I knew some British political prick would take up the cause sooner or later, so I've read up in anticipation in the past couple of years. I'm sure we'll hear more on the subject, so let's have an introductory 'cycle helmet legislation 101', shall we?

Fortunately for us in the UK, there is now a large body of evidence - donated by the poor saps who currently suffer such a stupid law in other countries - which proves forced cycle helmet-wearing is a comprehensively terrible idea.

In short, they don't actually lead to any significant reduction in cyclist head injuries. Oh, a 13% reduction was claimed in Australia right enough, but considering cycle use plummeted by around a third after the law was implemented, the real result was an increase in risk. In New Zealand, the idea has been a similar disaster.

And this is what is so incredible about those who advocate such laws. We're harangued at every turn to be more healthy, more active, and to get out of our cars for the sake of Gaia, yet here they are promoting policies which have an incontrovertible record of scaring people away from riding bikes. New Zealand's experience was a fall of 22%, Denmark 30%, and in Canadian territories it varied from 28% to 60%.

From the above we can surmise that Boris Bikes - a scheme which recently celebrated its millionth hiring - would have been a non-starter if helmet laws applied here. The same idea has been spectacularly scuppered in Melbourne, Auckland and Mexico City.

But helmets must reduce injuries, I hear you say. Well, if they do, there isn't any evidence of it. The trends in New Zealand were unaffected, as they were in Australia. The helmet industry did very well out of it, though.

Of course, for anyone who understands human nature (any politicians who have got this far may as well go read Charlie and Lola or something 'cos this is going to fly way over your head) this isn't very surprising, seeing as it is easily explained by the concept of risk compensation.

In control trials prior to legislation, it was argued that those who wore helmets suffered fewer head injuries than those who didn't. Hardly a shock since anyone who willingly sticks a gaudy plastic pudding bowl on their head is going to be naturally more risk averse than someone who doesn't.

However, when those who are less worried by such things are encouraged and/or coerced into wearing a helmet which is promoted as a panacea for road safety, their attention to other risks reduces as a result. Why be so assiduous in checking the bike itself, for example, when the fail-safe insurance of a polystyrene-padded helmet is being worn?

Similarly, why should a driver care so much about a cyclist's welfare if they are already protected so comprehensively?

Bicyclists who wear protective helmets are more likely to be struck by passing vehicles, new research suggests.

Drivers pass closer when overtaking cyclists wearing helmets than when overtaking bare-headed cyclists, increasing the risk of a collision, the research has found.

Dr Walker, who was struck by a bus and a truck in the course of the experiment, spent half the time wearing a cycle helmet and half the time bare-headed. He was wearing the helmet both times he was struck.

“This study shows that when drivers overtake a cyclist, the margin for error they leave is affected by the cyclist’s appearance,” said Dr Walker, from the University’s Department of Psychology.

“By leaving the cyclist less room, drivers reduce the safety margin that cyclists need to deal with obstacles in the road, such as drain covers and potholes, as well as the margin for error in their own judgements.

“We know helmets are useful in low-speed falls, and so definitely good for children, but whether they offer any real protection to somebody struck by a car is very controversial.

“Either way, this study suggests wearing a helmet might make a collision more likely in the first place.”
So what we have being debated in Northern Paddyland right now is a law which has no proven benefit, but huge proven negative effects by way of reduced cycling and unintended consequences. There are, however, fines to be harvested if it is passed though, so even if this vanguard is rebuffed I can't see cash-starved legislatures resisting for too long.

In short, it's a daft law which is why daft politicians will implement it.

As always, the best way of reducing harm from cycling is to allow people to think for themselves and promote personal responsibility. And, as always, it's the Dutch who are humiliating we risk-terrified Brits, as gloriously illustrated by this letter to the Guardian (not published, natch) from specialist risk academic, John Adams.

Two years ago I was invited to give a lecture in Amsterdam comparing Dutch and British attitudes to risk. I complimented my hosts on having a much better cycling accident record than the British, and went on to say that I had been in Amsterdam for two days and seen many thousands of cyclists but only half a dozen cycle helmets. A member of the audience responded by saying that I had been looking in the wrong place. He offered to show me the following morning a disciplined file of children on bicycles all wearing helmets and fluorescent jackets. They would, he added, be cycling to the British school.
For shame.


Sunday, 30 January 2011

Live And Let Die

This kind of thing rings a bell.

And then I discovered that I was party to a hate crime. By which I mean, I happened to glance at Twitter. In the past, when people had ugly thoughts, they tended to keep them to themselves or shared them with their mate. Now, we all get to listen to Tim Osmond: "#bigfatgypsyweddings an advert of ethnic cleansing. And don't worry, they aren't offended…they don't have computers."

And Kane Evans: "Oh #bigfatgypsyweddings i'm still waiting for the episode where they go round tarmacking peoples [sic] drives and nicking the baskets from Tescos."

And Mikeoohhh: "#bigfatgypsyweddings are ideal if you're looking for venereal diseases and witchcraft."

And Knownasthegreek: "Final thoughts!! Ermm frankly all gypsies should be given a mandatory snip! #bigfatgypsyweddings."

Yes, forced sterilisation – nobody's thought of doing that to Gypsies before.
Don't bet on it, Carole. Media-inspired bigotry, sweeping generalisation, and hyperbolic vitriol can be incredibly inventive in its inhumanity. Check out some of these, for example.

It's admirable that this Graun journo is presenting an opposite view to collective stereotypical denunciation, but a bit rich considering she is a member of the profession which almost exclusively fuels it.

For all the whipping up of hatred towards Gypsies and Travellers in the Mail, lefty rags (and the parties they champion) are just as guilty with regard to those who choose to enjoy a legal product such as tobacco ...

... or alcohol, fast food, fizzy drinks etc etc etc.

To paraphrase HMRC, intolerance has never been so intolerant.


Businesses In Profit Maximisation Shocker!

As a revealing snapshot, 5,000 journalists attended the recent North American International Auto Show in Detroit, whereas only 2,000 accredited journalists attended last month's COP 16 climate-change summit in Cancún.
Why the surprise?

Journalists are employed to write articles which people want to read. People like cars, but - unless they read the Guardian - not so much being told they are eco-murderers and should stop buying cars ... which they, err, like.

Let's write something similar to the above, shall we?

"Only 25 articles were written last year about Siouxsie and the Banshees (who I like), whereas there were over 50,000 on Lady GaGa (who I can take or leave)."

Therefore, journalists are wrong for not writing about something I find interesting, so action must be taken immediately!

It's not fair, see?


Saturday, 29 January 2011

What's The Point In Having An ONS When Politicians And The Media Ignore Their Studies?

Here's more on that 'alcohol crisis' reported by the London Evening Standard on Thursday.

On examining the latest ONS lifestyle statistics [pdf], as Big Brother Watch have been doing with regard to smoking prevalence, it's interesting to compare officially up to date conclusions on alcohol consumption with those produced last year.

2008 (published 2010):

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.
2009 (published 2011):

This trend seems to be continuing under the new methodology; between 2006 and 2009 the proportion of men drinking more than 21 units a week fell from 31 per cent to 26 per cent and the proportion of women drinking more than 14 units a week fell from 20 per cent to 18 per cent.
You will have noticed the reference to 'new methodology' and '2006'. The reason for this is articulately explained by The Filthy Smoker in number one of his five myths about alcohol.

Since 2007, the Office of National Statistics has assumed larger glasses are being used and stronger alcohol is being consumed. They now assume that a glass of wine contains 2 units, rather than 1, as it did before. With beer, what used be counted as 1 unit is now counted as 1.5, what used to be 1.5 units is now assumed to be 2 units and what used to be 2.3 units (a large can) is now counted as 3 units.

As you might expect, this has made a dramatic difference to the statistics.
Indeed. So, to portray the situation accurately and with honesty - something anti-alcohol campaigners refuse to do - two graphs are required. This was the state of play up to 2006.

And now, thanks to the latest survey, we can see what has happened since.

Yep, still going down. In fact, the same result is seen with every single criterion measured.

Total consumption is still declining ...

... as is the number of people who drank at all, or on more than 5 days prior to the study, as well as the amount drunk on any one day in the previous week, along with the largest intake consumed on those days and, consequentially, alcohol-related deaths.

Considering this consistently downward trend in all areas, the mind boggles as to what parallel world dreary Don must be living in.

Don Shenker, of Alcohol Concern said that the economic situation was part of the explanation.

"The slight fall in 2009 in alcohol related deaths mirrors a slight drop in alcohol consumption, and while this is positive, is wholly due to a drop in consumer spending as a result of the recession.

"It is very likely that alcohol consumption will rise again once the economy picks up."
One must wonder what part of 'decline since 2002' Don doesn't understand.

There is, however, one significant increase detailed in the ONS report.

Perhaps it's about time our lazy dull-witted media, and furrow-browed Westminster fucktards, began describing what is really happening in 'booze Britain'.

It's not so much a binge-drinking epidemic as an escalating non-drinking epidemic.


Link Tank 29/01

G'wan, you know you want to.

The death of personal responsibility: Helmet required

Dutch government to be lobbied to legalise all recreational drugs

The extreme bravery of police officers who sleep with environmentalists

Scotland bans dirty pics, but won't tell which ones

E-cigs to be banned in New York because they enable people "to continue their nicotine addictions when they are someplace where they can't smoke"

While we're on the subject, New York also plans banning iPods for pedestrians - no, really

Bottoms Up! Australia invents the fastest beer dispenser ever

Something to ponder at the deli counter - a kilogram isn't what it once was

Men pay more attention, but don't remember much news read by 'sexy' female newsreaders

Lady Gaga enters the perfume market with an, ahem, interesting new scent

Time to install a 'Sex Tax'


Friday, 28 January 2011

Official: UK Smoking Bans Ruin Lives

Here's some research that you will never find anywhere on the BBC. Primarily because it goes against every piece of disinformation their chums in tobacco control have been flinging at them, but also because it hasn't been compiled by some loopy snake oil salesman from Yankland.

No, this emanates from British researchers (full pdf here), is bang up to date, and derives data from the British Household Panel Survey ... so will therefore be dutifully ignored by Nanny Beeb.

We use three waves of the British Household Panel Survey to examine whether changes in smoking behaviour are correlated with life satisfaction and whether the recent ban on smoking in public places in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has affected this relationship. We find that smokers who reduced their daily consumption of cigarettes after the ban report significantly lower levels of life satisfaction compared to those who did not change their smoking habits, with heavy smokers particularly affected. No such finding is reported for previous years.
So then Cameron, if you are true to your word in wishing to enact policy on the back of a measure of happiness, amending the smoking ban is a no brainer, yes?

Or were you just talking bollocks like your mate Nick?

H/T here via Crampton


It's A Crisis Now, Is It?

Middle-class workers mostly to blame for UK alcohol crisis
Woah! Easy there. Let's just work through that headline forensically, shall we?

Crisis? I thought it was only an 'epidemic' after no longer being a 'problem', when did it become a 'crisis'? Especially since ALL evidence points to the exact opposite - that the percentage of regular drinkers is falling; total consumption is falling; and drink-related arrests are down. As crises go, it's not a very scary one.

Still, some people admittedly do have concerns, but I'm not convinced that it's the 'middle-class' mentioned in the title who are clogging up A&E wards at weekends, or running around town centres puking with their knickers round their ankles, for example.

They are 'workers', we are told, so presumably pay tax and national insurance contributions towards the NHS, as well as heavy sin taxes on their chosen tipple. They've therefore paid handsomely for their treatment should they become ill as a result. Of course, if others object anyway, we could always just scrap the NHS and have a system based on personal insurance contributions**. Want that, righteous? Nah, didn't think so.

How, then, does this hack come to such a ridiculous headline?

Government guidelines state men should drink no more than three to four units a day. The limit for women is two to three units - the equivalent of one to two glasses of a medium strength wine.

Among the middle classes, 41 per cent of men and 35 per cent of women exceeded the recommended guidelines.
Aha! Now I understand.

So what the article should have said is that it's mostly the middle-class who ignore the state's arse-wibbling and live their lives how they see fit, not to satisfy some miserable finger-wagging Westminster prodnose.

Or did the Standard's editor really ask for 200 words of shallow gullibility to fill a quarter of page 11?

Good grief.

** But even then the middle-class would still not be 'mostly' causing any problem whatsoever.


Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Gypsies Shouldn't Be Demonised For Non-Compliance

I can see this being potentially divisive.

You see, my Twitter mate Uncle Marv really isn't too enamoured with Gypsies, in fact it's probably fair to say that he has a passionate dislike for them. I have to disagree and mentioned to 'Unc' that I'd explain why.

I've had a long acquaintance with Travellers and Gypsies (there is a difference though I'm still unclear of it myself, so for this article take one as also meaning the other and vice versa) stretching back to the early 80s up to and including the present day.

The first I met were a couple of guys who turned up in the Puddlecote-owned pub when I was a young teen. Ordering half a pint each, they sat quietly and chatted whilst some regulars demanded Mr Puddlecote Snr throw them out. He being fair and liberal (well, as a Puddlecote, he would be) told them that he may do but only if they did something to merit it, which didn't happen.

It didn't happen the next night either as they sipped on their half pints again, whilst again some regulars decided they knew what was best for the Mr Puddlecote Snr's pub. Ignoring the naysayers, and curious as to why these two harmless guys were so derided, Mr P approached the new arrivals to have a chat (lesson for kids, that's what landlords used to do in pubs). They instantly bristled.

"Are you fer barring us?", they asked
"No, why would I?"
"We seen yer talking there, thought that's why you was coming over, like", his eyes scanning the bar as he talked in a rural drawl
"Look, if you respect my pub, you're quite welcome to stay. OK?"
"Yer a Gent, Boss"

And then they had a bit of a chat. Just the usual stuff when one meets new people, really. That's when they ordered their first pints. They had stuck to halves for the simple reason that they expected to be turfed out at any minute merely for being from a Traveller community. It's what tended to happen to them.

Later that night, they asked if it was OK to bring other members of their "family" into the pub. Yes, that's right, they asked. Mr P replied that the same rules applied - no trouble, no problem - so they slowly increased in number. Four came in the next night, then five, then six, then - although there were about a dozen in all - they turned up regularly in small groups of that kind of size just as any other subset of customers.

They were good customers too, spending well and joining in with pub activities just like anyone else. A couple joined the darts teams and others - once the mistrust evaporated - would prop up the bar in friendly discussion with our other regulars.

A barrier had been broken down and those who opposed their inclusion that first night were as willing to chat to them as anyone else. A bit rough and ready, yes, but not any different to a roadworker with a cockney accent or a scouse bricklayer.

Fast forward nearly three decades and I have had no reason to change my view of Gypsies. My company employs around a dozen and, although feisty by nature, they are some of the best workers we have. They'll try it on occasionally - as do non-Traveller employees - but are perfectly accepting when knocked back, and are very reliable. Outside of work, I've also a few social Traveller acquaintances who are entertaining, witty and respectful, especially to Mrs P.

It shouldn't be difficult to understand why. Gypsies and Travellers have a deep commitment to family and community, whilst also respecting elders implicitly and possessing a very strong work ethic.

Yes, really. One of the biggest myths I hear about Travellers is that they don't pay taxes and just rip us off for our benefits, but nothing could be further from the truth in my experience. The men, especially, have a pride in being able to make their own income and will work harder than I've ever done in my life, without complaint. Remember that one reason for their being called Travellers is quite simply that they used to travel to where the work is ('used to' being operative and to be tackled further on) just as ultra-Conservative Tebbit was exhorting years ago, and as Iain Duncan-Smith advised recently.

They pay taxes too, and many would be very happy to pay more (I'll expand on that later as well). In most Traveller communities, the shame of not earning one's own living still exists where it has disappeared amongst other, more accepted, sections of society. Considering the determination of the MSM to only portray Travellers in a bad light, and at every opportunity** - anti-Gypsy articles sell many a newspaper - you won't find too many stories about egregious benefit fraud involving those who are UK-born.

But instead of all this being seen as a good thing, as one would expect, it is linked to the problem that the British population at large generally have with Gypsies and Travellers ... their unapologetic adherence to tradition.

And this is what I find most odd about criticism of Gypsies. They are proud of their traditions and want to hang onto them yet are constantly being coerced to change by the same people who spit bile at British traditions being threatened.

They're disliked because they live differently; they're looked down on for being tacky or unambitious; and most of all, they are marginalised for not conforming to how others wish them to live. For not moving with the times; for not being 'progressive', one could say.

As a libertarian, I can feel every sympathy with them.

As alluded to earlier, Travellers mostly don't travel anymore, the vast majority live in houses and are therefore generally tolerated if still not entirely trusted. But for the minority who still wish to travel for seasonal work, or even who don't wish to live in a house as they are told they should, the irrational hatred is absurd.

The obligation on local authorities to find somewhere for them to settle was abolished in the 90s, so Travellers now buy their own land on which to live. Of course, once word gets out they have no chance of actually living there since a public whipped up by an unsympathetic media will routinely object to any plans they submit. So they began to move in and apply for retrospective planning permission, but Eric Pickles has stopped that now, too.

Remember that if they were allowed to live on the land that they own, their buildings would become taxable in any number of different ways, and they'd be pleased to pay it. Bloody tax-dodging Gypsies, eh?

They will live in a house like everyone else, or we won't let them live anywhere. Well, not near us, anyway, that just wouldn't do .. and of course, 'us' are everywhere.

A love of family, a natural propensity to work for a living wherever that work may be, respect for one's elders and refusal to dispense with tradition are surely Tory qualities by their very nature. Yet the laws which have most denied Travellers from living happily alongside the rest of us have all emanated from Tories, and the anti-Gypsy sentiment is mercilessly pumped out from Tory-leaning press.

Now, Uncle Marv pointed specifically to criminality being the problem. In fact, he uniquely pointed to criminality being the problem. I make no excuses for anything that Gypsies do which break any law (well, apart from one, obviously), but they aren't criminals because they are Gypsies, they are just criminals. Just as any other group of people shouldn't be dismissed for the few who cause trouble, neither should Gypsies, and d'you know what? Gypsies themselves would massively agree with that, it's not some conspiracy.

Like my example at the start of this, err, rather long piece (that coffee is keeping you awake, yes?) hopefully shows, if you extend some trust and respect to Travellers, they will return it. If you show them nothing but derision and condemnation, they're not going to respect you very much, either. It's not a Gypsy thing, it's just human nature.

The Libertarian view, I venture, is to treat Travellers of any hue as one finds them and to allow them to live how they choose as long as it doesn't harm others. If it does, then they are to be tackled appropriately and I bet you tons they'd fully co-operate, too. The (mostly) Tory press approach which so permeates public perception is to deny Gypsies their traditions until they comply with the consensus, the state invariably follows for fear of a voter backlash.

Our current approach to travelling communities is counteractive, self-perpetuating, and doomed to eternal failure. Sorry, Uncle Marv.

** This accident is a near family tragedy, this wilful attack on a family won't make any national newspaper.


Obesity, Meet Global Warming

Ooh, this is a new approach.

Rising indoor winter temperatures linked to obesity?

Lead author Dr Fiona Johnson, UCL Epidemiology & Public Health, said: “Increased time spent indoors, widespread access to central heating and air conditioning, and increased expectations of thermal comfort all contribute to restricting the range of temperatures we experience in daily life and reduce the time our bodies spend under mild thermal stress - meaning we’re burning less energy. This could have an impact on energy balance and ultimately have an impact on body weight and obesity.

“Research into the environmental drivers behind obesity, rather then the genetic ones, has tended to focus on diet and exercise – which are undoubtedly the major contributors. However, it is possible that other environmental factors, such as winter indoor temperatures, may also have a contributing role. This research therefore raises the possibility for new public health strategies to address the obesity epidemic.”

Co-author, Marcella Ucci , UCL Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, said: “The findings suggest that lower winter temperatures in buildings might contribute to tackling obesity as well reducing carbon emissions.”
So turn that heating down when it's cold, OK? It's not just harmful to the planet, it's killing you too, you lardy-arsed eco-terrorist!

Enjoyment and comfort are bad, m'kay.


Righteous To The Rescue!

Gray was finally sacked after a video was posted on YouTube that showed him asking fellow presenter Charlotte Jackson to "tuck this in for me love" – a reference to his microphone pack – as he gestured down his trousers during a commercial break.
Charlotte Jackson must have been deeply offended by Andy Gray's laddish behaviour.

Click to enlarge ... if you're a sexist pig!

Or perhaps she really didn't care one way or the other. Fortunately, there were others ever ready to do the worrying on her behalf.

What a relief for all concerned, eh?

UPDATE: I can sense a difference of opinion, so perhaps time to repost Steve Hughes explaining what happens when someone gets offended.




Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Saving Where Saving's Due

One of the funniest examples of truth-bending in ASH groupie Henry Featherstone's laughable Policy Exchange report on the cost of smoking back in March, was this one [pdf page 4].

According to an Environmental Campaigns (ENCAMS) local environmental quality study, smoking related litter was found in 78% of locations investigated. The cost of clearing these cigarette butts is estimated at £342 million each year.
Fooling absolutely no-one, Henry tries to convince us that if every smoker quit tomorrow, the country would all of a sudden require around 17,000 fewer street cleaners (based on £20k pa).

Utter tosh, of course, since wherever that litter is found would still require clearing of other litter. Putting a (exaggerated) percentage figure on smoking-related mess and extrapolating it simply proves that Henry is naïve, doesn't understand life's logic or public sector behaviour, and therefore probably needs to be supervised when out in public for his own safety.

However, via the upside down libertarian, we find a real smoke-related saving which could be made if hateful lemon-sucking tobacco control morons were truly interested in such things.

A hospital which charged £52,000 for a job that cost £750. Demolishing a shelter for smokers resulted in the PFI contractor charging £2,600 a year for the “extra cleaning”.
This isn't the kind of money Henry would recognise, of course, because it's the tangible stuff which, you know, actually exists.

Now, considering NHS hospitals up and down the country have been ripping out smoking shelters and applying ultra vires smoking bans which are completely unenforceable, I wonder if ASH's latest stooge (Henry bailed from PE soon after his public humiliation) would like to be consistent and put a figure on how much such lunacy is costing the taxpayer in increased cleaning costs.

Or, to put it another way, how much the country would save if the NHS were to reverse such a pointlessly quixotic policy and treat their smoker taxpaying funders with some fucking respect.

It would be consistent, would it not?


More Tobacco Control 'Science By Press Release'

Belinda reports on the growing calls for legislation to ban smoking in cars in Scotland.

ASH have again experimented with sticking their pinched noses into private property, whilst the Evening News is also sold.

It's all on the back of new 'research' by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, except that there is no sign of the report on their website. I was interested to study the methodology which came up with the laughable conclusion that smoking a cigarette in a car leads to an atmosphere "comparable to breathing in air in a large industrial city during a major smog event", so I asked to have a look-see.

The reply was, well, shall we say not such a surprise as it once would have been.

Dear Richard,

Thank you for your interest in the full smoking in cars research. I am sorry to say that that was an error in the press release. We are planning to have the research published in a peer review journal, so until that is carried out we are not able to provide the full report.

Regards
That's right. It's not published yet, and hasn't been peer-reviewed. Yet it's already been accepted as hard fact on the back of a press release.

We've seen this before, haven't we?

Can't Say

“Smoking ban cut heart attacks in Scotland by 17 per cent”, researchers and politicians trumpeted to the world in September through press releases, a conference and interviews, all faithfully reported. It was the ban what done it, they said... until six weeks later when official data halved the drop — to 8 per cent — against a trend immediately before the ban of a 5 or 6 per cent drop, and a fall a few years ago of 11. All of which makes it hard to be sure what, if any, effect the ban really had. The researchers went strangely silent.
That particular whopping fib was one of the many regurgitated by Kevin Barron in October's ten minute Rule Bill, you may remember.

This, unfortunately, is how tobacco 'science' works. It matters not if this turns out to be execrable nonsense (which, on previous experience, it most certainly will) as the lie is out there now, and dull-minded MSPs are no doubt already constructing soundbites around it.

Hardly surprising, then, that Horizon feels the need to explore why no-one trusts scientists anymore, is it?

I'd still like to look at the research, though. I wonder if there is any other way of getting hold of it?


Monday, 24 January 2011

Where Were You When It (Football) Was Shit?

Hey, we've never really needed Peter Sissons to point out the predominance of left-leaning ideology at the BBC, but the orgy of outrage at today's Sky Sports sexism non-story is astonishing even by their standards.

Don't get me wrong, Keys and Gray were monumentally stupid and their remarks rather puerile, but the orgasm of righteous over-reaction beggars belief.

All day long, it's been "are they bigots?", "how must they be punished?", "should they be sacked?", "should their balls be cut off?", "should they be sacked and have their balls cut off?", with any defence that football is a male-oriented game where - oddly enough - stupid and/or puerile remarks have always been prevalent, being dismissed as sexist apologism.

As one would expect, the Graun weighs in heavily too, with the usually world news-centric CiF posting up article after gleeful article, including this one by Georgina Turner writing about ... the comments to a previous CiF article on the same subject.

I don't suppose the fact that Rupert Murdoch owns Sky Sports may have more than a little to do with it, might it? It's a perfect whirlwind for the axis of lefty British media. Sexism is a big attraction, but sexism in Murdoch's empire is fucking irresistible!

Unfortunately, this leaves Keys and Gray as patsies - their lives to be now manipulated for the sake of political expediency. Georgina even describes 24 hours as "depressing as the length of time Sky took to react with disciplinary action". Yes, that's right, not quick enough! Someone of the left - you know, the ones who brought in employment laws so prickly that even sacking someone for tossing off on a secretary's desk requires serious deliberation - presumably considers that Sky were improper in not just throwing them out of the building instantly.

It's that important, see?

What a crock of shit!

Keys, it would appear, burbled a reference to one of the most lazily clichéd critiques of women, that being their lack of understanding of the offside rule, and this is being taken to mean that he doesn't understand the training that the lino in question would have received. Come on now, people, the guy's life has revolved around football for 20 years since he left TV-AM where he was known for his hairy hands while broadcasting to a predominantly female audience. I'm pretty sure he is well aware that the woman knows how to spot an offside, that's as lame an accusation as it's possible to get from supposedly educated individuals, even if only out for a politically-motivated turkey shoot.

I'm wondering where the outrage is towards TV adverts featuring women dreaming of a hunky guy to replace their fat, ignorant, useless couch potato husband; or the ones portraying men too backward to use a kitchen surface cleaner spray; or totally incapable of empathy or fashion unless they're gay? Because all men are pigs or potential rapists ... yes, you know full well opinions such as that are articulated regularly.

Now, just swap the genders above and imagine the professionally-offended nuclear explosion that would ensue. By comparison, Keys's remarks appear positively tame.

But there's one more depressing aspect to all this, encapsulated in a Georgina Taylor subordinate clause which is inherently North London in its crafting.

for some, laddish behaviour is more precious to their football experience than gender equality
What the blithering fuck? Football is - or always used to be - precisely about laddish behaviour. Lads would go to stand in the cold with their mates, following in the footsteps - and often the teams - of their fathers, I don't recall 'gender equality' ever having any fucking thing to do with the football experience.

Of course, the middle class lefties who have helped to gentrify the game, thereby pricing out large swathes of the working classes who supported it from its 19th century origins, are more interested in altering the politically-correct presentation than they are the raucous testosterone release it used to offer. They'll buy their hideouly expensive season tickets to illustrate an earthy appreciation of the working man's sport, but insist it adapts to suit their suit their equality and diversity-led sensibilities.

Nick Hornby, an Arsenal fan (where are they from again?) bemoaned the very phenomenon in Fever Pitch. He argued that the “vicarious and parasitical” nature of football fandom - alluding to the swearing and non-PC outlook of regular attendees - was a vital ingredient to the spectacle which has brought the less-tolerant to the party in the first place.

“Who will make the noise now? Will the suburban middle-class kids and their mums and dads still come if they have to generate it themselves? Or will they feel that they have been conned. Because in effect the clubs have sold them a ticket to a show in which the principal attraction has been moved to make room for them."
Now we see the Beeb/Guardian pincer movement demanding the last vestiges of male ribaldry be removed from even unguarded private conversations between Sky presenters.

How ironic is it that lefties should so deride Sky for this ... when the injection of Murdoch's millions was the very stimulus which sexed up football and ripped it away from those whose language and opinions the righteous despise.

Without Sky, the pathetic bile we've seen from Georgina, her Graun chums, and the BBC today couldn't have been uttered without attracting hysterical ridicule.


Sunday, 23 January 2011

We Didn't Start The Fire

I've been trying to make sense of the rigmarole now foisted upon our lean, uncuttable, frontline services in light of this anecdotal piece from Matthew Norman in the Telegraph (do read the whole thing).

As far as I can understand it, the emergency services' procedure for responding to a small domestic fire is as illustrated by this crude flowchart.

Click to enlarge

Whereas one assumes it would be far better for all concerned if it was like this.


But then, that wouldn't really be as profitable for public sector risk assessors, meetings convenors, seminar holders and yes, flowchart production professionals, now would it?


Saturday, 22 January 2011

The Changing Trends In Music Censorship

In the comments to last week's article on the banning of Money For Nothing in Canada, a fellow jewel robber added this.

Several years ago, TOTP2 featured Oliver's Army by Elvis Costello. The phrase, "one more bullet, one less white nigger" had mysteriously disappeared. I complained to the BBC about this censorship and received quite a sympathetic reply.
Hmm, interesting.

You see, by then I'd already stumbled on another piece of linguistic censorship during one of my occasional rambles around YouTube's vast collection of music clips.


I bought this record back then (65p from an unlabelled wooden cubby hole behind a counter where only the shop owner knew which chart hit was which), and I remember watching Geldof and chums on TOTP when they recorded this performance. I didn't notice until last week, though, that the lyrics had been subtlely changed.

At around one minute in (if you're impatient, though I'd recommend watching the whole thing) the lyric "And pus and grime ooze from its scab crusted sores" was replaced with "And blood and tears pour down the drains and the sewers". Now, I'm pretty sure that someone who was labelled a 'punk' at the time and would later not be afraid to order "give us yer fucking money" on TV or to make demands of Margaret Thatcher, wouldn't be voluntarily squeamish about uttering 'pus', 'grime', 'scab', and 'sores' on telly. So one must assume it was an alteration forced on them by an overly-sensitive BBC.

If I recall correctly, Oliver's Army was in the charts at around the same time, yet in the late 70s Nanny Beeb were obviously less worried about an artist using 'nigger' than lurid lyrical descriptions of urban deprivation.

They were also not too concerned by Geldof's unconvincing pretend saxophone solo, but just a few years later were to ban the original video for Billy Ocean's When The Going Gets Tough for featuring Danny DeVito comedically faking it on the sax.

Censorship of artistic performance, sadly, will always be with us, but the words or ideas which are targeted seem to be just as motivated by current trends and tastes as the music itself.

Fortunately - as the professionally-offended should surely have worked out by now - such meddling always, but always, ends up making fools of the censors while making loads of cash for the censored.

Who can ever forget how Frankie Goes To Hollywood were 'made' by Mike Read's banning of Relax, or how Je T'Aime ... Moi Non Plus rocketed to number 1 when deemed too racy to be heard on British radio? Similarly, Dire Straits are now enjoying a huge revival of fortune - and a boost to their bank balances - thanks to the quite astounding idiocy of righteous offence-seekers.

In this area, more than any other, it proves that the natural default position of any population is a libertarian one. Rather than enjoying being told what is best for them by those who have decided they know everything - and falling obediently into line - the natural reaction is always to actively rebel against being issued with overweening advice.

Now, if we could just illustrate to a generally bovine public that they should be equally mistrusting of authoritarian, highly-paid, vested interest dickery in other spheres ...


Link Tank 22/10

Your weekly smorgasbord of smart, smooth, smug and smiles.

Government's natural 'uncoolness' reduces heroin addiction in Amsterdam

Global warming is dead, let's move on

New York Councillor proposes number plates and licences for bicycles

Behold the new passive smoke detecting shirt ... the alcohol breath version is in the design stage

University of Canberra bans bottled water ...

... whilst a New England college bans all touching

Man complains to the police about service received from a prostitute ... and then it gets weird

Switzerland imposes tobacco tax on e-cigs which don't contain tobacco

Beer brewed using 45 million year old yeast

Predictions on how climate change will affect wine - conclusion, there'll still be some

Irish Coffee and Tia Maria, your days are numbered


Friday, 21 January 2011

There's A Dick In The Kitchen

I've noticed that some bloggers post the odd recipe, so it's only fair that I share my extensive culinary skills too. As such, here's a formerly deadly secret Puddlecote family formula for you to try.

Spam and Bean Pie

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 tin of spam
2 cans of baked beans
1 bag of short crust pastry mix

1) In a shallow oven-proof dish, slice the spam with some kind of knife.

2) Carefully pour in the beans, remembering first to open the cans.

3) Now, this is the tricky bit. Get someone who knows what she is doing to make the pastry and spread it over your lovingly-crafted filling.

4) Put it in the oven

5) Check 10 minutes later and realise that you forgot to turn the bloody oven on.

6) Turn oven on and bake for about 20 minutes at 200°c (gas mark something or other).

7) 20 minutes later, remove from the oven and serve with Smash or more beans.

8) Two hours later, notice that the oven is still on and turn it off.

Voila!

Move over Delia, there's a new kid in town.


Another One Bites The Dust

In his capacity as Health Secretary in July 2007, there were few facets more putrid about the implementation of the smoking ban than Alan Johnson's triumphant rejoicing in front of the British media. Sporting a satisfied grin, he gleefully revelled in legislatively re-casting more than a fifth of the population as second class citizens.

How gratifying it is, then, to watch his very public cuckolding whilst at the very height of his political powers. Following in the filth-strewn path trodden by David Chaytor, Margaret Moran and other rancid fucks, Johnson heads back to obscurity in gloriously humiliating fashion.

Quite right too.

Each time one of these odious, anti-social, community vandals gets their comeuppance, I always feel someone up above is enjoying a hearty chuckle.


Ode To Blair

Break a leg, Tony.




Thursday, 20 January 2011

Goodbye Sunburn, Hello Rickets

It looks like an old scourge is making a comeback. Hello again, rickets.


The doctor interviewed here states that 20% of kids he sees have 'clinical rickets' due to a lack of exposure to sunshine, a quite startling figure if true. The parent in the film was using factor 50 sunscreen to 'protect' her daughter, but why choose a product so ridiculously over-protective?

Now, it's only a guess here, but I don't think scaremongering like this helps much.

Most skin cancers are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or sunbeds.

Don't let sunburn catch you out. Whether you're at home or abroad, use shade, clothing and at least SPF15 sunscreen to protect yourself and be SunSmart.
Did someone say cancer? Aaaargh! Quick, run down to Boots and buy the strongest stuff they have, if that there sun comes near my kids I swear I'll do time.

Of course, if you delve further into the CRUK site, you'll find a little bit about the need for kids to be exposed to sunshine for their own good ... but only a little bit.

But the amount of time in the sun that you need to make enough vitamin D is typically short and less than the amount that makes skin redden or burn. It should be enough to regularly go outside for a matter of minutes around the middle of the day without sunscreen.
That's all, just "a matter of minutes", then slap the cream on with a trowel, for Chrissakes!

Which is totally different from the advice given by the Beeb's chosen expert on the subject, Dr Rosemary. She talks of "20 to 30 minutes without sun cream" being necessary, and that "generally, factor 15 is enough". Really Rosemary, not at least factor 15?

Isn't this confusing? Hell, if you're a parent, may as well stay on the safe side, eh? Factor 50 it is then.

I was going to make another point about this, but my mind's gone blank, so please help me out. Which huge multi-national industry who produce lucrative sunscreen is CRUK heavily involved with again?

Look, come on people, it's high time this risk-terrified nonsense was stopped. Parents are being manipulated one way and another by haughty vested interest 'experts', foisting faux science and rent-led terror on a population who believe far too much of what they read or see.

One of the suggested ways of getting vitamin D is by walking to school but, naturally, the scares have already been well-placed to prevent that in most cases. What a choice that is! Rickets, or gang rape from the hordes of paedophiles hanging around outside schools.

It'll just have to be rickets, really, at least it's better than cancer.

So welcome back, rickets, long time no see. Pull up a chair and tell us what you've been up to in the past hundred years or two.


Stunning Stat Of The Day

You find some real jaw-droppers wandering round TheyWorkForYou.com - via a question from ex-Pubs Minister (when he could be bothered) John Healey last week, we find that Department of Health tobacco control advertising for 2005/6 accounted for a staggering 75% of total spend.

That's three times the amount the DH spent on everything else they deal with ... combined.

Overall in the past five years, the DH has spent 42.57% of its entire advertising budget on stopping people smoking.

Considering the government shovels its TV and radio expenditure towards the Central Office of Information, who spent ten times that in 2009, it's to be assumed that this doesn't include the eye-watering sums chucked at wall-to-wall media ads.

Nice to see they've got their priorities right, eh?


Don't Act So Surprised, Warsi

Seriously, Baroness Warsi, you've got some nerve.

Prejudice against Muslims has "passed the dinner-table test" and become socially acceptable in the UK, a senior Conservative is to say.

Baroness Warsi will say anti-Muslim prejudice is now seen by many Britons as normal and uncontroversial, and she will use her position to fight an "ongoing battle against bigotry".
So then, what else do you think is going to happen when you scare a country witless?

In the last decade, we have been subjected to hysterical 'security measures', from stop and search powers under the Terrorism Act to body scanners at airports. We've seen the abandonment of historical liberties such as habeas corpus by way of detention without charge and control orders, not to mention RIPA. As a result, institutions are so spooked by it all that nail clippers are confiscated from hand luggage and you can't now even take a fork into the Natural History Museum to eat your lunch with.

All this - we are told - because the likelihood of a terrorist attack is "highly likely".

And you wonder why the public are prejudiced against a religion which contains some who have prompted the government to take away our freedoms, thereby hugely inconveniencing our way of life on a daily basis?

"It's not a big leap of imagination to predict where the talk of 'moderate' Muslims leads; in the factory, where they've just hired a Muslim worker, the boss says to his employees: 'Not to worry, he's only fairly Muslim'," she will say.

"In the school, the kids say: 'The family next door are Muslim but they're not too bad'.
Well, Warsi, if you want to see such attitudes evaporate, perhaps government could take the lead by putting a stop to the perpetual scaremongery, and returning the civil liberties which over-reactive politicians have stripped away.

Ready when you are, dear.


Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Best Of Luck With That

Call that a plan?

In hysterically heroic style, an American family have jumped on the anti-smoker bandwagon and decided to try it on by pursuing trailer park style compo.

Family sues cigar-smoking neighbor over secondhand smoke

An Upper East Side cigar smoker said he's done everything to appease the family next door that insists he's generating so much secondhand smoke that it's seeping into their apartment and making life a living hell.

Harry Dale takes most of his smoke breaks outside, uses three air cleaners in his third-floor co-op and even hired a specialist to try to seal off his apartment from that of Russell and Amanda Poses.

The Poses family, who live in apartment 3A, claim the odors and smoke coming from 3G are so strong, they've been practically evicted from their two-bedroom co-op at 501 E. 79th St., a 20-story doorman building where apartments go for $2 million.

"It's pungent enough that you can't eat dinner. I've got two children, and I couldn't let them in their own playroom," said Russell Poses.

The Wall Street equities trader and his wife, who runs her own gift-basket business, are asking for $500,000 in damages for each member of the family.
Half a mill each ... for a smell?

I'd advise Mr Dale to quote the Labate case, strike up a stogie coupled with a Hannibal Smith smile, and tell them to fuck right off.

But this case goes deeper than that if one thinks about it. Should the Poses succeed in their claim, the same precedent could be used in New York if someone objects to their neighbour's choice of cuisine, their occasional balcony barbecues, or liking for joss sticks.

Good old tobacco control, eh? Still fostering discord where once there was tolerance and harmony.

UPDATE: Thanks to SadButMadLad in the comments, here is the "living hell" in question.


A Charity You Can Trust

How refreshing is this?

Leonard Cheshire Disability appoints tobacco company as corporate partner

The disability charity Leonard Cheshire Disability has appointed Japan Tobacco International, one of the world's largest tobacco manufacturers, as a corporate partner and has accepted a substantial donation from the firm.

The company, the international arm of the world's third largest tobacco manufacturer, Japan Tobacco, has entered a five-year partnership agreement with the charity, according to Leonard Cheshire's annual report. Under the agreement, JTI, which owns brands including Silk Cut, Benson & Hedges and Camel, will fund an IT programme run by the charity.

A spokesman for Leonard Cheshire Disability said JTI's support would enable thousands of disabled adults to have access to specially adapted computers and would allow about 600 disabled adults to use computers in their own homes.

A source close to the charity, who asked not to be named, said JTI had agreed to donate hundreds of thousands of pounds to the charity.
Note very carefully the priorities being exhibited here. Incredibly, this is a charity which understands that its role is solely to cater for those who rely on its fund-raising, and certainly not to dilute that aim by pandering to politically-correct hectoring or self-defeating dogma.

More than we can say for many a large charity these days, eh?

But then, I suppose it's what one should expect from a trust set up to celebrate the legacy of our 31st Greatest Briton, a war hero who fought for our freedoms against tyranny.

I'm sure there are many who are already withdrawing their support in disgust at the charity's distasteful determination to serve 21,000 disabled people as best that they possibly can.

Me? I'll be bunging them a few quid for their charitable integrity. If you feel the same, you could try one of the methods suggested here.


Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Today's Minimum Pricing Idea Is An Aperitif Before The Binge

Nanny Beeb has been doing her level best to keep this story going for the whole of the day, hasn't she? It's been a three line whip with TV, Radio and online going at it hell for leather, whipping up the gullible with garish tales of puking youths and collapsed livers.

I've kept a weary eye on a lot of the commentary, but many seem to have missed the undercurrent entirely.

The health lobby, for example, are rather disappointed, they wanted something much more draconian ... but then they would because they're cunts.

However, if they'd only departed from their soundbite construction for a few minutes and instead thought properly about the proposals, they would see what's actually happened here and be so ecstatic that they might even pop open a bottle of cranberry juice in celebration.

This isn't the be all and end all of anti-alcohol policy. It's just the first step on a long temperance journey towards alcohol denormalisation, chillingly alluded to in this short and seemingly innocuous paragraph.

They say banning shops and bars from selling drinks for less than the tax paid on them will cut crime and set a "base price" for the first time.
Yes, that's right. For the first time.

And this is precisely what it is. It's a precedent; a potential enabling act for eternal government control of the price of alcohol. Just like the Soviet policy, but this time in a 'free' country.

The coalition aren't as astonishingly fuckwitted as the idiotic SNP who thought a brazen contravention of EU competition law was a clever way to go about it. Nope, this is far more subtle.

You see, once it is accepted by a bovine public that the state has a right to set a 'base price' for alcohol, they can change that base whenever they choose. OK, it's currently deemed illegal under EU law but don't expect that to last when this very light touch is presented to our righteous troughing overlords in Brussels. That's when the trumpeting and international oneupmanship can begin in earnest.

That's when the 'next logical step' will come into play and - just as 'gateway drugs' lead onto the hard stuff (apparently) - the aperitif of duty plus VAT will only encourage career wankers to experiment by pushing for something harder and more heady. When this small snifter doesn't produce the right buzz for the righteous, and it won't, calls will go out (not from the likes of us, natch) for something further to be done and the 50p, 60p, or even 70p unit and beyond is then only a circle jerk away.

Of course, much of public opposition today has rightly centred around the collective punishment aspect. Many have chipped in by objecting to being punished financially for the poor choices, or bad behaviour, of the few.

And this is where they, also, have missed the whole point of the exercise.

They seem to be under the impression that the whole process is being set in motion to discourage anti-social binge-drinkers, park bench youths or alcoholics. That would be to under-estimate the comprehensive hatred these people have for anyone who lives outside their ideals for a perfect life.

Take proper cunt Ian Gilmore, for example, who has been making himself exceptionally busy today. He let the cat out of the bag somewhat in 2007.

Ian Gilmore, President of the Royal College of Physicians, gave his full support to the focus on the health costs of heavy drinking. “We really need the spotlight more on health. While crime and antisocial behaviour is important it’s too easy to concentrate on that because it’s somebody else causing the trouble.

“When you look at health it’s more uncomfortable because there’s a very significant percentage of the population already drinking at potentially hazardous levels.”
He's not talking about people who bother others with their drinking, nor the person sadly destroying their life George Best style. Oh no - he won't stop until every man jack of you keep to below a weekly unitary intake plucked out of a moron's arse. Nothing else will do.

This is why we've heard the collective punishment defence termed 'very weak' by professional fake charity advocates, and why a representative of the Lifeline Project popped up this morning on Radio 5 to churn out unsubstantiated stats to Nicky Campbell such as "we are all drinking too much", and "one in three drink more than the recommended weekly limit". It matters not that alcohol consumption - and the consequences thereof - is declining ... their jobs depend on the existence of a problem, so they will create one.

As such, in the absence of a real menace, you'll do.

They don't want to counter merely those who cause harm, they really do want to punish everyone. It's part of the plan. In fact, it is the plan.

Considering the above, there's only one way to react to even such a seemingly benign measure such as is mooted. Resist it in its entirety, because this administration - like the last - really is that devious and antipathetic to the life choices of its own people.

I'll not leave you on a downer, though, because there is always a silver lining.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) said that the Government definition will do nothing to alleviate the pressure on pubs and allow supermarkets to continue to sell alcohol below-cost.

“Today’s decision means pubs will continue to close as they are undercut by supermarkets selling canned beers at pocket money prices,” said chief executive Mike Benner.
Stop that sniggering at the back!

Sorry, Mike, but you ceased to be relevant to these tossers in around 2006 when instead of roaring in defence of pubs, you caved like a newly-born Bambi. They couldn't give a monkey's chuff what you think anymore.

Oh yeah, and nice adoption of Alcohol Concern's 'pocket money prices' soundbite, you irresponsibly short-sighted twat.


Choice Isn't Yours To Make

I've never been a coffee drinker, but for a perfect illustration of left-leaning threats toward personal choice, this is text book.

Given America's love of coffee and super-sized portions, it was inevitable that Starbucks should tie the two together in its latest offering: the massive new "Trenta" cup size, holding 31 US fluid ounces – that's 917ml, or more than one and a half imperial pints – of beverage.

The company says it is responding to customer demand for larger sizes, which it has been testing for almost a year.
Customers want larger sizes, the business responds. Just how it's supposed to work. A non-opinion piece then, yes?

Well, it should be, but this is the Graun.

In a nod to health fears, Starbucks says that only conventional iced coffee, iced tea and iced tea lemonade in both caffeinated and decaffeinated varieties will be sold in the new bladder-bursting cup size, and claims that "sweetened" versions will contain only 230 calories.
So the health-obsessed will refrain from crawling zombie-like over the choices of others in this instance then, surely.

It's what people want and isn't in any way problematic.

But if America works up a thirst for the Trenta, it's a good bet that a fishtank full of Frappuchino won't be far behind.
Fuck me sideways! It hasn't happened yet but Starbucks are being criticised for it already?

How much caffeine an individual should consume is another matter, [...]
A matter, in fact, which has nothing whatsoever to do with anyone but the person drinking it.

How much they "should consume"? Who on God's earth gave you the right to even comment? Especially since ...

A Starbucks iced coffee of that size would probably contain nearly 400mg of caffeine, not enough to put a Trenta drinker into the heavy user category of 500 to 600mg of caffeine a day.
So, again, a non-story.

There are no plans for Starbucks to sell the jacuzzi-sized coffee cup to its British customers. Yet.
Shame, since even though I hate the stuff, I would be at the glass door begging to buy one in solidarity after reading that pile of steaming horseshit.

At least it was thought-provoking of sorts, though. It begs the question why a British newspaper should be bothered about an American chain serving large cups of low calorie coffee which don't reach high usage caffeine levels.

Perhaps they just hate big business?


The Boy Done Good

Some may remember that last year my company retained the services of a tax consultant, out of spite as much as anything, really. Instead of just shifting outgoings from the government's coffers into the consultant's (as I expected but which was perfectly fine by me), he predicted quite a handsome saving.

He's just reported back to advise that he'll be saving us over £20,000 ... every year.
He under-estimated, it would seem, as we were given notice today that HMRC is giving us back £37k+ for last year.

OK, we've had to shell out around £8k for fees, disbursements, and other costs of the process, but that's still £37k which can no longer be spent by the state on bullying their electorate.

I've had worse days.


Monday, 17 January 2011

Compounding Failure Is No Way Forward On Teen Drinking

Last week, Jackart posted a flawless piece detailing safety problems arising out of legislating for compulsory wearing of bicycle helmets, it's well worth reading in its entirety. He did so to point out the natural occurrence of unintended consequences which always occur when the righteous, via their lapdog politicians, try to 'fix' things.

Mary Anne Sieghart has done a similar job in relation to teens and pubs. I think many of us can relate to the picture she paints here.

When we were teenagers, we started going to the pub from the age of about 14. We had to pretend to be 18, but most landlords didn't ask and the rest gave us a wink but served us anyway. The pub was an institution, a social hub. You wanted to be accepted by the regulars, so you behaved the way they did.

And because we were under 18, we knew we had to remain inconspicuous. The landlord would tolerate our presence as long as we didn't embarrass ourselves or him. We didn't dare get smashed or he wouldn't allow us back. And because we tended to meet the same group of friends in the same pub, being banned was not a good move.

The other thing about a pub was that it was mixed-age. The older regulars wouldn't exactly boss you about; they were more likely to take the mickey. But you respected them and didn't want them to think you were a complete fool. The aim was to be able to hold your drink. It would have been humiliating to get legless in front of them.
Quite. But then the modern temperance movement and health lobby got stuck in, and the rest - teens swilling cheap grog on park benches, for example - is history.

Of course, being a columnist for The Indy, Mary's solution to the problems caused by overweening regulation ... is even more regulation, this time in the form of raised duty on off sales and reductions for pubs. That is clearly not going to work considering Mary has already identified the problem, but she's a right-on type with elephant blindness, it would appear.

However, whilst meandering to her disappointing denouement, she has encapsulated the problem in one simple paragraph, even if she stumbled there from completely the wrong direction.

If we had invented a system that encouraged young people to drink too much, it would look like this. Strong spirits would be ridiculously cheap to take home. Bars and clubs would be designed to maximize the amount people drank. And young people would be deterred from entering the one institution that taught them how to drink well rather than badly.****
It is, indeed, a model which encourages the worst excesses in teen drinkers, but it is entirely caused by those who see alcohol as a demon, and teens as fragile as a soap bubble.

Current legislation can send a licensee to bankruptcy should he/she be caught serving a pint of IPA to a 17 year old, so consequentially 17 year olds don't drink in pubs, even surreptitiously. They will still drink, though, and it's arguable that teen money has had an effect in driving off sale prices downwards.

The best way, then, to get back to the days of youths forsaking the park bench in favour of venues which subtlely teach "how to drink well rather than badly", is to abandon the policies which drove them there in the first place.

Stop sending rugby playing 17 year olds into pubs on entrapment errands; free the police to punish unruly behaviour rather than licensees for serving respectful teens with a bottle of Bud; get the righteous out of the equation and allow the public to apply common sense within guided boundaries**.

The very last thing the state should do is what Mary has suggested - that being to apply more legislative tweaks to a problem they caused with previous meddlesome regulation. Or, as Jackart puts it ...

The message to Government is simple. STEP AWAY FROM THE LEGISLATION. WE WILL SOLVE PROBLEMS, NOT THE STATE, IF YOU LEAVE US ALONE.
He's most certainly not wrong, you know.

**Of course, if the government wanted to see the return of the quiet local for trainee adults to dare to enter, they could quietly knock Health Act 2006 enforcement on the head too ... but that would be far too imaginative for our current bunch of elected numpties to comprehend, I suspect.

UPDATE: Bobski has shamed me by articulating perfectly my first reaction to the Sieghart paragraph which I have enthusiastically labelled ****

Last sentence is spot on in my mind. Third sentence is slightly misleading, they are meant to make it easy to drink (bar access and stocked drinks) and more enjoyable while intoxicated but they don't force people to drink. Second sentence to me is something that isn't the issue, I am a free marketeer (so low prices are good) and alcohol has always been cheaper to buy at a shop and take home than drink out. Finally the first sentence of the above paragraph; I think that we have created a system that has increased the availability of alcohol and legislation has removed the old teaching mechanisms and made it more desirable to 14-17 years olds by telling them that they aren't allowed it.
Bravo!


Sunday, 16 January 2011

Smokers To Be Banned From Flying?

They're really determined to pass off this nonsense with a straight face, aren't they?

Study Shows Nicotine That Clings to Surfaces Can Be Inhaled Months After a Smoker Leaves an Area

Thirdhand smoke, the nicotine residue that is left behind on furniture, walls, and carpeting after a cigarette has been smoked in a room, can become airborne a second time, a new study shows.

The resulting particulates, a toxic mix of ozone and nicotine, are so small that they can easily penetrate into the deepest parts of the lung, and over time, scientists say, could contribute to breathing problems like asthma or even cancer.
Scared yet?

Only recently have scientists have begun to measure and understand the dangers of exposure to thirdhand smoke.
Well yes, because nutty public health funders have only recently begun to pay handsomely for the correct conclusions.

Previous research has shown that thirdhand smoke can rub off onto skin and even be ingested if food is eaten that’s been exposed to smoke. It was also shown that dust could carry thirdhand smoke to the lungs.
Some of said research was even conducted by companies which don't sell anti-bacterial floor mops.

But the final paragraphs of the utter tosh article are new and original.

The researchers also found that humid conditions appeared to be somewhat protective against exposure to the products of thirdhand smoke.

“This may not be very significant under normal indoor conditions where relative humidity is governed by comfort and kept around 60%,” says Dubowski. “However, in airplanes, where relative humidity is particularly low, less than 20%, and ozone concentrations can reach higher than 100 parts per billion, the potential for exposure to products of thirdhand smoke products may be greater.”
How is that relevant, one might ask? Smoking has been banned by just about every airline worldwide, it's surely one of the last places you'd find nicotine residue.

And then the penny drops ... they're talking about the nicotine carried on the clothes of smokers themselves. If they can just make this scare story stick (pun unintended), who's to bet against cotinine swabbing alongside body scanners as you pass through security.

"Sorry, Sir. You've been smoking so we can't let you fly today as you're a danger to public health".

I'll admit to not having seen that one coming.


She Sells Sanctimony

The woman in question, "Anna", is reported to have said that she feels "violated". Yeah, yeah. We've all been there, love. A police officer is nothing. Call me when you meet someone with a deep and abiding love of "literature", which turns out, three months later, to include the terms "Wilbur" and "Smith". And only "Wilbur" and "Smith". Or the plight, suffered by a friend of mine, who met a handsome, human rights lawyer, champion sportsman, lover of the arts, the man of her dreams and only discovered the next day, at breakfast, that he was a TORY MP. Try that for violated. Or the Israeli woman who had sex with an Israeli man, then got him jailed for rape, after she discovered that he was an Arab Israeli. Hmm. Well, no, not that one obviously. That's just racism. Or, as they call it in Israel, "the law".
Yes, dear. Sweeping generalisations are always wrong-headed.

Similarly, making judgement calls based on reading material is just snobbery, and dismissing a 'perfect' man due to his political allegiance is just narrow-minded prejudice.

Jeez.


Saturday, 15 January 2011

Money For Nothing (Between The Ears)

Only a couple of days after my mentioning the complete lack of humour exhibited by those who perpetually seek out offence, comes this.

It was No. 1 in 1985, but it's unacceptable for Canadian eyes and ears today.

The Dire Straits song "Money for Nothing" was ruled by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council to be "extremely offensive" and thus inappropriate for airing on radio or television because it uses an anti-gay slur.
Hmm, it would seem that they have no concept of derogatory parody, either.

Listen guys, I am old enough to remember the lyrics being explained by Mark Knopfler in the music press at the time (when I was young enough to bother myself reading such things) and, thanks to Wikipedia, the relevant bit has been preserved.

The lead character in "Money for Nothing" is a guy who works in the hardware department in a television/custom kitchen/refrigerator/microwave appliance store. He's singing the song. I wrote the song when I was actually in the store. I borrowed a bit of paper and started to write the song down in the store. I wanted to use a lot of the language that the real guy actually used when I heard him, because it was more real....
Yes, and it is real. This is how rough and ready meagrely-paid working guys describe those they believe are undeserving of respect simply because of the wealth earned by being able to handle a guitar/keyboard/drum/TV talent contest and, especially in 1985, tousle their hair to appeal to groupies in their MTV videos.

Dire Straits used this clever device to poke fun not at gays, not at bands who play on MTV - after all, the band's video for this was lauded for its innovation, and MTV ensured it became a classic - but at those who use such dismissive language in an envious and pathetically spiteful way.

Obviously this is far too clever for dull-witted offence-seekers to comprehend.

It may well be too clever for the types who routinely fling the 'faggot' word around as they listen to music radio too, but the joke is fully on them, thereby making Money For Nothing so delicious in its approach.

Far from being considered offensive, the song should be admired for conveying more anti-homophobic teaching in five minutes than any public-funded guardian of public morality will do in his/her lifetime.

Anyone who would be offended by the 'gay slur' is not only a 'faggot', but also fucking stupid. And if they don't understand what stupid looks like, they would be well advised to pop along to their local anti-discrimination watchdog's office and look through the window.

Next up, the video gets banned everywhere for showing a cartoon character smoking a cigar. Think I'm joking?


Anniversary Link Tank 15/1

The inaugural Link Tank appeared here a year ago almost to the day following a conversation with Bella Gerens in outside a pub in Westminster where the idea struck. Originally intended as a weekly dump of articles which were of interest but not quite bloggable or deserving of being discarded on Twitter, it has now morphed into ... well, about the same really.

So, here's a 1st Anniversary Saturday morning smattering of international libertarian thought, a soupçon of bansturbation, some silliness, and the odd article from my RSS reads.

Coffee and crumpets optional.

School junk food bans create a thriving black market

Turkey cosies up to the EU by banning alcohol from sports advertising

Internet licensing is coming, and Facebook want to issue them

The environmental solution is pogo sticks

Treating all men as potential predators doesn't make our kids safer

So you thought you knew your star sign, eh?

Do pregnant smokers lie, or do the researchers?

The German prostitution industry is now specialising - services for care homes faring well

When booze was banned but pot was not

Step away from the contraband Kinder egg, Ma'am

The Simpsons do porn


Friday, 14 January 2011

Sucking At The Teat

I heard a dog whistle on the radio today, it sounded a bit like this.

Janet Fyle, professional policy adviser at the Royal College of Midwives, said: "I really must challenge the suggestion that the UK should reconsider its current advice on exclusive breastfeeding for six months.

"I believe that this is a retrograde step and plays into the hands of the baby-food industry which has failed to support the six-month exclusive breastfeeding policy in the UK.
And reading up on the story, I heard it again.

Patti Rundall, of the campaigning group Baby Milk Action, said moving to weaning at four months would be "a regrettable and backward step that is out of step with current scientific thinking".

"She accused the paper's authors of taking funds from the babyfood industry."
We've seen this approach before, haven't we? An opposing view is presented to the health lobby 'consensus' and the ball is ignored in favour of a grievous assault on the man instead. Meanwhile, the people who really matter - mums of young babies - are forgotten in a blaze of self-protective wrangling.

The idea that babies are not universally homogenous must be resisted at all cost for fear of grants and ideology being compromised. It should be obvious to just about any parent that babies develop at different paces, it's a clearly observable human experience which carries on into puberty and adulthood. We are not all the same, for crying out loud.

So one must begin to be suspicious as to the motives of those who are so vitriolic in their dismissal of new voices to the debate about what is safe for babies, and what is not.

Linked to the Beeb article is another where additional familiar derogatory vocabulary, aimed at those who choose not to toe the 'approved' line, can be recognised.

These people seem to be everywhere in health circles. Comfortable in taking the public shilling but hostile to anything which might inform the public if that information challenges their state-funded opinions.

You may have noticed from today's report yet another similarity between this debate and the ones we discuss here.

The WHO recommendation "rested largely" on a review of 16 studies, including seven from developing countries.

It concluded that babies just given breast milk for six months had fewer infections and experienced no growth problems.

But another review of 33 studies found "no compelling evidence" not to introduce solids at four to six months, the experts said.
Now, I'm not an expert in the subject, but seeing as this reflects exactly the approach of the WHO in areas in which I am, cherry-picking can't be ruled out, can it? Elsewhere, for example, 60+ studies have been ignored in favour of just one or two which fit the agenda.

It has been decided, see? Professional public-funded health advisers must be believed implicitly; their right-on take on motherhood should be respected and adhered to; anyone who questions their wisdom, or the fallacy that babies are identical in every respect, are evil, profit-greedy, potential kid-killers who should be ignored and never - but never - allowed to enter into debate.

What's that? Mums should be given all possible views and then be free to make their own decisions in relation to their own offspring?

Don't be so silly.