Friday, 29 July 2011

The Epidemic That Refuses To Materialise

Through gritted teeth, the BBC reported some good news yesterday.

Between 2009 and 2010 the percentage of 11-15 year olds who had tried alcohol fell from 51% to 45%.

The NHS Information Centre figures also suggested "a shrinking number think that drinking and drunkenness is acceptable".
So positive was this story that even the ubiquitous Don Shenker doom-mongering quote was missing. Unsurprising, really, since it just isn't possible to spout Alcohol Concern's most popular soundbite of "pocket money prices fuelling under-age drinking" in this context.

In fact, it's worse than that for Don and his chums, as the Straight Statistics team reports.

The general trend ... has been a steady decline for the past decade but the 2010 figures suggest this decline is accelerating. The numbers saying that they had drunk alcohol in the past week fell from 18 per cent in 2009 to 13 per cent in 2010 – five percentage points in a single year.
And to illustrate this, here is that under-age binge-drinking epidemic in glorious technicolour.

From the above, it's clear that whether alcohol is being sold at 'pocket money prices' or not, the point is moot. Kids are increasingly choosing not to spend their pocket money on it. There's simply no urgent problem here.

Of course, for regulars at Chez Dick this comes as no surprise, but after years of being told the sky is falling with regard teen alcohol consumption, half the commenters at the BBC article express total disbelief. Instead, it must be the kids lying, they say. In an anonymous survey. Over ten years. With different kids each time of asking.

So, despite the source being impeccable, and the respondents having no axe to grind, our bovine public are still - in large numbers - inclined to believe misinformation produced by lobby groups, whose funding relies on creating scare stories where none exist, rather than stark incontrovertible fact.

When the handling of social issues is so out of balance as is definitely the case with the perception of our nation's drinking habits, it's well past time to look seriously at why the likes of Alcohol Concern are funded as generously as they are.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Olympics 2012: Cocaine, Ecstasy In - Tobacco Out?

Don't ever accuse this blog of not being topical.

OLYMPIC athletes who test positive for cocaine and ecstasy should not face an automatic ban from competing, the British anti-doping agency has said.

Professional sportsmen and women currently face a two-year ban if they are found to have the illegal substances in their system during competition.

But in a document seen by The Times, UK Anti-Doping, the agency responsible for random testing of British athletes, says the sanctions are disproportionately harsh. Regulations on recreational drugs and medications including asthma inhalers should be relaxed in time for the London Games, the report says.

Drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine are judged by scientists to have no performance-enhancing effects in most sports.
Meanwhile, where tobacco is concerned, the opposite is being mooted.

[...] smokeless tobacco products are of growing popularity in sport owing to potential performance enhancing properties and absence of adverse effects on the respiratory system [...] considering the adverse effects of smoking on the respiratory tract and numerous health threats detrimental to sport practice at top level, likelihood of smokeless tobacco consumption for performance enhancement is greatly supported.
Sadly, the full text is behind a paywall, but a kindly fellow jewel robber furnished me with the benefits attributable to nicotine claimed therein.

"Promotion of related positive reinforcing effects results in vigilance, reduced stress, mood modulation and lower body. Interestingly, nicotine also triggers a significant increase of pulse rate, blood pressure, blood sugar and epinephrine release owing to simultaneous stimulant and relaxant properties. As a consequence ... smokeless tobacco is a very attractive drug from a doping perspective.”
So, let's get this straight. There are no benefits to tobacco consumption whatsoever ... unless such benefits can be used against it. Yep, that's about the consistency of information we've come to expect.

Sit round the athletes' villages of the future socially puffing waccy-baccy and you'll get a rap on the knuckles, but stick some snus under your lip? Don't even go there, Sven!

Presumably, they'll be coming to strip Hestrie Cloete of her medals soon enough, too.

As an added bonus, here's the mightily popular Shirley Strong doing rather well for GBR in Los Angeles 1984.

You shouldn't need to ask why that's relevant.

The Consequences Of Crying Wolf?

Two recent articles, one from the US:

The number of Americans who view smoking cigarettes as being bad for your health has gone down, according to a new report.

The perception by teenagers and young adults that heavy cigarette smoking is a high-risk activity has declined in many states, the study on substance abuse and mental health released today found.

The perceived risks of smoking one or more packs of cigarettes a day dropped between 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 in 14 states among youths aged 12 to 17, and in 31 states among those aged 18 to 25.
And another from Australia:

A new survey has found nearly one-third of smokers believe the health effects of smoking are exaggerated.
This is quite incredible.

At a time when anti-smoking rhetoric has never been more all-pervading - in countries with the most shrill methodology - the message is being ignored more!

Now, far be it from me to suggest failings in the tobacco control community's approach, but perhaps the policy of attempting to scare the living daylights out of smokers with increasingly dubious claims might be reaching an end of its useful life.

Persuasion - not bullying - is perhaps the key to future success. Not that the Aussie spokesperson is capable of identifying the changing nuances, of course.

Quit Executive Director Fiona Sharkie said on Sunday smokers are kidding themselves if they think they can get away with smoking because the health effects have been exaggerated.

"Almost all smokers will get emphysema, while a quarter of all deaths from smoking are from emphysema," she said.
Err, in just a few words, you've conveyed condescending irritation and hyperbole in equal measure.

You're not helping, love.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

E-Cigs Still Confusing The Hell Out Of Anti-Smokers

One of the best aspects of being a vaper (or 'dual user' as I was advised by an exclusive vaper in Stony) is that e-cigs confuse anti-smokers so deliciously.

A perfect example was posted a few days ago by US anti-smoking speaker Rick Stoddard on the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Tobacco Free Facebook page.

e-cigarettes..... It's ok to stay addicted as long as you have "harm reduction"... now say that 3 times real fast...... now say this 3 times real fast "excuses, excuses, excuses"
Following a few polite responses in support of the e-cig as a way of quitting smoking, Rick came up with this dissent killer.

Selling addiction for profit. How is that any different from the tobacco cartel that got you hooked in the first place?
Perhaps he might ask the same question of ASH and the Royal College of Physicians in this country, then.

ASH is today calling on the Government to develop a harm reduction strategy for tobacco.

ASH endorses the key findings of a report published today by the Royal College of Physicians. The report notes that despite a steady decline in overall smoking rates, the most disadvantaged smokers, who tend to be the most heavily addicted to nicotine, are still not quitting.

The report notes that whilst it is the nicotine in tobacco that keeps people hooked, the harm from smoking is caused primarily by the thousands of poisons in tobacco smoke. Medicinal nicotine, on the other hand, is relatively safe but little has been done to promote longer term use of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) as an alternative to smoking for those who can’t quit.
Hmm. Selling addiction for profit. How is that any different from the tobacco cartel that got you hooked in the first place, eh?

It seems anti-smokers are still utterly blindsided by the e-cig. It completely ruins their long-practiced argument that nicotine from pharmaceutical companies is good, anywhere else is bad.

Because now there are three suppliers of nicotine delivery rather than the less confusing two of yore, they're all over the place on how to act. Or, as tobacco control advocate Michael Siegel explained back in May.

The ideology is simply this: nothing that looks like cigarette smoking can possibly be a good thing, even if it saves lives. People need to quit smoking the way we say they should quit smoking. There is a right way and a wrong way to quit smoking. The right way is our way and the wrong way is any other way. If it looks like smoking, it's still smoking, even if there are no adverse health effects and the individual has achieved smoking cessation.
I've no doubt that Stoddard has the very best of intentions - after all, he does the same job that David Goerlitz was doing before being hounded out after criticising the potentially harmful methods of hysterical tobacco controllers - but until he, and others, can accept that the rules have changed, their approach is looking increasingly old hat and at times absurd.

In fact, a sceptic might argue that they are now so in the bunker with their pharma funders that a continuation of smoking is preferable to quitting in a way which doesn't involve their sponsors' products.

But that would be like saying that it's not about health anymore, or something. Which I, of course, would never do.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Fancy A Certificate In Fatty Nagging?

Laid low at the moment with the lurgey Mrs P kindly passed on to me, as well as being rather busy planning an important event next month amongst the usual life clutter.

I thought I'd share this briefly, though, from the University of Reading.

Certificate in Obesity Management

The course focuses on the development of knowledge and skills to enable students on completion of the course to be able to set up and deliver an effective weight management service.

The Certificate in Obesity Management will cover the following aspects of obesity assessment & management:

- The management of obesity and prevention of obesity-related co-morbidities
- Patient assessment
- Dietary interventions
- Promoting physical and "everyday" activity
- Motivational Interviewing & behaviour change consultation
- The role of pharmacotherapy and bariatric surgery

What are the benefits of attending?

On completion of the course participants will have:

- a thorough grounding in all aspects of obesity management
- developed the skills to facilitate the delivery of appropriate services for patients
- participated in learning opportunities with local, national and international experts
- undertaken a practice-based project in their work area
- been instructed in the most effective method of sternly wagging a finger (OK, I'll admit to adding that one - Dick)

Who funds the course?

Development of the course has been supported by the Government Office of the South East (GOSE) and the South Central Strategic Health Authority (SCSHA).
Coupled with the news - featured in Saturday's link tank - that ...

Both LMCs and GP consortium leaders have backed moves by NHS Hertfordshire to block any patient with a BMI over 30 from being referred for routine joint replacement surgery without first being referred to a weight management scheme.
... and I think we get the bigger picture, don't you?

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Meanwhile, In Tower Hamlets ...

At least Cllr Bartlett used the proper channels to try to enforce his outdoor smoking ban. But while we were all watching Stony Stratford, the Christian Institute and Pink News - not normally sources which would be in agreement - were both reporting that areas of Tower Hamlets have been designated smoke and alcohol-free zones, and a lot more, without any democratic input whatsoever. From the latter article.

It is understood the posters were found last Thursday morning at council-managed housing blocks in Shadwell, next to the DLR and Overground station.

They state: “You are entering a Shariah controlled zone. Islamic rules enforced.”

Underneath, images declare that smoking, alcohol, music, drugs, prostitution and porn are forbidden.

[Islamic preacher Anjem Choudary] said: “This will mean this is an area where the Muslim community will not tolerate drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, usury, free mixing between the sexes – the fruits if you like of Western civilisation.

“This will be a very heavy leafleting campaign aimed at both the Muslim and non-Muslim community in terms of what the Sharia means economically, socially and politically.”

Earlier this year, he claimed he had “thousands” of people willing to patrol streets up and down the UK to dissuade people from anti-Islamic behaviour.
Porn?!? From my cold, dead hands, sunshine!

A police spokeswoman said: “We are aware of a limit [sic] number of posters appearing in Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets and Newham.

“Officers are working closely with the local authority to have the posters removed as soon as possible.”
Why bother? Street prostitution is already illegal, as is drug use in public; alcohol-free zones are in abundance around the country; ASH have openly advocated outdoor smoking bans; noise nuisance bylaws are commonplace to prohibit music; and they'll be getting round to porn and gambling soon enough, if not already.

There's not much there which won't be enforced under common law soon. May as well leave the signs up and save some money for the council in having to produce their own in the future. You know, Big Society and all that.

[Tower Hamlets council said:] "We treat issues like this very seriously, and the matter is being looked into further by our Hate Crime Team"
This, naturally, won't apply to the smoking bit.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Nice Timing, Luton Herald And Post

Our catalogue of anti-smoker psychopaths was originally intended for picking up mentally unbalanced gems from the commentariat, but then I suppose the law of averages dictates that one of the swivel-eyed crazies would also happen to work in the newspaper industry and spray their particular brand of bile around the print, too.

Simon Clark has the lowdown on a loathsome article in the Luton Herald & Post that might motivate you to write to the Editor via the contact e-mail here, if only for the crass stupidity of not instantly pulling such a piece in light of developments in Norway.

Perhaps the vile author, Alan Dee, has been playing this game too much and lost touch with reality ... if he were ever in touch in the first place.

LinkTank 23/07

This week's unkempt rabble.

Regarding nudging, we shouldn't be asking ‘does it work?’ rather ‘what gives them the right?’

The booming New York market for bootlegged rice wine

A Time gallery of colour images of war-torn London

Mum charged with vehicular manslaughter for losing control of her kid crossing a road

GPs agree bans on operations for smokers and obese patients

New Zealand bans over 100 unusual baby names

Democracy the cause, not the victim of press abuse

Councils are acting on near zero risk

Five health benefits of smoking

The world's biggest McDonald's coming to London 2012

Pubs who resorted to live music post-2007 are kicked again

Celibate insects

Friday, 22 July 2011

Government Inquiry: Your Chance To Be Ignored On Alcohol Guidelines

Via The Reg, perhaps someone has finally realised that recommended alcohol unitary intake limits set by the Labour government are, indeed, "plucked out of the air".

And that telling people that they are 'hazardous drinkers' if they consume more than eight cans of Stella per week is quite absurd.

They're holding an inquiry on the subject, so they are.

Committee announce new inquiry into the evidence base for alcohol guidelines

The Committee seeks submissions on the following matters:

1. What evidence are Government’s guidelines on alcohol intake based on, and how regularly is the evidence base reviewed?
2. Could the evidence base and sources of scientific advice to Government on alcohol be improved?
3. How well does the Government communicate its guidelines and the risks of alcohol intake to the public?
4. How do the UK Government’s guidelines compare to those provided in other countries?
Easy peasy.

1) Fantasy, and regularly in the drive to further denormalise perfectly acceptable behaviour at the behest of publicy-funded puritans.
2) Yes, they could exhibit some semblance of being based in the real world.
3) Very well, it's just that what is communicated is so absurd as to be ignored. Try not being so bloody hyperbolic and perhaps people might listen.
4) What has this to do with other countries? Compare apples with apples, you clowns.

Apparently, any submissions are to be less than 3,000 words so the above should just about qualify.

On a serious note, I took advice as to who is entitled to respond to this consultation (because sometimes the public are excluded) and it wasn't too discouraging.

I think anyone can submit written evidence to the committee but the Committee are not obligated to take it into account. From the written evidence, the Committee will invite certain groups/companies/individuals to give oral evidence.

Basically, it’s worth a shot - but I’m not sure how much influence it would have.
A shot is good enough for me. Shall we?

We have until 14th September.

H/T SadButMadLad

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Last Word On Stony Stratford - A Warning

Success for the good people of Stony Stratford was very satisfying, but despite Herr Bartlett's lunacy being crushed, there are still a couple of unreported loose ends to clear up.

Stuart Moore, a local member of various groups including the Rotary Club, was in attendance on the night of the Town Council meeting and was mentioned by AboutMyArea/MK11 as "instrumental in organising the protest in the town on Saturday". Indeed he was. He arranged our venue and put in a lot of effort ensuring that those who weren't net savvy were aware of the protest, amongst many other admirably handled tasks.

At Tuesday night's meeting, he was approached by many attendees and asked if the issue would still be supported when it is re-presented in September (if Bartlett still refuses to drop it, that is). He assured them that their cause would certainly not be forgotten, and that he would also check parish notes in case Bartlett decided to initiate any other mad nonsense in the meantime.

Importantly, though, he was implored to stand for a Council position himself, to which he agreed.

On the evidence of Tuesday's events - including Bartlett having stand up arguments with residents on exiting the church - Stuart will have a lot of support come election time.

Bartlett may well have served for many years as a councillor in Stony Stratford, but the outdoor smoking ban proposal - alone - could well have put paid to his future involvement in anything more important to the town than sweeping in front of his house.

Something to think about for local councillors everywhere who think grandstanding for outdoor smoking bans is a good idea, don't you think?

New Puritans And A Call For Cavaliers

Despite having much (rather optimistic, for a change) material itching to be written about, the end of term, the end of the boy's cricket season, and another end of month payroll are all on today's agenda in Puddlecoteville.

In the meantime, I can't recommend highly enough Simon Cooke's excellent series of posts on The New Puritanism if you haven't already indulged. He systematically guides one through the gamut of recent illiberal initiatives and astutely paints a sorry snapshot of our state's inability to allow us a life unhindered by their overweening plans.

It's a composition in five acts:

#1 Denormalisation and social direction
#2 "It's for the children" - the curse of the play strategy
#3 Healthy living, hedonism and the curse of the clown
#4 Bad lifestyle is an illness - and the doctors can help you
#5 All faiths are powerful - and this is no exception

He tops it all off with a call to arms and some well-advised suggestions as to what all of us can do - perfectly within the law - to make ourselves heard. And if they still refuse to listen? Well, if we're organised, perhaps there might be other options available.

New Cavaliers! A Call to Arms!

Please do go read the lot, and think on. His is a comprehensive plan for a movement as opposed to a diversity of disjointed complainants.

And for a good-spirited explanation of why a movement has powerful potential, and how one starts and evolves, here's a humourous 3 minute Derek Sivers TED lecture from last year.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Sexting And Legislative Idiocy

Time to pop across the Atlantic for some more crystal ball paternalism, because this development looks nailed on for replication over here at some point.

Children who create and send sexually explicit messages of themselves electronically will be breaking the law in Rhode Island, after a new Bill was signed this week.

Under the new measure, anyone below the age of 18 who creates and sends a sexually inappropriate image of themselves can be charged with a “status” offence.

Such offences are acts which are only considered criminal when committed by a young person.

Even tougher penalties can be handed out to those who possess or forward sexually explicit images of another young person.

Such an action can be prosecuted under the state’s child pornography laws and if convicted the person may have to register as a sex offender.
Got that? To protect children from sex offenders, it's necessary to label children as ... sex offenders.

If you've ever laughed at one of those articles listing hilarious US state laws which are still in force - you know, like it being illegal to look at a moose from the air in Alaska; or forbidden to stroll down the street playing a violin in Maine (both real, btw) - this measure illustrates exactly why they occurred.

It's a combination of the authoritarian eagerness to be seen to be doing something in order to bolster their political ego (1), an over-estimation of their powers (2), and the belief that the public are unable to look after themselves without state interference (3).

On all three fronts, just like the return to prurient treatment of lifestyle choices, we are seeing a return to the stupid governmental habits of a century ago.

1) In the case above, the problem of sexting has prompted Rhode Island politicians' knees to jerk as they proudly puff out their chests and boast of finding a perfect solution.

2) Except that it's not perfect at all. How they can possibly believe they are capable of stopping the practice simply by declaring it a crime, one can only imagine. Perhaps the plan is to routinely spot check the personal mobile phone photos of underage kids? Yeah, I think there are any number of privacy and property conflicts with that idea, let alone moral concerns.

3) The state increasingly believes that the public are entirely incompetent. Otherwise this law wouldn't exist while, instead, parents were educated in how to tackle issues with sexting and given help should they request it. Incredibly, Rhode Island have still gone ahead with this law despite admitting that they really don't possess the powers to fully do the job.

[Attorney General Peter Kilmartin said] “Talking to children early and often will help to protect them from the dangers that can lurk in cyberspace.”

And the Attorney General continued that parents should also discuss their expectations for their children’s behaviour, and “discuss the consequences” for failing to meet those expectations.
Well exactly. In other words, this is a parental task and there is absolutely nothing the state can do about it without becoming hideously intrusive and - as they often do - making things several times worse.

And I'd call having underage kids on a sex offenders register for life classes as pretty bloody damaging for the kids they profess to be protecting.

So Westminster will no doubt be tabling a bill along the same lines very soon ... the idiots.

Mascot Watch (14) - Murdoch Foam Attack Edition

Well? What else did you expect from a post entitled mascot watch?

Stony Stratford Meeting Overwhelmingly Rejects Bartlett Proposals

Councillor Paul Bartlett's motions were later rejected by the Town Council. Nobody present was prepared to second either of the two motions that were on the agenda for the meeting. As a result, the proposals were discarded and did not need to be debated on further by the Town Council.

One speaker asked for a show of hands to see how many people in the room supported Councillor Bartlett's proposals. There were around 150 people in attendance and only 2 people raised their hands - one of those was Councillor Bartlett himself.
See the whole story at AboutMyArea/MK11.

Although Bartlett has seemingly refused to withdraw the ban motion itself, it looks dead in the water on this showing.

Congratulations to the residents of Stony Stratford.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Alcohol Control: J S Mill Rendered Irrelevant

A rather unexciting article on the BBC website today - regarding the efficacy of the government's 'nudge' policy - highlighted a more significant House of Lords Science and Technology Sub-Committee’s report entitled Behaviour Change.

It is a discussional paper, part of which wrestles with the question, "when, and how, is it appropriate for the Government to intervene to change people’s behaviour?".

You see, government has already decided for itself that it is perfectly justified in telling you what to do, the problem has always been reconciling that with the widely-respected 'harm principle' as laid out by John Stuart Mill, which states:

That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.
Because this has always been a bit of a stumbling block for bansturbators when it comes to obesity and alcohol. Despite weak attempts at installing fears of passive drinking and passive obesity, the public remain largely unconvinced.

Indeed, when it is pointed out that the public health lobby are coming after drinkers and fatties as soon as they're done with smoking on any comments thread, the smug responses fly in as to how alcohol and obesity harm only the individual hence the government can't touch them.

Time to think again, folks (Behaviour Change, page 107 [pdf], emphasis mine).

[...] some policies which restricted choice for some enabled choice for others. For example, restricting alcohol consumption through fiscal measures could restrict choice for some by making it more expensive to drink, but might enable choice for others who could walk home safely at night (assuming a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour as a result of reduced alcohol consumption). Certain restrictions on individual choice limit population harm and could be justified on Millian and many other grounds. Alcohol, smoking and obesity also harm the population by their cost to the NHS and, in the case of alcohol, increased rates of crime. It could therefore be argued that tackling these problems did prevent harm to others, so fell within the meaning of the ‘harm principle’.
Well, you didn't think they'd let a long dead philosopher's wisdom get in the way of their self-righteous crusades, did you?

That's the overweight totally screwed then and, as Chris Snowdon pointed out yesterday, those attacking alcohol are at a position comparable to that of tobacco control around 20 years ago, using the same methods as well as sometimes the same personnel. By the same token, organisations - like the hubristic CAMRA, for example - which champion drinkers' rights, may only have a couple of decades to go before they are vilified along the same lines as Forest.

Sadly, it's probably too late for them to do anything about it. Vivienne Nathanson has already let the cat out of the bag by calling for the same 'denormalisation' process for alcohol as was used against tobacco, and don't think they're getting away with it by being moderate drinkers, either. When it is roundly accepted - which it will be - that there is "no safe level for alcohol consumption", it'll be considered just as irresponsible and potentially harmful to others whether drinking just one pint of Old Speckled Hen or three bottles of White Lightning by the neck.

Still, just like smokers of the late 80s and early 90s, drinkers can still cling to the fact that there are just too many of them to take on. And that's never going to change, now is it?

Give it time.

The simple fact is that without the success of tobacco control, the Lords committee distortion of Millian principles quite simply wouldn't have taken place; denormalisation as a valid coercive tool would have been reined in; and more care would be afforded in the UK by politicians to lifestyle liberties and personal responsibility.

The drinks industry and associated organisations had a part to play in that battle ... and blew it. They now have many years to reap the public health blight nurtured by their naïve isolationist arrogance.

Need A Pension? The Doctor Will See You Now

It may be difficult for new readers of this blog to imagine, but I write about many different lifestyle issues apart from tobacco - in a tabloid style, so I'm told - on these pages. The problem in the past few weeks is that we have seen so much arrant nonsense from anti-smokers that it's been almost impossible to drag myself away and comment on anything else.

Rather odd, really, as they had been deadly quiet for months before that. Maybe it's the link with July and their annual defence of the 2007 ban, or perhaps they're getting a bit worried, I dunno.

Whichever it is, this article in the Guardian reaches the very pinnacle of pompous tobacco control naïveté.

Call for councils to remove £1bn in pension funds from tobacco firms

NHS chief wants local authorities to disinvest from 'destructive industry'

"I am shocked by the size and extent of south-west local government pension investments in the tobacco industry and I am sure many of those contributing to the funds, as well as those receiving local government pensions, will be as well", said Dr Gabriel Scally, the NHS regional director of public health for the south-west.

"If it were my pension contributions being invested in an industry whose only product line killed people in the numbers that die from tobacco, I would be absolutely horrified. As a doctor I think it would be completely unethical to have any part in it", Scally added.
As a doctor, Scally, I think it's rather fucking unethical of you to think that you should have any say in financial matters whatsoever.

You're a doctor, not a financial adviser. I expect you to be very good at fixing people when they are broken. If, however, I'm looking to invest some cash for my old age, you're the very last person I'd consider consulting ... because you're a doctor. In fact, having read your words above, I don't even believe I'd be comfortable seeking your medical advice either, po-faced loon that you are.

That's the way of the world, you see, Scally? You chose a life in a white coat, pension fund managers however, are trained in exploiting the best financial markets for the benefit of their investors. Note that they don't pontificate on how best you should do your job, so what in heaven's name qualifies you to dictate how they should do theirs?

Oh sorry, I forgot to end that last sentence with 'you arrogant bastard'.

Here's a little lesson for you in how pension fund managers operate. They invest in companies because they are profitable and that is all they should be considering. Just yesterday we see one of those you - in your financial wisdom - decide is a bad investment doing rather well, for example.

People seeking a decent pension want as good a return on their investment as possible, it's not for medicos to decide their conscience for them. In fact, I'm sure regulatory bodies would have a stern word or two for any investment fund which wasn't doing their damnedest to maximise returns for their investors.

Scally - and Vivienne 'denormalise alcohol' Nathanson who is also mentioned in the piece - are also on very thin ice if urging pension investors to object to how their money is spent. Because at least those investing have some semblance of choice.

Scally and Nathanson, on the other hand, are paid out of enforced taxation to spout this crap, and if we refuse to pay because we really object to our money being given to their ilk - which I do, vehemently - we would be imprisoned.

So, tell you what. I'll take your moral objections as to how voluntary contributions are invested seriously, the day you tell ASH (for starters) to give the hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money - taken by force - back to the exchequor. Till then, shut the fuck up.

As for the Guardianista mentality exhibited in the comments, the calls for pensions to shed stocks in News International, armaments, big tobacco and others (BP would right piss them off too, I suspect) are hilarious. How do they think pension payments are going to be met without hugely profitable industries like these in fund portfolios? After all, the Guardian and their readers squeal like stuck pigs when council workers are asked to pay more in.

Sorry to burst that bubble, but pine nuts, air purifiers and cranberry juice shares just won't cut the pension mustard.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Stony Stratford BBC Look East Coverage

The BBC have uploaded their Look East coverage of the Stony Stratford protest. See anyone you recognise?

UPDATE: Stony Stratford businesses (overwhelmingly) object to the smoking ban - AboutMyArea/MK11

Stony Stratford Smoking Ban Motion Postponed?

It would appear that rumours of a withdrawal of Herr Bartlett's motion were correct. The reason given for this change of tack, though, are the special kind of Bartlett bonkers we've come to expect.

The motion to ban smoking in Stony Stratford will not take place at tomorrow's town council meeting (Tuesday) and will now be discussed at the next meeting in September.

As reported in last week's MK NEWS, Councillor Paul Bartlett was planning to postpone his motion as he believes his opponents' arguments are 'flimsy' and they need more time to prepare.
His justification is rock solid, d'you see, everyone else's arguments are the shaky ones. And the sky is, of course, purple with turquoise polka dots.

The official statement from Stony Town Council reads as follows:

[...] we have been notified by Cllr Paul Bartlett that he wishes to withdraw his motion no (iii) on the above agenda and to place it on the agenda for the Town Council’s meeting on 20 September.

In accordance with standing order 3b(iii), I therefore confirm that this motion will not be considered at the above meeting.
Unfortunately, without seeing the agenda, it's difficult to know if this means that the other two items for discussion - as detailed at AboutMyArea/MK11 - will be going ahead as planned, or not. (EDIT: They will).

Well, what do we make of that, boys and girls?

UPDATE: Gawain finds it rather amusing too.

UPDATE 2: Had to shoot off after posting this so hadn't seen Simon Clark's article on this. There's doubtless much truth in what he says HERE.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

An Outbreak Of People Power In Stony Stratford

Having had a quick look around over a mid-morning cuppa, it appears I'm a bit late to the Stony Stratford blogging party. Not too surprising in light of the outstanding turnout yesterday, including many a blogger. My last article was written from the top deck of a bus, the last leg of a problematic return journey, before shooting straight out again while others penned their experiences.

Having very generously been offered a lift to Stony yesterday morning by Tom Paine - a true non-smoking gent - in his magnificent Maserati GranTurismo, Vittoria, I mentioned that the dreadful weather might discourage attendance. As we approached the venue at around 10:45, though, it was clear that it was going to be a successful day.

Posted sentry-like outside was a man Twisted Root holding a placard bearing the words "De-normalise Bartlett" (to which the Police would later raise mild objection), while under the cover of a gated passage between the two bars were approximately 30 hardy souls drinking tea and waiting patiently for the event to begin. Already we had the makings of something rather special.

Just two weeks ago, this blog had floated the idea of a visit to the historic town - post-scripted with "I'm serious, by the way" - and my good friend Gawain had got in contact offering to "try to get Farage". There followed a lively 14 days of arrangements; a venue; further speakers; media coverage; and most importantly of all, people to attend. After all the e-mails, Facebook and Twitter calls to arms, and media enquiries amongst other activity, to see our protest take a tangible shape was both thrilling and a blessed relief at the same time.

The BBC give the attendance as 200 and, although this is a tad high, it's not by any means a massive exaggeration. As the BBC cameras arrived, I counted 80 to 90 people and they were still turning up! The final total was in excess of 100 is the best I can estimate as I was to be rather busy for the next couple of hours.

There was one irritating inaccuracy in the Beeb piece, that being:

The meeting was followed by a "mass light up" by smokers opposed to the proposed ban.
Firstly, it preceded the speeches, and secondly it only happened at all after the reporter requested that we arrange it for them to film. It's worth getting that on record as you just know it could be eagerly misconstrued by some.

The speeches started late as we were desperately hoping Farage would get there in time. It soon became evident that an accident on the M1 had stymied that idea and the other speakers would have to begin without him.

And excellent each of them was too. Bill Etheridge with his Churchillian reference; non-smoking Patrick Hayes waving a Gauloise (which I later smoked) and emphasising the threat to wider liberty this posed; David Odell speaking passionately of his deep love for the town as a family-run business owner, and how Bartlett's plan threatens its prosperity; and Roger Helmer promising to smoke a cigarette on the High Street if Bartlett gets his way on Tuesday. When Nigel arrived 30 minutes later he was, well, Nigel. Passionate, articulate, direct, and still forthright in his view that anti-smoking legislation has almost become a parody of itself.

With the main part of the day completed, and the many press personnel having left to file copy and photos, the rest of the early afternoon was whiled away with a refreshing beer, a relaxing smoke, and good-natured conversation amongst like minds.

This was a day to cherish, with many believing it should not be a once-off; that successes like this should be built upon with action elsewhere should it become necessary; that a line in the sand had been drawn. I'll certainly be willing to go again the next time some petty dictator tries to enforce his personal preferences on others, and not just towards tobacco, either. Increasingly, other areas are being attacked by the same methods which are equally dangerous to our general freedoms.

Before leaving, I thanked the landlord of the Bull Hotel for his generosity in allowing us use of his premises (though I'm sure he was quite happy with the early Saturday takings), and he gave me an interesting snippet of info.

Apparently, Bartlett himself had popped by The Vaults bar on Friday night, bearing leaflets which hinted that he may be thinking of withdrawing the motion. He was given short shrift by the locals who "ran him out of the bar", I was told. Time will tell if Bartlett has really come to his senses but, if not, the locals of Stony Stratford who made up around 40% of the attendance have made their views perfectly clear for councillors prior to the vote. To a man and woman they angrily insisted that Bartlett should butt out.

I'd like to heartily thank all those who attended yesterday in the driving rain, you helped us make a stand - in our own little way - against the kind of mean-spirited miserablists who are increasingly making this country an intolerant and spiteful place.

Let's do it again sometime, eh?

- Top two images courtesy of Andy Roberts, AboutMyArea/MK11
- Video footage by Stony Stratford resident Paul King from 4Thought Productions Limited
- Bottom image courtesy of

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Mission Accomplished #StonyStandoff

It poured down, traffic problems on the M1 interfered, Twitter updates were difficult, but we got it done.

Protesters turned up early and in large numbers to object to Bartlett's particular brand of illiberal lunacy, to be treated to powerful speeches in front of the BBC cameras

I'm nearly back home but will be straight out again for a pre-planned Saturday evening domestic wine and curry evening. A full write-up will appear here tomorrow.

A message was sent today, which was the whole point of the exercise. Job done.

Link Tank 16/07: #StonyStandoff Special

By the time you read this I should be halfway to Stony, and with all that has been going on with that this week, there hasn't been a lot of time for much else. So instead of the usual link tank, here's a round up of articles related to the Stony Stratford protest (Please link to yours in the comments, Dioclese, it wasn't up when I left).

Is this the Britain of Victor Meldrew or Withnail and I?

For ambulance chasers, it's just another opportunity to tout for business

A line in the sand

Would a smoking ban in all places work?

The town which wants to ban smoking - outside!

The freedom fighters of Stony Stratford

Stony Stratford - the final ban

Stand up to the Stony Stratford smoking ban

The fightback starts here

Support smokers in Stony Stratford

Join Dick Puddlecote in Stony Stratford

Councillor Bartlett finally answers the phone

A fistful of fag ends

Falling on stony ground

One flew over the cuckoo's nest

A day out in Stony Stratford

Smoking liberty protest

It's not about health

... and an article by one of today's speakers, Patrick Hayes.

Supermarkets join the nanny state

Friday, 15 July 2011

#StonyStandoff Audio Repeat

Last night's TalkSport discussion was interesting to say the least. The kind comments in a lively thread beneath yesterday's post were most appreciated.

Having been prepared to rebut Herr Bartlett's daft claims, his non-appearance (or very late show) meant that the approach was rather different to what I was expecting.

If you missed it, you can listen to the whole show at TalkSport's website, but thanks to Man Widdicombe for capturing some of the coverage for posterity. My contribution begins at around the 12 minute mark below.

And Herr Bartlett's quite amusing rant is here.

Now, be honest. While listening, you pictured Bartlett wearing a big red nose and very long shoes, didn't you?

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Talking Dick

What with real life and the Stony Stratford shindig butting in and taking up a lot of my time, my drafts area has been building up with things I want to write about with no window available to do so.

Normality will no doubt resume at some point but, in the meantime, tonight I'll be appearing on TalkSport radio at around 10:15pm to discuss our event and the Stony Stratford ban in general.

As is usual, there is someone lined up to represent the opposing point of view. TalkSport have chosen Councillor Paul Bartlett ... you may have heard of him.

Speed Kills ... Bugs

Won't somebody please think of the insects!

"There is great concern that the number of insects is decreasing," Dr van Vliet said.

Over the past six weeks, an analysis of information from 250 drivers was used to plot the total number of bugs killed by more than 7 million Dutch cars driving an estimated distance of 200.4 billion kilometres every year.

"On just the [number] plates, 3.3 billion bugs are killed. The front of the car is at least 40 times as large as the surface of the plate. Over a month, the cars hit 133 billion insects. Using the same statistics, British drivers, with 31 million cars, inadvertently kill up to 7 trillion insects every year."
I can see the ad slogans now. "Kill your speed, not a creepy-crawly", or how about "Save the bugs, catch a bus"?

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Stony Stratford: Full Details For Saturday #StonyStandoff

Just about everything is in place for Saturday's day out in Stony Stratford (previous updates here), so here are answers to many a FAQ.

We'll be gathering from 11am onwards at the Vaults Bar, High Street, Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, MK11 1AQ. It is the bar to the right of the orange awning in the image below. Click here for a big arrow pointing to its location on the High Street.

As well as a large contingent of local residents, we are being joined by people from all over the country, and even one who is flying in from Russia on Friday especially for this event.

Those driving will be pleased to know that parking in Stony Stratford is FREE! A map of the town's car parks can be viewed here.

If you're arriving by train into Milton Keynes Central station, the 5A bus (says Wolverton on the front) leaves every 15 minutes from stop 37 on Station Square and will take you to Stony Stratford in around 20 minutes.

The taxi fare from the station to Stony Stratford is in the region of £7, though @miltonkeynetaxi have said that if you find that journey cheaper anywhere in their tweets, show the driver and that's what you'll pay.

The speeches will take place from midday to allow for latecomers, but in the meantime we hope to help out with local petitions by getting as many signatures as possible in objection to Bartlett's plan. Portable ashtrays are being provided for those who smoke, so please use them or the receptacles provided by the venue as we don't wish to leave any litter.

As mentioned, BBC Look East (and possibly ITV Anglia News) will be in attendance along with local press so the earlier you display your placards/banners/posters/dressing up efforts, the better.

The speakers so far confirmed are as below (others may follow):

Bill Etheridge - Midlands representative for The Freedom Association
David Odell - Head of Stony Stratford Chamber of Commerce
Patrick Hayes - Journalist at the Institute of Ideas and columnist at Spiked
Nigel Farage - Leader of UKIP

Thank you to all who have helped publicise this event so far, any further plugs would also be most appreciated. There are still three days in which to invite others via the Facebook page, or to publicise the event on Twitter using the hashtag #StonyStandoff .

If there's anything else you need to know, I can't think of it. Roll on Saturday.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

UK v Australia: Into The Back Straight

Baroness Thornton yesterday presented a "motion to regret" in the Lords on the subject of the tobacco display ban. These are usually a means to object to laws being passed through parliament. Thornton wasn't against the legislation, though. Oh no, she 'regrets' that tobacconists and grocers aren't being stamped on fast enough, because it has been delayed while the impact on small businesses is assessed.

I found this revelation from Tory Earl Howe - representing the government's position - particularly interesting.

"My noble friend Lord Naseby and the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, mentioned the issue of plain packaging. the tobacco control plan includes a commitment to consult on options to reduce the promotional impact of tobacco packaging, including an option to require plain packaging before the end of 2011."
Easy there, Tiger. Why the haste?

Well, I think we know the answer to that. Because, as I mentioned in January, our politicians are involved in a global game of keeping up with the Joneses - or, "we're considerabloy stricter than yaow" - with Australia.

The upside-downers laid their cards on the table when the idea was first proposed.

If we act quickly, Australia can overtake the British Government and become the first country in the world to mandate that cigarettes be sold in plain packaging.
But their ban - if it passes legal challenge - only takes effect from July 2012. Just time, then, for our own dictators to eradicate pack designs first if they get a wiggle on.

Now, considering a prime argument during yesterday's debate was how many extra people will die (no, they definitely will!) if packs aren't hidden right now or yesterday, I expect you can imagine the option health groups - who are the only people parliament listens to on such matters - will plump for in the upcoming consultation.

The era of classy cigarette cases may be on its way back quicker than we initially thought.

As an aside, you can view the debate via BBC's Democracy Live facility here (you may enjoy Lord Stoddart's contribution from 49:50 in). Keep your eye out for someone in the gallery - whose wages you are paying for being there - you may recognise. Probably just making sure the salient lies facts she provided are being trotted out correctly so she doesn't have to get the whip out.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Stony Stratford: Support Growing

Our little event appears to have gained rather a wide audience, with supportive messages aplenty and many e-mail enquiries to Puddlecote Towers.

Locally there has been a solid backlash against the proposal, as highlighted by a recommended read at AboutMyArea/MK11 this afternoon. Therefore, I wasn't surprised to hear that local people will be well represented amongst those attending on Saturday.

Others to have written on the subject since my last update include the following:

Pro-street smoking rally in Stony Stratford - Joshua Lachkovic
For once I'm missing England - Angry Exile
On manoeuvres in Stony Stratford - Misanthrope Girl
A day in Stony Stratford - Devil's Kitchen
Is there honour amongst thieves? - Frank Davis
Stony Stratford, the sequel - Filthy Engineer
... and there are a collection of posters at Lawson Narse's place.

As well as the BBC, Anglia News are rumoured to be popping by, and I was contacted by Radio 5 Live on Saturday for info prior to a piece they aired on Saturday night's Stephen Nolan show. I was asked if I would agree to take part if required (to which I naturally said yes) but they finally plumped for a re-run of David Nuttall MP versus Cllr Bartlett as per Jeremy Vine's show on Friday.

Bartlett was again muddled and borderline incoherent, advancing some baffling arguments at times. If you were still pondering whether to come along on the Saturday, have a listen to the 11 minute debate at this link (scroll to 1:44:00 - available for 5 days), it might just be the clincher.

It's not too late to invite others via the Facebook page, by the way. Five days and counting, folks.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Criminalise The Compo Community

Agents of destruction in the bog

You won't read this here often, so cherish it. We need a law against this type of thing!

A friend operates a contract cleaning company and is currently having to waste their time defending a claim from one of life's bottom-feeders. His solicitor was laughing as he described how the case has no chance of succeeding, but the defence fees have to be paid, and the company is forced to waste resources on it.

The charge?

A customer at a store handled by said friend's company has sued for compensation to rectify - and I quote - "chlorine gas inhalation which harmed throat and lungs after urinating on a sanitiser block".

No. Don't laugh (OK, just a little bit then) as I'm not making this up and it's not bloody funny for the very small business which is exposed to such nonsense.

Mrs P works for a large company which employs an entire department tasked solely with tackling frivolous claims like this in a different sector, so it's not an inconsequential problem.

If you ever wondered how it is that kids are left to die for spurious reasons; why school trips are now routinely denied; why your insurance is ever-inflating, and yes; why insignificant risks are ramped up out of all proportion, it's because of odious compo-chasers like the one above.

Hey, I'm libertarian. I favour personal responsibility. So let's have a law which says that if you are truly harmed because of the negligence of others, you have full rights to a hefty payout.

If, however, your claim is shown to be hideously frivolous, you should do jail time commensurate with the cost imposed on those companies which are forced to expend resources as a result of your selfish and lazy rent-seeking.

Fair's fair.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Will Somebody Please NOT Think Of The Children!

The constantly shifting hypocrisy of the righteous surfaces once again.

While consistently invoking children as justification for absurd laws with no evidential basis, politicians don't seem to be too concerned with child welfare when it interferes with other hobby horses in their portfolio.

Here's a perfect example from the Soviet Republic of Upside Down Land.

PRIMARY school children are being terrified by lessons claiming climate change will bring "death, injury and destruction" to the world unless they take action.

Climate change as a "Doomsday scenario" is being taught in classrooms across Australia.

Resource material produced by the Gillard government for primary school teachers and students states climate change will cause "devastating disasters".

"As well as their terrible impact on people, animals and ecosystems they cause billions of dollars worth of damage to homes and other buildings," the material says.

[Australian National University's Centre for the Public Awareness of Science director Dr Sue Stocklmayer said] "To put all of this before our children ... is one of the most appalling things we can do to (them)."

"When you repeat things over and over to young people who don't have the cognitive maturity and emotional maturity to process this stuff, you end up creating unnecessary anxiety," [Psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg] said.
Well that'll be the end of that, then. If there is one thing that the public will not stand for, it's children being exposed to harm or alarm. It's completely taboo these days, so it is.

Federal Schools Minister Peter Garrett said the government would not stop the teaching of climate science, despite moves in Britain for the subject to be withdrawn.
Don't be so silly. Children are just a political commodity, to be moved in and out of camera shot as required. Precious they may be, but dogma is valued far higher in the corridors of power.

And lo, sayeth the religion of Gaia and public health, the church is thy anvil and children merely tools. Go forth and use them to best advantage in the name of our Lords of all progressive.

Verily shall ye not falter even as they are plagued by the heebeegeebees, whosoever gives a maggot's fart about them anyway?

See also, from today's link tank, kids may be run over but never shall Maccy D's pass their lips.

Link Tank 09/07

Perhaps this should be posted on Sundays from next week now the brekkie competition is busted.

Child road safety or stopping them from eating McDonalds, a Welsh dilemma

Wind farm madness

It's health and safety gone mainstream!

Brewer accused of sexism and racism over their humourous beer labels

Teen faces eight years in jail for a school sex toy prank

Ban Powerpoint!

EU regulations promote contraband cigarettes

Sweet wine drinkers more likely not to wear panties

New York district bans the buying of puppies if the customer has been drinking

Cat roaming studied

Friday, 8 July 2011

Stony Stratford: Important Updates

There has been a lot of interest in our little jaunt up to Herr Bartlett's mini fiefdom, and plenty of encouraging developments.

Most importantly, please note that the start time has been moved forward by an hour to 11am. This has been necessary for best media results (it's a long story). We will now be gathering at The Vaults from 11am onwards with speeches expected to start at 11:45.

The subject of the Stony Stratford ban cropped up on Jeremy Vine's BBC Radio 2 show today, with Bartlett himself being interviewed, along with David Nuttall MP who was making the opposite case for a relaxation of the smoking ban to accommodate separate smoking rooms.

Bartlett spoke less than fluently with muddled logic, and came across as the worst kind of anti-smoker - at one point even calling his own father "disgusting". You can listen to the debate here from 35 minutes in.

With regard to Stony Stratford on the 16th, four excellent speakers have so far been confirmed, and the event has received support from The Freedom Association, Big Brother Watch, Forest, UKIP, Freedom2Choose, and - of course - our esteemed mascot.

Local press will be in attendance and today I spoke to BBC Look East who will be bringing their cameras along on the day.

All rather encouraging, I think you'll agree.

There are still details to be confirmed, so a final rundown of the arrangements will follow early next week. If you're planning to come along on the day - or even if you can't make it - please invite others in any way you can. If on Facebook, there is an 'invite' button just beneath the picture on the event page HERE (it only appears once you have declared if you are coming or not).

Further reading:

Smokers and non-Smokers alike should unite against the petty authoritarianism of Stony Stratford councillors - Huffington Post UK
Stick this in your pipe and... - The Commentator
A smoking ban standoff in Stony Stratford - AboutMyArea/MK11
Showdown in Stony Stratford - Frank Davis
Join us in Stony Stratford - Last Ditch
Join me and Dick Puddlecote in Stony Stratford - Dave Atherton
Stony ground indeed - Freedom2Choose

You will be coming, won't you?

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Regrets? They'd Have A Few

I was asked today if I would join the girl Puddlecote school's parent council.

Gotta be worth the hour it would take before they threw me out, doncha think?

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

... Now For Alcohol

"Prohibition is won, now for tobacco," proclaimed the great anti-saloon preacher Billy Sunday in 1919. Within months of the war in Europe coming to an end, the US federal government passed the 18th Amendment and the sale and consumption of alcohol was banned across the nation. The temperance dream was now a reality and, for those who had spent years campaigning for it, prohibition was just the first step towards the moral regeneration of the country. The next step was to stamp out tobacco. In 1919, Frederich W. Roman published a book with the ominous title Nicotine Next and its author confirmed smokers' fears in an interview with the New York Tribune, saying: "We have been holding back our agitation during the war for patriotic reasons, but now that the war is over we intend to push it vigorously." 'Nicotine Next' was soon adopted by the WCTU as their pithy, post-war slogan and Clarence True Wilson, leader of the Anti-Saloon League, urged anti-tobacconists to "strike while the iron is hot."
The above is taken from Velvet Glove Iron Fist which, if you haven't read it already, you definitely should (click here to buy).

The passage illustrates that, as many of us are astutely aware, the fortunes of tobacco and alcohol are inextricably linked. Sadly, there are a large number of beer afficionados (yes, I'm looking at you, CAMRA) who seem ignorant of the lessons of history, believing instead that drinking is somehow an entirely different case to smoking.

This might wake them up a bit.

Cigs war won: Now cancer campaigners set their sights on beer

HEALTH activists who believe even one alcoholic drink can cause cancer are lobbying MPs in Canberra today for limits on how much we consume and how much we pay for it.

If they're successful in branding alcohol a carcinogen it could lead to tough restrictions similar to those applied to tobacco, including warnings on labels and laws requiring plain packaging.

The Cancer Council of Australia argues even one drink is dangerous, a view similar to its position that even one cigarette can injure health.

“There is no evidence that there is a safe threshold of alcohol consumption for avoiding cancer, or that cancer risk varies between the type of alcohol beverage consumed,"
Note how the headline is uncannily similar to the declaration made by Billy Sunday nearly a century ago.

Because the people who wish to demonise alcohol and tobacco today are exactly of the same mindset as those evangelical loons of yore. Just as Carrie Nation (alcohol) and Lucy Page Gaston (tobacco) fought together on both fronts, so do their current day incarnations.

The arguments employed in both areas are the same too, as are the people involved. Take Vivienne Nathanson, for example.

She said: "By not banning smoking in public places, the Government is putting the health of vast numbers of the population at risk and is also placing a huge burden on the NHS."
And ...

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics for the British Medical Association, said: "We have to start de-normalising alcohol - it is not like other types of food and drink."
I'll keep saying it - we're not talking of two issues here, there is only one. Those drinkers (and their associations) who were happy to let tobacco fall only hastened the onset of their own woes. Some of us did try to warn them, but there were just too many fingers in too many ears.

The only difference between now and a century ago is the order in which freedoms are being attacked. "Nicotine Next" as a rallying call has simply been replaced with "Alcohol Next".

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Standoff In Stony Stratford, Saturday July 16th

It's on!

Seeing as quite a few were interested in the idea of a day out in Stony Stratford prior to the council's vote to ban smoking ban in all outdoor areas, let's go and do it.

Meet me between 12pm and 1pm from 11am on Saturday 16th July for a gathering of the liberty conscious against Councillor Paul Bartlett's ludicrous proposal.

The landlord of The Vaults Bar - a real traditional 'local' - is extending a warm welcome by offering us exclusive use of his main bar which faces onto the High Street, a courtyard with comfy seating, and of course being a bar, plenty of beer on tap. A perfect place to begin the day.

Banners and posters are positively encouraged - along with anything else which scream freedom at those we will see on the day - especially since the press have been invited to come and say hello to us.

Anyone who objects to Bartlett's proposed fussbucketing is welcome, and there is a Facebook event set up HERE for inviting like-minded friends. Although we're meeting initially in a bar, let's hope enough turn up to spill into an impromptu street party.

Further details will follow as and when. Hope to see you there.

E-Cigs: It Has Never Been About Harm Reduction, Either

Hey guys, did I ever mention to you that 'it's not about health'? Well, I was partly wrong. Not only has it never been about health (that is, anything proposed by the scrunch-faced jizzcrumpets in the laughably-named public health lobby), but also hasn't had even a passing resemblance to harm reduction, either.

I was struck by this anecdotal paragraph in an uncommonly sensible piece over at CiF.

No, the problem is that there are simply some people – no, many people – who do not like the idea of people smoking at all, and the impression one gets that if it were not smoking which were the issue here, it would be something else with them, like eating chocolate, or masturbating**, or some other common but unedifying pleasure. I once asked a doctor at a party whether she would still seek to ban the habit even if there were an almost costless one-a-day pill one could take which would negate every single adverse side-effect. I was much struck by the speed with which she said "yes". I was going to ask "why?" but saw a look in her face which made me think better of it.
This, I think, really isn't news to us here. If the conversation was reported correctly - which is hardly in doubt in the current condemnatory climate - the (obviously shallow) doctor concerned was far less concerned with health than she was the enjoyment of a product she, personally, finds distasteful. She would rather just ban it than see people happy, and with no possibility of harm.

I find that distinctly evil, but each to their own.

However, it reminded me of a quite appallingly irresponsible - and woefully inaccurate - article published by a San Fran anti-tobacco warrior last week on the subject of e-cigs.

E-cigs are only one of the latest tricks in pushing tobacco to people, and to subverting anti-tobacco education and restrictions.
No. They were originally marketed as a way of getting people off of tobacco. In fact, they still would be if ignorant anti-smokers hadn't campaigned against such an idea.

I mean, why would an anti-smoker want people to stop smoking tobacco, eh?

These supposedly "safer" cigarettes undermine secondhand smoke regulations and make them harder to enforce.
There's the ticket. E-cigs push people away from pharmaceutical products by helping them comply with anti-smoking initiatives without buying anything which provides the author with cash.

Sadly for him, he can't use tobacco control 101 and blame the tobacco industry. E-cigs not containing any tobacco; also being a thorn in the side of the tobacco industry; and being an invention of someone totally unrelated to the industry soundly destroys that line of attack.

Oh, hang on.

Every time the tobacco industry has presented a "safer" form of smoking, it has turned out to not be true.
And there was me thinking e-cigs were invented by someone who wasn't happy at all with the tobacco industry. The idea that the tobacco industry are behind it all is a conspiracy theory up there with lizards at the north pole, and about as based in fact as The Silence.

We used to see this type of loon standing in High Streets, under a sandwich board, declaring that the end of the world was nigh due to some inconsequential ill he had inflated in his tiny mind to apocalyptic proportions. The police would sometimes pop into his newspaper article-papered shed to ensure he wasn't self-harming as he ranted and screamed about monsters in the cupboard and giant, industry-financed robotic, curare-armed maggots under his bed.

They'd mop his brow, say 'there, there' and warn him not to keep scaring Mrs Prunehat at number 23, or the man with the big needle might pop round again. Before walking away laughing and advising social services to increase the dose next time they called.

Now, governments respect such daft, hallucinatory twerps.

The characters in 'public health' are no different to their forebears of a century ago who saw nothing but immorality, devilry, hedonism and the ignorance of the word of God in anything pleasurable. They've just altered the way they describe themselves - from the "Christian Temperance Movement" to "Alcohol Concern" or "ASH", and their religion is now that of lucre under the highly deceptive public health banner.

Because they don't give a stuff about health. Nor - as is proved by the vacuous burblings of the above SF author - do they even give a nod to harm reduction either.

E-cigs are harmless and a fantastic aid to reducing tobacco intake, or even eliminating it entirely. But still these righteous hectors push indefatigably to ban them.

Yet again, we see this 'public health' lobby actively working to cause more death and disease when, if they were truly altruistic in their intentions, they would be welcoming the widely reported harm reduction potential of e-cigs.

There should be a warning tattooed on the forehead of every blinkered public health lobbyist along the same lines as those on tobacco products. Because it's true - "the public health industry kills".

It's never been about health, and even harm reduction is unacceptable to the newly-resurrected church of righteous abstinence.

** These evil people have been there, done that.

UPDATE: Along the same lines, Simon Cooke has written an excellent piece to kick off a series he is writing on "The Church of Public Health". Well worth a read.