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Liberty in Britain and Australia – a reply to John Galt

On Monday regular commenter John Galt left a comment on the female bishops post after I’d replied to someone else saying that despite everything I still feel that overall Australia is a marginally less illiberal country than the UK. Not in all respects to be sure, and I’m not denying that Australia is a slightly worse place to live than the UK if you are, say, an overweight smoker who likes a beer while getting a suntan. And I emphasise that I think it’s only slightly worse. But more than once I’ve expressed the thought that if I were to grade all aspects of life in both countries from a libertarian perspective and come up with an overall score then Australia would come out a bit ahead. When I first said this I also said that I thought Australia was probably only five years behind the UK, but I’ve been for longer than that now and it still doesn’t feel quite as under the government’s heel as the UK did when I left it.

But in a short comment reply there wasn’t room for that kind of detail so all I said was that for all that Australia can be pretty illiberal I maintain that in a broad sense the UK is worse, though like most of the nominally free world both nations have got noticeably less free in recent years. To which John Galt said:

Obviously you’ve not bought any cigarettes in Australia recently.

Not to pour scorn, I expect the same bollocks in UK by 2015.

True, I haven’t bought cigs lately, though both my regular readers (hi, Mum) will know that I have watched and blogged on the topic over time. For example, this time last year I blogged on how the smoke ban has led to notices outside doorways claiming to extend the property rights of building owners ten metres out into the street. At least that’s how far away from their doors they say smoking is banned, and of course that includes part of the road and any private car that are on it too. I’m pretty sure I’ve also mentioned that the tobacco display bans contained an exemption for tobacconists in most places, but not in the ACT where they are mad and insisted that even shops that sell little else but tobacco hide the products behind cupboard doors even though you have to open a door on the street to get in there in the first place. I have not mentioned that just a week or so ago I saw what I assume is an infringement of the tobacco display ban in an outlet somewhere in Victoria – I’m not saying where – and nobody seeming to give much of a shit about the smokes being >sharp intake of breath< visible to anyone who happened to look over the counter.

But yes, of course I realise that anti-smoke nannyism is rife here and exceeds that of the UK, and as I touched on at the top other forms of nannyism such as alcohol, drugs, healthy eating, tanning beds and so on are as bad or worse than in Britain. I've come to believe that lobbyists and politicians here are actually addicted to telling other people off about their assumed addictions.*

But there are a few other points to consider here, which taken together are why I say that overall the UK is less free. Firstly, some of the disposal of individual liberty has been done by Australia to keep up with other nations doing the same thing, and some has been done first for the sake of not wanting other countries, including Britain, to be the first to do it. In the case of plain cigarette packs this has been stated openly at least once. I think it was then Health Minister and current AG Nicola Roxon and it was words to the effect of "If we don't act now and bring in plain pack legislation there is a real danger that the UK will beat us to it." I really should have that in the bookmarks because it shows it to be less about health and more about political vanity (and possibly some lingering pain over losing the Ashes).

Yes, doing something to be first to do something is a moronic reason to have a policy, but with so much of western politics revolving around vainglorious dickheads talking about how under their leadership their country is leading the world it's neither a surprise nor unique to Australia. Britain is leading the world with CCTV monitoring of its citizens, the US is leading the world with making flying anywhere less fun than being waterboarded between episodes of The X Factor, Australia are leading the world with nonsense about plain tobacco packaging, and so on. I never claimed that Australia's government is leading the world in minding its own fucking business, just that I think its current obsessions are less intrusive and illiberal than those of its UK counterpart.

The second thing I want to point out is that Australia has no relationship with an external body along the lines of the UK's relationship with the European Union etc. The relationship of the states to Canberra may be a bit similar but Canberra is still in Australia and Australians vote for the federal government there. A convicted criminal such as Haigh can appeal his case as far as the High Court of Australia and no further because there is no equivalent of the ECHR to which Australia has given the power to overturn domestic laws and legal decisions. There are still lingering ties with the UK that are kind of similar but seem mostly to revolve around Mrs Windsor being queen of both countries.

I suppose it could be argued that UK law would therefore take precedence over Australian law if, say, a change from male primogeniture to unisex primogeniture was desired by one country and not the other. "Sorry, colonial types, but you've agreed to have our Sovereign as your head of state too, and if we say boys take precedence and you don't like it or vice versa then you have to put up with it." But despite the current news of buns in ovens (I was determined not to say any more on that than I've said already) that's all theoretical at this point. If Kate does have twins and if there's one of each flavour the future head of state could be decided by the handful of people in the room at the time and whether they agree to tell a porky about who emerged first – all aboard the tinfoil hat express but remember I have first dibs on this particular conspiracy theory.

In any case it's not in the same league as having daily influence over domestic law. Britain does not, for instance, tell Australia whether its supermarkets can sell produce in grams or ounces or how long the employees of those supermarkets may work each week. Such things are decided in Australia, end of. The head of state stuff can also be done away with as soon as enough Australians want it binned and some Oz only arrangement made instead. I'm still hoping for Her Royal Australian Highness Queen Kylie the First, because why the fuck not.

Then there's the issue of economic liberty. Like the governments of all nominally free countries both the Australian and UK governments do not allow any but a handful of their citizens the freedom to keep all the products of their labour. In Australia this is currently anyone who earns less than $18,000 or so, which I'mtv sure isn't very many people but I'm equally sure is probably a hell of a lot more than the number who earn under £8,105 in the UK. Beyond those thresholds both governments feel that they and not the individual who earns it have an increasing right to the product of labour. Further, a comparison of Tax Freedom Days shows that British residents work for the state for 150 days a year while Australians only work 112 days before earning for themselves. I’m pretty sure this is before considering that all governments also agree that states have the right to run up massive debts and unfunded liabilities on behalf of their citizens, and the relevance to a discussion of liberty in the UK versus liberty in Australia is that British governments have lately been considerably more profligate than even the most spendthrift Australian ones. In other words 150 days and 112 days of working for the respective states are probably both underestimates, but when considering the size of Britain’s debt, unfunded liabilities and continued deficit the former is probably a larger underestimate than the latter.

Then there are those laws I mentioned. If he felt like it David Cameron could suspend almost any UK law, up to and including habeas thanks to Blair-era legislation that neither Cameron nor anyone else in politics seems remotely interested in repealing. Despite my low opinion of politicians I think that most or all of the ones in Westminster now can be trusted not to abuse this power, but since the future is always unknown I maintain that this is a power that no government should ever have. Other powers the government granted itself and its successors in the Blair days have already been extended beyond their initial intended remit and, predictably enough, abused to the detriment of individual liberty in the UK. I’m not aware of similar ‘mini-Enabling Acts’ (h/t to the sadly closed Devil’s Kitchen blog for that term) in Australia – yet.  I’m no lawyer so for all I know there could be something, but if so I’ve not heard of it. And I’d have expected Australian libertarians who know far more about Aussie law than I could ever hope to learn to have made enough noise that I would have heard about it if habeas corpus could be suspended by ministerial fiat here the way it can be in the UK.

And while we’re on the topic of illiberal laws in Australia, and coming somewhat tangentially full circle back to anti-smoking laws and similar nanny state legislation, there’s the point that I’ve made once or twice before that no matter how under Nanny’s thumb people who live in Australia’s cities might be this becomes increasingly theoretical as you get into more rural parts of Australia. I’m not saying that everything is different there but as a practical matter enforcement becomes harder in the more remote parts of the interior. When the nearest cop, local government officer concerned with tobacco legislation, or just baccyphobic busybody might be hundreds of miles away what the law says people may do and what they actually agree between themselves might be different things. It’s not unlike the old traditional ‘lock in’ that went on in many British pubs who were prepared to quietly ignore the then law that said no drinking after 11pm, except that I expect local law enforcement often knew about the lock ins and turned a blind eye provided nothing too blatant went on. Is there scope for for those who’d cock a snook at an unnecessarily intrusive and illiberal law to an even greater degree in those parts of Australia where hardly anybody lives?

Let me me put it like this. Back in 1993 something strange happened in Western Australia about 350km north of Kalgoorlie. Just after 11pm on 28th May there was a large ‘seismic disturbance’, and the handful of truckies and gold prospectors in the area at the time reported seeing what was described variously as a flash or a fireball and hearing a distant explosion or a low frequency rumble. It was found to be way too large for a mining explosion (which wouldn’t take place at night anyway) but it was consistent with seismic activity in region, though of course that wouldn’t explain the flash. A meteor would but there was no sign of a crater so flashes notwithstanding it was put down to an earthquake. And for a while nobody thought further of it until a few years later when someone investigating the Aum Shinrikyo nutters who’d attacked the Tokyo metro with sarin gas noticed that the cult owned Banjawarn Station, a sheep station of half a billion hectares about 350km north of Kalgoorlie. And which sat on a uranium deposit. Suddenly people looked at the mysterious seismic event with flash and explosiony sounding rumble again, and there was serious speculation that Aum Shinrikyo had actually tested a small nuke of a couple of kilotons or so in Western Australia. Right under everyone’s noses, only not really right under everyone’s noses because the only noses anywhere near were those of Aum Shinrikyo.

Now it has to be said that they probably didn’t. I can’t find anywhere that’s positively identified exactly what the event was but the AFP investigated Aum Shinrikyo and the bottom line is that there’s no evidence that they tested a nuke there. All the same, something bloody big happened and almost nobody noticed. As Bill Bryson wrote about it much later:

This is a country [...] so vast and empty that a band of amateur enthusiasts could conceivably set off the world’s first non-governmental atomic bomb on its mainland and almost four years would pass before anyone noticed.

So if an event on a similar scale to a 2 kiloton explosion can go almost unnoticed for two years and its cause not completely settled to this day, I reckon you could say hang what the law says and hold a gay wedding indoors with the entire party smoking cigarettes from Marlboro branded packets with no health warnings.

And Canberra might never know.

* This is based on what appears to be the neo-prohibitionists’ definition of addiction, which is any activity, pastime or habit that gives some people any kind of pleasure or enjoyment. And since so many neo-prohibitionists have such a massive hard on for telling everyone else to stop doing things they like doing I can only assume at this point that the nannies themselves are, ipso facto, addicted to nannying.**

** I concede that more research is probably needed into this apparent addiction, and if the federal government would like to give me a multi-million dollar annual budget I’ll be all over it like a fat kid on a cupcake.

On faith, freedom and female bishops

So the Church of England has debated the issue and ending up saying no to the idea of women bishops. This, we’re told, is a final no, but it strikes me that at some point in the past it was probably almost equally definite that there would no be women vicars, and yet today the Anglican church both in and outside of England has plenty of women priests who are not Dawn French. The article even says that it’s killed the prospect off for at least five years, which doesn’t sound all that final to me. For now though it does look like this has put the kybosh on the idea in the CofE.

And I say this: so bloody what?

There will now almost certainly be calls in Parliament for the Church of England’s exemption from equality legislation — effectively allowing it to discriminate against women by barring them from becoming bishops — to be removed, opening the way for women to bring a legal challenge.
[...]
Ben Bradshaw, a former Labour minister, said: “This means the Chruch is being held hostage by an unholy and unrepresentative alliance of conservative evangelicals and conservative Catholics.
“This will add to clamour for disestablishment, there is even talk of moves in Parliament to remove the Church’s exemption from the Equality Act.”

Look, it’s their religion and if freedom of religion is to remain in Britain then we all have to accept that practitioners of a given religion can run it however they like providing it doesn’t actually harm anyone else. And no, not providing an opportunity to be bishops is no more harming women than the lack of opportunity in Britain for people of either gender to become astronauts. The bottom line is it’s their god-club and their rules, and whether the first rule of god-club is not talking about god-club or no mitres are men only or no gay weddings in our buildings it’s still their rules. I’m for gay weddings if gays want to marry and I’m for female emancipation and the opportunity for the girls to seek any work they choose up to and including that of sperm donor. But as with the obvious case of sperm donation, freedom to seek doesn’t mean that there must be a guarantee that the position must be made available to women.

Is it silly that women shouldn’t be bishops? Yeah, I’d agree with that, but I’d add that I find it no more so than many other aspects of religion in general and Anglican Christianity in particular. If it’s sillier I’d say it’s only because some other parts of the Anglican Communion have gone ahead and allowed female bishops. But is it unreasonable? Should the CofE be compelled by secular law to allow female bishops? No, I don’t think so. If you want to remove the exemption on the principle that all are equal before the law I’d be all for it, though I’m really for laws that dictate and restrict how one is allowed to think and choose to be ditched as fundamentally anti-liberty. And if you wanted to disestablish the Church on the grounds of separation of Church and State I’d support that too. But this isn’t about applying the law equally or any such noble notions. This is just punishing a religious minority (I’m guessing CofE regulars are in a minority these days?) because their world view isn’t modern enough for you.

It’s a religion, yes? An unscientific and untestable faith in a 14 billion year old entity as explanation for literally everything? It’s not supposed to be modern, surely? So let them have their rules, outdated as some of us may think they are, and let those ladies who want to be bishops apply to those parts of the Anglican Communion that are open to the idea. Or start their own church if competition for positions is too intense in Scotland and visas for anywhere further are too much hassle. If, as we’re told, the big worry for the Church was a schism with traditionalists and evangelicals leaving then why don’t the pro-female modernisers leave instead. This is how freedom and tolerance actually works, you see. Their god-club means their freedom to set their rules, as I said before, and the rest of us tolerate that since we know that freedom also means that nobody who disagrees has to stay in the god-club.

Or are we admitting that Britain isn’t a free country after all? If so that might be a start toward becoming one.

 

PS A brief apology. Obviously I intended making a joke about bashing the bishop but I just couldn’t think of one. To anyone who is offended by this oversight, please take 50¢ and phone someone who gives a shit.

The bansturbators’ latest attack on liberty

Imagine prohibiting cigarette sales to people born after 2000.

Phasing out tobacco will stop the next generation taking up smoking.

Actually I’d be surprised if this is really new and hasn’t been bandied around nannying and anti-tobacco circles previously, but this is the first time I’ve seen something like it being seriously mooted in the pages of a major newspaper. And I have to say that not only is it one of the most illiberal and unjust (when something is legal for one person and not for another for no better reason than the lottery of birth we have begun to wave bye bye to equality of law) ideas I’ve seen but also one of the most breathtakingly naive, if not downright stupid and verging on self-fisking.

Let’s start with that subheading (yes, the stupid really does start that early):

Phasing out tobacco will stop the next generation taking up smoking.

Well, yes it would… if that’s what you were actually doing, or indeed is even possible with a product made from a plant that grows readily in the wild and is fairly easy to cultivate, and was to be attempted in a sparsely populated country with 25,000 kilometres of mostly uninhabited coastline. Before even reaching the body text the author, Cameron Nolan, has confused making something unavailable with merely changing its legal status and blithely declaring that as a result nobody will ever use it again. It seem unlikely that he has given any thought to the date on which various proscribed drugs were, to use his term, phased out. For many drugs currently outlawed this was before most users were born: heroin, for example, was last available in Australia legally in 1953, and even then required a prescription.* Hardly a ringing success at preventing the next generation from taking it, and since heroin laws here go back to the 19th century it can be argued that in fact they’ve failed for several generations. With such serial failure a hallmark of prohibition why should anyone but the congenitally clueless and/or nanny-prone believe that tobacco would be any different?

Imagine that cigarettes did not exist. Now imagine that some plucky upstart – let’s call them Philip Morris – invented them and went to the regulators for approval to sell their product in the Australian market.

You can hear the laughter coming out of the offices of Product Safety Australia as these new inventors explain that they want to commercialise a product that has the perverse combination of being both highly addictive and highly deadly.

Again, yes, though my personal experience with quitting smoking – hard when you’re doing it because others are laying the guilts on you about it, ridiculously piss easy when you’re doing it because you’ve stopped enjoying it – casts doubt on the addiction thing, and since there may be a tendency to label any death as smoking related that ticks some of the right boxes even if it’s from something with multiple causes I suspect the dangers are equally overblown. But in any case why should it concern Product Safety Australia or anyone else? Does Product Safety Australia claim ownership of the living bodies of smokers? Does ASH? Does the Health Department? Does Cameron Nolan? Can any of them or anyone else show that they have legal title to, and therefore responsibility for, anyone else’s body?

If the answer is yes then slavery is alive and well and operating in Australia. If the answer is no then Product Safety Australia can limit itself to making sure that potentially harmful/addictive products aren’t slipped into Australia’s markets pretending to be harmless and non-addictive. With tobacco this is probably not even necessary – we all know what it can cause, or at least what it gets blamed for, and if smokers choose to accept that risk because they enjoy smoking then that’s entirely up to them. If they’re not smoking me out – and that simply never happens – then I have no reason or right to tell them what to do with/to their bodies.

Yet this is not the world we live in.

It isn’t? So the state doesn’t arrogate ownership of people’s living bodies and an opium producer can go to Product Safety Australia and not be laughed at, or even arrested as soon as they’ve set foot in the door? The only sense in which it’s not the world we live in is that the nannies have not quite yet added tobacco – and alcohol, and fatty foods, and sugar, and Red Bull, and red meat, and Christ knows what next – and maybe it’s just me but I kind of get the sense that this disappoints Nolan.

We live in a world in which the mass commercialisation of cigarettes in the early 20th century rapidly outpaced our understanding of their health consequences.

Relevant only to those who wish to arrogate ownership rights over the live bodies of others. As understanding of the health issues grew that information has been made widely known. Not always with the willing cooperation of the tobacco industry, true, but it’s happened nonetheless. Nowadays who even reads the health warnings? Everyone knows what they say and we can’t ask for more than that, yet more is what the nannies always demand

We live in a world in which 15,500 Australians die every year from smoking-related diseases – more than road accidents, murders, alcohol and other drugs combined.

And here we have our first suspect figure. It’s almost Holy Writ that smoking causes lung cancer, and it’s frequently assumed by the lazy that it causes all lung cancer. Yet smoking is on the decline and lung cancer is on the rise, including among non-smokers. Assuming that the passive smoking scare is not bullshit the dwindling numbers of smokers must surely be smoking far more than the combined efforts of larger number of smokers in the past. Yeah, doesn’t seem real likely, does it? And that being so there’s reason to doubt the number of deaths caused by smoking, even when weasel words like ‘smoking-related diseases’ are used.

We live in a world in which every year three foreign companies are allowed to take a combined profit of more than $500 million from the Australian market while leaving us with a combined social cost of over $31 billion.

$31 billion according to a study which in fact conceded that the tax raised is greater than the medical costs to taxpayers, and came up with the remainder of the ‘social cost’ by means of some assumptions and a few seemingly highly arbitrary values being assigned to various things. Over to Chris Snowdon of Velvet Glove, Iron Fist.

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.

In other words, what Cameron Nolan is referring to here is policy based evidence. Anything with arbitrary values shouldn’t even be part of an adult discussion on the issue, but since it’s headline figure appeals to nannies, paternalists and neo-puritans alike it’s reached for with depressing regularity. Cameron Nolan isn’t the first and won’t be the last. And speaking of which…

With this Gordian knot tied, the government seems content to pull as hard as it can on one end as the considerable might of the tobacco industry pulls on the other. The government bans cigarette advertising on television and radio; the tobacco industry increases its print media advertising. The government bans cigarette advertising in print media; the tobacco industry increases its sponsorship of sporting events. The government mandates graphic health warnings on cigarette packets; the tobacco industry adjusts the attractiveness of their packaging designs. The government mandates plain packaging; the tobacco industry hires a battalion of silks and runs to the High Court.

Oh, please. The tobacco industry adjusts the attractiveness of their packets? Seriously? This garbage can only come from the pen of someone who believes, as do the plain pack pod people, that people smoke because of what’s on the box. As I’ve said repeatedly on this subject, chop-chop, Australia’s illegal and regulated and QC free tobacco, is unbranded and comes in whatever the supplier has to hand, and it has no problem in maintaining a market for what it produces. What matters to smokers is how the cigarette tastes, not what the box looks like. Nannies are apparently incapable of understanding this so I’ll draw a parallel: try to remember the most delicious food you’ve ever had, and consider whether those sublime flavours are materially altered by the plate it’s served on and the cutlery you’re provided to eat it with. Alternatively, imagine if Michel Roux shat on the plate and served it, would being on a gold rimmed plate in a multi-starred restaurant that you had to book weeks ahead make it any more than a warm turd with some imaginative garnish? That’s how much packaging matters to smokers, and if it’s really true that it’s the nicotine that they’re hopelessly addicted to (coughs – bullshit) it should be no surprise to the nannies that packaging is barely even on the average smoker’s radar.

And indeed the boxes have really not changed all that much as the health warnings and horror pics have gradually taken over. Marlboro have always had the same font black lettering on white with red triangles meeting above, B&H have always been the same gold background with the name in the preferred font, etc. They adjusted bugger all in response to health warnings and horror pictures, they just conceded some of the background to them. Since the intended result, every smoker in the world throwing up their hands and quitting immediately, did not happen the nannies are desperately casting about for something to blame for people still sparking up. The health warnings and pictures are not allowed to have been a pointless waste of time, ergo it must be the ebil cigawette makers changing the designs, even though the only designs are broadly the same as they always were.

There is of course another way to untie a Gordian knot: by cutting it. The government could mandate that cigarettes can only be sold to a person who is over 18 years of age and was born before the year 2000. This would gradually phase out cigarettes in Australia by forever prohibiting their sale to the next generation – those who are currently 12 years old or younger.

And I’ve already explained that we should not expect this to be any more successful than prohibition of heroin has been at preventing anyone born in 1965 or later from trying it.

This proposal balances the rights of existing smokers and the need to protect children born in this century from the pernicious effects of tobacco addiction.

Ah, suddenly Nolan’s all concerned for people’s rights. But only the rights of those born before 2000 – people born in the 21st century have, ipso facto, fewer rights under his proposal than those of us born later. This disparity of rights is an essential part and I have no idea if Nolan is even aware of it. If he is he certainly does see, to mind some, to use Orwell’s infamous expression, being more equal than others.

Many of us will still be concerned that such a prohibition – as with alcohol in America in the 1920s – will lead to a proliferation of the black market.

Finally!

However, the aim here is not to criminalise cigarettes but to drastically reduce consumption by as yet unaddicted future generations.

Yet the prohibition of heroin lead to the same disastrous results despite it being a more gradual process designed to reduce future consumption. Again, why would it not happen with tobacco? Why would the criminals behind the illegal tobacco industry not take up as much of the slack as legislation progressively makes available to them? There is simply no reason for them not to as long as a demand exists.

A teenager would inevitably still be able to source a packet or two of cigarettes from the black market or an older sibling, but they would be much less likely to form or sustain a ‘packet a day’ addiction lasting many years without easy access.

Just the same as how nobody can form a heroin addiction these days and how you don’t find needle bins on the walls of petrol station toilets, right? Oh, wait…

If we are trying to reduce cigarette-related deaths by 90 per cent, gradually withdrawing their sale from our petrol stations, supermarkets and 7-Elevens is a sure-fire way to get us there.

What? For fuck’s sake, where the hell does Nolan think chop-chop is sold now? Sure, out of the back of vans and through mates at work, but if he thinks none at all is going under the counters of dodgy shops and petrol stations then I have a bridge he might be interesting in buying.

Many of us will also be worried about the effect this will have on the tobacco industry and retailers.

Actually no, I couldn’t give less of a shit if I’d spent the past week on an Immodium only diet. As long as they have a market, by which I mean people aware of the risks freely choosing to buy the products anyway, they deserve to survive and the day they don’t they deserve to go the way of the dinosaurs. I’m vastly more worried by Nolan’s uneven approach to individual liberty.

Finally, what about those words that sit permanently perched at the tip of any tobacco company’s tongue – what about the “nanny-state”?

Who are you calling a tobacco company? I’m no fan or friend to them and I resent the association.

By that measure, the government should get out of the way and allow companies to start selling heroin, cocaine and other highly addictive and highly deadly drugs at everyday retail outlets. After all, they are consumed by people exercising free will and their commercialisation would create thousands of jobs.

Well, yes. And if that resulted in regulation, consumer legislation, quality control etc – all of which can be expected to reduce deaths and health problems – as well as the reduction of the black market and hence prices and crime (provided government restrains its greed and doesn’t go crazy with the Pigovian tax that’s widely accepted as being an inevitable part of legalisation) then what would be wrong with that? If nothing else it would remove the risk of prison and criminal records currently run by the large numbers of people who are able to hold down a job and remain productive members of society despite using drugs. If this state of affairs is less desirable to the Nolans of this world it surely can be only because there’s less control involved.**

Fortunately, most of us accept that such profits fall into the category of “ill-gotten gains” and demand that our government prohibit the creation of such unscrupulous markets.

And the only reason I don’t make some snarky remark about sheeple at this point is because Nolan is probably wrong about this as well. More and more articles are being written saying that the war on drugs has failed and suggesting at the least a rethink and softening of the stance on prohibition, if not decriminalisation and eventual legalisation. Yes, even in the very same newspaper that published Nolan’s piece (for instance see here and here and here), and polls on such articles (like the one at the end of this one) frequently show that most support it. So much for most accepting yadda yadda and demanding our government continues to make our decisions for us.

Ultimately, it is very difficult to come up with a good reason that justifies the premature deaths of 15,500 Australians every year. [...] The phase-out proposal ensures that current smokers will be unaffected while future generations will be protected.

And in his very last point Nolan is wrong once again – it is very, very easy to come up with a good reason, and I can do it by quoting someone other than Cameron bloody Nolan.

Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.

Mohandas Ghandi.

If you’re not free to put whatever you like into your body in the knowledge that it may harm you then you’re not free. If you are not free to make bad decisions then you are not free. If you are protected from the consequences of your actions then you are not free. Everything about Cameron Nolan’s proposal involves people, initially just some but in time everyone, being less free and having less say and less ownership of their own bodies and lives. Christ, Cameron, the first two lines of the national anthem is about Australians rejoicing because they’re young and free. Aside from being young and carefully monitored for our own good not being anything worth singing about it’s a bugger to find a rhyme for it.

And really, does anyone believe it’ll stop with tobacco? Alcohol prohibition in the US may have been largely reversed after a decade or so but on the whole prohibition has been growing. Smokers and drinker and those who love liberty in general are fond of paraphrasing Niemöller’s famous poem (and I’m delighted and relieved that someone in the comments on Nolan’s piece in The Age had already done so by the time I found it – I’ve been getting a little worried about Australian attitudes to liberty lately***), but the truth is tobacco wasn’t even the first. It wasn’t even the first thing attacked that was once something many, if not most, adults did. The only difference from America’s Temperance led experiment with banning alcohol is that a more invidious salami slicing approach is preferred now.

The lesson most draw from Prohibition was that in hindsight it was unwise to have done it at all, while the lesson the nannies and neo-puritans drew was that it wasn’t implemented the right way. And I can’t help but suspect that in the back of many minds is the unspoken thought:

If only we’d been in charge of it…”

P.S. Those who’ve read the article will probably have noticed this at the bottom.

Cameron Nolan is a Masters of Public Administration Candidate in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. This article won the Australian Fabians Young Writers Competition for 2012.

The Fabians, eh? Can anyone say it’s a surprise? And incidentally, the prize Cameron Nolan got from the Aussie Fabians was a thousand bucks, so if anyone wants to get their wallet out and pay me for fisking it I’ll take $500.

However, when a Republican mayor in New York is banning soft drinks over a certain volume (wasn’t popcorn mentioned too or was that somewhere else) and Conservative councillors in London boroughs talk about charging people whose lifestyles aren’t approved off extra for services they’ve already paid for in advance through their taxes, and also since historically their leaders have frequently been the worst kind of self-righteous, illiberal arseholes, the Right have got absolutely nothing to boast about and more than a bit to be ashamed of. When it comes to nannying, control freakery, big statism and generally being self righteous paternalist pricks the left and right are absolutely as bad as each other.

A plague on both their houses.

* We should ignore the point that morphine is, pharmacologically speaking, very nearly the same thing and is used by hospitals in large quantities every day. As I understand it the effect is the same as heroin but less rapid.
** It should go without saying that as well as being a non-smoker and teetotaller I am also not a user of any prohibited drugs. Been exposed to a number of them but was never interested.
*** Actually when I looked there seemed to be roughly as many comments opposing it on anti-nannying grounds as there were frothing tobaccophobic venom and smoker untermenschen stuff that Dick Puddlecote’s been collecting.

State nannies torturing logic

Read this quote carefully as there may be questions later.

Mental Health Minister Helen Morton said as there was no evidence to prove that even small amounts of alcohol were not healthy for pregnant women, no alcohol was the best advice.

I’ve read that a number of times and I really can’t spot the connection between the observation that there’s no reason, none at all, to think that a small amount of of a thing is unhealthy and deciding that therefore not having any of that thing at all is best. Oh, and spending $350,000 of taxpayers’ money one saying not to have any, of course.

The obvious reason is that this is alcohol control, plain and simple and lifted straight from tobacco control’s playbook with ‘smoking’ Tippexed out and ‘drinking’ scrawled over the top in biro. Now I’m not advocating smoking or drinking during pregnancy, though it’s worth mentioning that I was born at a time when it was still fairly common for expectant mothers to do both, and I think my mum did smoke for part and continued to drink in moderation throughout. Even in these health obsessed days it’s far from unheard of for a woman to smoke like a chimney and drink like a fish through half or more of the first trimester simply because she has absolutely no idea she is pregnant. In the case of one friend it was actually cigarettes and booze starting to taste weird that made her get a pregnancy test – turned out she was over well over two months gone.

But as I say, I’m not advocating this any more than I’m advocating abstemious purity from teh ebil weeds and spirits. I’m not advocating anything in particular, just observing that a certain pattern is being repeated here, and that not only was it very predictable that despite all the denials and claims to the contrary this pattern would be repeated it’s also a pattern that’s only wheeled out to support controls or ‘nudging’ of something that’s disapproved of. For example, let me modify that quote into a form that you will probably never see anywhere else.

Absobloodylutelymental Health Minister Angry Exile said as there was no evidence to prove that even moderate exercise was not healthy for pregnant women, no exercise was the best advice.

Same chain of logic, if you can call it that, but can you imagine the nannies ever letting something like that go out? Of course not, because what is good for the exercise goose is not for the alcohol gander (at the risk of over extending the metaphor, the smoking swan has long since been cooked and stuffed). Exercise is held by the nannies, wowsers and healthists to be as virtuous as drinking is sinful, so even with exactly the same weight of evidence that either are not healthy – to be precise, none at all – there will only ever be positive things said about the one and negative things about the other. And when you put the two messages next to each other…

‘There’s no evidence that moderate exercise will cause any harm to you or your unborn child, so do take gentle exercise.’*

‘There’s no evidence that small amounts of alcohol will cause any harm to your unborn child, so do not take any alcohol at all. You may scream hysterically at the sight of a wine bottle if you wish.’

See?

Kraft durch Freude!

* This is paraphrased but I didn’t pull it out of my arse. I did a little googling and found a few web pages, articles and papers that said there was no evidence that moderate exercise increased miscarriages or raised body temperature to a level that a foetus can’t cope with (which sounds frankly potty to begin with) etc. One of them would probably be written off as 100% bullshit peddled by tobacco industry shills because it said there was no significant increase of miscarriage risk for smoking in the first trimester, but the rest were probably suitably on message for most healthists.

Naked lies

Tee shirt design – click for linky

Back in February I wrote a very angry sweary blog post about airport scannersand about how the Australian federal government had decided that they’d be installed at all Australian international airports, and I explained, not for the first time, how that would influence my travelling decisions in the future.

PASSENGERS at airports across Australia will be forced to undergo full-body scans or be banned from flying under new laws to be introduced into Federal Parliament this week.

Well, if that’s the attitude then I bloody well will drive, fuck you very much. Well, really I mean I’ll carry on driving because this airport security theatre bullshit has been building up to this for several years, and since I really object to paying a lot of money to be treated as a potential terrorist instead of a paying customer I’ve sworn not to fly unless it’s really urgent and/or there’s an ocean in my way. If I can plan ahead I’ll go overland, even if it takes a few days.

Fuck. You. All.

I think one of the things that particularly infuriated me was the knowledge that my action alone, and that of the relative handful of other people who recognise this kind of security theatre for the useless unnecessary charade it is - well, perhaps not useless if you’re a politician with shares in the companies that make this stuff – also avoid flying if at all possible, is pretty futile if it doesn’t catch on. And sadly I think we can take it as read that as we head into the northern hemisphere’s summer hordes of people will soon be marching meekly through these electronic sheep dips at major airports all over the US and Europe, and in six months or so the same will apply here as people on their way to family holidays at the Gold Coast’s resorts stand tamely in line to have their children’s gonads lightly irradiated in the name of assuring everyone that they and their glowing, ah, I mean growing offspring will not explode en route. Even though any such assurances are questionable at best when they’ve failed to detect a fucking gun down someone’s knickers.

Baaaaa, baaaaa.

I despair, I really do. I mean you do get the occasional reaction, the odd burst of noise, from the herd when the cast and crew of the security theatre do something particularly stupid and/or egregious. You hear complaints when exactly the kind of abuse we were told would never happen does in fact happen. You hear them when kids – even babies barely able to crawl and kids in frigging wheelchairs, for Christ’s sake – get patted down by the security drones. You hear them when cancer survivors are left humiliated thanks to hidebound, unthinking and almost robotic adherence to badly written rules, or just covered in their own piss through pure ham-fistedness. You hear them when they loudly ask septuagenarian women if they’re wearing a sanitary towel. And then the next episode of Your Country’s Masterchef’s Got A Talented Voice Factor appears on the magic fishtank and the complaints fade. A relative handful carry on objecting, either writing about invasive searches afterwards, refusing to fly and encouraging others to do the same, or actually pitching up and the airport and then publicly refusing to be scanned or treated like a recent arrestee. But the majority just grumble before falling silent and accepting their new role as guilty ’til screened sufficient to be presumed innocent again, if not enthusiastically embrace their loss of liberty and presumption of innocence.

Did I mention that I despair? I did? Oh good.

And I will despair even more if Australia doesn’t go completely screaming batshit over the latest development. Because back in February we were told that in the interests of privacy, though not actual fucking liberty, the scanners to be installed in Australian airports would be the ones that display the stick figures on the screen. Not that that cuts any ice with me.

It’s also keen to allay concerns raised on travel online forums that passengers would appear nude on security screens as they had when similar scanners were introduced at US airports.

The technology will show passengers on a screen as stick figures of neither sex.

Not the point. As I’ve explained above and at some length in the past, my objection was never that someone might see my knob or my wife’s tits, it’s that neither of us are terrorists and there’s not a single goddamn thing in the whole fucking universe to suggest that we are. …I feel that it’s not unreasonable that I don’t get treated as a possible member of Alkyfuckingaida at airports, especially when the bastards know who I am well before I fly and can assess my potential risk in advance, leaving not much more than a need for me to satisfy them that I am, as I claim, Mr A Exile who’s never been in trouble with the police and was vetted before getting an Australian visa.

But with the Anglo-Saxon nudity taboo that’s relatively strong in western societies I’m sure for most people, and perhaps especially for women, it was indeed the thought of their personal sweater kittens and other bits being up on someone’s screen somewhere in the airport. Yes, we’re assured that staff wouldn’t be able to record images or identify who they were looking at, but the problem there is that as I recall the same assurances were made everywhere that has in fact happened. So the gingerbread man scanner was a sop to keep those folks happy. I can only hope that they find the rage coming back and, for a change, remaining as they realise that this too has turned out to be a false promise. Because the stick man scanners are still going to reveal more than some people would wish.

CONTROVERSIAL full-body scanners due to be introduced into Australian airports next month will identify prosthesis wearers, including breast cancer survivors and transgender passengers.

Earlier this year the federal government announced the new scanners, to be installed in eight international terminals, would be set to show only a generic stick-figure image to protect passengers’ privacy.

But documents released under freedom of information show that, in meetings with stakeholders, Office of Transport Security representatives confirmed the machines would detect passengers wearing a prosthesis.

Like I said, I hope those concerned about privacy will get angry about this, but I can’t help but note the time of year that this news comes out and that the scanners will be installed: the Australian winter, when fewer people are flying. Is it paranoid of me to wonder about this? Would there be anything in the idea that doing it several months ahead of the summer rush would give people time to forget about the scanners until they were at the airport in December, by which time it’s too late to buy your scanner proof undies or really do anything at all unless you’re prepared to write off the cost of your flights?

Stakeholders, including Muslims and civil libertarians, were consulted by the Office of Transport Security and raised numerous concerns.

[...]

The policy to use generic stick-figure images was introduced to placate these privacy concerns.

Internal documents also revealed a proposed privacy quality assurance program to check privacy issues was scrapped late last year.

Scrapped. Got that? Even something to address the bit most people are getting worked up about has been quietly ditched. I wrote more than two years ago that this would continue and even escalate unless everybody began voting against airport security theatre with their wallets, so if you don’t like it cancel your summer holiday plans NOW and go local instead.

This is not about making you safe, it’s about making a quid for companies that can jump on the bandwagon with products that gullible politicians can be persuaded to spend your taxes on to create an illusion of safety. As has been pointed out about a squillion times, even if the scanners were completely effective they’re going to look pretty stupid reduced to a smouldering heap of twisted wreckage the first time someone sets off a bomb while standing in the queue to be scanned. The only way to prevent that will be the next escalation and loss of privacy and dignity.

Flight number QF1984 to an unpleasant future is now boarding at gate 14.
You won’t be fully naked as you’ll be made to wear a taser bracelet - sadly not made up.

And part of me suspects we might have got to this point already if it wasn’t for the fact that there’s money to be made selling security technology in the meantime, though I suppose the taser bracelet might still be an option for the security theatre mob even when we are all expected to fly in the nip.

Shooting pool

It seems that the Australian Hoplophobia and Victimless Crimes and Non-Offences Department has been merged with the Australian Olympic Committee, if this is anything to go by.

CONTROVERSIAL swimmers Nick D’Arcy and Kenrick Monk could face sanctions from the Australian Olympic Committee after posting photos of themselves posing with high-powered guns.

D’Arcy and Monk posed with the weapons in a gun shop in the US where the Australian swimming team has been training and competing before the Olympics which start next month.

Swimming Australia (SA) ordered the pair to remove the photos from their Facebook and Twitter accounts under their social media policy.

The AOC said it will await SA’s investigation before considering sanctions.

“We think it’s foolish and inappropriate and we are awaiting an investigation by Swimming Australia, then we’ll look at it,” AOC spokesman Mike Tancred said.

Well, I’d agree it looks pretty retarded and not the most mature thing ever photographed (though a little credit can be given for at least keeping fingers out of the trigger guards – that really winds me up when I see that), but is it a big deal? Really? I mean, let’s just take a look at a photo of another Australian Olympian, confirmed only today as being in the team for the London Games.

Russell Mark, Olympic Double Trap – click for linky

So what’s the logic here? If sportsmen being pictured with guns is somehow wrong because it’s the gun that’s the problem then how is it okay to photograph those who compete in shooting events with what, for the sake of those who might find the word G-U-N intimidating, I shall simply call an essential item in their sport? It’s no less of a gun, is it? Okay, maybe to hoplophobes and nannies there’s a big difference between a double barrelled O/U and a pump action, and certainly to those who drafted Australia’s gun laws there is. And yes, at a push I’ll agree that there are lots of little differences, but if it’s being misused – and by misused I don’t mean posing like a wanker in a gun shop – then a clay shooters gun is just as lethal. Or to put it another way, if it’s being handled correctly then a pump action shotgun is no more dangerous than a clay pigeon shooter’s gun.

So if it’s not necessarily guns in photos that’s the problem I wonder if it’s just guns in the hands of non-shooting sports people that makes the photo somehow wrong. And if it is that then I wonder how the AOC feel about shooters appearing in swimwear in general, and in particular, as I mentioned last month, the bet that Russell Mark lost on the Carlton vs St Kilda footy game which means him wearing a Borat mankini. Except of course we already know how the AOC feel about it because they said it at the time.

“Age is the problem here. Russell is no spring chicken, his days of being a model are long gone, and we don’t think it would be a good look for the team to have Russell in a mankini,” Mr Tancred said.

“Besides, this will be his sixth Olympics and he is a chance to be named as flag bearer. Imagine the flag bearer out in front of our Team in a mankini. And a big butch shooter at that.”

‘Not a good look’ is hardly a damning indictment, is it? And on top of that it seems likely that Russell Mark’s wife Lauryn is going to stand in for him and be photographed instead for a lads’ mag (for an undisclosed fee payable to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital) which I imagine will mean her showing a fair bit of skin and could mean pictures of her in her bathers. And since Lauryn is also an Olympic shooter… I don’t have to explain where I’m going with this, do I? There’s talk about Monk and D’Arcy glamourising guns but if Lauryn Marks photo shoot includes so much as one picture of her in a bikini with her Beretta that would be gold medal winning hypocrisy. Time will tell but you’d think there’d be noises about the idea already. Instead it seems like shooters in swimwear are okay, even if it’s the moderately horrifying thought of a 48 year old man wearing a Borat thong, but as soon as we swimmers with guns we’re supposed to all cry ‘Oh, the humanity!’*

But being realistic it’s not even as logical as having anything to do with what sport you compete in, as evidenced by this comment.

Nick Green, the chef de mission for the Australian Olympic team, said: “These postings today are foolish and clearly inappropriate for members of the 2012 Australian Olympic Team.

And reading between the lines I take that simply to mean ‘Oh noes, it’s teh guns’ coupled with these two individuals having a poor record when it comes to generating bad press. Foolish and inappropriate? Wasn’t betting that you’d wear a mankini in public if Carlton lost to St Kilda foolish (at least in hindsight – Russell Mark wasn’t the only one who thought Carlton were a dead cert)? And isn’t it just inevitable that someone somewhere, some tedious joyless arsehole, is going to say that Lauryn Mark’s photoshoot for a lads’ mag is inappropriate unless she’s pictured sans gun to keep the lefties happy and, somewhat implausibly for a mum of two, avec chastity belt to saitsfy the religious nuts who think a glimpse of an ankle is porn? I think the only reason the feminists aren’t frothing about that already is because they’re too busy with the Americans for sending the Lingerie Football League over here.

Look, I don’t think that the photo of the swimmers suggests the kind of attitude I’d like to see around firearms, but they’re in a gun store and not only is it likely that someone who knows what they’re doing was never far away but it’s highly unlikely that the stock is kept loaded and ready to fire. And for all we know right after the picture was taken the staff told them to stop dicking about and leave. If D’Arcy and Monk have a contract with Swimming Australia that says all social media pictures have to be approved by SA first in case someone embarrasses the team then that’s one thing, but since nobody went crazy at Russell Mark for making a silly bet and putting himself in the position where he might end up embarrassing men everywhere I’d say it’s still a little hypocritical. This isn’t even a victimless crime, it’s a victimless non-crime non-event that unless SA has training sessions in gun stores would have taken place in their free time. If they’d done a stupid posed Facebook photo with a million things that weren’t guns nobody would have said a thing. But just because it’s scary bang sticks involved half the nation, including SA and the AOC, have shit themselves over it.

As the man said: harden the fuck up, Australia.

* It could also be said that with hoplophobia being so widespread short of winning medals having the sport’s more photogenic females start taking some of their kit off is almost the only way shooting disciplines get any media attention anyway.

Tin men and paper tigers

It might be blogging ego that makes a blogger quote themselves but I’m going to do it here just because of a vague prediction I made some months back.

Cigarette cases – I bet they will be making a comeback here, and I’ll bet you that [...] there will be branded ones, either legit or made without the approval of the IP owners, appearing before long.

And sure enough, today I read this:

At least one tobacco company has moved to frustrate the Gillard government’s plain packaging laws by distributing metal cigarette packets for sale.

Peter Stuyvesant-branded metal packets are available for sale ahead of regulations which will outlaw the sale of packets bearing any brand or logo.

Okay, it’s a pretty obvious move for the baccy firms so it wasn’t a very impressive prediction. But one of the other things I mentioned in that five parter series on possible ways around the plain packs laws – some of which I still believe would be very difficult to legislate against and very hard to enforce if legislation was created – is that certain measures the industry can take would be effective only for as long as it takes the government to get it’s self righteous cock in a knot and ban them too. And so it’s not at all surprising that the article went on to say:

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek warned retailers not to get burnt by stocking metal cigarette tins, claiming they would not comply with the plain packaging regulations, due to take effect in December, and would become illegal to sell.

Ah, but illegal to give away? Illegal to just bring into the country after a nice holiday to a more liberal country? And what of those other ideas I came up with after really not a very great deal of thought? Are internet sites with templates to print out your own design of cigarette packet going to be censored? If so then I’m buggered since I have two, a blank one to make your own design and a DIY job I did recently because it was the most sarcastic thing I could think of. Am I breaking some ludicrous law that says I’m encouraging children to smoke by this? Who knows? Probably not yet, but perhaps one day.

And then there’s my other long standing prediction, that there’s a group people who are looking forward to plain packs as much as the tobaccophobic healthists, and that group is the illegal tobacco trade. Let’s be very blunt here, their principle competition is the industry that for all its faults is prepared to be regulated and bound by law, and trades both it’s products and its shares openly. Weaken that legal industry and it will surely be to the benefit of the shadow industry that laughs at regulations, has no need to check quality if it doesn’t want to, does not offer refunds to customers, and cannot be moderated by the actions of shareholders since it’s largely controlled by criminal gangs. If you could buy shares in tobacco smuggling operations they’ll probably pay nicely in the not too distant future, which is something that the government and the bansturbators have always either denied or glossed over. But now…

The government is also about to introduce draconian penalties against tobacco smugglers, following industry claims that plain packaging would cause an influx of black market tobacco.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon will today announce jail terms of up to 10 years for smuggling tobacco as part of tougher customs laws aimed at black market tobacco traders.

And I’m sure that would work well in a densely populated country with physically small and largely urbanised borders, because it’s a hell of a lot easier to catch smugglers. Australia has 25,000 kms of coastline and most of the population live along half a dozen stretches of it totalling perhaps a couple of thousand km or so. If you have a boat and can manage to avoid just the Brisbane/Gold Coast area, Sydney and the easternmost coast, Melbourne and Port Phillip Bay, and Adelaide – which you probably would do anyway unless the base of your smuggling operations was New Zealand or Antarctica – there is an absolute shitload of places that are a long way from anywhere that a small boat could come in unnoticed. And that’s before you get into the more sophisticated smuggling operations involving anything from computerised tracking of containers to bribing customs officials (yes, at least one of those stories was more about drugs but it’d be naive to imagine that the tobacco smugglers aren’t at it too). As for the counterfeiters, it’s well known that most of the enforcement action there is not done by the authorities at all but by the tobacco companies taking people to court for trademark infringements, and since those trademarks are the very same ones the government will soon prohibit the tobacco companies from using there doesn’t seem to be much incentive for the industry to carry on doing that after December.

It’s all very well making the consequences if caught more severe, but when the government is unable to significantly alter the actual risk of getting caught and is simultaneously working to increase the potential rewards it’s breathtakingly optimistic to think that the illegal tobacco trade is going to do anything other than increase. As I have continually pointed out since this idiocy was first mooted, cannabis, ecstasy, acid, heroin, cocaine, meth, you name it, and for that matter chop-chop tobacco too, all come in unbranded, cheap, plain packaging, and not only do they manage to keep their customers they don’t have a problem getting new ones as existing customers quit or die. Big Tobacco won’t either, not once it’s made the transition and people have got used to it, but the criminals have a big advantage over Big Tobacco even besides the obvious one that they don’t feel obliged to comply with those tiresome law things.

They’ve been doing it longer and are better at it.

Plain tobacco packaging can’t get any plainer than this – UPDATED

So I really hope this is good enough for you, Nicola Roxon, and you too Andrew Lansley, and any other finger wagging, nannying busybody elevated to the dizzying heights of Moralist Minister for Health of any nation where joyless wowsers seem to get an extra vote or two judging by the amount of say they get on policies.

Click to embiggerise

This is a redesign of the template I mentioned here when I was thinking about how Australia’s plain packaging decree, soon to be imposed by our masters in Canberra, could be circumvented. Since the UK and no doubt some other countries look likely to follow suit and have already plastered ciggie packs with mandatory scary horror image health warnings I feel smokers might as well start being awkward buggers about it right away. Be honest – playing fair and reasonable has got you absolutely nowhere. So to my smoker friends, both those I’ve met and those with whom my acquaintance is purely electronic, share and enjoy. Personalise your pack with a message on the cigarettes if you like. I hope I’ve got the sizes right on this template but please let me know if not please let me know in the comments (or if you adjust it yourself please get in touch as soon as you can so I can nab a copy off you and repost it). And I’m sure someone could use the same template to do a better job than I have here with multiple pastes and resizes of parts of cig pictures found with Google image searches.

And to the wowsers and government prodnoses, this non-smoker would like to explain that in addition to an interest in liberty a great part of his support for smokers is due to the fact that he can see you coming for him too eventually. You’ve already begun on the drinkers, people who like salt on their food, people who like takeaways under their salt, people who have sugar, and people who like to cook themselves either under the sun or in a tanning machine, and even if I wasn’t already on that list I know damn well that there are other things I like to do which you will soon decide that for my own good I should not, despite being a competent reasoning adult, be permitted to do. Before you get to that stage I’d like to say a very heartfelt fuck you all, savagely and in inappropriate orifices, and to misquote Kennedy by adding that all free men can smoke and therefore as a free man ich bin ein smoker.

 

UPDATE – for future reference a copy of this post can be found by clicking ‘Plain packs’ next to the Home button.

Hot lesbians live next door…

… to Foamy the Squirrel (tip of the akubra to John Galt in the comments on the last post).

And tangentially related, I see that Archbishop Cranmer has had a couple of responses from the ASA on that traditional marriage ad business. He also notes the ASA is now headed by one time Labour MP and openly gay lord Chris Smith. That might explain a few things, though I very much doubt why the gays’ preferred definition should be forced on Christians and other traditionalists – or for that matter why the traditional definition should be forced on gays and their sympathisers – will be one of them.

Censorship is [REDACTED]

The gay marriage debate rumbles and grumbles on, and while I’m not on the side of those who want to continue to use the state’s monopoly on force to maintain their preferred definition in law I have just as big a problem with those who don’t want this ended so much as to be given their turn at the controls. And what really gets my goat about this is their apparent enthusiasm for the kind of tactics they’d deplore, and rightly so, if used against the gay community.

As James mentioned at the Orphanage the other day and as I blogged here yesterday, Archbishop Cranmer has been taken to task by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority for including on his blog an ad in favour of the current definition. It was, natch, ‘offensive’ and ‘homophobic’, though whether this is the ad or the act of carrying it isn’t all that clear, and the ASA have told him that they’re investigating and given him a time limit for response. I’d say this is pretty chickenshit of them because, as His Grace points out in his reply to the ASA, Guido and Conservative Home are apparently not being investigated despite carrying the offending ad as well. Helloooo, equality before the law? Where are you? Perhaps it’s worth approaching Muslim bloggers to see if they’d like to carry the ad as well, because I rate the chances of the ASA growing the balls needed to lean on the Muslims to embrace gay marriage as being so close to zero as makes no difference. Or maybe not since some of them would want the definition expanded in the other direction to mean man and ≤ 4 wives. and the ASA might just be capable of the kind of doublethink needed to deal with that. In any case His Grace has penned an excellent reply to the ASA and still has the ad up on his blog, and while I don’t agree with him long may it stay there. I don’t want his definition of marriage to have the force of law behind it but if his freedom to say what he thinks can be limited then anyone else in Britain can be similarly silenced, and that includes, if they’d only stop to think about it for a minute, the gay equality lobby.

And then we come to something else James mentioned, and actually what’s prompted this post. Here in Oz the Deputy Chief Trick Cyclist of Victoria (and I have to admit I had no idea we even had a Chief one – something else taxpayers are being squeezed for despite the state having some money troubles) and one time Christian missionary , Professor Kuruvilla George, co-signed a letter to a Senate inquiry into marriage equality.

Twenty-two Victorian GPs, anaesthetists, obstetricians, palliative care specialists and psychiatrists, including Prof Kuravilla George, have joined 150 colleagues interstate to argue gay marriage poses a health risk to society.

In a letter to the Senate’s inquiry into marriage equality, the group wrote that it was “important for the future health of our nation” to retain the definition of marriage as being between a man and woman.

“We submit the evidence is clear that children who grow up in a family with a mother and father do better in all parameters than children without,” they wrote.

Leaving aside whether there’s merits in the argument it should be noted that Prof George signed that letter as a private citizen, not in his capacity as the No. 2 Official Brain Drainer of the state of Victoria or as a member of the board of the Victorian Equal Opportunities and Human Rights Commission. So why this?

… former national AMA president and gay rights activist Kerryn Phelps said the doctors should “hang their heads in shame” and that Prof George’s position on the board of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission should be reviewed.

Or this (from a letter to The Age)?

… Professor George is no ordinary citizen. He has used his standing as a medical practitioner to support claims that are not only scientifically false but seriously undermine any objective assessment of equality or support for good mental health.

Attorney-General Robert Clark cannot pick and choose which laws he wishes upheld or not [referring here to freedom of expression as enshrined in the Victorian Charter of Human Rights - AE]. Professor George’s private views have demonstrated his unsuitability for both offices he holds. His positions are now untenable, and he should be immediately stood down.

That same freedom of expression that means someone can write to the papers and say that someone’s publicly expressed opinions should get him the sack also means that those opinions can be expressed publicly in the first place, and if lost it applies to potentially everyone. Sadly for free speech, though I imagine happily for Melbourne’s population of trendy Fitzroy lefties who I expect were all fashionably outraged by his views, Prof George has today resigned from the Equal Opportunities Commission.

I might agree with the Fitzroy lefties that Prof George’s argument is bollocks but it worries me deeply that someone can be successfully driven from a job merely for saying something others, whether representing a majority or just a powerfully vocal minority (which here can mean Christians as often as it means the gay rights mob), dislike or disagree with. As I said earlier, if this can be done to one person it can be done to anyone at all once political fashions change and a once accepted opinion becomes the Thought That Dare Not Speak Its Name.

Today it’s homophobic (whether actually homophobic or merely allegedly homophobic) views being frowned on and those who voice them being hounded, but what’s stopping a future in which it’s the other way round or an equally right-on contemporary view being declared unacceptable and attracting punishment? If freedom to criticise the goose is good for the gander then it’s just as important for the goose to be able to say something worth criticising. Without that they’re both mute. And cooked.

I’m Spartacus

Or Archbishop Cranmer.

If either of my readers (hi Mum) have followed much of my comments discussion with James at his post over at the Orphanage or taken note of my post here the other day they’ll know that I don’t agree with the sentiment expressed in that picture. For all I know the statement is accurate and 70% might indeed want to keep marriage as it is, and if so I don’t care. I do not agree with that 70% or that a simple majority should decide on matters of liberty – if the same 70% wanted to bring back slavery I’d very much hope they would not get their way.

My position on this is simple and is based firstly on free speech and thought (which necessarily includes religious belief), and secondly on property rights. The former means I don’t get to tell you what to think, you don’t get to tell me what to think. I get to say what I think and you don’t have to agree, and vice versa. The latter means you get to set rules on your property, I get to set them on mine, and if either of us have a real problem with a particular rule of the other’s then we stay off.

Thus I do not agree with His Grace’s (or James’) position with regard to gay marriage except that it absolutely should not take place in churches or anywhere else belonging to people and organisations that do not want to recognise it, and that those who feel that it’s not really marriage should be free to say so openly and in public. They shouldn’t get to decide for the rest of us, even if as many as, or even more than, 70% of people agree, but for damned sure those of us who don’t object to gay marriage don’t get to dictate what they can do on their property or to demand that they be prevented from airing their views.

In the words (supposedly) of Voltaire, I disagree with what they both say but I defend their right to say it, and I wish Archbishop Cranmer success in his battle with the ASA (do go read if only for a sensational gag early on in his reply to the Authority which I hope is already giving conniptions to some Thought Constable). And since His Grace has made it clear that he’s much too polite to be so direct in replying to the ASA I’m putting up a picture with which I disagree just so I can tell the ASA to go fuck themselves sideways with a billboard if they contact me and complain.

Is it an election year or something?

Click for link

It is a surprise to no one in the US that Barack Obama supports gay marriage. The only thing that has raised eyebrows is how long it took the President to stumble towards a clear public affirmation of his position.

What’s surprising? Any US president saying this kind of thing is going to piss of the Christian right, and since they’re going to vote Republican that’s no loss to a Democratic pres. But surely it’s also going to appeal to a lot of right-on types who mostly vote Democrat, which means it might be the kind of thing a Democrat president could leave until nearer the election to give any wavering support a boost. This is almost certainly not a sudden Damascene conversion for Obama but something that’s been sat on until the time was judged to be right. From his perspective it would have been a bit of a waste for him to have said this three and a half years ago in the height of his post election (and not being George W Bush) popularity, but if he’s worried that some of his own voters will be viewing the last three years with enough disappointment that they might not vote he’ll probably think it’s time to play a pocket card or two. Suddenly being all right-on about gay marriage after being quite so long could be one such card, and timing it with allegations about Romney being a homophobe in the distant past (which was also preceded by a long period of absolutely nothing being said about it despite Romney being a senator, a state governor and a candidate for the Republican nomination in 2008) could be another.

In short, I don’t think gays should be getting too euphoric about this. I’d say this has got fuck all to do with their rights or anyone else’s and much more to do with getting the votes in come November. On the issue itself I’d say what I always do: that defining marriage is one of the vast (and growing) number of things that should not be a government function at any level, and most certainly not at the federal level. Seriously, just scrap the legal definition of marriage altogether. Gays should be free to define marriage so as to include them and find agreeable celebrants if they want, and those whose religious beliefs mean they define it otherwise should be free to disagree and say that those marriages have no validity in the sight of their preferred man in the sky. It won’t be enough to keep either group but think of the alternative. While it remains something that government feel they can involve themselves in then both gays and the religious will be electoral pawns with nice easy hot buttons to be pressed by otherwise shit politicians who couldn’t be trusted alone in a room with your wallet. But if both the gay and religious lobbies can stick their fingers up to both lots of pollies, and providing they can agree to disagree and don’t actually come to blows over it, then both could be better off. Just one small concession is needed from each side: the gays just need to concede that certain religions will always say that butt love and going sappho is sinful and rules out their particular marriage service, and in turn those religions need to concede that they’re not the only game in town as far as marriage is concerned.

Pictured – traditional marriage

So what’s it to be? I know at least one Christian who isn’t against gay marriage in general but would oppose it in her church, and I also know at least one gay person who’s fine with letting religious prohibitions stand indefinitely provided the various churches are willing to let bi-gals be bi-gals (so to speak) but I suspect they’re both in a minority and that things to remain pretty much the same as they are right now. I hope to be wrong about this one day and wake up to find that both groups have realised that they could both be freer than either is at the moment if only they just told the presidents and prime ministers to mind their own business about it.

Boris Johnson – illiberal twat

I still have lots on my plate but I can’t let this pass without comment.

Boris Johnson faces being drawn into a bitter dispute over homosexuality after banning advertisements on London buses promoting the idea that gay people can be “cured”.

Transport chiefs stepped in on the Mayor’s orders to block the posters, faced with a the prospect of the argument being played on the streets of the capital next week with rival advertisments.

Two Christian groups announced on Thursday that they had booked advertising space promoting the idea that people can become “post-gay” through therapy.

Anglican Mainstream, a traditionalist Christian coalition, and Core Issues Trust – a counselling group which practices controversial “reorientation” therapy – wanted to place full-length banners reading: “Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get Over It!”

They are a direct response to advertisements taken out by the gay rights group Stonewall earlier this month as part of the campaign for same-sex marriage reading: “Some people are Gay. Get over it!”

So Stonewall get to place their advert sending a message I don’t particularly care about one way or the other, yet the god squad groups are banned from responding with their claim that gayness is something that can be (not, it would seem, necessarily should be) cured. Personally I think it’s a stretch to claim that someone can be prayed straight or whatever the details are and I’m not sure how you’d distinguish between someone who’s gay and been cured and someone who’s gay and been inspired, persuaded or brainwashed into sticking a crucifix on the closet door and climbing inside. Seriously, how would you test that, and even more seriously why would you even bother? I don’t care that if someone is gay and I equally don’t care whether they were and have been cured through prayer or if faith is leading them to live a lie. As long as neither one is proselytising and/or shagging me their sexuality and religious beliefs are a matter of supreme indifference.

I also don’t care if they talk about it. I don’t have to read what they write and I don’t have to listen to what they say. I can walk away from either of them at any time so as far as I’m concerned there’s no reason why they shouldn’t both be free to say their piece. The Christians’ may be saying something that sounds like complete horseshit to me but if we silenced everyone for spouting horseshit politicians would be silenced almost forever. And no, even that’s not a good reason for doing it because freedom of speech is an absolute – if saying even just one thing is off limits then ipso facto speech is restricted and everyone is fair game. This is the reality, and I fucking hate it, and I hate it that fuckwit right-on politwats like Boris ‘The Ban’ Johnson – he has form in this area, remember – take huge, steaming shits on liberty in the name of fairness and sucking up to minorities.

“It is clearly offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness that someone recovers from and I am not prepared to have that suggestion driven around London on our buses.”

So it’s offensive? And what, Boris? That I think these Christians are deluding themselves and that their gay cure is at best mind games and at worst purest snake oil would probably offend them, so can I say it or not? That you’ve decided they can’t say it almost certainly offends them, so can you say that they were being offensive or would that cause enough offensive for you to have to censor yourself? Or is it simply a case of offending them is okay because fuck Christians, but not the gay rights groups? I rather suspect it’s the last one.

Look, if they’re selling a cure, as in for money, then by all means ban it on trade descriptions grounds for claiming something that’s fundamentally unverifiable, but it sounds rather like the usual kind of religious claim that we all accept as stating beliefs rather than making actual claims. I mean, nobody has verified eternal life after death, but we don’t have mayors of major international cities in the supposedly free world demanding that all those churches with John 5:24 on big boards outside take them down.

So, Boris, here’s my suggestion: let the gay groups say their bit and the religious groups say theirs, and let both of them get as offended by the other as they fucking please. There is no right to go through life not being offended by anything, and if you suggested that there should be I for one would be extremely upset, and deeply offended, by the implied loss of the liberty to speak one’s mind.

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.

In which I find myself agreeing with Sally Bercow

Over at The Teletubbygraph I see this:

Sally Bercow, the wife of the Commons Speaker, caused a fresh row after suggesting people might be tempted to rush out and buy the latest “legal high” before it is banned.

The Home Office announced methoxetamine, or mexxy, will be the first substance to be prohibited under a new power to impose immediate temporary bans on new legal highs.

It will illegal by next week and follows concerns that two people whose bodies were found in Leicestershire in February may have taken some form of the drug after buying it over the internet.

But within moments of the announcement, Mrs Bercow told more than 45,000 followers on Twitter that the ban made her tempted to try mexxy before it was too late.

She wrote: “Am I the only one now slightly tempted to try mexxy before it becomes illegal? I won’t, obvs.”

Later, she added: “Oh, the mexxy ban is only ‘temporary’. What’s that all about? (Am now obsessed with the stuff, despite never having heard of it 1/2 hr ago)”

I’m not a fan of Sally Bercow (or her hubs, the Squeaker) and in fact I’d say I’ve had cats that seemed less self interested and found brighter things in bags of supermarket salad, but in this case I can’t see what the problem is. She seems to be highlighting the problem with forthcoming bans driving sales of the to be banned product up, as well as noting that banning something only temporarily is just odd. Obviously I’m disappointed that she’s not asking what the fuck it’s got to do with anyone else what someone chooses to put into their body, or noting that it’s an alternative to ketamine which in turn is a medical and veterinary drug that people began to take because it was legal and their preferred highs weren’t. This kind of pattern so badly needs pointing out by someone in the public eye, perhaps with 45,000 Twatter followers, that I’d happily retract that comment where I compared Sally Bercow to supermarket salad if she was the one to do it.*

Not that I’d expect it to change much. It’s likely that this low level but widespread puritanism of disapproving of those who want to get high instead of pissed will continue for the time being, especially when even more widespread puritanism with regards to tobacco, alcohol, salt, sugar, fat, sunshine and failing to take however much of whatever kind of exercise the puritans deem appropriate for you.** And even more so when the lamestream media so readily print uncritical bollocks on the subject of the ‘war’ on drugs – which is a war from much the same perspective as the Korean War is for the Democratic people’s Republic, i.e. no surrender has been offered but for all practical purposes it was lost a while back – and have a knee jerk tendency to bag anyone who dares draw attention to the problems with drug policies.

Even if it is Sally Bercow.

* I’d say seasonal salad vegetables served at a 4 star restaurant. At the very least.
** More on that later.

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