An announcement and an observation. First the announcement: I’ve added a new blog to the blogroll in the Smokers And Drinkers section. Frank Davis is, in his own words, banging on about the smoking ban, and I’ve been reading his stuff over the last couple of weeks since our friendly neighbourhood blogger impersonator used his ID in the comments here. I’m sure his intention wasn’t to increase Frank Davis’ readership but that’s what’s happened, and it hasn’t taken me long to decide to add it to the blogroll.
And on the topic that Frank Davis favours, that observation I mentioned. It’s not the first time I’ve said so but there’s plenty of evidence that the creeping intolerance of a legal product that a significant minority still want to use leads to undesirable side effects. Tax a desired product to the point of unaffordability – or worse, ban it altogether – in the hope that people will stop using it and all you really do is create a strong incentive for the black market to step in, often with a product that’s inferior in some way. We’ve seen it with the American’s unsuccessful experiment with Prohibition, with the disastrous decades long policy of drug prohibition, and we’re seeing it with tobacco.
A former tax office investigator has been jailed for corruptly taking bribes from illegal tobacco producers.
A County Court judge said today that Philip James Roper, 52, had been motivated by greed and had tarnished the reputation of other investigators in carrying out important duties.
Roper, who served for nine years as a federal policeman before joining the Australian Tax Office, was found guilty by a jury of dishonestly asking for a benefit, dishonestly receiving a benefit and theft.
He also pleaded guilty to dishonestly receiving a benefit and abuse of public office.
In sentencing this morning, Judge Joe Gullaci said Roper had come into contact with Jimmy Wang, and a middle man, who were involved in the illegal tobacco, or chop-chop, industry.
The jury decided that Roper’s relationship with both men was corrupt.
The offences occurred between June 2001 and the middle of 2004 by Roper asking Wang for the names and addresses of other chop-chop sellers. Roper told Wang, who he met at the Gotham City brothel, he would look after him.
Judge Gullaci said that Wang had believed that the arrangement was beneficial because it would remove competitors.
The information Wang provided also allowed Roper to steal tobacco leaf and cutting machines, which were sold and the profits taken by Roper.
Roper also stole five 100 kilogram bales of tobacco leaf from a Dandenong property. These were sold and he shared in the profits.
He also “parked” a prosecution of a woman who had sold chop-chop at the Caribbean Garden Markets by telling his colleagues that her address could not be determined.
Note that the offences took place before the illiberal and anti-property rights smoking bans, before the point of sale display bans and before you had to spend $16 or so for a single packet of cigarettes. Does anyone believe that those things have hurt the chop-chop industry or made them less able or inclined to find corrupt officials to bribe? Does anyone think that at least one of those things hasn’t helped the chop-chop industry? And can anyone seriously believe that the chop-chop industry will either not care about the pending mandatory plain packaging or will welcome anything that harms their principle competition, the legal and regulated tobacco industry?
I’d give you a pound to a pinch of shit that there is probably Roper or two meeting more Wangs in various private rooms right now, and there’ll be even more in the future. If you want that future then support your local illegal tobacco industry and your local corrupt public servants by supporting more anti-tobacco legislation. You know it makes no sense.
Of course I’ve done no such thing really. Smoke in here and I’ll tell you to put it out, go outside or just leave. If you take the last option I must accept that once you’re any measurable distance at all from my gate, even if its in millimetres, I have no right to tell you to stop. Well, that’s how I see it, and I don’t feel that’s anything to do with being a libertarian and a fan of property rights – it is, but it’s mainly just being fair and reasonable.
But of course not everyone is prepared to be fair and reasonable with smokers, the twenty-first century’s designated primary untermenschen (drinkers and salad dodgers being the next down the list). Three months ago I left a slightly off topic comment over at Velvet Glove, Iron Fist on a post about smoking establishments starting to reappear in places in Europe. I said this:
Slight tangent, this. I saw a sign in a office building doorway here in Oz recently that said something like ‘No smoking with 5 metres of this doorway’. Might not have been 5 metres (I didn’t think to get a photo) but I remember looking at it and thinking that that applies to rather a lot of pavement and even a bit of road that I very much doubted the building’s owners had any legal control over.
I should have added that I thought the idea was not only a bit iffy from the property rights angle, what with it setting rules on land the rule maker doesn’t own, but that it was completely ridiculous anyway – I’ve been a non-smoker long enough to have grown to dislike the smell, but I find that a couple of paces is all that’s needed and sometimes not even that. Metres plural? Several metres? That’s just being silly.
A quick google image search suggests that these X metres away from the door restrictions are springing up everywhere now as I found examples of signs in Canada and the US plus a UK site selling them them in 5, 10 and even 20 metres of self righteous bastardry. What I haven’t found, except in Queensland where they are mad and have banned smoking 4 metres from entrances with a $200 fine (PDF) if you’re closer than that, is any indication that these things can carry any legal force where that area is both open and public, much less owned by someone else. Even in Queensland footpaths are going to be less than 4 metres wide often enough that this is a problem, and where the smokophobes have demanded the right to make rules over an even larger area of property that doesn’t belong to them it can become significant. How significant I noticed last weekend on a trip into South Melbourne.
The buildings I’ve highlighted here form the Spotlight Centre, a small suburban shopping centre consisting of Spotlight, a supermarket, a pharmacy, a few small stores and cafes, and a gym in the larger building on the right, and an Aldi and a Dan Murphy’s liquor store in the one on the left.
Smoking is, of course, prohibited inside according to state law, though this only came into force in July 2007 and I very much doubt smoking was allowed inside before then. I can’t remember having seen a shopping centre anywhere that permitted smoking in their buildings even before the law banned it. However, the Spotlight Centre has gone further and has decided that they don’t want nasssty smokersss gollum stinking up their entrancesss, no preciousss. And so there are signs on the doors which say, among other things, ‘No smoking in centre or within 10m of entry’, though for reasons which I’ll come to I don’t have a photograph.
There are three entrances on different streets to the main building and one to the smaller building (there looks like there will be a second when a currently empty unit is filled). I’ve marked out the rough size and extent of the no smoking zones that result from Spotlight’s banning of smokers a full ten metres – nearly 33 feet in old money – from their entrances, first as they are and second as they’ll be whenever that last main unit with its own entrance is occupied. Embiggering is possible on both images.
Yes, not only do the owners of the Spotlight Centre not want you to smoke inside their buildings, which is perfectly reasonable and absolutely up to them even if there wasn’t a stupid law demanding they do what they’d almost certainly do by choice, but they’re so insistent that even their doors are protected that they demand the right to ban smoking in cars parked outside or even driving past. ‘No smoking in centre or within 10m of entry’ is what it says and there’s no mention of an exception for people who are within that distance but are inside their own property, much less on public property.
Of course the reason for this new phenomenon of pushing smokers even further away is as simple as it was predictable. Give the smokers a place to go, as was the policy in the past, and they’ll go and smoke there. Take it away and they’ll smoke wherever there’s a bit of shelter instead, and often that means doorways and entrances where ‘normal’ people – or ‘tomorrow’s victims of denormalisation’ as I like to think of them – have to go in and out. This is particularly true of workplaces, which generally used to cater for smokers and non-smokers alike and would often set aside a room or an area for the smokers if there was space. The law then said they had to stop doing that so of course the smokers ended up going outside, and if the weather was poor naturally they’d stay as close as possible to the door. Incidentally, this is the reason why there’s no photo of the Spotlight’s Centre’s sign informing of their 10m exclusion zones – I did take one but I didn’t realise that a member of staff who was standing a couple of metres behind me having a cigarette was reflected in the glass, and such casual defiance of an unreasonable rule didn’t deserve to be rewarded with evidence put on the interwebs for anyone to see.* For all I know it’s a sacking offence, so just take my word for it that it really does say 10 metres.
The effect is clear. Wherever there have been smoke bans in certain buildings there are now smokers who want or need to use those buildings dragging the life out of their smokes around the entrances rather than relatively evenly spread around, and having been brainwashed into increasing levels of terror at the sight of a lit fag much of the non smoking public have kicked off often enough that some now feel they can apply their own in house rules beyond the boundaries of their property. Currently this is not enforceable anywhere I know of apart from Queensland, where, as I mentioned, they are mad but also rich enough to be able to hire thousands of Zone Enforcement Response Officers (or ZEROs) to roam around with 4 metre tape measures and books of fine forms.** Sadly it’s only a matter of time before somewhere else follows suit and introduces legislation too, and if it’s here in Victoria there’ll be close 170 feet of non-smoking pavement on one South Melbourne road which you won’t even know about until too late because the damn signs are attached to the bloody doors ten metres inside the zone. Worse, a piece of footpath on which you can smoke today could be turned anti-smoking simply be someone knocking a hole in the wall and putting a door in.
And as usual with all anti-smoking measures that will be cheered by some non-smokers when it should really be feared by smokers and non-smokers alike. Because when someone else gets rights over property they don’t own the can is open and the worms are wriggling everywhere. Don’t believe me? Well, as Leg-iron and Bucko have just pointed out coffee drinkers look like joining the ranks of smokers, drinkers and salad dodgers, and while I don’t currently have any desire to ban even strong smelling coffee being consumed by someone who happens to be walking past my house it happens that I am a tea drinker, you see… ***
Can’t happen? Yeah, I expect the smokers who’ll be walking out into roads all over the world to avoid getting too close to someone’s door thought that too.
* Or maybe it wasn’t defiance but the rain that kept the mystery smoker near the door. It was pretty wet that day, but I doubt that’s an excuse so I’m still not using the photo.
** My mistake. Queensland is $53 billion in debt and would be even deeper in the hole if it hand’t sold some state assets. And I made the ZEROs up, though that doesn’t mean something like them doesn’t really exist.
*** Coffee too, but that spoils the point.
… I noticed just now while putting up a picture gadget to promote the the Wozza-Thompson e-petition to review the smoking ban that the number of signatures has roughly quadrupled in the day and a half or so since I added mine. Good start, and let’s all liberty loving types, whether we’re non-smokers or smokers, do what we can to keep that ball rolling. As I explained the other day, if you don’t smoke but you drink then you’re next, if you’re a bit on the tubby side then you’re right after the drinkers, and if you’re neither you have a little bit of breathing space but you’d be very foolish indeed to believe that you’re not on the list for something. Those jackboots of intolerance are marching towards you too, and if you can’t hear them yet I assure you that you will eventually.
And since this is to join Anthony Worral-Thompson in petitioning the government to scrap the smoking ban it is of course also a golden opportunity to be ignored and dismissed by your government, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth having your say anyway. Eventually they’ll have to justify why they’re continuing to ignore it, and hopefully the useful idiots who currently support this kind of thing will wake up and smell the coffee (assuming it isn’t banned or restricted by then). Even if you’re not a smoker and don’t like the smell of smoke – which I’d understand, being myself now a non-smoker who doesn’t like the smell either – I’d still encourage you to sign it for three very compelling reasons:
- If you drink then you’re next.
- If you don’t drink but weigh more than the healthists say you should then you’re right after the drinkers.
- If you’re not a drinker or a salad dodger then you’re after both, but don’t kid yourself for a minute that you’re not on the list.
First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.Pastor Martin Niemöller
So please think very carefully before deciding that it’s a smokers’ thing and it doesn’t apply to you.
I guarantee that at least one other non-smoker will be signing it.
|Click for the petition|
Tip of the Akubra to Dick Puddlecote.
P.S. And thanks to MrAngry61 in the comments for letting me know I’d stuffed the link up. Hopefully anyone else went via the dismembered jewel thief’s place, but if not it’s fixed now.
While I understand Dragon’s Den dragon and entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne’s concern over tweets that apparently threaten his daughter, it’s interesting that his first reaction was to solicit a violent response.
I offer £25,000 reward for the capture of the coward who calls himself @YuriVasilyev_
Double if his arms are broken first
This, let’s remember, is someone who spent 18 months in a military prison for trying to throw an officer off a jetty. Now let’s be fair about it, he was reacting to someone demanding money with menaces – £35,000 to “stop us hurting your Hollie Bannatyne” – and it’s probably something that most fathers would understand and probably envy Bannatyne’s deep pockets giving him the ability to make good on it. Fair enough too, if he’d just left it at the first line. But if the bonus for delivering the perpetrator with arms pre-broken, whether to render him helpless and facilitate further punishment or just as part of the retribution, was meant seriously does it say something about Bannatyne’s character? To me it seems less like a TV entrepreneur and more like a, well, I don’t know but the opening scene from The Godfather, the one where the guy asks Marlon Brando to have his daughter’s attackers filled in, keeps popping into my head. Perhaps similar thoughts occurred to Bannatyne because it seems that the tweet didn’t stay up long before it was changed for one that involved a more usual concept of justice.
The self-made millionaire quickly removed the post from his Twitter page, replacing it with another message promising “£30,000 reward for info leading to his arrest”.
Still, as I said at the start I find it interesting that the initial reaction didn’t mention arrest or hint at police, but instead used the word “capture” and offered extra for broken arms. And the other thing to remember about Bannatyne is he’s a reformed smoker, one of the zealot variety, and publicly expresses his loathing for smokers fairly regularly. He’s president of No Smoking Day and would happily see smoking banned altogether.
I’ll only be happy if smoking is banned
We should no longer tolerate the minority threatening the lives of the majority.
And we’ve seen how Bannatyne reacts when confronted with something he finds intolerable. Of course threats to his family, if serious, really are intolerable and I hope that whoever threatened his daughter is caught, charged and convicted – if they also happen to suffer a couple of broken bones while trying to escape arrest or something then that’s their problem. But the thought occurs that if you’re a smoker it might be a good idea not to light up if Bannatyne or his daughter are in the vicinity, just in case it turns out to be bad for your health.
Clearly it’s a filthy habit and non-morris dancers might come into contact with bells and handkerchiefs, so The Swan and Three Cygnets pub in Durham was quite right to ban a bunch of morris dancers.
“A woman member of staff hollered ‘no bells’ at us.
“One of our group, wearing his morris dance gear, went in first and was served a pint of beer without question.
“But when two of our lady members followed wearing bells they were told to get out.”
So they went round the corner to a different pub instead, possibly with a whack-fol-a-dildo though if so it appears to have gone unreported.
Of course nobody is insane enough to think that there’s such a thing as passive morris dancing or that there it’d be a ‘public health’ problem if there was.* Not yet anyway, although Wikipedia mentions that some dances involve a couple of clay tobacco pipes and you just know that that must be upsetting someone somewhere.** The morris dancers weren’t chucked out for being morris dancers but because the pub had a ban on music, and someone in the pub decided that bells on shoes counted as being musical. Probably bollocks but the way things are in Britain these days I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the pub could cop a fine for being in breach of some licence or other if any music was played, and nor is it a stretch to imagine that some over-zealous local authority prick wouldn’t say that morris bells, if that’s the right term, are music even without accordions and fiddles joining in.
But here’s the thing, it’s their pub and that means they get to decide who drinks there, just as is the case for the Half Moon which was happy enough to take the morris dancers’ money and serve them with beer. Yes, the morris dancers have their noses out of joint because they couldn’t drink in the first pub they went into, but such is life – presumably if it had simply been too full to get near the bar they’d have just gone to another pub without thinking anything of it. As it happens this pub is weird about people wearing bells and the other one wasn’t. As long as at least one pub was prepared to have them – and the Durham I recall had enough pubs that I’m sure there’d be far more than just one – who cares? Let The Swan and Three Cygnets become whatever kind of pub it wants to and cater for whatever kind of clientele fits in with that. If you can have biker pubs and gay pubs and student pubs and so on why shouldn’t there also be a nice quiet pub for librarians or whatever? Just as long as they’re not all like that and fat bearded men who like to dress in white and wave sticks at each other to music have somewhere to drink as well. And since that seems to be the case I’d say it’s all working pretty well.***
Now, why can’t the same thing apply to smokers?
* I believe ‘public health’ is the correct term for not letting someone do something they want to do on the grounds that you think it’s bad for them or that you just don’t like it, and possibly making up a lot of crap to justify the restrictions you’re demanding.
*** Meaning it’s either a bit of a slow news day or The Teletubbygraph has jumped onto the offence seeking bandwagon.
Hope it went well, though a shame about the weather, and looking forward to reading the reports later today. Probably on the usual blogs since it’s been a couple of weeks leading up to it and four and a half hours since 11am, and still the fucking MSM don’t seem to have bothered reporting it.