Tuesday 30 September 2014

Lovely Grants

Taking its theme from the Portal "Still Alive" meme, this short video manages to cram in Dalligate, Ashtongate, the appalling EU snus ban, de facto destruction of e-cigs by the EU/MHRA/WHO and other self-enriching 'public health' misbehaviour.

Do watch, enjoy, and share widely.

Love it!

Monday 29 September 2014

Zombie Politics

Imagine you're a Conservative politician reeling at your party conference after a defection and a resignation. What you really need is a fresh new policy to throw at an adoring populace, so what do you do?

Well, Iain Duncan Smith obviously thinks he's onto a winner here.
People will be barred from blowing benefits cash on booze and gambling under a controversial scheme to hand out welfare money on “smart cards” announced today. 
Instead of handing claimants cash, they would have credits put on a card that could only be used to buy food and other essentials. 
Iain Duncan Smith is certain the scheme, to be fully piloted if the Tories win the election, will help alcohol and gambling addicts stay on the wagon.
Because this is the same policy he 'announced' two years ago, netiquette surely excuses me for re-publishing what I said about it back then too.
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.
But that's only tackling the utter absurdity of a state thinking it can effectively enforce such a silly idea. What about more practical - and fundamental failures - of the policy?

Firstly, only the most ridiculous of 'public health' tax spongers deny the overwhelming evidence that moderate alcohol consumption is beneficial to health, trumping teetotalism which is comparatively more dangerous.

So in IDS's crusade to inhibit a minority of welfare claimants from unhealthy consumption, is he really going to prevent the majority drinking moderately and thereby enhancing their health? Yes. Yes, I think he is.

Who knows why this effect happens with alcohol, but considering happiness and an absence of stress are universally accepted as good things for our well-being, that's a possibility. And I'd be astounded if a flutter on the dogs, football, or Grand National once in a while doesn't create the same beneficial effect.

Additionally, where will these smart cards be accepted? Not your local small shop or farmers market, that's for sure.
A smart card scheme will almost certainly require smart card readers and/or “approved outlets” where these cards can be used.  No point in a smart card system if the shop can sell you anything it has on its shelves. Either the stores will need to be on a Government “approved list” and agree not to sell a list of forbidden items to the card holders, or at the very least the purchases made will have to have a bar code such that information is somehow be fed back down the line to Big Mother (and the computer says no). 
Whilst I am sure that Asda, Tescos, other large retail outlets  (and indeed the IT giants behind the Smart card system) will all bend over backwards to facilitate this scheme, what of the small independent shop keeper of market trader? They almost certainly have neither the time, wherewithal,  or language skills to go through the bureaucratic nightmare that will almost certainly be entailed in complying with this scheme.  And I don’t know about your local market, but at mine only 2 out of about 30 of the stalls even have credit card machines. 
The consequence of this scheme will be to place a huge number of outlets off limits to those forced to use such cards for at least part of their purchases.  Rich and middle income parents are able to call into the market at the end of the day to pick up the fresh fruit and veg bargains, but the poor who have used all their cash and left only with their smart cards till the end of the week will effectively be barred.
Only in statist circles can a policy be sold as somehow "helping" the less well off while simultaneously barring the majority from healthful behaviour; harming outlets such as local shops and farmers markets in favour of restricting all purchases to multi-chain conglomerates; and ignoring the obvious and simple avoidance strategies which will form a new black market in both the smart cards themselves and trading of the benefits, with claimants having to pay a commission for the privilege.

There used to be a time in my youth when politicians were detached enough from public health extremists that they could take a considered view of their rantings in light of all evidence - the moral contempt which we have always suffered from the most anti-social in society was always tempered by the legislature recognising the problems which would come with pandering to them. This no longer seems to apply.

Duncan-Smith's plan is as barmy as it is ill-judged and spiteful. He sees votes in endorsing self-satisfaction and superiority complexes amongst the sneering and bullying self-installed righteous. It doesn't matter that the only potential of his policy is to harm, and it makes a mockery of the Tories' claim that their party is one which espouses common sense and isn't populated by bigoted 'fruitcakes and loonies'.

The way it looks to me, it's going to be a long time before politicians 'get' why they're despised if this is the crap they're coming out with.

Sunday 28 September 2014

There's No Pleasing Some People

File this under those tiny but irritating things that really grip my shit.

Your humble host occasionally sells on eBay. Nothing pricey or specialist, just items we don't need or the result of clear-outs from the little Ps' bedrooms (the income from which they recycle to buy other stuff which will one day also end up on eBay, I expect). E.g., the last 5 items sold went for £10.50, £29.00, £4.99, £1.50 and £15.49.

In every listing, I ask postage which exactly matches the price charged to me of sending it according to the Royal Mail website, without any addition for the cost of jiffy bags, packaging or PayPal charges. The reason for this is that I balance my modest financial loss against the higher auction final value results I generally get.

So how the hell does this happen?

4.7 out of 5.0 for postage charges? And this is always the same, has been since the seller ratings system was first installed. The Royal Mail charge is clearly displayed on the package and exactly matches the amount I asked for. How can it possibly not be a 5.0 rating? Should it have been sent by carrier pigeon or me driving it there myself?

Some people really do expect the impossible of the world on a stick and a unicorn for Christmas, don't they?

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Smoking Is As Harmless As Coca-Cola

So says this guy.

There's surely a global hit sitcom just waiting to be written about these screaming moral crazies.


Extremist Complains About Lack Of Extremism

You really couldn't make this up.

Ruth Malone is a seriously committed anti-smoker from the same lunatic Californian University which pays an aircraft engineer to spout his dinosaur prejudices. In fact, scratch that, she's an anti-nicotine fanatic who believes that using an e-cig outdoors is the same as carrying a loaded weapon in public.

Now, I jokingly said on Twitter on Monday that the tobacco control industry would be appalled that ISIS has drawn back their extremism a tiny tad by relaxing their totalitarian ban on smoking.

Fast forward 24 hours and the joke became reality.

Forget beheadings of innocents, genocide of non-Muslim populations, female genital mutilation and a scant disregard for human rights - this woman is irritated that the extremists have allowed an incredibly oppressed community the tiny freedom of being able to smoke!

I thought it crass, ignorant and insulting that the WHO is holding its latest assault on scientific rigour and free choice in Putin's Moscow while the rest of the world is still discussing passenger planes being shot out of the sky and gays allegedly being deprived of rights, but it all makes sense now. It's a perfect choice of venue for a bunch of appalling mendacious narcissists who have long since discarded objectivity and common decency.

Yes, Ruth, in an environment where civilisation has broken down around you and life expectancy depends on how long you can avoid pissing off some unhinged religious fundamentalist carrying an AK47, a cigarette most definitely is a symbol of freedom. First world problems, much?

I don't call the hideous tobacco control movement a bunch of extremists for nothing, you know. Good fucking grief!

Tuesday 23 September 2014

It's Not Nanny State, Honest

Labour's health spokesman, Andy Burnham, was on Radio 5 Live this afternoon. If you missed it, you're in for a treat.

Now that all politicians, of all parties, are advocating nanny state policies because they are shit scared of nanny state pressure groups they stupidly hand our taxes over to, you'd think they'd be proud to say how nanny state they are, wouldn't you? You know, if it's popular and all that.

So why is Burnham not only not proud to admit his policies are nanny state, but also desperate that his puritanical - and most definitely nanny state policies - are not seen that way by the electorate?

His wriggling on Stephen Nolan's show this afternoon was quite extraordinary.

So much is jumbled there, it's hard to know where to start! But we'll go with this. "Everyone's different", he says, and "we all make choices", but he doesn't want to punish adults for those choices, oh no.
"There's definitely been a big change, hasn't there, since we were growing up and sugar was in a bowl on the breakfast table and you added it and your parents could check. Sugar's now built into food."
No, Andy. Frosties and Sugar Puffs (there's a clue in the name) are 63 and 57 years old respectively. You are 44.
 "I think kids are eating far too much sugar than they should be."
Really, Andy? Well, they're eating far less than your age group did when you were kids. Sugar consumption has fallen by two-thirds since you were 5, according to the British Heart Foundation. Probably because the sugar bowl is something only now seen in antique shops.

Via Lawson
He is then asked how he can regulate children's food by Nolan. After all, adults enjoy the same foods as children (the vaping flavours debate writ large).
"Adults have to be free to choose, don't they?"
True Andy, perhaps your party could allow us to do so someday. Remember you're from the smoking ban party which is fully behind minimum alcohol pricing and are now advocating a de facto ban on 60 year old cereals. However, the best was yet to come.
Burnham: "We can't dictate to what adults do, but with children it's different, Stephen, because children don't make their own choices"
Nolan: "Define a child, under 18 year olds?"
Burnham: "Under 18, yeah"
Nolan: "So the 16 and 17 year olds in this audience, you would tell them what they can and can't eat"
Burnham: "No, I'm not saying that actually, but never mind"
Yet today, his leader sang a different tune.
Westminster politics is so often out of touch, irrelevant and disconnected from people’s lives. It is time we brought power much closer to people. It is time the voice of young people was heard which is why we will give the vote to 16 and 17 year olds.
They should be listened to; they are able to make a choice of what government they want ... just incapable of deciding for themselves if they want to eat Frosties for breakfast. Joined up politics? Or just Burnham selectively using children as tools of the state, again.

He also doesn't want to be "judgemental", but his party is - loudly and to much media fanfare - proposing a windfall tax on tobacco companies because they have judged that you shouldn't smoke, as Nolan reminded him. Who do you think is going to pay that windfall tax, tobacco companies or the public? Burnham claimed not to know anything about it though ... I suppose that's because it didn't fit in with his denial of being part of a nanny state party in front of a live audience.

He was most certain that he didn't want to be seen as a nanny statist, though.
"I'm not going to try to dictate to everybody, people say nanny state"
Yes, Andy, that's because everything you utter is nanny state through and through, despite you trying to pretend otherwise. Although it's encouraging that the term is becoming toxic to politicians the best way of avoiding the accusation is to grow a pair of balls and tell 'public health' extremists who give you nightmares - and force you to come out with such incoherent nonsense as you did today - to go jump off a cliff.

He won't though, he's the modern bullshit chocolate orange politician, more interested in sound bites and career advancement than doing something worthwhile with his life.

Lord save us.

Monday 22 September 2014

Public Health's Road To Our Serfdom

Another busy week beckons at Puddlecote Inc including a trade show where I'll be looking at delicious vehicles which - although innovative and very sexy (for some of us) - are far from practical. I often think Jim Bowen should be the salesman, arm round your shoulder saying "just look what you could have run if you were bankrolled by the Saudi Royals and overhead was irrelevant".

In the meantime, if you haven't read it already, I highly recommend you sort yourself a bevy of your choice and get stuck into an incredibly illuminating essay by Carl Phillips on the history and evolution of modern public health since the 1990s. The full text is here but, by way of a teaser, these excerpts might resonate strongly with regular readers (American spelling alert).
Those who know the history of public health will realize that the germ of nanny-state behavior has always been there. Public health started as a strange combination of fad-diet and temperance nuts along with practicing health professionals who were enlightened enough to be concerned about eliminating disease rather than just treating it. It pulled in established good works such as food facility inspection, occupational health, and vaccine campaigns, and had a legitimate scientific and institutional identity by the mid-20th century. Through several ensuing decades it was mostly legitimate, but the temperance nuts were still there. 
My first encounter with that undercurrent was when I was in grad school, in a different field, writing a paper on the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. I came across a lot of “public health” papers that insisted that the observed health benefits of alcohol consumption were not real, grasping at straws to deny overwhelming evidence. I was genuinely baffled at how people could be making such errors. It would be years later before I realized that they were simply lying because that is what you do in “public health” when the facts do not support your preferences about how people should behave.
This denial of the scientifically-proven benefits of moderate drinking, I don't need to remind you, is just as prevalent today.

On the Ashton saga, Phillips writes:
The real scandal here is not that one self-important think-tank was unwilling to get rid of its president over grossly unprofessional behavior (though that is a scandal), but that “public health” rallied around him. Here is a supposed adult who publicly said “fuck you” to members of the public who he is supposed to care about (he did not use that exact phrase as far as I know, but actually did use other words that I would not type into this blog). The people he attacked were disagreeing with him almost entirely in a polite and professional way. And yet I have not seen one single statement along the lines of “this is a real shame because I respected Aston for years, but for the credibility of public health, he has got to go.” Not one sign of remorse from the institutions of public health. Instead, I have seen a number of public health academics and other supposedly respectable professionals actively speaking up in his defense. These communications represented (and in some cases, basically explicitly stated) the attitude that “public health” does not owe the public any consideration at all. 
Put another way, public health stopped being about health when they started denying the health benefits of THR or alcohol. Then they stopped being about the public when the decided that it was not a problem that the public hates them for what they are doing.
And on 'public health' emphasis on longevity over general welfare:
We observed how sharply this contrasted with the implicit objective function in almost every public health policy discussion, which is basically “maximize longevity at any expense, and everything else be damned.” The economists who study medical care at least interject into this the caveat that some financial expenditures are too much to pay for the tiny bit of extra longevity they provide. But to the public health people, all other costs and benefits are trumped by the one objective. Economists’ objective function, we agreed, was not quite right, but at least it was generally defensible. The public health view, on the other hand, was utterly absurd. No one wants to live their life according to such an objective. Not even close. And therefore there is no possible way to justify it as an ethical goal for public policy. 
Because their underlying ethic — one that has never been accepted by any society and is impossible to defend as an ethical rule based on any moral system or empirical observation — is that the only objective is keeping all these bodies “pure” and walking around as long as possible. This roughly describes the goal of many a computer game, but it is not the actual preference of any people nor of any free society. Indeed, if you asked the people in public health who are capable of understanding the question (which is a minority, but not a tiny minority), “what is the underlying ethic or objective function you are working in pursuit of,” approximately none of them would articulate this absurdity. If you articulated it to them, most would agree it is absurd. Yet they would turn around and continue to make pronouncements and recommendations based on exactly that implicit objective function. They do not even realize they are implicitly basing their professional lives on an indefensible ethic because their professional culture denies them the language to question it and few are intellectual and honest enough to think beyond their profession.
Do go read the whole thing here, it's a real eye-opener.

Thursday 18 September 2014

You're Daft Because You're Not Like Us

Social media has been abuzz in the past week as the public health cabal circles its wagons and makes excuses for John Ashton's recent Twitter train wreck (see here, here and here).

The general consensus seems to be that it's a storm in a teacup, and what has it to do with bloody vapers anyway?

Not quite how their regulator sees it ...
1. Make the health and protection of the public your prime concern 
1.1 The interests of the public are paramount: put them before your own interests and those of any colleague or organisation
... but then public health is about regulating others, isn't it? Regulations on their own behaviour can obviously be ignored at will.

Besides, e-cigs are a silly idea anyway.

Of course. You should either quit. Or die. Or "grow a backbone", in fact.

But doesn't this say quite a lot about the modern 'public health' industry and its arrogant abandonment of empathy, as I've referred to before?

Lots of things are daft ideas to people who don't do them. Recreational fell running and an obsession with cycling, for example. I think TV soaps are pretty daft, and knitting, and water features, and tattoos, and Premiership football, and voting Labour, and wasting a day playing golf amongst a long list of things. I also think placing health above absolutely everything else in life is pretty daft, and view those whose lives are taken over by it as daft in themselves.

The difference is whether you think they're daft but shrug your shoulders and put it down to the marvellous diversity of human behaviour, or whether you think what you don't like is daft and do everything in your power to stop someone else doing it.

I'm in the former category while 'public health' is firmly in the latter. But even if I carried a superiority complex and was antagonistic enough to want to impose my preferences on everyone else in society, I don't believe I could do so without at least investigating what pleasure others take from their chosen activities.

It seems, however, the modern public health movement doesn't even want to do that! It's their way or the prohibition way, and anyone who disagrees can righteously be ignored and/or dismissed as 'daft'.

This is the big disconnect we seem to face from these people. The ones who have never smoked can't understand the pleasure that smoking can bring, nor can they ever understand why smokers who want to quit would prefer to use something which recreates the same habitual action rather than a clinical patch or unnatural tasting gum. The ones who despise alcohol see people merry or drunk and don't understand why some move from childhood squash to enjoying the mood-altering properties of beer and spirits. The ones who enthuse about vegetable smoothies and qinoa salads don't understand - and often profess to feeling physically sick - that others enjoy a hefty piece of minced cow in a sesame seed bun topped with special sauce.

But instead of trying to understand, they pretend that the enjoyment of others isn't possible simply because they don't enjoy it themselves. The hatred thrown at smokers, and now vapers, has been fostered as a result of this total disconnect. I don't smoke so I don't think you should. I think e-cigs are a silly idea (not to mention a silly word), so I'm going to regulate e-cigs to stop you vaping. Fast food doesn't float my boat, so I think the destruction of vastly popular restaurants would be pretty neat. I don't include Coca-Cola in my shopping list, so a 100% tax on fizzy drinks is just fine and dandy.

Nor will the effects of their hatred register, and Ashton is most definitely guilty of that. I think the reaction of his public health buddies proves that his defence will likely be that he was provoked into being an arsehole on Twitter on the 6th September, because it would never occur to him that calling others "addicts" for enjoying something which he, personally, doesn't enjoy is a vindictive, inflammatory and ignorant insult.

He wouldn't care one jot about Lorien Jollye's experience as a result of his previous 'work'.
I am 36 now. This means, that for 2/3rds of my life, I was a ‘dirty smoker’. Something that society was at pains to remind me about on a daily basis, with my freedom to smoke being restricted more and more. I am sure I was not the only smoker to feel utterly sickened to read news articles condemning adoptive parents for smoking, that they should be prevented from giving love and security to a vulnerable child, all because they enjoyed a cigarette. As a parent, this strikes a bit of fear into you. Will they condemn parents that smoke? Will they one day say my children should be taken away from me cos I go into the garden to have a ciggy? 
But it was nastier than that. They ran adverts about horrible tobacco guzzling parents, so that all of society could hate me a little bit more, as the adverts on the tellybox had told them what an appalling mother I was. 
The public at large already sneered at me, customers at my workplace would comment on my habit, tell me it would ruin my skin, age me or how it made me look ugly. Really personal stuff, and insulting too. I did not know these people, who were they to tell me that I was ugly because I smoked? I wish I were kidding, but I used to get these comments with relative frequency. If they could think of nothing particularly personal, they would settle with ‘Bad for you, that’ as though somehow I must just have missed the adverts, posters, flyers, billboards, comments etc and was happily thinking I was replacing one of my 5 a day with some tobacco leaves. So I was stupid, too. 
To recap – I was stupid, ugly, will  be ugly, a bad mother and society thought I stank. 
Then when the smoking ban came into affect, by which time I had switched to rollies, I would stand at work and roll myself a ciggy before going outside for a break. I remember catching a woman looking at me as I fashioned a perfectly cylindrical tube of ‘I am going outside so you lot can stop clicking your damn fingers at me for service’ to see such a look of disgust on her face that it really took me back for a moment. I had never had a stranger look at me like that before. Pure unadulterated loathing for me rolling a ciggie. I probably could have chopped out a line of coke, or rolled up my sleeve to tap for a vein and not been looked at like I was just then.
Post the 2007 ban, things just got worse in terms of how ppl treated me. The adverts got more aggressive, the second hand smoke messages got more aggressive. So now rather than just being ugly, smelly, stupid and a bad parent I was also dangerous. 
If you are not a vaper or smoker and are reading this, imagine for just one second, what that must be like? To spend 2/3rds of your life being treated like this, looked at in this way. Remember that poor woman who ignited her oxygen tube with a lighter? Seek it out – look at the comments and see what the public thinks of smokers. The vitriol and hatred is something to behold. A poor woman made a horrible mistake whilst still under the effects of a general anaesthetic and what did the public say? She deserved it. Why?  
Because she was a smoker.
In Ashton's world, this is perfectly acceptable. And in Ashton's world, when Lorien switched to e-cigs, she is still fair game, just as she is still fair game for all his public health colleagues with their equally closed minds.

They don't want to hear from Lorien, they actively move to ignore her. They think she's 'daft' and want her to just go away and leave them to their ivory tower, their inflated egos and their fat salaries derived from 'denormalising' others while purposely ignoring pleas to consider different viewpoints and insultingly dismissing all objections.

No, we've got it all wrong. Don't you see that Ashton is the victim here? He should be reinstated forthwith because people who enjoy nicotine should have no say; people who enjoy nicotine are just 'daft'. He's an innocent who was provoked by the temerity of people he quite clearly despises trying to challenge him.

There is a different way of looking at the role of a public health professional, of course ...
The public is highly diverse – including elements that are raucous, bawdy, profane, satirical, sarcastic, insulting and so on. To complain about them as a public health professional is like sailors complaining about the weather, or politicians complaining about the electorate. They are the subject of your profession – get used to them, and learn to engage without becoming pompous and aggressive. If you think you can defend your professional failings by finding examples of people being rude to you or about you, then you misunderstand your role.  So please don’t try this as a defence, it will only bring you more shame and further opprobrium ... Public health is a gritty business, not about the provision of happy-clappy advice to a peasantry grateful for wisdom and awed by your status. If that is how you think,  you’re in the wrong job.
... but you won't hear anyone in 'public health' taking heed of it.

This is why I'm pretty certain that Ashton will be returned to his post after a summary whitewash by the Faculty of Public Health, the coordinated efforts of his hypocritical colleagues will make sure of that. You see, he's not an outlier or a loose cannon, he's firmly in the centre ground and not anything particularly unusual in his profession. He holds us in the same contempt as his peers routinely do.

Smoking stinks? Public health should look in the mirror someday and notice that their methods and attitude do too.

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Policy-Based Evidence-Making - A Video Guide

An item from July popped up on one of my Twitter search streams yesterday which is quite revealing about the methods of the tobacco control industry and how they are applied to the pursuit of plain packs legislation.

You see, when it comes to smoking, tobacco controllers have descended into a comfort zone whereby they feel confident in saying just about anything amongst themselves, while politicians are being fed something completely different.

Note, for example, Debs Arnott's comments in the video below:
"At least 13, 14 times a day [an average smoker] gets their pack out; they put it on the table; and the pack symbolises something. It's really important, it's about the smoker's identity"
Smokers can't be allowed to enjoy an identity, now can they? This is the whole point of plain packaging which tobacco control will make sure politicians hear little of. Instead the entire campaign has said nothing else but children, children, children. But when boasting amongst themselves on the ESRC YouTube channel (comments banned, natch), and elsewhere (see a preening rundown of dirty tricks prior to the smoking ban here) we get something more truthful.
"At the time that the last government - Labour government - was in power, and they were consulting on the next steps in tobacco control, at that time there was a big fightback from the industry and so the government sort of said "well, we're interested in this but we want more evidence". And that's where research like Olivia's became so crucial, because they needed the evidence to take that next step"
While it's very kind of Arnott to admit what we all know, that plain packs was a rent-seeking policy promoted to government before evidence had been produced to justify it, do you - for even a twinkling moment - believe that this 'evidence'-gathering exercise was ever going to come back to government and say, "you know what, we've found that plain packs isn't useful at all, so forget we ever mentioned it".

Of course not.

It doesn't even matter to tobacco control that the study being lauded in the video is not very good. A dedicated expert in eye-tracking technology describes here and here why he thinks that Maynard's 'science' has failings, this part being the most damning.
Well, I'm not the first to research this topic, and given the results I will be presenting, I could have chosen to go directly to some high profile publication relating to marketing and packaging, health psychology or tobacco control, where the research would almost certainly not have been reviewed by those with any expertise in eye-movements and visual attention.  And here’s the point, submitting research to peer review, when you know that the “peers” reviewing are not equipped to detect errors or omissions from the submission is, in my opinion, second only to the falsification of data
But not only is Maynard's research held up as the pinnacle of integrity and scrupulous scientific standards in tobacco control circles, it also gets a gong. The true eye-tracking expert however - who came to a different conclusion to Maynard - will, of course, be entirely ignored and get nothing.

This is how tobacco control works. They put their heads together to think up some pointless idea which will gain them taxpayer funds for another couple of years, then go about lobbying politicians for it with your money and using institutions paid for by you. In the meantime they will carry out 'research' which has only one purpose - to make the conclusion fit the policy they are pursuing. Then, when the legislation is passed by woodentop MPs, the same tobacco control industry trousers even more of our cash to 'prove' that it works. And guess what? It always does. Fancy that!

Then it's back to square one and the whole process starts again.

Now, if you can see where democracy, fairness, objectivity, integrity, transparency, or public engagement fits into any of this, do let us know.

Monday 15 September 2014

Aghast From The Past

It's been a tough old day at Puddlecote Inc and in Puddlecote Towers. Had our HR consultants in for a very long chat - and will soon be having their monthly direct debit out of our bank account for good (long story) - before being on the road for the rest of the day due to staff shortages. Whilst back home I've spent the evening setting up our new wireless printer - vital for the little Ps' homework in years 9 & 10 - to replace the one which had decided to be as reliable a piece of electronics as Yul Brynner in Westworld, only to find that the boy's PC has since come out on strike too. Only rains when it pours, eh?

So I'm grateful to Snowdon for helping me get another airing for one of my personal favourite pieces of surreal prodnosery from these pages.

If you haven't seen the news at the weekend about a Barnsley school's decision to ban the 'filth' that is the school packed lunch, do so now before reading his well-argued article at the Telegraph by way of response.

This part in particular.
None of this concerns the head of Milefield Primary School, who self-righteously proclaims that "We have got to work towards what's best for our children". The clear implication is that parents have not got their children’s best interests at heart, that they are unfit to feed their own offspring, and that schools exist to protect kids from their parents. Her use of the proprietorial term "our children" – rather than "the children" or "our pupils" – is telling. She uses the term to imply ownership by her institution, perhaps even by the nation, but when Adam and Claire Martin, who have moved their three kids to a different school as a result of the ban, say that they "don't need somebody to tell us what our children should be eating", the word "our" is literal, meaningful and should be deserving of respect.
It is strongly reminiscent of this shrill and unhinged performance by Sonia Poulton - broadcast to the nation in the summer of 2012 on Radio 5 Live - as she laid down her plans for requisitioning the nation's children to justify why she is entitled to interfere in the lives of other parents.

If you listen carefully, you can just make out Nicky Campbell suppressing his laughter as her extremist ranting is calmly dismantled by Sean Gabb.

As I said at the time:
We used to have a few of these prodnoses dotted around, but they're everywhere now. Self-aggrandising, aloof, condescending of others, and entirely dismissive of choices different from their own. 
Put this latest over-wrought moral panic to one side for a minute. Let's instead try to investigate why we have an army of shrieking curtain-twitchers who insist on getting involved in everyone else's life as well as their own. 
Now that's something that government should be doing if it cared for society, instead of encouraging the most objectionable to forcibly dictate their own personal gripes on the rest of us ... as they seem to do at every turn nowadays.
The same can safely be said of the lunatics at Milefield Primary School in Barnsley, and I reckon my illustration from back then works very well for their nasty policy too.

Or, as Snowdon puts it.
The fact remains that a ham sandwich at lunchtime is not, and never will be, a child protection issue.

Friday 12 September 2014

An Investigation Into Whom?

So here we are, 6 days after Professor John Ashton's bout of Saturday night Twitter rage (see here, here and here for background), and the Faculty of Public Health has today posted a statement on their website.

Click to enlarge
Interesting to see that they're continuing to describe it as a Twitter "exchange" rather than a sinister trawling of vaper Twitter timelines followed by a series of insulting stand-alone tweets. The exchange of words only happened well after Ashton had begun his spiteful tirade. Still, at least they are taking it seriously.

But by "investigation", I'm wondering who exactly is being investigated. You see, one of the many vapers to have complained to the FPH is good friend of this blog Dr Steve W, who runs a sole trader e-cig shop in Bury.

Shortly after he sent off his complaint - and well before the FPH announced their investigation - his LinkedIn account had an unusual visitor.

Now, why do you reckon the Media and PR Officer at the FPH would be looking up Dr Steve on the internet, eh? I do hope it's not an attempt to dig dirt on their detractors and dismiss the whole thing as a conspiracy by big bad 'industry', because that would be a trifle naughty.

Unfortunately, it can't be ruled out owing to the nature of modern public health activists, as I described earlier in the week.
Additionally, there is the widespread public health annoyance that anyone is allowed to be anonymous online and that - as such - they must surely be paid shills. This not only further emphasises that they really don't understand how this internet thing has naturally developed since the 90s but also reveals the underlying tyrannical modern public health mindset. 
It's a facet of the tyrant for centuries that anonymity unnerves the dictatorial. If you have a solid case that can be backed up with unshakeable evidence, anonymity is nothing to be scared of, but public health haven't enjoyed that position for over a decade now. 
Instead, as Ashton has shown, the modus operandum for public health now solely consists of attacking the man not the ball. How on Earth can they do that if those opposing them can't be investigated and intimidated, eh?
And, indeed, dismissed as complainants thus avoiding the need to address the matter properly. It is a tactic that has always helped them avoid debate, so why not to deflect attention from a PR disaster too? Why should it matter to the FPH who is complaining? Surely the only thing that they should be addressing is the content of the complaint.

If you complained too, I'm sure you'll be thrilled that FPH Liz wants to get to know you better.

Thursday 11 September 2014

Gratitude, WHO Style

As mentioned before, the documents being place online by the World Health Organisation in advance of their working holiday in Putin's Russia are very revealing.
51. The budget approved by the COP at its fourth session was US$ 14 902 000 (of which VAC accounted for US$ 9 107 000). This amount, however, should be adjusted by US$ 1 188 000, the amount that was identified as the extrabudgetary component of funds necessary  or convening the fifth session of the INB4 and which was met by the in-kind contribution of  the European Union (by covering the travel and conference service costs of the session). 
That's $1.188 million of your taxes being spent to prop up a movement which - as I've mentioned before - is incapable of living within its means.

Were they grateful? Of course not! Instead, after leeching that $1.188 million, they proceeded to accuse the EU of showing a "lack of respect" - at the very conference the EU had spent a lot of our money to facilitate - and 'thanked' the EU with their 'Dirty Ashtray Award'.

Meanwhile, in today's news.
New EU sanctions against Russia will take effect on Friday, blocking loans for five big state banks and curbing EU business with oil and defence firms. 
The aim is to keep pressure on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis.
Pah! What do the massed ranks of the tobacco control industry care about that, eh? It pales into insignificance when there's an exciting and free sightseeing tour of Moscow on offer for delegates.

Banning e-cigs and demanding the world listen to the unelected WHO's tantrums is far more important than some irrelevant sideshow in Ukraine, eh?

Wednesday 10 September 2014

The Truth Will Set You Free!

In case you were wondering how your taxes were being spent lately, you might be thrilled to know that you're currently financing a trip to Brussels for people who want to make your beer cost more.
Speaking at a conference, organised by the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) on Friday (5 September) Peter Rice, chair of the Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), argued for the MUP [minimum alcohol pricing] policy, which sets a 'floor price' below which alcohol cannot be sold, based on the amount of alcohol contained in the product. MUP will particularly benefit harmful drinkers on low incomes in terms of improved health and well-being, he said.
For "benefit", read "impose a form of price prohibition on".
"Tackling price is the most effective and cost-effective way of tackling the issue. It will affect the whole population" ... the chair of SHAAP added.
Hold on, say that again?
"It will affect the whole population"
But, but, this is not what we have been told before. It was supposedly brilliantly targeted to just those who abuse alcohol (only if they're poor, that is), not the rest of us!

No, seriously, this was a prime selling point.
90% of population 'would be unaffected' by minimum alcohol price
Lead author Professor Nick Sheron said: ‘Setting a minimum unit price for alcohol is an almost perfect alcohol policy because it targets cheap booze bought by very heavy drinkers and leaves moderate drinkers completely unaffected.’
So what is the truth? Will no-one be affected or everyone be affected. That's quite a large margin of error, isn't it? It's almost as if - I dunno - they're making it up as they go along.

More to the point, though, what the hell are they doing wasting our taxes over there when there is no 'urgent' problem to solve? The BBPA recently reported that alcohol consumption has declined for the tenth consecutive year - an 18% reduction since 2004 - and alcohol-related crime is down 47% since 1995.

So even if we must all be punished for the sins of the few - which minimum alcohol pricing certainly will do, especially for the less well off - the sins are decreasing at the same time that bansturbators want our punishment to increase.

If the ECJ doesn't tell them to go boil their heads, even the left should start thinking seriously about why we bother with Europe.

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Some Perspective, Please?

By way of a brief update, on Thursday I said I was unsure of David Davies MP's stance after his parliamentary question winkling out the fact that the WHO's FCTC shouldn't even be discussing e-cigs, let alone tabling bans on their use in public. I now think his motives are more clear.

For anyone not familiar with written questions, an MP is allowed to ask as many as he/she likes and they are slated well in advance in order for civil servants to compile a response for the minister concerned so have to be well-worded to avoid an uninformative reply. However, they are also limited to a certain number per day so - although an MP may want to ask dozens of questions on a single subject - the responses themselves are often released on a staggered basis. A good example is Steve Baker questioning each government department on their policies toward granting taxpayer funds to charities, as reported here in 2012.

Well, since Davies's first published response last week, others have been trickling through, and I suspect he is subtlely supportive of e-cigs.

Today's releases asked Jane Ellison if she could estimate savings to the NHS of e-cig use, and whether she has bothered to confirm or deny that passive vaping is a thing. She couldn't do either, of course, because the Department of Health outsources all its research to the tobacco control industry's domestic (ASH, Bath, Stirling, UKCTAS) and supra-national (EU, WHO), unelected ban-hunters. The way these things work, there may perhaps be more questions she hasn't a scooby about in the pipeline too, so keep 'em peeled.

There was, however, one of Davies's questions that she could answer:
David Davies (Monmouth, Conservative) 
To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many serious health events have been recorded per thousand (a) e-cigarette users, (b) users of nicotine replacement therapies and (c) users of the Champix form of varenicline in the last year.
Apparently, this is covered by the MHRA who, as we know, have studied e-cigs so closely that they're certain that all models currently on the market must be banned in 2016.

They're not so great at comparing the harms of e-cigs per capita with other nicotine products, though, so Ellison could only provide absolute figures.
Jane Ellison (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health; Battersea, Conservative) 
The following table shows the total number of serious UK spontaneous ‘suspected’ ADR reports received by the MHRA between 23 July 2013 and 22 July 2014 broken down for E-Cigarettes, Nicotine Replacement Therapies (excluding E-Cigarettes) and Varenicline: 
Total Serious Reports
Varenicline 297
Nicotine Replacement therapy 75
E-Cigarettes 5
Five. That's it. Just five.

All that bluster about "we don't know what's in them" and "they must undergo medical regulation to ensure there is no harm". For just five - count 'em; one, two, three, four, five - recorded cases. So few they'd all fit in a London black cab.

Whereas the medically licensed - and therefore perfectly safe and ubiquitously-prescribed - NRT and Champix have contributed 75 times that many incidents in the same space of time.

Now, the latest estimate is that there are 2.1 million e-cig users in the UK, and I'll bet that there are nowhere near that many using patches or gum, and a vanishingly small number using Champix by comparison. So the increased relative risk from using pharma products over e-cigs is almost certainly well in excess of the 7,500% we can ascertain from absolute numbers.

Why, then, the huge furore over e-cigs? Where is the outrage from furrow-browed public health officials about the dangers of Champix and the irresponsible "wild west" attitude of those profiteers at Pfizer et al? Where are the demands for an immediate ban pending further intensive research?

Hello? Anyone?

The Times Redefines The Word 'Retaliated'

I've always known e-cigs had the potential for showing up tobacco control for the appalling shysters that they are, but I must admit to not fully understanding how very low they would sink in protecting their grubby, disingenuous and self-serving cartel.

Following FPH President John Ashton's abusive antics at the weekend (see here), you'd think - wouldn't you - that he'd lie low and take his punishment like a man. Of course not, this is a dyed-in-the-wool public health trouser-stuffer we are talking about here - motto being "when in trouble; lie".

From the Times:
Public health chiefs have accused e-cigarette users of a campaign of online abuse, saying that junior scientists are being scared away from research by explicit attacks from “vapers” on Twitter. 
Professor John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, is facing an official complaint after he retaliated, calling one vaper a “c***” and another an “onanist”. 
Professor Ashton was called a “c***”, “asshole” and “jizzweasel” over the weekend for supporting the WHO, while one vaper complained: “I was blocked before I could even take the time to find a fitting insult.”

Let's do some time checking that The Times hack couldn't be bothered with, shall we? Here are the quoted insults Ashton directed at vapers during his couple of hours of insanity.

Both these were quite definitely posted on Saturday 6th September.

Apparently, though, this was in "retaliation" for - in chronological order - "c***""asshole""jizzweasel", and "fitting insult" in the early hours of Sunday morning (that's the 7th) as part of a long jovial thread while vapers were still laughing at Ashton's incredibly funny burblings which had occurred two or three hours previously.

Only in the world of tobacco control - where lies are routinely honoured and considered the height of academia - could a Professor claim to have been prompted into firing off insults in "retaliation" for something which had not yet occurred.

Truly are public health lobbyists the most stunningly dishonest people on the planet.

Times journalist Chris Smyth isn't the first lazy hack to have been punked by an industry packed full of congenital liars - and he won't be the last - but for the love of God can't any of his kind do some proper bloody research once in a blue moon?

Good grief!

Monday 8 September 2014

The Show Must Go On ++ Updated ++

So, further to yesterday's article on Faculty of Public Health president John Ashton's public implosion, it seems the inevitable has occurred and he's realised he was being a bit of a dick on Saturday night.
Still, if anyone was under the impression that the FPH will be more receptive to opposing views on the issue of e-cigs as a result, you might need to think again.

You see, even if Ashton has been placed in the naughty corner (which I very much doubt), the doomsaying from the FPH is likely to carry on regardless - perhaps in the form of their more media-savvy former president, Alan Maryon-Davies. Here's the gullible old coot on BBC Scotland on Friday.
Our worry is that they maybe helping a lot of smokers to just perpetuate the habit because it means they can maybe smoke in places where they wouldn't normally be able to smoke and they can keep it going and perhaps lose their urge to give up because they're a pretty good way of getting the nicotine hit. 
An even bigger worry is that they might be recruiting a whole lot of young people because they are being marketed at young people with fruit flavours and bubble gum flavours.
Long term readers here will remember Maryon-Davis for his bizarre claim in 2009 to be "a libertarian by nature", just before reeling off his 'libertarian' credentials on the BBC.
Is the government 'nannying' us too much? Is it trying too hard to micro-manage our health? I say firmly - no. 
I see an increasing acceptance that we, all of us, need not only more information and guidance from government, but also more legislation to save us from ourselves. 
We need to press for more legislation to improve and protect health and well-being. We need a big stick to curb the worst excesses of the various commercial interests who shape our lifestyle. We've been largely successful with the tobacco industry, and now it's time to shift the focus onto alcohol and junk-food.
What next? I would like to see a ban on smoking in cars with a child on board and a ban on displays of cigarettes in shops. I would like to see a real hike in tax on alcohol and a ban on deep price-cuts for booze. I would like to see a wider ban on junk-food adverts around TV programmes watched largely by children. 
I would like to see a whole raft of other legislation for health.
Despite his obvious libertarian tendencies, I don't think he's going to object too much to more state interference with e-cigs, do you?

Meanwhile, John Ashton's latest cherry-picking criticism of e-cigs was published at the integrity-bereft BMJ just before the weekend. That is, the BMJ who won't accept research funded by tobacco but refuse the same rule against anything paid for by the pharmaceutical industry for some unknown reason.

Click to enlarge
Ashton made full use of the BMJ's paywall to broadcast his ill-informed views to undecided medical types, without the possibility of being challenged by those horrible vapers and their inconvenient dissent.
Many critics of WHO’s position are from the harm reduction community and see e-cigarettes as a useful contributor to tobacco control efforts. But these critics seem unable to decide whether e-cigarettes are a short term medical aid to quitting smoking or a consumer good, to be used in the long term.
Why decide when they offer both?
Images aimed at young people are reminiscent of those previously used by the tobacco and alcohol industries.
He seems very certain of that assertion. Another health pro who was present at e-cig company board meetings where they discussed ensnaring kids, perhaps? Or is he talking about adults under 30?
Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine at the Center for Tobacco Control, University of California San Francisco, says “there is no justification for reintroducing these toxins indoors after we spent 30 years getting rid of them"
Quoting aircraft engineers is e-cig control 101, it seems.
The tobacco industry’s integration with e-cigarette manufacturers is not altruistic.
This is true, they fall into the category of acting in self-interest as per Adam Smith's invisible hand. Ashton and his colleagues, however, receive no pay whatsoever and do their bansturbating for nothing but love.
Many, seemingly well informed, people appear willing to suspend disbelief about the tobacco industry’s goodwill. This issue is as much about commercial politics as science. Let us get the science right by making sure all vested interests are in the open, as we seek to improve the public’s health.
Good idea. Because with the pharma-funded WHO's dream Moscow city break fast approaching - and with the FPH's dogged resistance to any evidence-based positivity about e-cigs - it would be interesting to discuss further the 'independent financial arrangements' of the FPH and their members, not to mention the ideological anti-business agenda of far-left ideologue John Ashton.

Just sayin'.

UPDATE: Well, you just knew that Ashton wouldn't simply go quietly into the night. The Times has decided that he is just a poor wounded tobacco control soldier, bravely carrying on in the line of duty.
Public health chiefs have accused e-cigarette users of a campaign of online abuse, saying that junior scientists are being scared away from research by explicit attacks from “vapers” on Twitter.
Not all bad then? Considering the shocking quality of most tobacco control 'research' so far on e-cigs, I'd say they're the very last people who should be conducting any.
Professor Ashton and the Faculty of Public Health declined to comment ...
Very wise seeing as they have a disciplinary to conduct.
... but Professor Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who is another critic of e-cigarettes, said: “If you say anything, they get you within minutes, there’s so many of them."
So many of them that they become a problem for the likes of McKee, yet still no evidence of any of them quitting smoking with e-cigs according to the junk scientists of public health.

They've lied so much over the years that I do believe they're starting to confuse even themselves.

Sunday 7 September 2014

The Public Health Mask Slips

Around 18 months ago I attended a panel debate in London where the audience was populated by both consumer and public health industry reps, as well as mere interested observers like myself. The venue had kindly laid on refreshments afterwards and, while circulating, I found myself at one point chatting to a public health professional.

During the conversation I expressed my view that the public health movement had morphed from a position of benevolent concern for the public into one where coercion and bullying appeared to be central tactics; that in the past, public health had offered advice and support for those who wished to change their lifestyles, but generally left alone those who were content with taking ubiquitously-known risks. The occasion sticks in my mind because - to my surprise - the guy nodded and seemed to agree with me!

"Where's the empathy?", he rhetorically questioned as I necked my wine and he sipped his orange juice, "It is true that there are some who have forgotten that their first priority should be to engage and persuade".

One of the "some" revealed himself last night in an astonishing performance on Twitter.

Last week, the BBC rolled out their latest e-cig 'expert' to regurgitate the fantasies of Big Pharma and the irrational prejudices of rent-seekers - you can listen to his bizarre claims here and here. Said expert - the head of the Faculty of Public Health, no less - was naturally challenged with facts and proper evidence to counter his stark scaremongery such as that e-cigs cause blindness, amongst others.

He wasn't impressed on Wednesday.

This "abuse" was something of a surprise to vapers on Twitter seeing as the tweets were merely ones questioning his evidence and offering opposing views. It was even more bizarre considering he had pre-blocked a slew of prominent vaping tweeters so couldn't have seen what they said anyway.

Some discussion ensued but it had moved on by the following day and Ashton was largely forgotten. However, last night, sober thoughtful public health industry spokesman Prof John Ashton unfathomably decided to trawl some of the accounts he had blocked and offer contemptuous replies. It must have taken him a while since he went back six months to find this one!

And nearly three weeks to find this innocent tweet to attack.

But that was just a small indicator of the astonishing meltdown to come. About the time it takes to down a bottle of Merlot later, the unhinged insults began ...

... and continued for a further hour.

In a riveting Saturday night tour de force, Ashton toggled between the astounding ...

... and the truly surreal.

One of his own side tried to get him to tone it down, but to no avail.

Now, it appears that Ashton has since deleted a lot of this stuff from his timeline, but the episode is quite telling for a number of reasons.

Firstly, for someone who claims to be a wise, unimpeachable guardian of our well-being - and a self-professed thinker of the children, public health's greatest human shield - Ashton has no clue whatsoever how to handle social media responsibly. While the rest of us always warn kids that anything placed online is instantly published to the world and therefore irretrievable, Professor Ashton - someone who has installed himself as a consummate expert in human behaviour - understands this less than the vast majority of teens posting duck faces on Facebook.

Secondly, as someone whose tweets reveal him to be an archetypal public health socialist who believes that big industry uses advertising as a mendacious weapon, his use of media to disseminate flawed opinions while actively censoring every right of reply (yes, he blocked me too because I referenced him) is the height of hypocrisy. But it's something we have come to expect from the public health Mafia.

Additionally, there is the widespread public health annoyance that anyone is allowed to be anonymous online and that - as such - they must surely be paid shills. This not only further emphasises that they really don't understand how this internet thing has naturally developed since the 90s but also reveals the underlying tyrannical modern public health mindset.

It's a facet of the tyrant for centuries that anonymity unnerves the dictatorial. If you have a solid case that can be backed up with unshakeable evidence, anonymity is nothing to be scared of, but public health haven't enjoyed that position for over a decade now.

Instead, as Ashton has shown, the modus operandum for public health now solely consists of attacking the man not the ball (they've been lamely doing exactly that again today). How on Earth can they do that if those opposing them can't be investigated and intimidated, eh? Best just ignore the debate entirely or, in Ashton's case, spit out venomous bile.

Most importantly though, as discussed with my public health professional acquaintance 18 months ago, Ashton proved comprehensively last night that he despises the public. There is no empathy in him - in fact, he'd very much prefer it if the public would just shut the hell up and allow him to get on with his career unhindered.

He knows what he thinks; he's not bothered if it is bunkum; and he doesn't want anyone to get in the way of his highly-paid faux concern for the public's health. Even when the public have quite clearly sorted it all out for themselves and could do without his uninvited interference.

This, sadly, is the modern and true face of the public health industry. They quite simply despise the public they used to care for and have empathy with. Last night, Ashton's astonishing behaviour gave us yet another glimpse behind the mask.

See also: The Random Vaper, VapeMeStoopid and the Redhead.