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Saving, not drowning

Why do people get fired? Yes, I know that in many areas legislation seems to protect anyone from getting fired at all these days and that, say, fiddling your expenses might get you fired in your job but not if you were an MP, but I can’t think of anywhere where there isn’t something you can do that will get you instantly fired on the spot even if it’s hacking your bosses’ heads off and serving them up in the staff canteen.

So accepting that people do still get fired why, in general, does it happen? I’m sure we could come up with a million different reasons why someone would get the Spanish Archer, but we’d probably all agree that almost all of them boil down to some variant of not doing the job for which that individual was hired. I say ‘almost’ there because it turns out it’s also possible to get the sack for what most normal people, but not lawyers, would consider doing exactly the job you were hired to do, as a bloke in Florida found out this week when he was fired from his job as a lifesaver for the gross misconduct of, er, doing some lifesaving.

Liability issues? What the hell are they on about? The only thing I can think of is that because Thomas Lopez left the area of beach and water he was responsible for to rescue someone outside it the company paid by the city to provide lifesavers on the beach might theoretically have been sued if someone else got into difficulties in Lopez’ bit of beach. The signs are there for a reason and I guess that reason is reflecting the reality that help can’t be everywhere at once, and beyond a certain point you can’t necessarily expect there to be any – in this area we will try to help, but beyond it assume that you’ll be on your own. Well, fair enough, but there’s a huge difference between not expecting that there’ll necessarily be help and expecting that perfectly capable help will be instructed to sit on its arse. If I go off camping in the bush to get away from it all for a bit I don’t expect the full range of emergency services to be available, but I’d like to think that if we don’t come back everyone wouldn’t just go “Oh, they went outside our usual area so meh, we’re not even going to go have a look just in case something happens here.” Yet that seems to be roughly the policy at Hallandale beach.

We’re fucked, aren’t we? Seriously, properly, fucked. Western society’s doom is not going to come from outside but from within: a self inflicted death of a thousand3 cuts that come about when nobody has any idea what they’re allowed to do anymore and end up standing there and doing nothing at all, terrified of unwittingly committing some ridiculous but all too real offence or being sued into penury by some tediously thin skinned prick who can’t deal with the fact that the universe isn’t there to give him a blow job every day and that it’s not necessarily someone’s fault when things don’t go his way. This, folks, is our future if we insist on hiring people to save lives but tell them that under no circumstances must they save lives that are in danger in a slightly different place from where they’re on duty, and that in such circumstances they must stand there as those lives are lost to the water. Because ‘liability’.

Did I say the future? Oh, shit.*

I understand that there’s an obligation to provide lifeguard cover on the section of beach marked as having lifeguards, and that if someone drowned because a lifeguard should have been there but wasn’t then calls from the nearest ambulance chasing law firm are practically certain, but as Lopez’ colleagues point out in other videos (e.g. this one) the beach was still covered.

While he was off we had two other guards watching the zones, so the beach was secured.

No doubt some corporate bellend seeking to justify the sackings and hand wave the resignations would say what if those two guys had to do rescues in their own areas or failed to spot someone else in trouble because they were having to mind an extra part of the beach. I can kind of see this but surely you need to consider how likely is the hypothetical situation where every lifeguard is suddenly going to be needed simultaneously at the a time when one of them has left the patrolled area to save someone who’s really in trouble, and in that highly unlikely scenario how is it any different from having x lifeguards employed and x+1 people screaming for help in the patrolled area? If the signs reflect the fact that assistance can’t be everywhere then we have to acknowledge the tiny possibility that it really can’t even be guaranteed to be everywhere in the area that is intended to be covered.

Unfortunately corporate bellends and uber-litigiious types desperate to find blame when life hands out lemons and death hands out calling cards often don’t see things that way, being almost congenitally unable to look beyond the potential for lawsuits and not sufficiently discouraged by courts from doing so. Happily for that one person who got into trouble in the water, Thomas Lopez and his colleagues who resigned or were also sacked have no truck with this nonsense. The courage of lifeguards is to be admired anyway, but the principled stand these half dozen or so have taken is to be admired even more. Doubly so for Thomas Lopez if he even stopped to think about the rules and decided that the rules could go piss, though it seems quite possible that he thought of nothing beyond helping the drowning man stop drowning. Which is what you’d imagine is the key quality you’d be looking for if you were hiring lifeguards.

May they or people very much like them find jobs on beaches where you and your loved ones go. The kind of lifeguard who really would sit on his platform and watch while someone who didn’t fit the to-be-saved criteria drowned should be hired exclusively to patrol beaches frequented by the type of shitwit who’d fire the other kind for rescuing someone beyond the flags.

* I realise I may be being a little unfair there, as I recall that in the infamous ‘PCSOs stood by as someone drowned because of elfinsafetee rules’ story they’d arrived after the victim had gone under, couldn’t be certain where the victim had ended up, and genuinely weren’t equipped or trained to do much more than call for help from people who actually knew what they were doing – since that’s much what a random passerby would have been capable of it’s perhaps more a failure of the concept of PCSOs than the individual PCSOs in that case. On the other hand I did see a few weeks back that a couple of PCSOs went into cold water to save a drowning man, and in the article their superiors were smart enough to avoid any suggestion that this was somehow not the done thing.

In which I find myself agreeing with Sally Bercow

Over at The Teletubbygraph I see this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even if it is Sally Bercow.

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

Quote of the Day… Week… Weekend… Thing

Gerry Reynolds again, he of the “people who complained about Jeremy Clarkson saying strikers should be taken out and shot should be taken out and shot” blog post (which in case you haven’t noticed the correction in the update was not a council blog as I’d mistakenly said but a personal one by the ironic name of The Censored Blog), which had another bit in it that didn’t make the MSM at all. And that’s a shame because it was the best bloody bit.

As a striker myself, I have to admit that when I heard Clarkson had said that we strikers should be lined up against a wall and shot, I simply smiled and got on with my life. I didn’t collapse in tears, I didn’t consult my lawyers, I did not ring up Sky to comment, I just smiled.

Yes, absolutely, and that’s the reaction of a sensible adult who can tell the difference between hyperbolae and something that’s meant seriously, a reaction which is becoming all too bloody rare in these oversensitive, angstrom thin skinned times. So I withdraw any suggestion that Gerry should be taken out and shot, not because I’ve changed my mind about what he does for a living but because I hope that he spreads that attitude as far and wide as possible. I’d go so far as to suggest that there might be enough money even in a much reduced and drawn down state apparatus to hire someone like him in the role of Encouraging Everyone To Just Harden The Fuck Up A Bit Manager.

Gerry’s post ‘Shooting the Complainers!’ can be seen in all its uncensored glory at The Censored Blog, and I recommend nipping along and having a read of the whole thing.

Doesn’t add up

Douglas Carswell shows us exactly how bad governments involving all three main British political parties have been at primary school level arithmetic.

Here’s a thought; spending to prop things up cost us £390 billion we do not have. Abolishing corporation tax entirely would have cost the Treasury less than half that amount – £140 billion – in lost revenue over the past three years.

Or it could have been of personal taxation or a mix of things. Either way people would have had money in their pockets to spend on things they needed or wanted. Instead of which a few banks which should have gone down the swanney survived.

Whoopee.

A modern parable

Spotted by Fausty.

Once upon a time the government had a vast scrap yard in the middle of nowhere. Parliament said, “Someone may steal from it at night.” So they created a night watchman position and hired a person for the job.

Then Parliament said, “How does the night watchman do his job without instruction?” So they created a planning department and hired two people, one person to write the instructions, and one person to do time studies.

Then Parliament asked, “How will we know the night watchman is doing the tasks correctly?” So they created a Quality Control department and hired two people. One to do the studies and one to write the reports.

Then Parliament said, “How are these people going to get paid and administered?” So they created the following positions, two time keepers and three payroll officers, and then hired four human resources consultants and five health and safety executives.

Then Parliament said, “Who will be accountable for all of these people?” So they created an administrative section and hired fifty people including administrative officers, assistant administrative officers, legal secretaries and a chief executive on £250,000 per annum.

Then Parliament said, “We have had this in operation for over one year and we are £25,000,000 over budget, we must cutback the overall cost.”

So they laid off the night watchman.

True, that.

All I’ll want for Christmas…

… is a new cognitive dissonance meter. After replacing the one destroyed by Deborah Arnott earlier this year my shiny new one has just exploded after reading Quiet_Man’s most recent post over at the Orphanage.

In a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black Labour have accused the government of intending to borrow more than they originally intended. This would be the same Labour party behind the tax and spend initiatives which have pretty much left the country bankrupt and needing to borrow in the first place.

BBC.

The government could borrow over £100bn more than it planned to up to 2015, according to Labour.
The party compared Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts from November 2010 with the latest estimates.
Labour said it showed the government’s plans were “reckless” but Economic Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke said the claims were “nonsense”.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Ed Miliband will later urge ministers to change course away from economic austerity.

So we have a case for Labour accusing the government of borrowing more and the leader of the Labour Party calling for an end to austerity economics, which I suspect would mean the government borrowing more. Clearly a case of open mouth, insert foot, after all if I can see it, what are real economists going to think?

Yep, if anyone’s going to display meter wrecking cocknitive dissonance it’s going to be politicians, and Labour are the league champions at it. I suppose it’s my own fault for buying a cheap one. While I go look for a replacement do pop over to the Orphanage and read the rest of Quiet_Man’s post if you haven’t already.

Quote of the Day

Yes, another one, and again it comes from the pen/keyboard of the Carbon Sense Coalition’s Viv Forbes and via the Real World Libertarian. My bold:

Since July, temperatures in Australia have soared by over six degrees centigrade. If current trends continue, we can expect another three degrees of warming by Christmas.

This rapid warming has caused massive environmental disruption – alpine snow has melted, birds are migrating, there is an epidemic of weeds and we can expect more storms, cyclones, floods, mosquitoes and solar radiation burns.

This is far more serious than the UN’s forecast of a piddling 1-2 degrees of warming over the next hundred years or so.

What caused this dangerous new global warming?

The old people called it “summer”.

Your five a day is going to kill you

This was only a matter of time, wasn’t it?

AN APPLE a day is supposed to keep the doctor away, but a small but passionate group of Melbourne medics believes apples and other fresh fruit are in part to blame for the extra kilos some of us are carrying.

And if you’re a bit of a fatty then you’re a salad dodging couch potato who’s already under a deferred sentence of self inflicted death, aren’t you? The Institute of Stands To Reason Dunnit (among others) has told us so.

It is a controversial concept that riles nutritionists, but anaesthetist Rod Tayler’s theory that restricting fresh fruit in the diet can result in weight loss has been borne out by the participants in a trial he is running at the Epworth Hospital.
Dr Tayler believes the biggest driver behind the rapid rise in the nation’s girth is sugar, not fat.

Actually I’m not sure this is all that new. Sugar is a carbohydrate and there are lots of low carb diets, Atkins being probably the most well known, and plenty of people who find that they lose weight that way. And it is, or should be, pretty common knowledge that fruits, berries and vegetables contain lots of sugars. It’s why they taste so good. Sweetcorn? Yes?

Mary McPherson, 60, was astounded to learn how much sugar she was consuming as part of what she thought was a healthy vegetarian diet that included four to five pieces of fruit a day. By reducing that to two pieces – ”some berries and a banana” – Ms McPherson watched excess weight fall off.
”It was a slow loss of weight but in six to eight months I dropped about 10 kilograms and I have kept it off,” says Ms McPherson, who now weighs 60.5 kilograms.
Instead of snacking on fruit, she ate dry roasted almonds. Occasional sweet cravings were satisfied with a single piece of dark chocolate. She also followed Dr Tayler’s advice to reduce refined carbohydrates such as white rice and pasta, replacing them with brown rice and sweet potatoes. But she struggled with his recommendation to cut back on alcohol and continued to enjoy two glasses of wine with dinner

Oooh, they’ll get you for that, Mary. Probably should have kept shtum about it or at least said you’d cut down like Katrina.

Katrina John, 26, a nurse who subscribes to Dr Tayler’s recommendations, says that by cutting out the two to three pieces of fresh fruit she used to eat each working day she not only lost one kilogram in a fortnight, she started thinking more carefully about everything she ate.
”Then I removed the dried fruit from the nut mix I used to have every day and I stopped drinking orange juice on the weekend and I think it all made a big difference,” Ms John says, adding she lost seven kilograms in seven months as she also reduced her alcohol and white carbohydrate intake.

Needless to say not everyone is thrilled to hear this.

Nutritionist Rosemary Stanton rejects the argument, saying there is no evidence for it, pointing out that Dr Tayler’s sweet study has not been published in a medical journal. ”I think what they are doing is mixing up fruit and fruit juice,” Dr Stanton says.
[...]
Dr Stanton says that overall fruit consumption in Australia is low and it is a struggle to get most people to eat the recommended two pieces a day.

Two? I thought it was five? And am I right in thinking that ‘nutritionist’, unlike ‘dietitian’, is not a legally protected term here? Not saying that Dr Stanton is unqualified or anything, and what she’s said there doesn’t seem unreasonable to me (and of course Dr Taylor being an anaesthetist is away from his normal field of expertise here anyway), but my point is that all this advice we get on what to eat and what not to eat is hardly clear. One week butter is good for you, the next it’ll murder you in your sleep. We must eat five pieces of fruit and veg per day, then we get fat if we do and anyway it was really only two per day all along.

What’s the right advice? Don’t ask me, I’m as unqualified to give advice on eating as they come. But what I can tell you is that moderation in all things seems like the most sensible approach as well as the most pleasant (the idea of an all sprout diet doesn’t bear thinking about), but I know it’s not an ideal I live up to in reality. And yes, I could stand to drop a few kilos – I did say I was as unqualified as they come. The point is that there’s no magic food and no magic maximum or minimum number for what’s ‘good’ for you. For many things too much is bad, and invariably too little isn’t a goo idea either. If you’re not happy or not well then probably you need to change something. Otherwise the only thing I’d really suggest is not to read the newspapers too much, because consuming more than five articles on health per week is incredibly dangerous and is likely to send you to an early grave.*

* Research pending. ;-)

Heh

Via the Von Mises Institute blog.

Chinese whispers

Click for linky

Ouch.

Jin Liqun, chairman of China Investment Corporation (CIC), the nation’s sovereign wealth fund, warned that Europeans should “work a bit harder” if they want to pull the eurozone out of recession.

Ouch.

He said people in the West are too reliant on welfare payments and the benefits system, looking for external solutions to the debt crisis rather than tackling the problem from within.

Ouch.

Mr Jin also said the long-term economic slide could only be solved by amending the restrictive labour laws that mean Western workers are unable to compete in global markets.
[...]
“The root cause of the trouble is the over-burdened welfare system, built up since the Second World War in Europe – the sloth-inducing, indolence-inducing labour laws.

Double ouch, but I can’t see where he’s wrong. It might be hard to hear it from someone representing a country where freedom can be a pretty notional concept and the state tries to oversee practically everything, but the guy’s got a point. In the west the governments don’t try to oversee as much – or at least most of them don’t yet – but they have encouraged the raising of a couple of generations who rely on the state to wipe their arseholes for them because they couldn’t find them by themselves bent over a mirror with a greased stick. Money no? Economy bad? Is wrong. Government fix. Government fix now. Also done poo-poo and now smell bad. Government fix that now too please.

And it brings to mind something I said back in January when I came across a US site advocating protectionism and other anti free trade measures: I think that the Chinese might turn out to be better at capitalism than we in the west. Well, as long as they don’t make a habit of producing seven foot long slippers by mistake.

Two old gun clichés

When every second counts the police are only minutes away.
When you criminalise possession of guns only criminals will have possession of guns.

Even as clichés go these two are pretty well worn, yet not only are both still true nonetheless true but from time to time that’s demonstrated in a single incident. That’s right, I am about to give you an example of that. How’d you guess?

A great-grandfather has told how he used a baseball bat to fight off two thieves who were ransacking his gun cabinet and stole a cache of weapons.
The 70-year-old grandfather-of-10, who has one great-grandchild, told Perthnow he swung his bat at both young men who were smashing into his gun cabinet and attempting to steal his utility at his Alexander Heights home early today.

Now straight away the problem with this should be obvious. Thieves were stealing his guns – his unquestionably legally owned guns which he kept in gun cabinets in accordance with WA and Commonwealth law – and he had to defend his property, and his life if they’d arrived armed or managed to load a gun and turn it on him, with a fucking baseball bat. Surely it’s not just shooters who can see the stupidity in this, but just in case it’s not I’ll note that if they’d stolen a car from his driveway the law would not have insisted that if he chose to give chase he should do so on nothing faster than a bicycle.

Oh, and on that subject they did nick his car too.

He described how he was awoken just before 5am to find his prized Ford XR6 ute on the driveway with its doors wide open and a man smashing his gun cabinet open with a sledgehammer.
[...]
John, who lives at the home with his wife, was awoken by loud bangs from his garage just before 5am.
When he went outside to investigate he found the men trying to break into his gun safe and fought with both of them with a baseball bat before they fled in his ute.
As the robbers drove off John smashed the vehicle’s windscreen with the baseball bat.

And predictably enough the ute was found burned out a short time later, minus the six guns the thieves had got away with, natch. As Vincent Vega put it, what’s more chickenshit than fucking with a man’s automobile? Well, I suppose there is nicking his guns as well, safe in the knowledge that he’s highly unlikely to have one out and ready to use to defend himself against you because that’s against the law, and the overwhelming majority of legal gun owners are scrupulously law abiding no matter what they might think. And the recently disarmed John is a case in point.

“I’ve got a crook hip [he took a blow to the side from the sledgehammer - AE] but I’m not as sore as they are,” he said.
“If they came back I wouldn’t have any hesitation . . . (to do it again).
“I confronted them because this is my house, and I’ve got a right to protect my property.
“Had I had a pistol in my hand, I would have used that as well.
“They’ve got no right to come in here, I would have used anything to stop them, I’ve got every right to do that.”
[...]
He shrugged off suggestions he was a hero for standing up to the two thugs.
“It’s just something you do to protect yourself and your property and I feel we’ve got every right to,” he said.
“I’d do it again now, right now, if they were here.
“I think everybody should have a pistol under their bed and use it.
“Had I had my pistol under the bed I would have used it and bugger the consequences . . . this has got to stop.”

But of course John did not have his pistol under the bed, because neither John nor anyone else here is allowed to keep a pistol under the bed. Yes, at least law abiding Australians are allowed to have pistols – providing the local police give permission and that owners comply with various state and Commonwealth laws, of course – and clearly this is a better situation than not being allowed to have one at all. But it’s not as good as being at liberty to have one, especially since if self defence is not a valid reason for wanting a pistol, or any other type of gun for that matter, and the law insists that you keep it unloaded and locked away then it’s quite useless when dealing with sledgehammer wielding intruders anyway. Jeez, you can have half a dozen guns and for all the good they do you locked away you might as well defend yourself with a baseball bat and hope for the best. Oh, actually that’s exactly what happened, isn’t it? John didn’t have his pistol to hand and resorted to a baseball bat because at least he’s allowed to have that lying around, and now doesn’t have his pistol or his other guns at all anymore by the sounds of things.

Six guns were stolen including a shotgun and two air rifles.

Terrific, score six for the bad guys, even if John did get a few good whacks in with the bat before they got away. And what about the good guys?

A description of the thieves has not yet been issued by police.

Well, that’s not exactly an auspicious start, is it? And of course it’s not long before we’re reminded to leave it all to the police.

WA Police Sergeant Graham Clifford said the law did give people the right to defend their lives and property, but it was a grey area.
If the defence went too far and became a form of punishment, people would probably be charged, he told AAP.

Which is fair enough, but I don’t think home owners dealing with intruders, possibly violent and possibly armed, really give a tinker’s stuff about punishing them for breaking in. Driving them off or failing that making them no longer a risk to the occupier and any family there, yes, and if achieving that means one or more intruders lying face down and approaching ambient temperature in a pool of their own vital fluids, well, so be it. Nobody made them break in to someone else’s home and put the occupants in fear for their lives, so the consequences of their decision to commit crime are on their own heads. But punishment? Seriously, Sgt Clifford, how many people do you think would honestly give a stuff about punishing intruders when just getting rid of the danger they present is all that matters in that instant?

“Really what we’d prefer people to do is back off and observe and let us know what’s going on and we’ll chase them down the track,” Sgt Clifford said.

And I wouldn’t want anyone other than trained, professional police investigators doing that, but as for the backing off part, what about when you’re at home and have nowhere to back off to? We know we’re still supposed to call the cops and let you guys sort that out too, but the problem is the intruders are there already. And in case it’s not clear why that’s a problem that can be tackled only by people being at liberty to defend themselves we only need to ask one simple question: how long did it take WA police to respond to the report of a break in at the home of a registered firearms owner?

If it was more than five seconds there’s your answer.

>Rally against debt ignored – UPDATED

>

Well, not quite since it’s not quite being ignored completely, but since what there is in the news seems to be a couple of short articles linked on the home pages of the Teletubbygraph (near the top) and the Daily Wail (almost at the very bottom and behind an awful lot of guff about slebs), and as far as I could see bugger all on the Beeb, Indie, Grauniad, Express, Metro, Standard, Mirror or Sun, where it’s being spoken of at all it’s in pretty bloody hushed tones. Yes, of course these few protestors were in much smaller numbers than the thousands who turned out to complain that they might not be able to suck quite so freely at the tax tit as they have over the last decade or so, and they weren’t complaining about the loss of things that everybody likes to think of as free but in reality are simply paid for in advance through tax or in arrears through the national debt and, perhaps most importantly, they weren’t smashing anything up. But they were protesting about the very large national debt elephant in the room, an elephant that has now grown so big that even some socialists are getting worried enough to call it a crisis.

[...] we will have to find conservatively £1.1 trillion over the next five years! 33% of our debt is held by foreign governments contrary to what some in the labour movement have been saying.
[...]
The government is going to cut £83bn over five years which is 9% of the £1.1 trillion we have to find over the next five years. This is based on optimistic estimates about the economy. The government and city economists have got this wrong consistently over the last three years. [...]
Be wary of those who say the debt is not a problem and that has been bigger in the past. There is a very good reason for that as we have spelled out above. It is likely with the cuts and reduced growth they bring on will mean at some time we will have go to the IMF. Their cuts as a condition for loans will be much tougher.
We have to show that we are facing a crisis – which the coalition is walking blindly into it. But we have to build an alternative solution that does not mean we pay for a crisis made by the bankers, governments and the wealthy.

When socialists say that, even if they can’t resist finishing with a jealous dig at the wealthy and the banks, you have to recognise that the country is well and truly in the shit. And it’s worth pointing out that while accusing everyone else of understating the scale of the problem they themselves are using on the headline figure of a trillion given by the ONS for the national debt, rather than the ONS estimate of around four trillion once all the off book liabilities are included.

Okay, so let’s list all the ways out of it.

  • Tax more
  • Spend less
  • Er…
  • That’s it

Now the first of those carries with it some problems. The first is that of any government’s tax base the poorest have virtually no ability to pay more while the wealthiest, the people who can most afford more tax, have the ability to get out of the country with all or most of their money. That leaves the bulk of the burden of taxing the government’s way out of debt to fall on everyone in the middle, the ones who aren’t wealthy enough to do a runner easily but aren’t poor either – though they fucking well will be before long. The second problem is that when the government owes so much – something like 60% of GDP at the lower national debt figure of a trillion pounds, and well over double GDP at the higher estimate of four trillion – even squeezing the middle income earners might not be enough, especially when it’s still spending at a rate of nearly £700 billion a year and rising while only raising a bit over £600 billion in taxes. The third problem is that those middle income earners form quite a large group of voters and may balk at the idea of having to stump up £100 billion just to stop things getting worse, and much much more if the government seriously wants to begin paying off the excesses of its predecessors. The final problem is that sucking yet more money out of the economy hurts. Every pound taken from a company is a pound that it can’t spend on things that would grow its business – which could have created new jobs – while every pound taken from an individual is money they can’t spend in the shops, save for their future or buy shares in a company that might grow and create more jobs and wealth if it can just get some more investment.

Spending less is vastly simpler and really has only one major problem: as well as the millions of middle income earners who have to pay both for public spending and the debt Britain has millions of public spending junkies too, and they really don’t want the money taps turned off. In fact they so desperately don’t want the taps turned off that thousands of them are prepared to go to London to demand still more of other people’s money and throw things through other people’s windows.

And this could have been used by the media as an illustration of Britain’s financial problems: that so many more protested about the cuts than went to complain about the real lack of cuts suggests that there are far more receivers of government largesse than contributors to the funding of it, though of course many of the latter may have been working – they have tax bills to pay after all. Instead you might not have noticed that any protest in favour of more cuts even happened at all if you weren’t looking out for it, and so the UK’s enormous and increasing debt elephant continues to wander around the room almost completely unremarked by most of the country and largely so by the media.

However, aside from those two papers that ran articles on the Rally Against Debt I did notice something in The Sun that demonstrates pretty clearly why the Rally Against Debt was and is so necessary: as a result of cost cutting the DoT is having to hire more staff. Apparently, and almost straight out of a Yes Minister plot, they didn’t realise they needed more until it came time to start laying off the ones they’ve got.

And it’s this kind of lunacy that has fucked Britain.

UPDATE – further evidence of lunacy, if any were needed, was the Mainly Fail’s take on it.

[...] at a protest opposite the Houses of Parliament today, it was a much more sedate affair, with a paltry 350 people showing up.
But the motives behind the protest may go some way to explaining why it was so poorly attended.
Rather than demonstrating against spending cuts – which are leading to many people across the country losing their jobs – today’s event was held IN SUPPORT of them.ers-gather-outside-Parliament-demand-MORE-cuts–unsurprisingly-350-showed-up.html#ixzz1MPCjJb1E

Jesus fucking Christ with a begging bowl, there was a time when the Mail would have been tearing into the fantasy that cuts inevitably mean losses of real jobs rather than the vast numbers of make-work positions that have been created over the last ten to fifteen years. I’ve hinted at this before but I shall now be very blunt about it: if as a result of this very half hearted attempt at austerity measures so much as one teacher, nurse, doctor, firefighter, copper, binman or member of the armed forces loses their job it can only be because at least one chair polishing, paper shuffling, over compensated, parasitic cunt has kept theirs. The Mail, rather strangely for something that’s occasionally accused of being a righty rag, does not make this point. Meanwhile the Tele, who were more neutral, have moved the link off the home page since I blogged this.

The lame-stream media’s under-reporting of the Rally Against Debt and their inability to understand the need for it really does speak volumes about where the UK is headed. It will be very cold comfort to those who turned up (I admit that from ten thousand miles away I could only be there in spirit – I’m not wealthy enough to be able to hop on a plane for a short visit and my views on flying should be well known to both my readers) if all they achieve is to be able to point out that they warned everyone back in May 2011 when Britain is where Greece is now and say “We told you so” . On the other hand, at least Old Holborn got his face mask in the papers again.

Unintended consequences of anti-tobacco zealotry

The Big Pharma sponsored anti-tobacco crusaders have had a couple of their ideas bounce back at them in the last few days. First is the news that the fact that no smoking signs actually outnumber smokers, or at least seem to what with laws requiring them to be put up just about everywhere imaginable, may actually be encouraging people to smoke. Remember this bit of TV from a few years back?

Partcularly the bit where he says that you immediately think of a black cat when someone tells you not to think of a black cat. Well, it seems that the no smoking message being plastered on every available surface is having a similar effect.

No-smoking signs may be driving more people to light up, a psychological study suggests.
Scientists say the messages have an ”ironic effect” that increases smokers’ craving for tobacco.
”You get ironic effects when you couple information that people perceive with negation,” said researcher Brian Earp, from Oxford University. ”When I say don’t think of a pink elephant, I’ve just put the thought of a pink elephant in your head.”

Black cat, pink elephant, do not go and have a lovely soothing cigarette while reading this. See?

”No-smoking signs in particular are everywhere. If you’re a smoker walking down a street you’re likely to pass five or six of these signs in windows or on doors. If you have a chronically positive attitude to smoking this could boost your craving.”

But also, and here I’m speaking from personal experience, if you have a negative attitude to smoking. Both my regular readers will know that I once smoked but gave up a few years ago, and now think of myself as a non-smoker, though the tolerant and freedom loving kind, rather than an ex-smoker. What I may not have mentioned was what I found the toughest part of giving up smoking. It wasn’t the cravings or not knowing what to do with hands that were used to being occupied with making, lighting or smoking cigarettes, although I went through phases of both.* No, it was the non-stop barrage of anti-smoking messages, bansturbation signs and offers to help me quit smoking when up ’til the point I saw them I’d gone several hours without even thinking about smoking.

And then the fucking fuckers fucking went and fucking reminded me!

Follow-up research which has not yet been published indicates that anti-smoking messages really do prompt smokers to light up.
Mr Earp thought the same principle might apply to other public health messages, such as ”Say no to drugs”.

Exactly! It drove me away from the TV because every program on the commercial channels was and still is guaranteed to have at least one ad break include an advert about some over-priced nicotine patch or gum or a bit of government strength-through-joy-ism on the subject, and it used to fucking infuriate me that every fucking time it would remind me that I hadn’t had a ciggie for days and fucking make me want to have one all over again. They’ve long since ceased to have that effect on me but it still boils my piss whenever I see one because I remember how often I’d have a bout of craving a cigarette brought on by nothing other than the wowsers’ efforts at making me stop. I could cheerfully have shot the fucking TV. Overall I found that quitting smoking is actually pretty easy with willpower alone once you’ve lost any real desire to carry on smoking, but the nannying bastards would make life a hell of a lot easier for people in the process of giving up smoking if they’d just shut the fuck up about it.

They won’t, of course. They know it doesn’t sell any patches or gum.

The second own goal, though to be honest I’m not sure if the one above is a bug or a feature, is specific to Australia and relates to the idea of reducing smoking by making legal tobacco products come in plain packaging just like all the illegal tobacco and drugs which don’t struggle for customers.** As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Nicola Roxon, the Minister for Health and Aging (at least the second part of her portfolio looks after itself), unveiled a design of plain box consisting of the predictable shocking image cum health warning and the brand and variety of cigarette in a boring font on a plain olive green background. Needless to say the tobacco industry has complained but they’ve been joined by another. Hilariously the olive industry is now getting involved.

The federal government’s plan for all cigarettes to be sold in plain ”olive green” packaging has outraged the Australian Olive Association, which claims the move will denigrate their brand and cost them money.

Translation: olive growers do not want to be tarred with the notoriously broad de-normalisation brush.

Chief executive Lisa Rowntree has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Health Minister Nicola Roxon, asking her to stop using the term ”olive green” and instead adopt the term ”drab green”. The letter states: ”Our members are having enough problems countering the flood of imported olive products being dumped in Australia via the large supermarket chains without the government promoting to the community that there is something negative about olive green.”
[...]
Mrs Rowntree told The Sunday Age the Health Minister’s comments were potentially damaging.
”She referred to it as ‘disgusting’ olive green, so it hasn’t been very favourable. To associate any food with cigarettes is a thoughtless thing to do, especially one that’s had a very good reputation as being a healthy product. You could have called it ‘drab green’ or ‘khaki green’ or, better still, not used green at all,” she said.
‘Green is also a healthy word – green, clean – it’s not a colour that should be associated with cigarette packaging. It’s the colour of our leaves, it’s trees, it’s grass, it’s nature and I think to use a nature colour like green in cigarette packaging is ridiculous.”

Oooh, wouldn’t it be funny if the Green party joined in as well? Oh, and hey, when you’ve finished I suggest you take on all the world’s militaries who’ve chosen your favourite colour both for uniforms and paint schemes for all kinds of really deadly equipment.

Absolutely positively not olives – do not add to pizza

“I don’t think it’s been very well thought through at all.”

Look, love, I could have told you that, though it’s been poorly thought through in more ways than you’re thinking of. As for your claim that your customers may associate olives with cigarettes because of the use of the colour and term ‘olive drab’, it makes you sound like you think they’re not terribly bright. Being able to distinguish a small fruit that goes into salads, pizzas and martinis from something that you put in your mouth and set fire to is as easy as, oh, I don’t know, noticing that a road legal Ford ute is not the same thing as a Ferrari Formula One racing car. On that occasion Ford also thought its brand was somehow threatened by the use of a similar name and actually began legal action, resulting in Ferrari changing the name and issuing a wonderfully sarcastic press release:

“In order to avoid the slightest risk of anyone confusing a Formula 1 car with a pick-up truck, for their part the men from Maranello have decided that the car will lose the F that precedes the number 150 and which stands for Ferrari, as it has done on numerous occasions when it’s come to giving a car a code name, be it for the race track or the road,” read a Ferrari statement.

“It appears that this could have caused so much confusion in the minds of the consumer across the Pond that, at the same time as losing the F, the name will be completely Italianised, replacing the English “th” with the equivalent Italian symbol.

“Therefore the name will now read as the Ferrari 150° Italia, which should make it clear even to the thickest of people that the name of the car is a tribute to the anniversary of the unification of our country.”

I’d be tempted to suggest that official nanny health minister Nicola Roxon write a similar letter back to Mrs Rowntree and the olive growers, but as far as I’m concerned anything that gives her a headache over this ridiculous and pointless plain to introduce plain packaging in the vague hope of reducing smoking, but possibly the more realistic aim of beating us poms at something, by introducing plain packaging is on the whole a good thing.

In a statement Ms Roxon said: ”I’d be happy to offer an (olive) branch to the association and support their bid for greater publicity.”

I’d be happy for you all to have a branch apiece if you use them to beat some sense into each other.

* And now and again I do still miss the satisfaction of having hand rolled a near perfect, even and crinkle free roll up. Despite having absolutely no desire to smoke one if a rollie smoker came round I’d probably beg him for his paper and baccy and happily make him a load of smokes for later on. It’s odd what the body remembers – last time I tried the first cigarette was passable and by the third or fourth the fingers had remembered enough to make pretty respectable efforts, but the last time I tried riding a bicycle I fell off.
** I don’t think they’ve thought of it that way.

Hope

There is some for libertarianism in the UK. After yesterday’s Veil Fail post (below) I had a quick look at the website of The Daily Mail, half expecting to find something worthy of a Mail Veil Fail follow up. Well it’s true that I did notice a couple of op-eds by Mail journos suggesting that a burqa ban in the UK was a good idea – possibly they too believe that telling women what to do and what not to wear is somehow increasing their freedom to do as they wish – but more interesting was the result of an online poll on the subject.

I checked just now and it’s still up and currently about 86% opposed. Now it doesn’t say how many have voted and newspaper online polls aren’t exactly subject to much rigour, so it’s probably not an indication that large numbers of Britons have suddenly found the scales dropping from their eyes and now understand that banning things only reduces liberty. But unless the word’s gone round all the Islam websites that the polls there and they should all vote no it does look like at least some people do understand that bans are always a loss of freedom for someone, and worse that bans often beget bans.

So often I read things in the media that send the needle on my misanthropy dial smashing into the stop at high speed and occasionally out of the meter and into the wall, so it’s a pleasant change to see something that actually offers a smidgeon of hope for a freer future.

Mr Strangebloke, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love… George Monbiot?

No, don’t worry. I haven’t stopped worrying and there’s no danger of me making a carbon friendly pedalo with which to cross oceans in an ecological sound way to bring George flowers. Still, with his growing… er, well, there’s no other word but reasonableness towards nuclear power (blogged all over the place a couple of weeks or so back) I am starting to wonder if he’s been treated just a little harshly and feel obliged to give him a little respect. Of course, if I was one of the committed ecolytes of one or other leader of the Green Cause, perhaps even Georgie himself, I might have read his latest thoughts in increasing horror and now be wondering if a close examination might find a little X on the back of his neck.

Over the past fortnight I’ve made a deeply troubling discovery. The anti-nuclear movement to which I once belonged has misled the world about the impacts of radiation on human health. The claims we have made are ungrounded in science, unsupportable when challenged, and wildly wrong. We have done other people, and ourselves, a terrible disservice.

Fuck me sideways with a broken fuel rod, did he actually just say that or are we dreaming? Hang on…

/headdesk

Nope. It’s real.

I began to see the extent of the problem after a debate last week with Helen Caldicott, the world’s foremost anti-nuclear campaigner. …

In the debate she made some striking statements about the dangers of radiation. I asked for the sources. Caldicott’s response has profoundly shaken me.

First she sent me nine documents: newspaper articles, press releases and an advertisement. None were scientific publications; none contained sources for the claims she had made.

I hate to say it, George, but… no, you know what, I think I’ll come back to it later.

But one of the press releases referred to a report by the US National Academy of Sciences, which she urged me to read. I have now done so. It supports none of the statements I questioned; in fact, it strongly contradicts her claims about the health effects of radiation.

And then of course there’s the c-word.

For the past 25 years anti-nuclear campaigners have been racking up the figures for deaths and diseases caused by the Chernobyl disaster, and parading deformed babies like a mediaeval circus. They now claim that 985,000 people have been killed by Chernobyl, and that it will continue to slaughter people for generations to come. These claims are false.

Again, another quick look at the by-line is very hard to resist at this point. George Monbiot is now saying, as many pro-nuke people that George himself has opposed have said before him, that the deaths caused by the world’s worst nuclear accident were vastly inflated.

Of the workers who tried to contain the emergency at Chernobyl, 134 suffered acute radiation syndrome; 28 died soon afterwards. Nineteen others died later, but generally not from diseases associated with radiation. The remaining 87 have suffered other complications, including four cases of solid cancer and two of leukaemia.

In the rest of the population there have been 6848 cases of thyroid cancer among young children – arising ”almost entirely” from the Soviet Union’s failure to prevent people from drinking milk contaminated with the radioactive iodine isotope 131.

So a relative handful of deaths and overall fewer than 7,000 people made ill, as much as 98% of them unnecessarily. Props to George Monbiot for being so frank about this, though I’ll knock off a few points for not getting in a remark about tinfoil headgear at this point.

Caldicott told me that the UN committee’s work on Chernobyl was ”a total cover-up”.


These are UN deer responsible for the mind control rays used on the tourists

George doesn’t point out either that such a cover up would necessarily need the Ukraine on board, and it’s hardly in their interests to play this down. There are still real problems there and they need money, and the Ukraine is not exactly filthy rich. If the UN was sweeping it under the carpet they’d be calling bullshit as loud as they possibly can.

Caldicott pointed me to a book, which claims that 985,000 people have died as a result of the disaster. Translated from Russian and published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, this is the only document that looks scientific and appears to support the wild claims made about Chernobyl.

A devastating review in the journal Radiation Protection Dosimetry points out that the book achieves this figure by the remarkable method of assuming that all increased deaths from a wide range of diseases – including many which have no known association with radiation – were caused by the Chernobyl accident.

Incidentally, if the idea sounds familiar it might be because it’s close to anti-tobacco arguments: nobody dies of anything but whatever the particular subset of Righteous have targeted.

But then George has to go and spoil it all.

Failing to provide sources, cherry-picking studies, scorning the scientific consensus, invoking a cover-up to explain it: all this is horribly familiar. These are the habits of climate-change deniers, against which the green movement has struggled valiantly, calling science to its aid. It is distressing to discover that when the facts don’t suit them, members of this movement resort to the follies they have denounced.

Oh, George, they’ve been at it for fucking years, which is why I stopped believing in warble gloaming back in the mid 90s. Don’t you remember the late Dr Stephen Schneider explaining how it was important to emphasise the scare scenarios while avoiding mention of any doubts or holes in the theory?

We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we may have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.

This despite the fact that he much later conceded that man made warble gloaming isn’t actually proven, though he personally still believed in it because, reading between the lines, the evidence was convincing enough for him. So is that the kind of cherry picking and distortion we’re talking about, or is it different from peddling exaggeration and bullshit about the risks involved in nuclear power generation? Oh, and you missed out character assassination, suppression of contrary opinion, and – and this is quite a biggie – banging on about fucking consensus as if what’s objectively true or false is subject to some kind of white coat vote or something. Look, George, this is known as an appeal to numbers and is a well known fallacy. To put it another way, suppose every scientist in the world agreed that according to their theory gravity makes objects fall at precisely – precisely – 10m/sec2. It’s a nice, neat and above all plausible value. But suppose that you yourself then got a long tape measure, an accurate stopwatch, something to drop and somewhere with different heights to drop it from, and you then repeatedly measured the value at 9.807 m/sec2. Do the assertions of hundreds of thousands of scientists count for more than that of one person, even when that person has taken the trouble to actually measure it? Well, George, if you value scientific consensus above scientific method then yes, yes they do, but you must not pretend that consensus is necessarily the same thing as objective truth.

Historically, George, the consensus has got things completely arse about face on many occasions. At one time there was a consensus that everything revolved around the Earth, and those who said otherwise were literally treated as heretics. The consensus was of course, wrong. There was a consensus that light travelled through something called the luminiferous aether, which lasted decades after first the Michelson-Morley experiment cast serious doubt on it and then after Einstein’s work showed there was no reason to think there was any such thing at all. There was a consensus, or rather two, that the world was shaped either by volcanoes or by periodic floods depending on which side of the argument you were on. Neither consensus allowed for glaciation, much less continental drift pushing up mountain ranges. There was a consensus that the universe was fixed and had always been as it is now (or since it was made by the deity of one’s choice), despite Newton’s laws suggesting back in the 17th century, had anyone noticed, that it might either be expanding or contracting but the one thing it certainly couldn’t be doing is sitting still. Today the consensus is a fixed speed of light, plate tectonics, the Big Bang and that the only things revolving around our planet are its own moon and anything we stick up there. Consensus has a track record of being wrong, do you see? And that means we should still take that with a pinch of salt, or rather a pinch of healthy scepticism. We certainly should when served up a theory based as much or more on computer simulations of how the climate is thought to work than anything else.

You were doing so well, George, but I suppose two Damascene conversions is a little too much to ask. Still, credit where it’s due. Coming around to a balanced position on nuclear power is a pretty big deal.

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