Sunday, 30 October 2011

One Last Push

Broadband has been down at Puddlecote Towers since Friday night, so I've been out of the loop somewhat and unable to write this tabloid gibber. Instead, I've had to watch that telly thing in the corner (tell me, is Ross Kemp ever not in Afghanistan?), which means I've had a lot of sleep.

Normal disservice will be resumed soon but, in the meantime, the Spectator's parliamentarian of the year nominations close tomorrow. So please consider chucking a vote the way of our esteemed blog mascot if you haven't done so already.

You could mention Philip Davies's stance on the EU (against), his action towards nannyism on tobacco and alcohol this year (against), or just that he's been an all-round good egg by opposing the righteous and defending personal liberties. Your choice.

To do so, just click here and nominate away.

G'wan, it'll only take a minute.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Behind Every Lamp Post

Via Josie Appleton, this truly makes me weep.

‘Our two boys attend a grammar school in Devon (every possible Ofsted accolade) where they were told in assembly that with the construction of a new block they were not to speak to any builder, and that no builder must speak to them or he will face dismissal. How can we possibly hope to build any kind of better (or 'big') society with such an frightening lack of trust, not to mention courtesy? The school's instructions sound like something out of a 1950s sci-fi nightmare.’

This is something I've experienced first hand, or at least Mrs P has, and I sincerely feel for the kids who are forced to suffer the filthy-minded fears of petrified adults.

A few weeks ago, Mrs P was driving home in the rain, and saw one of the little Ps (the girl) walking back from school with her two friends. She stopped and offered them a lift the short distance back to our house and theirs, we're talking three quarters of a mile at most.

Little P jumped in, as did one of her friends, but the third declined. Mrs P pointed out that she was getting drenched and that it was no problem, but the girl refused by explaining that her parents had told her she wasn't allowed to get into a stranger's car.

Now, that's good advice usually, but only if coupled with common sense. Her friend getting in with her Mum - a woman she sees every morning when she knocks at the door for little P - should surely not set alarm bells ringing very loudly at all.

Now, one could say that she's just a bit thick, but when an 11 year old is surrounded by constant hysterical warnings of imminent danger - despite the almost negligible chance of it actually happening - who can truly blame her for being so confused?

The case above is hideous for the awful grounding it gives the adults of our future, as Josie rightly conveys.

And the fact that this Devon school prohibits any interaction between contractors and kids – even a ‘hello’, which is surely just good manners! – shows how ordinary interaction between adults and children has become contaminated.
More than that, it shows that those who worry to the extreme about dangers that are largely in their own mind, are actively harming the development of their own children.

And that's the very evil part of this. That because of the parents' entirely selfish approach of eliminating all possible risk - for their own peace of mind - their kids must be scared at every turn and instructed that the world, and everyone in it, is just out to abuse them.

The school in question should be educating children that, you know, not all adults are potential child molesters (in fact, a negligible minority are), and that speaking with strangers is a common aspect of everyday life which one must learn at some point. It should also be part of their remit to teach that manners are extremely important, and that ignoring - or even not being allowed to hear - a friendly hello, is rude and anti-social.

Why should our kids grow up fearful of the world at large because of the selfish risk-terrified minority who see sex and molestation in even the most innocent of interactions.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

When You Flash The Cash, Out Come The Grifters

Well, if you will decide that the rest of the world's problems are your own, Australia.

Last month the Gillard government voluntarily offered their citizens' cash to the World Health Organisation. Because, you see, they're so damn perfect that everyone in the world should be as dictatorial over smoking as Canberra is.

NOT content with simply battling big tobacco in Australia, the Gillard government has pledged $700,000 to the World Health Organisation to help other countries reduce smoking rates.

The money will fund an inter-governmental working group to draw up guidelines on how increased taxes and prices can reduce the harm caused by cigarettes.

It will also help poorer countries introduce graphic health warnings.
Aww, ain't that nice? They care so much that they're funding coercion in countries where it's none of their damn business!

But what's this?

AUSTRALIA is set to reject a global push for a new tobacco levy on wealthy countries to fund health programs in the Third World.

That is despite support from high-profile philanthropists such as Bill Gates and the government's own hardline stance on smoking.
What's the problem? Surely the Aussie government should be champing at the bit to further show how they are the best in the world at bullying smokers.

A discussion paper circulated by the WHO says the proposal could raise as much as $US5.5 billion ($5.3bn) from a list of 43 wealthy nations every year.

It estimates Australia could contribute $US54.7m annually to the fund from a levy of US5c on each cigarette sold locally.
Wow! That's a skipload of bearer bonds, and no mistake. But hey, you're the world leaders, Australia. Remember? Choking on having to charge your people for the privilege of sending their hard-earned elsewhere won't help you well hard 'rep' here, you know. Buggering your voters is surely a small price to pay for being able to strut around with a badge saying "more dictatorial than you", isn't it?

Or could it be that if anyone is going to get $54.7m, Gillard and her moronic cronies want to make damn sure it will be them?

Because, let's face it, even the hideous obsessives in Canberra would have trouble selling this kind of lunatic reasoning to the Australian public.

"Voluntary contributions from the STC are not meant to replace tobacco tax policies that are intended to curb tobacco use or to artificially limit the tax increases required nationally," the paper states.

"The STC would therefore not replace broader government taxes on tobacco products intended to curb tobacco use but would be in addition to them."
I can imagine that budget speech would go down a storm.

"We are raising tobacco duty by $1 per pack because smoking is bad, m'kay. And we are also going to raise it by 5c per cigarette so we can ship your lolly out to countries you have barely heard of cos the WHO says it's a dandy idea. I hereby commend this motion to the House".
The problem for Australia - and each of the other 42 wealthy nations - is that once they have earnestly furrowed their brows and declared that they are 'serious about tackling smoking', and that the WHO are the body to do it through the FCTC which they have all stupidly signed up to, they become a cash cow.

It's the international equivalent of being approached by a charity collector thus.

"Hi, do you want to see the end of babies dying in Africa?"
"Yes, but I've already given"
"How much?"
"A fiver"
"Nice one. Now put a ton in this tin I'm rattling then, and be quick about it"
"But ..."
"Come on tight arse, cough up"
Or does the Australian government only care deeply about the poor smokers of wherethefuckisthatland when it is convenient? Not much of an altruistic stance is it, you upside-down clowns?

After all, the WHO is democratically elected by millions of ... oh, hold on!

H/T Cherie, my Aussie Informer

Coming To A Gullible Public Near You Soon

Just when you thought the country - and indeed the world - had gone insane by conducting their lives to the beat of rent-seekers belching bent soundbites and clutching manipulated statistics, along comes a show which might open a few scale-encrusted eyes.

As mentioned, I pitched up on Tuesday night at Imperial College London to see the Battle of Ideas presentation of The Maths of Death, a show which promised to "help you laugh in the face of your own mortality".

It really is right up the street of those who read here, dealing as it does with risk, especially in relation to lifestyle choices.

Now, it wasn't as snappy and professional as I'd imagined, but that's not in itself a bad thing, it seemed to me to be firmly in the theatre-workshop-made-good genre. To its great charm is the humorous way it approaches what most find a pretty dull subject. Not dull in that they don't care about health concerns or death, but that most people would rather believe garish health headlines than do research - as we like to here - and notice that someone, somewhere, is being a bit dishonest. Did I say a bit? I meant a lot, obviously.

The show consists of writer Timandra Harkness, backed up by Guardian mathematics columnist Matt Parker, giving a lesson in hysterical health scares and why you should mostly ignore them.

Terrified of flying? There's a far greater risk of dying while riding a bike. Think Ecstasy is a lethal drug? Not exactly, you've got just as much chance of carking it by canoeing for six minutes. Worried about falling off a ladder? Well, statistically, death is more likely from falling out of a bed (a ban on anything but futons was the jokingly suggested antidote ... which I thought irresponsible to be spoken too audibly knowing the public health community's ridiculous nature).

Teaching the audience about how they are regularly conned by the use of relative risk instead of absolute risk was a joy to watch, even though I was playing the part of a choirboy being preached to. But if a few more souls left the building knowing that a 20% increase in risk - for a condition which affects just about no-one - simply isn't worth investing energy in worrying about, perhaps the ranged masses of state-paid public health herd-botherers might be thinned out in time due to public apathy towards their efforts.

Harkness, for example, drew a graph detailing harm from alcohol consumption complete with higher risk for teetotallers, and put forward the blindingly obvious suggestion - to those who read here anyway - that certain medical 'experts' are hiding the bottom part of the J-curve and continually suggesting that it's a plain causative link between units consumed and harm. Also that the public at large seem to block out facts like alcohol use declining in favour of righteous scaremongery. Some around me seemed genuinely surprised to hear the truth put to them in this way.

Headlines from the usual suspects were held up to show how scares are installed, before Parker calmly debunked one of them for jolly. And, most importantly, in a manner that highlighted in layman's terms why it was less dangerous to one's health than remaining unmarried - a threat which would meet with universal hilarity if a health quango suggested it in a similarly funereal tone.

The problem, Parker nailed quite rightly, is that organisations which promote these scares are paid only to fight the fight they are paid for. Anything which conflicts with that goal is discarded. No analysis of cost versus benefits is undertaken, they deal only with one side of the equation.

Just as ASH ignore the credit side of tobacco; Alcohol Concern casually gloss over the health or financial benefits to alcohol consumption; and the general movement just sees company profits, while ignoring the value to the individual for whom each purchase is a personal economic judgement which - by its very nature - dictates that just by buying the product, they have decided that the value of their enjoyment of it will be equal to, or in excess of, the price.

After a short interval, where we die-hards who chose to stay for discussion popped down two floors to the student bar for refreshment (now safe in the knowledge we were aiding our chances of a longer life*), the promised discussion began with a panel which included resident health statistician Deborah Ashby. As you can imagine, I was very interested in how she would react to a gentle stage dismemberment of the work of her colleagues.

Her visible front row enjoyment of the show was promising, and her pouring a glass of complementary Battle of Ideas wine even better. But then, despite her very genial smile, I feared the worst as she regurgitated the healthist line that stats on teetotallers ignored the fact that they might be ill when the study was conducted.

D'oh! Here we go, I thought, another who just can't countenance that such counter-intuitive (for health personnel anyway) evidence is actually incontrovertible, and has repeatedly been proven to be so.

But this blogger couldn't help but warm to her when Chairman David Bowden referenced the excellent Nigel Hawkes's statistical monstering of Alcohol Concern propaganda, to which Ashby replied "of course, there are those who use statistics like a drunk uses a lamp post".

Glorious! A simile involving irresponsible over-indulgence in alcohol being utilised to describe Alcohol Concern's loose and anti-social relationship with reality. Worth the journey and entry fee alone!

She went on to explain why health advocates tend to play statistics to their own advantage. "Keep it simple", she declared was the goal in quoting the 'five a day' mantra. Yes, it's true that all people are different, but that there is only a certain amount of time at their disposal and they have to reach the majority with information. It struck me that if this is the general policy, then such a scatter gun approach would be giving detrimental advice along with potentially good stuff, but again, we kinda knew that.

Nice to hear it admitted in frank terms though, instead of the usual certainty of a one size fits all homogeneity of outcome we are fed through a pliant media.

And the show landed blows heavily on the media too. Their goal of instant gratification, as against the greater good of building up an evidence base prior to publishing attention grabbing headlines, was perpetuating the abominable behaviour of vested interest stats twisters. Yes, we all know this, especially here, but to see a show which brazenly puts such heresy on display for a largely ignorant and hoodwinked public to contemplate, was a joy.

The last - and probably most important - pleasure was seeing an overwhelmingly university student audience in the Q&A venting cynical voices in reaction to what they correctly see as persistently transparent health lobby propaganda. I didn't expect that, so perhaps there is hope that the young haven't been unanimously brainwashed by professional fussbuckets just yet, and that there is intelligent resistance studiously acquainting itself with a lifetime of tackling the hideous bansturbators of our future.

All in all, Harkness and Parker should be congratulated for getting these ideas out there and explaining why there really is more to life than tailoring your weekly shop to fit in with a few (mostly) state-funded doomsayers.

And although this show - which, at times, was laugh out loud funny - has only been shown to three audiences to my knowledge so far, Parker announced that they will soon be taking it on tour. That's a statistically significant number of gullible people local to all of us that they could reach if my calculations are correct.

Now, wouldn't that be handy?

* I include this frivolous comment solely to joyously commemorate the (pfft!) sad departure of Don Shenker from Alcohol Concern. May every future obstacle he faces be electrified and encrusted with broken glass.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Blowing In The Wind?

It's been quiet here as I'm uncommonly busy at the moment, but just in case you haven't seen it - and the way this has been flying around the internet, it might be a slim chance - this video promoting prospective Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain is a must watch.

Yes, you really did see a cigarette being smoked there. Blatantly. Followed by a knowing smile from the candidate himself.

The Telegraph reckon it's been done for shock value only, and just to gain publicity for publicity's sake. They make a good case.

However, I casually remarked on Twitter that Cain may have made a play for the hard-hounded smoker vote. He has, after all, already been outed as having campaigned with tobacco companies against smoking bans. As such, those hysterically against tobacco have his card marked already, so he has nothing whatsoever to lose by featuring a smoker in his material. Neither does it play badly with a rising libertarian movement in the US who are increasingly pure in their ideas of liberty and curtailment of state powers.

What's more, it dovetails in nicely - by highlighting the demon of our age specifically - with the growing distaste in libertarian circles towards politicians who seem comfortable in deciding what is good for us in all areas of consumption, and legislating brutally against those who think differently.

Incredibly, though, he will have competition from his own party if this is a subliminal call to overturn the consensus dictatorship towards lifestyle choices. Reason pulled out this video of Cain competitor Ron Paul telling college kids that they should have "free decisions about what you eat, drink, smoke and put into your own body" ... to rapturous applause..

Perhaps times are a'changin' over there.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Maths Of Death

I was going to say that if you're at a loose end tonight, you might be interested in a Battle of Ideas satellite event at the Imperial College Union in Kensington. Sadly, it's sold out.

I'm booked and will be trotting along though, as I noticed the staging of Your Days Are Numbered: the maths of death at the far far away Edinburgh Festival last time out through envious eyes. The publicity tells you why it would be of interest, especially since it will be followed by a discussion which will resonate with many here.

From what drugs we criminalise to doctors offering advice on how healthily their patients should be living, ‘evidence-based policy’ is the regular cry for those looking for a rational approach to public health. How far can evidence go in deciding what is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choice? Are we in danger of turning statistical modelling from a useful analytical tool to the new astrology? What role should the latest evidence play in forming public health policy?
Needless to say, I'll review the evening here soon.

The schedule at the Battle of Ideas main event has plenty to offer too, so I'll be taking in a day's worth of those on Saturday, including Seduced by stats featuring Chris Snowdon. Tickets are still available for the weekend's debates, so if you're tempted, may see you there.

Monday, 24 October 2011

It Was Never About Bar Workers - Official

I made a bold statement last week about what some of the more gullible amongst us still believe.

If you're a normal, healthy-minded individual, you will be well aware - because it's really not too difficult to spot - that the point of the smoking ban in your particular jurisdiction had nothing to do with saving bar workers from imminent death. [...] The real reason was to make you, and everyone else, stop smoking. Simple as.
I did so with reference to a House of Lords Committee's publication which stated categorically that the measure was part of a policy to "restrict choice".

Just to show that theirs is far from being an isolated opinion, here's European Commissioner for Health John Dalli emphasising it again at the weekend.

Such bans were effective, Mr Dalli said, arguing that at the very basic level they helped undermine the idea of the cigarette as being a social lubricant.

“The fact that you have to interrupt whatever you are doing at an entertainment site and go outside, sometimes in the cold, to smoke a quick cigarette is not very appealing,” Mr Dalli said.
Have a good look if you like, but I saw no mention of bar workers there, nor in the Lords' piece.

It was never about bar workers' health. It was, however, about irritating you until you stop making free personal choices which governments don't approve of.

How dare we object to such policies? We should, instead, of course be bowing down and accepting the decisions politicians have made for us.

By accepting the bullshit that bans are solely imposed to protect bar workers, those who would suspend their belief for selfish ends - I'm being generous in assuming they're not actually stupid enough to think it's true - are tacitly endorsing deceit and mendacity as legitimate means by which to deprive us of our liberties.

And that's why anti-smokers are so very, very obscene.


Australia And Their Stirling University Problem

This story from upside-down land will seem strangely familiar to regular readers here.

THE Federal health department is considering taking action against big tobacco for lodging "vexatious" Freedom of Information (FOI) claims as part of the industry's fight against Labor's plain-packaging push.

Health department secretary Jane Halton says the department is being "swamped" with FOI requests as part of a deliberate campaign by cigarette manufacturers.
The 'vexatious' part being their wish to find out what government has planned which affects their legal business selling products to willing customers. The bastards!

British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) argues it's been forced to rely on freedom of information applications because Health Minister Nicola Roxon refuses to consult industry.
Eminently believable, I'd say. Perhaps, Nicola, you should have expected such requests when you first set out down the road of excluding an industry from discussions about how they conduct business. Or, with all the bullying you've been doing, had you forgotten that tobacco companies aren't actually cowering lily-livers, after all?

The amount the department can charge for processing requests "goes nowhere near meeting our costs", Ms Halton said.

It can only charge $15 per hour for search and retrieval and $20 an hour for decision-making time. The staff doing the work can earn up to $50 an hour.
Sounds like the federal government has been rather inept then, doesn't it? Are we meant to be surprised by this?

"Documents (already obtained) from the government show they have concerns about the need to pay compensation to the tobacco industry for removing our intellectual property, the growth in illegal tobacco once all packs look the same and an increase in smoking rates due to cheaper cigarettes," BATA spokesman Scott McIntyre told AAP in a statement.
Well, that would go some way to explaining the government's squealing, wouldn't it? How embarrassing if the released documents reveal that, privately, Roxon and her chums are fully expecting the serious problems that, in public bravado, they declare are not going to happen, eh?

We know a Scottish university which is similarly currently in a bit of a cleft stick over FOI requests potentially exposing them as duplicitous, don't we boys and girls?

H/T Cherie, the Aussie informer

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Drunkorexia: The New Student Health Scare

Ever heard of 'drunkorexia'? No, neither had I, but I'll bet we hear more of it in the future. Probably from Alcohol Concern.

More students on university and college campuses are cutting calories during the day so they can binge drink at night, leaving them open to long-term health problems, new U.S. research suggests.
Hmm, sounds like what students have been doing for decades, saving their money up for a party by making economies elsewhere. Is there something I've missed?

Results from a study out of the University of Missouri found that as many as one in five students save their calories for alcohol, an eating and drinking disorder dubbed 'drunkorexia.'
Err, hold on, are you saying that this is driven by a desire to stay slim rather than just lack of funds? Well, that makes it a bit of a different fish-bearing kettle, doesn't it? Hey Jamie Oliver, this is what is commonly known as an unintended consequence of people like you being hideous arseholes.

The findings, which have been presented publicly but not peer-reviewed, ...
Colour me not surprised.

... are part of a growing body of research showing drunkorexia as a trend on campuses.
The cause?

Students in the study said their motivations to be drunkorexic included getting drunk faster, spending money on alcohol that might otherwise be spent on food, and keeping their weight down.
The first two will be recognisable to anyone who has ever attended university, the last is encouraged by the modern slimming fad - sponsored by governments worldwide of late, funny enough - so hardly surprising.

The growing problem is another issue counsellors will have to handle as students spend their limited funds in potentially unhealthy ways, said Dr. Valerie Taylor, chief of psychiatry at Women's College Hospital in Toronto.
Because students have always been a paragon of health in the past, of course. Seriously, where did this woman get her education? In an Amish community or something?

"It's ironic. Society has to adapt to our changing environment and these kids are doing the same thing," Taylor said.
Students are the same people as in society? You don't say. And they adapt too? Crikey! You make them sound almost like humans.

"Like other universities, we are wrestling with the societal issue of alcohol consumption and excessive drinking in the university-aged population," the university's dean of student affairs, John Pierce, said in a statement at the time. "We've been proactively addressing this issue for several years and will continue to do so."
Good luck with that, John, you may find that you're banging your head against a centuries old brick wall, though.

The research suggests the majority of drunkorexics are women — they were three times more likely to have the disorder than men.
And why would that be?

"Women are bombarded with lots of images with what's socially acceptable," Taylor said. "They desperately want to not gain weight.

"If they can only consume so many calories a day . . . that's going to come from alcohol."
Oh, I see. It's the images they are bombarded with - presumably the implication being that evil businesses and Hollywood are doing that - and not worldwide disdain over obesity from governments, that is the problem.

What these students may not be aware of is that drunkorexia could affect their ability to learn and to make decisions, [...] the Missouri study suggests.
So that's what happened with our university-educated politicians, then. It all becomes crystal clear now.

H/T Cage

Friday, 21 October 2011

A Country Of Mary Whitehouses

No pictures to prove Osama Bin Laden was dead? Outrageous. Wall to wall pictures of Gaddafi's death? Please, won't somebody think of the poor British chiiildren!

"We're all glad the tyrant has been toppled, but I will be avoiding newsagents with my 5 year old rather than try to explain such ugly images. [...] they could put the images inside the paper if it's in the public interest to see them; but don't put it on the front page for children to see."

"I do not want those images in my head let alone the heads of kids."

"I think it would be in order to print one photo (on an inside page) to prove that he is indeed dead, but the media go well over the top with too graphic photos."

"It is horrible. I sure won't be taking my son to the shops later on, he does not need to see pictures like that. Neither do I, for that matter."
Good grief. And this is the country whose citizens stubbornly stuck it out in two world wars? When did it transform itself into an anaemic collection of risk-averse, perpetually effete nerve endings which would quiver if prodded with a lime jelly?

On another note, our tabloids really are lagging behind our US cousins. Here's the offending Sun front page.

Tabloid? Pah! Far too sensible and restrained.

Now that's more like it!

H/T copyranter

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The New Puritan Alliance

If you're a normal, healthy-minded individual, you will be well aware - because it's really not too difficult to spot - that the point of the smoking ban in your particular jurisdiction had nothing to do with saving bar workers from imminent death. That, transparently, was the only way legislation could be bullied through without risking a charge of acting in contravention of personal responsibility and property rights*. The real reason was to make you, and everyone else, stop smoking. Simple as.

How do we know this? Because governments are stupid, of course. They regularly pass laws on the back of an opaque lie, then sometimes openly boast about their true intentions.

House of Lords Behaviour Change - Science and Technology Committee

Now, in case you didn't want to click and enlarge the image, it puts forward one - presumably perfect, else it wouldn't have been used - example of "restricting the options available to individuals" as "outlawing smoking in public places".

If you truly believed it was about bar workers, you're probably the type who arranges their entire day around 20 words in the morning's tabloid horoscope (that's a polite way of saying 'crashingly gullible').

Of course it wasn't. The whole point of smoking bans worldwide is to pressurise smokers into quitting, and in doing so, buying - or the government buying on their behalf with your taxes - pharmaceutical products.

Sadly, smoking bans worldwide have this irritating habit of having a negligible effect on smoking rates, if at all. The latest country to admit they are barking up the wrong tree is Ireland.

THE SMOKING ban has not had any appreciable effect on the number of smokers in Ireland, the chief medical officer at the Department of Health has said.
You don't say? Ireland in 'exactly the same as everywhere else in the world' shocker, d'you mean? Well, what a surprise that is! And there they were thinking that this particular throw of the dice was going to be different to the long string of losers preceding it.

At a forum on obesity yesterday, Dr Tony Holohan said smoking was still at the same level as it was before the introduction of the ban.
Well, naturally, because smoking bans always result in the same ... oh hold on, wind that back a bit!

At a forum on obesity yesterday, Dr Tony Holohan said ...
Obesity? Why are you talking about the smoking ban at an obesity forum then, Tony?

He also said there was a need to look at the inter-relationship between different lifestyle factors, including tobacco use, alcohol consumption and obesity, and their effects on health.

“People who smoke just don’t smoke, they are also people who are overweight and they are also people who are high consumers of alcohol and we need to understand the interaction of those,” Dr Holohan said.
So what are you saying here, Tony? Why are you lumping all these lifestyle choices in together?

“There is no way these complex, societal challenges which face all of us can be confronted unless we can find a way of working together,” he said.
And crash, bang, wallop if Tony hasn't just encapsulated the ethos of this blog in one sentence.

Because I've said it before many times ...

Without adopting a united front in objecting to assaults on all lifestyle choices - whether you approve of them yourself or not - there is no chance of ever stopping these arseholes in their tracks.
While normal, everyday people are bickering and scratching each others' eyes out about the hierarchy of vice acceptability (I'm looking at the likes of you, CAMRA), public health departments are increasingly uniting a dream team of bansturbatory fun police to clamp down on everything you enjoy which isn't 100% healthy.

They have long since worked out that the way to success is via collusion and a common goal. Whereby those ranged against them are insular and dismissive of anything but their core cause.

When are the barely sentient cattle in this country and the wider world going to realise this, and start uniting themselves against what is, by comparison, a tiny number of loud-mouthed, publicly-funded blowhards?

Kiwi Crampton, as I've also routinely pointed out, offers a brilliant metaphor which encapsulates this self-defeating behaviour perfectly.

It's like a bunch of folks on the scaffolds complaining that the other guy's noose isn't quite tight enough. Y'all might instead direct your attention to the hangman sometime and try helping each other cut those ropes.
If you've ever said "something should be done about this", or "there should be a law against that", you are the problem. Just zip it.

Now - more than ever - it is necessary to fight on all fronts, or expect an almighty illiberal kick in the balls from a righteous elite who use co-operation and note-sharing to their advantage, while their opponents stubbornly don't.

* One might even call it a 'confidence trick'. Oh look, someone already did ... Deborah Arnott of ASH, to be precise.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Nanny In The Dugout

The US is battling an eye-watering budget deficit, fighting dodgy wars all over the world, and having to bail out some of their major industries. So how are Democrat Senators wisely using their time in office?

WASHINGTON--The day before game one of the World Series, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and other senators are asking Major League Baseball to ban players from using tobacco products at games, especially smokeless or chewing tobacco.

"Tomorrow night, an expected 15 million viewers, including many children, will tune in to watch the first game of the series. Unfortunately, as these young fans root for their favorite team and players, they also will watch their on-field heroes use smokeless tobacco products," wrote Durbin and other senators to MLB executive director Michael Weiner.

"During the upcoming negotiations over the bargaining agreement, we write to ask that the Major League Baseball Players Association agree to a prohibition on the use of all tobacco products at games and on camera at all Major League ballparks. This would send a strong message to young baseball fans, who look toward the players as role models, that tobacco use is not essential to the sport of baseball."
Because young fans see a baseball player chewing and immediately spot that it's tobacco and not a stick of Wrigleys. In fact, best just ban chewing altogether to be safe, don't want anyone getting confused, eh? It's for the chiiildren, after all.

The lengths bansturbators will go to pretend one person's behaviour affects others - in order to implement control freakery in their pet area - is sometimes staggering.

Even highly-paid sports stars (and a tradition in the 'land of the free') can't escape the all-encompassing tentacles of professional socialist finger-waggers. Plain evil, so they are.

A Modern Classic

I think Denis Norden used to call it 'corpsing'.

Monday, 17 October 2011

We Don't Want To Give You THAT!

At least when Chris Tarrant said it, there was the possibility of something better in the offing. Not with the modern NHS, sadly.

As highlighted in one of the link tanks here back in July, NHS Hertfordshire imposed a ban on operations for smokers and the obese earlier this year.

Now the new experiment policy has been in operation for a few months ... it, err, doesn't appear to be going too well (emphases mine).

LMC leaders criticise 'shambolic’ implementation of surgery bans for obese and smokers

LMC leaders are reviewing a controversial surgery ban for smokers and obese patients just six months after it was implemented, after large numbers of appropriate referrals were bounced back to GPs.

LMC leaders approved the scheme by just one vote earlier this year, but Hertfordshire LMC said the implementation of the controversial policy had been ‘shambolic' and blighted by administrative blunders, with referrals for patients who met the criteria being inappropriately bounced back to GPs, and hospitals and GPs being given conflicting information on how to implement the policy.

The LMC said hospitals were rejecting ‘the vast majority' of patients referred with hip and knee problems even if they weren't being initially referred for surgery, which it attributed to ‘significant misunderstandings' on how to implement the policy.
Do go read the rest, as it will make you wonder how anyone could possibly cherish a service with an organisational capability which makes the Keystone Cops look efficient and professional.

Apart from the laughable incompetence, it did make me smile to think of how many rabid anti-smokers have had their operations rejected as a result of hysterical smoker bullying. Which, when you cut through the bullshit, was the whole point of the exercise.

They'd better get used to it, though, as sooner or later the NHS will find some way of restricting treatment for just about everyone. It's a natural progression for an idea which has long since outlived its practicality.

Rationing healthcare is the only option left once the idealistic set of demands have vastly exhausted all possible means of supply via tax funding. Hardly surprising when the thing was set up in the 1940s - a universe away from how we now live. The NHS defies basic economic principles when coupled with the human propensity to take every advantage of 'something for nothing' (or, more accurately, 'something we've paid for and will get our fill goddamit', like some Harvester all-you-can-eat salad cart).

And that's not even mentioning the hangers-on who refuse to stop sucking on the taxpayer teat, such as these scroungers.

I know what you may be thinking but, hey, don't shoot the messenger. Smokers and fatties are just easy targets, and this Herts cock up won't deter them for long. They'll learn to differentiate between their arse and their elbow soon, and launch the same kind of restrictions on the next unapproved set of 'clients' in their list, probably citing the 'successful' exclusion of smokers and the overweight as a precedent.

And so on, and so on.

At the moment, it's just those who enjoy baccy and/or a burger who are wondering why they are paying taxes for something they're not allowed to derive benefit from. Once other groups start seeing that their money is being taken by force, and that they aren't entitled to anything as a result, that'll be it for the NHS. A future of arguing over entitlement criteria, court cases, and claims for NI repayments. It only takes one award and the walls come tumbling down.

It's staggering that those who make their living from our taxes - for the purpose of fixing us when we're ill, no matter our circs as is their boast - can't see how the denial of the end result can possibly lead to anything else but the end of the NHS they see as sacrosanct.

That's what invariably happens when you kill your golden goose, y'see?

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Pat A Good Guy On The Back Today

With the possible Westminster vote on an EU referendum back in the news, it's a good time for an update on The Spectator's parliamentarian of the year awards.

Last week I nominated our esteemed blog mascot - a booster for the TFA's Better Off Out campaign - for the readers' choice award, and many others must have followed the link and done so too if page 22 of the current Speccie is to be believed.

One early frontrunner is Conservative backbencher Philip Davies. Steve Mullins praises him as someone who 'defends us almost single-handed against the massed ranks and sanctimonious political busybodies who want to dictate what we say, do and see'. Dick Puddlecote says that Davies 'has consistently reflected the concerns of the people parliamentarians regularly forget; that is, the public they are elected to serve'. The MP for Shipley will clearly take some beating.
Frontrunner is good, but there are others mentioned in the piece who are looming large. So if you haven't yet chipped in, please consider helping to put a truly liberal politician on the podium, not just for his admirable stance of demanding the public's say on the EU, but also as a reward for an unstinting and highly visible opposition to interfering health nannies this past year.

To do so, just click here and give your reasons in less than 250 words. Only want to put 20? That's fine, it's your choice. Though there's a not-too-shabby prize on offer for them what write it all nice, like.

Oh and, err, feel free to pass the link around if you're feeling saucy.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Dr Hilary Jones Daybreak Clip

Despite the danger of starting another contre-temps in the comments, I thought some might like to see the ITV Daybreak e-cig piece described in Wednesday's article.

Dr Hilary Jones's description of them is surprisingly accurate and knowledgeable, prompting Christine Bleakley (Mrs P told me who she was) to ask a very pertinent question.

"Why aren't we all talking about these, why aren't there bars like this all over the country"
Well, Christine, the best people to ask that are the global tax-spongers of tobacco control. You see, love, you still have this old-fashioned idea that they actually give a toss about the public's health.

The biggest obstacle e-cigs have placed in front of them - in every country worldwide - is the tobacco control industry. They'd sooner people die (their parlance) while they wibble on about negligible degrees of safety, rather than openly advocating a competitor of their pharma chums.

As always, follow the money.

Link Tank 15/10

Strangely, no odd animal stories!

There's ample evidence that fat taxes don't improve health

Blinkered anti-tobacco policies are "actually killing people"

Health experts are "pathetic and stupid"

We're not always better safe than sorry

The Orwellian efficiency of a 'being fat' tax

Pakistani TV presenter faces prison over duty free wine

Removing red tape - an impediment to growth

Connecticut prison bans porn

"An example of how beer can save the world"

Canadian restaurant bans men from peeing standing up

Prospective Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain lobbied against smoking bans

Friday, 14 October 2011

One More Friday Giggle At California

I did say it was a rich seam this week, as who could fail to chuckle at California Assemblywoman Fiona Ma?

After the drug death of a 15 year old, Ma decided that raves were evil, so naturally tried to ban electronic rave music. Why was she unsuccessful?

"We found out later on that, Constitutionally, you can not ban a type of music," said Ma. "Plus, I, like my opponents said, I didn't really know what was going on."
Incredible, isn't it, that she worked this out after having been elected into a position of authority.

Still, she has carried on ploughing her prohibitionist furrow, and has helped ban LED gloves, children's dummies and stuffed toys instead.

Reason TV explains all, complete with fruity young ladies.

All roads lead away from the Golden State these days, it would seem.

Friday: Laugh At California Day 14/10

Dipping into Californian idiocy has provided a rich seam this week, so how about this for starters from the self-proclaimed world leaders in green ideology.

Eco-friendly festival can't sustain itself

It was the first New World Festival of Eco-Friendly Science and Technology and quite possibly the last.

The event near the beach in Santa Monica, which had been scheduled to run through Sunday, was shut down abruptly Saturday afternoon.

Howard Mauskopf, the festival's organizer, said he needed to shut down because so few people had shown up. "We're in a position where we don't have the financial ability to continue," he said, adding that he would have needed eight to 10 times the crowd that was present to make ends meet. He said he is going to try to reimburse food vendors next week.

"I don't know why people didn't come," he said.
Err, could it perhaps be that most people aren't as enamoured with the idea of winding the clock back to the 1800s as you are, Howie?

Still, those who joined in are one big happy clappy collective. They'll take it on the chin if it leads to a world where more emphasis is placed on the planet, and less on money.

Rose Faranal, a vendor who sold organic pizzas and chili at the event, said customers purchased food tickets from the festival, which they could redeem at her booth and others. She said she was owed hundreds of dollars, but didn't know if or how she'd be reimbursed.

"This is what we got paid with," she said, holding up hundreds of paper slips. "Useless money."

Food vendor Shawn Deleo said he knew something was off when the festival began Friday and there was no hot water for food preparation. He also had a stack of paper tickets, and wondered how he would get paid.

"I kind of had a bad feeling from the start," he said.

Clothing and jewelry vendor Kate Tevebaugh of Santa Monica said she didn't think the event was properly marketed — that people didn't show because they didn't know it was happening.
Oh, I dunno. They invested in a very funky graphic.

"This is a disaster," she said. "A complete disaster."
That's California for ya, love.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

ASH Scotland And How Crippling Taxes Are Somehow Good For The Economy

Via the ever-vigilant Belinda, you've just got to sit back and admire the world class chutzpah of ASH Scotland's Sheila "that kettle is black" Duffy in describing the Scottish Retail Consortium.

Your story (“Scottish retailers claim ‘health levy’ will cost jobs”, The Herald, October 6) highlights the expected lobbying over this issue from a retail sector keen to protect its members’ interests.
Only to then follow that with brazenly transparent self-interest of her own.

ASH Scotland’s response to last year’s Finance Committee inquiry into preventative spending concluded that prevention is better than cure and that tobacco control is a cost-effective public health measure.
Because, like other Bauld-faced arroganzas we could name, Sheila - although just a common or garden fake charity PR exec - is the font of all things economic. Obviously.

See, Sheila has said that it is cost-effective, and therefore it must be, mustn't it?

The SRC's submission is entirely different. It may have seemed incontrovertible ...

Ian Shearer, of the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), told a key Holyrood committee the sector was “in shock” at hearing of the new tax, which had “caused profound anger among the companies affected and wider unease among others”.

The SRC described the levy as a threat to job creation, not just in retailing but in the construction and manufacturing sectors.

Mr Shearer told the Enterprise, Energy and Tourism Committee: “The retail supplement is presented as a public health levy. No objective evidence has yet been given to support this description.

“It appears more to be a tax raid targeted specifically at a handful of companies that the Scottish Government believes can afford to pay it.

“There is no precedent for introducing such an element into the system of business rates which are by definition allocated to general funding of local authorities.”

Mr Shearer said of the impact of the levy, which is aimed at raising £30 million next year and £40m in subsequent years: “The UK supermarket sector is one of the most competitive in the world and operates on low margins of around 3% to 5%.

“Assuming the mid-point of 4%, funding a levy of £40 million in its second and third years would be the equivalent of the affected stores needing to do another £1bn of business annually to cover the cost, disregarding VAT.”
... but that's just an illusion.

Why, the main drivers of economic prosperity in Scotland are those who take taxes from profitable businesses - like Sheila, for example - to spend on, well, other people like Sheila, of course. How can anyone possibly think anything different?

There is a silver lining, though, in the form of the proposed minimum alcohol pricing that the Jock assembly will soon be battling the EU about, as succinctly described by commenter, John Anderson.

Would the potential minimum price on alcohol not put money back in the retailers pocket? Therefore this would just be taking it straight back out
Hmm, that would definitely be one way of calming the controversy over alcohol retailers being a beneficiary of minimum pricing.

And, the government would enrich themselves again on the back of legislation they designed themselves, while businesses who have built themselves up on their own effort - and who truly create jobs organically from public demand - have the fruit of their endeavours stolen from them by way of thuggery, extortion, and theft. Again.

Meanwhile, we all get punished as the state continues to enjoy massive revenues from products they accuse others of profiting from.

Not. About. Health.

Box-Ticking Again

Christ! It never ceases, does it?

Fresh from dancing to the tune of VOSA, up pops HMRC.

We've just been notified that we're one of the lucky companies drawn out of the tax authority's annual lottery - the prize is a comprehensive fact-checking exercise.

We're only talking simple stuff, mind, like (all for 2009/10):

- Details of every item of expenditure for the tax year
- All petty cash records
- Full analysis of all direct costs (£1m worth)
- Explanation, get this, of a decrease in disclosed premises costs
- Breakdown of all vehicle repairs expenditure (we operate over 60 of them)
- Reason for increased admin costs (err, HMRC know we hired 20 new staff, they have their tax records)
- Breakdown of increased advertising items (staff don't just pitch up on the doorstep)
- Provide original documents for legal and professional fees (I'll get to that later)
- List all monthly HP charges incurred (again, for 60 odd vehicles)
- Sources of all capital introduced and reasons why

Fortunately, we just sit around scratching our arses day in day out so can spend a week pulling all this info out. It's not like we're running a business which employs 100 people or anything. Sheesh.

Of all those demands, though, I laughed out loud at the legal and professional fees one. You see, we're now going to have to liaise with our accountants - who have already been paid for collating the records for submission last year - in order that they can help us collate it all again. At their usual hourly rate.

Add that to the increase in paying fees to public sector bodies for never-ending additions to regulations we are forced to follow, and I'd be surprised if many companies in the UK have not seen an increase in such fees.

In other news, UK unemployment total reaches 17-year high.

Wow! How did that happen considering the utopian business environment this country affords, eh?

Good grief.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Wollaston And The UK Nine Year Recession

By way of update to yesterday's piece on non-conservative Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, I mentioned that she has been preaching to the bansturbatorily converted over at the Guardian.

It's a work of art. She manages to squeeze just about every currently circulated anti-alcohol soundbite from the full range of professionally vested interests. Of course, her moral panicking should all fall down if she is forced to admit that rates of alcohol consumption are decreasing. Which they are.

However, just to show how incredibly bankrupt her kind are when it comes to evidence bases driving policy, she glosses over the one fact that is most salient.

The recent fall in alcohol consumption mirrors the relative change in alcohol affordability during the recession.
That's it! Falls in consumption are entirely to do with the recession. Nothing else.

You know, that recession which has been going on for nine years now.

ONS General Lifestyle Survey 2008:

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.
ONS General Lifestyle Survey 2009:

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.
The latter document even provides a handy graph for Dr Wollaston to look at.

OK, she might have missed that study, but for someone who is so energised about alcohol issues, she couldn't have failed to have seen the BBC's analysis of the situation. Complete with graphic that illustrates exactly the same trend.

Now, I know she's a doctor, and therefore not too adept at economics, but she is an MP. And surely an MP should be aware that the recession didn't begin in 2002? And surely an MP who has set her stall out to commit a disproportionate amount of her time talking about alcohol consumption, should be well aware that her 'problem' is abating rather than becoming urgent.

That's not all either. Did you note carefully Wollaston's use of the word 'affordability'? You should do, because this has been a central plank of anti-alcohol's drive to massively ramp up prices of beer, wines and spirits. Y'see, despite the fact that alcohol is now more expensive in real terms than it was 30 years ago ...

Between 1980 and 2008, the price of alcohol increased by 283.3%. After considering inflation (at 21.3%), alcohol prices increased by 19.3% over the period.
... those who are paid to rail against it continually harp on about how it is actually - when you twist the figures enough - cheaper.

Alcohol Concern provide just one example of the very many I could have chosen.

The real price of alcohol has declined steadily over the past fifty years relative to income; alcohol was 69% more affordable in 2007 than in 1980.
It just doesn't stack up, does it?

Affordability due to recession - according to Wollaston - is the reason for declining alcohol consumption, despite a whopping majority of the period of decline being recession-free.

Meanwhile, government-funded fake charity bosses - and others - cite affordability as justification for urgent action on alcohol, despite the fact that consumption has been constently declining all the while they were banging on about affordability being a driver.

Look guys and girls of the puritan persuasion, you're starting to sound like the criminal duo being interviewed by police and coming up with differing accounts of the crime.

Affordability, it would seem, increases urgency of a problem even when prevalence is waning; while simultaneously being an excuse when the pre-conceived goal is being compromised by annoying things like facts.

If alcohol is becoming more affordable, it's clear that - in the past decade most definitely - it has a negative correlation with consumption.

And if the recession is the only factor - as Wollaston claims - in affordability being compromised, why did the decline start six years before a recession kicked in?

Oh hold on, I've just been unnecessarily frying my brain trying to work out the contorted logic. I forgot that they're just obsessives who make up any old shit as they go along to fit with their prejudices.

Another Big (Day)Break For E-Cigs

Back in March last year, I reported on the results of an MHRA consultation on the future of e-cigs. Unusually for government consultations, the eventual proposal was entirely different to the instant ban that had previously been recommended.

Reason being that there was an incredible response from vapers describing their positive experiences. This seemed, to me at the time, to be a significant development.

As user numbers swell, government's enforcers in Whitehall are going to find it increasingly difficult to cut off vapers from an alternative to tobacco which offers massive harm reduction potential, without showing themselves up as vested interest stooges (if they haven't already, natch).

So for now, it's carry on vaping. Well, until a potential next battle in late 2012, at least.
Even that skirmish is a diminishing prospect after last month's surprise, but welcome, announcement that e-cigs were back in from the cold.

Encouraging smokers to switch to smokeless "fake" cigarettes could save tens of thousands of lives, according to a government-backed report.

In its first annual report, the BIT said the government should promote the use of "safe" alternatives to cigarettes - products which deliver nicotine in a fine, pure vapour, instead of in harmful smoke which also contains toxins and carcinogens.
Quite a turnaround.

But being featured on mainstream national TV is something else.

ITV’s Daybreak signalled a new dawn for smokers today as Dr Hillary Jones and fellow presenters discussed the benefits of stubbing out tobacco cigarettes in favour of healthier electronic cigarettes

They were commenting on the opening of a ‘Vaping Bar’ in Yorkshire where smokers can freely use electronic cigarettes, which is often nicknamed ‘vaping’ because the devices produce nicotine in the form of a vapour that can be inhaled.

Dr Hilary said: “Electronic cigarettes like E-Lites give you vaporised nicotine but no tar, so no carcinogenic lung cancer causing chemicals and no passive smoking element. People want to go to the pub and still indulge in smoking, and they can do so safely with electronic cigarettes.”

Presenters including Adrian Chiles, Christine Bleakley and Kate Garraway discussed the way in which electronic cigarettes contain only nicotine and therefore replicate the sensation of conventional cigarettes in far healthier way due to the absence of tar and tobacco.
And here's the proof it really did happen.

Can you imagine the mess, in living rooms the length and breadth of the land, as psychotic antis spluttered melon juice all over their organic muesli at the sight of Dr Hilary, darling of the health church, holding something which resembles a cigarette?

Now, E-lites are making a big deal of this (I'd be surprised if they didn't, to be perfectly honest), but the manufacturer is irrelevant.

What is very interesting is that e-cigs have dragged themselves out of the shadows and are becoming a force to be reckoned with - maybe even unstoppable now - despite the attentions of anti-smoking lunatics for whom a plaster and some chewing gum are the pharma-funded Holy Grail of tobacco control.

Just as Tom Robinson famously derided gay detractors with the line "the buggers are legal now" when it was clear that the more unbalanced arguments against homosexuality had all but been defeated. For vapers, a tipping point is fast approaching, and it won't be long before they'll be able to give a similarly proud V sign to the intolerant animals who insist on a quit or die approach to the practice of recreational - as opposed to pharmaceutical - nicotine use.

Hey, Duncan!

How's that irrational bigotry thang working out for ya', sunshine?

H/T The Campaign for Vaping in Pubs

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

This Is What Passes For A Tory These Days?

It's becoming crystal clear that the Conservative party's experiment in open primaries - interesting as it was - has a major flaw. It doesn't produce conservative politicians.

Well, not if Totnes is anything to go by, anyway. Instead, the result is anti-alcohol stooge and all-round nag, Dr Sarah Wollaston.

You may remember her from previous posts here as the member (an apt term, in this case) who introduced a ten minute rule bill - valiantly countered by our Phil - to ban alcohol advertising.

Her most adventurous move yet, though, must surely be an attack on MPs and their natural enjoyment of alcohol. The problem being for Sarah that they're allowed to do so*

It's a serious issue, and it has been an issue in Westminster for some years.
Presumably, since Sarah was only elected in May last year, this is not an opinion which has been fostered from experience. Fortunately for her, though, there would have been any number of season ticket holding medical righteous and fake charity lobbyists on hand to point Sarah 'special interest in reducing alcohol related problems' Wollaston in the right direction upon her arrival.

The fact is that if you take an area like medicine [...] you'd be horrified if you rocked up to your surgeon or your doctor and they'd been drinking up to a bottle of wine or equivalent at lunchtime.
Having compared apples with angle-grinders, she continued ...

I think there is an issue [...] what is the acceptable amount that you should be drinking when you're at work?
I have many an answer, but I'm sure you can fill this part in yourselves.

And the reason I think this is particularly important is we're coming up to deciding on our alcohol strategy, and I think if there's a tendency to minimise what the effect of drinking is within Westminster, I think that's why for decades politicians haven't seriously addressed the issues we have with drinking culture nationally.
I think this one thinks too much about what she thinks. And also uses the word 'issue' too much about something that - quite frankly - isn't.

We have a really serious issue with alcohol in this country.
Indeed. We're reducing our alcohol intake year on year - as detailed extensively by the ONS - and the number of teetotallers is increasingly worrying.

Still. Despite departing from statistical fact, she warms to her task, throws in some righteous-supplied soundbites (alcohol costing between £25bn and £55bn per year was hilarious), and finally lands the blow she was primed for.

If politicians don't take drinking seriously [...] maybe that's why we're not seeing enough action.
No dear. The reason that we're not seeing action is that there is no particular British problem in your chosen hobby horse. We are firmly mid-table as far as per capita consumption of alcohol is concerned in the EU. The trend is downwards, and only someone who is under the thumb of the temperance industry believes hysterical Daily Mail photo-journalism would believe otherwise.

Personally, I think it's more of an 'issue' that Sarah Wollaston is entrusted with part of the UK's steering wheel when intoxicated with false facts and dodgy logic, while allowing hare-brained lunatics to drive from the back seats.

In times past, I'd be convinced that Cameron's idiots had been punked by a campaign to install a right-on quisling by way of allowing voters of any persuasion to decide their safe seat candidate.

But then, with this Tory party being less blue and more an odd shade of mauve, you just never know.

* Only available for a day or so from 28:40 to 32:30 (and if someone can record and URL it, I'd be grateful)

UPDATE: As if to prove my point, I see she has even taken to writing for the 'progressive' audience at the Guardian.

Just An Average Day Ticking Public Sector Boxes

Long term readers will be aware that output here has slowed in the past month or so, in fact, it's been a steady decline over a year. As evidence for my defence, let me tell you what I am mostly doing today, which is a small example of what I spend most of my work days doing as an employer. That is, satisfying treacle-thick, stifling government regulations.

Our company recently changed its name. That's all. Just the name. In fact, just a small part of it.

The VOSA website has this wonderful facility for interactively changing details of a company's operating licence at the click of a mouse. Unfortunately, a change of name is not covered.

So, although all personnel are exactly the same as before the name change; despite the fact that Companies House are aware of this fact and have all the details; despite no vehicles being any different than they were before; and despite every operating system being identical to those before the change, and which VOSA are tasked to inspect whenever they choose, we (or, more specifically, I) have to apply for a new operating licence as if we were a new start up.

That involves providing the same documentation on our vehicles that VOSA already possess (originals, natch); the same inspection documents that VOSA already possess (yes, originals); the same operating centre criteria that they already know about; the same director information that they hold on file and on their website; the same EU mandated disclosure of professional competence that they already hold (another original document); the same financial standing proof that ... well, you get the idea.

Once I've compiled it all, filled in the forms and sent them off, VOSA will only take 9 weeks to issue a new licence if they think we're safe enough to carry on doing what we have been doing for the past 15 years under a slightly different name.

Oh, and did I mention that it'll cost £250?*

Give me strength.

* That's without the cost of taking out a classified advert in the local paper, required as part of the process.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Give It A Rest ... Please?

The observant amongst you may have spotted reference to my currently touring secondary school open evenings for the smaller Puddlecote (the boy). One aspect that struck me this year, and last (for the girl), is that every music department we have visited is a massive departure from those of my own schooldays.

We had posters of the four orchestral groups on the wall; all were required to learn to play at least the recorder; the music teacher was a bit odd, wore flares, and swayed backwards and forwards with an almost ecstatic grin on his face while playing the piano; and the closest we got to technology was a wood housed record player on which we were treated to The Dambusters Theme and a bit of The Pretenders at Christmas if we were lucky.

In short, it was naff and pretty useless for our future development.

The classrooms are far more impressive now, with computerised keyboards complete with sampling and mixing software displayed on monitors in all schools we have visited.

I've also noticed, though - because it would be bloody difficult to miss unless blindfolded and wearing ear defenders - that, without exception, every school has a complete set of steel drums which they seem extremely proud of since it has been the vigorously played centrepiece of every music department we have seen. How a makeshift caribbean instrument has been transformed into the must-have educational priority in quiet suburbia is anyone's guess.

But then again, it does follow the primary school pattern, especially after reading a letter the girl brought home today.

Apparently, they are going to be having an 'immersion day' where they will spend all the time available learning about Brazilian Samba drums, South African Gum Boot, Balinese Gamelan music, and Afro-Latin percussion. It took them just over a month of her attending to roll that one out.

This is being provided by a private company but, it's OK, it'll only cost me £15 because the school is 'partially funding' it.

In short, modern music classes are still irrelevant to future development. They're just more right-on and ideological in being so.

Good grief.

DIY Ciggies, US Style

Good news from the US, especially since it highlights the absurd lengths that governments will go to in protecting their bludgeoning of the public at the altar of health purity.

A Dane County judge has decided to allow store owners to keep their "Roll your Own" cigarette machines running for now.

The state had ordered businesses to shut those machines down until they obtained a permit to manufacture them. In response, store owners filed a lawsuit. They said they should not be considered manufacturers because customers make their own products.

Stephanie Marquis, spokesperson with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, said, "We are disappointed with the court's decision, but we remain dedicated to enforcing our tobacco laws and regulations fairly and equitably."
This concerns a growing yank business in renting cigarette rolling machines to customers who buy their own loose tobacco at lesser tax rates, and make their own 'ready-mades' in the store. It's estimated that there are around 600 stores like this in the US, in 31 states - this video from last year gives you an idea of how the whole thing works.

The US government is a trifle irked that their differential on tax between loose tobacco and ready-mades is being exploited, so they attempted to suggest that those who rent the machines should be liable to the same licences and taxes as cigarette manufacturers.

On that basis, presumably businesses that host ATM machines should be required to fulfill the same operating criteria and financial guarantees as banks, and MOT testing stations should be licensed as food and drink establishments for allowing you to make your own cup of tea from a machine.

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so does the (cough) benevolent state despise anyone who finds a way round their crippling taxes.

As a result, this battle has been to-ing and fro-ing for just over a year, the aggressor always being the state in ordering machines to be unplugged as a continual policy of harassment. Business owners then file court proceedings, a judge slaps down the order, and the machines start running again ... but with large queues due to the backlog.

As a consumer product, tobacco is very good at exposing these abuses of governmental power. In this case, the bullying of small businesses is compunded by the fact that the state is seeking to impose further taxes - and charges by way of their own manufactured permits - on a product from which they are already receiving tax receipts of their own choosing. Which, of course, is a theft from business in itself, as I've mentioned before.

It also starkly illustrates how anti-social public bodies are in justifying their own existence, and the fact that they no longer serve and support the taxpayers who fund their salaries. Instead they actively seek to restrict voluntary activity.

You'll be hard pressed to find as perfect an example of the tail wagging the dog as with the costly - and counter-productive to quiet enjoyment of legally supplied goods - charade surrounding roll your own machines.

Well done, judge, let's hope the machines keep on churning out cheaper smokes for as long as they get up the tax-spongers' noses.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

It Had To Be Done

The Spectator is seeking nominations for their parliamentarian of the year awards. Some geezer called Philip Davies deserved a shout, I thought.

When first elected to the House of Commons in 2005, Philip Davies captured the former Labour seat of Shipley by a margin of just 422 votes. Following his first term, his majority was transformed into just under 10,000 in May 2010. It’s not hard to understand why.

In an era where the electorate has become accustomed to politicians promoting policies based on the consensus of cliquey lobbyists, quangoes, and unelected supranational organizations, Davies has consistently reflected the concerns of the people parliamentarians regularly forget – that is, the public they are elected to serve.

In the last year he has carried on in the same vein. Despite a massive whipping campaign, Davies was one of 37 MPs to vote on cutting the UK’s contribution to the EU, thereby endorsing the opinion of a majority of the public instead of the insular view prevalent in Westminster.

In serving electors rather than adhering to party dogma, he spoke out against Conservative Sarah Wollaston’s ten minute rule motion on banning alcohol advertising, as well as tackling Labour’s Alex Cunningham on the issue of smoking in private cars.

Despite the predictable controversy, in June he was also not afraid to voice concerns raised over the minimum wage and its potential for denying employment to the disabled.

In the current environment of general derision and mistrust of politicians, Davies is a parliamentarian who understands his electorate, is trusted by them, and has been outstanding in the last twelve months speaking out on their behalf.
Little or no chance of his being short-listed, of course - acting as a champion of ordinary people isn't a valued quality these days, sadly - but you've got to be in it to win it, as they say.

It would be nice if someone who isn't slate grey righteous was on the ballot though, don't you think? So, do go and chip in with your own choice more nominations for our Phil.

I can hear the tutting of the Speccie judging panel already.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Holy Smokes

The Isle of Man are still struggling with their prison smoking ban, it would appear. Inconveniently, inmates don't seem to be willing to play ball, God bless 'em ... and, in a small but mysterious way, He (or, at least His book) does.

THE Isle of Man Prison has lost control of the no-smoking ban.

The report, which has been published today, found that the total ban had resulted in a "large number of negative outcomes".

[Chief Inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick] explained: "Many prisoners appeared to be intensively and creatively engaged in circumventing the smoking ban.

"They boiled up nicotine patches, soaked fruit peel or other substances in it and then rolled cigarettes from the resulting 'tobacco' in pages from dictionaries and bibles held together with toothpaste. Lights were obtained from kettle elements and electrical wiring.

"We saw this happening in full view of staff and were satisfied it was a wide spread and long standing occurrence."

Prisoners were also found to be using lint from tumble dryers and pubic hair to make their homemade cigarettes.
So, I take it previous attempts at enforcing abstinence, as reported here last January, haven't worked.

TEABAGS have been banned at a non-smoking jail after lags used them in cigarettes instead of brewing up.

... instead of quitting, ingenious inmates poured out the contents of teabags and rolled makeshift ciggies.

[One former prisoner said] "Many inmates turned to teabags and some even tried smoking dried banana skins. Then the governor decided to ban teabags and replace them with granules so we couldn’t smoke them."
Still, it appears the authorities are going to carry on wrestling with the problem of enforcing abstinence on a prison population who are demonstrably unready to co-operate.

"Considerable management time was diverted into tackling the problem but measures such as banning certain types of fruit were just not going to be effective."
Tea bags? Fruit? They'll be running out of things to ban soon (just after compulsory pubic waxes, presumably). How about the nicotine patches next, eh? They are being used to boil down for the hit, after all.

"If the ban is to continue it needs to be combined with more effective smoking cessation support and a fuller programme of legitimate activity."
Nah, don't be silly. They'll ban the bibles before the religion of pharmaceutical sales compliance is ever restricted. Anything else would be blasphemy, so it would.

There was - briefly - at least a nod to the fact that prisoner health would be far better served by allowing prisoners to actually smoke, err, tobacco, rather than the cocktail of ingredients that they are currently inhaling ...

The report suggests initiating some changes to the smoking ban such as allowing smoking outside in the exercise areas.
... but that was swiftly dismissed.

Mark Kelly, the chief executive of the Department of Home Affairs which has responsibility for the prison, said: "The report has identified issues around the no-smoking policy which was introduced to protect non-smokers at the prison from the harmful effects of secondary smoke inhalation.

"In response to the inspector's comments the department instigated a review of current arrangements and decided to continue the ban with a renewed focus on robust enforcement and effective smoking cessation support."
Good grief.

How is it that the public sector seems to command a monopoly on unimaginative, myopic, brain-wiped personnel? Is there some University somewhere offering degrees in terminal robotic fuckwittery, and spooging the graduates into government-funded employment where they can spend a lifetime cocking things up at the taxpayer's expense?

There's not? Could have fooled me.

Another for the 'not about health' file.