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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

That North East Slippery Slope

You know how the anti-smokers always deny the slippery slope or domino effect every time it is fairly and accurately brought up?  Well, they're lying. They know they're lying, too.  It's one thing to repeat the lie not knowing that is a lie; it is an entirely different thing to know that it's a lie and continue to say it anyway.  Let me put it another way:

No matter what your cause is, no matter how noble you believe it to be, deliberately lying and misinforming the public makes you an immoral son of a bitch.  It means you're a duplicitous, evil bastard from hell.

Of course when you're giving presentations to your own groups of like-minded prohibitionists, or to those sympathetic to the cause of governments controlling everyone's lifestyle, there's not any need for deceit. You can tell like it is.  So enter Andy Lloyd, the Media, Communications and Social Marketing Manager for the taxpayer-funded anti-smoker group Fresh NE.

Andy made a presentation about Fresh NE that I stumbled upon whilst searching for something else related to plain packs (Google is a very useful tool!). That presentation is stored on the LGcommunications web site, which seems to be a national body comprised of government institutions as members that aims to "raise the standard of communications in local government."  I have no idea whether the Lloyd's presentation was supposed to be publicly accessible. I searched the LGcommunications web site's pages for anything referencing Andy Lloyd or Fresh NE and came up with squat.  But I found it, because Google offered it up to me, so I'm going to share it with you (PDF - 2.3MB).  Hell, you paid for it, so you might as well get to see how your money is spent. Right?

The whole presentation is a fascinating look into the minds of the anti-smoker movement and the slimy techniques they employ to dupe an increasingly gullible media and public into believing their tripe.  A number of slides leapt out at me as particularly important, but this one below really captivates:

presentation slide no.5 (click image to enlargify)

Now the third bullet point says that Fresh NE's aim is to "make smoking less desirable, normal, accessible and affordable."  That's no surprise. We've seen all of this as part of the anti-smoker denormalisation programme for years. The whole idea is to make smokers pay through the nose for the legal consumption of tobacco products.  If you have no money left to spend on tobacco, then you're counted as a successful statistic in their books.  So what if you're poor and living on the street. At least you aren't smoking, is their view.  Curiously, no mention of "The Children" in that bullet point. I think Andy Lloyd may have missed a trick there.

But the fifth bullet point ... that one is gold. It is proof that the alcohol control group Balance was "set up in 2009 along similar models" to Fresh NE's programme. We call this the Tobacco Control Template.  If something works for the tobacco control industry, you can be assured that other prohibitionist industries, working under the guise of the Public Health religion's banner, will try the same techniques.

Indeed, if you pop on over to Balance's web site, you see that the same guy who helped develop Fresh NE's programme of hate is now working at Balance to target drinkers (emphasis added):
Colin Shevills
Director
His knowledge, experience, passion and communication expertise really allow Colin to lead from the front - driving home the message that alcohol is damaging our region and calling for changes which will make a positive impact on the health and wealth of the region. A former communications consultant, he has extensive experience working in the field of public health. He previously helped to develop the brand for Fresh, Smoke Free North East and was instrumental in the successful launch of the office. He has worked at Balance since it was launched in 2009 and he has been instrumental in the growth and development of the organisation.
The same people who drove smokers out of the cosy warmth of a pub onto the cold, wet pavements of Britain, the same people who are responsible for the increasing amount of intolerance and hate against decent human beings who smoke (although they deny they encourage it, they most certainly do encourage it), they are also in the alcohol control industry.  That speaks volumes. Does it not?  And this is only just one example. There are dozens of these people in the UK doing the same.

Because Public Health isn't about keeping our drinking water clean, or protecting populations from communicable diseases.  Public Health isn't even about "The Children," despite that they wave that banner almost ceaselessly.  No, Public Health is about telling you that you are a very bad person if you do not conform to their ideas of a perfectly clean lifestyle devoid of any pleasures that humans might possibly enjoy.

Public Health these days is corrupted. Public Health is all about prohibition and control of the plebs. Plain and simple.

But you knew that already.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Superstorm Sandy Caused By Smokers, Say Experts

Tobacco control researchers in England say multinational tobacco corporations and millions of their smoking customers are to blame for the recent superstorm ravaging the U.S. coastline.  Citing the Butterfly Effect in chaos theory (the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state) and by cross-referencing data gleaned from a live feed of Australian Simon Chapman's excessive wind-farm rants on Twitter, the researchers' study concluded that the excessive exhalation of hazardous tobacco smoke by depraved nicotine addicts are causing disturbances in the world's weather systems.

Dr Annette Shillmore, of the Lifestyle Control Research Group, a taxpayer-funded NGO based in Bath, England, said there is little doubt in her mind that Big Tobacco is to blame.  "The initial idea came to me when I was walking past a group of shivering, disgusting smokers standing outside the local pub.

"I watched these dirty people blow their carcinogenic filth up into the air with such great force, far greater than the exhalations of your typical non-smoker it should be said, and I instinctively realised right then that smokers were to blame for bad weather all over the world. I mean, if one tiny butterfly can affect global weather patterns, it's blatantly obvious that smokers are responsible for cyclones in the Atlantic."

Dr Shillmore then lobbied for and received a Department of Health taxpayer-funded grant for £600,000 to commission and analyse a web-based, one-question survey targeted at 23 students at an east London hairdressing academy. The survey question was "Are smokers to blame for everything?"

82.3% of those surveyed answered "Yes."

"Those who answered "no" were probably smokers and cannot be trusted," Dr Shillmore explained.  "The survey data conclusively prove that Big Tobacco's consumers are at fault for superstorms since at least 1912.

"Besides," she added, "I found a damning tobacco company document from 1944 about ships from Cuba carrying cigarettes and cigars to American troops in Europe, and those ships had sailed through the Bermuda Triangle region. Why would they do that if tobacco companies weren't interested in weather phenomena?  I believe Big Tobacco has a super-secret base of operations there, and they have to be responsible for all those mysterious disappearances in the Triangle, too."

A spokesperson for the tobacco lobby said there was no evidence that smoking caused superstorm Sandy, but added that even if smoking outside could cause extreme weather, it could easily be prevented by repealing the public smoking ban and letting people smoke indoors again.

A recent satellite image taken of the Bermuda Triangle region
Source: Dr Shillmore - Lifestyle Control Research Group

Monday, 29 October 2012

What the Real Experts Say About Plain Packs

We all know that anything that tobacco industry says is treated with great suspicion by Public Health activists and governments the world over. Big Tobacco is considered a "pariah industry" these days and so anything they say will be roundly ignored regardless of evidence or whether it's true. Anybody who speaks out against the True Believers in Public Health are denigrated as somehow being aligned with big tobacco and advocating that every last person on the planet should get cancer and die.  It's not remotely true, but Public Health activists will decry it at every opportunity nevertheless.

When it comes to plain packaging of tobacco products, of course tobacco companies are going to be against it. What company, anywhere in the world, would not be against government forcing them to put their products in plain packaging?  I cannot think of any.  Because, all things being equal, every company wants to package their products in the manner of their choosing.  That's what anyone would expect in a free society.  But of course we no longer live in a free society -- we live in an era where admitted socialists, communists, and religiously-motivated prohibitionist nutjobs* have taken over what used to be Public Health and turned it into a relentless, propaganda-filled hate campaign against smokers, drinkers and, more recently, chubby people.

*(Look, I don't care what you believe. Believe in anything you like. Just don't tell me what I should believe, nor tell me how to live my life.)

Anyway, tobacco companies will not be listened to any longer. But what about other businesses who don't sell tobacco?  Are their opinions on plain packaging worthy of being considered?

In February 2012, the European Carton Manufacturers Association (ECMA) had a meeting with the European Directorate responsible for health, particularly tobacco control.  You won't find any press releases about it anywhere. You won't find any mention of this in newspapers or on the 10 o'clock news.  You would never know about it unless you read the minutes of the meeting, which you would also never know existed. And isn't it truly a sad state of the world in which we live where some average blogger like me, who is no different from any of you and is not a "journalist" is the one to locate and point this stuff out to you?

So I'm going to give you the full minutes of that meeting.  You should read the entire thing.  These guys... they make packaging for a living. They know what they're talking about.  They don't just supply the tobacco industry -- they supply every known industry in the EC and outside of it.  These people know packaging.  So what do they say?

Have a look at this document and see:

[Update -- I have edited this article and removed the embedded PDF that was inserted here, due to a weird glitch which forced web browsers to jump to and display this location upon loading the page.]

Here are some choice excerpts -- and mind you, this is not the tobacco industry -- these are the people who really know the importance and value of packaging for every industry (emphases added throughout):
ECMA stated that it supported EU’s health objectives. However, ECMA believes that the possible introduction of plain packaging – whilst being well intended – would lead to serious negative consequences in form of increased counterfeits. In this respect reference was made to
• lower entry barriers for counterfeit production ("production equipment required for plain packaging is simple and therefore can be sourced as second hand equipment with costs only up to €1 million compared to new equipment for current complex designs with graphical health warnings that costs more than €10 million per production line"),

an increased scale for the counterfeit markets (the packages are all alike) and

the limited capability for consumers to identify counterfeits.

Increased counterfeit would lead to greater health risks (counterfeited products are unregulated) and tax losses (already today, according to EU figures, Member States lose €10 billion annually in tax revenues due to counterfeit and contraband). ECMA also claimed that it was far from certain whether plain packages would lead to better health outcomes, in particular reduction in prevalence and consumption.

ECMA explained that the only way of fighting counterfeiting effectively is allowing a variety of designs which are complex and frequently changed. Currently, there are increasingly frequent changes made to the design of cigarette packages by the cigarette manufacturers independent of legislative requirements. The life span of a design / pack shape could be as little as three to six months.

After the introduction of graphical health warnings in some of the EU Member States, ECMA members have made substantial investment in printing technologies used for cigarette packs in order to combine the existing complex design features with the newly required graphical health warnings. If plain packaging was to be introduced, much of this specialized equipment would become obsolete as plain packaging eliminates all complex design features and hence can be produced with less sophisticated equipment and at lower cost. This is what would drive the risk of counterfeiting.

So there you go. That's the experts on packaging.  And lest you think they are aligned with the tobacco industry, do note that tobacco companies comprise a mere 10% of their business.  They could lose that 10% and it would hurt, but they would easily get by with the remaining 90%.  So in no way can we say that ECMA are tobacco company stooges -- yet we know the Public Health zealots will say exactly that.

But we are not done yet.  Keep reading the minutes and other interested parties jump in.  Meet the paper industry, Deutsche Benkert (emphases added throughout):
Deutsche Benkert agreed with the statements of ECMA that plain packaging leads to increased counterfeits, which would not only be detrimental for the package industry, but also for the paper industry (jobs would probably shift to illicit producers in Asia).

Counterfeiters do not adhere to any regulation such as low ignition propensity legislation when it comes to the production of a cigarette either. Deutsche Benkert alluded to corresponding research projects which revealed that missing regulations and supervision can lead to a harmful contaminations, such as lead contents, rat and bird droppings etc. in counterfeited products. As a consequence, this might represent an additional health risk to regular smokers and possibly commencing smokers.

And there's even more at risk here!  You should really consider reading the whole thing.

Plain packaging makes no sense at all, not just to consumers and the tobacco industry, but to all industries throughout the world.  The activists in the Public Health religion know all of these facts already, yet they want to destroy not only the tobacco industry and smokers' lives, but industries who make packaging and supply paper products. In their quest for the eradication of smokers, they will hurt any industry that gets in their way.

We need to stop the Public Health movement from ruining our already dismal economy throughout Britain and the EU. Public Health wants a new world order of control, so destroying capitalism suits them just fine.

Spread the word, please.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Australia - Where Dreams Go to Die

One might imagine that we plucky bloggers would eventually run out of things to write about regarding how utterly insane Australia has become. One would be wrong.  I won't lie: nothing would give me greater pleasure to be able to write something positive for once.  But there's nothing at all good in Australia any longer.  Nothing. It is heartbreaking.  So we write about the stupidity, because we must.

With a hat tip to DP for tweeting it, we come to learn that there is nothing at all more dangerous to children and women than tiny letters -- so cleverly designed, so evilly tempting, that the mere sight of the alphanumeric code "ESC 01" will cause unborn foetuses on another continent to crave that silky smooth taste of a Holiday cigarette.  Look for yourself:

WANT! GIVE TO ME!
In his blog post "The idiots have won" Christopher Snowdon writes:
Australian anti-smoking fruitcakes—led, inevitably, by that twisted old narcissist Simon Chapman—have complained that cigarette companies are breaching plain packaging rules because....well, I really don't know...watch the video and see if you can work it out. It seems to come down to the fact that the tobacco industry is allowed to stamp a few letters on the cigarettes for purposes of identification (how very liberal!) and so they have.
[...]
I would like to comment on this, I really would, but the nutters have finally gone beyond the point at which I can even understand their arguments.

And if the above pic didn't quite tempt a three-year-old to start smoking, perhaps this one will:

How dare tobacco companies do this! It's outrageous! Just look!
I had no idea that plain packaging laws in Australia prevented tobacco companies from  putting their brand name on the cigarette itself.  It doesn't make sense at all. Think about it.  If you could put the brand name on the packet, in 12pt font, and that's good enough to keep Australian school kids safe from being tempted to try smoking, then what's the problem with the brand name being on the cigarette itself?

The problem is that it's not about health.  It's about destroying tobacco companies and denormalising adult human beings who smoke. It's about making it difficult for consumers to identify the brands they prefer.  It's about making all cigarettes exactly the same -- appearance, shape, taste ... all of it.

It's about control.  It's about controlling you and the choices available to you.  For if you have no choice, then you do not have control over your own life and your decisions.

That's why it's called Tobacco Control

Every last person who works for the tobacco control industry is evil, from within the WHO, through fake charities and puppet journalists in the media, from within the Department of Health Hate, and in some cases all the way down to your local NHS GP in Shepard's Bush.  Sure, they don't know that they're evil -- it doesn't register in their mind at all, just like Hitler and his minions wrongly believed they were righteous crusaders for the greater good.  But they are evil.  Very much so.

Well, Australia is the test-bed for all things evil these days. Clearly.  No doubt there are a few sane people living down under, and I pity each and everyone of them who are trapped in that hellish prison through no fault of their own.  But the majority of Australians are idiots for believing, accepting and preaching the Public Health religion's gospel.

There is only one thing to do.  I've mentioned it before.  But now.  Now!  Now I have a graphic for it, so it's time to kick it off right.  Can't do anything without a graphic to post on a blog or Facebook. Right? That's my point.

It's time to boycott Australia.  That's right. Boycott everything Australian. 

Do not buy any Australian goods -- not their wine (particularly Oyster Bay -- The Root of All Evil will understand why), beer, opals, meat, surfboard wax, or wool.  Nothing. If you see Australian products in your local, ask the shopkeeper not to stock them or risk losing your custom.

Do not travel to or holiday in Australia.

Do not send packages to Australian relatives or to any businesses, for this will only support the delivery transport industry.

Do not accept telephone calls from anyone in Australia, for this will support the Australian telecoms.

Don't even watch Australian television programmes or films (except for Farscape -- that's OK, since it was produced by Jim Henson's company).

If you even suspect that something might be Australian, walk away from it.  And then wash your hands, just to be safe you weren't contaminated.

Yes, I know it's silly, and yes I know I might get about five of you to boycott Australia (and that's a generous overestimate).  But together, we can make a difference.  So have a graphic.  It was made by the incredibly talented Lawson Narse.  Which just makes it all the more awesomely cool, if you ask me.

Also, do note that if you post the graphic on your blog or share it on Facebook or Twitter, you could save a child from being tortured by the Public Health crusaders in Australia.  Really, won't you think about the children!?


UPDATE!  There is now an official BOYCOTT AUSTRALIA Facebook Page

Friday, 26 October 2012

Blog Design Update

I suppose you might have noticed that the blog design looks a little different than before.  Last night I decided to change the Watermark template that I had been using to this new template.  It was sort of accidental, to be honest; I only wanted to preview what it looked like on my blog, but there is no option to do that ... so here we are with a new design.

I had been thinking it was time for a design update and I wanted something somewhat less Blogger generic than what I had been using.  I wanted something more readable and a little more snazzy.  Basically, I was bored with the previous layout.  I have, however, saved the old design template, so I can always revert back to it.

I am still working on the CSS and HTML elements to improve the design -- it's been about seven or eight years since I last worked with CSS, so I'm incredibly rusty -- expect to see some minor modifications over the next week or so.

Unfortunately, this template does not have a mobile or smart phone layout / template design, so I had to use one of the Blogger defaults to ensure those who use their mobiles to read blogs could still read it.  Since I don't have a smart phone, I am unable to look for myself to see how this blog appears on mobiles.  If it's rubbish, please let me know. Alternatively, I can turn off the mobile template functionality entirely -- if anyone would like to help me test it, please contact me by e-mail. I would be very grateful for you assistance.

And if anyone has trouble reading the blog on laptops, PC or Mac desktops, kindly drop me a note in the comments or by e-mail with any issues you see.  It looks great on my PC and laptop, so I can only hope that it looks as good on yours. Let me know if it doesn't.

OK, thanks and I hope you guys like the new design. Stay tuned, as there is a great deal of things to write about in coming days. 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

They Call It "Action" in Nottingham

This Is Nottingham reports that volunteers are wearing high-visibility clothing to "ask" people to stop smoking outside the Queen's Medical Centre and City Hospital's entrance or even on hospital grounds:
During the week volunteers and staff wearing high visibility clothing stood outside the hospitals between 1.30pm and 4.30pm, asking people to stop smoking or, if they wished to continue, to do so off hospital property.

Community protection officers also patrolled the sites and fined anyone found littering. In total, 21 on-the-spot fines were issues for littering.
Well, first off, don't litter, people. Get a personal ashtray -- I never leave home without one -- or learn to "field strip" the lit end of your cigarette and put the butt into your pocket.  Although they'll probably consider the ash as litter... so just get an ashtray, folks.

Right. You see how they operate. They are using the might of the state's uniformed officers to denormalise your lifestyle, and by not providing smoking shelters, a trash bin or some kind of ashtray they are expecting you to litter. If you're tempted to toss your butt on the ground, which is precisely what the hospital staff wants people to do it seems, community protection officers step in to fine your unhappy asses.  All to get you to quit smoking in line with this month's Stoptober campaign.

It's called the Kick The Butt campaign.  It's not the first time this year that Nottingham has harassed smokers for trying to enjoy a legal product out-fucking-doors, where it is legal to do so.  The BBC covered it here:

Uniformed officers will patrol Nottingham's two main hospitals in January in a bid to remind people of a non-smoking rule on hospital property.

Queen's Medical Centre and Nottingham City Hospital will use community protection officers to deter smokers.

A no-smoking rule was introduced at the city's hospitals five years ago, but is often ignored.

Under a week-long campaign in early January, the hospital will prosecute anyone who drops cigarette butts.
Nice, huh?  Prosecute you.  I might have chosen the word "persecute" but the BBC didn't ask me to write the article.  The hospital is so pleased with its hate campaign against you, they even wrote it about it:
A third week of action to stop patients and visitors from smoking outside Nottingham's hospitals has been successfully undertaken at the Queen's Medical Centre and City Hospital.

Kick the Butt Week was held from 15-19 October to raise awareness of the no smoking policy at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) - and offer stop smoking support.

During the week between 1.30pm and 4.30pm, volunteers and staff wearing high visibility clothing politely asked people to stop smoking or, if they wished to continue, to do so off hospital property. This period is a peak visiting time and also a time when people often choose to smoke outside of the hospital's main entrances.

Local Community Protection Officers were also patrolling our sites and fining anyone found littering.
Some of the headlines from the week included:
  • 15 Kick the Butt volunteers gave their time to patrol main entrances, politely asking smokers to move off site
  • Nottinghamshire Community Protection Officers issued 21 on-the-spot fines to both staff and the public for littering (mainly for the discard of cigarette butts)
  • New Leaf and Nottingham City Smoke-free Homes had a stand inside the QMC main entrance to promote smoking cessation.
And you have to wonder what kind of hateful bastards would volunteer to harass the visitors and ill people at the hospital. This has nothing to do with your health. This is about controlling your lifestyle, for which you pay a hefty amount of taxes to "enjoy."  This is what denormalisation looks like.  This is a hate campaign.

Finally, how did I learn of this masterful hate campaign against my northern friends?  From the Deborah Hutton Charity, which evidently has abandoned all charitable principles and decided to hitch a ride on the Tobacco Control Industry express train to hating smokers above all else.

That's right, Nottingham. You go! You go on behaving as inhumane, uncaring, horrible, hateful people against a minority of those who have done nothing at all to you and are NOT harming you, all the while guided by the shining holy light of fake charities such as the Deborah Hutton Charity, or ASH or CRUK.  Because, yeah, those high-visibility vests and your fucking evil attitudes towards your fellow human beings will cure cancer.  Dickheads.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Battle of Ideas

I have been quiet the past few days because I was lucky and privileged to attend the Battle of Ideas at the Barbican on Sunday, for which I owe many thanks to several people for making it happen (you know who you are).  Others have already blogged about the sessions, covering everything I would have written about, so if you want to know what it was like, check out these pages:

Tom Paine's "Compulsion Works" over at The Last Ditch is an excellent write-up of the events.

Angela Harbutt provides her views on a day well-spent here at the Liberal Vision blog.

And Dick Puddlecote reports on what he saw that day -- and the sad truth is that the True Believers in Public Health honestly believe you are incapable of raising your own children or making your own decisions.

So please do go read all of those accounts for truly valuable insights into the minds of the Public Health zealots' quest to save you from yourself, no matter how great the cost to taxpayers, the costs to society, and the even greater costs to people's lives -- all of us who are affected by legislation that seeks to dehumanise and denormalise everyone who does not subscribe to the gospel of Public Health.

I thoroughly enjoyed the sessions that I attended, and it seemed to me that the majority of the audience in attendance at the sessions were not aligned with the Public Health movement, which I take as a good thing

But the absolute best part of my day was getting to meet many fellow freedom fighters for the first time (most are in blogroll at right, and the few that are not shall be added shortly).  Without exception, everyone I met was awesome and really impressed me -- these are some of the nicest and smartest people I have ever had the privilege to meet.  Everyone was utterly gracious and kind.  It's safe to say that we all had a great time up at the pub, and pints of beer kept magically appearing in my hand.  Really fantastic and genuine people all around -- so do not believe anyone in Public Health or the Tobacco Control Industry who says otherwise.

So, again huge thanks to everyone I met for being excellent company on Sunday night.  It was my pleasure to meet all of you.


Saturday, 20 October 2012

My Sincere Request to Simon Chapman

I broke one of my social media rules on Twitter yesterday.  Before I did it, I gave the pros and cons ample consideration.  The "Compose New Tweet" window was open on my screen for about five minutes while I mulled it over -- the tweet had been written and the only choices from there were to either click the Tweet button to send it or click the X button to cancel it.  In the meantime, I rolled a cigarette, lit it, and by the time I had finished smoking I had decided to send the tweet.  Rules are sometimes meant to be broken, when it seems necessary anyway. This rule was "never tweet to the tobacco control industry."

Sometimes people surprise you, but mostly they do precisely what you think they'll do. You do not need to be a learned sociologist to understand human behaviour. Nobody likes to be called a hypocrite, and one can expect that a person's reaction to such a claim will be negative and defensive -- you expect that statement to be challenged and denied. But when the evidence is clearly against you, when it is indefensible, then your choices are limited to admitting your error, or simply ignoring it and hope it goes away mostly unnoticed. 

Few people will admit they were wrong; most will try to brush off their error and ignore it or, worst case but certainly typical of many in the public eye, blame someone else for it.  It takes a certain strength of character to stand up and say, "You know, I really ballsed that up."  Or to say, "This is my fault and I take full responsibility." 

Or in the matter I will cover in a moment, to say, "Yes, I admit we also did the same thing, and we were wrong to do it."

I don't remember who it was that once told me:  "Do not point out the faults of others for the same things you do yourself."  I have never forgotten those words, though.  I honestly try to live by them, but I'm not 100% certain that I always do. I'm not perfect. I make mistakes; I have made a few here on this blog.  When I realise I make an error, I apologise for it. I own up to it and I will accept the consequences of my error, no matter how bad it makes me look. 

At my last job, one of my colleagues used to call me Mr Integrity.  He -- indeed everyone I worked with -- knew that I would always do what I said I'd do, and that I would always say precisely what I honestly believed about something, even if it would not make me popular by saying it.  One day I really ballsed something up. I missed an extremely important deadline. It was the first and only time I had ever done that.  I was mortified.  My error cost my company about £10,000 I think.  People get sacked for lesser offences.  I could have covered up my error. I could have blamed it on someone else.  I could have lied. I could have ignored it and quite possibly no one would have caught it.  But I didn't do any of those things.

I walked right into my boss's office and said, "I really fucked this up. I'm sorry. I don't have any excuse -- I blew it. I may be able fix it, but I'm uncertain that I can.  Even if I can correct it, this will be the costs to do so and we're still going to have further issues down the line."

I didn't get sacked.  My boss nodded, said thank you for letting him know and go fix it.  A few months later, during my performance review, my error was noted on my appraisal, and I did not receive the highest score I could have. This meant that I wasn't going to get the maximum pay rise possible, nor would I receive the highest bonus possible.  I accepted this and did not complain, because this is result I had truly earned.  More important, however, is that I learned from my mistake and changed my working habits to ensure that I would never again miss a deadline.

It would have been so easy to ignore my error, or to blame it on someone else. But the truth is, I would have hated myself for it. It goes against everything I believe in.

So back to the Twitter thing from yesterday.  I saw a tweet from Simon Chapman that said this:

Indeed, if you go to that link, you see that way back in 2008 someone asked for help in responding to a poll to fight an ordinance in Maine, USA. Well, yeah, doing this is wrong, but we also know that it happens all the time -- most groups on any issue whatsoever, tend to do this too.

To imply that only "pro-tobacco" groups would rig polls, that this is a standard for pro-smokers, is disingenuous and dishonest.  Simon Chapman knows this, of course.  We all know that on-line polls will be manipulated by people if it's possible to do it. People will rig general elections if they can get away with it.  It's not right. It's not fair. We should speak out against it when it happens, and the Root of All Evil has every right to point out that someone was manipulating an on-line poll.  I don't fault him for doing so, even though it happened four years ago.

But since the Root of All Evil mentions sanctimony, as if "his side" of the smoking issue is somehow perfect, righteous, truthful and beyond reproach, I had to say something. I could have ignored it.  I mean, this is what Chapman does all the time -- standard practice for him, if you will, to find fault with everyone and everything that is "pro-tobacco" no matter how petty it is.

So after careful deliberation, I tweeted this response:


I thought my tweet to Simon Chapman was polite. Well, I did add a #hypocrisy hashtag -- as you do on Twitter.  I had no intention of tweeting to him further. If it's not clear from my tweet above, back in late April of this year, I discovered that ASH Australia was asking supporters to rig a petition in the Netherlands.  So I tweeted about that with this image:

Source via ASH Australia's Facebook Page
Well, it is clear that ASH Australia was trying to influence another nation's tobacco control policies. Obviously, it's wrong to do that. It seems both sides of the smoking issues debate are capable of asking people to manipulate polls and petitions. 

Now, I knew that by tweeting that to Simon Chapman (note: I think this was the first time I have ever tweeted to him) that he would block me on Twitter or he has somehow protected his tweets.  I knew he would do this because he has done it to a number of other so-called "pro-smoking/tobacco" accounts on Twitter who have called him out in the past.  Certainly, I did not expect any kind of reply, like ""Yes, I admit the people on my side also did the same thing, and we/they were wrong to do it."

I was not surprised, though. Simon Chapman, who I call The Root of All Evil, did precisely what I thought he would do.  Because I know precisely how he operates and people rarely surprise me.

But since I also know that Chapman visits this blog occasionally, I'm going to offer him a chance to make it right.

I would like to know if Chapman is capable of surprising me.

I would like to know if Simon Chapman has any integrity. 

For if he does surprise me and admits that ASH Australia was no better than the people on the Forces forum, I will stop calling him The Root of All Evil.

I will then go through every post on my blog that he's tagged in and remove the label "Simon Chapman is Most Definitely a Hateful Cunt". 

I will stand up and admit "I got it wrong about him in this case."

I don't care where or how Simon Chapman says it -- Twitter, on a blog somewhere -- I would be grateful, however, if Simon would let me know so that I can live up to my end of the deal.  I am on Facebook here if you or someone else would like to message me privately with the location of any response you make.

So what say you, sir?  Are you a man of integrity?  Or will you consider yourself above this request from a guy "who never exaggerates and has the gift," and ignore it?  The choice is yours.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Be Grateful This Man is Gone

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Mr Dalli's own words on how he planned to destroy freedom of choice and civil liberties, taken via the New Europe web site.

Just watch the video. Watch all of it.  And be grateful he's been forced out.  It's just under 9 minutes.




Did you hear what he said, what they're planning to do in respect of changing the flavour of your cigarettes, or forcing e-cigarettes to have a regulated amount of nicotine?  The plain packaging bit, did you catch that? Did you notice the hand-wringing (a body-language indication that he's being dishonest)?  Did you notice he's a lying bastard from hell when he said snus is dangerous.

I suppose we can take only a small amount of comfort knowing the Directive will probably be delayed until 2015. These people are not elected by the way. They are unelected technocrats who are out to tell us how we should live our lives, in accordance with the Public Health gospel. 

We need to get out of the EU as soon as possible, but of course our government is too afraid to give Britons a referendum.  Ever wonder why?

More Evidence of Plain Packs Cross-Promotion

Following yesterday's post, Plain Packs Corruption, in which I showed that Smokefree South West (SFSW) had indeed cross-promoted CRUK's separate petition, I've done a little more digging to see how far done the rabbit hole it goes. When SFSW wrote to Andrew Black claiming that they didn't promote the other petitions, they lied. 

Below is a small selection of tweets and re-tweets by Plain Packs Protect (PPP) on Twitter cross-promoting CRUK's petition.  PPP is run by SFSW, and SFSW is funded by and part of the NHS, which as you know is managed by the Department of Health Hate.

Welcome to Wonderland.


https://twitter.com/TeenageCancer/status/233159294944698369


https://twitter.com/Sevefoundation/status/229955757876056064

https://twitter.com/CR_UK/status/217923801629982720

https://twitter.com/EmmaWrafter/status/218632247450931200
The link bit.ly/L798ik  leads to this page with links to CRUK's petition


https://twitter.com/CR_UK/status/195475445146337281
 

https://twitter.com/camtia/status/194880817296707584


Of course, it's not just Plain Packs Protect (rather SFSW) who cross-promotes.  SFSW's partner, Tobacco Free Futures (formerly Smokefree North West), has done the same.

https://twitter.com/TheBHF/status/232898689096634368

https://twitter.com/CancerFocusNI/status/228451485363601408
Links to CF petition via Facebook


Believe me there is a lot more of this, one only needs to look.  Unfortunately, I do not have time to track it all down. 

I will update this post with any stuff you or I find.  Please look, because I could really use a little help with this.  

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Plain Packs Corruption

By now I suspect you have already seen Dick Puddlecote's, Christopher Snowdon's, and Simon Clark's blog posts on the plain packaging consultation corruption scandal.  Yeah, I'm using the word scandal.  Because to call it anything different, such as an inadvertent error or a lapse in professional judgment by a junior staff member of UKCTCS, would be like saying all MPs are honest, decent people who would never fiddle their expenses. Oh, perhaps a better and stronger analogy is that Genghis Khan was a pacifist.  I'm torn.

(Jay's note: Can I be called "That Ghengis Khan Blog" now?  Or should I have used another Hitler reference?)

As I casually perused the documents of the FOI release, I noticed that the release is a bit one-sided, meaning that I would guess that not all of the relevant documentation was released.  What I mean by that is, there are no responses to the any of the e-mails sent by anyone.

Granted, I send personal e-mails to people and sometimes I get no response nor any kind of acknowledgment, which I must confess is incredibly frustrating because I sit there wondering if my e-mail was received or read.  Nobody likes to be ignored, particularly when you take the time to write to someone.

But having worked in the professional world, I know for a fact that you almost always send a response to an e-mail, even if it's simply to acknowledge receipt.  I cannot imagine that there wasn't a least a "Thanks for this info!" e-mail sent by anyone in the correspondence chains.  This may not be that big of a deal, though. I have no evidence of a cover-up -- maybe the FOI officer deemed those responses irrelevant and omitted those documents. Perhaps it is DH FOI policy to exclude those kinds of e-mails, since they're only allowed to work on any given request for three days, it seems.

I also need to give Andrew Black some credit for at least striving to officially appear neutral in respect of the consultation. I note that he refused to let CRUK take photos of their consultation responses drop-off at the Department of Health offices in London, saying that he had to treat them the same as he treated FOREST.

But this doesn't let him off the hook, because when you read through all of the FOI documents, one thing is very clear:

The DH, Smokefree Southwest, ASH, CRUK, BHF, FRESH, and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health are all working together. They all advise each other on what is coming, what should be done and how exactly to go about making it all happen in their favour.  They don't even try to hide it. Maybe there is no need to do so.  The DH subscribes to ASH's e-mail circulars, or perhaps ASH just sends them to the DH addresses of the people they know, which are clearly numerous.  It's obvious that all of these organisations are essentially one group in respect of tobacco control policies.

It's also not surprising.  In my view, this is clearly a case of government using charities and other departmental institutions to lobby itself.  The whole system is incestuously corrupt from top to bottom.

But nobody cares, nobody will do a damn thing about it. It's business as usual in government.

Anyway, I note that Smokefree Southwest (SFSW) had tried to allay any concerns about the rampant duplication of signatures of plain packs supporters by insisting they were not cross-promoting CRUK's petition, for instance. This is not entirely true, nor is it entirely false. What SFSW actually did falls somewhere in a grey area.  In other words, not exactly asking people to sign the others petitions, but also not asking them not to sign other petitions too while blogging and tweeting CRUK's plain packs site and propaganda videos. Plausible denial.  Hypothetically, of course, if one is going to rig a consultation, then it behooves one to at least avoid looking like you are doing so.

So here's what SFSW wrote:

Click to enlargify
These two paragraphs are fascinating.  First, we see that someone at the DH (Andrew Black maybe? Who knows?) was advised by SFSW to set up an internal process to check for duplicates.  Should SFSW be "advising" the DH how to run a consultation or how to check for duplicates?  Doesn't that seem a bit naughty?  More than a bit?  The second paragraph says SFSW was careful to not cross-promote the sign-up methods between the various organisations.  Really? Were they?  As said above, they didn't explicitly ask people to do so, but they had no trouble referring people to CRUK's site.

For instance, this blog post from April 2012 embeds CRUK's video, which explicitly promotes CRUK's petition:



Is that not a form of cross-promotion? Indirect cross-promotion? Certainly it's an endorsement of CRUK, for the Plain Packs Protects (which is Smokefree Southwest if you didn't already know) wrote (emphases added):
"We have been working closely with Cancer Research UK since well before the launch of the [plain packs consultation] campaign and they have been fantastic partners on plain packaging evidence and generating support for the plain packaging of cigarettes and other products."
(Jay's note: did they really say "other products"? That doesn't say other tobacco products. No, it says other products. Which products do they mean?)

So you know, CRUK and SFSW are de facto partners. They admit it on their blog, although they didn't need to do that because it's "plain as day" to anyone who bothers to look into the anti-smoker lobby.

Here's another endorsement by SFSW, this time via a retweet of CRUK's tweet on Twitter:
SFSW retweeted this - third from left and annotated..
Guess what happens when you click on the link in that tweet.  It takes you to CRUK's petition for signing! Is that not an indirect cross-promotion of CRUK's petition by SFSW?  You bet it is. But since they didn't ask people to sign, then it's OK. No, they'll just quietly provide a link to CRUK's site.  Because if SFSW didn't want to promote CRUK's petition, they could have modified CRUK's tweet and removed the link.  They didn't, though.

And just for fun, here's SFSW also retweeted this gem:

Hey! That's my blog he's talking about. "That Hitler Blog."
Fantastic! Thanks for the plug, David.


Naturally, theanswerisplain.org leads to ... da-da- dah ... CRUK's petition. Hey, SFSW isn't saying to sign it, but they aren't saying don't sign it either. They have NEVER said don't sign CRUK's petition from what I can see on-line. I will correct that statement when I do find it or if someone can point it out to me. I do try to be fair.

You can read more about CRUK's ambassador David on Simon Clark's blog here. Although I strongly disagree with David's views on tobacco control, I actually quite like David in many ways. He's tenacious for starters. He's like a pitbull and he's been consistently dogging HOOPs for the last 7 months or so, even after every other CRUK ambassador gave up campaigning for plain packs. You have to admire that, even when you're on opposing sides.  Someday maybe David will let me buy him a pint or three if I ever make it to his area (which is unlikely because I do try to avoid going up north), or next time he's in London schmoozing it up with ministers in Parliament or something. Of course, sharing a pint with me, David, could get you added to the naughty wiki. They might see that act as you being corrupted by a "pro-smoking" blogger.  Hey, it could happen. Big Tobacco Control Industry is always watching, David!  Seriously, David, you make me smile and laugh sometimes with your dry repartee, which is a good thing. I very much appreciate your sense of humour about some things.

Well, I haven't had time to go through all of Smokefree Southwest's Tweets, or the tweets of Plain Packs Protects, or indeed any of the accounts listed by SFSW as partners to see how far down the rabbit hole the cross-promotion goes:


Perhaps we could crowd-source going through these orgs and seeing what they've been up to the past half-year.  If you want to help, drop me line in the comments and we can then submit all that we find as evidence to our MPs and maybe even Jeremy Hunt to show that the plain packs consultation stinks to high heaven. What do you say, people?  Want to help?

[Insert sounds of crickets here: (chirp .... chirp... chirrup)]



PS:  The FOI also makes very clear that they are indeed coming for your homes and cars, smokers. Just sayin'.  Anne Milton used the word "eradicate" in fact. Marvellous.

PPS:  See also my later post More Evidence of Plain Packs Cross-Promotion

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

People

I think too much.  That's my problem.  I wonder how much easier or simpler my life would be if I could shut off that annoying, critical thinking facility that truly forces me to scrutinise every thing I hear or read.  What if I could be ignorant to everything but my own immediate needs?  What if I didn't care about anyone or anything but me?  Would I be happier, more sated with life?  I don't know. All I do know is that thinking gets me in trouble.

That's not to say that I'm versed in all subjects of life here on this planet, because certainly I am not -- not even close.  There is so much I do not know and will never know.  Sometimes it's because I haven't learned something because I do not have time to learn it.  Other times it's because I can never know.

Consider this:  I'm white -- my heritage is French, English, Scottish, Irish, and a trace of Native American (from one of my great-grandparents, I'm told). I'm a proper mutt, and clearly my family got around the genetic block a little bit, but then again, not so much really. So I grew up and went to school as a white kid, in an area that was 95% white. I've lived my entire adult life as a white guy.  I can only ever know what it's like to be white.  Because I cannot be anyone else.

No matter how much I read about other cultures, no matter how often I talk about race issues with my friends who aren't white and what's it like for them, indeed no matter what I do, I can never fully understand or appreciate what it's like to be black, hispanic, asian, oriental, or from any other culture or "race" including Native Americans.  It's an impossibility, and any white person who thinks they do understand this is fooling themselves.  You cannot know because you have to live it to truly and fully understand it.

Sure, I can try to make assumptions about what it might be like to be from another culture, yet I suspect these will be false and incorrect. I can draw comparisons to my own experiences and assume what someone else might feel, but I can't really know even if its spelt it out for me.  Certainly, I can learn about someone's culture and I can learn what is acceptable and what is not. I can get by on that much -- I really have no other choice. I can certainly feel for people's crappy situations, but that's an emotion, not an understanding.

The very best I can do is to be what I believe is a decent person and treat everyone equally, on an individual per-relationship basis and learn how that person wants to be treated and treat them that way.  In that regard, that's how I've lived my entire life.  Getting down to brass tacks, the only thing that matters is how we treat each other, regardless of culture, heritage and race. Because I don't think in terms of race. I think only in terms of how you treat me as an individual.

And I think (this is the part where my mind gets me in trouble) that some people too often class someone's actions as racist when in fact it is fear of different cultures, ethnic or religious, or simple ignorance.

You cannot hate something you do not know or understand. You might fear it, because it's unlike anything you do understand, but to instinctively hate it? No, I think that's an impossibility.  You can choose to ignore something, too.  It is true, however, that you can be taught to believe in something, or taught to hate, or both at the same time. You can reject all that you have been taught, too.  You can also choose to embrace anything that is different from yourself and your views and accept the things you see for what they are, or in the case of people, who they are.

Furthermore, I accept that that personal experiences will greatly affect how we interpret and interact with the world around us. For instance, a person who was assaulted by someone of a different culture or race could very well conclude, quite incorrectly, that all people of that culture and heritage are of the same violent ilk.  Logically, we know it's utter bollocks to believe that, but I think something entirely different is likely to be at play here.

We have these big brains in our skulls, which should help us work out if what we think or feel is irrational, and yet our basic instincts for survival, for avoiding pain or harmful situations, predominate our decision-making processes, at times for the worse in respect of personal relationships.  A woman who is raped by a man may conclude that all men are rapists (or at least "potential rapists"). It's not remotely true that all men are potential rapists, but truth in this instance doesn't matter to the woman who was raped. What could matter to her most is never being raped again (note: I have no experience with rape issues at all, and not being a woman I cannot possibly know what matters most to woman who was raped -- consider it a hypothetical statement, please).  Her conclusions about all men may be illogical, certainly reactive, but I think that's how our brains are supposed to work, so that we can learn from the terrible things that happen and make sure it never happens again to us.

In fact, I think all animal life on this planet works precisely this way.  Because it has to, else nothing would survive for very long. If every time I hear a bell ring and someone smacks me in the face, eventually, and I hope fairly quickly, I'm going to start ducking or covering my face when I hear bells ring.  I don't know, though, and maybe I'm wrong. I can accept that my views are incorrect, because I'm not an expert on life, the universe and everything.  I'm only expert in understanding me, and I reluctantly concede that I may not even be expert at that.

Still, I believe there has to be a difference between racism and eugenics -- the Master Race line of thinking that the Nazis idealised -- and just not getting on with a culture that is different from your own because you don't understand it or don't want to understand it. One is based on an idea, and the other is likely based on personal identity or, in the larger sense, belonging to a group.

I almost wrote here that I understand racism because I've experienced it many, many times, but truth be told I'm not certain that is what I actually experienced.  I lived in Japan for a time, and there were several bars and other establishments that would not let me enter simply because I was not Japanese. They were Japanese-only clubs. "No gaijin allowed."  On what basis they decided that particular policy is a mystery to me. Did some British or American servicemen once tear up the joint, or too many times perhaps?  It's possible; it's even likely.  Yes, I was excluded on the basis of my nationality, but was that a racist decision or was it something else?  I'm not sure because I don't know how they came to that decision.

Likewise, I've been refused entry to pubs and clubs that cater to a black crowd. One of these incidents was particularly hilarious to me because my band was playing in the club that night and the doorman didn't believe that I, then a 21-year-old skinny white kid wearing Dr Martens and plaid shorts, would be in a blues and soul band. The doorman was pleasant enough about it, but he wasn't letting me in. I don't remember his exact words, but I remember the look on his face said to me, "Kid, you ain't got no business in this place."  I had to wait outside in the car park until our guitar player, who was the only black guy in the band, showed up and gave the doorman the low-down.  Yet a wonderful thing happened.  We owned the club that night -- this tiny place which could comfortably hold 80 people at best was packed with 200 people, and everyone in there was dancing and had a great time, including me.  There was no stage -- we played in corner of the dance floor, and people were dancing all around us, sometimes chatting us up while we played.  One of my fondest gigs, to be honest.

When I look back on that time, I wonder if the doorman was being racist or was there something else at play? One could argue that I didn't belong in that club because I was white, but I don't think that's a good argument. If I was white and there to cause trouble? Better. Indeed, you could make a compelling argument that some dickhead white guys came in there more than a few times and fought with the black customers, and that the management had decided to keep all of the white guys out in order to preserve the peace and the business.  I really don't know the reason. Maybe it was racism. Or maybe it was something else.

My very first "best friend" came when I was aged eight or nine.  His name was Mark, and Mark was black.  He was one of three or four black kids at my school. I never gave his skin colour much thought because the reasons I liked Mark had nothing to do with race.  We both liked the same things. The same cartoons. The same sports. A little later when we were about ten or eleven, we liked the same girls, so long as those girls also liked the stuff we did, and I think there was exactly one girl who did, which caused a little bit of contention between us.  Anyway....

Mark had this joke about black people that he use to tell all the time to anyone new that he met, and when I think about it now I know that if anyone said it today, it would be branded "incredibly offensive." Or "insensitive." There would be gasps of horror, cries of inappropriateness, and any kid who would dare tell this joke these days would be suspended from school. Likewise, adults who tell the joke will likely lose their jobs, or maybe in Australia or Britain they would be arrested for being racist.  But back then we used to laugh and giggle at Mark's joke, like kids do.  It wasn't offensive, and not because it was the black kid who told the joke so that made it OK kind of thing.

Fair warning, dear readers: I am going to write the joke below. I am fully aware that some truly sad people out there, in Australia and Britain no doubt, will complain that it's racist and and offensive and I will have yet another takedown, but screw it -- I'm telling you a true story and you need to understand what the actual joke was in order to ken what I'm on about.  If you can't deal with that, I would humbly suggest voluntarily leaping from a great height to end your miserable, pathetic and humourless life. Just a suggestion, really.  Because it's a joke, people. And some jokes, like this one, quite often hit home with the painful truth of what so many are unwilling to face.

The joke went like this.
Mark would hold up both of his hands and say:

"Why are black people's palms lighter than the rest of their body?"

Dramatic pause, murmurs of I dunno. Mark would then turn and face a wall and put both hands on it.

"Because they all had their hands up against the wall like this when God spray-painted them black," he'd say.
That's the joke. Is it really suspension-worthy these days? Arrest-worthy? I hardly think so. But then I always think too much. I don't know who would be more offended by it -- those who actually experience racism or those who perpetrate it and feel guilty about their actions. My guess would be the latter.

Of course, I know now that the joke had more to do about the endemic racism and race profiling in the police forces, but as a young kid I really didn't understand that aspect of it. That was way above my head.  I laughed back then because the idea of people being spray-painted by a god was utterly absurd, even for an eight-year-old, and of course one's cartoon-brain kicks in and that made it funny to me.  I have to also wonder if Mark fully appreciated the scope of his joke. I don't know, but I'd bet he did.  In the summer when I was twelve, Mark's family moved away and I've never heard from him since.

A year or two later, I had a brief summertime girlfriend who was black, but in all honesty I never thought about her skin colour, because we had grown up together and she was a friend. When I was sixteen and seventeen, I dated a Korean girl.  I also fell in love for the first time at seventeen with a Chinese-Hawaiian girl.  At nineteen, I got engaged to a different woman, whose parents were bigots and racists, and it was the very first time I had ever met anyone openly racist. I despised my fiancĂ©e's parents. It strained our relationship. Fortunately, our engagement ended when I went to live in Japan (which may be why I chose to go to Japan).  There I dated several Japanese girls, and to this day I'm still trying to remember how we got past the language barrier.  My Japanese was horrible at first. The relationships were a funny mix of sweetly humorous misunderstandings and an intense curiosity about a culture I could never fully understand but really wanted to know better.

After Japan I was in America and there I dated a number of other girls (as you do when you're young and you play in bands), and one I had fallen for was Mexican-American. Again, I didn't really think about her heritage -- I just really liked her.  But I also remember a conversation I had had with someone around that time, who asked me, "Don't you like white girls?"

Well, yeah, I did. I liked all women. Race, culture -- what did that have to do with anything?  But then I started thinking about it (because I think too much) and realised they had a point. I looked back at most of my ex-girlfriends and realised only a few had been white. I had not considered this at all before.  I briefly entertained the notion of being racist against your own race. Was that even possible?  I suppose anything is possible, yet I did not feel this applied to me. No. I liked white girls too. I was certainly not prejudiced against white girls. But the truth was, I liked people who were different than me even more, so I was more likely to be attracted to girls who were not white.

I also came to understand that I'm not alone in this preference for things outside of my own culture. In some regards, it's built in to all of us.

For instance, Americans hear a British accent and say, "Oooh! You're British. How wonderful to meet you! I just love your accent. It's awesome! Say something. Oh! Say it again! Hey everybody, come over here, we got ourselves a Brit! Listen to that accent! Go on, say something. Isn't that great? I love it. By the way, have you ever met the Queen or Prince Charles?"

Whilst Britons hear an American accent and say, "Is that a Canadian accent I detect there, mate? No? Oh, terribly sorry. You're American. Gotcha. And em, sorry about that, mate -- Canadians get a bit tetchy if you ask if they are American. Safer to ask if you're Canadian, you know since Americans don't get offended by that, but the Canadians...Good christ.  By the way, you didn't vote for Bush, did you? No? Fucking tosser, that man. Right, then. Lovely to meet you."

Speaking of voting. The Americans are having an election in November. I'm sure you've heard almost nothing about it.  I gotta say that I'm truly disinterested in all things political, except that I think we should vote them all out to end the career politician corruption thing.  Churchmouse Campanologist has been ringing some bells about the Obama/Romney matchup for a few weeks now. Well worth checking out. Seriously. Do. I hope to cover the election in a different post later this week, but read CC's for a primer.

If I had a point to this post -- and I'm not certain that I do any longer -- it would be that some things aren't necessarily racist. Sometimes it's "culturalist."  I think it depends on intent, primarily.  We are too quick to categorise something as racist when it is merely ignorance, or something far more sinister: Class-ism.

Humans are tribal, group-oriented beings. We instinctively yearn to be part of a like-minded pack of similar beings, some kind of group identity to associate ourselves with and feel like we belong to something greater than ourselves and for our survival.  Politics manipulates and exploits that human yearning magnificently, to our great detriment.  Likewise, the Public Health and The World Is Doomed Because of Mankind's Carbon Emissions Global Warming religions do the same. It is no coincidence that anti-smoker / anti-drinker / anti-everything prohibitionists align themselves with the Green and Global Warming movements. It is all much for muchness to them, different but with the same end result. Save everyone from themselves. It's about power and control. And that's why politicians embrace it.

Some of us, however, do not require any sort of group to identify with in order to feel fulfilled. These peculiar people recognise our greatest strength lies within our individuality and differences, an acceptance of all people for who they are and how they act and treat others, not the colour of their skin, or what religious beliefs they hold, or where they hail from.  I try to be one of these people.  I should also add that I love your imperfections, for these are things that make you special and unique. I do not want to change you into some idealised version of a human, because then you wouldn't be the person I loved.

Right. This epic post is ends with this observation:

I can trace almost every great evil inflicted on the populations of the world throughout all eras of human existence to a groupthink, hive-mind, propagandised crusade for an unachievable construct of perfection or an ideal existence for a particular group of people.

Perhaps if we just let people be themselves, perhaps if we stopped trying to control others by forcing a set of beliefs upon them, the combined sum of our imperfections and differences would result in a much more perfect world than we can possibly imagine.

Or not.

Worth a go, I think, for the craic.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Measuring Civilisation

I really like old people. They're pretty awesome, and I love to listen to their stories and hear their opinions. To be certain, not all old people are sweet old granny types -- some are downright mean and nasty.  But on balance, I tend to enjoy their company and they make me laugh, especially the cantankerous ones.  I think it's pretty shabby how a good portion of society treats old-age pensioners as if they're children or somehow incompetent, or worse, sending them off to a care home and deliberately forgetting about them.

My grandmother died earlier this year. She was 88-years-old, and she smoked and drank most of her life. Not exactly what one would classify a premature death. My family never put her into care either -- instead she lived part-time with my uncle and part-time with my mother.  In the last few years of her life, her body may have been fragile, her legs a bit weak (we sometimes made use of a wheelchair to get her around if her legs were sore and tired), her vision had deteriorated greatly, but her mind remained razor-sharp. She remembered everything and she didn't need a diary. She never missed anyone's birthday -- children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even the great-great-grandchild -- all of us got a card with money in it every year no matter how old we were. Same for Christmas.

Anyway, my grandmother did not die from drinking (about 4 to 5 pints per day up until she died) or from smoking, which she quit in her mid-70s, because it got too expensive. She never got lung cancer or had COPD or any of those smoking-attributable diseases.

She died from complications due to getting pneumonia, and her body was too old to recover.  See, she was independent, impatient and feisty, and she went outside on a cold winter's day to get something she had left in the car and didn't tell anyone that she was doing so. She was like that, my grandmother. "Don't tell me what to do. I'm fine," she would say ... a lot.  But on this day she slipped on a patch of ice and fell, fracturing her hip. She was not wearing her coat. And because she didn't tell anyone she went outside, no one knew she was out there.  She may have been outside for thirty to forty-five minutes before she was found.  And that's how she got pneumonia.

Which is how a lot of old people die, to be fair.

Around the corner from my home is a care home for the elderly. Smoking is not allowed in that facility, apparently, because every now and then when I walk past, I see an elderly resident outside, in the cold and wet weather, standing in an uncovered area, having a fag.  He's got to be in his mid-80s, I would think.  And when I see him out there, always alone, not another person in sight, I get angry about the public smoking ban. Really angry.  What if he falls?  How long before he gets pneumonia because of the anti-smoking public health zealots' insistence on saving everyone from themselves?

Is it fair to force old men and women into the cold so that they can smoke?  These people worked all of their lives, paid their taxes, raised families, fought wars in terrible conditions some of them, and so much more ... and we treat them like this?  Couldn't the care home at least provide a smoking room for their residents? Wouldn't that be the decent, humane thing to do?

I think it would. But what I do know? I suppose that while we pretending that we're protecting the health of the care home's workers, we are simultaneously killing off our most valuable members of society, the elderly, by forcing them outside.

And it pisses me off how the overly-restrictive public smoking ban is destroying our society and ruining people's lives, including our elderly, and that's a major reason why I'm writing this blog almost every day.  Maybe someone who does care will read this, and then we can roll back the smoking ban for our old-age pensioners.

Or we can just do nothing and continue to let them be treated worse than cattle and sheep.

How does that saying go?  Civilisation can be measured by how it treats their elderly?  Something like that?

Well, in my view, our civilisation has become even more barbaric and cruel.  I dare someone to defend the smoking ban in respect of forcing old people outside to my face. Because I will fucking clock you.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Mean-Spirited Horrible People

You know those professional anti-smoker campaigners who say they care about smokers?  Don't believe them.

Now before I get into that, let me say that I can appreciate irony and black humour as much as anyone, perhaps more than most. I have a wicked, dark sense of humour. Sometimes people have no idea if I was joking, because I usually say things deadpan. If I get the sense that someone thinks I was being serious, I can tell them it was a joke. Once people get to know me, they realise not to take the dark things I say at face value. I am, after all, trying to make them laugh.

Sometimes we laugh and joke about tragedies as a means of coping with how awful things are. We don't do it to be hateful or mean-spirited. It's not even a question of right or wrong, offensive or inoffensive, although political correctness has tilted the landscape in favour of it being unacceptable, often with legal consequences if we go by recent events. There can be humour in most anything. I believe there is a bit of darkness in everyone, and one way of managing that darkness is to laugh at it. 

Some people find dead baby jokes funny, because these are often absurdly implausible and so awful in their bad taste that they transcend all vestiges of common decency and float in the murky realm of black improbability.  The majority of these jokes are not malicious, nor are they aimed at actual baby deaths and real people's tragedies (although some are indeed). They are generic by design and they are not meant to hurt anyone, yet some people (859 people in the UK at the time of this writing) are genuinely aggrieved by such jokes so much that they believe government should do something about them.

Old Warner Brothers cartoons (Bugs Bunny and Road Runner for instance) are a perfect example of using using over the top violence and black humour to make you laugh. Perhaps it helps a great deal that we know these cartoons are not real, that the hand-drawn violence depicted in glorious artistic detail is meted out on fictional characters in a fictional two-dimensional universe. The same goes for many campy horror films. The violence is often so extreme and bizarre that it is simultaneously disgusting and funny.  Sam Raimi's Evil Dead movies are a brilliant example of camp horror.

But the above are all fictional things, and that makes it easier and more socially acceptable to laugh at them.

It's an entirely different thing when we laugh at the circumstances and tragedies of real people. Joking about real people can be just as funny to some people as laughing at cartoon scenarios. It's not nice nor politically correct; it's usually inappropriate for polite company, but that inappropriateness coupled with the darkness within each of us makes many people laugh nevertheless. Quite simply, some people laugh because they are shocked at how inappropriate the joke is. And some laugh because they are shocked that the joke teller had the temerity to say exactly what they had also been thinking but would never dare say aloud themselves for fear offending others. Perhaps that laughter is a form of releasing the guilt they felt. I don't know, everyone is different.

With every inappropriate joke, it all comes down to the joke teller's intent. Is the joker trying to make you laugh, to bring out that darkness in you, or is the joker being incredibly hateful, derisory, and mean-spirited by ridiculing those who they disagree with and falsely dressing up their beliefs as jokes and attempting to pass it off as "irony."

This sense of passing off one's hate as irony brings us back to the anti-smoker crusaders. To be honest, I wasn't certain if I was going to write about this.  Knowing my own inclination for black humour and my appreciation for it, I had to sleep on this one before coming to a decision on whether to write this post or ignore it. Am I singling out these people because I strongly disagree with their views on tobacco control? Is my personal bias affecting me in some way, making me read more into something than what it really was?  Am I just being a prick about this?  I wasn't sure yesterday, so I talked to someone else about it for their opinion, and then I slept on it.

When I woke up this morning, it was the first thing on my mind and all I could think about was the human tragedy aspect of it. Some people are going to lose their jobs, their livelihoods because of this due to no fault of their own.  That's not funny.  If the situation had gone another way and unnoticed (or if no one bothered to care) then people could have become very ill and likely would have died a horrible, painful death from caesium-137 radiation poisoning.  Not funny either.

Upon waking, I came to the conclusion that only mean-spirited, horrible people would find irony and/or humour in other people suffering; that their agenda to destroy tobacco companies, tobacco farmers and those who use tobacco products has clearly blinded them to the reality that there was a huge potential for gross harm far beyond any dangers that smoking may cause to some smokers. We don't laugh at people who get cancer because that's cruel. We don't laugh at people who get radiation sickness because that's hateful and mean-spirited. When your beliefs and ideology makes you hate things so much that you fail to recognise that people will suffer, then you're an asshole.  Only the True Believers in the Public Health religion would find irony and humour in this, and in my opinion, that makes them evil.

So what's the story?
"Fukushima tobacco contaminated with radiation"
Japan's largest cigarette maker has cancelled the purchase of tobacco leaves from Fukushima after they were found to be contaminated with elevated levels of radiation. Japan Tobacco says routine checks of dried tobacco leaves from Fukushima have revealed that some of the crop is contaminated with radioactive caesium above the company's safety limit.
See, JTI did the right thing here by refusing to purchase contaminated, radioactive tobacco, and you can see how the True Believers in the tobacco control industry would relish this event. On the other hand, what if JTI had bought and used the tobacco anyway?  Can you imagine how the tobacco control industry would have relished that as well?  They would have had a field day.  But JTI made the right decision, and the only thing left for the True Believers is satirical "irony."

To wit, here is the green-energy campaigning schoolteacher Fran Barlow's tweet about it (a chronic re-tweeter of the Root of All Evil's tweets, by the way):

Naturally, such delicious hateful irony appeals to the Root of All Evil's prurience, and he tweeted thusly:

And just so you don't think it's an isolated event and limited to these Australian twats from hell, here's another piece of shit's take on it, a guy named John M. Watson who works for ASH Scotland:

This brings us to a on-line journalist named Adam Westlake, who works for the Japan Daily Press website. He's a guy who is clearly trying to make a joke out of it, but it falls flat on its face and merely comes off as being insensitive and cruel to any smoker who gets cancer (emphasis added):
Smokers in Japan are in for a bit of an eye-opener about their already unhealthy habit: Japan Tobacco Inc. has stated that some of its dried tobacco leaves coming from Fukushima Prefecture this year tested positive for radioactive cesium at levels above the 100 becquerels per kilogram limit. While this shouldn’t cause a panic, as the tobacco conglomerate will cancel the order for the 4.5 tons of leaves, but would it really have been that much worse if some cigarettes, which already cause cancer, had some radiation thrown in too?
Why, yes, Adam, it would have been a lot worse.  There's a huge difference between accepting the risk that smoking may cause cancer, and unknowingly using a product that is contaminated with radioactive caesium. This attitude towards smokers is what denormalisation of smoking is all about. Smokers are sub-human in these people's minds.

But what about the farmers?  Does anyone care about them?  Well, no. Tobacco farmers are every bit as guilty as tobacco companies in the Root of All Evil's view.  For example:

By the way, 30 million farmers is greater than combined population of Australia and New Zealand

Or this:


Simon Chapman clearly believes that anyone who has anything to do with tobacco should be destroyed. I doubt he cares about smokers. He only wants to destroy the tobacco industry and anyone who gets in his way must be obliterated too. His lack of empathy or sympathy for those who do suffer is astonishing considering that he claims that he's trying to protect people. He's not, though. This makes him a hateful cunt.

And yeah, let's talk about suffering. The Japanese farmers are suffering from this incident due to no fault of their own. They didn't cause the nuclear incident in their area. All they do is grow tobacco. That's not a crime... yet. The real story, the real human tragedy can be read here (note: the article is badly translated from Japanese to English, so it is difficult to read and more than a bit weird (possibly a bit funny in its own way due to the translation), yet the sentiment of hardship and struggling is clear and you need to read the whole thing to really understand it all):
7 years ago, at the age of 27, Naoya Ohashi from his grandparents who took over the farm, continue to maintain their tobacco.He is very proud to be able to stably supply against a variety of diseases of tobacco.He said, when forced to dispose of so much seedling when, he is ready to collapse.

[...]

Fukushima growers because land nuclear contamination and had to give up a smoke, this makes a lot of farmers to leave, and this is planted tobacco.But for the cigarette quality and public health, the tobacco companies of Japan before the acquisition of tobacco leaves of a radioactive substance undertakes detecting strictly, if exceed the standard, the tobacco can only be destroyed.The farmers strike would be great, because once the tobacco was declared the death penalty, Fukushima Prefecture tobacco planting industry will face the crowning calamity.
Better translation: Farmers who historically grow tobacco in the Fukushima Prefecture have had to dispose of their tobacco crops due to caesium contamination. Many farmers had to abandon the area and leave because they couldn't survive.  Those who remain are struggling to get by, since they cannot sell their crops. These people may lose their farms, and then what will they do? None of this is their fault.

But you won't find people like the Root of All Evil, Fran Barlow, or John Watson giving a flying fuck about the Japanese farmers' plight.  I wonder if they all secretly hope that all of the farmers in Fukushima will die from caesium poisoning themselves.

It wouldn't surprise me if they do think that, because they are all mean-spirited horrible people.