Thursday 30 June 2011

The Tobacco-Powered Electricity Plant Is An Official Secret

I understand that a follow-up request has been lodged to ascertain exactly which power station is tasked with emitting these highly toxic chemicals.
That was how I left it a few days ago on the subject of UKBA's contribution to electricity generation ... with goods confiscated from cross-border shoppers. A solution which does no 'stakeholder' any favours.

The response has now been received. Apparently, the destination of all that contraband is so very secret that revealing its location would be a threat to security.

I can confirm that the UK Border Agency holds the information that you requested. However, after careful consideration we have decided that the information is exempt from disclosure under section 31 2 (i) of the Freedom of Information Act. This provides that information can be withheld where disclosure would prejudice the purpose of securing health, safety and welfare of persons at work and the public interest falls in favour of applying the exemption.

We have considered the public interest there may be in the fact that the tobacco is shredded and used as an alternative power supply. Whilst the information that the Agency recycles its seized goods is already in the public domain, we feel that the disclosure of the name and address of the power station where the alternative fuel product is burned outweighs the public interest in disclosing these details.

There is an argument in (sic) to support the public interest in releasing this information on the grounds that it provides greater transparency with regards to outside organizations with whom the agency works. It may also assist the public in being able to develop an understanding of the processes adhered to in this instance however, ff (sic) we were to disclose this information it could substantially jeopardise the health, safety and welfare of the contractors acting on the Agency’s behalf. Due to the nature of the work involved all the Agency’s Contractors require anonymity in order to safely undertake the work of the Agency.

Disclosure of this information could put at risk the safety and welfare of the staff at the site where the tobacco is being shredded and transformed into an alternative fuel product. If this information was made public it could increase the risk of recovery by force of the tobacco product prior to it undergoing the necessary treatment processes. This is clearly not in the public interest.
In short. If they tell you where the baccy is being burned, hordes of disgruntled trippers are going to rock up with pitchforks and torches to grab the stuff back. Or are they scared of the perennially-terrified driving their diesel-powered 4x4s up there to complain about their pure air being contaminated? Could be either, but they don't elaborate.

However, secret the plant must stay as a vital matter of health and safety.

The instigator hasn't taken this lying down, of course. We're talking serious health threats here after all.

With reference to your reply to the above FOI request dated 29th June 2011, I am requesting an independent internal review of your decision not to supply the information that I requested.

You state that information is exempt from disclosure under section 31 2 (i) of the Freedom of Information Act as disclosure would prejudice the purpose of securing health, safety and welfare of persons. The information that I requested is to secure the health, safety and welfare of people that may be being exposed to deadly 'second hand smoke' from the burning of 'shredded tobacco'.

In view of this known deadly health hazard, I believe that the whereabouts of the burning of this 'alternative power supply' should be known to the public whose health may be in considerable danger.
In light of the recent assertion that secondhand smoke is more dangerous than sucking on a car's exhaust pipe, it's uncommonly worthy of the enquirer to go the extra yard on this issue, don't you think?

Please God let the place be in or around Milton Keynes.

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Just When You Thought Milton Keynes Had Stopped Being Ridiculous

Cows made of concrete, a stolen football team, and now this.

A town is set to become the first in Britain to ban smoking from its streets.

Councillor Paul Bartlett, 50, wants to create a new bylaw to outlaw smoking in any open place or public street in the market town of Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire.

The ban, which would be the first of its kind in the country, would be enforced by PCSOs, traffic wardens and members of the public.
Shorn of any character by its sub-governmental planning, the new town which likes to pretend it's a city has finally evolved to be the godawful nightmare that the state-led nature of its conception destined it to be.

Milton Keynes. A town containing real people, with real lives, run by a bunch of suits who have made the place a laughing stock for over three decades.

And are determinedly committed to doing so for the foreseeable future, it would seem.

Like Leggy, I do so hope they go through with this, because we really need Milton Keynes to continue to embarrass itself in order for the laughter to reverberate around other municipal buildings and save us all from the same level of bonkers.

If you live there, just consider this as 'taking one for the team'. With my sympathies, natch.

Monday 27 June 2011

A Rumbling Thunder

Can you hear it?

Outcry in America as pregnant women who lose babies face murder charges

Rennie Gibbs is accused of murder, but the crime she is alleged to have committed does not sound like an ordinary killing. Yet she faces life in prison in Mississippi over the death of her unborn child.

Gibbs became pregnant aged 15, but lost the baby in December 2006 in a stillbirth when she was 36 weeks into the pregnancy. When prosecutors discovered that she had a cocaine habit – though there is no evidence that drug abuse had anything to do with the baby's death – they charged her with the "depraved-heart murder" of her child, which carries a mandatory life sentence.

Gibbs is the first woman in Mississippi to be charged with murder relating to the loss of her unborn baby. But her case is by no means isolated. Across the US more and more prosecutions are being brought that seek to turn pregnant women into criminals.
In this instance, it's the religious right in the US criminalising women who suffer unsuccessful pregnancies which authorities solely - and without proper substantiation - attribute to the mother's behaviour.

[Robert McDuff, a civil rights lawyer] told the Guardian that he hoped the Gibbs prosecution was an isolated example. "I hope it's not a trend that's going to catch on. To charge a woman with murder because of something she did during pregnancy is really unprecedented and quite extreme."
Well, that's a battle for the future, one suspects, and it's not difficult to imagine the new religion of public health proudly at the helm when it inevitably arrives.

We've already seen a few rumblings, and I'm sure we've all heard the "it should be classed as child abuse" line many times already with regard to parental lifestyles. So why not just go that little extra step and push for the prosecution of women who have problematic pregnancies while also being obese, consuming cigarettes, or drinking in excess of guidelines, eh?

We'll just have to take it on trust that those currently taking the opportunity to rail against the religious right on the criminalisation of pregnant mothers will be consistent when the idea is picked up by the predominantly left-leaning health lobby.

Sunday 26 June 2011

Tobacco-Powered Electricity

Excerpt from the UKBA response to a real, but perhaps mischievous - not by me, I hasten to add - recent FOIA request.

Your request has been handled as a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. I have listed your request for reference.

‘What happens to tobacco products once seized by border control. I want to find out if these products are being burnt thus releasing vast quantities of the 'second hand smoke' that we are told is extremely dangerous to human life. If these products are being burnt, I would like to know exactly who is burning them, where they are being burnt and what steps are being taken to prevent the exposure to people of the residue 'second hand smoke'.’

I am able to disclose the following information.

The UK Border Agency is committed to finding innovative and sustainable means of disposal of revenue goods. Tobacco products are shredded and the pulp is taken to a power station and used as an alternative fuel source for power generation.

We do not hold any information on the power station that burns this alternative fuel source or the measures the power station takes to prevent the exposure to people of “second hand smoke”.
Now, while the response is entirely functional, wouldn't it have been great if the reply had pointed out that such power stations emit millions of tonnes of chemicals into the air, and that the 'risk-terrified enquirer' really shouldn't be worrying about such things?

But then, It's even better to imagine that some public sector flunkey really might have performed a risk assessment and issued guidelines on the safe disposal of tobacco amongst an overwhelming mountain of coal.

An absurd idea? Not while there is a smoking ban in the Arctic Circle, it's not.

I understand that a follow-up request has been lodged to ascertain exactly which power station is tasked with emitting these highly toxic chemicals.

With an effect on house prices and cancer incidence dependant on the response, the Daily Mail will of course be informed immediately once it is received.

Saturday 25 June 2011

Beer And Ice Cream

Could be a late one tonight. With friends, we've had a smokey-drinky planned for a while but, under the prevailing weather conditions, it looks like we'll be taking it al fresco.

On gathering supplies from the local Co-op earlier, it would seem that customers at the pub on the corner are of the same mindset. There are a lot more of them than usually spied through the large curtainless windows, and all outside.

It's almost as if - like ice cream sales - the fortunes of the hospitality industry are now inextricably linked to the appearance of the sun.

How on Earth did that happen?

Link Tank 25/06

On time and on budget.

Meet the beer archaeologist

The US looking to regulate food similar to tobacco, with hopes of saving money on health care

Denmark police propose ban on anonymous internet use ...

... while Australia begins censoring the web next month

Kiwi women going wild for horse semen shots

The inevitable failure of the Euro

US advertisers likely to go to court over graphic tobacco warnings

French wine industry to implement redical shift in strategy to boost flagging sales

Being cute could be bad for your health

Bad food most definitely has its place


Friday 24 June 2011

Scarytale Of New York

Despite Bloomberg's health obsession, New York seems suprisingly eager to bash cyclists these days. Following swiftly on from previous articles, here is another example of petty victimisation in the USA's least free state (with a splash of added humour).

The Big Apple is looking rather rotten of late, is it not?

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Loitering With Potential To Commit Thought Crime Now An Offence In New York

Perhaps because New York is such an astoundingly illiberal place these days is the reason that this three week old story didn't attract much worldwide attention. It just doesn't come as much of a surprise anymore.

The police may not be ticketing for smoking in the parks, but they are still ticketing parker visitors for crimes like...eating a doughnut in a playground. Yup, this weekend the police gave two young women in Bed-Stuy summonses for eating doughnuts in a playground while unaccompanied by a minor.

"This cop attempted to be sympathetic. He proceeded to tell us that he was trying to be a gentleman by just giving us summonses instead of taking us in for questioning, because that was what “they” wanted him to do.

Finally, we were given our summonses and were free to go. Because we hadn’t been drinking alcohol or urinating in public, we do not have the option of pleading guilty by mail. Not that I am planning on pleading guilty. But either way, we have to show up in court or a warrant will be issued for our arrest."
It's incredibly sad that the main objection in the linked article is that the police should have just 'moved them on' instead of issuing a ticket. Not that the law itself should quite simply not be in place at all!

There was a time when one of life's pleasures for many was sitting in a sunny park taking in all of the relaxing atmosphere. The open space, breeze, birds, greenery, and yes, the sight and sounds of kids happily playing. Now it is an offence in New York, punishable by a fine and - presumably the next step if one refuses to pay on principle - imprisonment. And don't ever think the same can't happen here, either.

The only 'crime' or misdemeanour committed in this case is to have contravened an ordnance constructed by the state to tackle a problem that simply doesn't exist. Punishing people for sitting watching kids playing is dangerously legitimising 'thought crime' as a concept - the criminalisation of someone having mucky thoughts while in a park.

In this case, however, it goes even further than that. The women in question were punished because there was just the potential for them to have mucky thoughts; that they might commit a thought crime so they must be moved to a place where that temptation doesn't occur.

Because, you see, every adult - male or female - has this uncontrollable urge to fuck an 8 year old if they see them having fun on a climbing frame, don't they?

The only disgusting people I can see in this story are the filthy-minded perverts whose imaginings default to paedophilia over something as innocent as just enjoying a coffee and a doughnut while watching kids play.

And before anyone pulls the puerile "how would you feel if it were your kids" argument. It wouldn't bother me in the slightest if someone watched my two in the park then went home and emptied a box of kleenex at the thought. If for no other reason than I would be none the bloody wiser, as would the little Ps.

If they attempted to abduct them, on the other hand - an occurrence so rare that I'd be just as likely to win the lottery - that's when I'd cut their balls off.


Prepare For Ten Minutes Of Naked Statism

Today, a nasty little statist will stand up in Westminster and fight for the right to criminalise you for enjoying a legal product in your own property.

Alex Cunningham - a right royal arrogant twerp from Stockton - is presenting a ten minute rule bill this afternoon arguing for a ban on smoking in private cars.

It's scheduled, as is usual, for immediately after PMQs at 12:30pm and should be available to view live here.

He's extremely proud of himself for this, so he is. So much so that he placed his pompous 'arris on an ITV TyneTees couch on Thursday to be grilled by jaw-droppingly inept local presenter, Gerry Foley. The 'hard talk' went something like this.

GF: "So, Alex. You want to ban smoking in cars."
AC: "Yes, I do, I was approached by the British Lung Foundation to do so and I'm a hideous authoritarian, so I jumped at the chance."
GF: "I'm going to put you on the spot here, but do you think smokers should be flayed humanely, or just be shot with dum-dum bullets?"
AC: "Yes, you're right Gerry, they're a stain on humanity and I want to take control of their property. Screw their rights is what I say."
GF: "Cheers, Alex. Now, onto Ed Balls, how bloody great is HE!"
Not verbatim, obviously, but sadly the link to the programme is now dead so I had to paraphrase.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see if - just as with Kevin Barron back in October - Cunningham pumps out the usual anti-tobacco fabrications as he reveals himself to be the very worst kind of self-important dictator. I'll be keeping a particular eye out for the 17% heart attacks lie, and the completely fictitious '23 times more toxic' codswallop.

There's more about this at Taking Liberties ... and just look who's going to be speaking against the bill.

God speed, Philip, me old china.

UPDATE: The bill was passed by 78 votes to 66, by no means a strong majority so that should be the end of that. For now, at least. If you missed the whole thing, it's now available to view at this BBC link.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Lazy Parenting Is The Way Forward

"Best hundred quid I've ever spent", insisted sister Puddlecote on Sunday at a family 'do' while we lounged around on garden chairs - under a canopy to shield us, at least, from the showers - enjoying copious quantities of Arrogant Frog and generally being extremely lazy.

She was referring to the trampoline which was squeaking away metronomically under the weight of four bouncing kids. Just shy of its second birthday, it had already well exceeded the outlay by way of a relaxation cost of around 10p per hour.

I had to agree as the £20 football goal I sourced from eBay in December for the little Ps has also already repaid itself in a most satisfying way, even if it is ripped to buggery now (they have yet to ask for a new one, and I'm prepared to wait). Open the door, kick 'em out with the £4 Tesco ball, and forget parental duties for a good hour or two (apart from the odd sideways glare when it hits too close to the French windows, natch).

Excepting the odd bickering frenzy or cry of pain due to accidental ball-in-the-face - hard - scenario, it's been bliss. Naturally loud, shouty, childhood running around is being done without any effort from your host or Mrs P whatsoever. There's even scope for occasionally sneaking off, should one wish, IYSWIM.

Watch their every move helicopter fashion in a constant state of fear? Do me a favour! Far too much effort, sorry.

Likewise, the trip to the shops.

"Can you take me to the Premier Mart as they have the latest Dr Who Monster Invasion magazine I want to buy"
"Does it involve crossing the main road?"
"OK, be careful and use the traffic island ... and don't wake me up from my afternoon snooze again!"
Yes, they're 11 and 10, but we've been brilliantly adept in the art of raising kids for quite a few years now. No, seriously, it's been statistically proven.

Unlike 'proper' and 'responsible' parents, they eat and drink shit if they like, within reason, as long as they keep the hell away from us when the E numbers kick in - and they finish all of what they are given for dinner. Full stop. No arguments. It's amazing what you can get kids to consume when they are given free reign in just about every other aspect of their lives. No histrionics when faced with 'greens' in Puddlecote Towers, I can assure you. The girl loves a salad, the boy begs for liver ... before gorging on crisps and choccie for afters ... and running outside again. YES, even if it's raining!

On Sunday, when their heads began to glow from the heat after 6 hours of jumping up and down like Plastic Bertrand, we reluctantly put down our wine glasses and got them off the squeaky bounce machine ... to howls of protest!

They didn't half sleep well that night, though. Head-pillow-snore leading to, yes, more parental laziness.

We're can't-be-arsed, dreadfully irresponsible - according to some - parents, you see? And it works.

Wanna go to the park on your own? Sure, don't ever talk to strangers in the incredibly unlikely event that one tries to approach you*. Wanna pop up the road? You know the Green Cross Code, use it. Wanna drink but didn't say please? You'll just have to stay thirsty. Wanna molly-coddling Mum or Dad to bubble-wrap you? Sorry, kids, you've been born into the wrong household.

Lazy and 'irresponsible' works. Risk obsession, and parenting as a professional exercise in oneupmanship, is producing insipid preciouses with no sense of proportion, self-worth or maturity.

Lazy parenting should be promoted in government policy. With tax breaks, please.

* And if one does, scream loud as you can, swear profusely, and kick them in the nuts (or, to be non gender-prejudicial, lala)

Tonight, Matthew ...

The Free Society couldn't have planned the scheduling of tonight's Voices of Freedom debate better if it had the services of Mystic Meg and any number of yank psychics at its disposal.

The BBC yesterday:

Free school 2012 applications reach 281
The Mirror (and others), also yesterday:

Free schools plan longer pupil days
And the subject matter, arranged months ago, for this evening is?

The Free Society and the Adam Smith Institute present

Is mediocrity for all preferable to excellence for some?

Tuesday June 21, 2011

Chaired by Claire Fox (Institute of Ideas), speakers include Tom Clougherty (Adam Smith Institute), David Davis MP, Matt Grist (senior researcher at the think tank Demos), Professor Terence Kealey (vice-chancellor, University of Buckingham) and Toby Young (associate editor of The Spectator, author of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, and founder of the West London Free School). <--- This bit!
Young is already a target of the left for having the temerity to promote another way of 'doing' education which doesn't involve claustrophobic state control (wonder what they are so scared of?), and with the possible appearance of David Davis too, this instalment of the VoF series was always likely to be a bit of a draw.

Previous events have already been strictly standing room only. Tonight, that may turn out to be 'sitting-on-someone-else's-shoulders' room only.

I'll get there early, I reckon.

Monday 20 June 2011

Gratuitous Drink Ad Of The Week

Club Orange is a popular Irish fizzy orange drink. This is how they advertise it over there, apparently.

One can only assume that their market research has highlighted a majority male customer base? Still, if it's OK to market Diet Coke via the medium of absurdly-toned bare-chested window cleaners, I'm sure there should be no complaints.

I'm just worried that such imagery could be a thrill too far for some Irish citizens I could mention. Eh, Grandad?

('Bits' of orange of course, you potty-minded lot, you)

Mascot Watch (13) - THAT Speech

Now the official parliamentary record is available, we can study Philip Davies's speech to Friday's Employment Opportunities Bill debate in full and in context. His contribution begins here.

Contrary to the implication fostered in certain reporting - not least by the BBC on radio 5, online, and with a special slot on Newsnight - the disabled were cited, in an intervention lasting 43 minutes, as just one of many groups who may be disadvantaged by current employment legislation. Others included asylum seekers and former prisoners, while our Phil also pointed out that the national minimum wage encourages illegal immigration - though I suppose such groups don't blow the same 'progressive' dog whistle, do they?

Perhaps the BBC could have chosen the quote by Edward Leigh - alone amongst attendant Tories in not believing Davies's input as worthy of consideration - of their own free will ...

Mr Davies was challenged over his remarks by fellow Tory MP Edward Leigh who told him: "Forget the fact there is a minimum wage for a moment. Why actually should a disabled person work for less than £5.93 an hour. It is not a lot of money, is it?"
... though I believe the usual form is for there to have been, ahem, helpful guidance from a Labour (or Lib Dem) spin merchant.

However, if it really was so outrageous, why the lack of indignation from Labour members of the house who were present at the time? In fact, MP for Manchester Central Tony Lloyd - the first to speak after the comments in question - described Davies's points as "always seductive — they are wrong, but they are very seductive".

All a bit of a typhoon in a shot glass, really.

Sunday 19 June 2011

The Nationalisation Of Charity

One of the arguments against libertarianism is that, without the state, the poor would go hungry.

It kinda gets blown away when we see state action to deny homeless people food freely given by non-profit organisations. Like this, for example.

That footage is from Orlando, Florida, just a few days ago.

They have a rule there, you see, which prohibits the giving of food to more than 25 people within a two mile radius of City Hall. This would include just setting up a food stall and handing it out for free to anyone who can't afford it, like the homeless kids in the video. And the city is spending a lot of money defending their stance in court.

The reason given is the lack of a state-sanctioned licence (I've written about the all-encompassing restrictions on liberty such measures entail before). You'd think they would be pleased to see others shouldering a burden which the state usually quotes as an expense they would rather do without, wouldn't you? Not in this case, though, and I'm pretty sure the licence excuse is just that. A convenient excuse.

It's worth pointing out - before you begin thinking Orlando is too far away to care about - that the same is planned for Westminster, and even in the think-of-the-poor progressive paradise of Brighton there have been rumblings.

There are voices in the local council who really don't like what we do, suggesting it attracts the homeless and makes Brighton more "homeless friendly", others have said "food for free" encourages a degree of fecklessness, others just object to the possibility of "litter".
In the US, San Francisco - YES, even caring, right on, bleeding-heart San Francisco - is amongst a host of cities who would gladly see the homeless rot rather than benefit from voluntary handouts.

Now, it's ironic that the group who filmed the above are a vegan anti-war organisation which presumably leans to the left - a fact borne out by the chant against 'corporate greed' - since it's clear that lefty authorities are equally happy to criminalise those who wish to voluntarily feed the poor as right of centre ones.

Perhaps for good reason, too. I mean, the argument that only the state - or those who are sanctioned by the state - are able to tend to the needy is a keystone of every government's thirst for taxation income. Too many 'mutuals' or other alternatives to state monopoly lends credence to the idea that there may be a perfectly workable solution to essential welfare needs which doesn't involve the removal of private income - to the benefit of public sector administrators - under the threat of imprisonment.

We must be directed to understand - by arresting heretics if need be - that looking after the poor can only be done properly by government, and anything that remotely threatens such a notion should be stamped on. Very hard.

Approved charities which align themselves with state policy will be fêted and amply funded, those which don't will suffer the full force of a state in defence of its aura of all-encompassing benevolence.

If that means letting the poor go hungry, so be it.

H/T Lawson

Saturday 18 June 2011

The #PhilipDavies Trend Paints A Sad Picture Of Modern Britain

At time of writing, the #PhilipDavies Twitter trend is self-righteously rumbling on, with many broadcasting how "shocked" - "shocked", no less - they still are at our esteemed mascot's parliamentary contribution on Friday.

They would probably be less so if they had some understanding of what he actually said. For example, here's what appears to be the most popular retweet.

As others have mentioned, that bears no relation to the idea which was floated, nor what will eventually be recorded in Hansard. At all (emphases mine).

"If those people who consider it is being a hindrance to them, and in my view that's some of the most vulnerable people in society, if they feel that for a short period of time, taking a lower rate of pay to help them get on their first rung of the jobs ladder, if they judge that that is a good thing, I don't see why we should be standing in their way."
Nothing there makes any passing resemblance to Davies believing "that people with disabilities should accept less than the min wage". He does, however, repeatedly talk of offering choice to those who find themselves in that situation. In his hypothetical scenario, they could embrace it, or reject it, but there is no implication that they would be forced to do either.

As such, the #PhilipDavies trend appears to be populated with many people for whom comprehension of the English language is proving difficult. Not a great reflection on our education system, really.

An alternative view is that they are well aware of the words used, but find it impossible to understand the concept of a politician advocating self-determination to anyone. After all, isn't the state the sole arbiter of how we live our lives these days? MPs pass laws and dictate; not relax them and allow choice for the proletariat, eh?

Again, it's crushing to think that there are so many who cannot possibly envisage a scenario whereby the public are allowed, by their government, to make their own decisions on matters which affect their own lives. As if the very idea is now merely history.

There may or may not be a debate to be had over what our Phil was suggesting, but those who can't understand plain English - or who fail to imagine why the public should ever have a right to self-determination - are the most poorly qualified to engage in it.

E-Cigs More Harmful Than Tobacco?

Yes. According to EU Health Commissioner John Dalli, they are.

"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"
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.

To say e-cigs - which are proven to be 90% safer than cigarettes - are more harmful than smoking tobacco is not only astonishingly transparent bullshit, but also reckless in the extreme if it leads to a ban on the devices.

Here's what Dalli said in a Brussels speech last year.

Tobacco is still visible in shops and other points of sale. Children and young people get the wrong impression that tobacco is like any other product. And yet it kills half of its users.
Yet he is now hinting at laws to force people away from e-cigs and back to tobacco which, by his own admission, will account for the deaths of half of them.

I wonder. Is that murder? Or manslaughter?

Link Tank 18/06

Nudge nudge, link link.

Pharma manufactured nicotine substitutes, fine; tobacco manufactured nicotine substitutes, evil

Australia gets even more absurd by considering minimum alcohol pricing

Sex offender laws represent the triumph of outrage over reason

Craft beer is booming in Japan

Bloomberg's health obsession kicks blind traders out of NYC premises

The answer to meat industry greenhouse gas emissions - burgers made of shit

Wine disguised as perfume

Hallucinogenic drugs may help treat anxiety, depression and addiction

AGW lobbying would appear to follow the same corrupt format as tobacco control

Wake up and smell the … woahhh!

And, very topical ...

In defence of our esteemed mascot against the mob

Friday 17 June 2011

In The Presence Of Greatness

Here we go again. With Nanny Beeb predictably leading the charge.

[...] the study also looked at what influences excessive teen drinking - and the habits of parents seem to be particularly powerful.

The odds of a teenager getting drunk repeatedly is twice as great if they have seen their parents under the influence, even if only a few times.
So, kids are more likely to indulge in booze if their parents - with whom they share genes - are fond of a drink or seven? As has been known for around 200 years, you mean?

How fascinating!

And the authors say that parental supervision is also important - if parents don't know where their children are on a Saturday night, or let them watch 18 certificate films unsupervised, they are more likely to have had an alcoholic drink.
And that if it is in the parents' nature to be risk tolerant with regard to what they permit their kids to do, consequentially the same attitude to risk is likely to be replicated in the offspring to whom the parents' genes are passed?

Ground-breaking stuff! Well, that's the Nobel sorted for this year, other social scientists may as well sell up their epidemiological software and drive a cab.

The Royal College of Physicians then chips in with their unique brand of logic.

"This shows that the government needs to concentrate on increasing the price per unit of alcohol and reducing its availability as their main priorities"
Yes. The fact that human DNA is performing in exactly the way it has done for millions of years is evidence that Tesco should have to up the price of their beer.

Truly we are blessed to share our time on Earth with such genius minds.

UPDATE: As noted in the comments, this is another example of the tobacco control template being used to good effect by those intent on denormalising alcohol. Exactly the same 'monkey see, monkey do' junk science has been a prime justification for banning smoking in parks. You know, where kids go.

Will Somebody Please Think Of The Goldfish!

In the relentless quest to mould their city into the most hideously miserable jurisdiction on the planet, San Francisco's left-sprinting collection of former hippies - whose teen angst intellect has been ossified by years of THC abuse - last year came up with a cunning plan.

Sell a guinea pig, go to jail.

That's the law under consideration by San Francisco's Commission of Animal Control and Welfare. If the commission approves the ordinance at its meeting tonight, San Francisco could soon have what is believed to be the country's first ban on the sale of all pets except fish.

That includes dogs, cats, hamsters, mice, rats, chinchillas, guinea pigs, birds, snakes, lizards and nearly every other critter, or, as the commission calls them, companion animals.
In the intervening period they've had a change of heart, though, but not in the way that the majority of us who don't live in some absurd communist hallucinatory dreamscape would expect.

San Francisco's ever-active Animal Control and Welfare Commission has renewed its push for a pet sale ban in the city - only this time, it even covers goldfish.
Not only that, its remit has been extended. After all, there is scope to imprison far more people than just pet shop owners, eh?

The proposed ban, which the commission just adopted after a year of study, was expanded to cover animal breeders as well as pet stores.
Presumably, all motivated by the same kind of effete ideology held by vacant insipid undergrads who declare that "animals are, like, better than people ... man".

Rumours of an upcoming San Fran draft bill making the wearing of foam-platformed sandals compulsory to protect snails in wet weather have yet to be confirmed.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Righteously Hogging The Microphone

Not satisfied with creating perverted 'studies' and fabricating statistics to hoodwink government into passing illiberal laws, the UK tobacco control glitterati recently descended on the Red Tape Challenge website to shout down any public opinion on the vending machine ban.

Listed to the left of the section on 'Wider Hospitality' are laws about which comments are invited, one of them being The Protection from Tobacco (Sales from Vending Machines) (England) Regulations 2010. It's certainly spooked the anti-tobacco community following, presumably, a rabble-rousing exercise as - from page 2 of the comments onward - they dutifully file in and post remarkably similar (sometimes word for word) pleas to follow through with the legislation.

You'll recognise many of the names as we discuss them here quite regularly. Alan 'Libertarian' Maryon-Davies, Anna 'Anything for a buck' Gilmore, Smokefree North East's Ailsa Rutter, ASH Scotland's miserabilist-in-chief Sheila Duffy, and bansturbatory all-rounder Vivienne 'Denormalise alcohol' Nathanson, to name but a few.

I thought this was supposed to be an exercise in ascertaining the views of the public at large, not public sector and fake charity mouthpieces.

It seems that they aren't satisfied with having the ear of MPs 24/7 - they also insist on gate-crashing initiatives aimed at those of us who don't usually get a say.

Put mildly, these people are astoundingly repugnant, belly-crawling, self-important, finger-wagging, dictatorial, bottom-feeding, manipulative, foul, integrity-free, mouth-breathing bastards.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Where Did All Those Kids Come From?

There was something about the answer to this parliamentary question which piqued my interest.

[...] these are the figures for the number of children for which child benefit is claimed for each of these regions:

England 11,495,395
Wales 642,965
Scotland 1,031,795
Northern Ireland 443,110
13,613,265 of them in total, yet I remember quoting far fewer in an article a few months ago. So I checked the ONS figures again and, yes, they show the total number of under 16s in the UK for 2009 to be 11,166,900.

That's benefit being paid for 2,446,365 more kids than there are in the population! Or - at the current rates of £20.30 for the first born and £13.40 for others - between £1.7bn and £2.6bn per year.

Now, I realise there are anomalies such as ex-pats claiming, and EU nationals working here who qualify, but by the same token there will be ex-pats being paid out of other countries' funds and so these things should cancel each other out to a fair degree. A 2.5m net gain of kids seems to be an unusually large figure for our HMRC to have to cater for.

I feel a FOIA request coming on.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

The Craic Is Crocked

If you find yourself in Ireland in the near future, be sure to pick up a piece of historical art while you're there. It will look something like this and cost about 20p in old money (ie, not Eurozone).

Because the world famous pubs of Ireland are an endangered species, to be sure (I adopted my Irish accent for that bit, hope you appreciate the attention to detail). There was a time when the archetypal Irish pub was considered to be one of a kind; impervious to all threats and copied all over the civilised world.

Not any more.

PUBLICANS are driving their customers home, offering free rounds of drink and running book clubs in a bid to attract customers.

Many pubs too offer free food and a table quiz night.
FREE food?

LIMERICK city publican Paddy Kelly is fighting the recession by building on his food trade. With one big difference. This is claimed to be the only pub in the land where customers get food served free of charge with their drink.

For years customers at his ‘Monday Club’ tucked into spare ribs.

He developed the menu and now free meals consist of bacon and cabbage, pork, beef and a wide variety of dishes, including curry. Recently he completed an outdoor barbecue where most days burgers, sausages and puddings sizzle to the delight of customers.

And the drink is as cheap as you will get in the city centre, with a pint of Guinness at €4.

"I like cooking and I find it very enjoyable. Giving out food without charge to my customers is just a way of saying thanks for their support and custom. I don’t charge and this is appreciated," said Paddy, who usually starts serving food at around 5.30pm.

News of the pub with free food has gone around the world and TV crews from New Zealand, Britain and the US have called to witness the free feast.
Hardly surprising, really. It's a natural human trait (sadly) to watch the discomfort of others, especially if the poor sap doesn't realise he himself is being served up as a tasty global prime time freak show morsel.

Their woes are definitely multi-factorial, but the problem for Irish pubs began in 2004, despite this nonsense from a report ASH released just the other day (I'm not linking to it as it's a pile of shite and also because it's not a unique claim of theirs, so can be easily googled).

Evidence shows that in many countries, bans on smoking in public places have had a net positive economic benefit for businesses and no adverse effect on the hospitality industry.
That's right, no adverse effect whatsoever to pub stocks. Especially in Ireland, eh? Unless their recession started about four years before everyone else's.

700 pubs were needlessly exterminated that year. The industry in Ireland never fully recovered before the recession kicked in, and the result is that now they're giving away food and booze. Yes, booze!


ROCK, paper, scissors is just one of the games that bar staff at Sober Lane have with customers where the prize is a free drink. The staff also do a "flip the coin" evening on Sundays where the customer gets their next round free if they win.
It brings to mind this soundbite from proud British zealot, Deborah Arnott, last year.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the anti-smoking group ASH, insisted it was a myth that the anti-smoking legislation had forced pubs out of business.

She said: 'Many pubs have shifted their focus to serving food, so they have changed their nature.'
One wonders if Debs also believes that it's a perfectly hunky-dory outcome that Irish pubs are now having to give the stuff away for nothing along with a complimentary drink.

But then, her colleagues are actively working at a way to stop that, too. Because anti-alcohol campaigners don't like such 'promotions' one little bit, and I'm sure they'd be spitting feathers at the idea of anything alcohol-related being available cost-free if the idea was taken up this side of the Irish Sea.

Irresponsible alcohol promotions in pubs, bars and clubs are contributing to excessive consumption amongst the public, resulting in alcohol-related crime and disorder, and adverse health consequences. They propagate an unsafe drinking culture and bold measures are now required to reduce harmful drinking and avoid preventable deaths.
Free, one assumes, would fall into such a category as 'irresponsible'. And anti-smoking busybodies at ASH have been helping the anti-alcohol lobby to achieve their own bansturbatory aims in Scotland and Wales, as regular readers will know.

Alcohol Action Ireland won't be out of the loop, either, and will no doubt be tackling the 'problem' of giveaway alcohol as soon as they've added the finishing touches to Ireland's new driving limit of a thimble full of shandy (as long as you didn't use mouthwash that morning, of course).

Because if there's one thing these vested interest puritans do very well, it's share policies and new bullying initiatives by way of international 'summits'. Free rounds to boost business won't be tolerated for too long ... nor the buying of rounds, probably. And just wait till the anti-obesity campaigners hear about all that free food.

Nope, I'm afraid pubs will have to face up to the bitter truth - just about everything they serve is frowned upon in this new world of citywide fitness centres and enforced physical perfection. The anti-smoking vanguard marched into pubs with their passive smoking club, smashed a massive hole in the hospitality industry's defences, and have now relayed precise co-ordinates of the wound to those who would seek to do the same.

The one business-saving measure not mentioned in that list of innovative Irish sticking plasters is the welcoming back of smokers with open arms. But then, that's not an option anymore since they meekly succumbed to the siren anti-smoking voices who are now stabbing them in the back ... with a chainsaw.

The craic was good while it lasted, but the time to stand strong in Ireland was 7 years ago. All that's left now is freebies, opprobrium, and 'three bags full sir' to future controls inflicted on the industry.

Perhaps the Irish could work at being world famous for the unique atmosphere of their swimming pools or something instead, I dunno.

Addicted To Cash

Well, fancy that, Aussie-style!

May 17th 2011

Health Minister Nicola Roxon says Labor stopped taking donations from tobacco companies in 2004 - since then the Opposition has accepted $1.7 million.

"Mr Abbott needs to kick his habit," Ms Roxon said in a statement.

"As a former health minister, Mr Abbott knows that tobacco kills 15,000 Australians each year - a tragic number that brings suffering to families all over Australia.

"Accepting donations from big tobacco is just not acceptable, given we know how dangerous these products are and to what low levels these companies will stoop to keep killing Australians."
June 14th 2011

Roxon admits seeking funds from big tobacco

The ABC has obtained letters that show Nicola Roxon wrote to Philip Morris executives in 2005, inviting them to a $1,500-a-table fundraiser.

The event, featuring new MP Peter Garrett as the star attraction, was held a year after Mark Latham banned tobacco donations to the Labor Party.

Ms Roxon, who was then shadow attorney-general, signed off on the letters, saying she looked forward to the company's "continuing support".
Hypocrite, much?

Monday 13 June 2011

The Sky Is Falling!

This is cataclysmically terrible news!

Climate change should be excluded from curriculum, says adviser

Head of government review says school syllabus needs to 'get back to the science in science'
Oh noes! You mean they're not going to be taught to write ecological rap songs anymore? Or worse, that our kids are going to be deprived of all this ...

In the last couple of months, the boy has been to the town centre on a school trip to pick up litter to help the environment, the girl has come home after a lesson on water preservation with a bag for the toilet cistern. She has also had a lesson whereby the kids were told to write a letter to the local MP asking for measures to save the planet and she keeps turning the heating off after being told that our staying warm kills people in Africa. Similarly, when I last told the boy to turn the light off when he leaves a room, he eagerly said he had been taught about that at school. "It's to cut down on gas in the air, isn't it Daddy?", he enthusiastically volunteered, "No, it's to bloody save money", said I.
... and that there won't now be a landslide Green Party general election victory in the next ten to fifteen years?

In the name of the Lord God Gaia, what madness is this? We're going to a Saharan, err, underwater hell in a hand-sieve, so we are! There'll be alligators clutching Swedish phrase books and sun-dried penguins before you can say 'la-la-la I'm not listening, David Bellamy', I tell ya'.

Fortunately, a saviour prophet has revealed himself.

[Bob Ward, policy and communications director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics] said leaving climate change out of the national curriculum might encourage a teacher who was a climate change sceptic to abandon teaching the subject to their pupils. "This would not be in the best interests of pupils. It would be like a creationist teacher not teaching about evolution. Climate change is about science. If you remove the context of scientific concepts, you make it less interesting to children."
Thank Monbiot there is this voice of sanity, with his emotive invocation of children and a straw man so well-crafted that you could place a beany hat on it.

We demand science classes to be entirely dogma-motivated and based solely on the 'cult of the now'. I mean, why teach the basics from the bottom up and let them make their own minds up, when we can skip all the fundamental stuff from a load of square dead scientists, and just let them learn what we have already decided is the new truth?

Unbelievers! Kill the heretics! Kill! Destroy the coalition!

Damned If You Do ...

If, as old Blue Eyes used to hanker for, you ever do 'wake up in a city that never sleeps', it might be your best bet to just high-tail outta there pronto.

Because you just can't seem to win in health-obsessed New York these days. I mean, cycling must surely be a activity to be positively encouraged there, right? Err ...

Cycling while sexy could be hazardous to city motorists - just ask Jasmijn Rijcken.

The leggy Dutch tourist said she was pulled over by an NYPD cop for flashing too much skin while on two wheels.

"He said it's very disturbing, and it's distracting the cars and it's dangerous," Rijcken told the Daily News. "I thought he was joking around but he got angry and asked me for ID."
Personally, I'd say it was more of a crime to cover them up, but hey. Fortunately, she didn't receive a fine in the end, but this woman did in April.

A Nightingale-Bamford School executive was pulled over by a cop while cycling on Columbus Avenue and slapped with a ticket for -- of all things -- pedaling with a tote bag strapped to her handlebars.

Claire Lecomte du Nouy, 38, the dean of students at the exclusive prep academy on East 92nd Street, said at first she thought the cop was just yanking her chain.

Having ridden a bike for five years in New York, Lecomte du Nouy said she couldn't understand how the city -- which is supposedly trying to encourage cycling -- would hit bike riders with frivolous tickets.
It would seem that no smoking in parks is just the half of it in Bloomberg's New York. That particular law is nothing more than an extension to the absurd bullying of just about everyone who lives, or visits, the godawful place.

Saturday 11 June 2011

Aussie Bravado On Plain Packaging Is Premature

Tobacco harm reduction advocate Carl V. Phillips opined on Wednesday that Australian tobacco controllers may be quietly happy if their plain packaging nonsense ends up being rebutted.

If the plain packaging were implemented without incident and the inevitable increase in black market sales and lack of decrease in use prevalence occurred, it would be one more step into the cul-de-sac of irrelevance for tobacco control. Oh, but if the industry can be tempted into fighting this, and better still if they win, jackpot! “Big tobacco wins again!” “Important public health measure prohibited on a technicality.” “We would have eliminated smoking in Australia with this, but Big Tobacco just has too much influence.” That is good for at least five more years of full employment for anti-tobacco extremists.
I was sceptical, it has to be said, but I'm starting to wonder if the Australian public health bulldozer is more worried about how this could all pan out tha they are letting on.

Upside down anti-smoker-in-chief Simon Chapman, in particular, has been spinning relentlessly in recent weeks and been rightly ridiculed for trying to involve himself in areas that are out of his term of reference or experience.

You see, the problem with tobacco control is that they have reached a level that they couldn't have dreamed about when they started 35 or 40 years ago. They've had the benefit of some quite astoundingly retarded politicians to help them get even this far, but they're now at the very limits of The Peter Principle.

Sure, Chapman is one of the world leaders in producing junk science and badgering his friends at the WHO to pass directives on behalf of his pharmaceutical paymasters, but when dipping his toes into the business world, he is on very shaky ground ... not surprising for someone who has never generated a productive dollar in his life. However, with the glittering attraction of plain packaging almost within his grasp, he just can't resist casting himself as a financial expert instead of stepping back and admitting he's out of his element.

Via Belinda comes his arrogantly-written piece where he suddenly transforms from faux medical type guy into an indisputable guru on intellectual property rights, legal intricacies, and multi-national business affairs.

"The extinction of rights or the reduction of rights is not relevant. The government or a third party must acquire property as a consequence of the legislation.

“The government does not wish to use the tobacco trade marks. Nor does it want third parties to do so. It does not desire to or intend to acquire any property. The proposition that prohibitions on the use of property do not constitute an acquisition of property was confirmed by the High Court as recently as 2009. In that case, the High Court held that the government was entitled to extinguish property rights in licences of farmers to take bore water.”
As a wise commenter - amongst Chapman's idolatrous performing seals - kindly chips in before I googled it, the basis of that case was to determine who actually owned the water being bored. The government successfully argued that it wasn't the farmers' to begin with. Control of all water is vested in the government, so no material loss had occurred.

With regard to tobacco company trade marks, logos, designs, and branding, the Aussie government can't possibly make the same claim. They entirely belong to the companies concerned - as they do in any other industry - and would therefore be effectively confiscated by the state if the legislation passes.

Chapman argues that this isn't a problem anyway because they would have to prove reduced sales. Now, I hate to break it to him, but the whole point of the exercise is to do exactly that, so all the tobacco legal teams would need do is raid his own side's justification for the ban. If there is no reduction, there will be no problem of compensation, but it would kinda make the whole idea look a bit self-defeating by the same token.

But that's all by-the-by.

Chapman's view of material damage shows a distinct lack of awareness of accounting principles and business worth because turnover is just one ingredient in how a business is valued. As is profit, as is every other tangible measure.

The sticky point for Australia's government is that they will be destroying an intangible asset which has a real value, the loss of which would negatively impact any large business.

Goodwill and brand recognition - whether actually on a company's balance sheet or not - have a massive bearing on the credit worthiness of a business, as well as the attractiveness to investors, the value of shares, and the overall wellbeing of the operation. If the government takes these away, it really is theft and would have no other effect than to harm the business in a tangible and financially-averse way.

Healthy sales may well lead to a decent net profit in the long run, but the difference between a business's operational (net book) value and its worth on the stock markets is how its intangible value (brand and goodwill) is calculated. For example, pharmaceutical company Procter & Gamble's brands are valued at $104bn, and goodwill at $89bn. If a government tried to take such a huge amount of value away, I reckon P&G would spend a shitload of money on protecting it - irrespective of sales - just as tobacco companies are doing.

What's more, we know that tobacco stocks are widely held by pension funds all over the world. There's been much debate just in our country about such investments, but considering tobacco companies perform consistently well in the markets, managers are not keen to ditch them. If state action forced them to - probably at a knock-down price - it would impact on the cash pot available to investors, funds would not be earning as they should, and claims could ensue. Of course, if they didn't dispose of such shares, and earnings were impacted, claims could still ensue. That's quite a bit of potential legal pain for Australia plc, right there.

And we haven't even spoken yet of shareholders who would be quite miffed if the Australian government's actions led to their losing money from their investments and dividends. And as we all know, 'where there's blame, there's a claim'.

Reduced sales? It really isn't the half of it, Simon.

But then, he does point to a clause in the Bill which is not only wise, but may also be quite significant.

Few of those megaphoning this legal Armageddon appear to have even read the draft Bill itself. Section 11 makes it clear that plain packaging won’t apply if it were to be determined (by a court) that its operation would result in an acquisition of property otherwise than on just terms. So in the unlikely event that the High Court says there is an acquisition of property (more on this below), the legislation would revert to a fallback position in the regulations under which “the trade mark may be used on the packaging of tobacco products, or on a tobacco product, in accordance with any requirements prescribed in the regulations”.

In other words, the bill has been drafted with a get-out-of-jail-free card under which plain packaging will not proceed if the court said it was an unjust acquisition. So massive damages or compensation will simply not arise.
So, if tobacco companies successfully argue that they have had their property - presumably defined as something that has a real measurable financial value - stolen by this legislation, all bets are off.

The very existence of such a clause would tend to suggest that the Aussie government and the public health lobby - far from dismissing such an outcome - consider it a distinct possibility. And why not considering the above?

Which would then mean that Carl V. Phillips's Brer Rabbit scenario leaps to the fore as he smugly smooths his eyebrows and grins the smarmy grin of self-satisfaction.

Link Tank 11/06

Possibly one of the most mixed of bags yet.

Discussing forced tattooing of climate change 'deniers'

Scottish Lib Dems fail their liberal credentials ... again

A guide to which wines best complement your McDonald's meal

Legalise drugs? Not just yet

Our culture’s bipolar relationship with the word fuck

What Brits say isn't necessarily what we mean

Michael Bloomberg: the man who killed New York

A recipe for home-made deep fried beer

Ohio restaurant closes citing the smoking ban days after Obama lauded its working class appeal

Marking D-Day with a paintball fight

Three penis tequila

Friday 10 June 2011

Mad Dead Hag, We Salute You!

Are you short of something to celebrate this weekend? If so, how about this?

Carrie Nation died 100 years ago yesterday.

Nation started a local branch of the Women's Christian Temperance Union and campaigned for the enforcement of Kansas's ban on the sales of liquor. Her methods escalated from simple protests to serenading saloon patrons with hymns accompanied by a hand organ, to greeting bartenders with pointed remarks such as, "Good morning, destroyer of men's souls."

Alone or accompanied by hymn-singing women she would march into a bar, and sing and pray while smashing bar fixtures and stock with a hatchet. Between 1900 and 1910 she was arrested some 30 times for "hatchetations," as she came to call them.

Suspicious that President William McKinley was a secret drinker, Nation applauded his 1901 assassination as a tippler's just deserts.
Personally, I think the anniversary of her death requires marking in suitable fashion. A weekend of shit-faced debauchery should get her spinning nicely in her box, I reckon.

Something For A Weekend?

I've just added a new book to my recommended reading widget to your right**.

I get sent stuff from many sources (you should see some of the crap lefties wing my way - deeply disturbing - and I'll leave you to imagine my hilarity towards the health body who thought it a good idea to add me to their smoking cessation newsletter), but my free copy of Single Acts of Tyranny by Stuart Fairney is one such item I'm happy to publicise, especially as he pops in to see us in the comments here from time to time. It was described to me as a 'beach fiction' novel which employs libertarianism as a central theme, and that's it in a nutshell.

How do you make the point that free markets and small government is an ideal that the UK should aim for? Well, by setting it in the US and by re-writing history of course. A no-brainer, really.

The author - in probably fewer words than Ayn Rand's initial notes prior to writing Atlas Shrugged - describes a world in which the US is not one, but two countries. A small government south, and an authoritarian and high public sector maintenance north. As you can imagine, when such ideologically-opposed neighbours collide trade-wise there will be fireworks, and the ones who are most at risk from free market thinking are the few in the north whose jobs depend on control and networks of approved friends or state funding corporations.

The story races along (I read it in a few hours while my knees burnt in last weekend's sunshine) and puts forward a basic libertarian manifesto in bite-sized terms, laced with skulduggery, romance, subterfuge, corruption, and even a sex scene or two (page 83 to save you searching for the best one).

It's not ever going to be a literary classic, but if - like me - you've ever had people ask you what libertarianism is all about ("Are you like the Tories, then?" is always one which right pisses me off), the best bet is to give them this book and tell them to get back to you when they've read it. Even better, give it to a lefty before they go on their hols ... at just over a fiver it's great value, but the confused look on your idealist pal's face when they get back? Priceless.

The book is self-published so ignore the unavailable tag on Amazon, where there are other reviews if you don't fancy mine much, by the way. If you order it, the author will be asked for more and you'll have a copy in days.

Just as I did with The Spirit Level Delusion, I've lent the book to Mr P Snr ... that's the last I'll see of that too, then.

** If you're viewing this from a mobile you probably won't see the widget in question as I've installed a Blogger solution for faster loading. Feedback on how good or bad that is would be appreciated.

Thursday 9 June 2011

State As Father ... etc

£65,738 per annum for an MP? Cheap at half the price. I mean, where else would you get service like this, eh?

Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will publish a recommended average daily distance a healthy person should walk.
Because if there's one thing that we can't decide for ourselves - and on which we desperately require guidance from government - it's how much we should be walking per day.

You see, we homogenous automatons really need this stuff, and no mistake. Being quite astonishingly incapable of even the most basic of tasks, we would no doubt drop dead in a matter of months without a governmental policy on walking.

Perhaps there should be a network of local authority 'Ambulatory Advisers' to offer walking workshops or pedestrian drop-in centres. We could even have a walking czar to make sure we all get our 500 yards a day. Or something.

Or maybe there are more pressing problems.

Gordon Birtwistle (Burnley, Liberal Democrat)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will bring forward proposals to prevent youths harassing adults outside shops in order to encourage them to buy cigarettes for those youths.
Yes indeed. A new law is definitely required. Spot fines for anyone under the age of 18 loitering outside a sweet shop.

Think of the job creation opportunities here. Instead of just having the balls to say "fuck off" ourselves, we could employ people to exhibit guts on our behalf.

How joyous would our country be if we didn't have to sort out our own lives, eh? Delegate it all to the state and just watch humanity's potential soar.

£65k is top value for money if it means such vitally important questions are being asked, doncha think?

Good grief.

Anne Milton And Her Policy-Based Evidence Gathering

Being a bit of a Philip Davies groupie, I'm always keeping an eye on his activities in parliament (it's not stalking, Phil, honest), and this week he asked a pertinent question of Anne "what am I doing in the Tory party?" Milton. Her reply staggered even a hardened bullshit spotter like me!

Philip Davies (Shipley, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health

(1) what peer review was undertaken on (a) the calculations of the cost of treating smoking-related illnesses contained in and (b) the research on the economic burden of tobacco use on society cited in the Tobacco Control Plan for England;

Anne Milton (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Public Health), Health; Guildford, Conservative)

“Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A Tobacco Control Plan for England” included an appendix providing resources for tobacco control (pages 48-53). The references to the Policy Exchange’s “Cough Up” report and the Action on Smoking and Health website provide further information on the costs of treating smoking related diseases and the economic burden on society of tobacco use
Beg pardon?

Leaving aside the laughable mention of ASH as a reliable and impartial source, does she seriously mean that car crash of a document Henry Featherstone wrote in breaks between snogging Deborah Arnott?

The report which led the IEA to take the extraordinary step of trashing a fellow right of centre think tank? The one hacked to bits by the TPA's Matthew Sinclair on Conservative Home, and pilloried at the Telegraph and the Spectator? The one that even the BBC - usually straining at the leash to publish anti-smoker junk studies - wouldn't touch due to its toxic lack of credibility? That report?

It would appear that, yes, she does indeed mean the one described on these pages as 'That Policy Exchange Nonsense'.

This, remember, is the same Anne Milton who claimed last year that she was "not aware of any evidence that removing tobacco displays will affect the number of retail outlets", despite having been sent a copy of a report - illustrating exactly that - presented to the IEA just half a mile up the road from her office.

Now, I'll be generous and not jump to the conclusion that she is either dreadfully inept at her job or crashingly stupid, which such incompetence would seem to suggest. Instead, let's assume her actions are perfectly in line with the way this government operates. From this, we can accurately map the complex processes involved in drafting rules and regulations within Westminster.

So here, exclusively, is a cut-out-and-keep guide to how modern political policy-making works.

I think, in light of the above, we've discovered why our government makes such a dog's breakfast of everything it meddles with, don't you?

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Up With This Sort Of Thing

As a business owner, I've ploughed through many a politely-worded business-speak pdf file, the good Lord help me I have. I've seen so many that if you cut me up, my retinas would be indelibly imprinted with terms such as 'Key Performance Indicators' and 'Milestone Objectives'. In triplicate, probably.

Then, for relaxation, I come home and ... read more pdf files from public sector blow-hards and state-funded, pumped up, anti-fun bansturbators who seem to think they are somehow not the same as indolent benefit leeches. Which they are, of course. In fact, here are some pictured sitting on their sorry arses wasting the handouts that they are shovelled. Bring back national service, I say! Send the lazy, good-for-nothin' tax drains off to Afghanist...

... anyway, I digress. Back to the point.

I read yet another last night, as posted at Taking Liberties. A response to the Welsh Assembly by Imperial Tobacco, specifically, and if you haven't yet done so, perhaps you should read it too as it came as a bit of a surprise.

Simon Clark gave us a few teasers, but the whole document was a fully-referenced piece stubbornly rejecting the collective back-slapping of Welsh legislators in the tobacco control debate (if there ever was one).

As I said, these things have to be worded in a certain way - it's laid down in the public sector scriptures, so it is - but in seven glorious pages, Imperial Tobacco eloquently conveyed the message "Sorry, but you've lost the plot, and we ain't buying your crap no more".

What's more, they did so by quoting back to the assembly their own - and Westminster's - (expensively-drafted) documents. Here's an example.

It is therefore bewildering that the Government sees adult free choice as a ‘problem’; that prevalence stagnation is due to a lack of mass-media anti-smoking campaigns7, the use of niche tobacco products8, and smoking in cars and homes9, all of which were considered negligible issues at the time of the smoking ban6. When informed adults choose to continue smoking the answer should not be yet more draconian and disproportionate policies to force behaviour change.
The superscript references were Welsh consultation document assertions totally refuted by Welsh NHS papers apparently referenced in the process.


The Plan claims that ”Smoking is also a leading cause of health inequalities, having been identified as the main cause for the gap in life expectancy between rich and poor.”11

The belief that health inequalities arise as a consequence of smoking is spurious. As set out clearly in the Marmot Report published in the UK last year, the root causes of health inequalities are fundamental:

“…Most effective actions to reduce health inequalities will come through action within the social determinants of health. However, attempts to reduce health inequalities have … relied increasingly on tackling more proximal causes (such as smoking), through behaviour change programmes. Part of the explanation for this emphasis lies with the comparative ease of identifying action to address behaviour, rather than the complexity of addressing social inequalities shaping such behaviours.12
Marmot sets out two alternatives; one challenging but effective, one simple but ultimately inadequate. The Government appears guilty of opting for the latter option.
And after blowing a raspberry at the consultation for its shoddy evidence, well, why not a bit of plain old-fashioned ridicule, eh?

The Plan insists that there is no evidence of a shift in smoking to the home from pubs and workplaces. Considering that prevalence levels have remained flat at 24% since 2007 it leads one to question where else the Government thinks the adult smokers, who have been forced out of pubs, now smoke.
I just wish the author had been allowed to suffix that with "well, duh!".

Oh, oh, wait. I nearly forgot this bit, you'll love it!

Furthermore, the evidential base for the introduction of invasive legislation is often absent or highly flawed. For example, one report that was extensively recycled in the media claimed that second-hand smoke was “…23 times more toxic in a vehicle than in a home...” 20 Such claims are without any substance, and have been roundly refuted by the evidence21.
Indeed. In fact, there wasn't any evidence whatsoever. It was a load of made-up guff from the start and bolstered by a game of gullible Chinese Whispers, as we who are 'not experts, Dave' have known all along, but which ASH (the experts, remember?) swallowed whole.

As did dozy Welsh anti-smoking politicos (and boy are they dozy, you only have to remember laughing at this guy for proof), it would seem.

It's been suggested that the response, great as it is, won't even be read by the people paid by Welsh taxpayers to do so. That's as maybe, but perhaps Imperial Tobacco knew that, as the only thing missing from the response was a great fat dirty one of these at the bottom.

Yaki dah this, sunshine

Following on from obstinate challenges to the vending machine and tobacco display bans in Scotland, is this a new, hunkier tobacco industry we are seeing here? One more in tune with what we would like to see from them?

Let's hope so, 'cos I read the Imperial response and was hearing the A-team theme as Mr T bazooka-ed the damn fools who had held him captive for much of the show; it was the Indiana Jones grimace as he decided enough was enough in Temple of Doom; the bullied kid finally wising up and kicking Big Baz squarely in the balls.

We want more of this stuff, guys and gals. Civil servants and their fake charity lickspittles may not be listening, but if we really must be surrounded by morally and evidentially corrupt righteous scumbags, let's go down fighting like Butch and Sundance, not Mr bloody Bean*.

* Or, indeed, CAMRA.

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Shocking, But Somehow Not Unexpected

In an excellent article at The Free Society, Simon Hills last week put his finger firmly on the foibles of well-off UK 'progressive' elites. Drawing on the recent referendum results, he highlighted the collective mentality of Guardianistas who seem to think they are more worthy, and infinitely wiser, than the rest of us.

We just know that this class would be pro AV. In the same way that we know that it is pro-Palestine, pro-abortion rights, pro-alternative energy, pro-positive discrimination, pro-gay rights, pro-immigration. By the same token we know that the chattering classes are anti-fast food, anti-big business (with the exception of the Apple corporation), anti-car, anti-smoking, anti-television, anti-selective education. Anti working class, in other words.
Never a truer paragraph written, I'd say.

While they look to form the country - and we poor saps who have to endure their righteous pomposity - in their own image, they no doubt glance with envious eyes at the lefty paradise of San Francisco, where much of the above - if not already enshrined in law - is assumed to be accepted by everyone without question.

So much so, that the pro-Palestine (and consequentially anti-Israel) sentiment has been carried a bit too far in their zeal to ban circumcision for male children. Yes, I'm serious, they really are doing that.

With lobbying now in motion, the pro-ban contingent have - seemingly with no shame - targeted natural Jewish, religion-led, opposition with startlingly offensive campaign literature.

Now, I first thought this must be a cleverly-constructed smear, but the Foreskin Man website gives credit for the idea to the President of the organisation at the forefront of pushing the legislation through.

I don't think anyone sane believed we'd ever again see a totalitarian ideology confidently promoted with such obnoxious imagery, but there it is in technicolour.

This type of staggering arrogance - that it is unquestionable that their opinion is correct, therefore literally anything goes in pursuit of the cause - seems to be very common in all 'progressive' campaigns from public spending plans, through anti-obesity/smoking/fatty food directives to loopy and disastrously expensive 'green' initiatives. Who cares how damaging their policies, propaganda or methods are as long as they get what they want, eh?

In light of this and the other iron fist measures pursued so vigorously by the formerly peace-loving hippies who have destroyed tolerance (and the economy) in San Francisco, you have to wonder if they really do deserve the label that some ascribe to them.

We'll not need to openly invoke Godwin here, I think you get the gist.