Thursday 31 March 2011

Educational Truancy

Forgive me for being somewhat cynical in response to this.

Why we shouldn't take our kids out of school during term

Yes, going on holiday in season is much more expensive, but we must teach children to respect their education

The point is that if we want our children to respect their schools, teachers and the place of learning in their lives, then we have to provide role models for that respect.
Well, let's talk about some of the activities undertaken recently by the little Puddlecotes at school, shall we?

Today, the boy has spent the entire day at a nearby theatre rehearsing for an evening choir performance - it's a culmination of weeks of in-class training in the vital skill of singing pop songs. This follows two fund-raising mufti days in the past couple of weeks, the focus of one being a full programme of having a right laugh and being 'educated' about Comic Relief. The other was less - for want of a better word - intense, but was capped with finishing at lunch in favour of a cake and book sale for visiting parents, with the kids as stall holders.

The girl has also been fully educated (for this year, at least) in X-Factor appreciation after weeks of preparing for a celebrity-studded concert at the O2 with thousands of others. The obligatory charity days were also observed.

Now, that may seem part of a well-rounded education, except that there isn't much meaningful education being added to the rounding, as regular readers will ably recall.

The boy most recently regaled me with how he had been instructed to write a rap song about the environment, whilst the girl was tasked with producing a poster advising on the dangers of smoking and drugs.

All of which makes me wonder what, exactly, we should be asking our kids to respect here.

But the point is that if you, as a parent, buy into the idea that school is where your child will receive a formal education (and you don't have to do that), then your support of the school is surely your end of the bargain.
Firstly, I do have to bloody well do that - they wouldn't know their times tables or spelling yet if I didn't top up their schooling with home tutoring (seriously, there are some in their - year 5 and 6 - classes who still don't). And secondly, I would support the schools fully if they weren't intent on ramming every piece of 'progressive' propaganda as far down the little Ps' throats as is biologically possible.

As I see it, they would learn almost as much with me on the flight to and from a week's holiday than they get from 5 days at school. Make the state school system better - or even fit for purpose if they're feeling saucy - and parents might consider it unmissable. Or, alternatively, give us the £3,780 per annum this 'service' costs; allow us to spend it with the school which competes and therefore educates most effectively; and watch how more valued the 190 school days become to parents.

I'm afraid, there's simply no excuse.
As things stand, I really, truly, vehemently, and aggressively, beg to differ.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Glorious, Quite Glorious

Big Brother Watch have picked up on Stockport Council's drive to hide salt from we weak-willed automatons.

This is the natural progression from the ruling on cigarettes. People are no longer allowed to make a decision for themselves on how much salt to consume. Instead they must be treated like children and have anything which might be bad for them hidden away behind counters.
Now, I've been mentioning for a while that once tobacco is hidden away on the premise of reducing consumption and improving health, other vested interests will bundle in and demand the same for their particular bête noire. Indeed, the SNP were mooting hiding sweets for the same reason last year. The possibilities are endless, as I - somewhat tongue-in-cheek - pointed out at the time.

Since they have already also legislated to hide tobacco, one must assume that the SNP view Scots as so very irresponsible that cans of beer, Penthouse, crisps, ham and bacon, fireworks, The Daily Sport, tea, coffee, saucy birthday cards, salt, peanuts, plastic spoons, quiche lorraine, and Firehouse Dog will also soon be on the list of items to be hidden away from caledonian proles. All for their own good, natch.

Convenience shops will look a trifle bare, though. Might as well put the counter in front of the shop window, the stock out the back, and have done with it.
I can cross salt of the list of 'possibles' then, seeing as it's now a reality.

Since BBW have covered the point adroitly, I've not much else to add except to draw your attention to a quite glorious comment at the Mail's rundown of the story.

Very glad to hear about this, I run a convenience store and follow similar procedures. I hide all the alcohol, tobacco and sweets and chocolate and if people want to buy it then they have to ask for it. I pretend to be hard of hearing sometimes so that people have to really shout-it helps with shaming them. I operate a loyalty card and people get it stamped if they buy fruit, veg or something else healthy. I feel in a small way I can contribute to the nation getting in better shape. I also sell adult material but in order to buy this the customer must put it in writing, stating exactly what they want it for and why they feel they need it. Successful applicants can then purchase it discreetly but they will have a word of my choice stamped on their loyalty card. It is not removable.

- Julia, Norfolk, 30/3/2011 15:08
At time of writing, at least 89 red arrowers have watched as the ingenious irony flew far above their tiny minds.

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Gentlemen Prefer Agreements

Via Belinda, this really does take the entire biscuit tin.

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has for the first time asked EU leaders to leave the dinning room if they wish to smoke.

The EU's Justus Lipsius building where summits are held is usually a smoke-free zone, but leaders have traditionally been allowed to puff away over dinner. New restrictions were laid down on Thursday evening (24 March) however, as heads of state and government sat down to eat and discuss economic plans.
We can take it that such restrictions are along the lines of those demanded by the EU then, yes? You know, a blanket ban backed up by eye-watering fines for the individual and property owner, and perhaps even prison for transgression.

Not a bit of it.

"The president made a little joke about it, saying that leaders' work needs to be done well and asked for smoking breaks instead," he said.

"He asked the idea to be kept in mind, its not a rule, more a gentleman's agreement."
An agreement. That's it. These hideous federalists spend every waking hour dictating illiberal laws and business-strangling legislation to a population of over a billion, yet can't bring themselves to do the same when face to face with their chums.

While other leaders quaffed Hungarian Gere Portugieser red wine, Denmark's Lars Lokke Rasmussen and Luxembourg's famously hard-smoking Jean-Claude Juncker were among the group of leaders to quietly slip out the dinning room door for a quick cigarette.
Just out of the room, note. Not banished to a couple of plastic chairs underneath a ripped awning, at the foot of a fire escape, by the air conditioning exhaust duct.

Because these are special people. They pass laws, not follow them. For them is the comfy smoking lounge, as was the case at the G20 summit in London in 2009.

So, if you're an EU politician you can be trusted to come to an arrangement acceptable to all present, but if not you will have your property's policy decided for you by a bunch of rich (on your taxes), hypocritical, condescending bastards.

Gotcha. Can we leave yet?

Monday 28 March 2011

What Is Lansley Playing At?

Hmm, the Straight Statistics bods have discovered something rather interesting (emphasis mine).
Plans by the NHS Information Centre to save £300,000 a year by withdrawing its contribution to the cost of the General Lifestyle Survey could see the end of a 40-year time series on drinking and smoking.

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, has been told by the UK Statistics Authority that the decision, apparently taken without user consultation, is in breach of the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

The Office for National Statistics has just completed its business plan for statistics after the cuts, so has no money available to make up the shortfall, Sir Michael Scholar, chair of UKSA, says in a letter to Mr Lansley. So that means, he says, that the decision by by Information Centre will lead to the immediate discontinuation of long-established national statistics on smoking, drinking, health conditions and use of health services.
So who, exactly, are the users in question here? Well, the ongoing consultation points to a few interested parties.
• HMRC uses the GLF smoking data for its estimates of the illicit tobacco market, for which it has an associated PSA target

• The NHS Information Centre uses the GLF smoking data in order to carry out its own analysis at an England level for inclusion in its suite of annual statistical reports. The IC also use GLF data to answer parliamentary questions

• The Department of Health (DH) make wide use of the GLF smoking and drinking data, specifically to measure the effectiveness of various Government policies aimed at reducing smoking and drinking

• Scottish Government use GLF data to compare Smoking and Drinking estimates across the countries
That's quite a lot of use for a piffling £300k, especially since the information is also used by other bodies funded by the government. What the hell is Lansley playing at?

Hold on. Oh yeah! The info is also used by other bodies funded by government.

We have a vast network of pressure groups, fake charities, medical mafia and glorified quangoes - all sucking at the tax teat - who will squeal at the loss of this ONS data. But then, if it's so important, perhaps they could dip into some of the copious cash they are already shovelled**, in order to persuade the ONS to continue providing the ammunition for them to manipulate before shooting the government on policy.

Isn't such a purpose, after all, why some of these tedious nag tanks were set up in the first place? The state paying for the stats is just a duplication of expense.

It's doubtless an accident, but perhaps Lansley has done something right for a change.

** Holyrood can bloody well throw some cash in the pot too, by crikey.

If You Haven't Yet Filled Out The Census ...

That census form still sitting there, is it? Wondering how best to fill it out? Well, as luck would have it, a member of the legal profession has kindly e-mailed your humble host with a few hints and tips.

I thought it rude not to share.

Many people I know have asked me for a view of the census, given its entirely intrusive nature, and whether they should answer the questions in it.

The Census is authorised by the Census Act 1920.

The legal requirement is that orders and regulations be made in respect of each census that is required.

These are the Census (England and Wales) Order 2009 and the Census (England) Regulations 2010. (As you will appreciate I live in England).

As far as I am able to ascertain the types and classes of information that may be requested have not been altered from the original Census Act 1920, save for the Census (Amendment) Act 2000 which added Religion, but which also provided that no penalty can arise for a refusal to answer questions about a person’s religion.

Under the Census Act 1920 the Matters In Respect of Which Particulars May Be Required, and in respect of which answers must be given on pain of a fine, are as follows:

1. Names, sex, age.
2. Occupation, profession, trade or employment.
3. Nationality, birthplace, race, language.
4. Place of abode and character of dwelling.
5. Condition as to marriage or civil partnership , relation to head of family, issue born in marriage.
6. Any other matters with respect to which it is desirable to obtain statistical information with a view to ascertaining the social or civil condition of the population.

One could legitimately argue, in my view, that the particulars therefore required are as follows, as an example:

Q: What is your name? Particulars: Your Name
Q: What is your occupation, profession, trade or employment? Particulars: Job Title.

That is a legitimate response and in line with the legislation as far as I am concerned but, as so many Acts of Parliament do, there is a catch all – and this is clause 6.

So, 1-5 are clear. 6 is not. There is no definition or interpretation in the Act, or in any later legislation (primary or secondary) or case law that I can find (and I have looked), of what “social or civil condition” means. “Desirable” of course they think means desirable to the powers that be and essentially clause 6 might be seen as giving the government the right to ask anything it damn well pleases on pain of a fine (but that arguably cannot be the case under the sui generis principle, particularly in an Act that prescribes only limited matters as being permitted subjects of the requirement for particulars). Further, it is at least arguable that what is desirable is tested on an objective basis and not on the basis of the subjective power grabbing masturbatory fantasies of our suited parasitic millionaire politicians. But, best not to forget that the fine on level 3 of the standard scale (£1000) applies to each offence - and each question refused, unanswered, or answered falsely, is a separate offence.

But, stretching the matter from particulars as set out in the Census Act 1920 to any damn question they like about:

- your central heating;
- whether you have a mortgage;
- whether you rent;
- whether you own property outright;
- whether you stay at another address for more than 30 days each year;
- whether you live somewhere else during term time if you are at school;
- if you don’t have a job when you last worked;
- whether you are looking for work;
- whether you would have been able to start a new job within 2 weeks if one had been available in the last week;
- whether you have ever worked;
- whether you are employed;
- your full job title;
- details of what you do in your job;
- whether you supervised other employees;
- your employer’s main business activity;
- your employer’s business address;
- how you travel to work;
- how many hours a week you work;
- which visitors are with you on census night and their own personal address details;
- whether you address is armed forces, student digs, holiday home, parents address, etc;
- whether you are a carer for anyone and how much time you spend doing this; - how good your health is;
- how long you intend to stay in the UK;
- who your landlord is;
- how many cars or vans you own;
- what your address was one year ago;
- what passports you hold;
- whether your day to day activities are limited because of a health problem;
- what qualifications you have;

... is just a monumental piss take.

The full list of matters to which you MUST respond, and aptly evidencing prodnose, intrusive, and highly unnecessary authoritarianism, can be found on the relevant website which is, if you can be bothered, here.

I think, given that the populations’ social or civil condition was previously ascertainable by many fewer and a lot less intrusive questions, and that the Census Act 1920 does indeed prescribe limited matters upon which you can be forced to provide information, that I will write on all of the above – “Not necessary to ascertain the social or civil condition of the population”.

In respect of any question about a third party, (and some might, as I will, include their own children and spouse/partner in this), I will answer that “I am not authorised by any third party to provide any of their personal details, (and such statement is not to be taken that there are any third parties present on census night)”.

Bear in mind that the government states that the reason for the census is this:

"The information collected on the questionnaires is used to help government and local authorities plan the services and resources people need, such as transport, housing, healthcare and education. The amount of money your council has to spend on these important services is based on population statistics from the census. That is why it is so important that everyone takes part."

That is not a permissible objective under the Census Act 1920 as far as I can see – the purpose of the Census in the Act is to ascertain the social and civil condition of the population. It is not so that your local authority knows how much to spend on services. One might argue that they amount to the same thing, but in reality they do not. If the objective was to plan local services then the legislation would say so.

We are also not told that the government has already signed an agreement to pass ALL of your answers to the EU, and the US has claimed that ALL census answers must be provided to it under its Patriot Act. Nice to know that our US cousins still view us all as potential terrorists. You also have no idea where this information will end up. It will be sold, provided to private corporations here and abroad, and in essence although the census forms don’t say so, provision of the information requested constitutes your agreement to all of this. Of course it will also be left on a train somewhere by someone who earns more than you and whose pension you will pay for even though you will have to work until you drop dead at your desk.

Then, of course, there is Article 8 relating to your Human Right to Respect for Private and Family Life. It is not disputed that this right applies to personal information.

The Article says:

"There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."

Ok so we’re looking at the economic well-being of the country. The suggestion that knowing how many cars I have, and most of the other guff, is vital to the economic well-being of the country is laughable. I also therefore intend to write across all of the above questions that it breaches my Article 8 rights.

They will get my name, address, what type of property I live in, sex, age, job, nationality, marital status, (non-bastard) childrens’ names (maybe), maybe who is the head of the family (my wife, natch), and NOTHING else.
A follow-up e-mail confirmed that his form was indeed returned in the manner described above. And for the religion question? Smoker, naturally.

Sunday 27 March 2011

That Scottish Heart Attack Miracle Again

As an update to Friday's article responding to the daft claim that Scotland's smoking ban reduced heart attacks by 17%, BrianB has provided more recent figures as promised in the comments.

So, here's that dramatic reduction again (up to March 2010, click to enlarge).

OK, maybe the monthly tallies don't show the trend clearly enough. Perhaps the annual totals will back up Jill Pell's statistics and prove - as Sally Haw asserted - that ...

"The ban really has been one of Scotland's big public health success stories.

"This bold step has really paid off, with a 17% reduction in heart attacks among bar workers."

It is to be noted that the 2009/10 figure is provisional and will almost certainly rise once uncertain diagnoses are added. Yes, Sally, this 'really' does mean that the erstwhile downward trend has halted, and that Scotland 'really' has seen two successive annual upward movements in heart attack admissions.

Yep, it's still one of the worst junk stats ever uttered by anti-smoking nutjobs.

Don't ever expect to see such heresy mentioned on the BBC or by the dullards in Holyrood though. It was never about health anyway, remember.

Friday 25 March 2011

The Joke That Keeps Giving

Call it rubber-necking if you like, but it's difficult not to look on as the car crash continues to hurtle over the cliff.

Embattled pubs group Punch Taverns said a demerger of its Spirit unit was one of the options it considered in a strategic review initiated to find ways to cut its 3 billion pounds ($4.9 billion) debt.

Punch's tenanted pubs have been hit by a UK smoking ban, duty increases and the economic downturn and Dyson had previously said he wanted to reduce the estate from a peak of 7,500 pubs to a core of 4,700.

Punch shares, which have slumped from a high of 1,150 pence in 2007, were up 4.9 percent to 72.3 pence at 1356GMT, valuing the business at 465 million pounds, well below the level of the company's debt.
Crikey! How things have changed since those chipper comments in 2007, eh?

Francis Patton, [Punch Taverns] customer services director said: “Too many people are looking at the smoking ban as a threat, but we know this is a huge opportunity. The smoking ban is a great opportunity to get new customers (who want to eat) into pubs and also keep people there who go regularly.”

And the best bit?

Punch said a number of options had been considered as part of a review of its strategy, performance and structure including a spin-off of its Spirit unit.
Fighting back against one of the fundamental, state-enforced, reasons for their predicament might bring them a more profitable result. But they seem intent on continuing to make us laugh, bless 'em.

New And Improved Mendacity

On the fifth anniversary of the smoking ban in Scotland, I see one of the "worst junk stats of 2007" is being rolled out yet again.

Sally Haw, senior scientific adviser for the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health and Policy, said: "The ban really has been one of Scotland's big public health success stories.

"This bold step has really paid off, with a 17% reduction in heart attacks among bar workers."
Err, I think she is referring to Jill Pell's heart attack miracle which wasn't true when she wrote it, and still isn't true now.

The study which produced the 17% fantasy figure was conducted over nine Scottish hospitals which - unless things are run differently north of the border - treat people from all walks of life, not just bar workers. However, since there is continued criticism of the ban from the hospitality sector, Sally obviously thought it in order to apply a bit of artistic licence for the greater good.

It would appear that not even good old-fashioned lies can satisfy the perpetually swivel-eyed anymore, it's now acceptable to take a legendary whopper and lay another embellishment straight on top of it.

At time of writing, only the BBC seem to be reporting this poppycock. You know, the organisation which provides "internationally respected news services".

Thursday 24 March 2011

Apocalypse Now?

Leaving so soon?

[Elish Angiolini, the Lord Advocate] who is stepping down from her post in May after five years, said: “From my own very narrow perspective, in terms of crime, there is a real apocalypse if we don't actually get to grips with the acceleration of the consumption of alcohol."
Oh well. It's probably for the best, eh?

Meanwhile, an academic study by the University of Edinburgh has found that drink and drug use by young Scots has fallen in the past decade.

Researchers found the rate of smoking among 15-year-olds had fallen from 16 per cent to 11 per cent since 2002. The number drinking alcohol at least once a week fell by over a third, and cannabis use halved.
Perhaps now the Scottish judiciary may employ someone who is able to exhibit better powers of judgement. It does kinda go with the territory, doesn't it?

Wednesday 23 March 2011

McHealth Food

That real life thing is getting in the way again, so best not to watch this space too assiduously, really.

What's that? The Budget? Well, unless Osborne can raise taxes in Adinkerke I'm marginally better off thanks to the reduction in corporation tax**. Of course, the hardest hit by the deeply regressive - and blatantly bullying - rise in tobacco duties are the less well off, who will mostly continue to vote Labour despite the fad of ever-escalating sin punishments having been made almost obligatory by vulgar lefty ideologues.

Turkeys, Christmas, etc.

While I'm passing by, though, here's a happy ending to one of the stories featured in Saturday's link tank.

Long-time distance runner Joe D'Amico challenged himself to eat only fast food in the 30 days before the [Los Angeles Marathon]. (This is a big no-no to food scolds since fast food is “processed” and may be high in calories, fat, and sodium.) But D’Amico proved the food haters wrong, finishing with a personal best time of just over 2 hours and 36 minutes. Running just one mile in under 6 minutes isn’t too shabby, but D’Amico averaged less than 6 minutes per mile throughout the entire 26.2-mile race.
And finished it in 29th place no less.

[...] there’s no such thing as “junk” food; even the much pilloried fast food doesn’t fit the bill. (Sorry, Morgan Spurlock.) Eaten in moderation and combined with exercise, any food can be part of a healthy lifestyle.
This is the problem with arbitrarily placing blame for life's ills on singular factors in a naturally diverse human experience. In doing so, health obsessives will always be barking up the wrong tree.

They will also continue to create dangerous unintended consequences thanks to their single-minded wickedness.

Because they're tax-draining idiots, unfortunately.

** That part of it we haven't already avoided (out of spite at the actions of a hideous state), of course.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Top Drawer Propaganda Commands A Significant Fee

Be very delicate when you feast your eyes on this study because, unless there's more to come, it is an expensive item. As referenced by Earl Howe in the Lords last week, this appears to be the document which government is quoting to support its implementation of the smoking ban.

It more or less covers the four areas on which the Department of Health had commissioned research as part of the promised three year review mentioned in the Health Act 2006.

List of research commissioned by the Department

Impact of smokefree legislation in England on individuals and communities: qualitative longitudinal study.
Cost: £460,000
Status: complete

Bar Workers’ Health and Environmental Tobacco Smoke Exposure (BHETSE)
Cost: £220,000
Status: complete

Evaluating the impacts of smokefree legislation using secondary data
Cost: £220,000
Status: Ongoing

Smokefree - feasibility study - secondary analysis of data relating to the hospitality sector
Cost: £47,000
Status: Ongoing
So when you read it, remember that - running to 23 sides - it works out at just over £41,000 per page. For that money, it must be the dog's cojones then, surely. Well, I suppose that depends on how you would define the word 'significant'.

Let's examine how such a word is treated in Linda Bauld's 'evidence review', shall we? On page 11, it states.

[...] new evidence has recently been published on the impact of smokefree legislation on reducing hospital admissions for myocardial infarction (MI) – heart attacks (Sims et al, 2010b).
Pause for a moment while we check the reference on page 22.

Sims M, Maxwell R, Bauld L and Gilmore A (2010b) The short-term impact of smokefree legislation in England: a retrospective analysis on hospital admissions for myocardial infarction. British Medical Journal, 340, DoI: 10.1136/bmj.c2161.
Err, is that the same 'Bauld L' who has written this review? I think you'll find that, yes. Yes, it is.

So what does the study authored by well-paid tobacco control warrior Linda Bauld, referencing a study co-authored by, err, career anti-smoking advocate Linda Bauld, say on the subject?

As part of a Department of Health funded study assessing trends in key health outcomes, an analysis of Hospital Episode Statistics was conducted to explore the impact of smokefree legislation on admissions for MI.
Very modest of Linda not to mention her involvement in it, don't you think?

The study examined emergency admissions from July 2002 to September 2008 and so included 15 months of post-legislative data. The analysis adjusted for secular and seasonal trends and also variations in population size. It found a statistically significant reduction (−2.4%) in the number of admissions for MI following the implementation of smokefree legislation.
And here, courtesy of VGIF, is what a 'statistically significant' reduction looks like.

Stark, isn't it?

Elsewhere in the document, we find something quite different.

Impact on the Hospitality Industry

Annual Business Inquiry data were only available to 2008 at the time the scoping study was conducted. These data showed that turnover fell in 2007 for bars but not for restaurants or hotels.

Data on consumer spending showed some signs of a small decline in the third quarter of 2007 in the period following the introduction of smokefree legislation, but the size of this fall did not reach statistical significance.
And what do insignificant statistics look like?

UK Pub Closures 2004-2009

After rubbing my eyes at reading this stuff, I had to check that I hadn't misunderstood the definition of significant. An unnoticeable change in the trend for heart attack admissions - for which there are hundreds of contributory factors - is described as definitely caused exclusively by the smoking ban. Whereas a dramatic and unprecedented increase in pub closures - for which there are, at most, five theoretical causes - is deemed inconsequential despite the ban being the only one which fits perfectly.

Here is what the dictionary says on the word.

significant adj \sig-ˈni-fi-kənt\

a : having or likely to have influence or effect : important; also : of a noticeably or measurably large amount

b : probably caused by something other than mere chance
Nope, I haven't got it wrong, Linda Bauld really is telling us that black is white, and vice versa.

No wonder the report cost so much - superlative bullshit from a world class leader in the field doesn't come for buttons, does it?

Monday 21 March 2011

Jelly Crazies

Sigh. Sometimes, the hyper-miserable nature of those whose focus is solely on pristine health - to the exclusion of even meagre pleasures - surprises even a hardened righteous-watcher like me.

The little Puddlecotes, since first entering the national child indoctrination programme school, have customarily celebrated classmates' birthdays with treats provided by the birthday boy/girl. Nothing special, just a small token to lift that particular day above the mundane.

A regular favourite has always been mini bags of Haribo jelly bears, starmix, or cola bottles. At just 10p a bag, the class is covered for the small outlay of £2-£3 to the parent - well worth it for the smiles which come with the giving and receiving of them.

Unfortunately, at the boy's school, they've just been banned. As have other regulars such as homemade cakes and snack size chocolate bars.

The Haribo bags weigh just 16g and probably contain about 10 tiny jelly sweets at an estimate, enough to keep a kid chewing for about 3 minutes at most. The 68 calories Google tells me they contain is probably run off between the school gates and the car, or part-walk/part-rampage home.

The school have, however, suggested alternatives. The kids could instead bring in bouncy balls as gifts, they say, or stretchy plastic snakes "which only cost around 50p", as his teacher put it. How very helpful, eh?

It's his birthday next month, so I asked him what he was going to do when that day comes around? "I don't think I'll bother", he glumly replied.

I think he's learned something valuable about the health crazies today.

Sunday 20 March 2011

Protect Animal Rights, Kill A Dog Or Two Thousand

"Go veggie and save the animals, like we, err, don't", say PETA.

According to its 2010 “Animal Record,” filed with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, PETA killed 94 percent of the cats and dogs in its shelter last year. PETA rationalizes that “open-admission shelters” like the one it operates provided these 2,200 animals with “a painless release from a world that does not want them.”

These new statistics bump PETA’s body-count up to 25,840 since 1998. Conversely, the Virginia Beach SPCA, just down the road from PETA’s Norfolk headquarters, manages to adopt out the vast majority of the animals in its care (85% adoption rate in 2009).
The above would be marginally less jaw-dropping if this was merely pet fodder we are talking here (PETA regularly cite their dislike of 'animal slavery', you see), but even of the 154 animals classed as 'wildlife', they were uncommonly far more eager to kill rather than release back into the wild. Only 19 managed to escape their euthanasia factory.

How these people can argue that their sleb-chasing, sick opportunism, and childish campaigns should be taken seriously is anyone's guess considering their longstanding track record of negligent treatment for the animals which end up burdening PETA's bottom line.

Some definitely do, though.

Despite criticism, we at Peta believe compromises and funny antics are necessary to the real work of animal protection
Like much of the bleeding heart left, it's always others who should be putting themselves out to ensure the outcome desired.

PETA urge everyone to shun meat; insist on the cessation of pleasurable pastimes like angling and hunting; and badger food producers to invest in ethical practices, yet they are seemingly incapable of investing so much as a red cent towards treating animals in their own care more favourably.

If they are woefully unable to lead by example, why on earth should anyone else give a toss about their message?

Shallow self-regarding celebrities excepted, of course.

Saturday 19 March 2011

Carry On Vaping

Last summer, I mentioned a consultation by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on the future of the e-cigarette in the UK.

Just to recap, there were three options available to those who responded. The first - the nuclear one - would have seen e-cigs banned with immediate effect until they could be assessed as a medicinal device, and one guesses that this would have taken quite some time. It would, to all intents and purposes, have signalled a period of prohibition.

Option 2 was the same as above, but to allow manufacturers a year to comply with new regulations. Option 3 was to do nothing for now.

The results arrived in inboxes last week, and it looks pretty good news for 'vapers'.

[MHRA spokesman Jeremy] Mean explained that the MHRA has decided to adopt option 3, do nothing, with a view to undertaking more research over the next 18 months. He asked for ECITA’s assistance in this regard, and we have pledged our support both to the MHRA and the wider Department of Health in sharing research resources, and more broadly engaging in the process of demonstrating the safety profile of electronic cigarettes, and how they can be used as part of the wider government Tobacco Control programme.
The full responses to the consultation showed that the medical establishment all favoured Option 2, while public sector bodies Trading Standards and LACORS opted for an instant ban, so one could kinda chalk this up as a 'win'. Makes a change, eh?

What may have swung it is the vast level of responses from ordinary vapers detailing positive experiences with their devices. Any decision which sought to ban e-cigs would have exhibited high hypocrisy from a government which continually talks of the harm from cigarettes. To ban something which many use as an avenue by which to do exactly what the state is ordering them to do would have been quite laughable. Without supply of ingredients and components to carry on vaping, a lot of people would have naturally returned to tobacco use**.

Of course - as is to be expected of a state so addicted to administrative restriction - despite vast anecdotal evidence pointing to the fact that significant numbers have quit smoking thanks to e-cigs, the industry is prohibited from marketing them as such for fear of being hammered by legislation prescribing over-arching medicinal regulation.

As someone who makes regular use of e-cigs - and has commented on them at length - it's a rather pleasing development. However, one assumes that this won't be the end of the matter since the state doesn't feel comfortable with products it can't control. Such a policy endangers salaries, doncha know.

It does, though, give the e-cig industry another 18 months to grow its most potent ally - popularity. Presumably as an offshoot of the bullying over tobacco, e-cig sales are booming, as detailed by Jason Cropper of The Electronic Cigarette Company on BBC Radio Shropshire the other day (5 mins sound file).

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.

** A prominent vaper once advised me that a back up policy in the event of repeated atomiser and battery failure (as mechanical components are prone to do) was to keep a packet of fags in a drawer. Should such supplies be rendered unavailable, many vapers would have no other option but to reach for their stash and return to smoking.

Link Tank 19/03

Something for the weekend, sir?

A discourse on the enemies of joy

Brillo points out coalition porkies over wind farm subsidies

Time to call a ceasefire in the war on obesity

This country needs more daffodil police

Taxi drivers feeling blue thanks to Bristol Council

Swedish bus stop advert urges married people to have an affair

Venezuela's Chavez planning to ban breast implants

The libertarian war on low-flow toilets

Marathon runner prepares on a diet of fast food

Happy birthday CAMRA

Man lost everything in the 2004 tsunami ... so moved to Japan

Seven alternative uses for beer

Red nose, my arse

Friday 18 March 2011

UK To Be Powered By A Pipe Dream

Let's just remind ourselves of this, shall we?

Electricity consumers in the UK will need to get used to flicking the switch and finding the power unavailable, according to Steve Holliday, CEO of National Grid, the country’s grid operator. Because of a six-fold increase in wind generation, which won’t be available when the wind doesn’t blow, “The grid is going to be a very different system in 2020, 2030,” he told BBC’s Radio 4. “We keep thinking that we want it to be there and provide power when we need it. It’s going to be much smarter than that.

“We are going to change our own behaviour and consume it when it is available and available cheaply.”

Holliday has for several years been predicting that blackouts could become a feature of power systems that replace reliable coal plants with wind turbines in order to meet greenhouse gas targets.
I'd say that the big cheese of Britain's electricity distributor is as prominent an authority on such matters as is possible, don't you?

We are already facing the possibility (or probability judging from Holliday's tone) of rolling power cuts due to political ideology. But with the increasingly knicker-wetting coverage of events in Japan, the focus has now turned on why we also shouldn't be relying on nuclear energy either.

Years after being squeezed out of the debate on nuclear under the spotlight of scientific reality, lefties have come scuttling out of their hidey-holes to spout their backward-looking 'progressivism' on the matter, and party like it's 1981.

Take Labour MP Paul Flynn, for example.

A pal from campaigning days in the early 80s contacted me with the message ‘Just like old times’.
Doesn't that conjure up images of an unexpected gleeful reunion of sad dreamers, hurriedly wiping the mould from their loft-consigned CND banners, and cracking their aging knuckles ready for a new assault on a nuclear industry which has already comprehensively beaten them on pure rationality?

Like all spokespeople for the Nuclear Establishment he tried the usual blackmailing threat of ‘Nuclear or blackout’. It’s all cobblers.
Because Paul Flynn - a precious, beardy old dogmatic lefty tax-leech from Newport - knows better than the man tasked with the job of managing the country's power supplies. Obviously.

But the best bit is his hinting that a tsunami of cataclysmic, and extremely rare, proportion in Japan could somehow possibly be replicated in, err, Wales.

It’s the fear of a Fukushima here that will inflame public opinion.

Fascinated to see Newsnight mentioning that even in the Bristol Channel nuclear power stations are at risk from flooding. Hinckley did in the late 80s but not seriously.
Yes, but flooding does not a tsunami make, and I don't reckon there's much chance of an magnitude 9 earthquake being likely in the Bristol Channel anytime in the next, say, 10,000 years? And anything less would have precious little chance of beating the impressive safeguards in a modern nuclear power facility.

One has to wonder what exactly is going to satisfy such blinkered people. They don't want coal; experts in the field state categorically that wind just isn't going to cut it; solar? In rain-soaked Britain?; and they don't want nuclear either because of some ideologically-led hatred of industry, backed up by quite laughable scaremongery.

This is 'progressive', is it? Hmm, time to buy into candle futures.

UPDATE: Even Monbiot agrees that Flynn is one of many counter-productive dinosaurs!

Just What Japan Really Needs Right Now

The world's favourite feminist pressure group** have been indulging in their particular brand of Ukrainian agitprop again - that is, getting their norks out - this time in support of the Japanese people.

Yes, I know there's not much in evidence in that picture, but some people read this at work doncha know. Plenty here though if you're, ahem, interested and/or have an understanding boss.

Apparently, this is all about solidarity with tsunami victims, and nothing whatsoever to do with ... well, I don't know precisely what they were thinking, to be honest.

FEMEN conducts an action in support of the Japanese people. “Praise those who defeat the dragon!” FEMEN are earnestly inspired by the Japanese people who were able to overcome this disaster. Their strength, their samurai self-control, their heroic actions in time of crisis should serve as examples for all of us. Japan has proved their ability to rise from the ashes before and we believe they will defeat the Dragon before the cherry blossoms bloom.

If they had just said they were getting their nips out for the Nips it would have made more sense.

** And I'm a big supporter of feminist causes, as I have mentioned before.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

One-Sided Equations: The $200 Hamburger

Here is a classic case of lefty one-sided economics, and unfortunately the pratt is British. Forget the enjoyment you derive from your burger, forget the billions the fast food industry contributes to global economies, forget the happy faces of willing consumers.

Just count as many costs - however debatable - as you can and deride the reactionary capitalist pig-dogs. Still, books will be sold and many will be utterly convinced, but only if they think that 2+2=, err, 2.

Good grief.

Forza Carlo!

I'm not usually a fan of footballish people, but ...

[Carlo] Ancelotti is gasping for Champions League success, so he can beat the Wembley smoking ban again.

He admitted: "There are at least three factors which could act as the springboard for Chelsea to win the Champions League this season.

"Firstly, the final will be in London and all my lads want to play a starring role in it.

"Then Chelsea has been chasing after the Champions League for so long that they now have a real desire to bring the trophy home.

"But the third motivation is purely personal. I want to indulge in another bit of rule-breaking and once again smoke a cigarette in the forbidden temple of Wembley.

"I did it last year when we won the FA Cup against Portsmouth and nobody pulled me up about it.

"Yet when Guus Hiddink lit a cigar to celebrate winning the FA Cup in 2009, he was caught on camera and fined £2,500.

"But I am an Italian. So I would not lose any sleep about that!"
Back of the net!

I can see a council EHO being detailed to stalk his every move on the day though, can't you?

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Do As We Say, Not As We Do

Man Widdicombe yesterday dished out an astute fisking of a CiF piece by the BMA's Vivienne "we have to start de-normalising alcohol" Nathanson, the title of which was rather ironic.

Alcohol is costing us dearly – we need action now
Ironic since - as some may have noticed in various comments threads of late - alcohol doesn't cost BMA members quite as dearly as others. They have their own discount wine club, you see, named after the BMA's founder no less.

The Charles Hasting Wine Club commands many a special deal on alcohol industry products which, coincidentally, is the kind of offer their spokesharridan Nathanson frowns upon for the rest of us.

There were moves to abolish this happy band of medical drinks industry afficionados back in 2008.

Britain's doctors will next month be told to limit their own drinking and even relinquish membership of their own exclusive discount wine club.

[Probal] Banerjee, a GP from Rhondda, South Wales, will also call on doctors who take advantage of the organisation's Charles Hastings wine club, which is named after its founder and offers discount deals to members, to rethink the move and "adopt sensible drinking behaviours".

He added: "The BMA does have a wine club, where we can get discounted wine. I would like to see it phased out and for members not to drink as much.

"But if we can say that as a conference we are not having alcohol at all that might go down well with the public."
I presume he was unsuccessful if the club's 2010 Scottish whisky tour is anything to go by.

6 September - A welcome Dinner this evening - Whisky Dinner, presented by Regis Whisky Mad

7 September - After breakfast we will take a journey north to the Glen Of Tranquility “Glenmorangie” for a distillery tour and a small sampling of their golden nectar.
After breakfast?

And there's more.

8 September - There will be 2 distilleries to visit, Glenfiddich before lunch at the distillery, the Speyside Cooperage where we will be able to learn the importance of the Oak Cask in whisky maturation and The Glenlivet distillery

9 September - The day will start with the visit of one of Scotland's newly reopened single malt whisky distillery, The GlenDronach. [...] a little taste of unusual whiskies will follow dinner, “the Michel Couvreur Range”.

10 September - the party will be invited to visit Dewars World of whisky.

11 September - a tour of the Scotch Whisky Heritage centre just below the castle [...] Lunch will be at your leisure and if you fancied a pie and a pint, there are many excellent traditional Scottish / Edinburgh pubs!
There the BMA are condemning government for consorting with drinks producers, while their own members are happily engaging with loads of them.

It appears that there isn't much 'de-normalising' of alcohol going on amongst the rank and file of the BMA. In fact, the only ones who do come across as abnormal are Nathanson and her fellow tax-sucking, purse-lipped, joyless bores.

The Attack Of The Killer Lighters

CLICHY, France, March 15 — BIC, the leading manufacturer of stationery products, lighters and shavers, and independent pollsters APCO Insight today published a new poll that shows that nearly 87 per cent of Europeans are worried by information that pocket lighters with the capacity to kill and maim are openly on sale across the continent.
Crikey! What level of risk are we talking that can give all these people sleepless nights?

According to European Commission figures, 40 are killed and 1900 injured every year in Europe because of accidents with lighters, many of them children.
Ah, I see. Not a very high one, it would seem. Considering the population of Europe is estimated at a billion people, statistically you could be on the verge of winning your second national lottery jackpot by the time a lighter callously slaughtered you - and it's a half million to one chance of an 'injury', of what seriousness they don't say.

Still, when you have an institution such as the EU gagging to legislate on even the most negligible of risks, one can't blame BIC for nudging Brussels into action which will benefit their business, eh?

H/T Gawain

Monday 14 March 2011

The Public Health Drive To Abolish The NHS Going To Plan

It was interesting to hear and read (as dutifully reported by Nanny Beeb, naturally) of the spoiled tantrum thrown by the temperance coalition this morning. Nothing unexpected considering a decision appears to have been made to push for pariah status for alcohol producers if one reads between the lines of recent reports. VGIF has nicely filleted the idea of government being shunned by organisations which take their funding from ... err, the government, so little more needs to be said on that.

It is, however, very odd that so many toys are being thrown out of so many prams when their goal of crippling the NHS is going so well.

"Say what, Dick! How do you work that one out?"

Glad you asked. Well, one must surely wonder why it is in the interests of private health insurer, PruHealth, to commission studies like this.

Almost one in three people believe those with health problems caused by alcohol, obesity and smoking should pay extra for their care.

Those with 'self inflicted' health worries should not rely just on the NHS but should be forced to pay for their lifestyles, they say.

The study found that some 69 per cent of people are in favour of adults taking more responsibility for their own health, with just 19 per cent thinking responsibility lies solely with the NHS.
See, this is denormalisation in action. The perception has been fostered in the public that such lifestyle choices are anti-social and a drain on resources. Other people should be made to pay for their treatment.

Except for the fact that anyone who pays national insurance payments, or sumptuary taxes, have already paid. To extract more money from those people would mean making them to pay twice for their healthcare. I can see some pretty interesting test cases being brought should such a scheme ever be implemented.

And the great thing about those potential cases is that it only takes one to punch a massive - and possibly fatal - hole in NHS funding. Should it be judged that the public are of the understanding that their NI contributions are their consideration in a healthcare contract with the state (and why wouldn't it be seeing as NI was introduced for that very purpose?), further charging will have to be abandoned or - and this would be bloody fantastic - NI payments would become something one could opt out of.

OK, we know that NI is now just another tax going into the pot, but charging extra for certain patients would starkly illustrate to everyone in the country that NI isn't what they naïvely believed it was, and that they are subject to two different forms of damaging income tax; that the state is dipping into their pockets and thieving from them on a daily basis, and has been for a very long time.

I'm pretty sure PruHealth are well aware of such a scenario, too. They are perfectly au fait with the true actuarial risk of insuring those with 'unapproved' lifestyles - unlike politicians who are blinded by junk stats cascading down on them from fake charities, vested interests, and good old-fashioned greed-motivated rent-seekers - and would be quite happy to cater for the many who would redirect their NI contributions to a private provider.

The poor would lose out, of course, since the NHS would suffer greatly once net contributors jumped ship while those who don't pay into the system remained entitled to free healthcare. But hey, we don't make the rules, do we?

If PruHealth had asked the same people how many of them would wish to see a privatised NHS, the response would probably be quite vitriolically against, yet not many are seemingly able to recognise that charging for lifestyle choices holds the very real danger of ushering in exactly that.

So, why wouldn't PruHealth be fanning the flames of denormalisation ... it's a potential gold mine for them.

And, on the PruHealth study's evidence, every vindictive pronouncement from the public health lobby brings that day of NHS break-up ever nearer.

Saturday 12 March 2011

Never Let The Dog See The Rabbit

Just to briefly revisit yesterday's article on veggies being banned from fostering in Crete, the Curmudgeon asked a pertinent question in the comments.

"But is it really credible that vegetarian adoptive parents would feed their child meat? I don't know any who give meat to their biological offspring."
Well, I don't know any vegetarians full stop so can't comment even anecdotally. It did appear, though, quite damning of veggies in general if they are viewed as always ideologically driven to enforce their lifestyle choice on others.

I'd like to think that isn't generally the case, but this CNN piece doesn't inspire confidence.

"Her health and well-being is the main thing for us, but that fact we have a vegan option is a double-benefit because it means our dog can live with the same ideology," she says.

With the vegan diet enjoying a period of (mostly) positive widespread exposure, it should come as little surprise that vegetarian or vegan pet owners might want to project those ideals onto their canine companions.
Veganism for dogs? Yes, it really is what is being described here, even though dogs are clearly not designed for consuming such a diet.

[Donna Spector, a veterinary internal medicine specialist who runs SpectorDVM, an animal nutrition consultancy] and six other pet experts who spoke with CNN conceded -- some more reluctantly than others -- that most dogs could biologically live on a vegan diet. But doing so requires substantial attention to creating a balanced diet that makes up for the loss of animal protein with substitutions of beans, soy and, to a lesser extent, vegetables and grains.

"Vegetarian pet foods require the addition of synthetic amino acids to fill nutritional gaps or a much higher overall protein level to supply all of the essential amino acids. Overall, it is much easier and more reliable to supply a dog's essential nutrients in a food containing both plants and meat," she says.

The vegan diet also lacks some essential fatty acids that are only available in animal products like butter and fish oils, says veterinarian Michael Fox, former president of the U.S. Humane Society and author of "Dog Mind, Dog Body."
Crikey! If such hoops are being jumped through to prohibit a primarily carnivorous animal being allowed to get so much as a sniff of meat, it suggests an almost religious - and dangerously authoritarian - mentality. Or, as dog expert Tracie Hotchner diplomatically explains.

"If a dog has a choice he's not picking a pile of beans over chicken or meat, and he's not going to be lapping up soy," she says. "If you're going to be harmonious in your choices, be harmonious. I say respect each species for what it was meant to be, and if you feel that strongly about being vegan, get a vegetarian animal. Bunnies make wonderful pets."
Perhaps those Cretans had a point, after all.

Link Tank 12/03

Eleven for your leisurely delectation, top two particularly recommended if in a rush.

"There's nothing quite so dangerous as men with nothing to lose"

Falling on deaf ears: The government’s disregard for empirical evidence

Why randomly-selected politicians would improve democracy

The global warming health scare

Toronto women prepare for the 'Slut Walk'

How US bans on alcohol home delivery encourage drink driving

Draconian food vending regulations see lobster in a bun being sold in the same way as drugs on Washington streets

"Homeschooling is one of the ways to pave the way for a free society"

In the future, your car could run on 'pee power'

US e-cig users could face $10,000 fines

Correlation v causation again: Passport ownership prevents diabetes

Friday 11 March 2011

Veggie Child Abuse

Oh dear. This will have many a right-on type choking on their pomegranate juice.

A vegetarian couple on the Greek island of Crete have been barred from adopting a child because of doubts about their diet, a local social welfare official said.

The decision was taken because the would-be adoptive parents, who have gone to court to overturn it, eat no meat or fish and officials feared this regimen would be applied to the child as well.

"We asked the University of Crete medical school on the issue and they said the child's diet must include meat, fish, etc," the head of the city's welfare services, Spyros Epitropakis, said.
Now, while it's chucklesome to see a favoured lefty lifestyle taking one in the kisser for a change, it's interesting to note that there is no suggestion - similarly to other such cases - that the parents intend to inflict their personal choice on the kid they wish to foster. In light of this, it's a ban based on box-ticking ignorance and may be contrary to the wellbeing of the child.

Therefore, even though it's a fair bet that these veggies wouldn't reciprocate if asked their opinion on fostering bans relating to 'unapproved' lifestyles or beliefs, I hope they are able to overturn this decision through the courts.

But for now, I'm just wishing someone at CiF gets a whiff of the story so we can have a laugh at the ensuing righteous outrage.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Look! Over There!

Everything is still up in the air here at Puddlecote Towers, so just popped in to offer a couple of recommendations.

Firstly, in the week that Lansley's health paper talked of further hiking of sumptuary taxation despite a noticeable increase in smuggling and counterfeiting (if you haven't yet seen Monday's Panorama, it is worth a watch), the Quiet Man points to the same consequence as a result of ideological climate change policies.

Referencing this Beeb article on a proliferation of cut-price hookey electricity pre-payment cards being touted by criminal gangs, he assesses the situation very sagely.

Over the last 13 years ever since governments got heavily into the climate levy scam, electricity and gas prices have risen well above that of inflation and this affects those particularly at the bottom end of the financial scale who struggle from week to week juggling their budgets and making decisions as to heat the house, top up the car or have something other than beans on toast as their main meal for once. So if someone comes along and offers a £10 top up for £5 what do you think is going to happen?

It will be unregulated uncontrolled and at times illegal and yes people will get caught, it won't stop others from doing it though and new scams will develop as the people doing it get more sophisticated.

It's also time for me to do a Shaw Taylor and ask you to 'keep 'em peeled' for more anti-smoker delinquency. There is still plenty about, as proven by Longrider and VGIF. If someone out there wished to caricature the insane, mouth-frothing mentality of a smoke-hater, they couldn't make it any more jaw-dropping than the arguably insane individual they have highlighted.

Lastly, my official theologian offers a concise roundup of recent righteous scapegoating, well worth a read.

Friday looks to be a lot less hectic, so I'll recuperate tonight with a Hamlet and a bag of ice for a public sector-induced frazzled head and hopefully come back with more end of week vigour tomorrow.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Time To Make All Cars In White

What a wonderful world it would be

I've had something of an epiphany. The scales have fallen from my eyes and I realise that a perfectly risk free existence is the only way forward. And you know what did it for me? A pink Escort Cabriolet, that's what.

It wasn't just pink inside, either, the steering wheel was pink (and fluffy!), as were the seat belts and most of the collection of soft toys filling every space on the parcel shelf and dash.

Doesn't the driver understand that this isn't a toy? it's a one ton killing machine, goddamit! Garish colours are encouraging the young to take up driving cars which contributes to this awful death toll, it must be stopped.

In fact, it's worse than just the real life deaths, take time to think about the millions who will die in the upcoming holocaust if emissions aren't drastically reduced! I mean, won't somebody please think of the children?

We must denormalise driving in the eyes of young people, it's the only way to prevent future road deaths and save the planet.

Making cars in just the one plain colour will take away much of the lustre associated with this dangerous habit. Getting rid of pink, red, green cars - or any other colour come to that - will go a long way to achieving that. Go faster stripes should be banned too, along with shiny alloy wheels and ... oh why not, stereo systems.

Not only that, those fancy logos have to go, too. Prancing horses, roaring lions, iconic lettering, all designed to promote driving as 'cool' to the young. What's more, they keep coming up with funky designs too. Car shapes which look like a woman's bottom, sassy wings, little cars that can park sideways, sunroofs as standard, multi-coloured seats - you name it, the evil motor industry have tried it. If we really must have cars at all, they should be a basic shape, functional and nothing else.

Yes, the motor industry will try to tell you that youngsters aren't attracted to driving because of colouring, sleek lines, and logo design; that they are merely competing with other brands; but their business relies on recruiting young people to replace old motorists who die. They spend billions every year on making car use attractive in order to entice the young into an evil mode of transport which will end up killing thousands of its users, not to mention the millions who will be slaughtered by passive motoring inhalation, and damage to the environment.

We need to encourage kids to take buses and refrain from starting to drive; making all cars one bland colour, in one design (with plain type to identify the manufacturer), and eradicating flashy logos, will go a long way to achieving this.

Granted, there's no evidence that it will actually work, but I think it might so that's good enough. If we get in quickly we can even claim to be the first country in the world to take such a bold step - how great is that!

For a better, risk free, future, it's vital that we make all cars in white NOW. You know it makes sense, Lansley, let's have a consultation, eh?

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Tomorrow Is Officially 'Double Up Smoking Day'

You know what they say about smokers. Irresponsible, anti-social, smelly, stupid, disgusting, better off dead etc**.

Well, may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, eh?

Since we're excluded from decent society these days, why not try doubling intake on No Smoking Day instead, they hate us anyway so may as well. Or, as non-smoking originator Gotty (at OR's pad) suggests for those whose lifestyle hasn't been denormalised (yet).

Last year, I bought a pack of cigarettes and lit them all up in support but on reflection that was a bit of a waste of cigarettes. This year I intend to buy a couple of packs of twenty, for my two best mates, and help them both to double up for the day. Sorted!
Plus, there's always the chance that No Smoking Day President, Duncan Bannatyne, may throw a puerile fascistic tantrum on Twitter again if he hears about it, you never know.

What we really need, of course, is a 'Keep Your Big Fat Interfering Nose Out Of Other People's Business Day', but there's no cash for fake charities in that idea.

** 64 comment contributions of sick anti-smoker psychosis thus far, keep 'em coming.

Trickle Becomes A Flood

If I were in the drinks industry, I'd be mighty worried right now. The instances of anti-alcohol dipping into the tobacco control playbook have been coming thick and fast recently.

Yesterday, a now legendary anti-smoking mantra was rolled out, for the first time, against alcohol. Notice the similarities?

US Surgeon General Richard Carmona, June 2006

"There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke."
Professor David Nutt, March 2011

"There is no such thing as a safe level of alcohol consumption"
Using all the tricks laid out in the tobacco control template, the puritans are beginning to have a right old binge on drinkers.

H/T Belinda

Monday 7 March 2011

Lansley Plain Packages The Conservative Party

Things have been quiet around here recently, and I'm afraid this may continue for a while since a few developments - a couple ecstatically good, a couple the polar opposite - have relegated my writing this drivel a few notches down the Puddlecote pecking order.

However, I couldn't let the recently announced (Sunday, isn't it always with these tedious grey-faced doom-mongers?) double whammy of banning tobacco displays and plain packaging pass without comment.

You see, it's incredible to think that it is a Conservative politician who is going to announce this poppycock on Wednesday because, as Ian B notes in a highly recommended piece over at Counting Cats, Andrew Lansley seems to have completely forgotten what conservatism is.

To remove branding is to remove the possibility of choice, that most glorious consequence of free market capitalism. Branding is the most wonderful thing, because it is a manifestation of the reality that products are not fungible. We don’t just buy “bread”. We buy Warburtons Soft White Farmhouse or Hovis Brown or what have you. A brand identifies the manufacturer; it allows you to make market judgements like “that was good last time, I’ll have that type again”. Without it, you cannot exert your will in the marketplace.
Perfectly put. And the marketplace is where Conservatives have always claimed to hold the upper hand on their own competitors. You could even call it part of their own branding.

They're the business champion, the ones who recognise that personal choice, and the freedom of commercial enterprise to interact with the freely exercised purchasing will of the public, is paramount.

Yet here they are, on little or even no evidence, wiping valuable brand goodwill from British balance sheets, and deciding that businesses are no longer allowed by law to communicate with the consumers who wish to be communicated to. No precedent there, then (eh, drinks industry?).

Even the most frenzied of health lunatics admit that there is no compelling evidence that tobacco display bans will deter youth from smoking. Under 18s are banned from buying the stuff already, after all. But plenty to suggest that such a stupid policy will make the already substantial problem of kids getting black market baccy much worse.

Don't believe me? OK, how about the 'proof' that hiding tobacco has worked in Ireland. The BMA jumped up and down with glee at the fact that ...

Recall of displays dropped significantly among adults and teenagers post-legislation and there were encouraging signs that the law helped de-normalise smoking.
Brilliant! So kids didn't remember seeing fags as much (which would appear to be self-evident), but did they smoke any less?

There were no significant short-term changes in prevalence among youths or adults.
Of course not. In fact, there was some evidence that youth smoking rates had actually increased.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that the equivalent UK Bill was only passed because the chief proponents lied their arses off?

As for plain packaging, that's even more of an inept idea ... if it were possible. As far as I understand it, what Lansley is saying is that he is going to hide cigarette packets so that kids can't see them. Then, once no-one is allowed to see them anymore, he's going to make them less 'glitzy'. It takes some special kind of idiocy to come up with such laughably disjointed nonsense, does it not?

And the evidence that plain packaging will work? Well, there is none. Seriously. None. Because it has never been tried anywhere in the world. Ever.

Lansley is busting his gut to screw legitimate businesses selling a legal product; to ignore serious concerns from largely-populated small business associations; to make counterfeiters come in their pants at the potential for future profits; and to aesthetically sovietise our country further on the back of a few weak, gerrymandered and desperate studies which prove the better part of fuck all.

Since there is no proof - or even vague evidence - that plain packaging will have any effect at all, we can only assume that Lansley is solely motivated by political self-preening.

If we act quickly, Australia can overtake the British Government and become the first country in the world to mandate that cigarettes be sold in plain packaging (page 2).
That's right. It's a global game of 'keeping up with the Joneses'
So what we have here is either pompous self-indulgence, singularly superlative stupidity, or possibly - considering the regularly mentioned intransigence of DH civil servants - limp cowardice from Lansley.

It matters not, though, whether Lansley is a victim of a vacuous ego, his lack of mental capacity, or the yellow streak running down his spine. The result is still the same.

He's a Conservative who has damaged his party's reputation for defending the principles of conservatism** and, as such, it's impossible to trust him, or his fellow pretty plastic pillocks, ever again.

** Unless his idea is to open up new free markets in counterfeiting and smuggling, of course, in which case he's a pioneer.

Psst: Watch out for the media regurgitating two year old stats such as 'two thirds of smokers want to quit' (page 18) in advance of Wednesday, by the way.