Wednesday 31 October 2012

A Halloween Shocker!

For those who get their knickers in a twist over a barcode on a red car flashing by at 200mph, this is going to come as a terrific shock. I warn you, if you are of a fragile disposition, look away now!

Being half-term, I was out with the little Ps today and came across this ... in plain sight!

Appalling, isn't it? And the people who brazenly put these on public display are profiting from their evil actions, too. It wasn't the only disgusting item of depravity either. Right next to it was ... this!

Won't somebody please think of the children? Because there were plenty there today. In fact, children were positively encouraged with hefty discounts - pocket money prices, indeed - in a blatant attempt to ensnare our young into seeing this filth and instantly tumbling into a lifetime of addiction.

The evil 'guide' even asked if the little Ps wanted to sit in it! To get a closer look at the obscene markings on the bodywork and earn his paymasters a new recruit, I should expect.

It is the only explanation for this disgusting wall presentation - quite obviously a sick ploy to get round the tobacco display ban.

These people call themselves motor sport historians, or something, but are actually tobacco industry stooges peddling death to our children. 

I'm appalled, so I am. Appalled! Something must be done!

(On a more serious note, 'twas a grand day out. Brownie points to whoever can guess where we went)

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Dalli Prepares To Kiss And Tell?

Witty Euro-ferret Berlaymonster has discovered a new blog which appears to have been created by John Dalli (now into his third week of Euro Twitter trending). For some odd reason, the sole lonely post quotes Pele, seemingly hinting that they share a life of high-achieving struggle. Pfft!
"I've come to accept that the life of a frontrunner is a hard one, that he will suffer more injuries than most men and that many of these injuries will not be accidental."
Maybe it's true that the qualified accountant and C-list politician shares many, many similarities with the three-time world-cup winner, multiple world-record goal scorer, holder of several athlete and player of the century awards, and decorated UN ambassador. 
For the moment, those parallels escape BM, but we look forward to reading all about them on the blog, which remains curiously dormant for now.
Indeed it is dormant, but certainly checks out as being property of Dalli himself, and there is a veiled seething intent which suggests that he is preparing to spill his guts for the world to see.
Please stay tuned for new POSTS coming soon.
Oh joy! The capitalisation of 'posts' offers so much promise.

The blog was created, and that initial post written, on the 24th October. The very same day that President Barroso wrote to him to request a bit of decorum.
... in the light of certain statements and insinuations you have made in relation to the process of preparation of the revised directive on tobacco, I wish to remind you of your obligation, as a former Commissioner, to behave with integrity in accordance with Article 245 TFEU.
Looks like the old muttonhead may not go quietly into the night though, instead perhaps petulantly planning to throw around as much mud as he can lay his hands on.

Let loose, Dalli! Go for it, son! Tell us all how you're being set up by the tobacco industry after having tabled a directive which completely ignored the views of people who responded to the consultation while listening intently to those of the pharmaceutical industry.

For those of us who wish to see EU corruption ruthlessly exposed and also think the directive is deeply-flawed, I make that a no-lose situation. Either Dalli is compromised - which means someone will have to consider the consultation properly - or Barroso's EU is and no-one can ever again trust a word his administration says.

Bring it on, I say.

Monday 29 October 2012

In The Naughty Corner With You, Says Oliver

Some years ago, I found myself being invited to a Conservative Party fund-raising dinner. I'd never been a member of the party so it was something that came right out of left field.

It turns out that a letter I'd had printed in a local newspaper, in conjunction with an e-mail I sent to a Tory PPC, was the reason for my inclusion on the guest list barely two days before the event. I'm still at a loss as to why they made this offer, but as it was usually £50 per head and I was getting nosebag for free, who was I to grumble? Especially since the guest speaker was Oliver Letwin - one of the composers of the Tory manifesto - and a post-dinner question & answer session was promised. Ideal for getting my gobby self close enough to quiz a high profile politician at first hand, I thought.

Come the Q&A, there wasn't much chance of my hand being ignored as I held it up constantly through three long answers to previous questions. I think it was rather off-putting to Letwin as he kept firing a sideways glance to see if it was still there. As a result, I was handed the microphone soon after.

My question, as you might have guessed, was that Labour had aggressively attacked the lifestyles of working people with restrictions on what we consume, and did his party intend to get off of our backs and reverse some of these policies.

His answer was long-winded to say the least. Typically for a politician, he ran through many of Labour's illiberal measures, with reference to the European arrest warrant, detention without trial etc, and eventually - after two or three minutes - tacked on a sparse few seconds about the nanny state before declaring that "yes, we will roll back laws to afford more freedoms to the public.".

Of course, we've since seen that if there were ever any plans to give us back any freedoms, they must have been in those papers he was chucking in a park bin last year. We've seen nothing of the sort.

Now, the very same guy is saying stuff like this.
Oliver Letwin MP, minister or government policy, has described minimum unit pricing as “one of trying to affect behaviour” with regards anti-social drinking habits.
Yet another, then, who doesn't actually believe you should have any freedoms at all. Well, not unless they are those politicians have decided are in accord with their own personal preferences, anyway.
He stressed that in no way did the government wish to “eliminate people ever drinking again,” ...
Oh how very generous of you, Oliver. However, that this should even need to be stated is proof that these people have gone too far. Of course government should not be wanting to eliminate drinking, they are our servants, not our masters, have they forgotten?
... but also added that it was extremely difficult for an administration to hit upon the right solution.
The solution is to ignore the incessant and shrill wailing of tax-sponging lobby groups and professional prohibitionists, and instead mould the state round how we taxpayers - who fund it, remember - wish to live. I know that would involve being brave and saying no to a few entrenched civil servants, but that's what a spine is for.
He continued that on the one side it was necessary that those selling and promoting alcohol were doing so responsibly but he also stressed the need to have a population that “of its own free will, will choose to behave in a responsible way”.
Responsible according to whom? Well, the government, of course. So, just to translate, Letwin is saying that he wants us to enjoy our own free will as long as it is in a way that he and his chums have decided that we should.
“We can’t use ‘blunt’ legislative action to restrict the amount people are consuming. We can’t introduce the ‘Alcohol In Moderation Bill’ it’s just not practical."
... Yet.
“How can you adjust attitudes? That’s why it’s a field of experimentation. We could, in theory, raise the minimum price to a level which makes it impossible for any but the extraordinarily rich to buy but people would find a way round it. 
“Similarly, it can’t be too low as it wouldn’t have any effect. Minimum pricing is an effort to achieve a subtle behavioural effect."
Here's a radical idea. You could always try to just do nothing and let the market - that is, us the public, remember us? - decide what prices are acceptable and what aren't. You see, Oliver, as one of the aforementioned 'extraordinarily rich', you couldn't give a monkey's bawbag either way, could you? So you should have absolutely nothing to do with dictating the prices that the rest of us have to pay (in another account of his speech, he declared that he wanted plebs' drinks to be "unpleasantly expensive"). Just stick to your state-funded high quality wine and champagne and leave us to decide if the price of a slab of Carling is acceptable or not, OK?
He even suggested that it would be possible to “adjust policy as evidence emerges as to the effects” on how successful they are proving."
Yes, yes. We've known for a long time that the price level set for minimum pricing will be ratcheted rapidly upwards once you lot forever burden us with it. But thanks for the further confirmation.

The election rhetoric of 2010 is almost a lifetime away, isn't it? Change? What change?

Sunday 28 October 2012

Must Be One Hell Of A Secret!

As we relax on a Sunday evening, it's worth looking forward to the coming week and - hopefully - more revelations in the John Dalli affair.

If you're not aware of this, it concerns the Maltese EU Health Commissioner resigning from his post (or forced out, according to him) over alleged charges of overlooking corruption. The UK press have been almost silent on the affair - despite speculation now entering a third week - which is very strange considering Dalli's job held sway over every single citizen of the UK as well as those in the other 26 countries of the EU. UKIP's Alexandra Swann was the first to point out how blasé this is.

It could, however, be explained by the fact that no-one really has much of a clue as to what is going on at the moment. Snowdon has been posting the odd info here and there, but the truth is that the EU and their anti-corruption enforcers, OLAF, are keeping tight-lipped about the whole case.

As a result, conspiracy theories are rife. Almost all of them from the tobacco control industry accusing tobacco companies of some kind of nefarious plot, despite all the available evidence pointing elsewhere. This blogger, for example, has suggested that media silence could be evidence of tobacco execs running around stifling reporters who are usually champing at the bit to attack smoking and the companies which provide the materials.

The European Smokefree Partnership stopped a smidgeon short of accusing tobacco companies of rifling their offices, whilst a Maltese politician was more forthright in declaring that Dalli was framed.

A barrowload of empty vessels making a right royal din, but still no revelations from the EU, or any sign that OLAF will be releasing the findings of their months-long investigation into Dalli.

Why not?

If this was a case of tobacco companies trying to pervert the passage of Dalli's Tobacco Products Directive, it should be dead simple. Just produce the OLAF report and release the Europe-wide, professional, state-funded tobacco control hounds to rip and tear at the tobacco industry's sorry carcass. It's the stuff of the overwhelmingly anti-tobacco EU's wildest wet dreams.

But they won't do that. They have consistently refused despite EU President Barroso's evident contempt for Dalli in correspondence.

Today, the Times of Malta has led with an editorial demanding that the OLAF report is made public.
The report compiled by the EU’s anti-fraud agency, OLAF, which led to the departure of John Dalli from the European Commission, must be published immediately. The issue will not go away until there is full disclosure. And while this fails to happen, the situation is unfair on Mr Dalli, Silvio Zammit and the public, as well as casting a shadow on the Commission’s approach to transparency. 
For all its well-oiled and well-paid public relations machinery, the EU has made a rather amateur job of disseminating information about this case to the public. Statement has followed statement but conspicuous by its absence has been the vital golden thread that must hold them together: documented evidence. 
We have been told by European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso that it is there; we have been told by the head of OLAF that it is there; and we have been told by several spokesmen. But more than 10 days on from Mr Dalli’s departure being made public, we have been not been told what that evidence is.
Indeed. It must be one hell of a secret for the EU to be so determined to keep it quiet! What on earth is the problem?
There is only one way to resolve this: publish, and let whoever is in the wrong be damned.
I agree entirely. Publish the evidence, let the world see how disgusting the tobacco industry is, and move on. What could be more simple? Or is it a little bit more problematic than that?

Whiffs more than a plate of fortnight-old trout, dunnit? Roll on week three, I'm glued.

Friday 26 October 2012

The One-Sided Equation Trick

Drinks industry correspondent Phil Mellows has written a very good piece explaining how the debate about alcohol has departed from proper cost/benefit analysis, and instead become a political numbers game. It's worth reading in full, but this particular observation jumped out of the page.
One of the odd things that always struck me about the Sheffield modelling study, on which claims for the potential efficacy of minimum unit pricing is almost exclusively based, is the compulsive costing of everything, and it attracts particular attention from Makela
To take the most staggering example, Makela points out you can’t calculate the cost to society of people with alcohol problems becoming unemployed because someone else comes off the dole and takes the job. There’s a heavy loss to the individual but no loss to society. 
Yet in the Sheffield modelling no less than 75% of society’s gain from a 40p minimum price comes from a fictitious reduction in unemployment. 
Perhaps minimum pricing will work. Perhaps there is an ethical case for it. But spurious cost savings aren’t going to convince me.
He's right, of course. Public health is in the habit of grabbing any kind of dubious statistic to suit whichever cause they are advocating for at any one time, so it isn't surprising to know that Sheffield Uni are engaging in the time-honoured practice of the one-sided equation. There's more about their flawed 'science' here, and a little bit about their incompetence here.

"Spurious cost savings" is a very good description, especially since we've seen the same in reverse from the tobacco control lobby.

You see, while Sheffield are declaring that loss of earnings is a total disaster for the country, Policy Exchange in 2010 were pulling all manner of contortions to discount the same in their appalling "Cough Up" report. As I mentioned at the time.
Page 16 concludes that all these smokers giving up, while deletorious to the tobacco industry, will have an impact on the economy of £nil as the money will be spent elsewhere (the economic 'free lunch', benefits without corresponding cost). Conversely, however, the cost of cleaning up cigarette litter is valued at £342m with no reasonable assumption that the streets will still need to be swept anyway (unless there are dedicated fag butt sweepers paid £342m pa that I didn't know about).
You see, both cannot possibly be correct at the same time. What we are seeing is the one-sided equation when it suits them, and a two-sided one when that is the better option for their pre-conceived conclusion. Either Sheffield bods are negligent in not acknowledging that unemployment will lead to societal opportunities elsewhere, or Policy Exchange were negligent in stating that opportunities will occur elsewhere (while also stating that they, err, wouldn't).

Furthermore, Policy Exchange discounted profits made outside the UK - despite the fact that they are taxed here - and also ignored indirect costs (presumably because they didn't fit the agenda) in some places but included them in others.

It all points to the one conclusion, though. Public health will twist statistics to their own advantage, including or not including whatever they believe will gull politicians in favour of their case.

They're not interested in impartial analysis - never have been - just what statistical lies they can get away with.

If it were truly about health, they'd be honest, scrupulous and consistent in their methodology. The fact they aren't, proves that it isn't.

Thursday 25 October 2012

Sod Basic Economics When There's A Public To Mislead

Simon Chapman, a man whose sharp tongue never quite hides his blunt mind, tweeted this witty put-down the other day.

Sadly for the Jurassic berk, it isn't actually true at all.

He was referring to this page from Cancer Research UK (ASH carried something similar the day before).
Rates of tobacco smuggling into the UK have fallen despite earlier claims from the tobacco industry that tax rises would prompt an increase in the illicit trade, official figures show
An estimated nine per cent of cigarettes consumed in the UK in 2010/11 were illicit, compared with 11 per cent in the previous year, according to HM Revenue & Customs.
I think you can see the problem there, can't you? Yes, the figures are almost two years out of date.

Since then, we have had two budgets. In 2011, duty was raised by 50p per pack and earlier this year, by a further 37p per pack.
Robin Hewings, Cancer Research UK's tobacco policy manager, commented: "The tobacco industry claims that cigarette smuggling is 'booming', 'set to grow' and that the UK is becoming the European 'hotspot'."
It looks like they were entirely correct, because the latest figures - you know, not two year old ones - show exactly that.
THE trade in illicit cigarettes has exploded in the past year - with nearly 16.5 per cent of all fags now fake or counterfeit. 
Shock figures last night revealed the black market rise - and piled pressure on to ministers. The proportion of “illicit” cigarettes smoked in the UK has soared by almost a FIFTH over the last 12 months, up from 13.8 to 16.4 per cent.
That looks like confirmation that the illicit market was 'set to grow' and that it is now 'booming', wouldn't you agree?

The UK is, indeed, becoming a European 'hotspot', as the Tobacco Retailers Alliance - whose link was provided by Hewings - stated just over a week ago.

It probably explains why no newspapers picked up on this demonstrable tobacco control industry bullshit. You see, they were fully aware of the up-to-date figures and weren't conned by vested interest fanatics using old stats to rubbish more recent statements which happen to be true.

ASH and CRUK's economic illiteracy - that is, to ridiculously state that hikes in duty don't lead to increased avoidance - is even more cretinous when cross-referenced with the Taylor Report. This was commissioned by the previous government in 1999 but, strangely, only released in July.

It's pretty unambiguous.
"The principal cause of the smuggling, of course, is the high level of duty in the UK."
Well, duh!

So, shall we just file this - like others where these morons exhibit their stupidity - in the ever-burgeoning folder labelled "tobacco control talking utter bollocks"?

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Steve Baker MP Questions: Government Lobbying Government Encouraged By Department Of Health

You may remember my mentioning, earlier this month, Steve Baker MP having asked a few questions of government departments about their policy towards grants afforded to charities.

Having only seen three replies at the time, I guessed that there would be more to come, an assumption which was confirmed by Baker himself popping by to declare that "There will be further answers. We asked them all.". True to his word, they are all now available.

You may also remember that I was looking forward to how the Department of Health's response would compare with that of all the others. So let's boil them down, eh?
Culture Media and Sport: Use of DCMS grants is also limited to the specific purpose for which each is given, and DCMS does not provide grants specifically for advocacy, lobbying or campaigning. 
Home Department: Providing a grant to any organisation for the purpose of political advocacy, lobbying or campaigning would not be in line with Home Office policy, and is expressly prohibited by the terms and conditions of the standard Home Office grant agreement. 
Justice: Grant agreements contain standard terms and conditions which prohibit using the grant to fund certain activities. These include activities which may be party-political in intention, use or presentation or general lobbying on behalf of the recipient. 
Education: Our policy is that grant funding may not be used, and is not granted for, the purposes of funding advocacy, lobbying or campaigning. 
International Development: As a matter of principle funding from DFID cannot be awarded to initiatives that involve direct lobbying of the UK Government or of international organisations of which the UK Government is a member. 
Communities and Local Government: Ministers believe that it is inappropriate for taxpayers' money to subsidise such campaigning activity. 
Energy and Climate Change: The charities we engage take no position on policy issues and do not engage in advocacy, lobbying or campaigning.
All pretty clear so far. In fact, only Transport were a trifle vague by pointing to this pdf document and referring to framework terms and conditions which we can't possibly look into without FOI requests.

The Department of Health, however, were uniquely unapologetic.
The Department supports and recognises the role of charities and voluntary organisations to undertake advocacy, lobbying and campaigning where they are seeking to improve the health and well-being outcomes for the population of England.
It's kinda what we knew already, but I must admit that I truly believed they'd try to obscure it with flowery sentences. Government lobbying government, using your taxes, is not only acceptable to the DoH, but is positively encouraged.

It's why ASH, fake charities on foodie subjects, and - until very recently - Alcohol Concern - are shovelled millions of pounds of your cash to order you around.

They've made their minds up. Your hard-earned is extremely welcome in the state's coffers, but your personal choices can go hang.

Stinks, doesn't it?

Tuesday 23 October 2012

The Global War On Drugs Fail In Microcosm

Only a blinkered state agency couldn't have seen this coming.
By driving the soft drugs trade underground, the Dutch town of Maastricht has triggered a crime wave. analyses the effects of the controversial 'weed pass' law

Maastricht - formerly a mecca for drug tourists from across western Europe - has called for police reinforcements to handle "aggressive" street pushers, who have taken over almost all trade in marijuana and cannabis since authorities introduced tighter controls on legal outlets. The Dutch town's Mayor Onno Hoes wants to double the number of dedicated police officers in order to control the black market, which has benefited from the region's draconian "weed pass" law. 
The weed pass came into effect in Maastricht, a border town close to both Belgium and Germany, on May 1. It killed off an international trade that had thrived for decades. 
Forget the usual computer-generated - and universally publication-biased - modelling, this is real life experience, the very best evidence there is.
According to a series of articles in Limburger, a local newspaper, the illegal street trade has boomed since May 1. Drug dealers, some of them children and many of them from Eastern Europe and North Africa, now fight for control of the 120,000-population city. Eight of 17 local authorities that took part in a survey said they had witnessed an increase in drug-related problems since the weed pass came into force, the Limburger reported.
Oh dear. And this merely through requiring residents to register as members of coffee shops to deter outsiders. Imagine the carnage had they plumped for full prohibition.
"Everything we predicted has come true," says Marc Josemans, head of the association of Maastricht coffee shop owners. "Some of the dealers on the street now are as young as 14, some are as old as 65," he tells this website. "They are making good profits". Maastricht has become a "ghost town" since May, says Josemans. "I will admit there are a lot more parking spaces available, but there have been a lot of negative side effects. There is no tourism anymore. We have committed economic suicide."
Do you reckon states worldwide will gather together and hold huge conferences to discuss this devastating proof that their policies are incompetent and damaging to the public? You know, like they do when they are plotting to take our freedoms away?

Yeah, I know. Silly question.

Especially since the almost religious crusade against certain substances seems to turn state employees' brains to mush.
[Gertjan Bos, Hoes' spokesman said] "The weed pass has been a success as 1.5 million people who used to come from abroad are not coming anymore".
This is 'success'? I thought it was those high on weed who were meant to be losing their minds.

How Are They Going To Spin This?

The future of the legislation for minimum alcohol pricing is unclear amid government fears over the details. 
According to the Sunday Times this week’s plans to make a new policy declaration on alcohol pricing have been postponed. 
The newspaper reported that, “civil servants have been ordered to check the modelling to ensure the figures are watertight because of worries about a legal challenge from the alcohol industry if there are any errors.” 
The newspaper went on to say that it is now thought the announcement will not be made for months.
Yeah, good luck with that.

I'd love to be a fly on the wall considering the 'evidence' is slapdash and the University which conducted it is incompetent.

Monday 22 October 2012

Managing Livestock

As mentioned earlier this week, I trundled up to the Barbican yesterday for a couple of sessions at the Battle of Ideas.

During the day, I caught up with my good friend and Stony Stratford charioteer, Tom Paine. I was planning on writing a rundown of the day's events but - as he said he would do - Tom left earlier than me in his gleaming Speranza and beat me to it.

His account of Saturday's events was of his usual exceptional standard, but the masterful prose he employs to describe yesterday's sessions is a joy to read ... even if the subject matter was exasperatingly pessimistic at times.

Do go read the whole thing, it might make you shift uncomfortably in your seat.

After such a comprehensive report, there's not much left to pick over except to expand on a couple of Tom's points with my own observations.
The second session I attended was called Risk, regulation and red tape. I am sorry to tell you that it was even more depressing. Professor Nick Butler of Kings College and more relevantly the Fabian Society actually said from a public platform with a straight face;
All the regulations of the last 50 years were necessary and are effective.
I noted it carefully at the time because I could not believe my ears.
Indeed Butler did say this, but what is more extraordinary was that he had begun his allotted time by declaring that yes, indeed, rules had gone too far, and a safe environment requires people taking responsibility for themselves. But he followed that with the bizarre conclusion that "deregulation should not happen" and we should carry on with the state taking responsibility away from individuals, as before. Huh?

That's 'im, on the right
It was almost as if he got carried away with himself in telling the truth, before realising that this wasn't the Fabian line and recanting sharpish because regulation is - and always has been - his lot's lucrative stock in trade.

Yeah, funny that Tory policy-makers used to value freedom, isn't it? 
A different strand of the same authoritarian thinking was displayed by Tom's pick of the weekend's miserable micro-managers at the second of the sessions I attended, Drink, Smoke, Eat; Prohibition Today.
My choice is Dr Michael Nelson, director of research and nutrition at the Children's Food Trust (a "social business" working with the "charity" the Schools Food Trust). ... it wasn't the advice he would give parents as to what their children should eat but his contempt for their ability to make choices and their right to do so that was the problem. He ... complained that parents (as witness the contents of packed lunches they sent with their children to school) could not be trusted to make good choices for their children's health. Government attempts to improve nutrition by requiring catering contractors to offer healthy choices had failed because those choices were simply not taken up. If we care about "our children" he said (oddly as he and I have no children together) then we must help parents who;  
...we know from experience do not themselves have the the power of executive decision when it comes to their own diet... 
In other words, these people are too stupid to be parents. I asked myself (but did not dare to articulate the suggestion unless it gave him ideas) why he stopped short of taking all of British childkind into care. After all, their parents are too stupid to raise them properly and are jeopardising their families' health irresponsibly.
It has to be remarked that the installation of someone as dreary in thought and deed to a role which impacts on the exuberance and joy of childhood is frightening in itself. So monotone and dull was this guy that when he uttered the word 'fun' it almost sounded as if it contains two syllables, even Lurch would probably have run away in terror if they encountered each other in a dark alley.

His insistence that parents should have no say over what their children eat at school is only possible due to his previous repositioning of his role in the rearing of them. I heard Tom - as Nelson was rambling on about our children - ask the question "whose children?". I'm sure this wasn't audible to Nelson, but even if it was, the response would have been to ignore rather than try to justify it.

Regular readers here will remember that we have seen the same arrogant assumption that the state is now de facto mother and father to all of the country's children in an exchange on BBC radio back in June. On that occasion, it was the Libertarian Alliance's Sean Gabb asking the simple question "whose children?", only to be met with screeching fury from Sonia Poulton at the temerity of someone highlighting this inconvenient flaw in the assumed powers of the state.

The same thread runs through all authoritarian thinking, in all areas.

Nick Butler's stubborn blindness to the state's inadequacy with regards regulation is driven by the same reasoning that motivates Michael Nelson to get up in the morning and inflict rules on parents. They both share the view that people are not capable of running their own lives, and that someone else must do it for them.

In Butler's case, without regulations, we would all be running around irresponsibly killing and maiming one another because it's only the state's intervention which regulates our window-licking ignorance. With Nelson, only the state and its agencies know how to feed kids, parents are just unpaid morons who only think they know their offspring well enough to rear them, but who would see them dead in their twenties through neglect without his (highly-paid) intervention.

You are stupid, they are not. You are merely dangerous unthinking de-humanised livestock, to be managed and controlled by central tax-funded bureaucracy. It's why the same strand of ideology is floating ideas such as hand-made humans, advocating discarding the "fetish of consumer choice", and declaring that government "will no longer tolerate" your free choices.


Anyway, to lighten the mood, you'll be pleased to know that the best lines, and laughs, of the Sunday were provided by panellists who opposed the turgid 'liberal' control agenda, some of which Liberal Vision has highlighted.

The last word of Michael Nelson's session was one such instance, as delivered by Rob Lyons. Responding to a question from the audience - which had been studiously ignored by the po-faced contingent among the top tablers - about how our risk and health obsessed modern British society would view Felix Baumgartner's inspiring leap from space, Lyons declared that they would have tried their hardest to ban it. Not because of the feat itself, but for the fact that it was sponsored by a sugary drinks manufacturer.

I swear I saw even Nelson's frown-aged face crack into a reluctant smile at that.

Do As We Say, Not As We Do

OK, we've already seen how plain packaging campaigners have complained about opposition signatures being a bit dodgy despite their own employees encouraging multiple duplicate sign ups. And this after they had already rigged every possible aspect of the consultation in their favour with no independent input allowed.

Just to update you, though, Nannying Tyrants has found that their one-eyed skewing of the truth extends further than that.

Yes, they really did state to the Department of Health, with a straight face, that "at every stage of the campaign, Smokefree South West was careful to make sure that we did not 'cross-promote' any of the different sign-up methods" ... while they were cross-promoting like crazy at every possible opportunity.

Then, we have the sad antipodean 60s throwback blowhard trying to defend the indefensible with some lame reference to a 2008 message board where members of the American public responded to an online poll open to, err, the public ...

... despite his own side of professionals actively perverting matters elsewhere themselves.

You see, they - who are paid for by your taxes - are allowed to interfere wherever they choose and to cheat, game and obstruct due consultative process at every turn. You, however, must shut the fuck up and not object to anything they waste your money on.

Hypocrisy simply isn't a strong enough word for people as unscrupulous as these.

Thursday 18 October 2012

BMA Lying Again, Say Their Friends ... Again!

Following the recent re-opening of the drive to ban smoking in all cars (yes, all cars, the children have ceased to be that relevant as predicted here 3 years ago), Wasp did some excellent digging which is worth a read in full.

On finally tracking down the research referenced by the BBC - but not linked to as the BBC had promised was going to happen back in 2010 - he found a very interesting footnote.

For background, you may remember that the last time this subject cropped up, Vivienne Nathanson of the BMA lied on BBC radio. No, really, quite comprehensively in fact.

This was demonstrably untrue, as she should have known very well if she is to describe herself as an 'expert'. It was thoroughly debunked by her own side a long time before that transmission. After a few stiff e-mails from certain, ahem, sections of the blogosphere, the BMA were forced to issue a humiliating retraction just a couple of days later.
Please note, there is an error in the BMA briefing paper: Smoking in vehicles. On page 4, in the 3rd paragraph, the following sentence is incorrect: 
“Further studies demonstrate that the concentration of toxins in a smoke-filled vehicle is 23 times greater than that of a smoky bar, even under realistic ventilation conditions”. 
THIS SENTENCE HAS BEEN REPLACED WITH: "Further studies demonstrate that the concentration of toxins in a smoke-filled vehicle could be up to 11 times greater than that of a smoky bar”. 
We apologise for this error.
This week, via the source of the BBC's story, it seems that they've been taken to task on that, too [opens pdf].
The recent BMA briefing paper on smoking in vehicles initially stated that “the concentration of toxins in a smoke-filled vehicle is 23 times greater than that of a smoky bar, even under realistic ventilation conditions” and cited studies from controlled conditions.Our data do not support this claim nor the BMA’s retraction issued the following day changing the text to “the concentration of toxins in a smoke-filled vehicle could be up to 11 times greater than that of a smoky bar.” Our study of a large number of real-life smoking journeys suggests that SHS concentrations measured over the duration of the journey are, on average, between one-half and one-third of the average levels measured in UK bars prior to smoke-free legislation.
Now, even that figure I would say is highly debatable. But it's quite clear that Nathanson was spouting utter bollocks on national radio and dishonestly insisting that a figure 15 times larger than that was "peer-reviewed" and uncontested, when it wasn't.

Et tu, Semple of Aberdeen?

This should, of course, mean that no-one can ever take Nathanson or the BMA seriously again but you know that won't happen.

Is there anyone in the tobacco control industry who isn't an agenda-driven, dishonest incompetent?

UPDATE: How prescient was this from Brendan O'Neill last year?
Nowhere can I see hard evidence that smoking in cars generates 11 times the toxicity of a smoky bar.
That's because, as we now know thanks to Dr Semple, it was quite clearly fabricated.
It's time for the BMA to admit that its report demanding a ban on smoking in cars was a career low, a true jumping-of-the-shark for this busybody outfit determined to lecture the British populace. This is what happens when you opt for moralism over medicine and become more concerned with socially re-engineering the feckless masses than with boosting medical services. The BMA needs to butt out of our private lives and choices and go back to doing proper medicine, and the media should be more critical of nanny-state demands dressed up in pseudoscientific garb.
Amen to that.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Plain Packs Campaign Encouraged Multiple Duplication Of Signatures

You may remember, last month, that the Department of Health released their correspondence on the plain packs campaign with a number of organisations including Forest. Simon Clark wrote about it at the time.
The correspondence includes two letters to Forest from the tobacco programme manager at the DH. In his letters he highlighted five specific incidents concerning the HOOP campaign.
Clark also described how his responses to the concerns raised had not been included in the published documents.
The DH is now is possession of two further letters from me, one dated August 30, the second dated September 7. The first is a five-page letter which provides a detailed response to all queries. The second is a four-page letter in which I highlight several concerns that we have about the Plain Packs Protect campaign. 
Neither letter was part of the package of correspondence released on Friday because they were sent outside the period stipulated in the FOI request.
Of course, for a tobacco control industry still reeling from the huge numbers of signatures opposing them, that didn't matter. Here was a straw and they were desperate to clutch it. The experts in evidence manipulation and spin sprang onto Twitter, and other avenues, to manipulate evidence and, err, spin (click to enlarge).

No point in waiting for the other side of the story before making their conclusions, was there? It might prove that there was nothing in it, and that just wouldn't do. Besides, they've spent decades ensuring there cannot be another side of the story, so it was business as usual really. 

Sadly for them, another side of the story has emerged with another release of documents by the Department of Health, this time of correspondence with the pro plain packaging campaign. There's a lot to read through there, so enjoy yourselves, but the one that caught my eye today is the e-mail from Deborah Arnott to the DoH on 10th August [pdf] (sixth from the bottom).
I understand that you have been copied into an email from a junior member of the UKCTCS which was circulated to the UKCTCS list encouraging sign up to the various websites supporting plain packs stating that  "You can only vote once on each petition, but I would seriously doubt that there will be cross checking between charity petitions so it may be worth signing all of them to get your money's worth"
Oh really? Isn't that just a bit, you know, corrupt? Perhaps even 'laughably amateur' according to one commentator.

So a tobacco control industry employee was actively encouraging fraudulent submissions of signatures. Perhaps we should take to Twitter and tell the world, eh? Sauce for the gander, and all that. 

Just as in the case of the September frenzy from tobacco control,. we don't know what happened after that as there is nothing (that I can spot, anyway) detailing what measures Arnott took afterwards. But that shouldn't matter, should it? It certainly didn't for CRUK, Chapman and Scally, after all.

In fact, it's worse than that. You see, this wasn't a couple of rogue part-time signature-gatherers perverting evidence, it was someone working on behalf of the campaign itself. What's more, there are other questions which jump out of this document.

How did ASH know that the DoH had received a copy of the email? Would Arnott have disclosed the email if the DoH hadn't already been "copied into" it? How long after the original corrupt encouragement was a corrective email sent? How many people received the original email? How many acted on the email before being notified not to? How many forwarded the original email to how many others? 

In a separate document [pdf] (the bottom one), Smokefree South West subsequently state that they have put protocols in place to ensure signatures are not duplicated, but they admit that they have no clue about those from CRUK, BHF or Avaaz because they all used different systems. Instead, they ask that the Department of Health do that job for them!

So, to pinch vernacular from CRUK, Plain Packs Protect say 211,653 signed its pro plain packs petition. The above suggests otherwise.

Just sayin'.

Something For The Weekend?

An excellent article appeared on the Independent website, of all places, on Monday entitled "there's a new species of prohibitionism on the rise".
Are we entering a new prohibitionist era? Drinking, smoking and ‘junk food’ are perfectly legal, but there is a palpable sense that they are becoming unacceptable. Burgers, chips and pizza are considered inappropriate in schools, we obsess about the salt and sugar content of such foods and what in the past may have been explained as puppy-fat is now an obesity epidemic. 
The discussions about introducing plain packaging for cigarettes and a minimum price for each unit of alcohol continue. The spread of no-drinking zones in public places also seems to follow the pattern of smoking bans, which now cover every indoor public space and many outdoor ones too. Instead of banning certain activities, is the state trying render them socially unacceptable?
It's right up our street and a recommended read in full.

Unknown to me at the time I picked up on it from Twitter, it is written by Jason Smith, who is chairing a debate at the Battle Of Ideas at the Barbican this weekend which I am popping along to on Sunday.

The BoI is a fast-growing annual event which attracts free thinkers from around the world to talk about how society is being shaped, for better or worse by political players. I missed it last year because I was inconveniently flued-up, only to be regaled about what a great experience it was by those who attended. D'oh!

There is a large array of subjects being covered so, if you're at a loose end this weekend, get yourself a ticket and I'll hopefully see you there.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Mascot Watch 21: 'In Your Face' BBC Edition

It's been a couple of months since the last update on our esteemed mascot. Our previous granting of his wish to be The Gruffalo was well received in his office, sources have told me.

His mood was less frivolous, though, when featured by Guido this morning requesting Ofcom investigate whether the BBC should be considered a "fit and proper" organisation to hold a broadcasting licence in light of the Jimmy Savile revelations. His letter can be read below.

Letter to CEO of Ofcom

For anyone (me included) who witnessed how the BBC led a lefty feeding frenzy during Leveson, it was hilarious to see their not-so-subtle stoking of flames against Murdoch potentially come back to bite them painfully on the arse, courtesy of our Phil.

The hacking scandal - awful as it was - revolved around reporting of stories in an illegal manner which caused much offence. Allegations in the BBC's case involve people actually being harmed while BBC bosses looked away.

I'm sure the BBC will pursue their own nasty skeletons in exactly the same aggressive manner that they subtlely went after their main broadcasting competitor, eh? They are, after all, impeccably impartial, aren't they?


Smart Cards For The Friendless

I'd briefly planned to write something on Iain Duncan Smith's "smart cards for the feckless" policy but had discarded the idea, thinking that it would - like almost everything the coalition has announced since 2010 - be creaking under the strain of universal hilarity by the time I got round to it.

Apparently not. In fact, unless my being extremely busy with that real life thing has meant that I missed the conflagration of criticism, there has been little comment on the matter. It would seem that the public's general penchant for sneering at the lives of those deemed inferior has blinded almost everyone to the unthinking idiocy of the plan.

I say almost everyone because Angela at Liberal Vision has nicely filleted it, whilst also raising valid points about the mission creep for which it could pave a nice flat, smooth path with pretty raised brick border and colourful - yet tastefully nuanced - shrubbery.

You see, this is how IDS views the world of the underclass: (cue idyllic 1930s English countryside ditty)
Bert: 'Ere, Joe. The social 'av just given me this 'ere smart card. Instead of me benefits, I gotta use this in shops and it won't work if I try to get me fags and booze!
Joe: The bastards! So what yer gonna do, then?
Bert: Nuffink I can do, is there? I'm just gonna 'av to give up the drink and smokes and go get a job!
Whereas anyone who has ever lived amongst or near the type of people IDS is targeting know the conversation would, more likely, go like this:
Bert: 'Ere, Joe. The social 'av just given me this 'ere smart card. Instead of me benefits, I gotta use this in shops and it won't work if I try to get me fags and booze!
Joe: The bastards! Anyfink I can do to help, mucker?
Bert: Well, I suppose. You can still buy that stuff, can't ya?
Joe: Yeah. 'Ere, tell you what. Why don't I get your baccy and beer, and I'll give you a food shoppin' list for the same amount. Then I just come round your gaff and we swap.
Bert: Sorted! Cheers, mate.
So, in short, IDS's plan will only work for those who can count on no-one trustworthy enough to do a deal with. Not so much smart cards for the feckless as for the friendless. It also shows his astounding lack of understanding as to the resourcefulness of working class (or, indeed, non-working class) folk. They've been dancing round the - mostly class-motivated - avalanche of sin taxes and government regulations on their way of life for millennia, why would they stop when faced with something as poorly thought-out, and easily counteracted, as selective smart cards?

A convenient headline grabber for the Daily Mail contingent, then, while also gently introducing the idea of smart cards as a means of lifestyle control to a largely bovine public.

Just what we've come to expect from politicians of late, sadly.

Monday 15 October 2012

The Minimum Alcohol Pricing Car Crash

After months fighting against common sense, statistical evidence, public opinion and EU law, the Scotsman reported yesterday that minimum alcohol pricing has been shelved for now by the SNP government.

With any luck, Cameron might notice this bloated bluebottle in the ointment and rethink his idea to replicate the silly, junk science-led policy in England.

However, in Australia, a similar move is providing interfering health groups with some smashing orgasms.
CHEAP wine will be banned under a federal health agency's plan to make drinkers pay at least $8-$10 (£5.10-£6.38) for a bottle of booze. 
The Federal Government's Australian National Preventative Health Agency will advise this week that a "floor price" and new taxes be calculated as a way to make alcohol dearer. 
The prohibition plan to stop cheap drunks binging on discount drinks - including cask wine and cleanskins - has delighted health groups but sparked an alcohol industry revolt.
Listen. It's Australia's business, I suppose. If people there are happy to buckle under and be dictated to by joyless pecksniffs, who are we to argue? I did enjoy this hilarious juxtaposition, though.
[The Agency] has found "strong community support" to change the existing alcohol tax system, so that wine would be taxed on the basis of its alcohol content rather than its price.
Hmm. There's a poll to the right of that comment. It would appear that the ANPHA's definition of 'support' is quite different to that of people who aren't paid to advance an agenda.

Still, who cares what the public think, eh? It's never mattered to bully-boy health groups before.

H/T Angry upside-down bloke

Sunday 14 October 2012

When The Lie Is Just Too Big

The Graun has today come over all concerned about shisha pipes.
Experts fear many shisha smokers are unaware of the health risks they are taking. They claim that shisha smoking – inhaling flavoured tobacco smoke after it has passed through a water basin – is significantly more damaging than smoking normal cigarettes.
Really? What 'experts' are these then?
A survey soon to be published by the anti-smoking group Ash says ...
Hmm, not a promising start, is it?
Experts said they were concerned many people were unaware of the risks associated with smoking shisha pipes. The BHF survey found that 84% of people thought that using a shisha pipe for an hour was equivalent to inhaling the smoke of 10 cigarettes. In fact, according to the BHF, it is like more than 100.
So, not experts at all. Simply the same old rent-seeking, from the usual suspects, in their favoured lefty organ. And spouting a figure which is pure fantasy.

Except that no-one - not even traditionally state and ban-friendly Guardian readers - is buying it this time, as is plain from the comments.
"Will they ever publish any objective studies to show the contents and effects of shisha smoke? Having seen the actual quantity of tobacco in the flavouring it's hard to see how the damage equates to a hundred cigarettes an hour." 
"Alarmist nonsense." 
"Do BHF even know how shisha is smoked by the casual smokers? [...] If you're going to tell me that an hour of shisha is as harmful as a 100 cigarettes, you're really going to have to give me a link to the study"
They won't be doing that anytime soon. You might read it!
"I don't really think the denizens of Edgware Road's shisha cafes give a XXXX what the BHF says. In fact, I'd take their opiniion on the matter over the self-interested scare-mongering of some tax-exempt charity any day...."
"ASH and the BHF are a bunch of sticky-beaks. what the hell has it got to do with them if some people want to enjoy a pleasant, fun, sociable smoke of a shisha pipe? I get the impression ASH and BHF are just not interested in positives."
Have they ever been?

And I get the impression they're not doing their reputations any good by adhering to a lie that is just too big. It's a classic case of the serial fantasist getting caught out when the Walter Mitty life they are living becomes too far-fetched to believe and doubts are irrevocably sown. 

As such, I do hope they continue with these daft shisha claims, because they lead to comments like this, my personal favourite.
"do ASH and the BHF really care about people's health, or are they simply a bunch of self-righteous puritans looking to guilt trip and scare people."
Well, we know the answer to that question, don't we? But it's great to see those scales falling away from many eyes, nonetheless.

Friday 12 October 2012

Teens Have No Interest In Cigarette Packets .. Say Smokefree South West!

In April, Smokefree South West were papering up the West Country with signs - paid for with £468k of your taxes - stating that branding of tobacco was so alluring to the young that it has to be banned immediately!

However, in July, their Director Fiona Andrews seems to have changed her mind during a Powerpoint presentation (slide 10).
- Teenagers interviewed could associate few values with
manufactured ‘stick’ brands 
- Few expressed any interest in manufactured packet or
‘stick’ brands:  “What grannies smoke”
Far from enticing youngsters, Fiona is quite sure that tailored cigarette brands are something that youngsters wish to avoid. They're what grannies smoke. Ewww!

So what's with the guff they've been spreading about all those tailored packs, then? Perhaps they'd like to tell the British Heart Foundation of this discovery, because their propaganda concentrates on nothing else (badly).

On the plus side, Fiona's refreshing honesty does mostly agree with the conclusions of Cancer Research UK, who are adamant that kids barely notice any tobacco packaging.

Something tells me that this 'compelling evidence' they keep badgering MPs with is anything but. Do you think they might just be, I dunno, making it all up as they go along?

Thursday 11 October 2012

The Monster In The Living Room

Yes, your kid will die!
No slippery slope here, obviously.
Ban under-threes from watching television, says study 
Doctors and government health officials should set limits, as they do for alcohol, on the amount of time children spend watching screens – and under-threes should be kept away from the television altogether, according to a paper in an influential medical journal published on Tuesday.
Wow! We've seen the 'no safe limit' for tobacco ensconced in the feeble-minded political class, and the same agitprop is being developed for alcohol as we speak, but this guy has gone 'all in' already for TV watching.
The review was written by psychologist Dr Aric Sigman, author of a book on the subject ...
Reckon that might be significant?
On average, he says, a British teenager spends six hours a day looking at screens at home – not including any time at school. In North America, it is nearer eight hours. But, says Sigman, negative effects on health kick in after about two hours of sitting still, with increased long-term risks of obesity and heart problems.
Think of the children coupled with moral health panic. It's like ticking off a bingo card, isn't it? One wonders when someone may start thinking of the poor parents, constantly having guilt cascaded on them by stories like this.

Now, such anti-TV scaremongery has been played out by miserable arseholes since even your tabloid-gushing host was watching Champion the Wonder Horse and Robinson Crusoe on 1970s Saturday morning TV. However, they were at least more honest back then and didn't trot out anything as classless as heart problems and obesity. They were joy-hating bastards, and proud of it! Not like the spineless modern equivalent, oh for the good old days, eh?

What's more Sigman has form. He doesn't like any screens at all.
Social networking sites such as Facebook could raise your risk of serious health problems by reducing levels of face-to-face contact, a doctor claims.

Emailing people rather than meeting up with them may have wide-ranging biological effects, said psychologist Dr Aric Sigman. 
Increased isolation could alter the way genes work and upset immune responses, hormone levels and the function of arteries. It could also impair mental performance. 
This could increase the risk of problems as serious as cancer, strokes, heart disease and dementia, Dr Sigman says in Biologist, the journal of the Institute of Biology.
That's a hell of a lot of 'coulds' there. I do hope he has the research to back it up.
But the issue is controversial and his opinions and standing are questioned by Dorothy Bishop, professor of developmental neuropsychology at Oxford University who says that although this is an important topic, Sigman's paper is not "an impartial expert review of evidence for effects on health and child development". "Aric Sigman does not appear to have any academic or clinical position, or to have done any original research on this topic," she said. "His comments about impact of screen time on brain development and empathy seem speculative in my opinion, and the arguments that he makes could equally well be used to conclude that children should not read books."
Books like ones Sigman writes do you mean? Hush, Dorothy, you'll cock up his scam!

No. Of course he doesn't have any decent research, his kind never do. Others, like him, also pretend to be health professors instead of, say, aircraft engineers or sociologists. Just yet another self-enriching cocktrumpet, then, which the health lobby is infested with these days. The one thing in this particular guy's favour is that at least he doesn't force us to pay for his bullshit through our taxes, like biblical plagues of others we could mention.

Still, we're likely to see these limits barked at us at some point considering - as the article mentions - they are already being promoted across the Atlantic. Some furrow-browed, publicity-chasing MP proposing the same here is just a matter of time away.

H/T the must-bookmark Harridanic.