Monday 29 April 2013

How To Rig An EU Tobacco Products Directive

Take a good look at this woman. She is - according to tobacco control's own claims - possibly the most dangerous European alive today.

It is Linda McAvan, the Labour MEP chosen as 'rapporteur' for the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) which seeks to permanently ban snus and effectively render e-cigs useless. As rapporteur, it is her role to shepherd the TPD through its various stages of implementation. She is, as you might expect, a virulent smoker-hater and - I'm ashamed to say - British.

I mentioned yesterday that 1.5 billion fewer cigarettes are being smoked in the US in 2013 as a result of e-cig use, a figure that will only exponentially soar if allowed to blossom. The population of the EU is four times bigger than that of the US, including one million vapers in the UK alone according to the BBC who McAvan hopes to force back into tobacco use.

Despite admirable protests by other UK MEPs, most notably Lib Dem Chris Davies, it would seem that McAvan is keen to exclude debate from anyone who disagrees with her blinkered views on e-cigs, as David Dorn reports.
Linda McAvan has seen fit to appoint a known opponent of e-cigs as the curator of the "knowledge" that will be presented at said workshop. Will Clive Bates (@Clive_Bates) be there? Professor Gerry Stimson (@GerryStimson), Professor Constantinos Farsalinos, Professor Michael Siegel, Professor Jacques le Housec or Professor John Britton? Somehow I doubt it. And yet they damned well SHOULD be there. 
Why? Well, simply put, each and every one of those luminaries are capable of separating nicotine from the act of smoking lit tobacco. This curator of the knowledge - Dr Martina Potschke Langer - is not. To her, you either quit (meaning become nicotine abstinent) or die. Her world is so very simple. 
Where it is possible for her to distort the truth about e-cigs, she does. If she can present a biased conclusion and miss out vital information about e-cigs or their comparators, she does. Frankly, in this writer's opinion, she has no place curating this "knowledge base" for MEPs to partake of. In my opinion, she is not qualified. In my opinion, she is the very opposite of qualified for the role, as her bias is so very transparent.
Indeed, because McAvan's choice of curator is truly insane and solely designed to ignore objections. 

Martina Pötschke-Langer is a spiteful bereaved East German who has dedicated her life to the eradication of anything that resembles smoking. 

She was influential in achieving a ban on e-cig use in Hanover's civic offices, and considers e-cigs to be a "gateway drug" which she claims causes "respiratory irritation and dizziness" to anyone in the vicinity of someone using one. Passive vaping, to you and me.

She is also behind an atrocious article in the Mail on Sunday which claimed e-cigs are more dangerous than cigarettes which was deleted by the newspaper because it was pure unsubstantiated garbage.

Can you think of anyone who is more unsuited - in the whole of Europe - to collate evidence for or against e-cigs? Because Linda McAvan seemingly foresees no conflicting interest whatsoever.

It's a recurring theme with the tobacco control industry, isn't it? If it is looking like the public are opposed to the latest madness being proposed, democracy can go hang. They'll just rig proceedings by any means possible

It is towards quite appalling individuals such as McAvan and Pötschke-Langer I directed this paragraph yesterday.
In effect, they'd prefer it if those 1.5 6 billion cigarettes continued to be smoked until the smoker quits using a cessation method approved by their global cabal. 
It tells you all you need to know about the tobacco control industry. Within it are hideous hypocrites who are more interested in the 'control' part of the job, and their own self-enrichment, than public health goals they like to pretend they are working towards.
History will surely judge these evil ideologues to have blood on their hands.

Sunday 28 April 2013

The Dramatic Success Which Must Be Stopped

Via Business Insider, here is a graph to put a chill down the spine of many a tobacco controller (click to enlarge).

This is the astonishing success of e-cigs year on year, compiled by those who analyse the market to the nth degree.
As you can see in the chart below above, Adelman estimates that e-cigarettes will take the place of around 1.5 billion cigarettes this year, up from around 600 million last year.
Yes. That's 1.5 billion fewer cigarettes smoked per year; 1.5 billion (and still rising dramatically) being replaced by totally harmless e-cigs. And that's in the USA alone.

You'd think the tobacco control industry would be in a state of euphoria, wouldn't you? Applauding rapturously as if all their wildest dreams were coming true at once. After all, for tobacco companies to move out of the sale of tobacco and into other areas is what they have been demanding for decades!

Yet, worldwide, professional anti-smokers - and incompetent Maltese politicians - are feverishly trying to ban them. Wherever you see a positive article about e-cigs, you'll find a handsomely paid bansturbator desperately bleating about how they should be outlawed or prohibitively restricted.

In effect, they'd prefer it if those 1.5 billion cigarettes continued to be smoked until the smoker quits using a cessation method approved by their global cabal. 

It tells you all you need to know about the tobacco control industry. Within it are hideous hypocrites who are more interested in the 'control' part of the job, and their own self-enrichment, than public health goals they like to pretend they are working towards.

Because, as you will probably have worked out by now, it's never been about health. 

Friday 26 April 2013

If Things Go Quiet ...

Life is rather sweet at Puddlecote Inc. at the moment.

We've recently been taking contracted work away from competitors, which is always a nice feeling, but along with the increased turnover comes the increase in bureaucracy with tricky legal TUPE transfers to be negotiated with each new member of staff. Guess who has to do that.

Another part of our business has been quietly blossoming with regular work burgeoning from three sites of one client. So pleased are they with our service that there is great potential from other sites ... and we've just found out they have around sixteen of them! We've tentatively engaged a business development professional on a commission basis and are hopeful of some good business to come. If he pulls it off, we could be adding to our staffing by around 20% in a very short space of time. Of course, if it does, your tabloid-gushing host is going to be mighty busy with presentations, price negotiations, and recruitment while our fleet and maintenance team suffer cold sweats at the thought of vehicle sourcing and the nightmare of inspection lunacy and other nonsensical red tape they are going to be put through.

To complement, our website is in need of a comprehensive overhaul (hence a meeting with our designers last week) and there is even a new off-shoot venture being contemplated which promises to be very lucrative but also labour intensive.

Then there are the usual woes resulting in the recent end of the tax year, domestic obligations which will be familiar to anyone with pre-teen kids and ... the cricket season has started!

This is my roundabout way of saying that posts might be sparse or non-existent on these pages for the next couple of weeks. Regular readers will have noticed that there has been a slowdown already, well now you know why.

In light of all this, jewel-robbing fun may be significantly - but only temporarily - curtailed for a while.

In the meantime, if you haven't already, please do follow my Twitter feed where I often link to articles I'd dearly love to write about if I had the time (I'll work out how to do a widget here for it one day, promise!).

Thursday 25 April 2013

State Control Of What You Eat - The First Foray

Things have been awfully busy in Puddlecoteville, so it's taken me a while to get round to highlighting this.

Yes, it's those lunatics in California again (emphases mine).
“This bill, known as the Public Health Epidemic Protection Act of 2013, would require the department, for every product intended for consumer consumption for which it has credible evidence that the product significantly contributes to a significant public epidemic, to conduct a risk assessment evaluation to determine whether the product contributes significantly to a significant public health epidemic, as defined, and whether the adverse public health risk would have a fiscal impact on the state of $50,000,000 or more. The bill would authorize the department to charge the manufacturer of the product for the reasonable costs of producing the risk assessment and would create the Public Health Fund, to be used by the department, upon appropriation by the Legislature, to fund the program. If the department determines that the criteria are met, the bill would require the manufacturer to create, for approval of the department, a public health impact report (PHIR) containing specified information, including a list of adverse public health impacts and a mitigation plan for those impacts. The bill would authorize the department to enforce the PHIR and would authorize the department to restrict or suspend sales of the product in the state if the PHIR is insufficient or if the manufacturer is not complying with the terms of the PHIR.”
I think you may have worked out what they are driving at here.
That means the initial targets in California would include food items thought to promote heart disease, stroke, obesity and diabetes.
Yep, lefty food snobbery at its most pernicious.

The implications of this proposed law are massive (cost for each of these risk assessments is rumoured to be in the region of $50,000 per product). Thousands upon thousands of jobs lost; businesses rendered insolvent overnight; and those who survive charging higher prices through increased cost of regulation plus the wholesale extinction of their competitors.

Of course, the businesses to survive would be big concerns with multiple outlets who would be able to withstand such a regulatory assault on their industry. Small operations would go to the wall almost instantaneously. Why are lefties so utterly moronic that they help big business while vehemently asserting in election literature that they ... err, hate massaging of big business?

In a far less damaging way, Puddlecote Inc. has witnessed this phenomenon before with dozens of our competitors being shorn from the sector due to ridiculous bureaucracy and over-regulation which can only ever punish the end consumer and taxpayer.

This, however, is different gear. This is the state appropriation of the fast food industry, no less. If you sell food unapproved by government, you will be financially crippled. If you sell mung beans and alfalfa soup, you have the freedom of the city.

Fundamentally, this is the Californian government undermining personal choice by forcing private businesses to only serve what the state approves. And with enormous sums directed from private companies to bureaucratic state departments, it's near as dammit the nationalisation of restaurant food supply.

And no, it's not a spoof. Here's the text of the bill, they're deadly serious. I can imagine some self-advancing UK-based food cranks getting a hard-on imagining the power this would bestow on them if/when the idea crosses the Atlantic..

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Scottish Anti-Smoking Groups Pay In Kind

Staggering stuff from ASH Scotland's Sheila Duffy.
Ms Duffy said: "Quitting tobacco is the single best thing a smoker can do to improve their health. We do not support banning e-cigarettes as they could help many smokers to move to a less risky product. However e-cigarettes are produced by commercial companies, with a profit motive."
Err, unlike those philanthropic non-profit producers of NRT her bunch promote relentlessly, and which regularly sponsor events attended by Duffy, eh?

You know, like Pfizer ($14.5bn profit) and Novartis ($9.6bn profit), for example, prominent sponsors of a summit in 2011 at which Duffy presented an opening address.

Well, all that financial assistance must be repaid, obviously. They pat your back, you have to pat theirs.
ANTI-SMOKING groups in Scotland have spoken of an urgent need to regulate the use of e-cigarettes to avoid creating a new wave of addiction. 
The Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) is due to publish guidance next month which could effectively ban their use across the UK. 
It is considering the re-classification of e-cigarettes as medicines, which would effectively take them off the shelves until they have had many years of clinical trials and testing, similar to pharmaceutical products. The EU has already issued a similar directive.
So, even though she admits e-cigs benefit public health, Duffy and her Scottish pals are more concerned that they are strictly regulated to the same extent as pharmaceutical products - even if that increases costs, wipes out much competition, and undoubtedly reduces their economic advantage over tobacco.

Still, those pharma sponsors - whose profits are being dented by the stunning success of e-cigs - will be very happy, so that's all right then.

It's never been about health.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

The Anna Soubry Ministerial Level Car Crash Continues

Following swiftly on from my article entitled "Anna Soubry Is Not Fit For A Ministerial Post" ...

Via Simon Clark, The Times today reports on the revelation that Anna Soubry was almost certainly the source for Patrick Wintour's article describing plain packaging as a done deal.
"We are going to follow what they have done in Australia. The evidence suggests it is going to deter young smokers. There is going to be legislation," said a senior Whitehall source said.
It led to this rather awkward moment for David Cameron, who just happened to be in Bradford the very next day. Bradford being a major centre for packaging manufacturers!

I'm sure she was hoping that her discussions with Wintour would remain anonymous. However, thanks to a {cough} FOI request we know she was alone among a list of nine influential DoH personnel to meet Wintour 5 days before his article was published (click to enlarge).

Yup, I'll bet Dave was well chuffed with Soubry for that disastrous timing.

Scroll on to this week, and the Editor of the Lancet tweeted this.
Again the 'dickie bird' in the know isn't attributed, but this time there isn't an option of the FOIA to try to narrow it down. However, it will be someone not averse to passing privileged info to journalists, and perhaps a bit unrestrained. Mouthy to a politically naive extent, you could say.

You know, like Anna Soubry talking to Total Politics.
‘To be quite frank, when the PM said to me, ‘I want you to do public health’, I thought, ‘Oh boss, I respect you so much, but I’m the only woman here and I get public health – I hope there’s no connection there. 
‘Maybe I can make people realise that this is not a soft bloody girly option, it is a big serious job. I’m a huge fan of our prime minister… but I did sit there in the cabinet room and think, ‘Boss, you do know what you’ve just done? You’ve given public health to the girl again, except I’m not a girl, I’m a tough old bird’.’

Not satisfied with dumping Cameron in the slurry last month, she's gone and done it again ... as the Speccie points out.
But does Soubry think the PM sees some jobs as ones that should only be done by women? That’s not a particularly complimentary implication about his approach to equalities, and will also be a gift to Labour, which likes to make a big fuss about the Prime Minister’s women problem.

Incredibly, though, she is today also causing uncomfortable problems for her party in the minimum alcohol pricing debate!
Miss Soubry insisted that she is still “convinced” that minimum pricing is correct and claimed that the measure is “still official policy”.
Conservative cabinet ministers seem to have correctly realised that minimum pricing punishes the innocent poor, and is a pretty stupid policy for "Tory toffs" (or "the nasty party") to be promoting. Yet here's Soubry stubbornly putting the interests of state-funded career prohibitionists above the welfare of her party after being mesmerised by appalling junk science.

My description of Soubry as 'the most gullible MP in the government' is well-drawn, in my humble opinion.

But here's the best bit.
She added: “The Tory Party must learn from its own history that when we fight each other, you can guarantee to lose.”
Well, considering the one making the most embarrassing and credulous noise is Anna Soubry, perhaps she should try shutting her child-like manipulated trap for a while, eh?

(Thanks to the fellow jewel robber who submitted the FOI on my behalf, you know who you are)

Sunday 21 April 2013

Real People vs Ignorant Eurocrats #EUecigBAN

Two years ago, I lauded the determination of grass roots e-cig users for getting active and putting the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) off an instant ban on e-cigs.
What may have swung it is the vast level of responses from ordinary vapers detailing positive experiences with their devices. Any decision which sought to ban e-cigs would have exhibited high hypocrisy from a government which continually talks of the harm from cigarettes. To ban something which many use as an avenue by which to do exactly what the state is ordering them to do would have been quite laughable. Without supply of ingredients and components to carry on vaping, a lot of people would have naturally returned to tobacco use.
The MHRA exhibited great wisdom back then by stalling for a period of 18 months. They have still to report on what they are going to do, but talk of a ban has since softened into conflicting rumours about regulation. In truth, the arrival of the e-cig has taken the entire tobacco control industry out of their lazy comfort zone and thrust them into a divisive quandary.

Fast forward two years and now vapers are faced with the EU and its ridiculous Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) which threatens to snuff out e-cigs and force vapers back to tobacco ... much to the delight of competing pharmaceutical manufacturers of ineffective patches and gum.

Again, though, vapers are stepping up to the plate. The EU merely see figures on a computer printout - but here, in glorious technicolour, are the real people that John Dalli's appalling document is seeking to punish for simply doing what they have been told.

UK MEPs should take note (and many are). The TPD - written and sustained by political pygmies - is disgraceful policy from the EU and should have nothing to do with non-tobacco e-cigs. There are one million e-cig users in the UK alone - plus many more in the wider EU - who will be harmed by the incompetence of John Dalli and Tonio Borg if it is allowed to proceed without wholesale amendment.

Additionally, each tobacco control industry dinosaur who still promotes irrational bans and/or hysterical restrictions on e-cig use should take their own medicine and recognise that the date of guilty knowledge is now past. Their actions today may very well have punishable implications in their future. Especially since vapers have repeatedly proven themselves organised and motivated enough to challenge ignorant threats and the people behind them.

All power to them, I say.

For further reading, see the liberal argument for electronic cigarettes and search the Twitter hashtag #EUecigBAN.

Saturday 20 April 2013

Anna Soubry Is Not Fit For A Ministerial Post

Earlier today, Simon Clark highlighted an incompetent Radio 4 performance by Health Minter Anna Soubry, in which - amongst other thoughtless wibbling - she appeared completely unaware of ministerial protocol by advancing her personal support for plain packs before the consultation report has been published.
Either Soubry is a member of the government and accepts the official line that government still has an "open mind" on plain packaging, or she steps down and supports the measure from the backbenches.

However, she is very much aware of what she can and can't say in her role of Under Secretary of State, as she revealed a few days earlier in the House of Commons (emphasis mine).
Anna Soubry: I find it most bizarre that the advice I am given by my officials—and I absolutely accept their advice—is that, as the hon. Gentleman will understand, because of judicial reviews of consultations, I am not allowed to have an opinion, so I do not give any opinion, notwithstanding the fact that many people would say that he advances a number of important arguments.
So, by her own admission she knows it is wrong to advance her personal support for any policy until it has passed through the fig leaf of a not-so-public consultation ... yet did exactly that on the Today programme. But then, she finds it "most bizarre" that she shouldn't be allowed to give her opinion until after the public have officially had their say.

She may as well be saying "I'm too good for parliamentary process, and screw what the public think!". 

As if that isn't bad enough, she has a very loose understanding of the word 'evidence'. Replying to a question on how plain packs could make counterfeiting more simple, she came out with this nonsense.
Far from being a counterfeiter’s dream, the packets produced in Australia would clearly be a nightmare here. A variety of colours, watermarks and holograms, and all manner of other things, can be attached to them, which is why they are described as “standardised” rather than “plain”.
Oh really, dear? Because that's worlds away from what packaging experts say.
I have worked in the packaging industry for more than 40 years and can assure you that the introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products would have unintended consequences. 
The production of packaging is a complex process and involves not only the common 20s carton but a range of other products all produced to exacting standards. The printing techniques for the branding on the packs employ enhanced design features – such as embossing, debossing, hot-foil stamping and UV varnish, among others – and typically use between eight and 10 unique colours from state-of-the-art printing equipment. In contrast, pictorial health warnings which would feature on plain packaging can be produced and reproduced using low-cost printing techniques, from equipment readily available in the market, using just four basic print colours. 
Any move to a plain packaging specification will benefit the counterfeiter and producer of fake products.
It's also the polar opposite to what the police and HMRC have been trying to get through your thick skull.

You see, this is precisely why we have public consultations. It's so that government can be informed about stuff you simply don't get by presenting regional news programmes or, indeed, by solely accepting the word of state-paid single interest lobbyists.

How this contemptuous and woefully inept woman was given a position of any authority in government  is anyone's guess. She is quite simply not fit to assist on a car boot sale stall, let alone a state department.

Link Tank 20/04

The week that was.

Freedom can never be ‘granted’ to us

"I regret not working in the sex trade as soon as I got here"

"Some people's hate is more acceptable than other people's hate"

US government prepares to veto democratic state votes on marijuana

"Abuse was overcome by respect, violence by decency, and hatred by love"

Electronic cigarettes should be part of the harm reduction debate

Beer, dopamine and brain scans

South African retailers ignoring ban on e-cigs introduced by ignorance and lies

Saudi Arabia deports 'irresistible' men deemed 'too handsome' to women

Ten tasty fast food dishes from around the world

Self-medicating animals

Friday 19 April 2013

++Breaking News++ Tobacco Control Discover That Consumers React To Price Increases!

Amazing stuff from Anna "gissa grant" Gilmore. Ground-breaking, in fact.
The study also found that the market share of lower-priced cigarettes tended to grow over time. That suggests some consumers shifted to the cheaper smokes as the price of high-end products rose. So rather than being enticed to quit because of the price hike in their favourite cigarettes, they simply shifted brands.
Ya' don't fucking say!

D'you think she might have just discovered a thing called consumer economics? Next she'll be working out - a first for tobacco control - that tax rises lead to an increase in the black market!

Genius, isn't she? A Nobel Prize surely awaits.

Thursday 18 April 2013

Public Health: Proud Enemies Of Freedom

Neatly following on from yesterday's article on the misapplication of Baroness Thatcher's "no such thing as society" quote, it appears again in a Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) document published on Monday [pdf].

Proving yet again that modern public health is more a vehicle for far left agitprop than impartial and sober evidence provision, SHAAP publishes this astounding paragraph on page 9.
[...] there is an increasing antagonism by some against any form of regulation, aligned with the cult of individual responsibility, rejection of the so-called ‘nanny state’ and promotion of the idea of individual freedom, and indeed ‘there is no such thing as society’. This is accompanied by a conviction that it is the right of all to be free to make money, and that the ‘creation of wealth’ is essential to national prosperity.
Now, quite apart from exhibiting their ignorance over the aforementioned Thatcher quote in question - rubbished by the Bishop of London yesterday - the language employed makes their agenda very clear.

Those believing in individual responsibility are a 'cult' apparently and the promotion of individual freedom somehow wrong. Presumably, they mean that we should all bow down to unfettered state control of every aspect of our lives. This would explain perfectly why Scottish anti-alcohol campaigners are keen to discard democratic and judicial process entirely.

And, sorry, but it really is the right of all to be free to make money in any country which isn't an oppressive dictatorship. It is also undeniable that creation of wealth is essential to national prosperity - it's a global economic fact. Anyone who thinks otherwise should think about packing their bags and going live with Kim Jong Un's lot.

Far from cherishing freedom, the 21st century public health movement is not only transparently working to destroy it, but also proud of themselves for doing so.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Be Kind

On a day like this, I can only republish this from Anonymong. I think it is perfect.

Responding to the above Facebook meme (click to enlarge), he had this to say.
As a protest against Margaret Thatcher this one is so misguided that it’s actually awesome, as they’re proposing to prove her very point by acting as individuals to the betterment of other individuals. The problem is of course that her “no such thing as society” quote is always taken so far out of context as to hardly count as a quote. the oh so often quoted line is of course: 
“There is no such thing as society.” 
But the more complete quote is: 
“There is no such thing as society. There is living tapestry of men and women and people and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.” 
Which is rather saying something completely different to what her detractors would like to think. If they didn't claim on the image that Mrs Thatcher didn't believe in society, I can think of no better tribute to her than large numbers of people turning round and by their own efforts helping others. For those that are interested a fuller transcript can be found here.
Isn't this much-shared new sentiment from the left precisely what we libertarians have been advocating for years?

Some believe that top-down state bureaucracy is the only way to solve any problem - the kneejerk 'what is the government going to do about this' response. We, however, have always thought that mentality to be a gross insult to the general public and damaging to society as a whole. I believe that individuals are perfectly capable of organising themselves better than government ever can, and to say otherwise exhibits a dislike and distrust of people in general.

On a day like this, I can think of no better tribute to Baroness Thatcher than the left joining the "living tapestry of men and women" in order to "help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate".

Long live today's new consensus.

PS Being in transport, I forgive people who cut me up every day. It's really not difficult.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

The Ugly Face Of Alcohol Prohibition

If you're still sceptical when I describe those kindly, calm-speaking medical types as "prohibitionists", try this two minutes of education from Ian Gilmore about the inner desires of the Alcohol Health Alliance.

His choice of words is clever throughout. For example, he describes his group as "non-governmental" despite almost all of its 21 members being funded out of government tax receipts.

He is more honest, though, in rubbishing the commonly-held belief that the current anti-alcohol drive is restricted to those whose alcohol abuse affects others or causes havoc in town centres.
"We set this up about 5 years ago because the emphasis of the media was all about crime and anti-social behaviour."
Well, yes. Because the vast majority of the public only tolerate the likes of Gilmore meddling with taxation, restrictions and bans on the understanding that he is tackling abusive behaviour, not a few drinks of a weekend. Not so, says Gilmore, mere 'intoxication' is enough for him and his pals to intervene.

His mask slips further by his admittance that the war on booze is following in the footsteps of that on tobacco. You may recall anti-smokers denying this slippery slope on many an occasion - tobacco is a unique product, remember? Gilmore is very clear on the matter, though.
"It was modelled on ASH, which has been tremendously influential ... which was spun off from the Royal College of Physicians in 1962 or so"
And very closely modelled he intends it to be, too.
"We set up the Alcohol Health Alliance five years ago with very much the same idea of allowing it to be an advocacy organisation just a step away from the Royal College of Physicians."
Again, though, he is very careful with his description (or, more accurately, re-writing) of history.

The health community love repeating the myth of ASH being set up by the RCP, and get prickly when you point out that they're lying

The real formation of ASH is an entirely different story.
In January 1971, the British version of Action on Smoking and Health was launched. 
ASH (UK) was a unique creation in British politics. It would masquerade as, in [Chief Medical Officer] Godber's words, a "voluntary group" but was staffed by full-time government employees. It would accept donations but would never be reliant on them since it was funded by the taxpayer. It was created by politicians but it would be staffed by people who would never have to stand for election. The public would be allowed to become members but it would have no need for volunteers since it would speak directly to the media and lawmakers (its membership never exceeded more than a few hundred people in any case). ASH did not exist to set up stop-smoking clinics or to provide help for smokers who wished to quit. Instead it was designed from the very outset to be a professional pressure group and by the end of its first decade it had become set on an agenda of eliminating smoking throughout the United Kingdom.
For tobacco's Godber, read alcohol's Gilmore as he seeks to immortalise himself as the founder of the long road to alcohol prohibition with the astoundingly anti-democratic ASH as his inspiration. 

Gilmore's denouement further emphasises this as he states that the first step for the AHA is to bully politicians into installing minimum alcohol pricing.
"Our priority at the moment is to support the government's alcohol strategy in introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol ... we're also wishing them to do a bit more about marketing (etc etc, DP)"
In time, doing "a bit more about marketing" would inevitably lead to plain packaging for beer, wine and spirits as already hinted at in, err, the government's alcohol strategy of which Gilmore speaks. And then, following in ASH's footsteps, onto the "endgame". Or, in common parlance, ultimate prohibition.

It's not like he's hidden his aspirations, either, as this article at the Devil's place in 2009 shows. It's just that the media and a bovine public have still to wake up and smell Gilmore's acrid authoritarian stench.

When you next open your payslip and weep at the extortionate deductions ripped from you by politicians, remind yourself that a proportion of it is directly funnelled to Gilmore and his chums to punish you in your leisure time with your own hard-earned cash. 

Monday 15 April 2013

Harm Reduction ... For Smokers Too!

When e-cigs are mentioned on these or any other pages, there are always a few tobacco smokers who begin to feel rather uncomfortable. The recurring reason they give is that they fear voluntary harm reduction methods could prompt authorities to force smokers to switch in the future.

I was reminded of this on reading an article in the FT a couple of weeks ago.
British American Tobacco has started clinical trials of a cigarette designed to reduce the harm caused by existing products. 
Some 300 volunteers in Germany took part in the first six-week trial, which showed that prototypes substantially reduced exposure to some “toxicants” – harmful compounds in tobacco smoke. The results are published on Monday in the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology.
This research is being taken very seriously by BAT according to one of their boffins.
David O’Reilly, BAT group scientific director, said the prototype cigarettes would not be introduced as a new product line but, if further research showed they cut the risk of smoking, the technology used to produce them would be transferred to existing cigarettes. 
Mr O’Reilly pointed out that non-smoking tobacco and nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes and snus (Swedish mouth tobacco), are already “known to pose a substantially lower risk than cigarettes”. 
“We don’t know whether it will be possible to prove scientifically that reduced toxicant cigarettes reduce health risks,” he added. “But we believe reducing smokers’ exposure to cigarette smoke toxicants continues to be an important research objective, given the numbers of people who smoke and the numbers who are likely to continue to smoke for the foreseeable future.”
It would appear from this that BAT are talking about a new form of harm reduction ... one for smokers too! 

Now, it all seemed very sciencey on first read so nothing I could get a handle on writing about. However, a video has since been published which a more enlightened member of the tobacco control industry recently critiqued on Twitter by concluding that "the science is sound".

Now, if I'm understanding this right, the operative word here is "exposure". In the past, attempts were made to reduce harm with innovations such as holes in the filter, for example, but each idea reduced the harmful elements and also the level of nicotine, resulting in compensatory behaviour. This new research looks to be targeted at reducing just the elements which are by-products of smoking, not the nicotine itself.

A quick Google search shows that tobacco control should be thrilled with the idea of less harmful cigarettes. After all, it is something they have been demanding for a long time with papers such as "Existing technologies to reduce specific toxicant emissions in cigarette smoke" and "Reducing Levels of Toxic Chemicals in Cigarette Smoke: A New Healthy People 2010 Objective".

But, and it is a big but, it's the hysterical tobacco control industry - and their many irrational prejudices - we are dealing with here, as The Lancet pointed out way back in 1991.
In 1988, a major US tobacco company released details of a highly innovative type of cigarette that heats rather than burns tobacco. The smoke particles were virtually tar-free, consisting mainly of water, glycerol, and a small amount of propylene glycol. The nicotine yield was low-0-3 mg. Apart from a carbon monoxide yield of 10-6 mg, amounts of other noxious gases were negligible compared with conventional cigarettes, as was the biological activity in extensive tests. In terms of the aims for product modification laid down by the UK Independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health, this would seem a near-perfect low-tar cigarette, and there is no doubt that it would be less harmful than most other brands on the market. 
Far from welcoming it in the USA, the American Medical Association, the Heart and Lung Association, the American Cancer Society, and others combined to petition and speak against it at a special Hearing before a Subcommittee of the House of Representatives." Eventually the product was labelled as a nicotine delivery system and attempts to market it as a tobacco product were abandoned by the company, who meanwhile remain free to promote conventional cigarettes to the 50 million Americans who still smoke after decades of antismoking policies.
Y'see, in an ideal world - you know, one in which tobacco control were actually concerned about health - BAT would be applauded for pursuing this kind of research, perhaps even be invited to sit round a table with altruistic anti-smokers excited about the game-changing health benefits which could be in the offing. After all, a tobacco product with all harm removed should surely be a winner all round. Just imagine millions who enjoy tobacco being able to do so without the harmful chemicals we are constantly harangued about; imagine the 'savings' to the health service; not to mention savings to the government who would no longer be required to spend billions on nagging smokers to give up, but instead could enjoy the global fruits of successful British businesses.

Sigh. If only. Instead, anything BAT's labs discover is likely to be roundly ignored however beneficial to health it may be, as another FT article in 2009 describes.
The BAT research and development centre may be better equipped than most, but that largesse is not its defining characteristic. Rather, it’s the fact that Gaca’s results, no matter how interesting, will not be discussed freely with her fellow scientists outside BAT. For the past decade, academic scientists in Britain have maintained a blanket ban on accepting funding from the tobacco industry or taking part in joint activities – a decision made under pressure from medical charities. 
The academic ban is enforced with two powerful weapons: the threat of adverse publicity for anyone accepting tobacco money, and the medical charities’ spending power. The charities will not fund research at any institution collaborating with a tobacco company. No university would allow, say, its chemistry department to embark on a joint research project with BAT if that meant the Wellcome Trust cut off funding to the biology department.
Still, for those who worry about the advance of e-cigs, you might be encouraged to know that harm reduction isn't just a concept designed for vapers, snus users and quitters putting their faith into the woo of woeful pharma products. In the future, smokers may be able to benefit from innovation too.

Unless anti-smokers continue to prove they couldn't give a fig about health, that is. 

Sunday 14 April 2013

Bar Staff Are So 2006

Via Jacob Grier, it appears that Washington DC is looking to include e-cigs in their general smoking ban.
In an interview, Alexander said e-cigarettes are being “used to usurp the smoking ban.” 
“It is smoking, is an inhalant and it’s similar to smoking,” said Alexander, chairwoman of the Health Committee. “We don’t know what the ill effects of this are, and it’s still a bother to some people.”
Usurp the smoking ban? Similar to smoking? A 'bother'? Is that what is defined as compelling evidence worthy of a comprehensive illiberal ban these days?

Well, yes, Mill be damned. This is just about the extent of justification against e-cigs in enclosed spaces, and is the desperately flimsy reason being promoted globally to ban vaping indoors. Just ask the BMA.
The BMA is worried that the more people start using e-cigarettes the more it will normalise something that looks like smoking. They have called for the ban on smoking in public places to be extended to e-cigarettes.
It's utter garbage, of course, but when has anything tobacco controllers say since the late 90s not been?

Yet when it is pointed out to the tobacco control industry that smoking rates have ceased to decline after smoking bans in just about every jurisdiction, we are told that it was never about making people quit, oh no. It was solely to deliver salvation to bar workers, so it was.

I sense some disingenuous mission creep here, and a lot of having cakes and eating them.

I'm also concerned about this sudden lack of concern for bar staff. They were, after all, the poor put-upon people being Sarin-gassed every night which made a comprehensive smoking ban urgently necessary for the UK in 2006. MPs weren't swayed by pub customers being 'bothered', or by shocking tales of smokers putting their hand to their mouth occasionally. It was the mythical menace of dozens of barmaids popping their clogs in the line of duty wot swung it.

Now bans on completely harmless e-cigs are being urged simply because users can get round the smoking ban?

Silly me. I thought it was supposed to be about health.

Thursday 11 April 2013

Mascot Watch 23: Thatcher Tribute Edition

Apologies for the lack of content this week, just got back from a couple of days in Amsterdam with flaky WiFi.

I managed to catch this cheeky contribution to the Thatcher tribute debate from our esteemed blog mascot though.
"Margaret Thatcher was my political inspiration. I only wish that I had been here in Parliament when she was Prime Minister, as it would have been a rare treat indeed to be on these Benches and able to support a Government with whom I agreed from time to time."
Oof! Right in the love spuds, eh Cameron?

Tuesday 9 April 2013

And Now For The Outdoor Snus Ban

If you thought Bloomberg's ban on smoking in 29,000 acres of New York parks  - and California banning e-cigs everywhere - was insane, wait till you get a load of this.
Grand Forks outdoor parks have areas where smoking is banned, courtesy of Measure 8 in November. Grand Forks Park Board Commissioner Molly Soeby wants to extend that ban to all varieties of tobacco. 
Commissioner Jay Panzer responded to Soeby’s proposal at Tuesday’s board meeting with a big grin and the words: “This is a ginormous can of worms.” 
After flashing a smile acknowledging Panzer’s assessment, Soeby argued that chewing tobacco is damaging because it’s an unhealthy habit in what should be a healthy environment. 
“We look at parks as a way to make a community healthier,” she said. “There’s no way tobacco makes us healthier. Our community is becoming more healthy and it realizes what a problem tobacco is.”
The "the smoking ban is only to protect those poor bar workers from passive smoke" defence is but a distant memory, isn't it?
She said she will be OK if she doesn’t get a smokeless ban, but . . . 
“I’ll be back next year,” she said. “The times are a-changing.”
They sure are. After 80 years, deeply anti-social prohibitionists have escaped their collective straitjacket and are greasing up the slippery slope on a daily basis.

I don't fancy alcohol's chances much, do you?

Monday 8 April 2013

Sadness And Disappointment

If I were Ed Miliband, there'd be skid marks in my pants over what ill-considered tweets, Facebook statuses or local news statements will be popping up from the left in coming days and weeks after Margaret Thatcher's death today. His own response was dignified and respectful.

Those making hay on social media seem to genuinely believe that a sizeable majority of the public share their hate to such an extent that it is acceptable to exhibit it in public; to be proud of it, in fact.They must have forgotten that she returned an overall majority at three successive general elections and it wasn't till seven years later that voters swung away from Thatcher's party.

Whether one agrees with her politics or not, two things are pretty clear. Firstly, she was more popular than not and, further, as a frail old woman of 87 she had long become irrelevant to everyday life. 23 years have intervened since she was last in office - if her policies were that appalling to the general public they would have been swept away by now.

Mr Puddlecote Senior always had an intense and irrational (for me who didn't remember the times, anyway) hatred for Harold Wilson. If I'd heard the story of how Wilson changed attitudes from one of 'earning' to "you are entitled" once, I'd heard it a thousand times. But when Wilson died in the 90s, Puddlecote Snr acknowledged that he was a man of the people who had the interests of the country at heart, however misguided one may think his policies were. If he harboured private celebration, I didn't see it.

Contrast that with Tom Paine's experience today.
My tour of my local brewery is rather spoiled by our tour guide punching the air with glee at the news of Margaret Thatcher's end. What kind of human glories in another's death?
Perhaps this woman forgets (or is not old enough to remember) that Thatcher's government introduced the Beer Orders in 1989 to try to protect her local brewery from the excesses of large, powerful breweries. Without Thatcher, it's possible she wouldn't be guiding visitors round that brewery today.

Thatcher wasn't a perfect politician as the Conservatives like to eulogise, nor was she universally disastrous as the left claim. She was a politician, so naturally prone to not pleasing all of the people all of the time. She did manage to please a majority of the country enough on three occasions though.

This isn't a defence of any of her policies. I find it incredible that there used to be rules on the amount of money which could be taken on foreign holidays, and am grateful that she abolished them. By the same token, the poll tax was a nonsense of the first water.

It's not Thatcher's death which makes me depressed tonight, it's the desperate disappointment that so many feel it is acceptable to post jubilant bile all over the internet and - in Tom Paine's case - proudly in person.

Former England hooker Brian Moore expressed it best today, in my opinion.

The Tories are 'the nasty party', remember? Labour and the left in general are supposed to be compassionate and above political nastiness in pursuit of a greater human condition. I see none of that today. Just scary people who seem to have forgotten - or never possessed - common decency.

Dan Hodges has written about what the 'Labour movement' should be doing this week, but I don't reckon many are listening.

Ed Miliband should stock up on underpants.

Margaret Thatcher RIP.

Sunday 7 April 2013

Policy First, 'Evidence' Later

Well, well. Doesn't this tell a sorry story, eh?
The email – dated May 2011 – from civil servants in the UK’s Tobacco Policy Team to their peers in Australia says: “You will be aware that the UK Government is considering the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco products. 
“As I’m sure you’re aware, one of the difficulties regarding this is that nobody has done this and therefore, there isn’t any hard evidence it works.” 
The email – which is redacted to hide the sender’s name – continues: “I am wondering whether the Australian government drafted any type of impact assessment or cost analysis in which the likely benefits and costs are measured and, if so, whether you would be willing to share this information with us.”
Just take that in for a minute. The UK was "considering the introduction" of plain packs without even a sniff of any evidence. Really?
It's straight out of The Thick Of It, isn't it?
Minister (fidgeting): Opinion polls don't look good. We could do with a policy to announce. 
Wonk: Anything in mind? 
Minister: Not really, no. 
{Uncomfortable pause} 
Minister: Hold on, having something in mind is what I pay you for! Think of something, for God's sake, I haven't been mentioned in the papers for nearly a week! 
Wonk: We could always go back and do the presumed consent for organ donations thing again. 
Minister: No, no, NO! Don't you remember the roasting we got on that last time? The debate went on for months. Not in a good way, either ... being accused of presuming to own the body parts of every living citizen had the press all over us. No, we need something easy-peasy and damage-proof. 
Wonk: Let's get tough on drink-driving, err, again. That's always a winner. 
Minister: So 1980s. 
Wonk: Some new regulations on something? 
Minister: What? That the EU hasn't thought of already? 
Wonk: Good point. 
Minister: No, what we need is something no-one can object to. You know, like shop-lifting or, or fake DVDs. Yes, we know it's wrong but the public think stealing off big businesses is a victimless crime so don't care much. {looks wistfully out of the window} God, don't criminals have it easy compared to us politicians? 
Wonk: They can't legally steal money off the public by force though. 
Minister: Oh yeah, there is that. Swings and roundabouts, I suppose. 
Wonk: Aaah! I've got it! 
Minister: What? The clap off that divorcee down the deli counter at Waitrose? I did warn you. 
Wonk: No. A victimless policy! We've made people all hate smoking now, haven't we? Well, I heard that those nutty Aussies are talking about stealing the brands and logos from tobacco companies. 
Minister: Really? Why? 
Wonk: Apparently, the selling point is that it will stop kids from smoking. 
Minister: Pfft! They've always been daft down there. Walking upside down must pump too much blood to their fucking heads {laughs}. 
Wonk: Yes, but it's a policy. And it won't upset anyone as smokers don't care what box they come in so won't do anything about it. We kicked them out of pubs and they barely murmured, remember? It might also stop those boring wankers at ASH ringing us up every day and whining down the phone ... at least for a week or so, anyway.
Minister: D'you know what? You may be onto something there. Well done! 
Wonk: Thanks. Do I get a pay rise? 
Minister: Fuck off! I've had to take a cut myself since the bastards at the IPSA stopped me claiming for new furniture! 
Wonk: {Under his breath} My heart bleeds. 
Minister: I do like that, though. Is there any evidence? 
Wonk: None whatsoever. 
Minister: Good man. I'll organise a press release to announce it tomorrow. In the meantime, you have a scout around and see if you can find some obscure study somewhere to back it up. 
Wonk: And if I can't find anything? 
Minister: Then e-mail the Aussies and see what bullshit they used, of course! Sheesh, must I always be the one in this office to come up with ideas? 
Wonk: {sigh} Yes, Minister.
Frippery aside, it would seem clear from this FOI that the UK government's sole reason for "considering the introduction" of plain packs in 2011 was that ... the Australians were doing it. 

It's this puerile political headline-seeking which has led to our witnessing one of the most transparently laughable rigged public consultations of all time.

Even Armando Ianucci would struggle to make something this inept up.

Friday 5 April 2013

E-Cig Use To Be Banned Everywhere in California

Turn back! Run away!
If you thought California couldn't get any more absurd, you perhaps haven't seen Senate Bill SB 648 yet.

Written by politicians so stupid there should be a law to prevent them reproducing, it proposes that e-cigs should face the same restrictions as the already hysterical ones pertaining to tobacco. Here is the base clause.
The Legislature finds and declares that the use of electronic cigarettes [...] is a hazard to the health of the general public. Any reference in this chapter to, or any prohibition of, the smoking of tobacco shall also be construed to refer to the use of electronic cigarettes.
Yes. They really are saying that e-cig vapour is - according to them - a proven danger to others. Passive vaping, in other words. There is not a jot of scientific evidence behind this, of course - nor will there ever be - but California has declared it anyway.

With that underpinning the whole sorry document, it then goes on to detail where use of e-cigs will be prohibited by law. And it's just about everywhere.
The Legislature finds and declares that regulation of smoking in the workplace is a matter of statewide interest and concern. It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this section to prohibit the smoking of tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes [...] in all enclosed places of employment in this state, as covered by this section, thereby eliminating the need of local governments to enact workplace smoking restrictions within their respective jurisdictions.
That's a comprehensive indoor smoking ban, to you and me, but for e-cigs.
Every railroad corporation, passenger stage corporation, passenger air carrier, and street railroad corporation providing departures originating in this state shall prohibit the smoking of any tobacco product, including an electronic cigarette, in the passenger seating area of every passenger car, passenger stage, aircraft, or other vehicle.
And that's an order, transport providers, whether you already have a policy, or are comfortable with e-cigs or not. Complete with a fine of up to $500.

The bill even goes so far as to encourage property owners to enforce e-cig bans on their rental tenants, including in outdoor areas.
A landlord of a residential dwelling unit, or his or her agent, may prohibit the smoking of a cigarette, an electronic cigarette, or other tobacco product on the property or in any building or portion of the building, including any dwelling unit, other interior or exterior area, or the premises on which it is located, in accordance with this article.
All this goes up for a vote on April 17th.

By now, I'm sure you know what I'm going to say next. Yep, it's not about health. Never has been.

UPDATE: If you are in the US, you can object to the proposals by using resources provided by CASAA at this link.

Thursday 4 April 2013

Jeremy Irons: "It's The Nanny State; It Is Terrible"

Appearing on HuffPost Live yesterday, Oscar winning actor Jeremy Irons had a polite dig at Nanny Bloomberg and his many infantilising policies, including this one.
"I think the smoking ban is a tip of an iceberg of society - the leaders of society telling us how to be. I think it's not their business. I think it is their business to tell us to care for and respect each other and each others happiness and each others health, and we are responsible enough to do that."
Do click below to watch the three minute segment where he also suggests that recent moves on fizzy drinks and fatty foods are a linked consequence.

I couldn't agree more, Jeremy.

His opinion is in no way a result of any hypnotic suggestion on my part when I met him in February, by the way ... I'd left the glitzy (©Tobacco Control Inc) pocket watch in my other jacket that evening.

H/T Peter Thurgood via FB.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Nearing Your Pension? You're Too Old For Politics, Then

Who would you trust more to understand or run a country? A 65 year old who has seen life in all its glory and desperation over many decades, or an 18 year old straight out of a history and politics degree?

You see, I struggle to see how this kind of unimaginative tittering from a Europhile against Ukip is in any way helpful.

We see this attitude in many areas of life. Every time some group or party is seen as being predominantly populated by people past 50 years of age, it is derided as if it is irrelevant. And Lord help them if they are comprised of white, middle class people who still represent a sizeable percentage of the population.

Golf club frequenting racists and blue rinse crazies all, obviously.

By reply, another camera view showed that there were quite a few younger attendees amongst the crowd (the pic.twitter link), not that it was met with a mature response, mind.

Yet pop over to Twitter and you'll see the most enthusiastic of Ukip members are so young that they scare me - someone at least a couple of decades away from retirement - with their unstinting energy. You could say that that youth are a feature of Twitter, but that further proves that it mostly depends on where you look. While twenty somethings chatter away sharing ideas on social networks, older people still tend trot to public meetings ... the daft old crones. Let's just send them back home with their Horlicks and Humphrey Bogart films, eh? No-one should have to listen to their life-drawn opinions in this new 'enlightened' world, eh?

Now, this isn't necessarily an advocacy of Ukip policies (even if I agree with a lot of them, especially this), I'd be saying the same if other parties were being marginalised on the basis of attendees at one of their meetings. It is lazy, ignorant and puerile, whoever comes out with it. The argument seems to be that Ukip can't be taken seriously because their followers tend to be older than the general demographic.

So what, precisely, have the two youngest Prime Ministers since 1812 - along with their hip and trendy counterparts in other nations - delivered for us?

We are waging costly and deadly wars in the Middle East based on lies; have seen centuries old civil liberties ripped from us; are witnessing election turnouts so low as to be derisory; watched as MPs were jailed for stealing our taxes; seen the rise of health bullying on a grand scale; are festooned with regulations which stifle every business in the UK; been disgusted as manifesto commitments have been routinely desecrated; laughed as a Chancellor argued about the temperature of a Gregg's pasty; sat astonished at party leaders squabbling over the cost of a fucking Chocolate Orange; are currently mired in one of the deepest and longest economic stagnations in the country's (and Europe's) history; and are saddled with eye-watering debt that it will take decades to pay off.

Yeah, go the youngsters! That's fucking stunning success and no mistake, ain't it?

A basic pillar of democracy is supposed to be one person, one vote, with each crossed box afforded equal gravity irrelevant of age. Last I looked, older people were just as entitled to vote as a right-on teen LSE grad with acne, goat hair scarf and a penchant for fair trade Arabica. I know modern politics is all about thinking of the chiiildren, but aren't we getting a bit pathetic if we assess a party's credentials on the percentage of their supporters who can still remember the names of all their schoolteachers? A party which came second in the UK at the last EU parliament elections can hardly be dismissed as a joke simply because many of the millions who voted had varying percentages of grey hair - or even no hair at all - on their bonces?

In my opinion, there's something quite comforting and socially beneficial about respecting elders. It's a model which has worked well over millennia to make sure that experience of life is passed on to the young for advancement of the common good. 

Now, though, if you're wet behind the ears; utterly ignorant of economics or business; are still trying to work out how a condom works; and were thrilled with a Harry Potter video game at Christmas when you were 12, your attendance at a political meeting is proof positive that the party is sound and that democracy is safe in your hands, apparently.

Gives a whole new meaning to the term "playground politics", doesn't it?

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Dullards Agitated By Nutter

I've seen some daft crap spouted by political types in my time, but this Paolo DiCanio stuff has got to be some of the most mind-boggling ever.

So, something that happened nearly 8 years ago is brought out to try to say that he is some kind of "far-right neo-Nazi"?

This is the guy who once said ...
"When I scored that goal to knock out Manchester United, it was a very exciting moment. “It was like having sex with Madonna."
Who has also claimed that he wants to "finish each game sweating and bleeding" and, to continue his sex metaphors.
"I'm so exciting - every time I play, the fans want to have sex with me."
His former Manager describes him as "mad" and "barmy".

His view of English footballers is from some 1970s stereotype comedy film ...
"Doping in English football," he writes in Il Ritorno, "is restricted to lager and baked beans with sausages. After which the players take to the field, belching and farting."
... and, of course, he is utterly crazy when it comes to betting, if this is to believed.
"You always call me the 'Mad Italian', so I will bet all of what I've got [on Sunderland avoiding relegation], for sure, because I am sure that I am capable,"
Hey! Hold your horses, Mackems, I meant the odds aren't worth the punt at a best of 1/2. It wasn't a slur on the chances of SAFC. {cough} Honest!  

Only the dullest minds in the corridors of Westminster, Whitehall, Wapping and Salford could possibly treat what this man says seriously, let alone try to make it into a political, ahem, football. We're not talking some charismatic political philosopher on the verge of turning the whole of Sunderland into a bubbling mass of black-shirted rallies, it's just Paolo Di-fucking-Canio and his renowned fault of engaging mouth before brain.

What an utter waste of the column inches and airwaves today. 

But then, I suppose wonks, broadcasters and politicos are all a bit bored and desperate for attention now Brussels runs just about anything of importance.