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The single minded habit of neo-puritans

This blog post comes with a health warning. I don’t normally go in for such things beyond simple imparting of information, and not even then if the risks are patently obvious – standing on top of the helicopter while its engines are running may risk the user being cut in half, kind of thing – but I am going to refer to an article in The Age which is possibly one of the most infuriating things I’ve ever read. If you’re the kind of person who likes to live and let live and agree with Jefferson that the problems of too much liberty are vastly preferable to the problems of insufficient liberty, then you may prefer not to read beyond this point in case what you see makes you want to go and kick the cat.

For those that read on I’ll try to defuse the anger with a good fisking, and I apologise in advance because this won’t be brief.

Click for linky

And that’s just the opener. Here’s how Michael Jarosky, the author, begins the article.

I’m tired of obesity. I’m tired of the whinging and excuses. I’m tired of hearing about hospitals full of self-inflicted illnesses.

Somehow I don’t think he means people who’ve strained muscles at the gym or broken bones coming off their bikes and boards or spent so many long hours jogging in the sun that they’ve come down with wrecked knees and skin cancer. Well, if it’s a self inflicted illness when you get it (supposedly) from sun beds then surely it’s still self inflicted from pounding pavements under the Aussie sun. In any case it doesn’t matter because it’s not that kind of self inflicted illness we’re going to be talking spoken to about. It’s self inflicted illnesses from doing enjoyable things.

Yes, people who like riding bikes and surfing and indulging in all kinds of outdoor strenuous adrenality (my made up word for the day) are also doing things they find enjoyable, but that’s different.

Look, don’t ask bloody awkward questions. It just is, okay?

And it isn’t only the overweight that get me ranting and raving. I’m also tired of hearing about skinny model wannabe’s surviving on ciggies, energy drinks, and vodka-soda-fresh limes.

Fair enough, but nobody’s making him listen, are they? Yeah, okay, hearing [whiny voice] “Oh, I can’t give up smoking” or “I just can’t lose weight” [/whiny voice] from someone who’s not really trying to do it is a little tedious, but y’know, Jarosky, you can always leave the room. I mean, nobody’s nailed you to a chair and forced you to stay there all day and listen, right?

And while I’m asking you questions, Jarosky, let me ask you this: have you ever considered that perhaps deep down many of these people don’t want to give up smoking or lose weight. That maybe they enjoy smoking or eating bowls of chips in front of the TV or whatever, and that the only reason they’re even talking about how hard they find it to change is because of the vast number of self-righteous pricks in the world who are constantly trying to make the poor bastards feel guilty about it. Yes, of course many of them, perhaps most of them, are just making excuses, but are they doing so because you’ll give them a hard time for being honest enough to say that they just like the cigs or the grog or the food or whatever it is you don’t approve of? I ask because I can’t help but feel that if they weren’t being virtually judged – or with shows like The Biggest Loser, even literally judged – they wouldn’t feel the need to make excuses.

It is the dumb choices of unhealthy people that make me angry, and here are the eight that annoy me the most:

1. You say: “I’ll have a Diet Cola with that” as you order your lunch at the drive thru, thinking that gets you off the hook in the calorie stakes.

The addiction to junk food is one thing – but if you think adding diet cola will make a difference you’re kidding yourself.

Now I have to say that I can see his point with some of these. Ordering a diet coke and thinking it’ll magically make you into the shape you wish to be, or even the shape the the world’s Michael Jaroskys wish everyone to be, is stupid. But again, how many of these people are doing so more in the hope of a brief pause in the nagging or to assuage some of the guilt that’s continually heaped upon them for not being the mandated state approved shape than in the hope it’ll actually take a few pounds off for them? More than a few, I reckon.

And addiction to junk food? Christ, Mike, over egg that fucking pudding, eh (and pudding is bad for you, of course). Why is it so impossible to believe that often people eat what they do and smoke and drink because they like it? They. Just. Like. It. If doing something you like is all that qualifies as an addiction these days then nannying must itself be an addiction judging by the number of people who love telling others how to live. Go deal with your own addictions first, buddy.

2. You say things like: “But I hate broccoli”. Guess what? So do I. But I eat broccoli and other fresh veggies because they contain nutrients my body needs.

Oh, get down off your cross. Just because you force yourself to eat something you don’t like that means everyone else has to do the same? Here you are talking about other people whinging and it sounds like you haven’t even listened to yourself. Oh, woe is poor Michael, he has to eat broccoli and he doesn’t really like it. Look, I’ll have your broccoli if you don’t want it, as long as it shuts you up. Though somehow I doubt it would.

3. You turn into a robot. You’ve got your new tablet, computer, video games, and smartphone strapped to your belt like some kind of techno-sheriff. You’re obsessed with stuff, but you’ve let your body and your health go.

And how’s that hurting you? Their bodies, their choice. If they were forcing you to live as they do and sit in front of a computer all day with an iEverything and it made you miserable and fat I’d be 100% on your side here, but as far as I can see the situation is more or less the other way round and you’re the one demanding that others live your way (not that we can say there’s anything at all robotic about meekly hitting the gyms and eating correctly as we’re all so frequently exhorted to do these days, can we?).

Well, I don’t see any reason why they should. Fuck off.

Real value lies within a healthy body.

To you, perhaps, and I certainly wouldn’t say that that’s valueless. But surely there’s real value in a life lived with maximum enjoyment. If the enjoyment you get from your healthy body is greater than that lost from foregoing unhealthy things then good for you, but how dare you assume that that’s the only correct perspective. If someone else gets their enjoyment in life from burgers, scotch and cigarettes their choice is every bit as valid as that of any gym junkie, and arguably more so when so very few of them are ever found trying to persuade the gym junkies to give it all up and have a big plate of chips. Maybe they’ll change their mind and regret it in the future, maybe not. Either way, again it’s their body and their choice, nobody else’s.

4. You have an energy drink for breakfast.

Really?

How many people do you see walking around with a jumbo can of fizz thinking they are providing ‘energy’ for their morning?

Very approximately none. I’m sure there are some – and again that’s their choice – but personally I know of nobody who does not have either tea, coffee or fruit juice. But do go on.

These drinks are loaded with strange chemicals, sugar, and caffeine.

And then they came for the caffeine drinkers, as many of us always fucking knew they would, and which of course gets everyone drinking tea and coffee as well. Three sinners for the price of one very very mild stimulant served in titchy doses. Oh, and that well known deadly poison sugar as well. Yes, folks, switch to something nice like polonium sprinkled on your cornflakes – see how much weight you lose. Again, if people are doing this – drinking energy drinks for brekkie, I mean, not putting polonium on cereal – I have to wonder if they’re doing it just because they’ve been bullied into feeling bad about themselves and hope it’ll make it all stop for a bit.

And lets just read that sentence again.

These drinks are loaded with strange chemicals, sugar, and caffeine.

So there’s the chemophobic dog whistle of ‘chemicals’ – always chuckleworthy considering that absolutely everything you eat and even everyone you meet is made out of chemicals – followed immediately by sugar and caffeine so that they’re associated with the strange (i.e. scary) chemicals. This is an old trick: name a thing people are scared of (justifiably so or not, doesn’t matter), throw a comma down and then follow it with one or two things you want people to be scared of. The film industry makes hard core arse porn, Disney flicks and Adam Sandler movies. Every week the papers talk about people dying, football scores and crosswords. The Sound of Music is all about Nazis, nuns and singing. Those are deliberately ridiculous and exaggerated examples but even so I’d expect Adam Sandler and Disney would be a bit pissed off if that sentence made it into mainstream print because of the association. It’s clear that there is no association at all beyond the meaningless fact that it’s all still film making, but putting it that way makes it sound like there is. In the past it could have been criminals, Jews and gypsies or communists, pinkos and civil rights marchers. These days it could be terrorists, Muslims and arabs… or even strange chemicals, sugar and caffeine. Whether Jarosky is doing this deliberately or simply because he treats something as innocuous as small doses of caffeine, let alone substances like sugar that are actually required by the body, as being synonymous with ‘strange chemicals’ is something I’ll leave the reader to speculate on. Personally I’ll give the benefit of doubt and assume the latter.

5.

Oh, God, are we really only up to 5?

5. You dial 1800-Fitness. You think you’ve tried it all because you’ve ordered it from some infomercial. The low carb diets with shakes for meals. The Ab Dominators. The Shake Weight. The Detox Plans. And yet your body stays the same.

Ah, yes, the Shake Weight, a real product that I honestly believed was a joke when I first heard of it. And that was before I even saw the parody ads.


Gentlemen, did you shake your weight today? I did.

And I mention this with a serious point (Ooooh, Matron!) in mind: as with the diet Coke and the energy drinks I have to wonder how many milk shakes, fad diets, dumbbells, spring loaded pec stretchers and so on are sold to people who are perfectly happy being the shape they are apart from the fact they’re constantly being told how bad they are for being that way. In particular I find it hard to believe that they’re going to buy what looks like a wank training aid because they really want people to think they’re so weak and flabby they lack the strength to hold an average cock. No, I suspect that much of the demand is not ultimately driven by those Jarosky dismisses as whingers and excuse makers but by the people badgering the so-called whingers.

6. You let machines do all the work. The escalator is moving but you are not. You jump on the bus or in a taxi when you could walk. You drive to the store when you could jog or ride a bike.

And this is always because these people are lazy rather than just short of time? Or because it’s pissing rain? Or because it’s past dark and you’re female and on your own? Or because Christ alone knows where the architect told the builders to put the stairs but you can see four escalators, albeit with too many people on for you to jog up without rudely pushing past some of them? Am I alone in getting the feeling that on Planet Jarosky it’s only ever your fault if you’re not working up a sweat? Maybe we should all take our Shake Weights with us everywhere we go.

7. You take ciggie breaks throughout the day. If a cigarette takes eight minutes to smoke, and it takes you two minutes to get downstairs and two minutes to get back to your desk, then you are spending an hour for every five ciggies you smoke each day. That’s a big waste of time that you might have spent doing something productive.

Tobacco had to be mentioned eventually, didn’t it? I may be wrong here but this sounds like a tobacco time and motion study pulled straight from the arse of a non-smoker. Back in the day when I still partook of the weapon of mass destruction known as Benson & Hedges it took me about 5-6 minutes to smoke one, and less if it was a rollie I’d made myself (which of course I could make in advance on my own time). It didn’t take anything like two minutes to get downstairs and two more to get back to my desk because I never left it in the first place, and since I was smoking while working the effect on productivity was as close to zero as makes no odds. Even if I accept Jarosky’s numbers, and I think they’re arbitrary at best, it doesn’t alter the fact that the issue of lost productivity is entirely artificial in the first place.

At about this point baccyphobes occasionally like to talk about vague future productivity losses from those smokers who have the unspeakable temerity to die before finishing their allotted lifetime’s work, but there are two problems with that argument. First, companies don’t own their staff. Employment is exchanging one’s time for money, and since employees who permanently cease work through illness or dropping dead normally stop receiving wages the loss of productivity is irrelevant – someone else will be hired to take over the work or it’ll be split up among other employees. Secondly, as I mentioned near the beginning, this kind of argument is never brought up if Bob can’t come into work because he set his sciatica off doing leg presses in the gym last night.

Incidentally, along with all these ‘bad’ habits Jarosky identifies he also offers a solution to each. Predictably enough the one he suggests here is to join a quit smoking program or otherwise find a way to give up the – his words – ‘evil habit’. Naturally it’s not an option to return to the days of letting smokers smoke and doing what you could to amicably accommodate those who want to and those who don’t like the smell, even if that meant having a smoking room somewhere away from the main workspace (yes, they’ll be away from their desks for a bit but they’ll spend half their time talking shop anyway, which will probably be at least as productive as dragging someone, smoker or non-smoker, into some pointless time-stopping meeting, or even just leaving it up to the person who, y’know, owns the fucking building the work’s done in. No, Michael Jarosky and his fellow nannies couldn’t countenance that.

A healthy employee is a more productive employee.

And how very strength through joy of you to say so, Jarosky, even if it doesn’t consider how productive a miserable, joyless, defeated employee might be versus one who actually enjoys coming in to work.

And last but not least, Jarosky goes on to demonstrate what I’ve said here repeatedly: whatever you do it will never be enough.

8. You comfort exercise at the gym.

Seriously, Jarosky? Seriously? You’ve got these poor bastards drinking diet cola to try to glean a nanosecond’s approval from you, and it’s not enough. You’ve got them on isotonic drinks instead of the coffee they’d prefer, and you still want more. You’ve got them putting down their cigarettes and picking up their hundred dollar Mastor-bator Bicep Gainer machines, and it’s too small a sacrifice for you. And now, even at the point you’ve got them coming into the gym and, since I note from your by-line that you’re a personal trainer, paying your salary, it’s still not good enough for you. Jesus H. Christ on a fucking exercise bike, Jarosky, what will it take to please you? What do these poor sods have to become to meet your standards? Other than Michael bloody Jarosky, of course?

Bad food and low energy turns into a 30 minute stroll on the treadmill or cross trainer while you mime old Hanson videos on the screen. You think ‘something is better than nothing, right?’ Well, not when it distances yourself from your goal.

What? How does that distance someone from their goal? Do you put on weight if you get on the treadmill the wrong way round and walk backwards or something? Look, I do understand that exercise regimes are regimes and that if you rock up to the gym without any kind of plan and expect magic results simply by turning up then you’ll be disappointed, and equally that eating a huge dessert at lunchtime and working it off in the gym later isn’t going to turn anyone into Adonis. But Jarosky, has it not occurred to you that for some that isn’t the goal? That for some the goal might be no more than being able to eat a huge dessert at lunchtime and the gym sesh is as much a part of the payment as paying the extra ten bucks was after they ate it?

On the whole I think the answer to that is ‘probably not’, because Jarosky finishes his piece by talking about how we can all change our lifestyles. So that ours become more like his, presumably.

Some of these are tough solutions that will require big commitments, but I really do want Australians to change for the better.

[...]

I know it is possible to make lifestyle changes, because I’ve done it myself. How did I do it? I wrote down three bad habits that I needed to change. Then I wrote down three healthy habits I needed to commit to. And I stuck that piece of paper on my bathroom mirror and committed to turning my lifestyle around day by day.

Bully for you, Jarosky, and I don’t say that sarcastically. I mean it sincerely and honestly. If doing so has made you happier then good on you for getting rid of unhealthy habits and adopting healthier ones in their place. Really. No, really really. But I feel it’s a great shame that you didn’t identify a fourth bad habit, one that wowsers, nannies and healthists universally slip into: holding the vicarious desire, well intentioned though it may be, for other people to live according to the values, standards and, sorry to say so, the rules they set for themselves. Look, I’m a little guilty of it too – Jeez, I make no secret that I wish the world was full of minarchist libertarians who’ll approve or disapprove as each sees fit but will live and let live and harm no one who harms no one, but I feel there’s a big difference in that I don’t demand it of others and ask that laws change to achieve it by coercion. To be fair to him Michael Jarosky doesn’t either, but the overall tone of his article is that of someone who supports coercive measures such as smoking bans and so on – and I’ll happily eat those words if he doesn’t.

And as well as that bad habit there’s something else I think he could have written on that piece of paper. Something on the plus side, though not something that could be called a good habit per se. I forget who it was but someone once said that the hardest thing to become is what someone else wants you to become, which is why I’ll never demand that Michael Jarosky or anyone else be libertarian, or ask for more from them than to leave me free to live as I choose providing I harm no other by it. I may say I think things would be better if they were libertarians, just as they can say they think the world would be better if nobody inhaled or ingested anything that wasn’t a proven nutrient and we all took it in turns to jump up and down and shout at each other on treadmills, but don’t think they should be made to if they don’t want to.

I just wish I could believe they feel the same way.

Expect more of the same

An announcement and an observation. First the announcement: I’ve added a new blog to the blogroll in the Smokers And Drinkers section. Frank Davis is, in his own words, banging on about the smoking ban, and I’ve been reading his stuff over the last couple of weeks since our friendly neighbourhood blogger impersonator used his ID in the comments here. I’m sure his intention wasn’t to increase Frank Davis’ readership but that’s what’s happened, and it hasn’t taken me long to decide to add it to the blogroll.

And on the topic that Frank Davis favours, that observation I mentioned. It’s not the first time I’ve said so but there’s plenty of evidence that the creeping intolerance of a legal product that a significant minority still want to use leads to undesirable side effects. Tax a desired product to the point of unaffordability – or worse, ban it altogether – in the hope that people will stop using it and all you really do is create a strong incentive for the black market to step in, often with a product that’s inferior in some way. We’ve seen it with the American’s unsuccessful experiment with Prohibition, with the disastrous decades long policy of drug prohibition, and we’re seeing it with tobacco.

A former tax office investigator has been jailed for corruptly taking bribes from illegal tobacco producers.

A County Court judge said today that Philip James Roper, 52, had been motivated by greed and had tarnished the reputation of other investigators in carrying out important duties.

Roper, who served for nine years as a federal policeman before joining the Australian Tax Office, was found guilty by a jury of dishonestly asking for a benefit, dishonestly receiving a benefit and theft.

He also pleaded guilty to dishonestly receiving a benefit and abuse of public office.

In sentencing this morning, Judge Joe Gullaci said Roper had come into contact with Jimmy Wang, and a middle man, who were involved in the illegal tobacco, or chop-chop, industry.

The jury decided that Roper’s relationship with both men was corrupt.

The offences occurred between June 2001 and the middle of 2004 by Roper asking Wang for the names and addresses of other chop-chop sellers. Roper told Wang, who he met at the Gotham City brothel, he would look after him.

Judge Gullaci said that Wang had believed that the arrangement was beneficial because it would remove competitors.

The information Wang provided also allowed Roper to steal tobacco leaf and cutting machines, which were sold and the profits taken by Roper.

Roper also stole five 100 kilogram bales of tobacco leaf from a Dandenong property. These were sold and he shared in the profits.

He also “parked” a prosecution of a woman who had sold chop-chop at the Caribbean Garden Markets by telling his colleagues that her address could not be determined.

Note that the offences took place before the illiberal and anti-property rights smoking bans, before the point of sale display bans and before you had to spend $16 or so for a single packet of cigarettes. Does anyone believe that those things have hurt the chop-chop industry or made them less able or inclined to find corrupt officials to bribe? Does anyone think that at least one of those things hasn’t helped the chop-chop industry? And can anyone seriously believe that the chop-chop industry will either not care about the pending mandatory plain packaging or will welcome anything that harms their principle competition, the legal and regulated tobacco industry?

I’d give you a pound to a pinch of shit that there is probably Roper or two meeting more Wangs in various private rooms right now, and there’ll be even more in the future. If you want that future then support your local illegal tobacco industry and your local corrupt public servants by supporting more anti-tobacco legislation. You know it makes no sense.

And then they came for…

They came first for the smokers, and I did not speak
because I’m not a smoker
Then they came for the drinkers, and I remained silent
because I don’t drink
And then they came for the salad dodgers, and said nothing
because I quite like a plate of greens

When they finally came for me there was no one left to speak up.

With apologies to Martin Niemöller

Smokers first, and the world’s authoritarian control freaks and their healthist useful idiots have persuaded enough people that smokers aren’t quite human that they felt able to move on to drinkers. They’ve got their teeth into alcohol and, despite their denials to the contrary, seem to be following the same anti-freedom model that they did with tobacco – there are already dry areas appearing, the beginnings of warning labels, talk of restricting alcohol advertising (doubtless replacing it with more of the tax funded anti-alcohol campaigns). They’ve even invented the concept of second hand drinking, presumably because it sounds good and was a success against smokers. You can be sure that more alcohol denormalisation is around the corner.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you’re that certain then just criminalise tobacco and alcohol and be done with it. Won’t hurt me, I don’t drink or smoke. Won’t hurt a lot of those people who’ll quietly produce their own under the radar, or at least not too much. But if you think it’ll produce a sober, non-smoking population of fine upstanding and hard working tax cows citizens then enough with the salami slicing, just make both products illegal. Go on, you government chickenshits, do it. I fucking dare you to. I fucking dare you to do without the tax revenue. I fucking dare you to increase other taxes to make up for the lost revenue, and then increase them even more due to the additional expense of policing yet more contraband. I fucking dare you to recreate Prohibition era violent crime and add it to that of the drugs trade, with the added bonus of getting the illegal tobacco trade involved as well. I’m starting to think that a society that stupid and intolerant and evil simply fucking deserves what it gets. Go on, do it…

Except they won’t, because they’re not that ignorant of history. They’re hoping that a little freedom lost each day won’t set the scene for modern day Al Capones in the same way that just criminalising tobacco or alcohol probably will, though if the illegal drugs trade is anything to go by, not to mention the increased incentives for tobacco smuggling and illegal alcohol production, this is just as much a fantasy. So the salami slicing continues, and smokers and drinkers have been joined by salad dodgers and now meat eaters.

Small quantities of processed meat such as bacon, sausages or salami can increase the likelihood of dying by a fifth, researchers from Harvard School of Medicine found. Eating steak increases the risk of dying by 12%.

Oh, here we go. I don’t want to be picky here, motherfuckers, but I’ve run this calculation many times to be certain and I found that everybody’s risk of dying is exactly 100%. Your risk of living before that final certainty happens is something else entirely.

The scientists said that the government’s current advice that people should eat no more than 2.5 ounces (70 grams) a day, around around the level the average Briton already consumes, was “generous”.

I had no idea there was government advice already. I wonder what’ll be next? Age restrictions to be allowed to purchase something with red meat in it? A red meat ban in public places such as restaurants and pubs (if there are still any pubs left)? Meat packaging is typically plain already but maybe this kind of thing will be banned.

Click for source

And of course there’s the associated scare, that it’s just an unhealthy part of a generally unhealthy lifestyle.

Scientists added that people who eat a diet high in red meat were also likely to be generally unhealthier because they were more likely to smoke, be overweight and not exercise.

Assuming for the moment that this is anything more than mere assertion, because there’s bollock all in the article to suggest otherwise, so fucking what? What call do I have on anyone else to be healthy? If it doesn’t affect me what right do I have over what they put into their bodies or how they attempt to extract the maximum amount of enjoyment from their few decades of existence? I wonder if, on the QT, these people acknowledge this because they quickly unleash the big gun, a claim that in fact your steak supper is hurting other people.

In an accompanying editorial Dr Dean Ornish, of the University of California, San Francisco, said that eating less red meat could also help tackle climate change.
He said: “In addition to their health benefits, the food choices we make each day affect other important areas as well. What is personally sustainable is globally sustainable. What is good for you is good for our planet.”

More unsupported assertion, and frankly I have a hard enough time believing that the net activity of our entire species has any measurable, let alone meaningful, effect on a system depending on the interaction of, among other things, roughly 5 quadrillion tonnes of air, 1½ quintillion tonnes of water, half a billion square kilometres of surface area of varying substances and albedo and 2 octillion tonnes of fusing hydrogen. If someone really believes that getting everyone to stop eating bacon butties and lamb chops has any significance I have a bridge I’d like to sell them. In fact I wonder if it’s even seriously believed by the people saying it – in their shoes I’d be looking for something that sounds better than “Well, if you die earlier you won’t be contributing taxes for as long, d’you see?”, which I suspect is really what a lot of government healthism is about. They already say they can’t afford to treat everyone who’s sick, so any illnesses that they can claim are self inflicted through lifestyle choices such as smoking and drinking and being a certain amount above the standard human weight (if there isn’t an official standard human weight already I expect there soon will be) are beginning to go untreated, and bugger the fact that people have paid for healthcare in advance.* Getting the hump because some people cark it before contributing all the tax they might have done, which will happen more once economic pressures force the retirement age to be revised upwards, is almost the same thing. How dare you drop dead through enjoying your life before having completed your allotted amount of tax producing labour for the st… ah, I mean for society!

Go fuck yourselves sideways with a meat tenderiser.

I’ll leave you with the positive side of meat eating. Paid for by the industry of course, and not to be taken completely seriously, but perhaps with a grain of truth in it all the same.

* I wonder if one day this thinking will also apply to people with fucked knees and jogger’s nipples from exercising. Hey, exercising regularly is a lifestyle choice too, you know.

I’ve banned smoking in the road outside my house

Of course I’ve done no such thing really. Smoke in here and I’ll tell you to put it out, go outside or just leave. If you take the last option I must accept that once you’re any measurable distance at all from my gate, even if its in millimetres, I have no right to tell you to stop. Well, that’s how I see it, and I don’t feel that’s anything to do with being a libertarian and a fan of property rights – it is, but it’s mainly just being fair and reasonable.

But of course not everyone is prepared to be fair and reasonable with smokers, the twenty-first century’s designated primary untermenschen (drinkers and salad dodgers being the next down the list). Three months ago I left a slightly off topic comment over at Velvet Glove, Iron Fist on a post about smoking establishments starting to reappear in places in Europe. I said this:

Slight tangent, this. I saw a sign in a office building doorway here in Oz recently that said something like ‘No smoking with 5 metres of this doorway’. Might not have been 5 metres (I didn’t think to get a photo) but I remember looking at it and thinking that that applies to rather a lot of pavement and even a bit of road that I very much doubted the building’s owners had any legal control over.

I should have added that I thought the idea was not only a bit iffy from the property rights angle, what with it setting rules on land the rule maker doesn’t own, but that it was completely ridiculous anyway – I’ve been a non-smoker long enough to have grown to dislike the smell, but I find that a couple of paces is all that’s needed and sometimes not even that. Metres plural? Several metres? That’s just being silly.

A quick google image search suggests that these X metres away from the door restrictions are springing up everywhere now as I found examples of signs in Canada and the US plus a UK site selling them them in 5, 10 and even 20 metres of self righteous bastardry. What I haven’t found, except in Queensland where they are mad and have banned smoking 4 metres from entrances with a $200 fine (PDF) if you’re closer than that, is any indication that these things can carry any legal force where that area is both open and public, much less owned by someone else. Even in Queensland footpaths are going to be less than 4 metres wide often enough that this is a problem, and where the smokophobes have demanded the right to make rules over an even larger area of property that doesn’t belong to them it can become significant. How significant I noticed last weekend on a trip into South Melbourne.

The buildings I’ve highlighted here form the Spotlight Centre, a small suburban shopping centre consisting of Spotlight, a supermarket, a pharmacy, a few small stores and cafes, and a gym in the larger building on the right, and an Aldi and a Dan Murphy’s liquor store in the one on the left.

Smoking is, of course, prohibited inside according to state law, though this only came into force in July 2007 and I very much doubt smoking was allowed inside before then. I can’t remember having seen a shopping centre anywhere that permitted smoking in their buildings even before the law banned it. However, the Spotlight Centre has gone further and has decided that they don’t want nasssty smokersss gollum stinking up their entrancesss, no preciousss. And so there are signs on the doors which say, among other things, ‘No smoking in centre or within 10m of entry’, though for reasons which I’ll come to I don’t have a photograph.

There are three entrances on different streets to the main building and one to the smaller building (there looks like there will be a second when a currently empty unit is filled). I’ve marked out the rough size and extent of the no smoking zones that result from Spotlight’s banning of smokers a full ten metres – nearly 33 feet in old money – from their entrances, first as they are and second as they’ll be whenever that last main unit with its own entrance is occupied. Embiggering is possible on both images.


Yes, not only do the owners of the Spotlight Centre not want you to smoke inside their buildings, which is perfectly reasonable and absolutely up to them even if there wasn’t a stupid law demanding they do what they’d almost certainly do by choice, but they’re so insistent that even their doors are protected that they demand the right to ban smoking in cars parked outside or even driving past. ‘No smoking in centre or within 10m of entry’ is what it says and there’s no mention of an exception for people who are within that distance but are inside their own property, much less on public property.

Of course the reason for this new phenomenon of pushing smokers even further away is as simple as it was predictable. Give the smokers a place to go, as was the policy in the past, and they’ll go and smoke there. Take it away and they’ll smoke wherever there’s a bit of shelter instead, and often that means doorways and entrances where ‘normal’ people – or ‘tomorrow’s victims of denormalisation’ as I like to think of them – have to go in and out. This is particularly true of workplaces, which generally used to cater for smokers and non-smokers alike and would often set aside a room or an area for the smokers if there was space. The law then said they had to stop doing that so of course the smokers ended up going outside, and if the weather was poor naturally they’d stay as close as possible to the door. Incidentally, this is the reason why there’s no photo of the Spotlight’s Centre’s sign informing of their 10m exclusion zones – I did take one but I didn’t realise that a member of staff who was standing a couple of metres behind me having a cigarette was reflected in the glass, and such casual defiance of an unreasonable rule didn’t deserve to be rewarded with evidence put on the interwebs for anyone to see.* For all I know it’s a sacking offence, so just take my word for it that it really does say 10 metres.

The effect is clear. Wherever there have been smoke bans in certain buildings there are now smokers who want or need to use those buildings dragging the life out of their smokes around the entrances rather than relatively evenly spread around, and having been brainwashed into increasing levels of terror at the sight of a lit fag much of the non smoking public have kicked off often enough that some now feel they can apply their own in house rules beyond the boundaries of their property. Currently this is not enforceable anywhere I know of apart from Queensland, where, as I mentioned, they are mad but also rich enough to be able to hire thousands of Zone Enforcement Response Officers (or ZEROs) to roam around with 4 metre tape measures and books of fine forms.** Sadly it’s only a matter of time before somewhere else follows suit and introduces legislation too, and if it’s here in Victoria there’ll be close 170 feet of non-smoking pavement on one South Melbourne road which you won’t even know about until too late because the damn signs are attached to the bloody doors ten metres inside the zone. Worse, a piece of footpath on which you can smoke today could be turned anti-smoking simply be someone knocking a hole in the wall and putting a door in.

And as usual with all anti-smoking measures that will be cheered by some non-smokers when it should really be feared by smokers and non-smokers alike. Because when someone else gets rights over property they don’t own the can is open and the worms are wriggling everywhere. Don’t believe me? Well, as Leg-iron and Bucko have just pointed out coffee drinkers look like joining the ranks of smokers, drinkers and salad dodgers, and while I don’t currently have any desire to ban even strong smelling coffee being consumed by someone who happens to be walking past my house it happens that I am a tea drinker, you see… ***

Can’t happen? Yeah, I expect the smokers who’ll be walking out into roads all over the world to avoid getting too close to someone’s door thought that too.

* Or maybe it wasn’t defiance but the rain that kept the mystery smoker near the door. It was pretty wet that day, but I doubt that’s an excuse so I’m still not using the photo.
** My mistake. Queensland is $53 billion in debt and would be even deeper in the hole if it hand’t sold some state assets. And I made the ZEROs up, though that doesn’t mean something like them doesn’t really exist.
*** Coffee too, but that spoils the point.

Vote early, vote often

Bucko the Moose has a link up to an online poll about banning smoking in all cars – ha, fat lot of good the BMA’s retraction of the 23 times lie has done, eh? They got the headlines and response they wanted and now idiots passing as journalists who can’t or won’t question the no-stop feed of bullshit PRs they’re given. So do pop along and have a little vote at the Lancashire Borgograph and remember what it is you’re voting for. On the one hand it’s the right to be left alone in property that you’ve paid for and belongs to you. On the other hand, well, you work it out.

New enemies in the war on terror?

Please see note at the end of this post.

From Wiktionary as:

Noun
terror (countable and uncountable; plural terrors)

  1. (uncountable) intense dread, fright, or fear.
  2. (countable) specific instances of being intensely terrified
  3. (uncountable) the action or quality of causing dread; terribleness, especially such qualities in narrative fiction
  4. (countable) something or someone that causes such fear.

And coercion as

Noun
coercion (plural coercions)

  1. (not countable) Actual or threatened force for the purpose of compelling action by another person; the act of coercing.
  2. (law, not countable) Use of physical or moral force to compel a person to do something, or to abstain from doing something, thereby depriving that person of the exercise of free will.
  3. (countable) A specific instance of coercing.
  4. (computing, countable) Conversion of a value of one data type to a value of another data type.

So ignoring that last definition that relates to computing and thinking about that very first sentence in which Wikipedia suggests terrorism is simply the systematic use of terror as a means of coercion, I find myself wondering how broadly this applies and whether any organisation or organisations that use scare tactics in order to get their way, to see people cowed – terrified, in fact – into submission, would count as being terrorists. Specifically, I’m thinking about whether the BMA, ASH and so on could be seen as terrorists. Ridiculous? Of course it is. Absolutely ridiculous. I mean, most or all of these anti-smoking – and of course the anti-drinking, anti-drugs, anti… er, where are we up to now? Oh yes, anti-soft drinks, anti-red meat and/or junk food (like I even need to bother finding a link for that), anti-muesli - anti fucking muesli for Christ’s fucking sake, oh I wish I was making that one up - basically anti-whatever it is you do that you enjoy that might shave even a picosecond off your life according to anything that even passes for a scientific study in a bad light, most of these anti-whatever groups are either run by or partly funded by the government, or at least exist with their tacit approval. And clearly that legitimises them, doesn’t it? How can they be terrorists with government approval and even funding, no matter how much they try to coerce people by means of fear?

Ummm, well, I didn’t want to mention it, Nick Hogan, 43, was sentenced to six months in prison for refusing to pay a fine imposed for flouting the legislation.
Two years ago Hogan, who ran two pubs in Bolton, became the first landlord convicted of breaking the law for allowing his customers to routinely light up in his bars.

Gillian Leah has never had a cigarette and is vehemently anti-litter.
So the 46-year-old, of Hove Edge, Brighouse, thought the matter would soon be sorted after contacting council officials.
But her dispute has left her paying £50 for a crime she claims she didn’t commit.
The alternative was a fight through the courts with no guarantee of winning – and a legal bill running into thousands.

A RETIRED policeman was fined for dropping a cigarette end out of his car window – despite being a non-smoker and not even driving at the time.
Robert Marshall received a £50 fine from Nottingham City Council after a warden reported spotting him littering while driving along Hucknall Road, Nottingham.
But the council has now dropped the fine against the former officer after he told them he does not smoke and his car was in a car park at the time of the alleged offence.
The authority was also unable to confirm to Mr Marshall where in Hucknall Road the offence had taken place.
It has told him that a line has been drawn under the matter, after speaking to the warden involved.

A near miss, but (my bold)…

Mr Marshall, 48, of Moor Road, Bestwood Village, said: “The council have said they had a word with the warden, he said he was mistaken, and that is the end of the matter.
“This sort of thing is just unacceptable. I wonder how many others have been unfortunate enough to get this sort of ticket and have just paid the £50 fine because they cannot prove otherwise?

So we’ve got an intention to coerce by scaring away resistance, a willingness to use force and innocent bystanders getting affected too. And now, this very week, Wolfers called them – are claiming that smoking must be banned Chris Snowdon but, as he pointed out Canadian Medical Association Journal entitled ‘Second-hand smoke in cars: How did the “23 times more toxic” myth turn into fact?’, MacKenzie and Freeman showed that the “fact” was entirely without scientific evidence and stemmed from a, obscure quote in a local newspaper in 1998 (as I had revealed on Dick Puddlecote’s smoke psychosis gallery will tell you.

So is it terrorism? I don’t know, I really don’t. I suppose the day I feel genuinely afraid to do something I’ve always done and which was done peacefully by millions in past generations then I’ll have my answer.

PS If you haven’t already seen it there’s a good op-ed piece in The Tele titled “

And now, the campaigners are back: some people, they’ve noticed, have been smoking in their own cars. And other people might be in the car with them! So we need a new law, and a new set of criminals to prosecute – because, honestly, there’s nothing more important for either the political class or the medical establishment to be thinking about just now, right?
[...]
You might wonder how – were the ban to be introduced – it could be policed. Well, Oxford City Council has the answer to that. It plans to force CCTV into every taxi in the city, in order to record every conversation between driver and passenger. (I pity the official who had to review my conversations: it’s bad enough that the poor cabbie has to listen to me wittering on, without council officers having to listen in as well.)
Why not take it one step further, and insist on CCTV in every vehicle? Indeed, why stop there? (I doubt the BMA will.) Why not put cameras into every house, so that functionaries from the BMA’s Professional Activities Division can monitor our every move? You could even make it two-way, so that Dr Nathanson’s acolytes can bark out instructions every time some foolish little person tries to have a cigarette, or pours a second glass of wine.

Worth a read.

 

Note: as indicated by the links that point there this post was imported, along with all the others before 2012, from my old Blogger blog, though this particular one has been edited slightly from the original. The quoted paragraph about the trucker Chris Minihan is from The Daily Mail here, but in the original post was from an online store selling e-cigs. For reasons I’m not remotely interested in discovering WordPress ban all links to this company, so as long as it was here this blog was subject to suspension (and indeed was suspended without warning before some helpful soul at WordPress got my email and reinstated it, while advising that I needed to remove the link) and it seemed best to find the story elsewhere. If anyone is interested in the company concerned or its products it shouldn’t take too much working out to find that original link.

Questions to which the answer is "Fuck off"

Yes, I know there are lots of these and that anything on an official census probably qualifies, but the one that’s uppermost in my mind at the moment is this:

How much do you drink?

A report to be published on Monday will say eight million professionals are routinely drinking too much alcohol, and endangering their health, even though they do not binge drink or get drunk.
It calls for new checks, so that GPs quiz all patients about their drinking habits, first at the age of 30, and again as part of general health checks which occur every five years from the age of 40.

And even though it’s a non-issue for me and my honest answer would score maximum healthist brownie points, my inclination would be to choose from a range of replies starting with “Why are you asking?” and finishing with “Go fuck yourself.” Aside from the intrusiveness I hope everyone can see in this that the concept of no-safe-level-every-drop-is-killing-you-a-bit has taken one more jackbooted step from neo-puritan idealism to policy. You don’t have to binge and you don’t have to get drunk, but you can still be drinking too much. How much is too much? Who can possibly know when, as pointed out on Devil’s Kitchen a couple of years back, the recommended consumption levels for alcohol were pulled out of the collective arse of a working party of the Royal College of Physicians (the article is only available to people who pay The Times as even archives are behind the paywall now, so the rest of us have to put up with seeing it for free on Wayback – fuck you, Rupes).

Guidelines on safe alcohol consumption limits that have shaped health policy in Britain for 20 years were “plucked out of the air” as an “intelligent guess”.
The Times reveals today that the recommended weekly drinking limits of 21 units of alcohol for men and 14 for women, first introduced in 1987 and still in use today, had no firm scientific basis whatsoever.
[...]
The disclosure that the 1987 recommendation was prompted by “a feeling that you had to say something” came from Richard Smith, a member of the Royal College of Physicians working party that produced it.
He told The Times that the committee’s epidemiologist had confessed that “it’s impossible to say what’s safe and what isn’t” because “we don’t really have any data whatsoever”.
Mr Smith, a former Editor of the British Medical Journal, said that members of the working party were so concerned by growing evidence of the chronic damage caused by heavy, long-term drinking that they felt obliged to produce guidelines. “Those limits were really plucked out of the air. They were not based on any firm evidence at all. It was a sort of intelligent guess by a committee,” he said.

I’m not sure how a guess can be both intelligent and plucked out of the air, but really it’s by the by. The point is that they have a number based on fuck all evidence and a vague feeling that the medical profession really ought have an answer, and if you exceed that number then you’re drinking too much, end of discussion. Doesn’t matter whether you’re an enormous flanker type with the capacity to out-drink a small Moscow suburb or a five foot nothing woman who can get pissed on a glass of wine, you’re drinking an amount which is officially unhealthy, and since a large glass of wine is three units on its own you certainly don’t have to get sloshed to get there. Small wonder that some healthist think tank can found that 8 million people – about a fifth of the workforce overall and so a good chunk of the number of white collar jobs I suspect they mean by “professionals” –  are drinking too much. Christ, even if you just get tipsy once a week and that’s not the only time you drank then you almost certainly had more than 21 units, although the current article implies that they’ve been raised slightly at some point.

Government advice states men should drink no more than four units a day and women no more than three.

Which despite being more over the course of a week is actually a subtle move towards further puritanism – it’s still no more than a large glass of wine or a pint of medium beer per day for the ladies and a pint and a half of the same beer or maybe two pints of coloured water variety beer for the fellas. Even your openly teetotal and increasingly lightweight Exile could probably still drink two pints of piss-strength without being what anyone would really call drunk, and if I was going to make them last all day I seriously doubt I’d even feel it. That the goalposts have quietly been made so wide seems a little suspicious, and so I had a little Google and almost immediately I found a BBC article from August 09 that mentions the reason for the low daily limit rather than an even lower weekly one.

The 1987 sensible drinking limits, which set the bar at 21 units per week for men and 14 units per week for women, remained in place until 1995.
It was then that the government decided to switch the limits from weekly to daily in a bid to curb binge drinking and emphasise the harms of saving up a week’s limit to blow in one or two sessions at the weekend – a decision it stands by today.

Which should be surprising only in that it was the previous Tory nannies rather than the Labour nannies or the current Cobbleition nannies who were behind the move. It certainly shouldn’t be any surprise that after three different governments under four different PMs British drinkers are still being told to restrict themselves to the equivalent of two pints of fizzy piss a day in case they choose – and how dare, how very bloody dare they even think of choosing for themselves – to lay off the sauce during the week so they can make merry, or at least a little less miserable, at the weekend. Oh, except for British drinkers with breasts, who are to have no more than a pint and a half of fizzy piss, probably not even that if they’ve got children. Jesus, these days you could probably heave a brick at an Alcohol Concern meeting and hit half a dozen people who’d tell you it should be less even if someone hasn’t got children but was in a slightly wistful and broody mood for half an hour or so around mid-afternoon. Yes, of course I’m being sarcastic but I’m afraid to Google again in case I also turn out to be right.

As an aside before returning to the current nannying there’s one other thing in that 09 BBC article I’d like to draw attention to, which is that it was basically about neo-puritans getting their cocks in a knot because – you’ll never guess, oh, fuck me sideways with a beer barrel, you just did already – the guidelines aren’t tough enough and are fooling everyone into drinking too much.

Daily limits on alcohol consumption are meaningless and potentially harmful, experts have warned.
The government says men should drink no more than three to four units per day and women no more than two to three.
Liver specialist Dr Nick Sheron, of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, says these limits were devised by civil servants with “no good evidence” for doing so.

Why should there be? There was no good evidence for the previous suggestions either, remember?

He says the advice runs the risk of people taking it to mean that it is safe to drink alcohol every day.

And the older advice risked people not drinking daily and having what the puritans doubtless regard as a skinful and what everyone else would think of as a few drinks at the weekend. Heads the nannies win, tails the drinkers lose.

Dr Sheron’s comments follow a report by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee which suggested public confusion about safe drinking levels was fuelling problem drinking.

Of course it is. On Planet Righteous where the public naturally deals with any confusion by getting throughly shitfaced nearly anything can fuel problem drinking. Certainly anything that doesn’t make it absolutely crystal clear that no level of alcohol… come on, everyone, you all know the words by now.

Dr Sheron says we should go back to using the old weekly limits, which are based on sound research.

Sound research? Do us a fucking favour, they were based on two fifths of fuck all. Calling it sound research is either ignorant of the Times article less than two years before in which someone who was actually there admits that they were made up, or is simply bullshit.

And from misleading, ah, sorry, confusing the public with arbitrary limits based on nothing much and other policy based evidence it’s now suggested that GPs have yet another set of boxes to tick, along with a financial incentive to tick ‘em, in the form of interrogating patients about their alcohol consumption and having a regular schedule of opportunities to do so. All backed up by a report with some numbers to make it sound justified, natch. And don’t go thinking this is lefty do-gooders at work here (my bold).

The report, by 2020 Health, a centre-right think tank, says many middle class drinkers are not aware of the risks of their evening tipple…

See? This is nudge stuff. That (mostly) unspoken assumption that you don’t know what’s best for you, are incapable of finding out for yourself and understanding, and therefore can’t be trusted make your own decisions on the matter. It’s old style rightist paternalism of the kind the alleged Tory PM, David Cameramong, is absolutely in fucking love with, the supercilious prick. In the minds of these people failing to comply with recommendations cannot possibly mean that an individual has simply weighed and accepted the risks – it can only mean that they didn’t understand, that they’re in a state of confusion and must be helped and guided and steered, and if need be cajoled and bullied and forced.

It’s denormalisation, folks. Come now, you didn’t think that was just something to be used on smokers, did you? The “normal” amount of alcohol consumption has been determined to be as near to nothing as makes no odds, and you will be questioned to see if you comply and nagged if you don’t. And in case you’re wondering who did the determining, here’s a familiar name.

The Royal College of Physicians said the current guidance was ‘extremely dangerous’ because it implied that drinking every day was safe.

This is presumably the very same Royal College of Physicians that not so very long ago more or less sat around a table making up some very similar sounding guidance. There isn’t an actual question in there, not as such, but all the same the answer to that is also “Fuck off.”

And then they came for the drinkers…

Yes, drinkers, they’re coming for you now. You really should be aware of this by now, but then you really should have been aware of it long ago when the intolerance was directed at tobacco and the sound of marching boots wasn’t something for you to fear. Ah, those were the days, eh? And you helped, didn’t you?

Yes, you did.

Yes, you did – you’re just kidding yourself. You said you’d enjoy the pub more if it was smoke free, though of course not that much more because you didn’t spend enough to make up for what the smokers used to spend before they stopped going and now it’s shut. You said it would be lovely to be able to go out and enjoy a glass of wine without some filthy smoker’s pollution wafting over you, possibly inhaling the carcinogens from a roaring fire in the corner or even a candle on your table instead.* Oh, not all of you said so but quite a lot did, and many more of you just stayed silent and raised no objection, happy that it was someone else getting it and not you.

Remember when they weren’t allowed to advertise on TV, and then not in print media either, and finally weren’t even allowed to sponsor sport? Did you all object? Did you say it was unfair? Did you stand by the smokers then?

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist

Remember when they weren’t allowed to put cigarette cards and other collectibles in the packets? What did you say? Did you oppose it? Did argue that it was unnecessary?

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist

Remember when tax on tobacco went up and up and up and up, and carried on going up ever since? Did you say that it was excessive? Did you point out that it would hurt British retailers as people bought abroad? Did you add that it would increase smuggling? Or did you go on your way, happy once again that it wasn’t your vice that was being hammered?

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew

Remember when the health warnings came in? How they began as information about tar and nicotine content? How they then became larger and included phrases like “Smoking can damage your health”? How they grew larger still to make room for a variety of longer warnings, and then moved from the sides to the front of the packets? Remember how once on the front they grew rapidly so as to include nasty pictures of various illnesses and conditions that were implied to have been caused by that person smoking? And how the people selling tobacco were then made to hide the stock in drawers and behind closed doors, as if it was somehow possible to become addicted to smoking by looking at the packets? And how they’re now saying that even that’s not enough and these hidden packets must be absolutely plain? Except for the health warnings and horror pictures, of course, which are to grow even bigger than ever. Did you say “Stop”? Did you say “Enough”? Did you say “You’ve done enough, now leave the smokers alone”? Did you raise even a peep of complaint?

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak out.

No, you did not. By and large, at best you drinkers kept your silence, which was of course taken for acquiescence, and at worst you joined in the intolerance and marginalising of smokers. Many of you still do, and more fool them. Collectively you did nothing or nearly nothing to help the smokers, and as you reaped so you are beginning to sow.

Red wine’s reputation for preventing heart attacks has come under fire from health experts who have declared every drink of alcohol can do you damage.

This should come as no surprise since it’s by no means the first time recently that the temperance crowd, the latest gaggle of nannying, neo-puritan wowsers (employing many of the same techniques and occasionally even some of the same people as the tobacco control mob), have pushed the idea that there is no safe level of alcohol.

The coalition cites other studies from around the world finding that the harms from alcohol are likely to outweigh any benefits. ”Every drinking occasion contributes to the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol,” the report says. Any reduction in alcohol consumption would reduce the lifetime risk of alcohol-related harm.

Does this sound at all familiar to you, drinkers? Does it sound at all like “Every cigarette is doing you harm”? It certainly should do as the message is identical – only the target has changed, drinkers, and the target now is you.

Actually you’ve been the new target for some years. Did you realise? Were you even aware that the nannies and wowsers were so confident of their victory that they swung the sights around to point your way even as they were still bullying smokers with your assent, if not your vociferous and active support? Did you know?

The smokers knew. You might think it somewhat surprising for people who sit all day in clouds of smoke emitted from something out of a packet covered in health warnings about it sending them blind, but the smokers saw it with crystal clarity. Mind you, it had been done to them so they were sure to recognise it, but I think they’re puzzled, drinkers. They’ve been shouting warnings at you and you’ve been just sitting there. “They’re doing to you what they have done to us”, the smokers are shouting, and have been shouting for quite some time. Yet you don’t seem to have heard. Is it because the nannies and wowsers persuaded you to push the smokers away out of earshot, or does alcohol damage your hearing?

Oh, I’m so sorry, there’ll probably be a health warning to that effect now. Oh yes, there probably will. Tax on alcohol has been going up and up, and will continue to go up and up, and of course there have been labels on the bottles with the alcohol content for quite a while. And you sucked it up and accepted it, possibly in part because you could see that the smokers were getting a worse time of it. But all those other things I mentioned before are happening to you as well now, drinkers. Look at the examples. Look at the dates. This has been going on around you for years.

Seven years ago.
Two and a half years ago
Proposed
Already in use today

Do you see it? The calls for restrictions on advertising and minimum pricing, the health warnings that have already begun to appear on the labels and the proposals to make them bigger, and not least this new message that it’s bad for you even in the smallest quantities and any positive benefit you thought it may have had… well you were wrong, d’you hear? Wrong! It was all a big fat lie, probably invented by a man with a vineyard or a brewery or something.

Is any of this ringing bells with you, drinkers? Can you see the pattern being repeated? “De-normalising alcohol”? Oh, yes, that particular chicken came home to roost earlier this year. Even the concept of passive drinking has been put forward (about five years ago – did you notice, drinkers?), to a large burst of bitter laughter from the smokers, I have to tell you. It dealt them a nasty blow and it’s going to do the same to you, drinkers.

Now I hope this has served to get your attention, drinkers, because now I come to the point where I tell you some bad news, some good news and some bad news. The first bad news should be obvious: the same process that has been used with such success on the smokers is now well under way on you, and if you are persist in blinding yourselves to this fact then your liberty to enjoy an alcoholic drink in peace may be beyond saving, at least in the near future. The good news is that there are rather more of you than there are smokers and so you can put up more of a united front. But the other bad news is that this might well be insufficient since the wowsers have the ear of government and government really doesn’t care much about you either. If it can do the same thing it did to the smokers, tax the hell out of them at the same time as making their lives miserable, then you can be certain it will. You need reinforcements, other voices to stand up for you. People who are not primarily drinkers. People who can see and understand what is being done to you and what is going to happen next.

People like the smokers, you might be thinking.

But I’m afraid I also have to tell you that some of the smokers think you fucking deserve it. You stood by and did nothing, not a damned thing, to help them when they were getting it in the neck, and now it’s your turn some smokers are less than sympathetic. Many of them enjoy a glass or two and can be counted on to fight against the booze wowsers just as they did the smoke wowsers, but of course some smokers don’t drink and can’t see why they should lift a goddamn finger. Even now you can browse the comments sections of many an online article about smoking and find such bile and venom directed at smokers that Dick Puddlecote has begun to collect it (coincidentally, as I write this he’s also got another piece up about passive drinking, just in case anybody thought that one from 2006 was a one off) and you can be certain that the overwhelming majority of the people who’ve spat such hate are fellow drinkers. Why, many smokers will ask, should they care when you still hate them? Even some who drink will ask why, when they’re now making their own arrangements with Leg-ironian smoky-drinkies and soon home brewed drink and home grown baccy as well, they should give the remotest shit?

So who are you going to ask instead? What voice is going to speak up and object to the de-normalisation of alcohol? Me? Not my problem, fellas – I don’t drink. But good luck with it, even though I might add that it really annoys me when some bloody drunk yaks all over the pavement or some slightly tipsy yahoo gets a bit loud in a restaurant. Nah, I think I’ll let you get on with it while I finish my cheeseburger. Eh? What do you mean it’ll be my turn next if I don’t stand with you and help now?

Which is true, of course, and has been my point all along. But did you ever think of that when you were watching the smokers get a shoeing? Did you ever consider that they occupied the buffer zone between you and the nannying wowsers? No, you didn’t, and many of you still don’t. But now you’re occupying the buffer zone between me and the wowsers, so of course I’ll speak out for drinkers even though I don’t drink.

But if you want the best chance of being able to drink in peace I’d mend some fences with the smokers if I were you, and I’d do it pretty damn sharpish.

* H/T Narco Polo(refs 1 and 3)

On the subject of smoking…

… I noticed just now while putting up a picture gadget to promote the the Wozza-Thompson e-petition to review the smoking ban that the number of signatures has roughly quadrupled in the day and a half or so since I added mine. Good start, and let’s all liberty loving types, whether we’re non-smokers or smokers, do what we can to keep that ball rolling. As I explained the other day, if you don’t smoke but you drink then you’re next, if you’re a bit on the tubby side then you’re right after the drinkers, and if you’re neither you have a little bit of breathing space but you’d be very foolish indeed to believe that you’re not on the list for something. Those jackboots of intolerance are marching towards you too, and if you can’t hear them yet I assure you that you will eventually.

‘Courageous’, but not in the way that they mean

The plain fag packets law has crept a little closer.

Australia’s parliament has passed two bills moving the nation closer to becoming the first to introduce plain cigarette packaging in a move Health Minister Nicola Roxon Thursday called “courageous”.

Well, Nics, if by ‘courageous’ you’re referring to the benefit the illegal tobacco trade will reap because those who counterfeit packaging will have an easier time while those who’ve always supplied their baccy in plain packaging, all of whom will be hoping to increase their profits and none of whom will pay a cent in tax, then yes, it’s very brave indeed. You might go so far as to say it shows enormous balls.

But somehow I don’t think she does mean that at all, which makes it less about having balls and more about talking balls.

The plans, which are being closely watched by other countries considering similar policies, have enraged the tobacco giants, who say there is no evidence plain packaging will reduce smoking rates.
They are also concerned it would reduce their profits and see counterfeit products flood the market.
But Roxon said they would have to live with it.

As will you, Nics, as will you. And not only Nicola Roxon but all the rest of us non-smokers too. You see, the tobacco industry currently puts several billion dollars into the Treasury in tobacco taxes. Now I know that the anti-smoking lobbyist drones claim that smoking kills 15,000 a year and cost $31 billion – one was wheeled out to do so for the linked article – but this is a claim that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. If tobacco costs really were greater than tax revenue by a factor of five or more it’s simply inconceivable that the government are not banning smoking outright, and if they believe it then the decision to piss about with plain packaging is financially moronic. I very much doubt they’re quite that stupid, so I suspect it’s far more likely they’re trying to have their cake and eat it because they don’t actually believe the $31 billion figure themselves. And they shouldn’t, as Christopher Snowdon of Velvet Glove, Iron Fist explains (my emphasis).

Let’s first consider that there are believed to be 15,000 smoking related deaths in Australia every year. If the “medical burden” is $31 billion a year, this means that each person receives over $2,000,000 of treatment. This sounds just a little bit implausible and should have seemed so to the journalist as she typed it out.

And of course it turns out that is not the medical burden. The study that came up that figure accepted—totally contrary to what the hapless hack said—that tobacco taxes exceed the cost to the taxpayerof treating smoking-related diseases:

“Tobacco tax revenue in 2004/05 exceeded tobacco-attributable costs borne by the public sector by over $3.5 billion. Of this surplus $2.7 billion accrued to the Commonwealth and around $800 million to state governments.” (p. 72)

This same study did indeed come up with a figure of $31 billion, but it did so by including ‘costs’ that no reasonable person would consider to be costs. Lost productivity both at work and at home gave them an extra $8 billion (p. 64). Aside from the obvious problem of coming up with a suitable cash equivalent for domestic work, all lost productivity figures are questionable because they rely on an assumption that an individual is capable of a set amount of work in a lifetime and that he/she has a duty to fulfill that quota, otherwise they are somehow costing other people money. It’s as if someone dies and you have to go round and clean their house for the next ten years. It’s a nonsense.

Still more dubious is the remaining $19.5 billion which is made up of ‘intangible’ costs (p. 65). This relies on the entirely arbitrary valuation of a life at $2 million, or a loss of one year’s living of $53,267. This kind of psychological evaluation is practically meaningless and has no place in economics. You might as well say that the value of life is priceless and, therefore, the costs of smoking (or alcohol, or drugs) is infinite.

So the aim of this policy, like most so-called anti-smoking policies the world over, is to keep the Strength Through Joy mob happy by bullying the smokers while at the same time not doing anything that risks too much of the government’s tax revenue take. Let’s not kid ourselves here, if a $4 billion fall in tax revenue is newsworthy and had the finance minister in front of the cameras to talk about it, losing the baccy tax surplus, which is on the order, would give the government headaches.

Worse, the whole $7 bn or so per year would be lost while the costs wouldn’t go actually away. They wouldn’t go away immediately because if what they claim about the health effects is true even if everyone stopped there’d be people getting smoke related illnesses for years later, and in reality they wouldn’t go away at all for precisely the same reason we still have to pay for the health effects of pot, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, crystal meth, etc. – because people who really want to smoke will be doing it off the grid with tobacco they either buy illegally or produce themselves. Look, cannabis is banned and Aussies are supposedly among the highest users of pot in the world (no pun intended, that’s really how it was put) so the health system has all of the costs while the trade provides not a single cent of tax revenue.

As I said earlier, the government may be stupid but it isn’t quite that stupid, and so I’m sure it has no desire at all for the same thing to happen with tobacco. However, I think the current Aussie government is in danger of inadvertently pushing things that way anyway by policies that blur the difference between regulated and quality controlled tobacco and the illegal, untaxed, unregulated competition. Ironically I think that might not be bad news for Australia’s smokers since I believe more will be encouraged to smoke the much cheaper illegal products – I emphasise that I’m not advocating it, just predicting that it will happen.

That’s not courageous but stupid, handing over more control of yet another desirable product to criminals, just as was once done with alcohol in the US and as is the case with all the illegal recreational drugs that people still want to use today and which have never had any trouble keeping existing customers or finding new ones. Not the intent, to be sure, but the fact that Nicola Roxon didn’t refute this but instead said the tobacco companies will have to live with it means they are aware of the possibility. And yes, I do believe that governments can be that stupid.

Your chance to have your say

And since this is to join Anthony Worral-Thompson in petitioning the government to scrap the smoking ban it is of course also a golden opportunity to be ignored and dismissed by your government, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth having your say anyway. Eventually they’ll have to justify why they’re continuing to ignore it, and hopefully the useful idiots who currently support this kind of thing will wake up and smell the coffee (assuming it isn’t banned or restricted by then). Even if you’re not a smoker and don’t like the smell of smoke – which I’d understand, being myself now a non-smoker who doesn’t like the smell either – I’d still encourage you to sign it for three very compelling reasons:

  1. If you drink then you’re next.
  2. If you don’t drink but weigh more than the healthists say you should then you’re right after the drinkers.
  3. If you’re not a drinker or a salad dodger then you’re after both, but don’t kid yourself for a minute that you’re not on the list.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller

So please think very carefully before deciding that it’s a smokers’ thing and it doesn’t apply to you.
I guarantee that at least one other non-smoker will be signing it.

Click for the petition

Tip of the Akubra to Dick Puddlecote.

P.S. And thanks to MrAngry61 in the comments for letting me know I’d stuffed the link up. Hopefully anyone else went via the dismembered jewel thief’s place, but if not it’s fixed now.

Welcome to The Asylum

In So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, the late Douglas Adams introduced us to a minor character by the name of John Watson or, as he preferred to be called, Wonko the Sane. Those who’ve read it will probably recall Wonko’s unusual house and the reason for it being that way, but for those who don’t know the story this is how the book put it.

His house was certainly peculiar, and since this was the first thing that Fenchurch and Arthur had encountered it would help to know what it was like. It was like this:

It was inside out.

Actually inside out, to the extent that they had had to park on the carpet.

All along what one would normally call the outer wall, which was decorated in a tasteful interior-deisgned pink, were bookshelves, also a couple of those odd three-legged tables with semicircular tops which stand in such a way as to suggest that someone just dropped the wall straight through them, and pictures which were clearly designed to soothe.

Where it got really odd was the roof.

It folded back on itself like something that M. C. Escher, had he been given to hard nights on the town, which it is no part of this narrative’s purpose to suggest was the case, though it is sometimes hard, looking at his pictures, particularly the one with all the awkward steps, not to wonder, might have dreamed up after having been on one, for the little chandeliers which should have been hanging inside were on the outside pointing up.

[...]

The sign above the front door read “Come Outside,” and so, nervously, they had.

Inside, of course, was where the Outside was. Rough brickwork, nicely done pointing, gutters in good repair, a garden path, a couple of small trees, some rooms leading off.

And the inner walls stretched down, folded curiously, and opened at the end as if, by and optical illusion which would have had M. C. Escher frowning and wondering how it was done, to enclose the Pacific Ocean itself.

[...]

“Your wife,” said Arthur, looking around, “mentioned some toothpicks.” He said it with a hunted look, as if he was worried that she might suddenly leap out from behind a door and mention them again.

Wonko the Sane laughed. It was a light easy laugh, and sounded like one he had used a lot before and was happy with.

“Ah yes,” he said, “that’s to do with the day I finally realized that the world had gone totally mad and built the Asylum to put it in, poor thing, and hoped it would get better.”

This was the point at which Arthur began to feel a little nervous again.

“Here,” said Wonko the Sane, “we are outside the Asylum.” He pointed again at the rough brickwork, the pointing, and the gutters. “Go through that door” — he pointed at the first door through which they had originally entered — “and you go into the Asylum. I’ve tried to decorate it nicely to keep the inmates happy, but there’s very little one can do. I never go in there myself. If I ever am tempted, which these days I rarely am, I simply look at the sign written over the door and I shy away.”

“That one?” said Fenchurch, pointing, rather puzzled, at a blue plaque with some instructions written on it.

“Yes. They are the words that finally turned me into the hermit I have now become. It was quite sudden. I saw them, and I knew what I had to do.”

The sign read:

“Hold stick near center of its length. Moisten pointed end in mouth. Insert in tooth space, blunt end next to gum. Use gentle in-out motion.”

“It seemed to me,” said Wonko the Sane, “that any civilization that had so far lost its head as to need to include a set of detailed instructions for use in a package of toothpicks, was no longer a civilization in which I could live and stay sane.”

And it’s Wonko the Sane and his house that immediately spring to mind when I read, via Watts Up With That, that fat people are the latest cause of warble gloaming …

Researchers at the Robert Gordon University have completed a study that addresses the link between climate change and obesity.
The academics suggest that global weight loss would result in a drop in the production of the major greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO(2)).
The study was carried out by a trio of researchers within the university’s Centre for Obesity Research and Epidemiology (CORE). It suggests that if every obese and overweight person in the world lost 10 kilograms (or 1.58 stone), the resulting drop in greenhouse emissions would be the equivalent of 0.2% of the CO(2) emitted globally in 2007 (49.560Mt).

… and via this PR that watching TV is as bad for you as smoking.

Every hour spent watching television shortens your life by a little over 20 minutes – on a par with smoking a cigarette, Australian researchers claim.
And the worst couch potatoes – watching more than six hours of TV a day – can expect to die almost five years earlier than people who watch no TV at all, researchers calculated.
Writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (online), the Brisbane-led group say Australia’s love of TV poses a significant threat to the health of the population.

Click for linky, and also to increase your risk of developing a need for lithium carbonate

We’ve known for some time that Niemöller’s warning is as relevant today as it ever was, that as victories are won over the smokers and drinkers the rest of us would come in for our turn, and that the salad dodgers would be among the first. And now I think the next couple of phases are becoming clear. Your weight isn’t just your problem anymore and it’s not just for your own good that the swivel-eyed are exhorting you to lose weight. No, it’s also essential to help stop warble gloaming. Yes, folks, we have identified passive obesity, and since we’re also going to be told that TV is as bad as smoking – no qualification, no consideration to the obvious differences between, say, an hour’s telly time after a hard afternoon’s slob and an hour’s telly time after a daily 10km cycle followed by a warm down and a shower – we can expect passive TV watching to be only around the corner. Christ’s sake! I’d intended to sit down with Mrs Exile this evening and watch Sons of Anarchy together over some delicious take-away food from Urban Burger* just up the road in Balaclava.** Actually I still do intend to, but I’m wondering how much longer we’ll be allowed to get away with it if we’re going to be told it’s bad for us and accused of raping polar bears to death with our wanton secondary televisioning.

Wonko the Sane was very nearly correct: the world, or at least quite a lot of people who have a disproportionate say in its running, is completely mad. Where Wonko was wrong is the nature of the insanity. It’s not the harmless*** and almost genteel lunacy of Adams’ H2G2 universe, but a vicious psychosis that increasingly seems determined to stamp out anything it does not approve of – freedom, mostly – and isn’t at all reticent in coming up with all kinds of reasons why having your liberty reduced and removed is A Good Thing. Why you must be nudged into it if you don’t want to and punished if you refuse is rarely far behind.

And so I find Wonko the Sane’s take on house design increasingly appealing. So appealing, in fact, that I might have applied for planning permission if it wasn’t for the problem that there isn’t the faintest hope of the inmates of The Asylum granting it. But I’ve also spotted a critical flaw in the design. Remember that door that Wonko pointed out to Arthur and Fenchurch, the door they had just opened and walked through minutes before to come in from The Asylum?

I reckon it needs a big fucking lock on it.

* Which incidentally serves delicious burgers and chips, and preempts the possibility of food packaging legislation in the future by putting them in plain brown paper bags. I’m absolutely not making that up, and even if it is just coincidental I wouldn’t bet against it one day coming in handy for them.

** Yes, I’m still in Melbourne, not the Crimea, and no, I have no idea why a landlocked local suburb is called Balaclava. After the battle, I think, but why exactly and why that battle I can’t imagine.

*** Okay, mostly harmless.

Violence as a first choice

While I understand Dragon’s Den dragon and entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne’s concern over tweets that apparently threaten his daughter, it’s interesting that his first reaction was to solicit a violent response.

I offer £25,000 reward for the capture of the coward who calls himself @YuriVasilyev_
Double if his arms are broken first

This, let’s remember, is someone who spent 18 months in a military prison for trying to throw an officer off a jetty. Now let’s be fair about it, he was reacting to someone demanding money with menaces – £35,000 to “stop us hurting your Hollie Bannatyne” – and it’s probably something that most fathers would understand and probably envy Bannatyne’s deep pockets giving him the ability to make good on it. Fair enough too, if he’d just left it at the first line. But if the bonus for delivering the perpetrator with arms pre-broken, whether to render him helpless and facilitate further punishment or just as part of the retribution, was meant seriously does it say something about Bannatyne’s character? To me it seems less like a TV entrepreneur and more like a, well, I don’t know but the opening scene from The Godfather, the one where the guy asks Marlon Brando to have his daughter’s attackers filled in, keeps popping into my head. Perhaps similar thoughts occurred to Bannatyne because it seems that the tweet didn’t stay up long before it was changed for one that involved a more usual concept of justice.

The self-made millionaire quickly removed the post from his Twitter page, replacing it with another message promising “£30,000 reward for info leading to his arrest”.

Still, as I said at the start I find it interesting that the initial reaction didn’t mention arrest or hint at police, but instead used the word “capture” and offered extra for broken arms. And the other thing to remember about Bannatyne is he’s a reformed smoker, one of the zealot variety, and publicly expresses his loathing for smokers fairly regularly. He’s president of No Smoking Day and would happily see smoking banned altogether.

I’ll only be happy if smoking is banned
We should no longer tolerate the minority threatening the lives of the majority.

And we’ve seen how Bannatyne reacts when confronted with something he finds intolerable. Of course threats to his family, if serious, really are intolerable and I hope that whoever threatened his daughter is caught, charged and convicted – if they also happen to suffer a couple of broken bones while trying to escape arrest or something then that’s their problem. But the thought occurs that if you’re a smoker it might be a good idea not to light up if Bannatyne or his daughter are in the vicinity, just in case it turns out to be bad for your health.

Second hand morris dancing

Clearly it’s a filthy habit and non-morris dancers might come into contact with bells and handkerchiefs, so The Swan and Three Cygnets pub in Durham was quite right to ban a bunch of morris dancers.

“A woman member of staff hollered ‘no bells’ at us.
“One of our group, wearing his morris dance gear, went in first and was served a pint of beer without question.
“But when two of our lady members followed wearing bells they were told to get out.”

So they went round the corner to a different pub instead, possibly with a whack-fol-a-dildo though if so it appears to have gone unreported.

Of course nobody is insane enough to think that there’s such a thing as passive morris dancing or that there it’d be a ‘public health’ problem if there was.* Not yet anyway, although Wikipedia mentions that some dances involve a couple of clay tobacco pipes and you just know that that must be upsetting someone somewhere.** The morris dancers weren’t chucked out for being morris dancers but because the pub had a ban on music, and someone in the pub decided that bells on shoes counted as being musical. Probably bollocks but the way things are in Britain these days I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the pub could cop a fine for being in breach of some licence or other if any music was played, and nor is it a stretch to imagine that some over-zealous local authority prick wouldn’t say that morris bells, if that’s the right term, are music even without accordions and fiddles joining in.

But here’s the thing, it’s their pub and that means they get to decide who drinks there, just as is the case for the Half Moon which was happy enough to take the morris dancers’ money and serve them with beer. Yes, the morris dancers have their noses out of joint because they couldn’t drink in the first pub they went into, but such is life – presumably if it had simply been too full to get near the bar they’d have just gone to another pub without thinking anything of it. As it happens this pub is weird about people wearing bells and the other one wasn’t. As long as at least one pub was prepared to have them – and the Durham I recall had enough pubs that I’m sure there’d be far more than just one – who cares? Let The Swan and Three Cygnets become whatever kind of pub it wants to and cater for whatever kind of clientele fits in with that. If you can have biker pubs and gay pubs and student pubs and so on why shouldn’t there also be a nice quiet pub for librarians or whatever? Just as long as they’re not all like that and fat bearded men who like to dress in white and wave sticks at each other to music have somewhere to drink as well. And since that seems to be the case I’d say it’s all working pretty well.***

Now, why can’t the same thing apply to smokers?

* I believe ‘public health’ is the correct term for not letting someone do something they want to do on the grounds that you think it’s bad for them or that you just don’t like it, and possibly making up a lot of crap to justify the restrictions you’re demanding.
** Good.
*** Meaning it’s either a bit of a slow news day or The Teletubbygraph has jumped onto the offence seeking bandwagon.

Stony Stratford

Hope it went well, though a shame about the weather, and looking forward to reading the reports later today. Probably on the usual blogs since it’s been a couple of weeks leading up to it and four and a half hours since 11am, and still the fucking MSM don’t seem to have bothered reporting it.

Bastards!

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