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Liberty in Britain and Australia – a reply to John Galt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Canberra might never know.

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

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

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The bansturbators’ latest attack on liberty

Imagine prohibiting cigarette sales to people born after 2000.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet this is not the world we live in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mohandas Ghandi.

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

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

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

If only we’d been in charge of it…”

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

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

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

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

A plague on both their houses.

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

Two more Aussie Olympians in gun pose photo shame shock something horror probably

And just look. Look! Not only are they posing with guns but they’ve even got monocles, like they’re Bond villains or something.

Castigate them in the national media immediately and have the Australian Olympic Committee launch an investigation before announcing that they’re to come home early. And while we’re at it let’s have a statement from the governing body for their sport.

Hayley Chapman knows one thing when she competes in London as part of the Australian shooting team: She’ll have one keen set of eyes behind her watching her every move at the range.

The 20-year-old from the small town of Hoyleton, north of Adelaide, will line up in her first Olympics after being confirmed in the Australian squad earlier this month.

While she will compete in the women’s 25m pistol, her father David – who is her coach – will take part in the men’s 25m rapid pistol.

Ah. Which justifies ignoring the apparent unofficial ban on widely published photos of Australian sports people holding guns. No, okay, they’re not dicking about with them like the two swimmers, D’Arcy and Monk, that I wrote about recently, which incidentally even some of the lefty press here thought was a big fuss over something pretty insignificant (not a universal opinion though). However, and unlike comparable media photos I’ve seen of clay shooter Russell Mark, it does appear that they’re breaking a cardinal rule of recreational shooting, i.e. you never, ever under any circumstances point a gun at anything you do not mind a bullet hitting, even if you’re absolutely positive the gun is unloaded, and you goddamn well keep your goddamn finger off the goddamn trigger. And yet here they are aiming right at the camera, almost giving the feeling they’re aiming right at the viewer of the photo, and with stone cold emotionless expressions… oh, the humanity.

Being serious I’m sure they checked, re-checked and then checked each other’s guns, and possibly even went so far as to disable them as well. Or got the photographer to put his camera on a tripod and sign a waiver to cover bullet holes. The Charles Gray monocle thing is something top level pistol shooters all seem to have on to compete and the serious expressions are as typical of competitors in anything that requires a lot of concentration as they are of a minor murderer in The Wire. So not a big deal, and even less of a big deal than the still harmless antics of two stupid swimmers with less than stellar records when it comes to creating bad press. Yet still enough to make something of if you wanted to. So at the risk of repeating myself, why are the dopey swimmers punished (they’re to return home immediately the swimming events are over and may not stay in London to see the sights or even hang around the Olympic village getting laid) for posing with guns when posing with guns is clearly not a problem for the hoplophobes?*

Well, having thought about it I reckon there’s actually a reason for that. Two kids being knobs with guns is good for them to get their cocks in a knot about because it makes guns look all fwitening and dangerous – see, the vague unspoken implication goes, this is what holding a gun does to your mind, it makes you into a dangerous, reckless cocktrumpet. But when you have the Marks or the Chapmans being shown in photographs we’re seeing guns being used safely and responsibly by people who are shooting for no more reason than enjoyment and the thrill of competition. And some of the hoplophobes would want to avoid drawing any unnecessary attention to the fact that shooting sports can be both safe and enjoyable.

It would, if you’ll excuse the expression, be shooting themselves in the foot.

 

PS – and best of luck to David and Haley Chapman, who apparently are the first father-daughter duo to compete for Australia in any sport at the Olympic games.

 

* Though from the Ambush Predator via Twitter I hear that one school’s council elfinsafetee mob believe that the sound of one being used to start a race might lead to numerous cases of childhood PTSD, which presumably means Olympic coverage to West Dumbartonshire will be slightly delayed so that the sound of the starting guns can be overdubbed with the sound of a Teletubby saying ‘bang’. People for whom shooting is a hobby will have reconciled themselves to practically no coverage of any of the shooting events themselves.

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.

Feel the tobacco control stupid – words fail me

As at time of blogging – click for linky

Oh, for fu… Yeah, okay, baccy control idiots. Whatever you say. Sure, his name really is shared with a medieval merchant and jewel thief, and I also happen to know that curiously enough Dick Puddlecote has also been executed and buried in five graves, which I believe makes blogging something of a challenge for him. And in case I ever get added to the list, though maybe there’ll be a separate list of heretical non-smokers who support smokers, my family name really is Exile and in the early 70s Mr and Mrs Exile Snr took their wailing infant son along to the local sky pilots in order to have the little nipper christened ‘Angry’. Honest.

Because nobody on the blogosphere ever chooses to adopt a nom de blog.

Sheesh.

Tip of the akubra to Chris Snowdon on Twitter.

Tin men and paper tigers

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

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

And sure enough, today I read this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah, this’ll be those not-at-all-nanny-state Tories, will it?

Jesus wept. I know I’ve said this about eleventy squillion times already, but it really is like Labour never left office.

Children who appear on television talent shows or reality TV programmes will have to be licensed under Government plans to prevent them being exploited for ratings.

Anyone under 16 who appears in front of Simon Cowell and the other judges on Britain’s Got Talent will have to be cleared in advance by their local council under an overhaul of rules on child performers.

The local council. Well, that’s a relief. I was worried that the job might get handed to a bunch of witless, rubber stamping, chair polishers who’d just cash the cheque and send back an approval or a rejection depending on whether the requisite number of boxes are ticked. But if it’s going to be the councils, the same mobs who’d reject a planning application on the grounds of a Tree Preservation Order on a tree that isn’t actually going to be cut down, then I’ve clearly been worrying for nothing. Yeah, I can’t think of anyone better to take up the new and hitherto unneeded role in deciding whether an under 16 can appear on Simon Cowell’s freak show than a bunch of local government officials who don’t know the kid from Adam.

Tim Loughton, the Children’s Minister, said on Thursday that the current rules, drawn up more than 40 years are no longer “fit for purpose” in the era of reality television.

Ironically “not fit for purpose” has become such an overused phrase in politics, and has whored itself to promote new legislation that some government shitwit deemed desirable so fucking often that it itself is no longer fit for purpose. When you hear “not fit for purpose” the subtext is usually “we’re going to make a pointless change that will expand the size and role of the state and its ability to interfere with your life, and we want you to think that it’s necessary because one politician once said ‘not fit for purpose’ about something that really wasn’t”.

Tim Loughton, incidentally, is allegedly a Conservative. To be fair to him he probably believes he is, and since the Tories have a long and less than illustrious history of being paternalist bastards this might even appeal to him as a Conservative. But the people who run the government department that he’s the nominal head of probably aren’t and since they were there for the last lot and will mostly be there for the next lot, whoever the next lot turn out to be, you have to wonder whether this is a Conservative/Cobbleition policy or a policy of the real party of government, the Civil Service. And you also have to wonder if they have to do much more than dream up some shit, plonk the draft policy in front of the minister, and give a nice, long pull on the talk cord in the back of his head.

“New policy needed… no longer fit for purpose… I love you, mummy… let’s play…”

‘Kinell!

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.

Are we inconsistent with surveys or consistently being led by surveyors?

Click for link


I saw this and wondered what it was about people that at the same time as many are opening up to the idea that the war on drugs has been a monumentally expensive failure, and that we should at least be having an adult discussion about alternatives to prohibition, many others are responding to surveys about tobacco and alcohol by saying yes, there should be more health warnings, restrictions on advertising, sales and marketing, more price controls and more banning – all the stuff that’s a prelude to actual prohibition, basically. Is this yet another example of people’s propensity for cognitive dissonance, or is there a hint of what’s going on in the first few paragraphs (my bold)?

More than half of Australians support reduced legal penalties for use of drugs like cannabis and ecstasy, an analysis of a government survey shows.

The findings contrast with the Nielsen poll released yesterday which showed that two-thirds of people opposed decriminalisation.

But that is explained by the different way the poll questions were structured says Alison Ritter, who heads a drug policy modelling program at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales.

Wow, this seems strangely familiar. Where have I heard something like this bef… oh, yes, now I remember.

British sitcom again blurring the lines between comedy and doco. So if opinion polls are saying that we should be going easier on drugs at the same time as cracking down on smokers, drinkers and everyone else in the health nannies’ gunsights suspect the people asking the questions of inconsistency and cognitive dissonance at least as much as those responding to them.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Baaaaaaaa

Click for linky

Some highlights, though the libertarian view I’ve quoted en bloc because it’s just too good not to. I’ve balanced this by cutting the nanny campaigner’s views to shreds. I’d intended to fisk it but it’s such total arse gravy that I just wanted to stick my head in the oven. Click the link if you want to read it in full, and remember to vote in the poll while you’re there.

THE WINEMAKER STEPHEN STRACHAN

WINEMAKERS understand why some people like the idea of health warnings on alcohol containers. It’s simple, consistent, gets the message onto the product itself and is easy for policy makers to implement and monitor.

The problem is that warning labels don’t change drinking habits. Instead they impose unnecessary restrictions and costs on producers and take a simplistic approach to dealing with a complex problem.

[…]

Let’s also be clear that our goal is to reduce harmful consumption of alcohol, not all consumption. That point is lost on those who refuse to accept that, while alcohol abuse is a serious problem requiring a serious response, moderate consumption is a normal part of a healthy lifestyle for those who choose it.

Stephen Strachan is chief executive of the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia.

THE LIBERTARIAN TIM WILSON

MANDATED alcohol warning labels don’t work and perpetuate the government-sponsored drift away from individual choice and responsibility that fuels alcohol abuse.

Our society is built on principles protecting our rights to choose our own life. That requires us to accept responsibility for our actions. Every time the government steps in we promote a nanny state that infantilises individuals.

Compromise on these principles requires evidence that good intentions will work. Alcohol warning labels don’t fit the bill.

We all know there are health consequences from heavy drinking.

People choose to drink alcohol; and sometimes it is to the point of abuse to get drunk.

If that is someone’s objective, they won’t slow down from a warning label.

The objective of such regulations is to de-normalise consumption, placing government preference above individual choice.

It is straight out of the regulatory playbook targeted at another product disliked by public health campaigners.

Publicly released sample alcohol warning labels include: ”drinking alcohol increases your risk of developing cancer” and ”drinking alcohol damages the young developing brain”.

The parallels are clear, despite contrary protests of campaigners.

On ABC1’s Lateline, a public health campaigner, Michael Daube, claimed his push for text-based alcohol warning labels was ”a mile away from the kind of grisly warnings that go with cigarette packs”. He continued: ‘These are informative warnings, but they’re not designed to put people off drinking completely.”

These statements are misleading and, as president of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health, Daube knows it.

As the shock value of text-based labels reduced, their graphic nature increased, coupled with other tight regulations. We can expect the same for alcohol.

Warning labels are only one more step down the nanny state path of government directing behaviour.

No one disputes that alcohol consumption has consequences. We’ve known that for at least 2000 years. Anyone who has had a few glasses of wine within an hour has figured that out.

The right direction is to create a culture of responsibility where people are free to choose, make mistakes and learn from them – not look to government for permission when it fosters a culture of us not taking responsibility.

Tim Wilson is a policy director at the Institute of Public Affairs.

THE DRINKER LYSSA TROMPF

I’M NOT answering this question from the perspective of a girl who doesn’t want to know the truth; that the beverages she’s pouring down her gullet and into the glasses of others each weekend are harmful. I know the poisons of alcohol, I’ve experienced the hangovers, heard the stories, had the addicted family members.

Despite this, I disagree with a move to place warning labels on packaged drinks. As a long-time bartender and club promoter, I know drinks will be consumed with barely an eye on the container from which the sip-ee consumes. The drinker, with the dark of a bar or party in combination with that undeniable level of ”carefree” that stops him complaining about things like the bourbon he was poured when he asked for a vodka, isn’t going to notice the label.

On top of this come the very common licensing laws that have bartenders decanting most bottled drinks, and even some in cans, into plastic containers – so again the message is lost and this money is literally thrown in the bin.

[…]

Lyssa Trompf is a bartender and music promoter.

THE CAMPAIGNER MICHAEL THORN

… A government-regulated alcohol warning label regime needs to be rolled out alongside a comprehensive education campaign.

The government has taken the first step towards pregnancy warning labels by moving to mandate labels within two years. Now it must show strong leadership and implement a label based on the best available evidence, and one that people will notice.

Michael Thorn is the chief executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education.

As a footnote I admit to some surprise that The Age published three views opposing the prototypical Nanny State solution of regulation and warning labels and only one wowser supporting it, though it’s kind of irrelevant when so many people are crying – over their Sunday evening dinner with a nice glass of Pinot – to be saved from the demon drink by saintly warning labels and the benevolent guiding hand of the government.

‘Kinell! If anyone wants me I shall be up a (very metaphorical) tower with a (similarly metaphorical) rifle.