Saturday, 31 March 2012

Quick! Blow More Tax On TV Ads!

Considering today's breathless horror - led by Chief Medical Adviser Professor Dame Sally Davies - at the thought of a cigarette being smoked near a child, we can surely expect a government-funded advertising campaign soon condemning people who allow kids to attend barbecues. Yes?
A study by the French environmental campaigning group Robin des Bois found that a typical two-hour barbecue can release the same level of dioxins as up to 220,000 cigarettes.

Dioxins are a group of chemicals known to increase the likelihood of cancer.

The figures were based on grilling four large steaks, four turkey cuts and eight large sausages.
If a few cigarettes deserve several hours of furrow-browed BBC coverage, 220,000 of them must require commandeering of the entire BBC network for best part of a week, I should imagine. Plus another afternoon to lecture on the dangers of red meat.

For the love of all that's holy! Get to it, Dame Sally, before another summer of slaughter is upon us!

Link Tank 31/03

Get your chuckle chops around the top two, if nothing else.

How can you tell Simon Chapman is mucking about over his head?

Petrol panic: it's hard to tell who's stupider, the Government or the governed

The changing fortunes of KFC in its homeland and overseas

Home smoking bans are "a serious encroachment on privacy"

Sugar taxes are unfair and unhealthy

Adelaide considers taxpayer-funded prostitutes

New York's Department of Education bans over 50 words including 'dinosaur', 'Halloween', 'birthday' and 'dancing'

"Popcorn may be the perfect snack food"

Internet porn banned in Egypt

A social engineering experiment too far

ID cards were nothing compared with this government's snooping plans

Farting fish

Friday, 30 March 2012

Forget Everything You Thought You Knew About Economics, Human Nature

It would seem that anti-tobacco drones have encountered something of a problem of late. Having spent their sad lives studying how to fit in with the public health community - to disguise what is, basically, just a dislike of a smell or an ideological distaste for big business - their incessant calls for ever-desperate rent-seeking means they are being thrust into areas such as economics and trade.

Things about which, embarrassingly for them, they haven't a scooby.

Consider this from yesterday's edition of BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme. The subject was the illicit trade in tobacco (about 5 minutes long from 12:57 in). Talking to a Liverpudlian who exclusively buys his supplies from white van man at the local pub - saving around £2.50 per pack - the BBC interviewer asked about the effects of Osborne's 37p tax hike in the budget.

BBC: Does the rise in duty, then, have any effect on how much you are smoking?

Geezer: Makes you more likely to go round the pub, really. The dearer things get, the cheaper you want to get hold of them.

BBC: Don't you feel guilty at all? Shouldn't you be paying tax like everyone else?

Geezer: Not really, because other countries in the EU are paying less. I think there's a lot of tax on the likes of cigarettes and booze. I don't feel guilty at all about going elsewhere. No.
This, of course, is basic economics. If you charge too much, and there is a grey or black market in the same product, you will inevitably increase demand in illicit supply. Additionally, if a tax is seen as unfair, it will be begrudged and often avoided. There isn't an economist on the planet who would contest that.

Tobacco control do, though. You see, they're the experts on everything. They've already re-designed the laws of physics and chemistry to advance their agenda, why not the principles of economics too?

Joy (shome mistake, shurely?) Townsend of the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine (who just happens to have been on the editorial board of ASH's state-funded production, Beyond Smoking Kills) was quizzed immediately after this clear evidence that tax rises encourage the illicit trade.

Can you guess what happens next? You got it.
BBC: There must be a tipping point where you are forcing poorer people to buy their cigarettes without paying duty.

Joyless: Well, it's very interesting because [...] the tobacco companies always say that. If the tax goes up, this is going to increase smuggling. And they say it, it's one of their many deceits as it's not true.
Common sense be damned; human nature begone; Laffer Curve cower in the corner. Joy said let there be bullshit and, lo, there was bullshit. The Church of Public Health hath pronounced.

Before this gem of idiocy disappears from the Beeb forever, do go listen if you are able as it's a work of art. Watch out, too, for the guy from the Liverpool Alcohol and Tobacco Unit who seems to think that plain packaging has already been implemented.

Perhaps he has received a memo we aren't allowed to see.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

40p Minimum Price? Far Too Cheap Already, Apparently

I suppose the usual prohibitionist suspects would have been unsurprised that Friday's minimum alcohol pricing announcement was roundly condemned by the press. I expect even they were of the belief they had another few months, maybe a year, of nagging and softening up of the public before any politician would be stupid enough to go for it.

However, the Guardian gently pointing out that it was a bit of a silly proposal was betrayal enough for Caroline Lucas - always ready to jump on any scaremongery bandwagon, as is her wont - to fire off a letter.
Measures set out in the new national alcohol strategy include a minimum price of 40p per unit of alcohol in England and Wales and greater powers for local authorities to deal with binge drinking.


Increasing the minimum unit price to at least 50p would be a good first step. This level is supported by Alcohol Concern and would be in line with research from Sheffield University, which shows the greatest positive impact would be for a minimum price of between 50p and 60p.
You're giving the plan away, love. That's scheduled to be announced after the bill has been passed.

The consultation isn't anywhere near being announced yet but the 40p suggested starting point is already being touted as too cheap. It's quite incredible too that Conservative Party policy is being trumpeted by the most authoritarian, freedom-despising party in British politics. Was there a ripple in time and space that I missed, or something?

It's good to see our predictions about the dangerous nature of minimum pricing being confirmed, mind.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

I Wish To Register Another Complaint

In for a penny, in for a pound.

Like me, some of you will have received a somewhat curt response to a complaint about Smokefree South West's plain packaging poster campaign (the wording of my submission can be viewed here).

In what looks suspiciously like a "we asked them but they said they done nuffink wrong" kind of 'judgement', this was the ASA's reply.
Smokefree South West is an organisation, funded by all 14 Primary Care Trusts in that region, with the aim of reducing smoking rates. Advocacy for plain packaging was one of a range of Smokefree South West programmes and campaigns designed to reduce tobacco use. In this context the poster was advocacy of an opinion in an ongoing public-health debate. It was not implying that this opinion was universally accepted or that there were no contrary opinions, and was unlikely to be interpreted that way. The poster was unlikely to mislead consumers about Smokefree South West's advocacy of plain packaging for cigarettes. On this basis they concluded there was no breach of the CAP Code rules.
Well, colour me surprised! A complaint about an ad entitled "move on, there's nothing to see" was met with a response offering just about the same sentiment.

Still, it doesn't necessarily end there.
I realise that will disappoint you and, although we won’t be taking any other action, we’ve told the advertiser about your concerns (without revealing your identity). In certain circumstances, complainants can request a review of the ASA Council’s adjudication, including a Council decision not to investigate a complaint after its deliberation. You have 21 days to ask the Independent Reviewer of ASA Adjudications, Sir Hayden Phillips, to review the case. But they must be able to establish that a substantial flaw of process or adjudication is apparent, or show that additional relevant evidence is available. You can click here for further information about the Independent Review process.
So I thought I'd, indeed, take that opportunity.

It's a bit wordy, so I've dusted off the Scribd account. This is my appeal.

Over to you, Sir Hayden.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Plain Packaging For Alcohol, Here We Come

I've written before (here, here, and here) that this piece of plain packaging propaganda is pretty farcical.
Myth #7: It may be tobacco today but other consumer products will follow

FACT: Tobacco is not like any other product, it is the only legal consumer product on the market which is lethal when used as intended. That is why the UK and over 170 other governments have signed up to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which places legal obligations on governments to strictly regulate tobacco products. Plain packs for tobacco will not therefore set a precedent for other consumer products.
Now, it would seem, the government agree with me. They have put it to bed quite soundly in their alcohol strategy, released just yesterday.
Following the publication of the Government’s Alcohol Strategy, the Health Committee is to hold an inquiry examining the Government’s proposals so far as they relate to health issues, and in particular will look at:
Scroll to the bottom and what do we see is one of the proposals being 'looked at'?
Plain packaging and marketing bans.
I think we can call that 'myth' comprehensively proven as fact now, don't you?

My! Prohibitionists are fizzing along at a cracking pace, so they are.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Time For Minimum Calorie Pricing, Dave?

Good Lord! Cameron kicking the gate open on minimum pricing has produced more immediate 'urgent' clamouring than even I thought possible.

Less than 24 hours on and vested interests were already calling for the same for supermarket food as well.
Campaign spokesman Charlie Powell said: "The food industry wants to be part of the solution but altogether refuses to admit that it's a big part of the problem.

"And it's to the government's disgrace that the food industry is actually helping to set government health policy. I think we should look at what's happening on the alcohol network and actually the government have decided that the way to go is actually to mandate companies in terms of their pricing."
How do you defend yourself from that, Cameron? Well, you can't. Especially seeing as you gave them the perfect answer to any protest.

Because, as you say yourself, applying a minimum price is perfectly benign.
This isn’t about stopping responsible drinking eating, adding burdens on business or some new kind of stealth tax – it’s about fast immediate action where universal change is needed.
Which is definitely needed in the case of calories, according to your grey-faced pen-pushers.
The Department of Health says England has one of Europe's highest obesity rates and that consuming too many calories is the root of the problem.
And remember this?
Ministers claim the policy will not lead to higher supermarket profits since they will be expected to put any extra profits they make towards lowering the price of other goods.
No point engaging industry then, is it Dave? Just get on with the minimum calorie pricing. It won't hurt business, it addresses a problem you have identified as urgent, and will be bloody brilliant since other foods will become cheaper.

What's not to like? Time to stop fannying around, doncha think?

There's no fool like and air-brushed, politically-inept one, eh?

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Minimum Pricing And The Stable Door

While every sane person in the country queued up to pour ridicule on the quite execrable Cameron-led government over minimum alcohol pricing, there were still many dribbling others who didn't quite get how dangerous the idea is.

So let's address some of the idiocy, shall we?

Firstly, if anyone mentions alcopops - as the dozy IAS bore on Five Live's phone-in did Friday - they are either woefully ignorant, or have an agenda which will certainly not be met by minimum pricing.

At time of writing, the very best deal at Sainsbury's for Smirnoff Ice was a two for £5.50 deal on 700ml bottles of the stuff. At 5% strength, this means they are selling it at just under 79p per unit. It would take a doubling of the proposed entry point for alcopops to be remotely threatened.

You see, talking of agendas, Cameron has swung open the stable door and invited every anti-alcohol nutter (and others, more later) to bolt and advance their glib and ill-conceived ideas.

Within minutes of Theresa May being stuck on the end of a broom handle to pump out this shit, Alcohol Concern were practising in front of a mirror how to introduce the hideous social calamity of married couples sharing a bottle of wine of an evening to a wider audience; police woodentops were delighted at the opportunity to call for advertising bans; and commenters near and far to assert that charging for NHS services was a damn good plan. The fact that many of the latter were up in arms earlier in the week about the temerity of the government to even consider the very same thing in the Health Bill was quite hilarious.

I remember watching a programme once where Cameron was portrayed as not too interested in politics during his college years. I think it must have been entirely accurate since he seems to have the political nous of a fruit fly. With one day of madness, he has opened a can of worms which will crawl all over him for the rest of his tenure, while simultaneously causing the UKIP recruitment team to hire another couple of members of staff to cope with their phones ringing off the hook.

Conservative Home were right behind him, though ... not. While Labour politicians couldn't believe their luck in managing to still get their daft control policies through even in opposition.

Just to top the quite astounding mistake off, it was almost certainly announced on Friday to stop the press destroying them for the budget. Surely, someone - anyone - might have advised Cameron that if you want to buy the public off you should choose to do it with something popular.

It's not like he wasn't aware that it would be received very badly either, as his own Number 10 PR stated quite clearly.
I know this won’t be universally popular. But the responsibility of being in government isn’t always about doing the popular thing. It’s about doing the right thing.
And there is the next problem, because this is the first time that a politician has explicitly come out and admitted what we have known for quite a while. That public consultations are anything but.

They have always been a bit of a sham, a sly way of pretending that Westminster are listening to us. But Cameron is saying that it matters not what any of us think - if responses turn out to be 100% against the idea, he's doing it anyway.

The only thing cast-iron about this guy is his steely incompetence. Well, maybe with a bit of arrogant contempt for the public thrown in.

Lastly - and probably most importantly for many - never think that this is just about punishing the less well off. I know many have stated that it is a move which will uniquely disadvantage the poor and leave others unaffected, which is valid insofar as the stated terms of the proposed legislation, but real life will certainly not work like that.

If bog standard spirits, for example, are forced to charge close to premium brands, does anyone really believe that the premiums won't be protected? If Asda own brand white rum rises in price, so commensurately will Bacardi; if Tesco's own brand wines are made more expensive, the premium gap will be preserved by more prestigious labels increasing in price accordingly.

It would be quite incredible if the Department of Health Hectoring weren't fully aware of that.

No matter your income level, you will be paying more for your chosen tipple thanks to Cameron's doe-eyed simple-mindedness. And if anyone truly believes that 'moderate' drinkers will only pay £5 to £6 extra per year, I'd advise them to stick to the child area of the library next time. They'll be in the company of equally credulous minds that way.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Now Look What You've Done, Dave

Rather than sit in an ivory tower like Cameron and his few supporters on minimum pricing, The Times went out and asked 'binge-drinking kids' about the policy.

Sadly hidden behind the paywall, it's worth quoting a few passages.
None of the group [of 16 to 19 year olds] seems remotely bothered about threats to make alcohol more expensive. They will simply take more drugs. “I can get a gram of ketamine for £10,” says Bella, who gets a £20 weekly allowance from her mum. “Adults don’t know how many drugs people our age take,” she adds, breezily. “It’s only a tiny bit more for drugs [than alcohol].” If cheap vodka becomes unaffordable, she knows she’ll still be able to spend her money on mephedrone or MDMA.

Mephedrone, or miaow-miaow, costs £15-£20, adds her friend.


Their attitude was shared by most of the teenagers who spoke toThe Times yesterday. Not one believed that higher pricing of alcohol would stop them getting drunk, and more than a few suggested they would probably take more drugs.


Would it make any difference to them, if the Government set a minimum price of 40p per unit? “All my friends take drugs [as well], so if the price goes up people are gonna start dropping [Ecstasy] pills more. You can get four pills for a tenner.”
Now, I might be wrong, but I don't reckon the idea of kids being pushed towards drugs, thanks to a Cameron pet policy, is going to go down very well in the true blue shires.

You're a bit of a berk, aren't you Dave?

H/T Educator Caz

Link Tank 24/03

Hmmm, Marmite. Now that's an idea.

Today's politician lives in fear and lacks conviction

Minimum alcohol pricing: illogical, illiberal, unfair

In defence of Special Brew

Porn star (yes, there's a pic) accepts prom date over Twitter, but is banned by the school

Libraries are too dangerous for children

Exposure to germs protects children from developing allergies and asthma

Fairy tale from the World Health Organisation

Feeding the homeless banned in major cities all over America

New Zealand is suffering a Marmite shortage

Study finds smoking restores self-control by improving positive mood

Smelly food makes you eat less

Deluded mice

Friday, 23 March 2012

Welcome To East Germany

VGIF has soundly covered today's idiocy from Cameron, and there's not much to be said on minimum pricing which I haven't said before.

However, certain sections of this article would tend to suggest that the Tories have not only abandoned their ideological roots, but have also completely lost touch with economic sense.
The government says a 40p unit price will not add to the price of beer in a pub and might even help the pub trade by eradicating the cheap supermarket alternative.
Don't laugh, but here's the very next sentence.
In other examples of the impact, a deal offering 20 cans of Carling lager at Sainsbury's would jump to £14.50, due to its lower alcohol content.
So, making Carling 72p per can is eradicating competition for pubs charging in the region of £3 per pint?

Ministers claim the policy will not lead to higher supermarket profits since they will be expected to put any extra profits they make towards lowering the price of other goods.
Yes, of course they will Dave. Now, take your medication as you have to deliver the tractor stats soon.

UPDATE: Our esteemed mascot yesterday delivered a delightful put-down which says it all about Cameron's administration.
May I propose a change for the Government when they are considering their legislative programme for the next Session? Will they bear it in mind, just for a change, that they are in coalition with the Conservative party?
That's if anyone can find it.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

CRUK Execs Pop Open The Champers

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, said: "The different treatment of people at either end of the income scale is stark. Ordinary families are losing their tax credits and child allowances and suffering pay freezes while people on top salaries of £150,000 to £1 million a year are getting cash hand outs."
I wonder what that means for these eight people, then?

Handouts on top of their usual handouts, I suppose.

Official: Americans Are Stupid

Prepare to be baffled by the scientific hieroglyphics below.

Was that a bit too difficult for you to understand? If so, you must be American.
[Judge Jane Branstetter] Stranch found that the text warnings required since 1984 require "a college reading level" to understand and are probably not appropriate for youths and people with lower reading levels and weren't reaching much of the intended audience. The law requiring the graphic warnings corrects that problem, Stranch wrote.

"A warning that is not noticed, read, or understood by consumers does not serve its function," Stranch wrote. "The new warnings rationally address these problems by being larger and including graphics."
Apparently then, the ability to read and comprehend simple sentences - according to the judge - only manifests itself in Americans once they have passed through college, as they need pictures to even begin to understand. They also manage to reach their graduation day without any clue that smoking is harmful, despite it being taught in America's - evidently pitiful - school system.

How very embarrassing for Americans that the courageous US tobacco control industry had no option than to push for this widespread ignorance of the American people to be revealed to the world.

Unless she's talking bollocks, of course.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Just Stop With The Patronising Pretence, Already

Sorry, but when did the phrase "lies, damned lies and statistics" cease to be valid?

The fallout from today's budget has resulted in 'experts' swarming all over the text to contest some of Osborne's claims. Even Osborne himself was vague at the despatch box over, for example, the £100 million figure for the 50p tax rate.

"It raises at most a fraction of what we were told, and it may raise nothing at all."

The Guardian naturally disagrees with his assertion that proposals today would raise five times the amount with new taxes, while I'm sure Tory sites will be fully of the opinion that his sums are correct. In truth, nobody really knows.

Just like Osborne was waggling his todger in the wind in predicting 2.5% growth for 2012 last year, as he was to admit today with the OBR's assessment that it will actually be in the region of 0.8%.

Look. We're not stupid. While political commentators get into a frenzy about all this statistical overload and oracle gazing, the rest of us are quite understanding about it all. Osborne has to satisfy the Tory core vote - with a nod to Lib Dems with the £9,205 personal allowance - while Miliband is forced to act, as he did in rebuttal, the yah-boo-sucks immature schoolboy to cultivate a faux class war to regain union trust and impress the more puerile demographic in his party's heartlands.

One says the budget acts to save money for the less well off, the other says it is punishing them. The vast majority of the public wouldn't know who is telling the truth, nor does the statistics bun fight make them any the wiser.

They do know, however, what each party stands for and would actually - just on the odd occasion - wish that they COULD BE FUCKING HONEST.

For those jewel thieves who have lost the will to live at this point, let's drop a similar example in. Today, tobacco controllers were having orgasms over this article detailing a study which only comprised a mere 6 respondents. This, they trumpeted, means that tobacco companies are corrupt and their assertions nothing but lies.

Yet just last month, they themselves were also coming in their pants at the revelation that just 13 kids had 'proven' outdoor smoking bans to be the best thing in the world. Ever.

Just stop with the patronising pretence, for crying out loud!

Osborne, you want to gain votes by bribing those your focus groups have identified as amenable. Stop pulling figures out of your arse to pretend you're being progressive, you're not convincing anyone. Miliband, stop appealing to the middle class as if you're their friend, using your own sympathetic stats to do it. You're not. We know that, and you sure as shit do too

We're bored with statistics. We're bored with people pretending that they are anything but the natural self-interested beings that we all are. Just admit that you want what you ideologically want, and leave the bent statistics alone.

They are a major part of the problem we now find ourselves in, you irresponsible, immature, economy-wrecking, selfish, liberty-destroying, career-massaging bastards.

For once, I actually crave the soma of mind-numbing TV after reading the crap of today. That, or a lie-down in a darkened room, white noise would even feel comforting by comparison.

"Let Them Eat Carrot Cake", Says Bloomberg

There's something profoundly unsettling about an administration headed by the USA's 12th richest man depriving the homeless of food. But that's precisely how Mayor Bloomberg's fanatical health kick has manifested itself this week.
The Bloomberg administration is now taking the term “food police” to new depths, blocking food donations to all government-run facilities that serve the city’s homeless.

In conjunction with a mayoral task force and the Health Department, the Department of Homeless Services recently started enforcing new nutritional rules for food served at city shelters. Since DHS can’t assess the nutritional content of donated food, shelters have to turn away good Samaritans.

DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond says the ban on food donations is consistent with Mayor Bloomberg’s emphasis on improving nutrition for all New Yorkers. A new interagency document controls what can be served at facilities — dictating serving sizes as well as salt, fat and calorie contents, plus fiber minimums and condiment recommendations.
Equally distasteful is how blithely the world's most cosseting nanny can summarily prohibit one of humanity's most endearing qualities, that of charitable giving to the less well off, creating unnecessary waste into the bargain.

All, seemingly, because Bloomberg - like most health fanatics - is so hideously arrogant that he assumes authority over the lives and diets of others at the expense of common sense, reason and plain courtesy.

What do I care?

However altruistic and caring Bloomberg and his ilk believe themselves to be, they're simply evil control freaks. It is those fighting against them who are on the side of the angels.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Food Is Now 'Unique' Too

This statement from ASH is fast becoming so funny that it could pass into history alongside images of the Keystone Cops or the pronouncements of Homer Simpson.
[...] the “domino theory” i.e. that once a measure has been applied to tobacco it will be applied to other products is patently false.
Others make equally daft claims along the same lines.
Myth #7: It may be tobacco today but other consumer products will follow

FACT: Tobacco is not like any other product, it is the only legal consumer product on the market which is lethal when used as intended. That is why the UK and over 170 other governments have signed up to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which places legal obligations on governments to strictly regulate tobacco products. Plain packs for tobacco will not therefore set a precedent for other consumer products.
Because, you see, the examples of how patently unfalse it all is just keep piling up.

The United Nations now put their size 9s into ASH's molars by advocating supra-national interference in the consumer/producer relationship towards certain foods.
50 (c) Adopt statutory regulation on the marketing of food products, as the most effective way to reduce marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, sodium and sugar (HFSS foods) to children, as recommended by WHO, and restrict marketing of these foods to other groups;

(d) Impose taxes on soft drinks (sodas), and on HFSS foods, in order to subsidize access to fruits and vegetables and educational campaigns on healthy diets;

52. WHO, in discharging the mandate assigned to it by the General Assembly, should

(b) Consider the findings of the present report in preparing recommendations for a set of voluntary global targets for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.
Like a Framework Convention for Food Control, do you mean? How novel! So HFSS foods are now as unique as tobacco.

Nope, no domino effect there either (according to state-funded pharma shills). Obviously.

H/T Stateside David G, who misses nuffink.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Where Is OUR Coalition Of The Sane?

Writing at the Commentator, James Delingpole has raised a grievance about big business or, specifically, its reticence to defend itself.

Bemoaning the fact that he seems to be fighting his corner without much support from organisations who should be doing so for themselves, he makes this observation.
Cowering in their dug-outs, that's where they are, most of them, while the poor bloody infantry (that'll be me, then) go out and do all their dirty, scary, dangerous work for them, thankless and mostly gratis. Either that, or worse still, they're giving succour to the other side, paying for enemy's ammunition, funding his propaganda, kow-towing to his anti-capitalist prejudices.
Now, he is talking about the supposedly all-powerful energy industry, but I think readers here will notice the similarities with the issues discussed here.

While those who enjoy their products are doing the arguing, we see - for example - fast food chains contributing to their own downfall by backsliding without any sign of reciprocal appreciation, and drinks companies falling on their own swords.
If all this sounds like sour grapes, that's partly because it is. Being paid as little as I am is galling enough; but what really takes the biscuit is regularly being told by enviro-loons like George Monbiot that only reason people like me write the stuff we do is because we're so lavishingly rewarded by Big Capitalism.
Yep, the old 'you must have been paid' nonsense that just about anyone who has ever taken time to challenge the 'consensus' on comment sections will recognise. A prime example here.
So why won't capitalism defend itself? Partly, I'm afraid, because so many have sold their souls to the corporatist devil. That letter from the chairman of Shell UK, et al, is a case in point. Big corporations actually quite like government regulation: not only does it shut out small competitors (who can less easily wear the costs of compliance) but it also, as in the case of wind farms and solar, enables them to make a fortune via taxpayer-funded environmental levies.

Partly it's because businesses are in the business of making money, not fighting for the right and true. If they think that their bottom line will be improved by "greenwashing" their image by sponsoring a few eco-initiatives or signing up to some sustainability code of practice imposed on them by the thugs at Greenpeace, then that's what they do, regardless of whether or not they believe in the cause.

But as Charles Koch noted recently in the Wall Street Journal this approach is short-termist and ultimately self-defeating:

"Crony capitalism is much easier than competing in an open market. But it erodes our overall standard of living and stifles entrepreneurs by rewarding the politically favored rather than those who provide what consumers want."
This is the 'level playing field' when faced with a smoking ban writ large. Instead of recognising the threat to their business, pub companies just caved in and pointed at the other guy as the bigger problem. Why not? The guns weren't trained on them at the time.

They certainly are now, though. George Osborne will be ramping up the beer tax again very soon, and there is very little appreciation of any efforts to satisfy dozy prohibitionist MPs being exhibited in parliament towards fast food or fizzy drinks manufacturers.

Apart from our esteemed mascot, of course, when was the last time you heard any MP stand up and defend McDonald's or Pepsi against their detractors? While they, in turn, endorse the prohibitionist cause without seeming to recognise that encouraging these people will only serve to enhance their opponents' case.

I make no apology for yet again quoting Crampton on this curious 'anyone but us' culture amongst those industries who are not approved by government.
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.
There is so very much that other targeted industries could learn from the anti-tobacco crusade. There is very much to benefit them by forming some kind of coalition and sharing notes, even surreptitiously. Yet the behaviour we saw prior to, and post, 2007 suggests that they haven't even considered it.

These are multi-billion pound organisations without a spine. While their detractors are forming coalitions to share information and tactics, drinks companies - amongst others - are shouting "not me, Guv", and hoping they will be left alone.

They won't be, of course, nor will those who popularly provide fatty food, sugary drinks or the amber nectar. By dividing themselves, they are simply making it more easy to be conquered.

Where is the coalition of the sane we would like to see? One which would pull in support from all manner of regular, working people? One which would yank the Islington set from their elitist daydreams by harnessing the power of millions of ordinary people who are - contrary to the public health cultists - very happy indeed with their occasional Big Mac, can of Diet Coke, pint of Fosters, and packet of Marlboro Lights?

Nowhere. Because they are scared shitless of being marginalised and excluded from debate like 'Big Tobacco'. As if they have a choice!

It's coming to them no matter how much they think appeasement actually works. The only option is a full frontal attack.

We are living in an age where 'exposure' to second hand smoke in open parkland is supposedly dangerous enough to inspire a multitude of bans, without any supporting evidence whatsoever.

When the same kind of rhetoric is directed at food with just a little bit too much salt, sugar or fat being advertised during EastEnders, alarm bells should be ringing all over the place.
It follows recent research which suggests children are still exposed to the same level of junk food advertising despite tighter regulations.
What are these businesses doing allowing this?

Help us out here guys, for crying out loud! Stop thinking that by joining in the healthist crusade that you will be protected, it's just not a viable business model.

Stand up to them and stop being such pussies. Get round a table, discuss a joint approach - just as your opponents are doing - and write some bloody huge cheques. It's the only thing that will properly scare MPs.

We're waiting here to back you to the hilt - you know, us poor saps who buy your products? - just give us the nod and we'll be up front and centre.

Just like we are already, doing your work on comments sections and everywhere else that you fear to tread. As Delingpole points out, there are a whole load of us just waiting for some resistance from you to help us out.

Get to it. Before unelected supra-national pressure decides that none of you are allowed to talk to us again. Ever.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

It's All In Your Imagination

If you thought creationists or flat earthers were a bit barmy, you have quite obviously never read ASH press briefings. I've mentioned this particular fantasy pronouncement before, but it's worth revisiting it now and again just to emphasise their hilarious employment of the term "patently false".
[...] the “domino theory” i.e. that once a measure has been applied to tobacco it will be applied to other products is patently false.
Well, ASH started calling for age restrictions on films which contain smoking scenes back in 2001. They still have the same daft view now.
Films depicting people smoking should be given an 18 certificate, according to a report.

The study by the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies and published by the British Medical Journal, said the cinema glamorises cigarettes and encourages young people to smoke.

It wants smoking to be treated like sex and violence.

Anti-smoking group Ash agreed, with chief executive Deborah Arnott saying: "Smoking in films encourages children to take up smoking. And that's no surprise.

"That is why tobacco advertising was banned, because showing images of people, particularly glamorous young people, smoking encourages children to smoke."
It's OK though because, according to ASH, the idea that the same measure "will be applied to other consumer products is patently false".

So this doesn't actually exist. Patently.
OBJECTIVE: The goal of this study was to investigate whether the association between exposure to images of alcohol use in movies and binge drinking among adolescents is independent of cultural context.

[...] our findings raise concern about the role popular movies may play in Europe and beyond in the early experimentation with patterns of alcohol consumption in adolescents. These patterns have the potential to have a detrimental influence on individual health and future drinking trajectories and to be costly at a societal level.
It's kinda worrying to think where they might be going with that, isn't it?

However, worry not. You see, ASH have stated categorically that there is no chance of campaigners against other consumer products following tobacco control's lead, which is why anti-food campaigners haven't today been demanding the next logical step for HFSS food advertising.
Television adverts for food high in fat, sugar and salt should not be shown before the 9pm watershed, according to Scotland's public health minister.

It follows recent research which suggests children are still exposed to the same level of junk food advertising despite tighter regulations.

Health groups say further action is needed to tackle the problem.
Which, of course, is completely different to the way tobacco packs were banned from being seen firstly on TV, then in magazines, at sports events, and now in supermarkets.

It's all simply an amazing coincidence.

Those drums are getting closer for many a consumer product. But there is still no domino effect. Oh no, that idea is "patently false".

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Failure Of Prohibition And Those Who Argue For It

Considering we have seen some truly daft claims by statists and prohibitionists recently that free markets and libertarianism are promoted solely because of self-interested corporations throwing big bucks around, it's worth pointing out the end product of their dogmatic insanity.

Violence and increased anti-social costs.

Now, apart from laughably trying to imply that libertarian think tanks are funded by illegal drug cartels, I'd love to see how Learn Liberty's common sense above can possibly be explained away by mere adherence to their paymasters.

Instead, it would seem to confirm Kristian Niemietz's alternative (and sane) theory.
Rather than the donors determining the contents of think tank publications, the contents of think tank publications could determine the donors. But that would be boring, wouldn’t it?
Indeed it would.

As well as taking away the dummy-spitting panacea of the prohibitionist to cry "but they're paid!" every time they encounter a debate where the opposition is making a better argument.

Link Tank 17/03

Even though I'm sure we all have better things to do ...

The man who broke Atlantic City

Cut red meat? We already have

Can children make computers smarter?

Why can't you smoke pot? Because lobbyists are getting rich off of the war on drugs

Give mum a wine to match her personality this Mother’s Day

New book destroys plain packaging arguments

Fruit and vegetables are top online grocery purchases

Dying brain cancer patient thrown out of hospital as her treatment, medical marijuana, breaks smoke-free rules

Chess authorities implement cleavage ban on female competitors

The simple art of making nettle beer

Hornet-cooking bees

Friday, 16 March 2012

Get The Rubber Gloves Out, Michelle And Sam Cam

The vegan cranks are at it again.
A huge billboard off the Eisenhower Expressway is warning Chicagoans that eating hot dogs can damage their health.

"Hod Dogs Cause Butt Cancer," the billboard reads in big bold red letters. It also features an obese cartoon character of a man holding a hot dog in one hand, wearing a hospital gown and peering back at his rear which is peaking out from the gown.

The ad greets drivers on the Eisenhower Expressway as they drive west, between the Kostner and Cicero exits. It is sponsored by the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
Yes, it's the PETA sympathisers - for whom meat doesn't feature in the main food groups anymore - pretending to dish out altruistic and dispassionate advice. They are known for irresponsible scaremongery like this.

But, hey! What if they're right?

Good Lord! When talking out of one's arse is a professional requirement, those two really should get checked out pronto.

H/T US jewel thief, David G

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Mascot Watch 16 - Fighting The Fake Tory ... Again

Despite the cuddly picture appended to the piece, our esteemed mascot has again been snarling at fake Tory Sarah Wollaston over her absurd and illiberal minimum alcohol pricing proposals, this time at the Centre for Policy Studies website.

It's becoming quite a regular event, for previous episodes see here and here.

Wollaston regurgitates the usual lame justifications - and the £20bn cost lie - including this self-defeating nonsense.
I'm backing minimum pricing because it works and would save lives without hitting those on low incomes.
I think you can see the contradiction there, but our Phil explains it for those, like Wollaston, who seem to think making things more expensive doesn't affect people with not a lot of money.
Sarah tries to have the argument both ways, either the price rises are such that they will barely make a difference to the family budget, or they are large enough that they will deter people from buying alcohol and combat binge drinking. If the former is true, then why impose a nominal price rise which will only serve to exact a further toll on the family budget – given every study has shown that only extreme price rises would deter the heaviest drinkers? Or if the latter is true and alcohol would become much less affordable, then a minimum unit price is opportunistic and is going to hit those on the lowest incomes the most. Either way it simply cannot be argued that a minimum unit price would be both effective whilst at the same time being non-regressive - and I maintain it would be neither!
Well, quite.

You can read both sides of the debate, along with rebuttals, here, with comments welcome. And if you're on Facebook, you might like to back our guy up in this poll.

Runaround Dunc

I had one of those days yesterday which I haven't experienced since the early days of my business. One of the 15 hour bad boys.

It was tough, but it pales into insignificance compared with that of the indefatigable crusader and all-round business guy, Duncan Bannatyne. He was up bright and early in Scotland 'doing his bit', so he was.
TV personality and ex-smoker Duncan Bannatyne has thrown his support behind a stop smoking campaign in Viewpark.

The No Smoking Day ambassador said: “As an ex-smoker myself, I know how hard it can be to give up but I promise it’s worth the effort.

“You’re four times more likely to success if you get help from your local stop smoking service, which is why I wholeheartedly support NHS Lanarkshire’s north east health improvement teams efforts to let people in North Lanarkshire know what help and support is available.”
Then he was in Hounslow.
No Smoking Day ambassador and Dragon’s Den star, Duncan Bannatyne, said: “As an ex-smoker myself, I know how hard it can be go give up but I promise it’s worth the effort. You’re four times more likely to succeed if you get help from your local stop smoking service, which is why I wholeheartedly support Hounslow’s efforts to let local people know what help and support is available.”
And then the Isle of Wight.
No Smoking Day ambassador and Dragon’s Den star, Duncan Bannatyne, said: "As an ex-smoker myself I know how hard it can be to give up but I promise it’s worth the effort. You're four times more likely to succeed if you get help from your local stop smoking service, which is why I wholeheartedly support NHS Isle of Wight’s efforts to let Islanders know what help and support is available.
The amazing thing is that the Scotland piece was timed at 6:15am, and the Isle of Wight one at 7:00am. Plus he stopped off in Middlesex on the way? That's one hell of a private jet he has there!

Or he could have been on the set of Dragon's Den all day, not even bothering to mention NSD on his Twitter feed.

It looks, then, like this must be one of those modern 'news' stories that isn't. Most likely press released out by some state-funded anti-smoking quango with [insert your locality/PCT here] dropped in here and there.

Another fine example of state propaganda being produced at your expense. Marvellous.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

It's THAT Day Again

I'm sure it will be all over the news, but it's that time of year so to be expected, I suppose.

We'll do our best to withstand it, won't we Gentlemen?

(What's that? There was something else momentus being planned today? Can't imagine what it could have been)

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The Hypocrisy Of Pharma-Funded Health Charities

While the Indy were taking the tobacco control shilling, The Times today printed an article of level-headed scepticism towards health charities*.
Who could criticise a charity? Surely they are a necessary good. They shine lights into dark corners, make sure that the oppressed have a voice, and generate and direct funds for people who are in need of help.

Some do, but there are others - specifically many healthcare charities - that seem to have quite a different aim. Far from doing quiet works, they try to seize the media, lobby government and place themselves firmly centre stage.
Remind you of any in particular? Yes, I'm sure you're already counting on both hands.

The author is a Glasgow GP who has written a book** after being agitated by the interference of industry into the area of health. The description at Amazon explains more.
In the world of sexed-up medicine pharmaceutical companies gloss over research they don't like and charities often use dubious science and dodgy PR to 'raise awareness' of their disease, leaving a legacy of misinformation in their wake.
Those bells are ringing off their housings, aren't they?

Her article at the Times continues.
A decade ago, I would routinely seek out healthcare charities that could be useful for people who had a disease diagnosed or who needed support. They could put people in touch with fellow sufferers and offer practical insights that I often couldn't. Now, I'm often reticent to do so. The problem is that as the media, driven by charities, races to catch our short attention spans, the information people get from many health charities becomes alarmist and misleading.
Tell us about it!
Pharmaceutical companies have made a friend of many healthcare charities, donating grants, collaborating on information leaflets, or sponsoring projects or conferences.
Yep, and that just scratches the surface. It goes right to the top of the tree, too.

The most damning passage, though, is this.
The truth is, many charities take large sums from pharma — 3.4 per cent of Asthma UK’s income is from pharmaceuticals, which in the past five years totalled £1.5million from ten companies. Beating Bowel Cancer takes 11 per cent of its income from pharma; Breakthrough Breast Cancer — patron, the Prince of Wales — lists eight companies that made donations over the past financial year.

This is especially important when it comes to decisions made by NICE — the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence — about new, expensive drugs. The reaction of most charities to having NICE reject a treatment is of dismay; for example, when Avastin, a bowel-cancer drug, was turned down for funding, the chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer said that this was a “great blow to patients”. When an asthma drug for children was rejected by NICE, Asthma UK said that children were being denied “a pioneering treatment that could free them from crippling daily symptoms”. It’s far rarer to have a charity that criticises the cost of the prescriptions. NICE makes judgments based on cost-effectiveness. So if a drug isn’t good value at the rejected price, logically, the pharmaceutical company should make it cheaper. Yet many healthcare charities take aim at NICE, not the costs of the drugs.

At times it seems as though the pharmaceutical companies and charities are working hand in hand. In 2010 a letter appeared in The Times appearing to be from a variety of healthcare charities and doctors, protesting against plans to enable pharmacists to substitute branded prescriptions for cheaper, generic ones. It transpired that a pharmaceutical company had been responsible for co-ordinating and organising the letter — but it didn’t appear on the signatory list. The pharmaceutical regulator later recognised that this was unacceptable — but months after the letter was published; supporters of the charities may have been completely unaware.
All extremely grubby, I think you'll agree.

It's interesting to note that this revelation is made on the very same day that Cancer Research UK were accusing opponents of plain packaging of having their strings pulled from the sidelines.

This being the same Cancer Research UK which enjoys "multimillion pound" patronage from AstraZeneca and Pfizer, manufacturers of smoking cessation products.

D'ya reckon Steve Connor will be writing about that industry-funded conflict of interest anytime soon? Nah, nor do I.

* Behind the paywall, or page 6 & 7 of the 'body and soul' section in print.

** The Patient Paradox. Why Sexed-up Medicine is Bad for your Health by
Margaret McCartney is published by Pinter and Martin, £9.99 (or cheaper here and here).

That's Settled, Then

Just as a quick update, I think Drink Wise North West have an answer to take back to legislators.

That was money well spent, eh? Now, Mr Cameron, off you toddle and empty your air-brushed head of this silly minimum pricing poppycock, there's a good lad.

Monday, 12 March 2012

The Strange Case Of The Doctor Who Book

Via The Radio Times, it would appear that a bit of a Twitter storm has erupted today over a Doctor Who book and the author's account being frozen by PayPal.
Behind the Sofa, a limited-edition charity book full of celebrities' reminiscences about Doctor Who, may not now be published following the decision of online payments service PayPal to freeze the account of the project's organiser.

All profits from the 200-page book were to be given to Alzheimer's Research UK. But payments for pre-orders – which were to be used by editor Steve Berry to fund the manufacture and distribution of the book – have today been frozen by PayPal.

PayPal had been taking payments directly by credit and debit card, as well as from customers with PayPal accounts. Berry may now have to fund the book himself.
Ooh, how very mean!
The book was to feature contributions from, among many others: Paul Whitehouse, Michael Grade, Rufus Hound, Stephen Merchant, Charlie Brooker, Hugh Bonneville, Al Murray, Bill Oddie, Chris Chibnall, Jeremy Dyson, Jonathan Ross, Josie Long, Terrance Dicks, Martina Cole, Mitch Benn, Neil Gaiman, Nicholas Parsons, Paul Cornell, Toyah Willcox and Tracy Ann Oberman.
In fact, according to the author's blog, these just scratch the surface.
Over 100 celebrities have given their time and contributed memories to the book
Now, as the boy and myself are both Doctor Who fans, that is a book I/we would most definitely like to read.

I'm absolutely sure the author has the very best of intentions too, and will feel rather pissed off right now ... BUT.

Why is he resorting to using pre-orders as a way of funding the book? The profits are going to Alzheimer's Research UK, and they're certainly not short of a few bob. Their last submitted accounts show income of £6.5m and they employ 22 full time staff running an 'advertising and fundraising' budget of nearly £300k. A book like this will sell extremely well, surely, and any employee of the charity who refused to fund its production would have to be certifiably insane, especially considering the slebs listed above.

The author says he was forced to go the PayPal route for funding the book's publication because ...
"I set up this site as an experiment in 'crowdfunding' after I couldn't find a satisfactory solution elsewhere."
Now, there are two options to consider here. Why didn't he go to Alzheimer's Research UK? Or, if he did, why did they refuse?
"Had the book failed to generate enough money to fund the book, I was prepared to do so out of my own pocket. It seems that I will now have to do that."
Personally, I don't think there was any chance that such a book would fail to make a profit and the author had offered a guarantee that he would make up the shortfall if need be.

Again, that would be a fairly safe gamble for Alzheimer's Research UK to take if they were asked.

Of course, such a verbal guarantee would not be as easily accepted by an organisation like PayPal which, to all extents and purposes, must act like a bank handling other people's money.

There is obviously no suggestion whatsoever that Berry was going to run off with the money if he couldn't finance the book, but if PayPal had already released it prior to any book being produced and something like that did happen, it was going to be PayPal getting it in the neck from angry 'investors'. It probably explains why they are still keeping the money until certain guarantees are met. They do, after all, have an obligation to consider their assurances to those who send payment via PayPal.

The Radio Times continues.
No monies paid by Doctor Who fans thus far have been lost – PayPal is retaining the project's funds until the situation is resolved. Berry is currently deciding whether to seek alternative means of taking payments for the book.
Or - forgive me for keep saying it - he could go to Alzheimer's Research UK to help him out. They're getting the profit, for crying out loud, what's the problem? There is even the weight of BBC publicity behind it, how can they possibly lose?

So, before a knee should jerk on this, we need to ask some questions. Were Alzheimer's Research UK approached? If not, it would seem to be a silly error. If they were, and refused, they are as much to 'blame' for the possibility of the book not being published as PayPal.

And, if Alzheimer's Research UK did refuse, then surely PayPal are entitled to hold the same reservations. In fact, even more so since they are dealing with other people's money, whereas Alzheimer's Research UK's cash - they being a charity, and all - is donated without the requirement of anything in return.

Of course, in modern discourse, banks are staffed by Cybermen and charities by Adipose so I can understand the over-reaction.

Not Going Well, Is It?

In another example of that whole government lobbying government thing, Snowdon last month highlighted a peculiar website which had popped up to lobby for minimum pricing of alcohol.

Turns out it is financed by NHS Blackpool as part of their contribution to the Drink Wise North West campaign. It all looks rather slick, with videos, dynamic web pages and the like. They're really putting our money where their mouth is, it would appear.

Not that they're convincing anyone, mind, if their polls are anything to go by.

It really is about time someone - at a very high level - asked why we are paying for this nonsense.

Friday, 9 March 2012

The Power Of The Knob Gag

University of Calgary student, Hayley Wade, has just triumphed in a campaign to be elected Vice President of the student's union. Her campaign consisted almost exclusively of hanging this poster above male urinals around the campus.

A similar case was reported here this week too, along with po-faced condemnation from the usual suspects.

I'd make some comment about this being an example of shiny attention-grabbing campaigns being more noticeable in modern electoral circles; how political machines have used such ploys to gain office while hiding their daft policies well out of view; which is why elections merely give us the same tired parties based on image and spin; and that if Hayley has learned that same lesson, she will go a long way.

But it's Friday so I'll simply observe that this proves that the knob gag is still in fashion. Always has been, and always will be.

(But don't tell Ben Elton in case he's tempted to tour again)

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Swivel-Eyed Loon Speaks Of Basket Cases And Corruption

Twitter can sometimes be a rich source of irrational hatred, but it's a special kind of psychopath who can sweepingly insult a host of entire populations in 140 characters.

He was referring to this article detailing how many countries are uncomfortable with Australia's absurd plain packaging legislation.
Australia may face a complaint at the World Trade Organization over its decision to ban trademarks and logos on tobacco products, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter.

The complaint, which says the plain-packaging law violates global intellectual-property rules, will probably be lodged with the Geneva-based trade arbiter this month, as soon as this week, said one person. At least three governments including Ukraine will be involved, said the other person. They declined to be identified because the complaint isn’t public.

Countries including Chile, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Indonesia, Jordan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Turkey, Zambia and Zimbabwe also say the Australian ban breaks trade rules. They have challenged Australia’s scientific evidence and said the law will unnecessarily restrict commerce because the country’s public- health goal can be met by other means.
Yes. Simon Chapman, a sociologist who has posed as health expert for the past 30 years, now seems to have re-invented himself as an indisputable guru on intellectual property rights, legal intricacies, and multi-national business affairs. Well, that would be the case if he had bothered to tackle the objection rather than just 'play the man' not the ball, and throw puerile population level ad homs around.

It's funny he should class Honduras as a bunch of fruitcakes, because many might agree after reading that they made it illegal to smoke in one's own home last year, but Chapman was probably firmly behind that idea. They've committed the ultimate sin to an anti-smoker now, though - that of actually looking at evidence objectively.

Therefore they are now to be classed as a "basket case & corrupt" nation. Nice.

Similarly, Turkey have rolled out comprehensive smoking bans, large graphic warnings, and hidden packet display laws in the past few years, but they've crossed Chapman on this one lame issue so are instantly bonkers in his omnipotent eyes. I'm sure they'll be overwhelmed by the support.

I wouldn't fancy his chances much if the more, ahem, organised gang type of Turks took exception to the slight on their nation, either. Although, having said that, they might let it slide considering - as anyone who has visited Turkey can testify - they have a thriving counterfeit industry who will be thrilled at the opportunities plain packaging will afford them in reduced costs.

As for Colombia, they're growers of tobacco so probably have a vested interest, but one wonders what alternative crops Chapman would prefer Colombian farmers grow. Hmmm.

Sadly - and I mean 'sad' in the derogatory, not emotional, sense - Chapman seems to have fallen into the millennia old trap of opening one's gob to condemn other nations, without looking at his own dustbowl on the arse end of the globe.

For there is no bigger 'basket case' nation at the present time than Australia.

Quite apart from the plain packaging farce, They have banned climbing on Ayers Rock, Chinese products, free bets on betting sites, Second Life, Wikileaks at pain of an $11,000 fine, Gay web-sites, anti-abortion web-sites, and BMW adverts.

Then there's the A$8,000 penalty for possession of e-cig liquid, mandatory cycle helmet laws which have had no impact whatsoever, the terrorising of their own kids, a war on pokie machines, along with banning more video games than China, bans on bottled water, duty free tobacco, just about all adult online content and, oh yeah, small tits.

If I were Chapman, I'd be starting to get worried about that plank in his eye.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Peer Review: How Daft Headlines Are Made

William Tyndale caused a right royal stir back in the 16th century. His crime was to produce a Bible written in English ... they executed him for it.

Prior to this, the Church was the only keeper of the word of God. Bibles were written in Latin, and even members of the public who were able to read at all - not too many in those days - had no chance of deciding for themselves if they were being sold a pup by the Latin-educated clergy. Enabling the testaments to be understood in English was unacceptable, so poor William had to go, violently natch.

What the Church said went. And it was non-negotiable, anyone who attempted to do so was a heretic. They hadn't seen what the Church had seen, you see, and the Church could interpret the word of God howsoever they saw fit.

Every industry seeking to jealously guard their power must shun accountability and debate like this, and for the modern dictatorial Church - that of public health - their altar and chalice are the epidemiological study and peer review. And their excommunication is the threat of cancer and death should you disobey their word.

They talk in their own circles, only venturing out of the inner sanctum of closed discussion groups to issue press releases with their pious pronouncements; their articles invariably shun comment or debate; anyone with the wherewithal to oppose them is silenced; and they communicate even mundane information not through letters or open forums, but by way of yet another impenetrable and restricted study.

These studies are then 'peer-reviewed' (i.e. approved by their mates), which is designed to put a full stop at the end of their argument through which no-one must dare to venture. If it's peer-reviewed, you see, it's now fact in their opinion, and you must believe in a flat earth if you disagree. You will see many a public health tax leech professional fall back on this tactic when things don't look to be going their way.

"But it's peer-reviewed!", they will arrogantly declare, before ignoring all objections and scurrying back to the holy of holies with their equally shadowy colleagues to plan the next sleight of hand to enrich themselves.

Just as in Tudor times, the vast majority of the public will never see the misdirection being played upon them. The authority of the unintelligible word is all powerful. Doctors talk in English, but not in an accountable form that the average Joe would be able to interact with. They may as well be talking in Latin.

This self-protecting approach leads to daft headlines like this.
Ice cream as 'addictive as drugs' says new study
And somewhere - in fact, in many many places - this becomes a fact despite it being execrable bollocks.
"This down-regulation pattern is seen with frequent drug use, where the more an individual uses the drug, the less reward they receive from using it," said Dr Burger, the study's co-author.

"This tolerance is thought to increase use, or eating, because the individual trying to achieve the previous level of satisfaction.

“Repeated, overconsumption of high-fat or high-sugar foods may alter how the brain responds to those foods in a way that perpetuates further intake."
He added: "The data supports the theory that overeating such foods may result in changes in how the brain responds to those foods in a similar fashion seen in drug addiction."
We know it's bollocks only because their own side have mildly debunked it, probably since it is so absurd that even Mrs Prunehat and her puritan daughters would notice the nonsensical nature of the claim. That's not good for the aura of the new Church.

But this idiocy was peer-reviewed.
The study was carried out by researchers from the Oregon Research Institute in the US. Sources of funding were not clear. The study was published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Which is probably why it was published in all its glory by woeful hacks.

Likewise, Jill Pell's egregious mendacity is regularly reported by way of 'science by press release', despite having no basis in fact whatsoever. It's peer-reviewed, of course, so it must be true.

Despite being plainly false, it is also touted as fact in parliament itself, because it's peer-reviewed, innit?
The most notable health gain for members of the public is the fall in the number of admissions for acute myocardial infarction. Researchers at the university of Bath have calculated that there has been a 5% drop in the number of heart attacks in England (also peer-reviewed, also false), attributable to smoke-free legislation. The figure was higher for Scotland and it was measured within 12 months of the ban coming into force
This is how headlines are made, and how those who have no hope of seriously challenging them are mostly rail-roaded into believing just about any old crap.

It is how vested interest manufactured myth is transformed into fact, and the method has changed very little since the days of Henry VIII, only the media employed are different.

Do please remember this the next time you hear or read some public health advocate - or their eager entourage of helpful stooges - fall back on the peer review smokescreen. If they resort to the peer-reviewed close down, they're invariably rattled and unwilling to engage in debate for fear of being exposed.

End of discussion. Amen.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The EU's Maltese Muttonhead Burbles Again

"Err, what is 'evidence', again?"

Oh Malta, this is how you repay us?

It won't surprise you to learn, in this article, that the EU are solidly behind the plain packaging of tobacco in the form of that guy up there, Maltese Health Commissioner John Dalli. What comes as a major shock, though, is that he is still utterly clueless on the issues which pass across his desk.
Dalli also said he is looking into how to include electronic cigarettes, which he views as being just as bad as traditional cigarettes, in the tobacco products directive.
Albeit not a direct quote, it comes from a report on a speech he made in Brussels and is quite in keeping with previous incompetent ramblings of his noted here in June.
"We are revising our tobacco legislation to make sure that we expand their scope – not just to tobacco – because there are other products which are more harmful, and also on packaging, advertising and access to cigarettes in shops, which can all help people to give up," Dalli told EurActiv.

He explained: "Electronic cigarettes are an example. They are outside the scope of existing legislation, but if you go up on certain aeroplanes they are marketed all the time. This is the sort of expansion of legislation I am are (sic) talking about"
I made a statement about this at the time.
While we've always known that the anti-tobacco debate is rooted in fantasyland, it's only recently that those leading the campaign have begun to make patently absurd statements like this based on no evidence whatsoever.
But then, that was before the plain packaging bullshit-wagon went into absurdity overdrive, so I take that back. It's been going on for long enough now to be diagnosed as a Europe-wide mental health problem.

It's incredible that - despite the obscene amounts of money swilling around Brussels - no-one, it would seem, has tapped Dalli on the shoulder to whisper that he is talking demonstrable garbage about e-cigs.

Of course, it's possible that they have done exactly that. In which case, it's not just staggering that someone so mind-blowingly incompetent can be the Health Commissioner for around one billion of the Earth's population, it is also unutterably terrifying!

Not a great advert for the level of intellectual evidence being used in the plain packaging debate, is it? Dalli seems to believe just about anything except real life.

Now, I'd ordinarily say that Malta, you can keep your Eurovision* douze points this year if you'll just recall this clown and find him a job cleaning toilets in Valletta, or something. But, sadly, it doesn't look like they want the bumbling moron back any time soon ... they've been there, done that.

* And yes, I will be live blogging it again this year.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Jewel Robbing Spotted In The Mail

Our efforts have been noticed.
In fact, if talking to yourself is indeed an early sign of madness, then the Department of Health is indeed veering away from sanity on Andrew Lansley’s watch. In various parts of the country, taxpayer-funded billboard posters have sprung up, urging passing motorists to support the Plain Packs Protect campaign. You’d expect public money to be used only to actually hold the public consultation and to analyse and audit the responses, not to run a high-profile PR campaign pressing for a particular outcome. The Department of Health is using taxpayers’ cash to talk to itself and indeed to lobby itself. This isn’t just absurd, it is unconscionable.

The posters themselves urge people to “support plain packaging and protect our children”. The implication is that there is good evidence to suggest that the removal of branding from cigarette packs will reduce the number of youngsters taking up smoking. This simply isn’t true. No such evidence exists.

In the heat of an election campaign, you might just allow political parties to make grandiose and rather dubious claims. But for a government funded poster campaign to do so – in advance of a public consultation – is wholly unacceptable. Unsurprisingly, Smokefree South West, the producers of the poster, have now been referred to the Advertising Standards Agency.
Do go read the rest of the piece on the Mail website.

Image courtesy of Lawson