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This is why we can’t have horrifying things

Some time ago I blogged on the news that the Australian nannies had recognised that the majority of people in Australia are adults and that many of those adults like to play computer games, and finally persuaded the Australian censors that bringing videogame classifications into line with other media was overdue. This was to be achieved with the addition of an R18+ classification by the end of 2011, although to no great surprise (though my general blogging neglect meant I didn’t write about it) it ended up being delayed again. But  at the beginning of this year Australia finally allowed adults to buy adult themed computer games, with more than half a dozen games given R18+ ratings in the first two months of 2013.

Great, you might think. Okay, so there’s a few games that have been classified for adults when the content seems pretty much the same level as games that got MA15 ratings in the past, but since one of the objections to the absence of the R18+ category was that some games were being classified too low that’s probably not a real problem. Besides, if parents decide their younger teens are mature enough to play something that involves lots of gore and splatter and/or occasional tits and ass then they can just go buy the game for them and allow them to play under whatever supervision they feel appropriate.

Unfortunately the censor hasn’t been given its marching orders and is still able to refuse classification, and since all media must be classified anything that’s refused has been given a de facto ban. According to Wikipedia

Content which may be Refused Classification include:

  • Detailed instruction or promotion in matters of crime or violence.
  • The promotion or provision of instruction in pedophile activity.
  • Descriptions or depictions of child sexual abuse or any other exploitative or offensive descriptions or depictions involving a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 years.
  • Gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of:
    • (i) violence with a very high degree of impact or which are excessively frequent, prolonged or detailed;
    • (ii) cruelty or real violence which are very detailed or which have an extremely high impact;
    • (iii) sexual violence
  • Depictions of practices such as bestiality, necrophilia or other practices that are revolting or abhorrent.
  • Gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of:
    • (i) activity accompanied by fetishes or practices that are offensive or abhorrent;
    • (ii) incest fantasies or other fantasies that are offensive or abhorrent

Which is mostly pretty cut and dried, not to mention reasonable, but appears to give them a number of relatively subjective outs. Top of the list there is the term “offensive”, a meaninglessly subjective criterion since what offends me may not offend you and vice versa – I find it offensive that there are still laws being written in any nominally free nation that include concepts as fucking vague as “offensive”. “Gratuitous”, “exploitative” and “abhorrent” aren’t a lot better.

So I’m kicking myself slightly for feeling at all shocked that in the last week – within the same 24 hour period, in fact – two games aimed squarely at adults, Saints Row IV and State of Decay, have been refused classification and thus effectively banned in Australia.

The Saints Row 4 video game has been refused classification by the Australian Classification Board due to the appearance of an anal probe weapon and “alien narcotics” in the game.
[...]
“The game includes a weapon referred to by the Applicant as an ‘Alien Anal Probe’. The Applicant states that this weapon can be ‘shoved into enemy’s backsides’,” wrote the Board.
“The lower half of the weapon resembles a sword hilt and the upper part contains prong-like appendages which circle around what appears to be a large dildo which runs down the centre of the weapon.
“When using this weapon the player approaches a (clothed) victim from behind and thrusts the weapon between the victim’s legs and then lifts them off the ground before pulling a trigger which launches the victim into the air.
“After the probe has been implicitly inserted into the victim’s anus the area around their buttocks becomes pixelated highlighting that the aim of the weapon is to penetrate the victim’s anus. The weapon can be used during gameplay on enemy characters or civilians.
“In the Board’s opinion, a weapon designed to penetrate the anus of enemy characters and civilians constitutes a visual depiction of implied sexual violence that is interactive and not justified by context and as such the game should be Refused Classification.”
The Board also took a dim view of the game’s drug use, especially as it gives the player character extra abilities.

Or as the Board itself put it in a PR:

In the Board’s opinion, Saints Row IV, includes interactive, visual depictions of implied sexual violence which are not justified by context. In addition, the game includes elements of illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards. Such depictions are prohibited by the computer games guidelines.

Okay, it’s pretty weird even for a computer game weapon and certainly not something suitable for the Candy Crush brigade, but it’s also cartoonish violence, isn’t it? And I can recall at least one alien anal probe based cartoon gag on the small screen.

1x01-Cartman-Gets-an-Anal-Probe-south-park-18557255-720-540

I’m assuming this episode of South Park wasn’t banned in Oz, and if not I have to wonder how Cartman, with his gratuitous effing and blinding plus the fire farts and alien communications antenna unfolding itself from his arse, got a pass and the equally ridiculous alien anal dildo launcher weapon in Saints Row IV didn’t. Yes, drug use was mentioned, but even without getting into the case for legality there’s been plenty of drug use in movies and TV over the years. The Wire, Trainspotting, Pulp Fiction – did all these and others all not get an Australian classification? Don’t even bother to answer since I have them on DVD.

And then there’s the reasons for State of Decay, which I though sounded like a straightforward zombie shooter but is apparently also a non-stop drug fuelled haze.

The Classification Board’s report, obtained by news.com.au explained that it banned the game because it contains the option of self-administered drugs throughout, in order to restore players’ health or boost their stamina.

“These ‘medications’ include both legal and illicit substances such as methadone, morphine, amphetamines, stimulants, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, codeine, aspirin, ‘trucker pills’, painkillers and tussen,” the report reads.

“Of these, methadone, morphine and amphetamines are proscribed drugs and the term ‘stimulant’ is commonly used to refer to a class of drugs of which several are proscribed.”

/sarc How can I have been so silly? Of course an open world zombie survival game is going to reward players whose characters in game spend their whole time ripped off their tits rather than running from, hiding from and hacking up zombies. And naturally whenever this happens the player themselves feels the effect by the magic of, er, game magic. Come on, we’ve all puked in our own laps after making Shepard get shitfaced to the point of passing out in that bar in Mass Effect 2, haven’t we?

You didn’t? You know what, neither did I.

So we’re back where we were a few years ago: adult gamers in Australia having to wait around for the game to be specially ruined for the Australia market because the censors didn’t like something in it that in terms of the whole game was a really trivial point.

“State of Decay has been refused classification by the Australian Classification Board (ACB). We’ve run afoul of certain prohibitions regarding the depiction of drug use. We’re working with Microsoft to come up with options, including changing names of certain medications in the game to comply with ratings requirements. Whatever our path forward, it’s going to take a bit.”

Or, as several commenters wrote on both of The Age’s articles, people will just buy Refused Classification games abroad or online. And we shouldn’t be surprised if at least a few take the path of least resistance and get a pirated version instead of paying. But if the government and its regulators are going to make doing the decent thing too hard that will be the inevitable result.

All of which makes me think that if the censor refuses, for sometimes quite subjective reasons, to pass games that people want to play but, for obvious practical reasons, can’t stop people getting them elsewhere there isn’t much point in having a censor at all.

Misfire

The dead of Newtown, CT, have only just begun to be buried but certain parts of the media are doing their damnedest to make sure the story stays unburied for as long as humanly possible. Readers, I give you the a report from Nine News and also the take of their print brethren at Melbourne Herald Sun and a piece of froth flecked outrage that has passed their respective in-house test for balanced journalism, factual errors and partisan language notwithstanding. In case the video on that link isn’t viewable from outside Australia here’s a screencap of part of it – you’ll see why in a minute.

Screen shot 2012-12-18 at 20.03.24

Now let’s get straight into the lip foaming copy, shall we?

Two Victorian high schools sent students as young as 12 on an excursion to a shooting range just two days after a US gunman killed 20 children and six educators in the Sandy Hook massacre.

And if Victoria was anywhere near Connecticut or if the head had seen the news and been inspired to organise the shooting trip because of it that would be perhaps insensitive in the first case and more than a little fucking weird in the second. However, this took place more than 16,000km – over 10,000 miles for those of you working in old money – away, and, as Nine eventually get round to hinting, was organised and booked well before the appalling murders of last Friday.

“It crossed my mind (to cancel the trip after the US tragedy) … but do you stop teaching swimming because someone drowned?” Ballarat High School senior co-ordinator Michael Cook told the Herald Sun.
“We were really too far committed to it.”

Michael Cook makes a very good point, though if it were me I might have mentioned all those charity sausage sizzles in aid of the Black Saturday bushfires three years ago. I don’t recall anyone cracking the shits about people lighting up barbecues after a couple of towns erased from the map, hundreds or thousands of homes destroyed and 174 left dead by bushfires that occurred right fucking here in this state. Tad hypocritical? Don’t answer yet – I’m not done.

This is Harold Holt, Prime Minister of Australia from Januray 1966 to December the following year, when he disappeared and drowned (presumably – his body was never recovered and so there are various entertaining alternative theories) while swimming off Portsea, south of Melbourne.

220px-Harol_Holt_PM

This is… well, it kind of speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

From here

From here

In case you’re wondering the Harold Holt Swim Centre was named couple of years after the event. And nobody seems to have any kind of problem with that, instead pointing out that Holt was a keen swimmer when non Aussies ask why the hell they named a swimming pool after a drowning victim.

But I digress, because having dealt with the schlock journalism of emotional shit stirring we get to the slack journalism of getting things fucking wrong.

More than 50 students from Ballarat High School and Beaufort Secondary College were taught to fire up to 20 rounds each at the Beaufort Gun Club yesterday.

Rounds? Look at that screencap at the top again. Look more like the kind of guns that fire cartridges of shot to me, but perhaps I’m just being pedantic. Rounds, cartridges, bullets, shot – kinda sorta all the same thing to some people, including some journos who seem to pick up most of what they know about guns from Hollywood. Which would explain the next sentence.

The students, aged between 12 and 15, were heard talking about the Connecticut school shooting during the excursion while their classmates learnt to use the rifles.

RIFLES? Look, Nine, a gun that is too long to be a pistol isn’t necessarily a rifle. Do you really have no staff at all who are know the difference between rifles and shotguns and are capable of spotting it before you go to air/web? Christ’s sakes, I’m not saying you should be able to recognise it as a shotgun event just from what’s going on in the picture (looks like some kind of trap discipline to me, which I’d say is a great way to start newcomers since everything – shot and targets – is going away and you can set things up to throw fairly easy ones to give everyone a good chance of breaking a few clays), but surely you’d, oh, not being a journalist I wouldn’t know, but maybe phone the fucking club and ask?

However, Nine weren’t the only ones to say it was rifles, though they were still using the term while showing close-ups of break action over/under shotties on the early evening news. I’d heard rifles mentioned on the car radio earlier, and although my own first experience of shooting was with rifles I suspected it might actually be shotguns because the school’s in rural Victoria and shotguns probably aren’t uncommon in farming towns. There’s a zillion sodding rabbits out there, after all.

So Nine’s real sin might in fact be not doing their own story and just re-writing someone else’s. Hmm, who could that be?

…told the Herald Sun.

Source: Herald Sun

The Herald Sun, where we read:

A VICTORIAN high school has defended its decision to take students as young as 12 on a shooting expedition two days after the Sandy Hook massacre.

Screen shot 2012-12-18 at 19.49.24

Journalism or churnalism on Nine’s (and others’) part? I’ll leave that for you to decide, but I find it interesting that the Herald Sun piece, time stamped 3:23pm, actually mentions shotguns rather than rifles. Whether that was a hasty correction after everyone else had jumped aboard the outrage bus and was screaming about rifles, because the creature responsible for the murders in America used a rifle too you know, I have no idea, but it just means the story is slightly more factual (it still talks about rounds). It’s still not exactly what you’d call balanced when it contains phrases like this (my bold):

More than 50 students, aged between 12 and 15, from Ballarat High School and Beaufort Secondary College attended the Beaufort Gun Club yesterday where they were taught to wield shotguns and fire up to 20 rounds each.

I’ll tell you now and for free, those students were not taught to wield a shotgun or anything else. Wielding is what you do with a weapon (do please check your dictionaries for the definition of wield, Herald Sun journos) and while like practically anything else it can be used as one a shotgun of the type designed for trap shooting is not a weapon. It’s just a gun. I could bore you with details of why it’s not even a weapon, or is at best sub-optimal as a weapon, from the point of view of the fluffy bunnykins, but if you’re interested you can Google the differences between trap and field guns along with the differences in gun design for different clay target disciplines. Or you could trust me on this: it’s just a gun and not a weapon in the same way that a carving knife is just a knife and not a dagger. Dangerous? Yes, that goes without saying. But not a weapon, only a gun.

And not being a weapon the kids would sure as hell not have been taught to wield one. They’d have been taught to handle and shoot one safely and responsibly so that they’re not a danger to themselves or others, which may be the reason they didn’t come back dead or scared half to death but, well, like this.

Students participating in the outing at the shooting range yesterday were heard discussing the Sandy Hook massacre while their classmates fired.

A 14-year-old Year 8 student described her first experience holding a shotgun as “fun”.

“I was a little nervous, but I’d definitely do it again,” she said.

And despite the predictable whining from the state Education Minister and a gun control lobby talking head (why do we even have a gun control lobby here – they’ve already won) about the timing of the trip, protests from the school about it having been booked long before notwithstanding, I personally think it’s entirely appropriate to teach responsible and safe firearms handling when the fallout from irresponsible, dangerous and downright murderous firearms handling is in people’s minds.

Or would you not want to teach kids interested in swimming how to stay afloat because Harold Holt drowned?

P.S. Just out of interest I wonder will the left suddenly learn to love Murdoch now his publications are reminding us that he is – and I have a vague recollection always was – opposed to private citizens owning effective means of defence? Seems odd that he chose to give up citizenship of one country to become a citizen of one of the few, perhaps the only, nation on the planet that recognises that right.

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.

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.

Tobacco isn’t evil when you want to pay civil servants

Seriously, how else can you see it when the same government that drones incessantly about the evils of tobacco has a fund set up to make investments for paying the pensions of people working for the federal government which keeps investing in tobacco.

THE Future Fund’s stake in the tobacco industry has swelled by $78 million, an increase of more than 50 per cent, sparking criticism of the fund for investing in companies that are suing the government.

The taxpayer-owned fund, which also holds shares in nuclear arms companies, yesterday revealed its tobacco shares were worth $225 million in February, up from $147 million at the end of 2010.

Senate estimates also heard that a controversial report written by the fund’s new chairman, David Gonski, last year named himself as a possible next chairman before the government had even considered him. The $77 billion fund was set up by the Howard government to help pay federal public servants’ pensions, but is now under fire for its ”unethical” investments.

Cue teh outrages. Oh, the humanity!

Victorian Greens senator Richard Di Natale accused the government of profiteering from ”the death and misery of people dying with lung cancer”.

In a way that, say, forcing people to pay taxes for medical care and threatening to withhold treatment if their lifestyles meet with finger wagging disapproval from some bunch of wowsers or other would not be profiteering? Just asking, because I know that’s been suggested in Britain and while we don’t fund medicine at gunpoint to quite the same extent I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s been mooted here too. Anyway, it’s not profiteering when it’s needed to pay for something the government is committed to, i.e. the pensions of public servants. If you want to argue that they should be making their own individual arrangements that’s something else, but right now the government seems to have a commitment and the ugly truth is that the fund’s management reckons baccy, even with all the legislation aimed at hamstringing the trade, is a better investment than… well, I was going to say unicorn tears and fairy wishes but since the Greens aren’t reported as actually suggesting an alternative (how uncharacteristic of them!) let’s just say better than nothing. Not that that’s going to stop them.

“This undermines all of the good work we’ve done in tobacco control with measures such as plain packaging. It’s particularly galling when you consider they are the same companies taking legal action against the government,” Dr Di Natale said.

The good work? For fucks’ sake, that doesn’t come into effect for months. How the fuck can you know yet whether the effect will be good? Or if it is good in some way, for whom? If the chop-chop trade increases at the expense of the legit, regulated trade would that be good, Di Natale? Is the object only to fuck up that part of the industry that is prepared to be regulated and play by the ever shifting set of rules imposed on it? No interest at all in the tobacco trade that’s controlled by criminal enterprise? You know, I’m prepared to believe that’s the case.

And before I forget, what’s the problem with companies suing the government? So the small investors who feel they got screwed on the Facebook float can’t sue because they invested in the company? In the spirit of caveat emptor I could buy that argument, though not if there was any misleading going on, but I very much doubt we’ll ever hear you saying so. Bottom line, that the baccy trade have finally had enough and are trying to fight back is neither here nor there. It does not change the government’s commitment to those pensions and it apparently doesn’t change the potential value of tobacco as an investment.

And that should speak volumes about the whole concept of plain packaging. If it was really going to achieve what the nannies, finger waggers, theatrical coughers and various other wowsers desired then surely buying tobacco shares would be even riskier than a investing in a mixed portfolio of Facebook and Greek bank stocks while standing on a bloody beam over a shark tank on a windy day. The fund’s MD is very carefully not saying whether the increase in stock owned is as a result of them buying more or the value of shares already owned going up, but either case suggests that it’s far from all being doom and gloom despite the plain packs being just months away. I’m no expert but to me it looks like either investors don’t really expect this anti-tobacco legislation to hurt the industry after all or they expect the industry to still do pretty well despite it.

And fair dos, really. Because playing it the right-on way as the Greens, and probably Labor and maybe even the Coalition would prefer to do, is effectively saying “Fuck you and your pension, your life in retirement is far less important than us appearing ‘ethical’ right now” to a large number of public servants.

 

Declaration of interest to possible new visitors: though I did once, I am not a smoker. My body is now a cathedral, which is kind of like a temple but bigger. I speak up for smokers and drinker out of self interest – not because I am one but because the nannies will surely come after the rest of us for something once they’ve finished with the current ubermenschen of choice, those who like a smoke and/or a drink. While they’re being fought the rest of us remain (relatively) free, so I’m for supporting the smokers and drinkers and prolonging the stupid fight against adults being free to put stuff of their choice into their bodies for quite a while. The heat death of the universe wouldn’t be too long.

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.

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.

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 state is mother…

I’ve often wondered who our bodies really belong to. I mean, if you as an adult don’t get to decide its fate and what gets put into it or on it because the state has made the decision for you do you really own your body? Or, if it can set limits on what you may do with it beyond using it to inflict harm or loss on someone else, does the state have ultimate ownership? I’ve long lent towards the latter, and that states can often be fairly inconsistent about it – e.g. this drug is banned while that drug is legal, though quite possibly increasingly frowned upon, and women may earn as much money as they like with their arms or brains but nothing at all with their vaginas – doesn’t do much to change my opinion.

I’ve also wondered who are children belong to as well. Of course children begin being less ours with each day of their development and eventually will belong to themselves – or I ought to say they should belong to themselves because in practice the state will step in and exert ownership over them just as it does us, and I think in all likelihood to an even greater degree – so the question of whether our children are ours is more in the sense of a responsibility than a possession. But it’s still a question I ask every time the state steps in and takes a little bit of that responsibility away from parents and insists that children be raised its way. I began asking when one of the mother’s-milk-is-best brealots suggested, apparently in all seriousness, that formula milk should be banned, and I ask again because of a recent article from the UK and another from here in Oz (pics can be clicked for links).

The warning, from academics involved in an EC-funded project to make nurseries healthier, comes amid growing fears that too many children are overweight or obese when they start school.

EC? Is there still such a thing? I thought it was EU now. Or does it stand for something else?

The “ToyBox” survey found that obesity among European pre-schoolers is at record levels.
Nearly 40 per cent of pre-school girls in Spain are now classified as overweight or obese, it found.
In Britain, more than a fifth are overweight or obese by the time they start school, according to official figures.

And that may be so, though I do wonder if kids’ actual weight hasn’t changed that much and the definition of obese has changed. Not beyond the realms of possibility that the goalposts may have been widened, is it, if only because someone in power believes the fat kids don’t fit between them anymore? Still, I’m prepared to believe that pre-schoolers are, on the whole, a bit heavier at that age than my or my parents’ generations, and I wouldn’t be all that thrilled if I had a child at a pricey kinder (is there another kind?) and found out they were being parked in front of the idiot’s lantern all day.

Yannis Manios, assistant professor at Harokopio University, Athens, who is co-ordinating the project, said: “We need a new approach to prevent obesity.
“We found that many countries are lacking clear guidelines on healthy eating and active play.”

And if that ‘many countries’ bit bothers you a little it probably should, because the EC mystery is cleared up at the end of the article.

The brief of the project, which has a £2.4 million grant from the European Commission, is to “develop and test an innovative and evidence-based obesity prevention programme for children aged four to six years”.

Reagan was wrong. The most frightening sentence in the English language is not “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” It’s actually “I’ve been sent by the European Commission and I’m here to see that you are helped” and is usually translated into half a dozen languages. Anyway, back to Yannis Manios.

“… television watching in kindergartens should be replaced by more active, non-competitive, fun activities which will promote the participation of the whole class and help children to achieve optimal growth, health and well-being.”

Oh, how right-on can we get? Active and non-competitive? Participation of all? Optimal growth? Firstly, although I don’t have kids I’ve been one, remember what it was like, and have met various others (sometimes with considerable reluctance from me and apologetic whisperings of “He’s really not like this usually” from the parents). And the names of all the totally non-competitive kids I recall encountering could be written on the back of my ear. The rest just sounds like a mixture of the usual prizes-for-all that’s been going on for a good couple or three decades and the worrying Strength Through Joy stuff that’s been coming along lately.

“Parents should also remember that their role is not only to provide healthy food and drink options but to act as a role model themselves, since kids are copying their behaviours.”

And again, I’m not disagreeing as such but I do wonder why there’s this thought that this finger wagging and TV banning is necessary. Why, for instance, can’t there be a simple informative message that if your kid ends up being a fat fuck like you then you might have something to do with it, but if the kid’s not actually spherical and gasping for breath then just let things be? Why the desire to go running round all the kinders ripping their TVs out? And why are governments, remembering that the European Commission is a government too, so keen? Bearing in mind that they’re no more capable of feeling a parent’s love for a child than they are of procreating themselves (if anything the reverse; states are keener on making fewer states by absorbing other states and are highly reluctant to split themselves up so as to create more states) am I cynical to suspect that their concern is for their future tax base? They can crunch the numbers, they know that their predecessors promised too much and that they will eventually be unable to meet the bills. The thing they need most is able bodied workers to tax, and that pool is shrinking as it is. The problem is insoluble but it’s a can that can be kicked down the road a bit first, hopefully for someone else to deal with later on, and so the last thing they’d want is anyone contributing less than all the tax they can. A generation of fat kids might mean being having to pick that can up instead of being able to kick it one more time.

And if there’s anything in that at all then it’s only natural that it would extend from pre-school to pre-natal…

… though doubtless it’s also a chance for a bit of smoker-bashing, the last acceptable form of discrimination now that we can’t even take the piss out of gingers rangas the titian haired.

Pregnant women could be breath tested to see if they smoke so that health professionals can help them quit, a leading anti-tobacco crusader says.

Some readers will have already guessed who.

Director of Quit Victoria Fiona Sharkie said although pregnancy prompted many women to quit, research also suggested some chose not to discuss smoking with midwives and doctors because they felt guilty about continuing.

Orly, Fi? You don’t think it’s because they’re expecting to get given a lot of earache about it and would prefer to avoid that if possible? For Christ’s sake, if they felt guilty about it they’d be asking for help to quit, or more likely (I believe) quitting successfully on their own. No, of course not – all smokers must want to quit, especially if they are expecting a new taxpayer. Nobody ever carries on smoking simply because they enjoy it. Nobody ever weighs the risks and decides that the pleasure they get is greater. And no woman ever smokes for a few weeks without even realising that she’s pregnant. No, if you girls smoke then you light up as soon as you’ve finished the big O and don’t have another ciggie until a test stick’s given you the all clear, isn’t that right?

And it had damn well better, eh?

This is the view of the anti-smoking lobby and therefore it must be the correct one, and since some women who are guilty of, and therefore feeling guilty about, smoking are inexplicably reticent to admit it all must be breath tested to identify those who must be shamed need help. And sod the feelings of all those expectant mothers who go to their GP having either never smoked, given up ages ago or even given up the instant they found out.

Bollocks.

And it was at this point that I was about to concede a point to Pat Nurse, who regularly accuses Australia of nazism when it comes to tobacco, that maybe there’s something a little bit nazi-ish about this. I say ‘about to’ because of where Sharkie appears to have got this idea from.

For this reason, she said Australian health authorities could follow the UK and use breath tests for carbon monoxide so that all women are tested and prompted to discuss the issue during pregnancy.

It’s roughly the same everywhere. This country is first to introduce smoking bans, that country beats the rest to introduce plain packaging legislation, the other begins breath testing pregnant women. Healthism is the new ism, and it has to be if states are to continue to be able to, well, not afford their largesse but kick their cans along the roads a little while longer. And before long healthism will join the other political isms with something similar to the two cows model, but with one important difference.

Healthism: you have two kids, the government taxes you for money to give to you for their upkeep as long as it thinks you’re keeping them healthy. Otherwise it takes them into care. The few cows that survived the BSE scare have been shot to protect them from foot and mouth instead.

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.

You know copyright law’s got out of hand when…

When it’s being used to attack an endangered species. Not a biological kind of species, because they usually have a queue of people trying to save them. This is a pub, and so the great and good are mostly absent with the exception of Stephen Fry.

Actor Stephen Fry, who’s in the cast of The Hobbit films, has accused their American copyright holder of bullying an English theme pub called The Hobbit.

Lawyers for California-based Saul Zaentz Company (SZC) have written to the landlady of the Southampton pub, demanding it changes its name and remove all references to author JRR Tolkien’s classic by the end of May or face legal action for copyright infringement.

[...]

Fry, who plays the Master of Laketown in The Hobbit being filmed in New Zealand, says he’s ashamed of being in the film business.

His tweet helped boost the cause of the Save the Hobbit, Southampton Facebook page, which quickly attracted more than 13,000 followers.

He’s a funny bloke, Stephen Fry. Not funny ha-ha, though he certainly can be, but funny in that I really don’t know what to think about the guy. I once called him names because he defended political expense fiddling, but I’ve also blogged at how ridiculous it was that he had to cancel travel plans to Japan because of what someone else on QI said about one of the few double A-bomb survivors. In this instance, though, it’s very easy: I think Fry is absolutely right and I’d be fucking ashamed as well. What else can you think when a company who did not create the original works but have simply bought the rights is setting lawyers on to a member of a dying trade who’s highly unlikely to be able to afford to defend herself.

SZC are doubtless looking forward to a nice cheque from the movie studio behind the upcoming film, and this isn’t exactly promoting ‘The Hobbit’ (am I allowed to say that?) as a good brand. It’s tempting to suggest boycotting the film just so SZC, who are making money from doing fuck all I can see apart from buying the rights years ago – they’re not even making the fucking movie, for Christ’s sake – get less. I won’t because this isn’t the studio’s fault, but seriously, fuck Hollywood, fuck copyright abuse and fuck the parasites who live of this kind of thing. If a #BoycottTheHobbitmovie hashtag starts appearing regularly on Twitter I reckon it’ll be SZC who deserve the credit for it.

And then they came for…

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

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

With apologies to Martin Niemöller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click for source

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

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

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

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

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

Go fuck yourselves sideways with a meat tenderiser.

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

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

Touched a nerve, Jamie?

I may have mentioned this before but I’m not a fan of Jamie Oliver. I used to be, at least a bit, back in his Naked Chef days when he was about cooking tasty food with fairly basic facilities, because at the time I had a flat with a kitchen even smaller than the one he used in the show. No kidding, if I was in it there wasn’t room for a stick of celery to join me – and no, before you say anything, that’s not because I’m a fat bastard. But the Naked Chef days are over and Jamie Oliver has long since morphed from rubber lipped Mockney celeb chef into rubber lipped Mockney celeb nannying crusader twat. Frankly it’s not a bad thing to wake up every morning knowing that I live ten thousand miles away from the fucker.

Unfortunately he’s touring Australia again, and yes he’s been invited – I can hardly believe this – by various politicians for his input, or perhaps his output, to help tackle the obesity crisis.* And it might be because of this that a journo asked him if he hadn’t put on a little weight himself recently.

This is 'ow yer use chopsticks, righ'? Now 'ow abaht some more dim-sum, me ol' china?

And it went down like a scallop that had been deep fried in batter for an hour and a half and left in the shell.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver says he regrets snapping at a reporter in Australia when he was quizzed over his weight.

Oliver was answering questions from the media during a promotional trip to Sydney when the journalist asked if he’d piled on the pounds since his last trip to Australia.

“I don’t know. I think the last time I had a filling in my teeth, which was quite recently, I was in good nick (condition). But really, I am not really sure. Are you from a tabloid? Thanks for noticing, you bitch,” he retorted.

Tone says a lot and there’s no mention of whether this was in an angry tone or a more light hearted and jokey manner, though the fact he’s saying he regrets it makes me think that it might not have come across as jokey as it could have been. However, the fact that he’s said it at all makes me think that it’s a sore point. Nobody likes being called on hypocrisy, even though we’re all guilty of it now and then. But when you’ve changed the course of your career to point due Nanny it can’t be all that comfortable to feel that you’re being criticised for not practising what you preach. And so…

But News Limited papers report he had time to think about the remark on his way to Melbourne on Wednesday.

Oliver told Myer representative Nicky Buckley he eats fresh food and trains twice a week but could “do better”.

Which seems to have prompted a response from Oliver mate, upside down sleb chef and supermarket TV ad regular, and also owner of Australia’s biggest shit eating grin, Curtis Stone.

Australia's best loved shit eating grin. Pictured here on a chef.

Chef Curtis Stone has weighed into the debate about Jamie Oliver’s size, saying his fellow celebrity chef needs to practise what he preaches.

Stone was co-hosting a US talk show on Friday when he criticised Oliver for calling an Australian journalist a ”bitch” after she questioned whether he had gained weight since his last visit here. He has urged Oliver to show more responsibility because of his stardom, The Hollywood Reporter revealed yesterday. Stone was on a CBS television show The Talk when he spoke up about Oliver’s behaviour during his Australian tour.

”The interesting part of this for me is that Jamie is a big voice and he preaches, you know his show is called The Food Revolution,” Stone said. ”So, he’s there talking about healthy food and you’ve got to practise what you preach.”

And I can’t disagree with that except inasmuch as I’d rather Oliver and Co. didn’t preach at all – my body, not yours, and if I decide to put one or six of Mrs Exile’s delicious cookies into it that’s entirely up to me. But I also have a question. Jamie Oliver’s squeezed a tour of Oz into his hectic advertising and nannying schedule. Curtis Stone, similarly, has managed to fit in co-hosting a talk show in the US around making adverts for Coles supermarkets in which he says he personally visits the farms that supply Coles’ fresh produce.

Do any celebrity chefs (with the possible exception of the culinary version of a B-movie mad scientist, Heston Blumenthal) actually cook anything anymore?

 

* Tackling the obesity crisis is easy: between the ankles and knees while it’s moving so that its own momentum brings it down. Never try to tackle an obesity crisis above its hips.

A boot on the other flipper

Click for linky

The conservation group Sea Shepherd has accused Japanese whalers of trying to sabotage one of its ships which is pursing the whaling fleet in the Antarctic.

Sea Shepherd’s long-range ship Bob Barker is in pursuit of the whaling fleet in Antarctic waters 2,500 kilometres south of Tasmania.

In the most recent clash, Sea Shepherd accuses the two Japanese harpoon ships of trying to foul the propeller of the Bob Barker with thick cables and of training its spotlights on the ship’s bridge in an effort to blind the crew.

I don’t particularly care for whalers but I’m not a fan of Sea Shepherd either, and I find it pretty weak of them to complain about whalers using the same kind of tactics (not for the first time) against their vessel as they do against the whalers. No doubt the whalers will claim Sea Shepherd began this kind of thing and Sea Shepherd will claim it was the other way round. Don’t know the truth and don’t care – the point is that whining that what you do to others is being done to you doesn’t invoke much sympathy in me.

“The harpoon ships trained their spotlights on the bridge of the Bob Barker in an effort to blind the crew but backed off when the Bob Barker crew retaliated with lasers.”

Lasers. Which they just happened to have aboard. For absolutely no particular reason, I’m sure.

Fuck all of them.

Okay, enough now

On Sunday I talked about offence seeking and mentioned that something I find particularly weird is this fashion of being offended on behalf of someone else, particularly when they’re not all that bothered themselves, the example being the fuss made over comments by a couple of daytime TV hosts about VC recipient and SAS member Ben Roberts-Smith when he clearly doesn’t think it worth getting worked up about himself. This happens a lot these days, and its zenith (or nadir, depending on your point of view) is generally found when some well intentioned right-on type, generally white, gets offended about something on behalf of a group who are not white and begins talking about patronising these people without noticing how patronising it is to act as if they can’t decide whether to be offended for themselves but need some PC obsessed wanker to do it for them.

However, there’s another depth it can sink to, and that’s when actual threats of violent retaliation are made, which is about where we are now with the level of frothing outrage over the remarks of those two TV airheads.

Two more companies have pulled their sponsorship from the morning television show The Circle as Channel 10 today condemned a number of “extreme comments” and threats on social media sites targeting co-host Yumi Stynes.

The latest company to cut ties with The Circle was Mirvac Hotels and Resorts, which posted on its Facebook page that it had cancelled all sponsorship due to the “abhorrent comments” made on the show last week about Australian war hero Ben Roberts-Smith.

[...]

Yoplait has also reportedly withdrawn its advertising within the morning television show. Yoplait has been contacted for comment.

It follows news yesterday that Swisse Vitamins, coffee chain Jamaica Blue and Big 4 Holiday Parks had cut their ties with The Circle after Stynes, along with and veteran journalist and guest co-host George Negus, mocked the Victoria Cross recipient.

Stynes has since become the target of an online hate campaign, including physical threats against her and her children, and racial vilification.

If companies want to ditch advertising during or sponsorship of the show then that’s up to them, and if people want to boycott the show or the products of companies who – how very dare they – don’t think such puerile comments are worth changing their advertising strategies over then likewise. But threatening someone over it? Threatening their children? Seriously? Why, what did her kids do?

What the fuck is wrong with people?

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