Log in

No account? Create an account


Frank Davis

Banging on about the Smoking Ban

Gone to: http://cfrankdavis.wordpress.com

I'm definitely moving from Livejournal to Wordpress. New address is:


I haven't actually written much at the new Wordpress site. It may take a few days before I get into writing stuff. For now I've just been trying out different templates, and the text editor it's got. So the look of it will change around a bit. I'll probably keep it a bit like the Livejournal page (whose text font and size I've grown accustomed to). i.e. simple.

Wordpress all seems to be much more slicker than Livejournal. And it seems there are more features available.

Commenting should be easier. No captchas (that I've seen yet anyway). At the moment it's set for people to put name and email address (just like WUWT). If people want to comment anonymously they can just put "anonymous" and a silly, made-up email address like "anon@anonymous.org". It doesn't seem to check email addresses. Comments have the usual HTML italic, bold, and stuff.

There's an option to import from Livejournal to Wordpress, but it might take a long time, given some 500 Livejournal posts and quite a few images. Whichever way, I'll leave the Livejournal stuff as it is. Except maybe switch off comments after a while (not yet anyway).

I probably won't post here any more.

So long Livejournal.

Moving to Wordpress, Maybe
I've been with Livejournal for over 18 months now, and the strain is beginning to tell.

There are just too many ads. I didn't mind one or two ads in the right margin, even if they were Quit Smoking ads. But a few months ago they started whole page ads that had to be clicked off. And a week or two back they started a new ad, which appears along the bottom of the page, over the text, and I've found that one even more annoying. It was getting to be too much.

It's almost as if they want to drive people away.

In addition, commenters have been complaining about the captchas they have to fill in, and other difficulties.

So I've begun investigating moving. But where? I don't really like blogspot, because somehow or other all blogs seem to end up looking the same. So I thought I'd try wordpress, because it seemed to have a good reputation. WUWT uses the free version, I believe. It seems to be pretty plain and simple. And it doesn't seem to have any ads. Commenting is pretty straightforward. So I thought I'd give it a whirl.

And so I've now got myself an account at http://cfrankdavis.wordpress.com/

There's already an automatic post there. So anyone who's interested is welcome to try commenting there, and say what they think.

Comments from other bloggers about Wordpress and other platforms are welcome.

For the moment, I'll carry on posting here, while trying to figure out what features Wordpress offers, and how easy it is to edit the page appearance and stuff. It may be that there's some awful problem I don't know about.

If it all looks good, I'll quit LiveJournal and post on Wordpress instead. I won't delete this blog or anything stupid like that. I'm not sure if you can copy one blog to another. Probably not.

Tsukushi Torn Mouth Rash Shop
Following up from yesterday, I spent quite a long time reading reports from Japan today, and looking at Google Maps of Japan, and reading up on the physics of tsunamis. I was looking set to produce another report on the earthquake and tsunami.

But I didn't have the heart. Instead I started using Google Maps to revisit the only place in Japan that I've actually been to: the city of Fukuoka. I was there in late 2005 to co-present my idea for an Orbital Siphon - a 170,000 km piece of string extending out from the Earth's equator, which doesn't fall down, or just hang in space, but totally weirdly goes upwards of its own accord - with Professor Colin McInnes of the University of Glasgow, who now has his own Perpetual Motion blog. I must write something about the Orbital Siphon one day.

Anyway, Google Maps has a feature whereby you can 'drop' someone onto a street in the map, and you can see the street scene there. Google sends round vans with cameras mounted on them in quite a few places. I've spent hours using it to wander around Barcelona.

So I started wandering along streets in Fukuoka down which I'd actually walked, and revisited the Hakata Green Hotel where I'd stayed.

And then I remembered the little restaurant I'd discovered on my first night in Fukuoka, when I'd stumbled out onto its streets without my Japanese phrase book. I wrote about it a year or so back. So I went looking for it in the warren of streets just south of Hakata station.

Tsukushi torn mouth rash shopAnd I found it! That's it on the right. The only thing I could remember was roughly where it was, and that it had a wood framed door and windows, and there was nothing in English in it at all. So I never knew what it was called.

Today I found out its name. It's the 'Tsukushi Torn Mouth Rash Shop'. Well, that's what its name is when translated from Japanese into English. What a wonderful name! None of your Philippo's or Grant's or McDonald's. Nope. Just the effing Tsukushi Torn Mouth Rash Shop. What more do you need to know?

I also turned up a Japanese review of it:

There is lively, cheap and delicious.

All staff are running comfortably.
Service in the hall three daughters smile.
The dashing older brother is also in charge of the hearth, suggesting that attitude to work.

The store itself, but no ordinary nondescript pubs,
Such attentive staff, has produced a very good space.

As noted by previous authors,
Small menu] [thank you in three hours and was written.
But this is where opinions are divided, particularly because it was not a problem alone., But if you were going to be kicked out, maybe another problem.
As far as the hospitality of the staff here is the first time,
That way they think is a very
How truth.

How truth indeed! Lively, cheap, and delicious pretty much hits the nail on the head. It must've been the dashing older brother who first welcomed me into the shop. And it was perhaps a couple of the daughters that I spent several hours flirting with using written English and hand claps. And I was only ever kicked out of it once, and that was when it closed at midnight.

Another Japanese reviewer, who seems to spend most of his life in Fukuoka restaurants snapping pictures of the food he's about to eat (or is actually in the process of eating), also provided a blow-by-blow record of his experience there.

It's not the only restaurant in Fukuoka with a rather surprising name. Here's a small selection of other ones:

One thousand Sea Museum
Head Sea Throne
Grandfather tiger dumpling kitchen
God Flower Japanese beef
Healing Bear
Cat bottle teahouse
Incense return
Delicious real meat restaurant
Very beautiful shot grilled squid
Alcohol treatment goats
Round pan with a lion
You can also burn charcoal charcoal mad

You won't find names like that in Barnsley. Grandfather Tiger Dumplings sound interestingly dangerous. And to come across the Delicious Real Meat restaurant must be rather reassuring, particularly after you've just been to half a dozen fake meat restaurants. And the Very Beautiful Shot Grilled Squid suggests that the Japanese occasionally catch squid by shooting them. And why not? It's probably better than dynamite, or whatever they usually use to catch them. Certainly more beautiful, leastways.

One day, when the present difficulties have passed, I'll go back to Japan, and to Fukuoka. And I'll make a point of dropping into the Cat Bottle Teahouse, and look into the Round Pan with a Lion. But if you want to find me, I'll almost certainly be in the Torn Mouth Rash Shop, sitting at the end of the counter with a beer and a cigarette, and flirting with the daughters while waiting for whatever I'd ordered to eat - just by pointing at it in the glass cabinet - to land in front of me, just like I was 5 years ago.

It's been one of those days when you turn on the box and find yourself caught up in an unfolding drama. I've been watching footage of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster. It's astonishing that I've been able to see it within hours of it being shot.

Particularly arresting was the Al Jazeera video clip below (there's a similar clip in the Guardian), which shows the tsunami in Kamaishi city docks. There's an astonishing amount happening in it.

It was only after I'd watched it four or five times that I realised that the water level in the harbour was rising. At 26 seconds in, the water is several feet below a large Japanese sign beneath the windows on the white building. At 57 seconds in, it's reached the top of the window. So it's risen something like 15 feet in 30 seconds. And already at 26 seconds it looks like it's already 10 feet above ground level.

The same speed is apparent on the elevated roadway, which slopes down towards ground level in the distance. At 30 seconds you can see a couple of vehicles driving up this slope towards the camera. By 53 seconds, that slope has been covered in water. At 57 seconds, it's risen almost to the top of the slope, and white water is visble behind a couple of trucks stopped at the top.

What the hell was any traffic doing on this road anyway, driving along the waterfront? What the hell were the two cars doing driving through puddles of water at ground level underneath the elevated road, visible at 22 seconds? The tsunami took about an hour to get to the east coast of Japan after the earthquake. So why hadn't low-lying coast roads been closed, and traffic directed away from the waterfront?

Did those two drivers survive? There was already quite a lot of water on the road, and it was rising. Chances are that a few hundred yards further on they could have found the water was impassable. And there would have been no escape.

There's really quite a lot of traffic on these roads, it seems. And given the rate at which the water was rising, it seems entirely plausible that dozens of cars and trucks got caught, and never got out. There might have been 100 people drowning in their cars on the streets of Kamaishi by the 57 second mark.

And that doesn't count the pedestrians who were on the streets, or on the ground or first floors of buildings. There could easily have been another 100 of them. Or more. After all, if car and truck drivers were cheerfully driving along the front, and were even standing on the elevated road gawping at it all, then it's very likely that shoppers and shopkeepers and dock workers and boat crews didn't think there was much danger either.

The more I looked at this scene, the more likely it seemed to me that, just in the camera field of vision, a few hundred people could have lost their lives. In the whole of Kamaishi, which has a population of 40,000 or so, maybe 1000 people were caught.

And quite needlessly, it would seem. They had a whole hour to clear the lowest-lying ground. It's not as if they don't know about tsunamis. It's a Japanese word, after all.

But as I write, the death toll in the whole of Japan is set at just 1000. Since Kamaishi is just one town among hundreds all along the eastern Japanese seaboard, the actual death toll looks to me more likely to be more like 100,000.

And then, apart from all the lives lost, there's the damage. Hundreds of thousands of smashed cars and trucks and boats. Tens of thousands of houses swept away. Roads feet deep in mud and detritus. All the drains will be blocked. Most of the power will be out. A lot of people will be homeless. All damage done just by the tsunami, not the earthquake.

See also this for a terrifying 9 minute amateur video.

Why Gaddafi Will Win
(...most likely.)

I've written a couple of pieces on the Libyan uprising. In the last one I said that Gaddafi would first have to secure his base in and around Tripoli, and then turn east. And this is pretty much what he's done.

In the meanwhile, the rest of the world has issued statements, made lots of telephone calls to each other, and performed a maypole dance around the idea of imposing a no-fly zone on Libya. Perhaps at the outset, they thought that the rag-tag army of Libyan rebels that had sprung up everywhere really could oust Gaddafi all on its own. It certainly looked that way for a few days. So they hung back from imposing a no-fly zone, because they hoped one wouldn't be needed.

Probably the Gaddafi regime was caught off balance at the outset, and didn't know what was happening, or what to do about it. During this period of paralysis, numerous soldiers deserted, and quite few high-ranking members from Gaddafi's inner circle.

But this didn't last long. Gaddafi never lost his nerve. And pretty soon the military machine he controlled started working properly. The demonstrations on the streets of Tripoli were stopped. And now Az Zawiyah (and maybe Misurata) have been recaptured from the rebels. They were always going to be defeated in pretty short order by a well-equipped, professional army.

And now the race is on for Gaddafi's superior forces to recapture the Libyan eastern seaboard from the disorganised rabble which currently hold it. He has to try to do this as rapidly as possible, by land and by sea and by air, before the lumbering UN and NATO and the terminally indecisive Obama finally get round to calling for a vote on a no-fly zone, and for China or Russia to veto it.

That's why Libyan delegations flew yesterday to Cairo and Lisbon and Brussels, to try and stall the momentum towards a no-fly zone in any way they can, and delay it as long as possible. It's not a diplomatic imperative: it's a military imperative.

libya 10 mar 2011

After that we'll quite likely be seeing a complete collapse in morale among the rebels in eastern Libya, as Gaddafi seizes control of the coastal road, and bottles up the rebels in the cities. He might even be at the gates of Benghazi early next week, if he's sufficiently decisive and daring (which he probably is). After all, it's only about 100 miles from Ajdabiyah to Benghazi - a 2 hour drive -.

With that, a flood of Libyan refugees will start pouring across the border into Egypt, and sailing across the Mediterranean to Italy and anywhere that will take them. By the time NATO finally imposes a no-fly zone, Gaddafi will have all the eastern towns surrounded and cut off from each other, and will be able to reduce them one by one without any need of air power, because his army will have the tanks and artillery and troops to accomplish this alone, one city at a time. And furthermore, he'll be gaining Libyan volunteers who want to be on the winning side.

Then the NATO planes will circle uselessly overhead, as one town after another is recaptured by Gaddafi's army, and the rebels captured inside them are butchered.

And then of course there will be calls to supply food and weapons to the remaining rebels besieged inside their various towns and cities. By the time this has been agreed by NATO and the UN and the WWF and World Bank and the American Mothers Union, only Benghazi will remain. The food and weapons will arrive too late to do much more than slow the retreat of the embattled defenders towards the port.

So then there'll be calls to land an expeditionary force to re-enforce the defenders, and this will be agreed after a week or two of tea and biscuits and banana trifles, and the expeditionary force will arrive inside Benghazi harbour just as the last rebels are sailing out of it, and Gaddafi's troops have seized control of the port.

And then all concerned will have to deal with a newly invigorated and extremely angry Gaddafi regime, with all internal dissent inside Libya brutally suppressed.

And the various other tottering regimes in the region will take a leaf out of Gaddafi's handbook on How To Suppress A Revolt, and demonstrators everywhere will be bombed and mortared back into terrified submission. And any prospect of democracy in the region will have been set back a decade or more.

All of which could have been avoided if just one Western power had decided to side immediately with the fledgling rebels, and had provided them with air support and food and ammunition as rapidly as possible. It'll be an object lesson on how a decisive military leader can seize the initiative and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by a far more powerful but terminally indecisive opponent.

Gaddafi is going to win because he can think more quickly, and act more decisively, than the whole of the rest of the world put together.

See also LFTC Will Gaddafi Win?

With the Conservative-led coalition government today unveiling an insane tobacco display ban, I'm reminded how a lot of people were arguing a year back that UK smokers should vote Conservative at the upcoming election. Voting UKIP, they said, was a wasted vote. The thing to do was to vote Conservative, because iDave wouldn't wear any further antismoking measures.

I wasn't convinced, and voted for UKIP anyway. I'm glad I did, because iDave and the Conservatives have proved today that they're as much the party of antismokers as the Labour party or the Lib Dems. And today the faint chance that I might one day vote Conservative at some election was finally extinguished.

These days I just wonder what sort of socialist 'Big-Society' iDave is, and if and when Conservative voters are going to recognise that the Conservative party isn't conservative any more, just like the Lib Dems aren't liberal.

What a turn-about! Five years ago, I thought of myself as slightly left wing. Now the Conservative party isn't right wing enough for me.

What happened? Well, the smoking ban is what happened. The smoking ban that expelled me from society, and shattered my social life. Five years ago, I was a member of society, and more than happy for less fortunate people - blacks, women, gays, etc - to be given a helping hand to equal status as me. Now I couldn't give a damn about any of them. Because I have myself become an outcast. An outcast Englishman in England! It's something I could never have foreseen happening in my wildest imaginings.

I'm becoming an ultra-conservative, I think. Or maybe a nationalist. I dunno. I just want my country back the way it was 10 or 20 years ago. No, make that 50 years ago. Back to the days when you could go into a pub, and drink a pint of beer, and smoke a cigarette, and think nothing of it. Because I hate everything that this country has become over the past five years. And it hates me.

Actually, I don't think my core beliefs have changed at all. I remain pretty much a 'liberal'. However, because this word has become corrupted to mean something more like its opposite, I now have to say I'm 'libertarian'. It isn't that I've changed, but that the entire British political establishment has lurched leftward, particularly when iDave took over the Conservative party and repositioned it slightly to the right of Labour. This leaves everyone who is politically to the right of, say, Stalin, without a party to vote for.

And I feel betrayed. Betrayed by all the political parties. Betrayed by all the institutions. Betrayed by the BBC. Betrayed by the medical profession. Betrayed by science.

I think that, with the smoking ban, all these cheerfully betrayed their own people. Or the quarter of them who were smokers. And they been busy betraying them again today.

And it seems to me that if you can betray that many people, you can betray absolutely everybody. And maybe that's what these same people have been doing as they've set out to bind Britain into the EU. To do that, they had to be prepared to betray Britain, betray democracy, and betray absolutely everything that it ever stood for. Everything.

And why? Why are they doing it? Probably because they've been bought. Bought by an EU which seems to vote itself ever more taxpayer money every year. Bought by pharma companies who want to win the nicotine franchise from the hands of the tobacco companies.

It's as good an explanation as any. If you're a politician these days, you just sell yourself to the highest bidder. And there's a lot of money swilling around out there. And a lot of people who'd like a cut of it. If smokers get stamped on, who cares. If an entire nation has to be sold into slavery, too bad.

Perhaps that's all we're looking at. Corruption. The complete and utter corruption of the entire political class. From top to bottom. From the lowliest council official to the highest EU bureaucrat.

Whatever the reason, it's clear that it's not their electorates that these people are serving. They've betrayed them all. The Labour party has betrayed its labour roots. And the Conservative party has betrayed conservatism. And the Lib Dems have betrayed both liberalism and and democracy. They're all soiled goods. They're all empty vessels, hollowed out inside by maggots. It's a wonder that, when you see Nick Clegg or David Cameron on TV, that a maggot doesn't pop out of their forehead or their nose, and peer about, before burrowing back inside again.

Perhaps it's something that just happens quite naturally from time to time. Particularly at the end of a long economic boom, when there's a lot of money sloshing around. What started out once as something noble and principled gradually becomes corrupted. Eaten away by rust. Dissolved in the universal solvent of money. It happens to everything sooner or later. One day it ceases to be fit for purpose, and needs to be replaced, even it's a family heirloom. Nothing lasts forever. If there's a smell of corruption in the air, it's because something has died, and needs to be laid to rest.

There's some sort of explosion coming. All these people are going to be swept away. It's only really a question of whether this is done through the ballot box, or whether it's done in the Libyan fashion.

And in a country like Britain, it'll almost certainly be through the ballot box - unless that also has been corrupted. And in these volatile times, as old loyalties are everywhere breaking down, the next political regime may spring up very rapidly from nowhere - a bit like the Tea Party in America. The end of the old regime may be very sudden. After years of habitually voting one way or other, the electorate will vote en masse in some new and totally unexpected way. It just hasn't happened yet.

Drop Dead
I had a letter from the NHS last week, inviting me to sign up for a cancer screening programme. I was surprised I was invited. These days one expects to be ordered. But then, perhaps "invite" now means "order". You never know.

I won't be accepting the invitation, or obeying the order, whichever is appropriate. Why should I want to find out if I've got cancer? If they think I'm the teensy-weensiest bit at risk, the very first thing they'll do is order to me to stop smoking. Or invite me to stop smoking. And lay off the whisky. And the crisps and doughnuts and Melton Mowbray pork pies. And tell me to get some exercise. In short, they'll make my life no longer worth living.

So, while I stay away from them, cancer may be gnawing away at my innards, and cholesterol may be silting up my arteries, but I'll still have the pleasure of a cup of tea and a cigarette, or a whisky and a cigar. And I'll continue to be the master of my own life, maintaining my personal autonomy. And I'll retain my dignity. Once I walk through a hospital door, or into a doctor's surgery, it'll be the end of all pleasure, all autonomy, and all dignity. I'll become a slab of meat to be hectored and abused, before being sawn up and disposed of.

I haven't been to my doctor for 4 years now. When the smoking ban came into force, and the media blitz on smokers was in full spate, the bombs raining down everywhere, the last thing I wanted to do was to visit my doctor and be offered a Quit Smoking kit and be lectured about the dangers of tobacco. So I stopped going. I only ever went to get sleeping tablets anyway, and I found out that a few slugs of whisky was just as good as any sleeping tablet. In fact, a lot better.

The last time I saw her, she was wanting to read my blood pressure, or to get a reading of my blood sugar, even though I was perfectly well. But that's what screening is all about. You don't tell them when you're feeling unwell. They tell you. What you think means nothing to them. That's how they take away your worth.

I think there must be a lot of people like me. People who no longer want to visit their doctors if they can possibly help it. People who have started to see doctors as agents of state control, as a sort of health police. I imagine that anyone who is 'clinically obese' (which is more or less everyone, as best I can make out) will have the same attitude. So will anyone who enjoys a bottle of wine or three.

Doctors are no longer people who can be trusted. They have become people to fear. They are people who have control not only over life and death, but over more or less anything else anyone does. They used to be helpers and enablers. Now they have become tyrannical controllers.

I think that the inevitable consequence of all this is that people will stay away from doctors as much as they can. Who wants to go to their doctor simply to be told that it's their own fault that they're ill, because they smoked and drank and ate too much, and exercised too little? Who wants to be insulted some more, when they are already insulted enough every single day?

Nor is it that I think that these health bullies actually care two figs about anybody's health. They're quite obviously not trying to improve the health of smokers. They wouldn't make them stand outside pubs in driving rain if they wanted to do that. No, they're trying to exterminate smokers. And drinkers. And fat people. They'd like them to stand outside until they all drop dead.

And the result will be that, instead of public health improving, it will drastically deteriorate. For people who would otherwise would have gone to their doctors will now delay any visit for as long as possible, and quite likely to beyond the point when they they might be cured. Routine visits which might have allowed a doctor to notice a sallowness of complexion, a gauntness of face, a tremor in the hands, will no longer happen. Instead people will be admitted to hospitals with terminal cases of cancer or heart disease or malaria or dysentery or whatever. All the diseases that had once been banished will return with a vengeance.

But there's more. The smoking ban has shattered the social lives of millions of people, disconnecting them from friends, isolating them from the warmth of human society. In the comments on this blog, a year or so back, somebody wrote:

Thank you politicians for making my life not worth living after working from age 14 until 68. I am now 74 and have lost my soul and will to live in this lonely place.

And when people have lost the will to live, they're likely to die. They're likely to neglect to look after themselves, neglect to feed themselves, neglect themselves in every way. They may even take their own lives.

And why not? When life has ceased to be worth living, when all its pleasures have been forbidden, and all friendship has gone, what stronger incentive can anyone have to end their life?

So apart from many more people dying from untreated disease, there's also likely to be many more suicides. Which reminds me that up until 10 years ago I hardly knew anyone who had committed suicide. Now I know of about 5 of them. And almost all of them people who were perfectly well at the time of their death, and who seemed to have no obvious reason for taking their own lives, but who nevertheless decided that there wasn't anything worth living for any more.

And anyway in the modern climate of brutal state bullying, of insulting and demonising smokers and drinkers and fat people, isn't this relentless vilification of so many people likely to bring a total collapse in self-esteem for many of them? How many people have committed suicide because they have been made ashamed of being smokers, ashamed of enjoying a few beers, ashamed of being fat, and in some cases trebly ashamed for being all three at once? If they're going to vilify people so much, why not just send them all an NHS-approved noose with which to hang themselves, complete with instructions for the use of?

So I expect to hear that the incidence of all diseases is increasing dramatically, and that suicides are sky-rocketing, and that more and more people are being found long dead of unknown causes in their homes, because they had no friends, and nobody visited them any more.

And the worst of it almost is that, even when the whole filthy 'health' campaign is finally halted (as it one day must be), the consequences will be felt for decades afterwards. Because trust in doctors, once lost, will not be recovered easily, or perhaps at all. And shattered communities won't repair themselves readily, or perhaps at all.

Decades after it's all over, they'll be still be finding the pathetic, desiccated remains here and there, alone in bed with an empty bottle, or hanging from a shower rail.

I'm not much interested in fashion, so I wasn't in the least bit bothered when I heard that Christian Dior fashion designer John Galliano had been fired for making antisemitic remarks.

And so it was largely by accident that I finally watched this heavily-edited video of him making the remarks. What I saw was astonishing.

Galliano, as best I could make out, was sitting at night outside a Paris restaurant, and he was smoking. I've captured one of the relevant frames below. You can see the cigarette quite clearly.

john galliano

This completely changed my understanding of what had happened. Because, in fact, Galliano doesn't make any antisemitic remarks at all. He just tells the people at his immediately neighbouring table that they and and their mothers and their forefathers would be dead, and that they would have been gassed. There's nothing specifically antisemitic about that. Jews are not the only people who have ever been gassed.

The other thing which is quite clear is that the video records only part of what is clearly part of a longer conversation, during which Galliano seems to have taken a deep dislike of the people at a neighbouring table, and not because they are Jewish. Why did he take such a dislike to them?

My guess, for what it's worth, is that they complained that he was smoking. And Galliano, already deeply unhappy at having to shiver outside in the cold, and exhausted from just having completed his latest collection - which was due to be launched this last Monday - simply snapped and wished them and their mothers and their forebears had all been gassed.

Just like I would.

Because I hate these motherfucking antismoking bastards equally as much. Why, only a couple of days ago I was suggesting an eugenic programme to rid the world of them.

The EU smoking-ban-in-waiting calls for shock trials of high profile dissidents. I'm now wondering whether John Galliano may be the first of these. Except he won't be prosecuted for smoking, but for making 'antisemitic' remarks. Which would be quite typical of the way these mofos indirectly and deceitfully set about their aims.


I think that the smoking community should adopt Galliano as one of their own, as one of their dear and beloved sons. And anyway, we could do with a few fashion designers. And Kate Moss (another smoker, as you can see below) has asked him to design her wedding dress.

A Separate Reality
The current draconian Spanish smoking ban came into force on 2 Jan 2011. Translated from El Correo.

Doctors and restaurateurs have declared war. Navarra Basque Society for the Prevention of Smoking entered yesterday into the controversy of the 'smoking ban' to attack the restaurants with two accusations that could hurt them a lot. Health professionals claimed that owners of bars and cafes of "being sponsored by the tobacco industry" and said they do not believe they have been losing money since it was forbidden to smoke on their premises. The sector's response was immediate. "We challenge Navarra Basque society to say openly that our association has received some support from the tobacco industry, and it will be in court immediately," the federation said.

The stakes are high. A document sent to the mail by the president of the Basque Navarre Society for the Prevention of Smoking, Carlos Cortijo, said that the statistics of membership of the Social Security Ministry of Labour "shows that the number of people employed by the industry increased "from January 2010 to January 2011."

So let's get this right. A bunch of antismoking doctors have claimed that Spanish restaurants and bars are being paid by tobacco companies to protest about the smoking ban. In addition, they say that restaurants and bars haven't actually been losing money as a result of the ban. Their evidence? The fact that they took on more staff last year.

This is crazy. It's completely unhinged. It's more or less routine for antismokers to claim that anyone who disagrees with them is in the pay of Big Tobacco. And indeed sometimes they are. But the entire hospitality industry? That's crazy. But even crazier is the notion that the trade must be doing fine this year, simply because it was last year. It's as if these antismokers occupy a separate reality.

And that's perhaps exactly how it is.

For the reality of things according to the antismokers is that smoking bans don't harm business, but actually improve it. And that smokers almost universally approve of smoking bans, and carry on going to restaurants and bars just like they always did, only more so. And that there are dramatic improvements in public health. And that smoking bans are always a great success, and there have been countless examples of this success. This, as far as the antismokers are concerned, is the simple reality of the matter. Anyone who disagrees is either uneducated or in the pay of tobacco companies.

And so, when the antismokers read reports of bars and restaurants losing business, they know that it simply isn't true, and that it has to be those damn tobacco companies up to their usual mischief.

It would seem that these new realities (and the antismoking reality is not the only one) are conceived and nurtured in small closed communities (a bit like Heaven's Gate), very often in San Francisco, in which all concerned become true believers before they set out to bring their new reality to the wider world. There it circulates first in the highest strata of society, among politicians and journalists and senior executives and professionals of every sort. And then, once safely ensconced there, it is rolled out for general public consumption. And only a few hundred top executives and opinion formers may be needed to do that. A prince or two helps, of course.

It seems entirely plausible that there was a one-day seminar held somewhere in London in, say, 2004 for a number of top executives from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and several newspapers, and also the CEOs of a number of pubcos, and several senior politicians from the Labour and Conservative and Lib Dem parties, and maybe a couple of celebrities as well. Senior doctors like Sir Liam Donaldson or Sir Charles George would have addressed this select gathering, outlining the known dangers of tobacco smoking, and the newly discovered menace of secondhand smoke, and the medical imperative of denormalising smoking. In a slick Powerpoint presentation, somebody from ASH would have assured all those present that smoking bans had proved to be a great success in America, particularly in California, and there had been no loss of trade in bars and restaurants, and a dramatic improvement in public health and worker productivity. Afterwards, over tea and smoked salmon and egg-and-cress sandwiches, many of these executives would have no doubt expressed their enthusiasm for the idea of smoking bans, given the many clear benefits, and the zero costs. Any doubters would have been referred to the relevant pages of the accompanying glossy brochure for them to be quickly assured that, for example, 70% of smokers wanted to give up smoking. Once everyone was on board, the smoking ban could be rolled out across the nation with the all the political parties and the whole of the mass media and most of the hospitality trade each playing their pre-assigned roles. All that had been needed to be done was to persuade a hundred or so key figures of the coming new reality, and they could be counted on to do their bit to help to create that reality.

Of course, more or less everything they were told was untrue, or was a half-truth. But these busy executives didn't have the time to give the matter serious consideration. They were as impressionable as anybody. All they needed to know was that Sir Liam Donaldson and Sir Charles George had 'Sir' in front of their name to trust them implicitly. Furthermore most of them hadn't been inside a pub or a cafe in years. And many of them no longer smoked.

And so when the ban was introduced, they all did their bit to help launch it, and it was accordingly immediately hailed as a great success, particularly among smokers. And almost immediately, as ever, the usual health benefits were claimed.

But if this is how the 'new reality' was created in Britain, why isn't it quite working in Spain? The answer may be that the British mass media, and the hospitality business, and political power, is concentrated in relatively few hands, and so relatively few people needed to agree among themselves to make it work. And in Britain we currently have pretty much a one-party state, with Labour and Lib Dems and Conservatives all but indistinguishable from each other. And most pubs belong to chains of one sort or other, and for the proprietors of these chains they are simply another business opportunity, not different from a baking or a mining business. And there are only a handful of media outlets. Relatively few people were needed to help create the new non-smoking reality.

But this couldn't be done in Spain where most bars and restaurants are small family businesses, and where the mass media isn't quite so centralised, and where politics is rather more fractured. In Spain, and even less so in Greece, it wan't possible to create and sustain this new reality. In fact, it can probably only be done in fairly advanced Western societies, with well-established media outlets (like the BBC), well-established political parties, and well-established hospitality chains (e.g. Starbucks). For they all have to work together to create and sustain the new reality.

And of course the new reality, when it is rolled out in public, comes up against the old reality, which is one of traditional smoky pubs and bars. It becomes a struggle of one reality against another reality. It becomes a struggle of the political class, the media, and the hotel and restaurant and pub chains, against the ordinary pubgoer, whose reality - all too often of broken communities, fractured friendships, isolation, exclusion, and loneliness - can never be allowed to mar the perfection of the new reality (by being reported, for example).

The new reality is an illusion, of course. But if the illusion can be sustained for long enough, it may become reality. If people can be got to stop smoking for long enough, the ancient vice might yet be expunged from society.

And what applies to the new antismoking reality that has been rolled out over the world also applies to several other new realities. The global warming reality. The European Union reality. And probably a whole bunch more realities. All of them conflict with pre-existing realities in one way or other. And the wars between these realities are all conducted the same way, by suppressing the old reality as far as possible, and supplanting it with the new reality. So the old smokers are never allowed any say. And nor are climate sceptics. Nor eurosceptics. They mustn't even be permitted to be seen. In this manner a new public consensus is created, without any apparent dissenters, with which even ordinary members of the public often feel unable to openly disagree.

Nevertheless, none of these new realities has yet been successfully installed in the public arena. While most of the European political class, with one or two notable exceptions (e.g. Vaclav Klaus), is on board for the EU, the general public in almost every European country is becoming increasingly disenchanted with it. And the global warming reality struck a rock in the form of Climategate last year, and hasn't recovered. And the antismoking reality has encountered strong resistance in Holland and Spain and Greece and most of the old Eastern bloc countries.

It's far from over.

Body Language
I've been watching Al Jazeera today. It seems that in Tripoli Gaddafi's people have been celebrating recapturing the towns of Az Zawiyah to the west, and Misurata to the East. Al Jazeera spoke to people in both towns, and they both said that while Gaddafi's forces were attacking, they hadn't actually captured either town. So who do you believe?

It reminded me that there've been a couple of fascinating interviews over the past week or two. They were fascinating not just for what was said, but the body language accompanying what was said.

The first was Gaddafi's interview last week by the BBC's Jeremy Bowen and a couple of other journalists. This rather astonished me not just for what Gaddafi had to say - "All my people love me." - but how Jeremy Bowen seemed to be trying to stop himself from bursting out laughing throughout. This was something I noticed from the very beginning, when Bowen is grinning when he shakes hands with Gaddafi, and then walks away with his tongue in his cheek.

You can see the relevant frame below, including Bowen's face while he asks Gaddafi a question. Gaddafi himself manages a smile during the interview, but spends most of his time looking down his nose at Bowen.


It also reminded me of Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught in a face-to-face interview with Saif Gaddafi a couple of days ago. Throughout it, McNaught also seemed to have the faintest trace of a smile on her face, as if she knew something that he didn't. Saif never smiled once, except to bare his teeth in a rictus. He blustered, shook his head, closed his eyes, and gestured frequently, including joining his hands in prayer several times, as if pleading to be heard.

But then, since neither the BBC nor Al Jazeera are pro-Gaddafi, perhaps that's not a surprise. It's a wonder that Saif agreed to talk to Al Jazeera at all, since Gaddafi's people have been telling people not to listen to it. But, in the absence of any sympathetic media outlet to the world, perhaps they had no choice.

It didn't work for Saif. Anita McNaught looks serenely beautiful in this interview. By comparison Saif Gaddafi looks sweaty, and in need of a shave and a new set of clothes. It's Beauty interviewing the Beast.

mcnaught - saif

And yet I came away from those interviews feeling that, despite what seem to be delusions about the cause of the uprising, Gaddafi remained very firmly in charge, and that Saif was right behind him. What do Jeremy Bowen and Anita McNaught know that I don't know, to make them smile so knowingly? Do they believe that there is some sort of "tide of history" that will sweep these people away of its own accord? There is no such tide.

If I were to interview either of these Gaddafi guys, I wouldn't be sniggering at them. They remain very powerful people. Gaddafi is still in control of the Libyan state and military, and of the capital city. The rebels are disorganised, leaderless, and dependent solely on weaponry that they've managed to loot from the army, and upon soldiers who have defected.

Gaddafi still holds most of the cards. And the correct military course of action for him would seem to be to secure his base in Tripoli and its environs, and only then gather his forces and turn east. And this seems to be exactly what he's started doing. If so, he's not behaving like a lunatic at all. And we haven't heard about any riots and demonstrations in Tripoli for several days, or of any more high level defections from around Gaddafi. Furthermore Gaddafi's army is likely to be able to reduce towns such as Az Zawiyah and Misrata that aren't being re-supplied with food and fuel and munitions, if only by laying siege to them, and starving them into surrender. Az Zawiyah, I heard a day or so ago, only has food for 5 days. After that, Gaddafi can turn east, and roll up the towns along the coast one by one, offering amnesties to defecting rebels to accelerate the process.

It could all look very different in a couple of weeks time. And nothing to smirk about.

No Voice, No Rights
H/T Junican and Chris Snowdon for this ONS study:

ONS is developing new measures of national well-being. The aim is that these new measures will cover the quality of life of people in the UK, environmental and sustainability issues, as well as the economic performance of the country.

To develop better measures of the nation's well-being we want to ask what matters most in people's lives and what is important for measuring the nation's well-being.

I signed up (just name and email address required) and wrote my answer to the following question:

What things in life matter most to you?

The simplest of things in life: to be able to sit in a pub and drink a pint of beer and smoke a cigarette and talk to friends. This simple thing brought pleasure and laughter, and allowed networks of friendships and pub communities to grow and flourish within a shared culture.

It's illegal now to do this, of course. And so the happiness it provided, and the friendship, and the community, and the shared culture have all been crushed. With them also, needless to say, freedom and democracy were also crushed.

There was no indication that the above would be published anywhere, or even considered. Still, no harm done by writing something.

It will almost certainly be ignored. Smokers are people whose opinions are systematically ignored. They have no voice in this 'society'.

Chris Snowdon's piece is tagged 'pretend consultation', and he's almost certainly right. The British people will be found to be deliriously happy about everything.

Along similar lines is Michael Kelly's comment on Stewart Cowan's Facebook page:

Stop defending smokers' rights. They have none.

michael kelly

I took the trouble not only to check the Facebook page, but also to find out a bit more about Michael Kelly:

Michael Kelly - Celtic director (1990-1994)

Michael Kelly is a Scottish politician and businessman. He held the position of Lord Provost from 1980 to 1984, and was Lord Rector of Glasgow University from 1983 to 1987.

It's one thing to hear such vicious sentiments from some anonymous online commenter. It's quite another to hear them from someone who has held a number of senior posts in public life.

A Modest Eugenic Proposal
The war on smokers and drinkers and fat people is quite manifestly part of a global eugenics programme. So I've been thinking about eugenics a bit.

The opening chapter of Darwin's Origin of Species, "Variation under Domestication", is concerned with artificial selection. This is the process whereby plant and animal breeders select only preferred variants (e.g. ones that are bigger, stronger, more resistant to disease) to breed. In this manner, over time, they produce larger and stronger cattle, cows that yield more milk, sheep with more wool, wheat with larger ears, and so on. Darwin then goes on to introduce the idea of natural selection as the process by which plants and animals are allowed to continue to breed and multiply in the natural world according to whether they are naturally 'fit' or 'unfit' to survive in that world.

The eugenic programme might be said to be identical with the artificial selection programme employed by plant and animal breeders, except that now it is applied to the human race. The eugenicist sets out to breed an ideal human race, by selecting only the fittest members, and permitting only them to breed. Very much this sort of reasoning guided the eugenic programmes of a century ago, with 'unfit' humans eliminated or sterilised, and 'fit' humans strongly encouraged to breed. If the programme had been continued for a few centuries or millennia, something like an ideal human race may have resulted.

But, quite apart from any moral reservations which anyone might have about this programme, it seems to me that there are a number of logical problems associated with it.

In the first place, how does one decide whether someone is 'fit' or 'unfit'? The process of natural selection is one in which plants and animals are subjected to variety of trials, at the end of which only a few of them have survived to continue to reproduce. It is only at the end of the process that it emerges which were the 'fit' (i.e. the survivors) and which the 'unfit'. But in the process of artificial selection, those who are 'fit' and those who are 'unfit' are determined at the outset. But how?

Natural selection might be compared with a marathon race, in which a number of runners enter, but only one crosses the finishing line ahead of all the others, and wins the prize. Artificial selection, in the same circumstance, would take the form of allowing only those runners who are deemed likely to win (e.g. the slimmest, tallest, longest-legged) to run in the race. Or it may take the form of allowing only one runner to run in the race, thus rendering the race itself irrelevant. In the natural selection marathon, the race is run, and the judges then award the prize to the winner. In the artificial selection marathon, the judges award the prize to the winner, and then the race is run.

Furthermore, in the process of natural selection, appearances count for nothing. The most unlikely plants and animals may be the ones which survive the trials to which the natural world subjects them. The short, fat guy with glasses might be the unexpected winner of the marathon. But in artificial selection, appearances are everything, because there is no other evidence to go on. The judges must examine the runners very closely, weighing and measuring them, before they pre-emptively award the prize to the tallest or slimmest runner, and allow him to run a token lap of honour. Artificial selection is essentially a beauty contest.

The process of natural selection is foolproof, because it requires no exercise of thought beyond pressing the cup into the hands of the first runner to cross the finishing line. But the process of artificial selection is one which requires considerable forethought, weighing up the relative merits of strength versus endurance, speed versus power, weight versus height. And the more thought that is required, the less foolproof it becomes. The judges may end up awarding the marathon winner's prize to a man with no legs.

Indeed, it might be said that artificial selection is always a way of cheating the process of natural selection. For the fattest pigs, and the hairiest sheep, are most likely those which the process of natural selection would rapidly reject. A pig breeder isn't trying to mimic natural selection, but to override it. He knows from the outset that he wants big, fat pigs. And he wants them this way because they will fetch the highest prices at the market.

And so a eugenic programme which employs methods of artificial selection is not an attempt to mimic natural selection, and find out which plants or animals are the 'fittest', and so likely to survive the rigours of natural selection. For only an actual trial by natural selection can do this. Artificial selection is always an attempt to skew the process of natural selection in favour of one type. And so also is any eugenic programme. It will never produce the 'fittest', but only those who have been deemed to be the 'fittest' in a beauty contest.

And furthermore, whenever eugenicists ever conduct any 'scientific' experiments, they always follow their method of artificial selection, which is one of deciding what the answer is first, and then finding evidence to support this pre-determined conclusion. One first decides that Jews or Gypsies or smokers or fat people are 'unfit' or 'subhuman', and then conducts 'research' which is designed to reach this foregone conclusion. One decides, for example, that smoking is an undesirable social trait, and then conducts research in order to reach this conclusion.

But there is a second logical problem with any eugenic programme. The pig breeder sets out to 'improve' his pigs because pigs are useful to men, and he would like to make them even more useful. They are an animal means to a human end. But in what sense can men be made more useful to themselves? Human beings are ends rather than means.

This question can only be answered if humans are divided into two groups, one of whom serves as a means to the ends of the other group - as for example would be the case where one group consists of slaves, and the other of slave owners. The slaves, although human, have become the equivalent of cattle and sheep, and can be subjected to a process of artificial selection to produce the ideal slave. A similar process of selection is not applied to the slave owners, because they are the ends towards which the process is directed.

And so any eugenics programme is inherently elitist. Not only is it not aiming at producing the true 'fittest' humans - i.e. humans which would most likely survive a process of natural selection -, but is instead twisting human nature into the services of a small elite, and acting entirely contrary to the best interests of the non-elite remainder of humanity.

There is a third problem with any such eugenic programme, which might be posed as the question: what happens when the conductor of the eugenics programme discovers that he is himself one of the 'unfit' or 'subhuman' or a member of the class of 'life unworthy of life'? Does he sterilise himself? Or shoot himself? In practice, the eugenicists never apply their eugenics programme to themselves, for the elitist reason just given. They do not themselves practise what they preach for others. Either that, or they select their ideal type by looking in a mirror.

Yet another problem with any eugenics programme is that no sooner is some sort of ideal human type defined, than 99.999% of humanity is discovered to be defective, through being too short or too tall, too fat or too thin, or whatever. Nobody shapes up. Everybody needs to be eliminated.

Finally, there is nothing to stop anyone setting up their own eugenics programme in competition with the established eugenicists (i.e. the WHO), but using quite different selection criteria. If you can be a eugenicist, then I can be one too.

And if I were to propose a eugenics programme that aimed to improve the human race, I can think of no higher and more exalted eugenic goal than to rid the world of eugenicists. Indeed, I would say that this is such an urgent task to undertake that humanity can't be forced to wait for them to die out after a few generations. We can't just fire them from their jobs, and hope they never come back. Nor would sterilising them do much good. The only way is to shoot the lot of them. Tomorrow.

The benefits to humanity would be immediate. Life would improve overnight for the smokers and drinkers and fat people who make up 99.999% of humanity. And once liberated from the distortions imposed by eugenic programmes on society, natural selection would once again be allowed to throw up the true winners of life's marathon, life's true survivors. Which would, these days, quite likely be thin, bald, bespectacled, chain-smoking computer nerds.

...A bit like me, funnily enough.

Shortest Ban Ever?
Various items of news.

Not often smokers hear any good news. So this is one to enjoy.

March 3,2011 CARACAS -- Venezuela’s Ministry of Health has annulled by decree an anti-smoking law which would have prohibited smoking in public places and offices of work a day after it was published. By contrast to the US, Canada, Europe and Asia, Venezuela is one of the few countries that still allowed smoking in a wide variety of public places, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and stadiums.

A day after the anti-smoking law was printed in the Official Gazette, the annulment resolution was published in the Official Gazette. All laws must be published in the government's Official Gazette to be official. The text read: “to declare the absolute annulment of the resolution of environments free of smoke identified by number 014 and the date of February 24.” No motive or explanation was given for the sudden annulment.

The second item of news, via Bishop Hill, is that the chief executive of National Grid has said that, thanks to increasing reliance on wind turbines, permanently available electricity may become a thing of the past.

rolling blackouts

I'd heard rumours along these lines a number of times, but I guess this makes it official. We're just going to have to "change our behaviour", it seems. Where did I hear that before?

So, all because of non-existent global warming, there are going to be rolling electricity blackouts in 10 years time. Or maybe earlier.

Can't see many people liking this much, somehow.

And finally, this via Dave Atherton on Facebook.


According to Dr. Karen Weatherby, a gerontologist and author of the study, gawking at women’s breasts is a healthy practice, almost at par with an intense exercise regime, that prolongs the lifespan of a man by five years.

She added, "Just 10 minutes of staring at the charms of a well-endowed female, is roughly equivalent to a 30-minute aerobics work-out."

I think I, ...erm, already knew this. But good to see it 'scientifically proven', of course. No need to get a rowing machine or anything stupid like that. A year's subscription to Penthouse or Playboy (or both) should do the trick.

Report From Greece
Guest post from Nisakiman.

The Greeks, on the whole, are a pretty feisty bunch. They don't take kindly to those in power trying to make their choices for them.

Witness the reaction to the recent austerity measures imposed as a result of the EU bailout.

And anyone who has visited this country cannot have failed to notice that most people riding motorbikes and scooters like to do so with the wind in their hair, despite there having been a law requiring the wearing of helmets for donkey's years.

So banning smoking in public places was never going to be easy here. If you google "Greece smoking ban", you will see a long list of headings like - "11 Jun 2009 ... /Greece-to-impose-smoking-ban-on-July-1-in-third-attempt-to-stamp-out-the..."; " 1 Jul 2009 ... Greece will impose a limited smoking ban in public places"; "Greece smoking ban takes effect. (AFP) – Sep 1, 2010. ATHENS"; "19 Jan 2011 ... ATHENS — Greece has pledged to enforce a smoking ban", etc. etc.

They are, however, under considerable pressure from the EU to enforce the smoking ban. I read somewhere (can't remember where) that this was one of the provisos that came with the bailout package, although I'm not sure as to the veracity of that. Whatever, there seems to be fresh impetus for enforcement. There is a good summary of the current smoking ban situation in Greece by Carol Cattell on Freedom-2-Choose here, which covers the political and practical aspects of the proposed enforcement, but as she says " Will it work?"

The Greeks are by-and-large a law-abiding people. The crime rate is by European standards extremely low, and I've never worried about walking the streets alone late at night. But when it comes to arbitrary laws like the helmet law and the smoking ban, the attitude tends to be "who the fuck are they to tell me how to live my life?" and they carry on as they always have.

The smoking ban applies of course to all "public" places, as in the UK; that is workplaces, government offices, bars etc. Since the "crackdown" began mid January, I have been to my accountant (chain smoked throughout), the tax office (full ashtray on the desk), renewed my bike tax (fag hanging out of his mouth), Post Office (ashtrays on the desks at the back, smoke in the air), caught a bus (driver was smoking and talking on his mobile most of the journey), and of course in all these places, as required by law, there were big "NO SMOKING" signs prominently displayed. Well, they complied with that bit! Needless to say, all the bars and restaurants I've been to recently provide ashtrays. About the only place I've noticed people don't smoke is in the big supermarkets and the pharmacies, which has been the case for years. The butcher sits in his shop smoking and drinking tsipouro (a fierce Grappa-like spirit) with his mates. The local betting / lottery shop is a fug, and there are bottles of whisky and Ouzo on the table. Maria, who owns the village mini-market / deli / post office counter always seems to have a fag on the go. So all in all, I would say that the "crackdown" hasn't really had a massive impact to date.

How long this continues to be the case I can't guess. The government has set up "snitch" lines so antis can report transgressors, and of course there is that pernicious system whereby a bar owner is fined heavily if a customer is caught smoking, thus coercing the customer into not making problems for the host. And of course the 'divide and conquer' ploy is ever present in that a bar owner who is in a high profile location, and thus forced to comply with the ban will often report the guy with the bar in a side street round the corner who's getting his lost trade.

There is growing resistance to the ban though. This in the Athens News recently for instance. Note "She added that the owners throughout Western Macedonia will continue and escalate their actions if a solution is not given to their problem. " And an article from last October in Bloomberg here indicates that the bar / restaurant owners don't intend to give up without a fight.

Another salient point which further muddies the issue here is that a large percentage of the police, who are for the most part the ones charged with enforcing this law, also like to go to bars for a drink and a smoke, so are not exactly over-enthusiastic about policing the ban.

I sincerely hope that my adopted countrymen continue to stand up to the control freaks in Brussels that would have them knuckle under. It would be a sad day indeed if Greece went the way of the rest of the EU countries who seem to have succumbed to the lies and misinformation disseminated by the tobacco control lobby.

After all, as has been said many times before, this kind of draconian legislation is not in any way compatible with the freedoms our fathers and grandfathers fought and died for. Those freedoms were costly in human life, and hard won. We should not allow them to be taken from us piecemeal by a coterie of fanatics with an agenda.

Time will tell how things pan out. I hope to post the occasional update.

P.S. In other European news, in Spain the Andalusian Federation of Hospitality expects to get one million signatures protesting against the smoking ban, surpassing the 500,000 signatures needed for a popular legislative initiative.

Late postcript: Latin American Herald Tribune 3 Mar 2011

Venezuela Cancels Smoking Ban
A day after a smoking ban is promulgated, it is annulled.

CARACAS -- Venezuela’s Ministry of Health has annulled by decree an anti-smoking law which would have prohibited smoking in public places and offices of work a day after it was published. By contrast to the US, Canada, Europe and Asia, Venezuela is one of the few countries that still allowed smoking in a wide variety of public places, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and stadiums.

Not Even The Illuminati
I'm not a great conspiracy theorist. My objection to them all boils down to one thing: I don't believe anyone is that smart. So when I read about the New World Order and so on over at The Tap, and all the fiendish things that the bankers and the Bilderbergers and Common Purpose are supposed to be up to, after the initial frisson of fear and dread has subsided, the old objection pops back up again: I don't believe anyone is that smart. I don't believe that, after thousands of years of people unsuccessfully trying to rule the world, someone has just managed to do so. Or will have done so by next Thursday. Or maybe the Thursday after.

These days my attention in mostly focused on smoking bans around the world, and particularly in the UK. But I also pay a lot of attention to the global warming thing too, in large part because it's so similar to the secondhand smoke business ("Trace amounts of gas pose dire threat", scientists say). And I pay rather less attention to the EU, in large part because the only thing I know it's proposing is an EU-wide smoking ban.

I don't believe that any of these are conspiracies. Or if they are conspiracies, they've been conspiracies in plain sight for many decades. No, to me they all look like examples of idealism, 'building a better world' and all that. A smoke-free world is (some people's idea of) an ideal world. A green world, devoid of cars and machines and factories, is another ideal world. And the EU state, into which all the countries of Europe have been dissolved, never to fight wars with each other ever again, is yet another ideal world. Who could possibly object to a green, smoke-free, war-free world?

But to me it all looks exactly like what was happening in Russia 100 years ago, when Bolshevik revolutionaries set out to overthrow the tsar and the old scheme of things, and build a heroic new Worker State, where everyone would be, y'know, ... equal. It very rapidly turned into a complete dystopia, with a gulag archipelago of labour camps. It turned into something far, far worse than anything that preceded it.

And I think that the same is likely to happen with the latest utopian dream of a green, smoke-free, war-free world. It'll just turn into another awful dystopia. It's already happening. The smoking ban is trumpeted as a great success, but it's only a success if the downsides of it are ignored (and of course they are ignored) in terms of fractured communities, bankrupt pubs, large scale smuggling, not to mention the falls in productivity and inventiveness as people stop smoking and get 30% dumber.

With global warming and 'green' energy, the result is whole countries carpeted with useless windmills, and dimbulbs in every home. Pretty soon we'll probably start having prolonged power cuts, as one by one the old power stations stop working.

As for the EU, the cracks are already beginning to show, in Ireland and Greece and most likely next Spain and Portugal and Italy. The EU, as best I can see, is an institution which generates thousands of restrictive rules and regulations which simply make life more difficult for everyone everywhere.

None of this surprises me particularly. There was a time, 30 or 40 years ago, when I would have thoroughly supported all these things. I've said before that I used to be a bit left wing (i.e. a bit of an idealist). I also used to be a bit of an environmentalist. I was all in favour of 'progressive' measures of every kind. Furthermore, a lot of the people I knew gradually gave up smoking over that period. And quite a few became 'environmentally aware'. And some bought into the idea of Europe, whatever the idea was. Only reactionary know-nothing stick-in-the-muds objected. There's a lot of soft support out there for smoking bans, green technology, European integration, and all that jazz.

But while a lot of the people I knew were going in that direction, I was slowly walking away. It perhaps began a few weeks after I'd walked into the Department of the Environment in London, some time around 1971, and told them that they should make people build houses with 6 inches of insulation in the walls. They listened to me kindly. But a few weeks later I woke up in the middle of the night, remembering the faint suggestion by one of them that it was perhaps a tad fascistic to require people to do things like that. That night, I realised that it was indeed fascistic. Who was I to tell people to fill their walls with insulation? It was up to them to make their own choices, wasn't it? Just because I'd written a computer programme that showed what savings could be made, did that make me an expert or something?

The end maybe came a few years later when I was a university researcher in building heat flow, and a young man (younger than me, anyway) came around and unfurled the plan of an eco-friendly, self-sufficient farm he wanted to build in Somerset, complete with solar collectors and all sorts of environmental gizmoes, and even a duck pond, and after studying it for a while I asked him how it was going to earn any money to buy stuff like seeds and new solar collector panels.

"Oh," he said. "We'll earn money from the tourists."

So there it was. He was going to build a 'self-sufficient', show eco-farm which was supposed to be funded by all the tourists who'd want to pay to visit it, and buy T-shirts and mugs and stuff.

It was completely barmy. After that, I began to see environmentalists as rather barmy. Just like I've always seen anti-smokers as rather barmy (there were hardly any of them 40 years ago). And vegetarianism.

Looking back at that time, I think that most of what I thought, and what everyone I knew thought, was all rather barmy. It hadn't been properly thought through. And it was all driven by idealism of one sort or other. But as I was retreating from it all, lots of other latecomers were piling in.

I suppose I've come to distrust idealism of any sort. And I've also come to distrust the idea of state planning. All these things look very captivating on the surface. But none of it has been fully thought through. Because the ideals can never be attained, and the planning always goes wrong. Because nobody really knows what they're doing. And nobody is smart enough.

I suppose that the way that I see the world these days, it's as a place of toil and suffering, some of which can be slightly alleviated here and there. For this is what the world has always been like, and very likely always will be like, only slightly better, or slightly worse. And rather than trying to make the world a better place, I'm more interested in stopping it becoming a worse place than it already is.

You are, I think, doing well if you are moderately prosperous, and have a circle of friends, and can simply go down to a pub in the evening and drink a few beers and smoke a few cigarettes and shoot a few games of pool.

But the antismoking idealists and the health zealots and the environmentalists and the EU technocrats - all busy making the world a 'better' place, all busy working for that green, smoke-free, war-free, ideal world - have already managed to remove even this simple pleasure. And that's before they've really got started with all their other grand plans for everyone.

It'll be a disaster, of course. It always is. The plans never work out. I just wonder how bad it'll be this time. I wonder how many people will tortured and locked up and shot and gassed and bayoneted when it all goes wrong, and they start looking round for 'wreckers' to blame for this latest failure of theirs to create their latest ideal world. Because none of them really have any idea what they're doing. None of them have really thought any of it through. None of them are that smart. No, not even the bankers and the Bilderbergers and the Masons and the Illuminati.

And when it all comes apart, there'll be a call to return to the world the way it was before, whatever's left of it. And the pubs will re-open, and you'll be able to drink and smoke as much as you like, if there's any beer to drink or tobacco to smoke. And they'll burn one or two lumps of real coal in the hearth. And there'll be a sovereign parliament in Westminster, with 30 or 40 MPs who can afford the horses to ride there. And nobody will want to hear any talk of any ideal world, shimmering like a holy grail on the horizon. And nobody will want to hear anybody's plans for anything either. They'll have had enough.

This brief respite won't last long, of course. Pretty soon, the idealists and the planners will be back again, with some new utopian goal in mind. Perhaps one in which dogs walk on their hind legs. Or parrots write books. Or everyone has a tricycle with a silver bell on it. Or whatever.

The Tobacco Centuries
After I'd carried bits of a Danish article which cited evidence that smokers performed a variety of mental tasks up to 30% better than non-smokers, Stewart Cowan suggested that banning smoking was an integral part of the modern dumbing-down process. Leg-iron continued the theme last night.

Today I wondered whether 30% increased mental acuity translated into 30% increased IQ. I couldn't see why it shouldn't. If your mind works better under the influence of tobacco smoke, you're likely to solve puzzles quicker. And that's all an IQ test consists of.

Lewis Terman (1916) proposed this scale for classifying IQ scores:
Over 140 - Genius or near genius
120 - 140 - Very superior intelligence
110 - 119 - Superior intelligence
90 - 109 - Normal or average intelligence
80 - 89 - Dullness
70 - 79 - Borderline deficiency
Under 70 - Definite feeble-mindedness

Normal or average intelligence measures about 100 on the IQ scale. So if IQ is boosted 30%, an ordinary guy of average intelligence will find he has a very superior intelligence of 130 once he starts smoking. If he's a smarter than average guy with an IQ of 110, he becomes a genius with an IQ of over 140. And if he's a bit feeble-minded, with an IQ of 70, a 30% increase of intelligence will boost him to IQ of 90, which is almost normal.

Today I found myself wondering what happens to a society when, almost overnight, it gets 30% smarter. I figured there'd probably be a great flowering of science and philosophy and art and music and literature. But the gains wouldn't just be in outstanding scientific discoveries and inventions and works of art, but in the performance of everybody, right the way down to the butcher and baker and candlestick maker.

Well, we can just take a look at history. The New World (and tobacco) was discovered in 1492 by Columbus, sailing from Spain, and funded by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. This time corresponds to the period of the High Renaissance in Europe. In Spain, the Spanish Renaissance is dated from exactly 1492. Assuming that tobacco spread rapidly from Spain to the aristocracies of neighbouring countries, then since Leonardo da Vinci lived from 1452 to 1519, he could have smoked tobacco for the last 30 years of his life, while painting the Mona Lisa. Michelangelo (1475 – 1564) could have picked up the habit when he was about 25, and lit up every now and then while painting the Sistine Chapel. Nicholas Copernicus (1473 – 1543) could have lit his first pipe at age 30, while pondering the motion of the planets. The Reformation is kicked off by Martin Luther in 1517. What set him thinking? And whatever induced that larger-than-life king Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) to write poetry and music and theology? None of his predecessors did. Ah, he had a Spanish wife. By 1530, tobacco had become popular with the Spanish lower classes (which suggests that there was already a lot of it around).

It's not as if absolutely nothing was happening before 1500. But there does seem to be a veritable flood of artists and philosophers and scientists and engineers after that date. Francis Bacon was a smoker. Very likely William Shakespeare was too.

And it's not just that many of the key figures in the Renaissance could have smoked tobacco, but that many of the main players in the subsequent Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution most definitely were smokers. Isaac Newton was a smoker. Charles Darwin was a smoker. Isambard Brunel was a smoker. Johann S Bach was a smoker. Albert Einstein was a smoker. Pablo Picasso was a smoker.

The Renaissance and the Reformation and the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution were all intellectual revolutions. There's really nothing equivalent to them in the previous 1000 years or more. What could have made that happen? Climate change? In the 16th century Europe was entering the Little Ice Age. It's a bit difficult to think when you're freezing cold. Rising living standards? The Industrial Revolution didn't really get under way until about 1800. The arrival of tobacco, raising almost everyone's intellectual performance by 30%, offers an excellent explanation of this rolling series of intellectual revolutions. The timing is perfect.

Add to this that America was built on tobacco. The original colonies of Virginia grew and exported tobacco. Probably almost every single one of America's founding fathers were tobacco smokers. The US Constitution is wreathed in tobacco smoke. The most successful political experiment of the past 300 years was founded on tobacco.

This won't be the first time that a large claim has been made for a drug. Anyone who was familiar with the 1960s will remember the large claims that were made first about cannabis and later about LSD. "Feed Your Mind" was one of the mantras of the late 60s.

And maybe minds do need feeding, and humanity has long been starved of the nutrients that nourish thought, just as much as it has been starved of the nutrients that nourish physical vitality. Maybe what drives all drug experimentation is the search for the elixir not of immortality or eternal youth, but of genius. Tobacco has been one of the best.

If smoking tobacco substantially increases mental performance, then why would anyone want to prohibit tobacco? It probably just boils down to one simple thing: jealousy. Smokers have a 30% intelligence advantage over non-smokers. Not because they're inherently smarter, but because they're using performance-enhancing drugs, just like olympic athletes cheat by using steroids. It's not a level playing field. Banning smoking gives non-smokers an equal chance of winning prizes, gaining advancement, and getting the girl. If you can't speed up your own racing car, your only recourse is to demand changes in the rules to slow down the other guys' cars.

If we might want to know what a smoke-free world would be like, all we need do is wind back the clock to before 1492, when nobody smoked. Almost all intellectual inquiry is restricted to monks in the Roman Catholic Church, and if they're thinking about anything, it's most likely theology. It's an authoritarian intellectual world, where questioning almost anything is heresy. Sound familiar?

And in this world where more or less everyone is 30% less intelligent than in previous generations, there will be incompetence at all levels of society. Politicians will make stupid decisions, science will decay, philosophers and intellectuals will disappear, the arts will degenerate. Nothing will work properly. Most people will be feeble-minded. Again, sound familiar?

Ours is increasingly a world without vision and without imagination. It's a frightened world. It's a world in which people are frightened of their own shadows. Frightened of tobacco smoke. Frightened of carbon dioxide. Frightened of Terror. It's a world in which people readily accept the authority of doctors and scientists who are all too ready to exploit and dupe them. It's a world in which the Holy Father, il papa, the pope, is returning the nanny superstate is emerging, to regulate everything that anyone does, in the smallest details.

For a few centuries - the Tobacco Centuries - people were 30% smarter than they were in centuries before or after. For a few centuries science and reason triumphed over superstition and credulity, before it all came rolling back in a tidal wave of joss sticks and Vegan diets and global warming and windmills.

A Libyan Appraisal
Continuing my new focus on Libya (perhaps because I lived there once). As best I can make out, most of the east of Libya is in the hands of rebels (pink area of map below), except for Surt, Gaddafi's home town, which was reported a day or so back to have 4,000 loyal troops of his in control of it, and of the coast road. In the west, Gaddafi still seems to be in control (green areas in the map below) except for the towns of Sabratah and Az Zawiyah, and parts of Tripoli. After Tripoli, the largest city in Libya is Benghazi, followed by Misratah and Az Zuwiyah (which also has one of the two largest oil refineries in Libya). I'm supposing that most of Libya's population lives along the coast, and that large areas of southern Libya are almost entirely unoccupied.

At the moment there seems to be little sign that Gaddafi is likely to step down or be toppled in the immediate future. So what's likely to happen in the longer term?

libya map1Reports today say that Az Zawiyah is surrounded by Gaddafi's forces, and units of his have been approaching Misratah, which both suggest that Gaddafi is trying to take complete control of the west of Libya. In the meanwhile, in Benghazi the ex-Justice minister is trying to form a provisional government, banks have re-opened, and a semblance of normality restored.

At the moment, with most of the weapons and troops in Libya, Gaddafi looks stronger than the rebels, in the west of Libya at least, and he looks set to recapture both Az Zawiyah and Misratah. What else is likely to happen when heavily armed soldiers confront mostly unarmed civilians? There would seem to be every likelihood of a bloodbath if Gaddafi's forces fight their way into these two cities. Or else starvation if he lays siege to them.

But Gaddafi's position is likely to deteriorate. He may currently be strong, but armies need to be supplied with ammunition, fuel, and food. And it's rather hard to see where Gaddafi's supply chain comes from for any of these (apart from fuel, if he retains control of the refinery at Az Zawiyah). There is revolution both in Tunisia in the west, and Egypt in the east. Trade with the world, by sea and by air, is at a standstill. As also are oil exports.

With America swinging behind the rebels, and Senator John McCain today calling for a no-fly zone over Libya and for weapons supplies to the rebels, the eastern rebels may be able to return their half of the country to something like normality fairly rapidly, restoring oil exports from the eastern oilfields, and trading out of Benghazi. A British Hercules aircraft today flew (twice) into the airfield at Nafoora to collect 150 oil workers, and returned them to Malta, suggesting that the Libyan air force either does not have control of Libyan airspace, or has sided with the rebels.

In the west, it would seem likely that there will be no return to normality. Instead there will be fighting, starvation, and great suffering among the civilian population while Gaddafi remains in control. Gaddafi's only hope for the long term is, after securing the west of Libya, to set out to recapture the east. But the longer he waits, the more likely the east will be re-supplied and re-enforced by land and by sea, and become too strong to recapture.

Gaddafi may temporarily have military superiority over the rebels, and may be able to recapture several towns. But, unless he can regain control of the whole of Libya rapidly, he faces an increasingly impossible task as the rebels in the east grow stronger, and his own resources dwindle away. The hitherto-loyal commanders around Gaddafi will probably recognise one by one that the situation has become hopeless, and make their escape as best they can - particularly if eastern army units seize the initiative and begin to lay siege first to Surt and then Misratah.

Every day that Gaddafi fails to recover control of Libya means that every day he is less and less likely to ever manage to do so.

Update 28 feb 2011: Daily Mail:

David Cameron threatened Colonel Gaddafi with military action last night, promising a no-fly zone and arms shipments to his enemies.

The Prime Minister even suggested he could send British troops into Libya as a peacekeeping force to stop Gaddafi’s henchmen massacring democracy campaigners.

At a National Security Council meeting yesterday morning, he ordered military chiefs to draw up plans for the no-fly zone. If Gaddafi turned his air force on the rebels, RAF warplanes would be able to intervene.

Update 1 Mar 2011: David Cameron has backtracked after the US White House called his idea "premature".

Smoking Boosts Brain Power
H/T Det Fede Skelet on Facebook for this Google translation of a Danish article, Tobacco Increases Work Capacity, exploring the benefits of smoking tobacco. It's not a very good translation, so I'll try to summarize it:

Tobacco, according to the WHO [1], is a "harmful and unnecessary product". It has no benefits whatsoever. Antismoking campaigners have place all their emphasis on the negative aspects of smoking, ignoring all the positive aspects, which are that the brain works better when it gets nicotine. Nicotine makes its consumers focus better and think faster and concentrate longer. Studies have shown that nicotine makes the brain work 10-30% more efficiently in a number of areas.

In 2010 the US government released an analysis summarising the last 40 years of knowledge about the effects of nicotine and smoking on the brain. The study was led by Stephen Heishman: Meta-analysis of the acute effects of nicotine and smoking on human performance. Abstract: ( 3 ). Nicotine has a significant positive impact in the areas of motor skills, attention, focus, speed and memory. Heishman's team examined 256 published non-medicinal nicotine tests done since 1994, when they made a similar analysis, and selected 48 studies for their meta-analysis. Their analysis paints a picture of nicotine as an effective and fast acting drug, which improves the brain's performance in social work situations - a decidedly "social work-drug".

The positive effect on the brain may explain why many of history's greatest scientists have been passionate smokers - eg. Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, who both praised the tobacco effect on their scientific thinking. Equally some of the world's most creative footballer such as Zinedine Zidane, Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Dimitar Berbatov and many other players were avid smokers.

Cigarettes have also always been an indispensable part of soldiers' field rations, and remain so.

The 48 experiments included in Heishmans analysis consisted of several groups of volunteers who have completed a series of standardized computer tests: One half received nicotine, while control subjects received placebo. Nobody knew whom, who got what. With few exceptions, nicotine users did better in all tests, whether they were smokers or nonsmokers. This was especially true in the areas of attention, precision, focus, memory and speed - and to a lesser degree of motor skills:

The researchers also found other areas where nicotine users had significantly better outcomes - including motor skills, long-term memory, semantic memory, arithmetic, complex calculations & Decision attention.

Tobacco Harm researcher, Professor Brad Rodu from Louisiana University, says that Heishman's analysis is a breakthrough in understanding tobacco & nicotine effects. In his article "The Proven Positive Effects of Nicotine and Tobacco ( 10 ) on his blog, Tobacco Truth, he writes:

"It’s time to be honest with the 50 million Americans, and hundreds of millions around the world, who use tobacco. The benefits they get from tobacco are very real, not imaginary or just the periodic elimination of withdrawal," writes Rodu (original English).

Professor David Warburton of Reading University, in a double attempt experiment in 1994 first demonstrated that 100 "abstinent" smokers and 100 nonsmokers achieved similar results in three specific figures tests. In experiment No. 2 then he repeated the same three tests with smokers when they were divided into two groups - one was "abstinent" in 12 hours, while the second group had smoked one hour earlier:

Figure 1 - Warburton & Arnal, 1994: - The scale shows the number of correct answers, minute by minute. Participants smoked one puff per minute in the period between the dotted lines, from the 6th minute to 15th minute. The two top lines are the results for nicotine groups - the bottom two are from non-nicotine groups. Each group consisted of one abstinent group & one non-abstinent group.

Result: The number of correct answers rose in the two nicotine groups with approx. 30% from third cigarette puff. There was, however, no difference in responses between the "abstinent" and the non-abstinent participants. The two nicotine groups had also significantly 10-15% faster reaction time, (not shown in graph).

If nicotine actually does enhance performance, it may help to explain why the productivity of labor in the western world has decreased slightly each year since 1970s, as health campaigns have reduced the number of smokers. In Denmark, there has been an unexpected and inexplicable collapse in productivity in 2007 and 08 - just after the time when the state banned smoking in all Danish workplaces. ( 19 )

There's quite a lot more in the article, and 19 useful links appended.

Update: DFS has emailed with some corrections (shown above). He also appears to be working on a better translation of the original article. If I get a link address for it, I'll post it here.

I've been paying a lot of attention to events in Libya, and in its capital city, Tripoli. I have a personal interest. Some 60 years ago I lived there for about 6 months in a house overlooking the harbour.

So when I saw video footage today of Gaddafi speaking in Green Square in Tripoli, I wondered if it really was Green Square. I dug up a few photos, and fairly soon managed to work out that he was standing on the ramparts of the Red Fort (Assaraya Alhamra) in Tripoli, right by the harbour.

tripoli red fort On the right below is part of the video footage, and above it a photo of the Red Fort. So yes, he actually was there earlier this evening. Interesting way of validating a news report.

But why was he up on the ramparts? Why wasn't he down in the raised, covered pavilion at street level (which seems to be a permanent feature, given that it's in all the photos), where his supporters would be able to see his face as he spoke to them. I suppose the obvious answer was that he didn't want to get too close to them, and didn't entirely trust them. If it all turned nasty, he was behind some stout walls.

As best I can gather from the news reports from Al Jazeera, most of the east of Libya, which is where the oilfields are, is in the hands of the rebels. A couple of towns to the west of Tripoli, including Sabratah and Az Zawiyah, are also in rebel hands. I've visited the ruined Roman city of Sabratha, so I know that place too.

With many Libyan diplomats deserting the regime, and a number of Gaddafi's senior people fleeing, it looks like Gaddafi's days are numbered. Except that he shows no sign of recognising this himself. And since several of his sons seem to have well-equipped military brigades of their own, and the rebels seem to mostly be armed with stones or at best hunting rifles and pistols, there's likely to be a terrible bloodbath if Gaddafi uses his superior loyal military forces to recapture the rebel towns one by one.

Obama has said next to nothing. Nor has Cameron, except to say that there would be consequences for any crimes. And the UN seems to be simply formulating the right words for doing nothing beyond imposing sanctions on Libya, and freezing bank accounts. I can't see how that will help.

Meanwhile, everybody else is scrambling to get out as fast as they can. The Brits seem to have mostly managed to get out. A ferry-load of Americans followed today. Petrol prices are soaring all round the world, as Libya's oil exports have dried up. I read today that Libya supplies a quarter of Italy's natural gas. And the Italian government are very worried about hundreds of thousands of Libyans seeking asylum in Italy.

It's not just Libya either. There were continuing demonstrations in Tunisia (where Ben Ali was toppled a month or two back), and also in Egypt (where Mubarak was toppled), and in Iraq, and Yemen, and Bahrain. The whole region looks set to catch fire.

Yesterday in a rambling speech broadcast on radio, Gaddafi was blaming the insurgency on Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, who had been drugging the youth with pills to make them riot. Today, standing on the Red Fort, he was pointing the finger at Italy and Turkey, and threatening a bloodbath.

If it was down to me, I'd be seriously considering landing a rapid deployment force in Benghazi in eastern Libya to shore up the rebels there, and prevent a bloodbath. And then I'd bring in some more firepower to defeat Gaddafi's units in the field. Then I'd call elections and hand Libya back to the Libyans. But I doubt anyone will actually do anything in the least bit like that. Too obvious.

Bloody Cigarettes
DP has already posted up this video, and Leg-iron has commented on it, but I thought I'd repost it.

It reminds me a little of the 10:10 "Your Choice" video, where anyone who was sceptical about global warming was blown up. This one is similarly violent. Smoking a cigarette is portrayed as being no different from punching yourself in the face. And offering anyone else a cigarette or smoking a cigarette in a room with other people is no different from punching them in the face.

Probably, as with 10:10, its producers thought it was funny. But, as with 10:10, they say far more about themselves than they do about smokers. The 10:10 video showed that the people who made it really wanted to blow up climate sceptics, and this new video shows that the people who made it really want to punch smokers in the face.

But it also shows how distorted their thinking about smoking has become. For smoking a cigarette is in no sense equivalent to punching yourself in the face. Smoking a cigarette is a pleasure, not a pain. If smoking a cigarette were no different from punching yourself in the face, nobody would do it. Because nobody punches themselves in the face.

It ends by asking the question: "Do you really want a hit along with your coffee?" Yet a cup of coffee has at least as much of a 'hit' as a cigarette - perhaps more. If this had been an anti-coffee video, the cup of coffee could have been portrayed as poison that was killing the people who drank it. And since coffee has a strong smell, it could also be portrayed as killing everyone else nearby. It's just an accident that it's tobacco rather than coffee that is the target of this video. After all, coffee has had its detractors as well.

All this video really shows is that the people who made it abhor smoking, and want to get more people to think the way they do. But the real message of it, for many people, will be just how utterly twisted and distorted the way they think about smoking really is.

And that's why it should, like 10:10, get the widest possible airing.

Banning SHS at Home
H/T WS. More fascism. Banning SHS in the home:

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — The last refuge is vanishing for besieged smokers — at least in Honduras. A new law that took effect Monday says family members can call in the police on people who smoke at home.

The new measure bans smoking in most closed public or private spaces and orders smokers to stand at least six feet away from nonsmokers in any open space.

The law explicitly bans smoking in schools, gas stations, nightclubs, restaurants, bars, buses, taxis, stadiums and cultural centers but it doesn't clearly ban smoking at home.

A clause, however, expressly says relatives or visitors can summon police to deal with smokers at home: "Families or individuals may complain to law enforcement authorities when smokers expose them to secondhand smoke in private places and family homes."

Rony Portillo, director of the Institute to Prevent Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, said those who violate the law will first receive a verbal warning and after the second offense could be arrested. To be released they would have to pay a $311 fine, the equivalent of a monthly minimum wage salary in Honduras.

I guess that's one way of starting to make smoking at home illegal, at least in the company of other people. It's also a way to start to make smoky-drinkies illegal.

Seems there's no limit to how much they're prepared to coerce people to get their way. Why don't the cunts just make tobacco illegal?

Spanish Protests Continue
In Spain, the struggle continues. It's International Tobacco Control v. the Spanish hospitality industry. 21 Feb 2011, The raw translation:

Hundreds of hoteliers of Valencia and Madrid -300 police said at the beginning of the merger, have cut several lanes of Paseo de la Castellana and the Plaza de Colón in Madrid, to protest the smoking ban tougher.

What began as a concentration summoned to the Ministry of Interior on behalf of industry interests, eventually became an impromptu demonstration.

Under the slogan "Ban = total ruin of hospitality," the chefs have succeeded in preventing road traffic in the middle lanes of Paseo de Recoletos and the Castellana to stop concentrating again at the gates of the Ministry.

Speaking to EFEAgro, the president of the Spanish Federation of Hoteliers (FEHR), Jose Maria Rubio, has stated that the demonstration was planned and that people "is badly burned and when it moves, it is about something."

22 Feb 2011 raw translation:

About 500 restaurateurs of Leon have gone on Tuesday to the streets of the capital to petition the central executive to "backtrack" with the smoking ban and be sensitive to the situation in the sector, as assured, "is ruined" because of this "unfortunate" legislation.

22 Feb 2011 translation:

In an unprecedented initiative in Cantabria hotel entrepreneurs will be mobilized in the streets. Will be in March in a demonstration through the streets of Santander will end up with the delegation of Government, where he read a manifesto in defense of the sector, which crosses very delicate moment.

So who will Spain's government heed? Its own people, trying to keep their businesses afloat? Or Tobacco Control operating out of the EU?

The Spanish health minister recently claimed that the smoking ban would increase economic productivity. It doesn't appear to have increased the productivity of the Spanish hospitality industry. They're getting fewer customers rather then more customers. In fact, it's a complete disaster for them. 82% of Madrid establishments have seen client numbers fall by 23%. 34% have laid off staff.

But the Spanish government wants to stay in the EU, and gain the benefits of belonging to that select club. Well, with the smoking ban they're seeing another 'benefit' to put alongside the 'benefit' of no longer being able to control their own currency (which they would have devalued by now, if they still had control over it.)

Both the EU and smoking bans are manifestations of wouldn't-it-be-nice kinds of idealism. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all live together in a single European state? Wouldn't it be nice if people stopped smoking? Well, actually, it's turning out to not be not at all nice in a number of ways. Idealistic hopes are colliding with grim reality. There are probably a lot of people in Spain, many of them smokers, who have lost much of their enthusiasm for the EU over the last couple of months.

And not just in Spain.

A line in an article in Der Spiegel from a few months back caught my attention:

In an interview with the German daily Die Welt, Dalli announced that he would take much stronger action against smoking and that the European Commission would introduce plans for new legislation in 2011.

"Because of the higher levels of illness it creates, smoking damages the economy by diminishing productivity and burdens the health care system each year with billions of euros in costs," he told the newspaper.

Diminishing productivity? Productivity, according to Wikipedia, is a measure of output from a production process, per unit of input. Labour productivity is typically measured as a ratio of output per labor-hour, an input.

This isn't an antismoking argument that gets aired very much. Not in the UK, in my experience. Usually the complaint is about health, odour, etc. Yet the Spanish health minister suggested the same not long ago. So in what way does smoking reduce productivity? If the notion that smokers are any less healthy than non-smokers is discounted, it may simply be that smoking makes for relatively leisurely work. It's rather difficult, but not impossible, to do much physical work - carrying stuff around, etc - if you've got one hand occupied holding a cigarette. Even if you're doing 'intellectual work' sat at a desk thinking, you're still lighting, repeatedly drawing on, and stubbing out cigarettes. Either way (and even more so when they stop all work for a cigarette break) smokers are relatively leisurely workers. Perhaps this is the real reason why many employers won't employ smokers now. They want hard-working workers. It may also be why antismokers hate smokers.

It then occurred to me that a lot of the antismokers are rich people, almost always with their own companies. Bill Gates of Microsoft, Richard Branson of Virgin, NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg (Bloomberg), Duncan Bannatyne (care homes and health clubs). And, 100 years ago, there was of course Henry Ford of the Ford motor company. Perhaps when you become the chief executive of a company, rather than an employee, you want to see your employees working hard. Same also if you're a senior politician, because that's equivalent to being a top executive.

And perhaps this desire to see your employees working hard intensifies during a recession or a depression? Because then prices tend to fall, competition intensifies, margins get tight, and any slack in the system has to be squeezed out. Smoking is one example of slack. During boom years, it doesn't matter too much. But during a deep depression it does.

Back in the 1930s' depression, it was alcohol that was seen as the principal cause of slack, and it brought Prohibition in the USA. Now, in what is arguably the deepest economic slump since the 1930s, there's a new prohibition, but this time of tobacco. It may not be the medical establishment who are the only drivers of this new prohibition. On their own doctors are all but powerless, but once they get the support and funding of the bosses of industry, they become very powerful indeed.

Employers almost always want to get as much work as possible out of their employees for as little money as possible. Employees almost always want the opposite, and to do as little work as possible for as much money as possible. During economic booms, employees gain the upper hand over employers, and wages rise, and the conditions of work improve (i.e. become more leisurely). Conversely, during economic slumps, employers regain the upper hand over employees, and wages fall, and the conditions of work get harder.

And the deeper the slump, the worse it gets. The employers may even drive wages and the conditions of work down to the levels of slave labour. The Nazi state of the 1930s with its labour camps, and also the gulags of the Soviet Union at the same time, may have simply been the consequences of a far deeper economic slump in those countries. In WW1 Russia had been pretty much defeated in war by Germany, and its tsar overthrown. And then a few years later in 1918, Germany was pretty much defeated in its turn. Both countries entered into far deeper slumps than was experienced in Britain or America. Hitler was perhaps simply the energetic, non-smoking, non-drinking, vegetarian CEO of Germany who led by example, and who acted vigorously to restore the German economy and to get rid of its burden of criminals and invalids and misfit workshy Jews and Gypsies. All of it accompanied, of course, by a propaganda drive to cut smoking and drinking and obesity, and produce fit, hard-working workers.

If some of us feel we are witnessing the dawning of a new Nazi era, it may be because we are entering (or already in) a similar period of economic slump as that in which the Nazi state emerged, and history is simply repeating itself, although not in precisely the same way as before. Instead of Jews and Gypsies, this time it's smokers and drinkers and fat people who have been deemed necessary to eliminate.

I have a book somewhere called Downwave, by Robert Beckman, published in about 1980. In it he argued that deep depressions happened every 70 years or so, at the end of a 50-year upwave of rising prices that everybody thought would never end. When the downwave hit, prices (and particularly house prices) fell. During the upwave, people borrowed money, because with rising prices money was continually being devalued. During the downwave, the opposite happened, and people hoarded cash (banks don't seem to be lending much money these days). During the upwave, people splashed out, and women's hemlines rose. During the downwave, people spent the minimum, and women's hemlines fell.

I must dig it out. Although I don't think he actually made any of the arguments that I've just been making.

Anyone seen any long skirts yet?

Evading Propaganda
As I've mentioned several times, I no longer have a TV set. I just felt, more and more, that I was being propagandised by it. Over smoking, drinking, obesity, global warming, the War on Terror, etc, etc, etc. I began to wonder why I sat in front of this box absorbing all this propaganda. So when, a couple of years ago, Devon switched over to digital TV, I simply didn't upgrade to a digital TV set. And I stopped paying the licence fee too.

Now all I've got is a radio. And since leaving Devon a couple of months ago, I haven't been listening to that either. But even the radio is fairly heavily propagandised. There was a BBC series last year about historical objects going back thousands of years that I listened to regularly. But they managed to squeeze in something about climate change in Mesopotamia in 2000 BC all the same.

Anyway, now that I'm neither watching TV or listening to the radio (or reading newspapers for that matter), nobody has a direct propaganda channel to me. I'm simply not watching or listening or reading them any more. They can broadcast until they're blue in the face, and I won't hear a word of it.

Pretty much all that I read these days are blogs (including the ones in the right margin), and the comments under them. So any news I get is filtered through blogs. I'm always reading someone else's response to something that's happened. I was, for example, alerted by Captain Ranty to the likelihood that Egypt was going to catch fire last month. I wouldn't have known otherwise.

I think this is an interesting development. I sometimes wonder how many people have just been switching off like I have. I've heard of quite a few. It must be increasingly difficult for the mainstream media to control the news and frame the debate when they're not reaching as many viewers and listeners as they used to. People are getting their news and opinions elsewhere.

But then, "news" is always simply just what somebody somewhere thinks is news. And, towards the end, I often used to wonder why TV newsrooms had selected one item of news above another. I always hated hearing about rapes and murders. They filled me with a sense of horror and powerlessness. I didn't see why I needed to know that someone somewhere has murdered his wife with an axe. It's a profound relief not to have to sit through all those dismal reports any more. And the blogs I read don't report them either.

Equally I never get to hear anything about the royal family, or celebrities, or sport of any sort, and very little of what Cameron or Clegg or the new Labour bloke have said or done. And that's a mercy too. Because I don't want to know what they're doing. Cameron, I've gathered, has been going on about something called the Big Society. I don't know anything about it at all. Or rather, the only thing I do know for sure is that this Big Society thing definitely won't include smokers, and that accordingly I don't want to belong to it, and don't give a damn about it

These days the news I read is about smoking bans, and global warming, and maybe a bit of EU politics. Increasingly, I myself select my own news rather than have it fed to me. After all, there are things that I'm interested in, and things I'm not interested in. And the result is that my news is different from anyone else's news. For instance, I was delighted to read yesterday that the US House of Representatives has voted to de-fund the IPCC, and to refuse to pay the salaries of a bunch of Obama's climate czars, and to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. It has to be ratified by the US senate as well, and if it is Obama will most likely veto it, but all the same is good to see a few politicians making a stand.

The main thing is that I'm getting hard for anyone to propagandise. Before they can convince me, they'll have to convince Leg-iron and DP and Captain Ranty and Bishop Hill and James Delingpole and a whole bunch of other people. Of course, people could say that I'm just being propagandised by different people rather than by the BBC or Channel 4 or the Independent. But the bloggers are all different people, and they don't agree about absolutely everything. So it's next to impossible to construct a consensus, if one doesn't exist already.

Propaganda can really only work with broadcast media like TV or radio or newspapers, where a single message is sent out to thousands or millions of people at the same time. Propaganda is shouted loudly. And that's hard to do on the web, unless something goes viral, and propagates very rapidly. News usually travels relatively slowly on the blogosphere. And it's always being filtered through somebody else's thinking. So a propaganda message is always likely to get neutralised by being repeatedly framed differently.

For example, somebody called Andrew Lansley seems to want people to eat properly, I read over at the Devil just now.

Rather than a “nanny state” approach, he is keen to arm the public with the tools they need to cope in an “obesogenic environment,” where people are bombarded with adverts for unhealthy food.

To which the Devil's immediate response was:

What, in the name of fuck, is an “obesogenic environment”? And why the bastarding hell should I—a 6' tall, 10 and a half stone man—be lectured at by Lansley and his fat fucking fellows?

Lansley's message isn't getting very far, is it? What you learn from the Devil is that some fat bastard is trying to make you eat stuff you don't like. It makes you want to go out and buy a bucket of soggy chips, cover them with salt and ketchup, and spend the evening eating them with your fingers. Lansley's message has not just been neutralised: it's been entirely negated.

And this looks to me like the future. The more the government tries to lecture and bully and propagandise people, the more of them will just switch off. The government may control the mass media, but if fewer and fewer people are listening, their message won't get very far, however loudly they shout. In the end, the government will be forced to give up lecturing people, because it will have become clear to them (as was transparently clear to everybody else from the outset) that it simply isn't working.

And I can't think that would be a bad thing at all.

The Loneliness Triblogology
Freedom2Choose has an important series of blog posts on loneliness. There are three of them. The first is here, the second here, and the third here.


It's my own personal conviction that the really serious damage that smoking bans do is to the very fabric of human society. I'd like to try to explain how this happens and why it matters.

Smoking bans drive smokers from pubs and bars and cafes, and one result of this is that pubs and bars and cafes close down, and this is a visible consequence - 'closed' and 'for sale' signs spring up on the bankrupted pubs. Much less visible are the human communities that are also closed down. A pub or a cafe is a centre of community, a place where people meet and make or renew friendships. When the smokers have been driven out, these bonds of community begin to be broken, because they are no longer being repaired and renewed. The entire community (and not just the community of smokers) begins to unravel. But no 'closed' or 'for sale' signs go up on these communities. The loss is invisible.

One may think of a community as a number of interconnected nodes. The nodes represent individual people, and the lines connecting them represent the relationships between them, some close and some distant, some strong and some weak. At the outset, in a vibrant pub or cafe society, there will be lots of connections between people, lots of friendships and acquaintanceships. But when smoking bans expel smokers - even by just making them stand outside - they stretch and weaken and break many of these bonds of friendship. And the result is that the little society centred around a little cafe or bar becomes less cohesive. It may even disintegrate entirely. At which point the cafe or bar closes down, and the 'for sale' signs go up.
One consequence of this, for example, is that more cohesive groups of friends may set up their own little convivial sub-communities in their own homes (e.g. 'smoky-drinky places') where they can continue to meet to enjoy each others company. But when this happens, the community as a whole has become fragmented, broken up into small groups of families or friends.

But because these groups of families or friends exist in private, it's difficult for anyone to join them. The original vibrant, cohesive pub community was always being renewed and revivified with new people, even while illness and old age depleted them. The new private groups, starved of new members, are likely to in turn gradually become depleted, and themselves die out.

The end point of this process is one in which society has been entirely atomised, and consists of a set of atomic individuals, who have no connection whatsoever with one another, beyond that of an occasional casual encounter.

Does it matter if this happens to a society? Does it matter if communities disintegrate? The antismoking health establishment that has been demanding ever more extensive smoking bans does not seem to think it matters at all. The only thing that seems to matter to them is "health", by which they mean the physical well-being of individual people. In their view, smoking bans improve "health" by "helping" smokers to give up the unhealthy habit of smoking. (It does not seem to occur to any of them that, when smokers are driven out of pubs and cafes to stand outside in the wind and cold and dark and rain, they are put at far greater risk than they were while they were smoking and drinking inside. Even by this crude measure of "health", smoking bans are far more unhealthy than the alternative.)

If we are really to make a decisive improvement in this vacuous, one-eyed notion of "health", it has to be said that the very best thing to do would be to close down all pubs and cafes. Because it's not just smoking that is claimed to be bad for people's health, but also drinking alcohol, and eating crisps and peanuts. All these things are deemed to pose "health risks" of one sort or other. But even if nobody smoked or drank or ate anything, and pubs became indistinguishable from churches, there would still be a discernible "health risk" simply from people transmitting communicable diseases (colds, flu, measles, mumps, etc) to each other. The "healthiest" society is quite obviously the atomised society in which nobody knows anybody else, and everybody stays at home.

And, who knows, perhaps this is what these antismoking health professionals would really like to see?

But let's look a little more closely at what happens when communities disintegrate. These communities do not consist solely of shared friendships, but they also provide a network of mutual support. In these communities people actively help each other out in all sorts of ways, doing shopping for each other, lending things to each other, repairing things, cooking food, checking to see how people are. It's not all just sitting in the pub talking about football. And when a community disintegrates, a network of support disintegrates too. People are left entirely to their own devices. And in the case of the elderly, their devices may be very limited, if they can no longer walk or read or hear. For such people, the death of the community is quite likely to be the death of them.

Nor is it that friendships and acquaintanceships are not important. A marriage is probably the greatest friendship that many people find. In marriages families are bound together by strong bonds. It is in these marriages and friendships and acquaintanceships that many people find meaning in their lives. Take away their marriages and friendships, and their lives become meaningless.

And in an even wider sense, it is through language and writing and music and art that human society is bound together. When people speak, it is so that someone else may hear. And when they write, it is so that someone else may read. And when they play guitar it is so that someone else may listen. Destroy society, and there is no point in anyone speaking or writing or painting or playing music, because all these activities are essentially and inherently social activities.

Smoking bans do not just drive pubs and cafes out of business. Nor is it even that they shatter communities. Smoking bans strike at the very heart of human society itself, and all its wealth of speech and literature and art and music. Smoking bans attack the core interconnectedness of human society. They are an assault upon humanity itself.

The foundations of human society do not lie in universities or government departments or shops or cinemas. The foundations of human society lies in the networks of millions upon millions of bonds of marriage and friendship which tie communities together. Shatter these bonds, and you shatter human society just as surely as you may fell with a power saw in a single afternoon a mighty oak tree that has taken hundreds of years to grow.

It's not just that smoking bans don't even improve "health" (even in the narrow and dwindled sense that antismokers use that word) at all. People carry on smoking and drinking anyway. They just stand outside and do it, and catch their death of cold. But what smoking bans do achieve is the destruction of communities, and the breaking of millions of bonds of affection and aid and support which go to make up the edifice of human society.

The antismoking "healthcare" industry is no better than a band of wolves which has been unleashed upon humanity to rend and tear it apart. Or else they are vandals armed with chainsaws. We have, as a matter of dire necessity, to rid ourselves of these people and all their works. For if we don't there will no longer be any "we" to speak of.

Drain Air
It's really not that long ago that the germ theory of disease was developed. It was in 1840, when the achromatic objective was perfected, that it became possible to see and study previously invisible bacteria. It was only in about 1900 that the Plasmodium Falpicarum parasite was isolated as the cause of malaria. Before that, the cause of disease was a subject of superstition and credulity.

To the primitive mind, deeply tinged with anthropomorphism, the natural explanation of all disease was sought in the evil influence of a demon or other supernatural power. The plagues and pestilences in particular were punishments inflicted upon a people for their sins. There was no possibility of escaping such visitations except by the dubious expedient of flight; no hope except the relaxation of which they were the sign. As Defore says of the cessation of the plague in London:
  Nothing but the immediate finger of God, nothing but Omnipotent Power could have done it. The contagion despised all medicine; death raged in every corner; and had it gone on as it did then, a few weeks more would have cleared the town of all and everything that had a soul.

And if not the manifestation of divine punishment, then disease was frequently believed to be spread by a variety of miasmic effluvia. One of these was drain air.

One of the most striking examples of the exorcism of a bogey of the older sanitation by modern exact methods is the case of sewer gas. Dreaded as a prime spreader of disease ever since sewerage began, we now know that sewer or drain air is freer from microbes than the air of a city street...

It's a curious fact that this fear of drain air continues to this day to shape our plumbing.

Modern toilets incorporate an 'S','U', 'J', or 'P' shaped bend that causes the water in the toilet bowl to collect and act as a seal against sewer gases.

There's no need for the water seal. Drain air is harmless. Nowadays people would probably say that they just "don't like the smell".

The first two quotations above are taken from Man and the Microbe, by Professor C.-E. A. Winslow, of the American Museum of Natural History, New York, published in Popular Science Monthly of July 1914, just 15 years after the malaria parasite was isolated.

In retrospect, it seems perhaps a little premature of Winslow to have hoped that the bogey of drain air had at last been exorcised. For the modern version of drain air is tobacco smoke. These days, as everybody knows, it is the prime cause of disease. Forget about germ theory. That's been and gone. It's the miasma of tobacco smoke that causes lung cancer and heart disease and is a "risk factor" in almost every other affliction of humanity. The US Surgeon General and the World Health Organisation have stated that there is "no safe level" of tobacco smoke. The faintest whiff of it is lethal.

The truth would seem to be that the primitive mind has persisted long into our modern era. It was never entirely banished, never fully exorcised. In fact, it's been making a big comeback. A new miasma has replaced the old miasma. And, as before, disease is regarded as punishment for the sins of eating, drinking, and smoking. The patient is the cause of his own illness. Of course, neither 'sin' nor 'divine retribution' are ever mentioned in this connection, but the underlying logic remains the same.

How did this happen? Why, after the germ theory of disease had swept through medicine in the late 19th century, explaining the causes of so many diseases, did the primitive mind return with its bogeys and superstitions?

One reason may be that the new germ theory didn't explain every disease. It may have explained malaria and cholera and the like, but it didn't explain cancer and heart disease. And those diseases which the new germ theory could not explain remained in the province of an older, more primitive set of explanations. The ancient superstitions still applied there. These diseases remained punishments from God on sinful humanity. They were diseases that people brought upon themselves. And they were caused by inhaling miasmic vapours.

It's not just tobacco smoke. The whole of 'alternative medicine' with its array of crystals and aromatherapies and homeopathic medicines is a recrudescence of the primitive pre-scientific mind. Wherever germ theory can't prevent or cure some malady, a forest of alternative therapies and cures springs up, complete with diets, exercises, and snake oil.

In fact, with tobacco smoke - the new incarnation of drain air - in the vanguard, one might even say that 'alternative' medicine has now more or less completely ousted the scientific germ theory, with its laboratories and microscopes, that was making all the running a century ago. That upstart brash new theory swept all before it for 100 years or so. But now the old gods are back, and the priests of Amun have revived the ancient rites, now that heretic Akhenaten is dead. Saint George Godber and Liam Donaldson have restored the old religion - thanks be given to our holy mother Isis, living forever.

Look. Disease is not caused by bacteria or viruses. Disease is caused by smoke. It is caused by the smoke of factory chimneys and car exhausts of your evil civilisation. But above all it is caused by the smoke of cigarettes, which has the magical properties of being able to kill someone 40 years after they have inhaled it, and which can go through walls, and has no safe level, and clings to furniture and walls for thousands of years.

If you are feeling ill, it's your own fault. It's because you smoked a cigar in the Lyceum in Billericay in 1971. Yes, it really does take that long for it to catch up with you. It's been scientifically proven. Here, try these crystals. Their sympathetic vibrations will interact with yours. Place them over your chakras for an hour every day, while lying inside one of the free NHS fold-up Golden Section pyramids you can get at reception. Make sure to align the pentagram undersheet towards Jupiter rising. And dab a couple of drops of patchouli oil behind your ears.

Had Enough?
Interesting letter to an MP published over on DP yesterday. A solicitor writing to say how he and his lady wife had thrown in their jobs because it simply wasn't worth the candle any more. That was the first half of the letter. The second half was a long rant about the breakdown of society over the past 20 years, taxes, illiterate kids, political correctness, the nanny state, global warming, biased BBC, corrupt politicians, the EU. The smoking ban got a mention, I was glad to see.

"We are all looking at Egypt and wondering when that day will come here. I confidently predict that it will come within my son’s lifetime if things don’t change."

I suppose I've been wondering the same thing. Somebody in the comments pointed out that it had been a bloodless revolution in Egypt, and that was how it should be done. It seems to be the fashion, ever since the Czech 'velvet revolution' 20 or so years ago, to have bloodless revolutions. No more tumbrils carrying aristos to their appointments with Madame Guillotine. Revolutions aren't what they used to be.

Maybe the same thing, or something very like it, will happen here. But I don't see it happening any time soon. I think that what's more likely is that, buried under an ever-growing burden of taxes and rules and regulations, the real economy will simply be unable to support it all any more. Just like a horse can't be laden with more than a certain load without buckling under the weight. The real economy now supports a vast wedding-cake superstructure of government, employing millions of bureaucrats and pen-pushers and finger-waggers whose sole job in life is to invent and enforce thousands of unnecessary and hobbling rules and regulations. There's been a veritable torrent of new laws over the past decade, the principal effect of which has been to make life worse for everybody.

And it's becoming insupportable. The horse's knees are ready to buckle. And when they finally do fail, the tax revenues will dry up, and there'll be nothing with which to pay the army of bureaucrats and meddlers. And they'll be laid off. And with that the din of propaganda about smoking and drinking and global warming will end. The finger-pointers and do-gooders and busybodies will join the ranks of the unemployed (and most likely the ranks of the unemployable).

Trouble is, the good solicitor probably wouldn't like this new army of unemployed people "leeching off the rest of us" any more than he liked them in their previous incarnation as taxpayer-funded government busybodies. But which is better? Paying them to do nothing, or paying them a lot more to invent and enforce thousands of interfering rules and regulations? The unemployed, bless 'em, don't do anyone any harm. But government busybodies actively make life hell for everybody.

There's a good case to be made that all our current problems are the consequence of hyper-regulation. We're getting buried under laws. The smoking ban is, after all, the perfect example of a piece of unnecessary and destructive legislation.

And what does everybody hate about the EU? All the petty little rules and regulations they make, of course. They've even got their own special even-more-draconian smoking ban under preparation, which will feature show trials of prominent law-breakers.

And what about global warming? The real threat there is not that the planet will get warmer, but that there will be yet more taxes, and yet more regulations. None of which will do any good at all, of course.

These days, if you want money, the best way seems to be to discover some hitherto-unnoticed (and actually non-existent) threat - secondhand smoke, global warming, avian flu, etc, etc - and scream loudly enough about it to get government funding to set up your own dedicated bureaucracy to regulate it, all at the taxpayer's expense of course.

We're paying more and more taxes to be restricted and regulated by more and more petty bureaucrats. The simplest thing to do would be to fire the lot of them, and render them all unemployed. It will cost a lot less to keep them unemployed than it is to employ them full time to meddle full time in everyone else's lives. The blessing would be twofold. Firstly it would save taxpayers' money. And secondly it would reduce the hyper-regulation that's stifling the economy and making everybody miserable.

Fire them all, and all the problems would go away. Pubs would allow smoking once again, and our fragmented society would begin to repair itself. Global warming would be forgotten. Business and industry, freed from hobbling legislation, would flourish. The nanny state would disintegrate. And, relieved of the stress of an over-regulated life, people might even smoke less and drink less.

It's unlikely that any of the current political class will show any initiative in this respect. Politicians are, after all, the first to dip their snouts into the trough of public money. They are the very personifications of interfering busybodies.

The important first step is to start recognising mass unemployment as better than the mass employment of an army of interfering busybodies. We should stop thinking of employment as being somehow nobler or morally superior to unemployment.

Ask yourself. Which would you prefer? To pay ASH's Deborah Arnott £100,000 a year to be Britain's anti-smoking harridan-in-chief? Or to pay her £10,000 a year to just stay home and shut the fuck up? Because that's the real choice. It's one or the other (although I know a lot of people would simply like to strangle her). You can't complain about Deborah Arnott doing her job out of one side of your mouth, and then start calling her a feckless leech out of the other side the moment she joins the ranks of the unemployed.

Me, I'd prefer her to be idle, doing nothing. I wouldn't mind a bit if she didn't get out of bed until 2 pm every day. I'd even volunteer to bring her a mug of vallium at 2 pm every day to make her sleep right through.

But there's a near-universal conviction that everyone should have a 'proper' 9-to-5 job Doing Something, even if what they do causes misery and suffering for millions of other people. And, because we still think that everyone should have a proper job, pretty much the only way we can create the required employment is by using taxes to pay the wages an ever-expanding army of bureaucratic government busybodies. It is our refusal to tolerate idleness that is the fundamental reason why we are cursed with all these rules and regulations. Because making and enforcing interfering regulations is what governments do. That is the entire mission of our elected representatives in parliament: to make laws. There isn't anything else for them to do than dream up new laws which will require new armies of bureaucrats to draft and modify and adapt and enforce. And it's slowly killing us.

But if were to encourage mass unemployment, not only would we save the money paid to all those interfering government employees, and spare ourselves from their dictatorial legislation, but we would also save a great deal of energy transporting them to and from work every day, and heating their offices, and providing them with desks and computers. At a stroke, we would reduce our carbon footprint by 50% or more. How more Green can you get?

Not convinced? Still think everyone should have a job? Never mind. The dreadful Arnott will grin and snigger and start dreaming up new ways of making life even more miserable for you than it is already. After all, it's what you're paying her to do.

Not 'sceptics'. Not 'deniers'. They're 'cranks' now. 'Climate cranks'. In the middle of the short video below, Mark Hertsgaard says:

"They're not scientists. They're cranks. When virtually every major scientific organisation in the world, including our own National Academy of Sciences, says that climate change is real and extremely dangerous, only a crank keeps insisting that it's all a fraud."

Who's Mark Hertsgaard? I'd never heard of him. Noticing the Golden Gate bridge in the background as he walked along a beach with his young daughter, I wondered at which California university he taught physics and climate science. I could imagine him scrawling the Stefan-Boltzmann equation on a blackboard, and describing the infra-red absorption characteristics of carbon dioxide molecules, and fielding questions on the quantum physics of photon emission. If he was that certain about it all, he just had to be a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. He probably even played bongo drums with Richard Feynman.

I thought I'd find out more about him. The result was a bit of a shock. Turns out he's not a scientist at all. He's a journalist and author. His best-known work is On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency (1988), about how the Reagan White House "deployed raw power and conventional wisdom to intimidate Washington's television newsrooms"

A bit more digging turned up a review of another book he'd written: The Eagle's Shadow: Why America fascinates and infuriates the world, in which the critic had written:

Unfortunately, the greater part of the book is taken up not with these fascinating observations but with the author's account of why he himself hates US capitalist civilisation. A hundred years ago Thorstein Veblen exposed conspicuous consumption. Sixty years later Kenneth Galbraith brought the excesses of auto tail fins to worldwide attention. The core of Hertsgaard's case today is that "the current form of globalisation has punished the world's poor and the working class majority while fabulously rewarding the rich and corporate elites". He does not mention that the US also contains the world's best universities, which publish some of the best studies of European literature and philosophy.

So, within about half an hour, my initial idea that Mark Hertsgaard was some sort of physicist or climate scientist had completely evaporated. Into his place, there stepped forward another Mark Hertsgaard, progressive left-wing journalist and writer, and critic of Ronald Reagan and American capitalism.

But I was puzzled. Why had I gotten hold of this notion that Hertsgaard was a scientist? I think that it grew from him forcefully declaring, "They're not scientists!" If you're going to make a statement like that, you have to be very sure what a scientist is. You have to be one yourself. Just like you have to be American to pronounce something to be 'un-American', or be English to say something's 'un-English'. In pronouncing the sceptics to not be scientists, Hertsgaard was implicitly claiming to himself be a scientist. And up there with the greats. And yet Hertsgaard wasn't a scientist. I'd just been fooled for a few minutes.

And everything fell into place. Hertsgaard didn't like capitalism. It was greedy and rapacious and unfair. And it polluted the world with its toxic wastes. And now it turned out that all the carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by gas-guzzling cars and trucks and factories and power stations was raising the temperature of the whole planet. Capitalism wasn't just raping the earth; it was killing it as well. All the more reason to hate what you already hated.

And this illustrates what is perhaps the biggest problem with global warming. On the surface it looks like science. But closer examination reveals that actually it's politics. Global warming is just another stick with which to beat capitalism. It's just another way to to push for a socialist state-planned society. These people come on like scientists, but in the end they prove to just be political activists.

And anyway, even if all scientists everywhere agree that global warming is 'real and extremely dangerous', are we ignorant non-scientists obliged to agree with them? Just because some scientists believe something, does everybody else have to believe it too? Is somebody really a "crank" if they don't accept the latest scientific findings set out in Nature or New Scientist? Is scientific knowledge, once discovered, unquestionable and irrefutable? If so, how does anyone ever manage to do any science, if asking questions is impermissible?

P.S. Politico poseur? Mark Hertsgaard discredits himself

More Intolerance Needed
After a year of indecision and relative silence, it seems that the BBC has returned to plugging the message of Global Warming. There was the Horizon and then Storyville a few weeks back. Last Thursday there was a Radio 4 programme, In Denial: Climate on the Couch.

The programme began by saying it wasn't about climate science, and that it assumed that the scientific consensus about it was right, and that there would be a 4 degree increase in temperature by 2070. It then addressed the Big Problem: despite forecasts of terrible changes, nobody was much bothered or doing much about it. What could be done? How could people be motivated to act? Global warming had become a complete downer, and people rolled their eyes at the mention of it. Virtually every strategy that had been used to motivate people had been counterproductive.

A woman was interviewed who'd been conducting face-to-face encounters with knitting groups, as well as rugby and badminton and art clubs, to get people to sign up to reducing their carbon footprint with a 'Carbon Cutter' plan, and was aiming to reach 35,000 people.

There was some debate about how to motivate people. Green eco-psychologists said that if you appealed to individualistic or materialistic values (such as saving money) you were doomed, and that what was needed was an appeal to communal values, and people made to be less materialistic and more eco-conscious. An outfit called Natural Change took people on nature trips to 'reconnect with the natural world' and with 'deeper values', hoping to bring 'personal epiphanies'. It was suggested that this amounted to 'eco-brainwashing' and that Greens didn't just want to save the planet, but to re-engineer the human race. Framing climate change as a Green issue was part of the problem. Worse was that in the USA, Climate Change was strongly associated with the liberal progressive left. It had been a 'communication disaster' to have the cause fronted by a Democrat Vice-President, Al Gore. Furthermore, the very terms 'global warming' and 'climate change' had become 'toxic'. 'Our deteriorating atmosphere' worked much much better. Another psychologist said that there been an attempt to sell a 'double negative'. Firstly the negative of the threat of climate change, and secondly the negative of the need for sacrifices. A better approach would be to find some positive messages, and find what was good about a low carbon lifestyle. You had to 'sell the sizzle' of a 'low carbon heaven'.

The first time I listened to the programme I found myself almost screaming and throwing things, it annoyed me so much. But, thinking about it afterwards, I began to sense that there was a cheering message in there. And the message was that they simply couldn't motivate anyone to do anything about climate change, and the whole thing had become a complete turn-off. 'Global Warming' had become a toxic term. And they really hadn't a clue what to do about it. And that's really good news, as far as I am concerned.

Because I've had it up to here with Global Warming and Climate Change. I think if someone knocked at my door and asked if I'd like to sign up to a Carbon Cutter Plan, I'd have to restrain myself from burying a meat cleaver in their head. And I'm not the only one. Here's Grandad in Ireland writing about it a few days ago:

"After a short time in government they have managed to turn me into a rabid anti-eco-terrorist. I am now willing to do anything that would annoy Gormless and his pals. I know it is illogical but it just shows what a profound effect they have had. I will have nothing to do with anything ‘green’ If it’s bad for the planet, it’s good for me... I am now going to spend the rest of the afternoon cutting down trees and burning tractor tyres."

It's the same with climate change as it is with smoking. The more you nag and bully people to change, the more likely they are to dig their heels in and resist. In both cases, the premise is the same: We know what's good for people; how do we get them to do it? We know that carbon dioxide causes warming; how do we get people to reduce their carbon footprint? We know that smoking causes lung cancer; how do we get people to quit? In both cases, there is breath-taking arrogance. We know best. You must do what we tell you.

The difference, perhaps, is that with Climate Change, doing something is still a matter of personal choice. In the case of smoking, naked coercion is now being used to force people to stop smoking. How long before coercion is used to enforce compliance with Carbon Reduction laws? How long before people are issued personal carbon consumption limits on their cars, foreign holidays, home heating? If they're prepared to use coercion to make people quit smoking, then they're most likely prepared to use coercion to combat Climate Change. Or anything else that they're in a lather about.

James Delingpole a couple of days back wrote how climate alarmists saw scepticism as "perverse self-deception":

We saw it in that sinister bit in the Prince of Wales’s recent speech to the European Parliament where he made a thinly-veiled plea for climate sceptics to be tried in the future for heresy:

"I wonder, will such people be held accountable at the end of the day for the absolute refusal to countenance a precautionary approach?"

Today Delingpole highlights chief science advisor Professor John Beddington, who is telling civil servants that they shouldn't be tolerant of the 'nonsense' of cherry-picked sceptical pseudo-science.

In closing, Beddington said: “I’d urge you—and this is a kind of strange message to go out—but go out and be much more intolerant.”

So, if the good news is that people are sick to the back teeth of global warming, and won't do anything about it, the bad news may be that, just like with smoking, freedom of choice will give way to naked coercion. When people refused to choose of their own accord to quit smoking, they had to be forced to do so. And when people refuse to voluntarily choose to reduce their carbon footprint, they'll just have to be forced to do that too. Scepticism or 'denialism' will become as intolerable as racism or homophobia or paedophilia. And denialists will be made to answer for their heretical nonsense.

But will the alarmists have to answer for their particular brand of nonsense when global warming proves to be as illusory a problem as Avian Flu? Probably not.

P.S. Further straws in the wind: Andrew Montford, author of the Hockey Stick Illusion, has just been on a BBC Climate Change Question Time.

58.6 Seconds
Yesterday, while reading the outdoor antismoking campaign Toolkit, I got interested not so much in the chemical components of tobacco smoke, but in the components of exhaled air. I knew that they would include carbon dioxide and water vapour. But what else was there, apart from the gases ordinarily found in the atmosphere, like nitrogen and oxygen?

Pretty soon I was reading Human exhaled air analytics: biomarkers of disease, which starts off:

Breath testing dates back to the early history of medicine. Ancient physicians knew that the odour of a patient’s breath is associated with some diseases and may give an insight into physiological and pathophysiological processes in the body (Ma et al., 2006). For example, the sweet smell of acetone in breath accompanies uncontrolled diabetes, a fishy smell is a result of liver disease and a urine-like smell is related to kidney failure (Di Francesco et al., 2005; Libardoni et al., 2006). Therefore, they tried to recognize illnesses by the specific smell of human breath. Modern breath testing began in the 1970s when Linus Pauling detected (though without identifying) around 200 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in exhaled air by gas chromatography. He proved that normal human breath is a gas of rather complex composition. In the last 30 years, many of these compounds have been identi-fied. It has turned out that exhaled breath may contains traces of many VOCs, like acetone, methanol or isoprene (Miekisch et al., 2004; Zolotov, 2005) and even small inorganic molecules like nitric oxide (Dweik,2005), carbon monoxide (Kharitonov and Barnes, 2001) or carbonyl sulfide (Studer et al., 2001).

200 different frikkin' Volatile Organic Compounds! Not just the two or three I'd imagined. But nowhere near as bad as the 4,000 chemicals in secondhand smoke, obviously.

Oh, wait...

There are approximately 3000 VOCs that have been detected at least once in human breath, and most breath samples usually contain more than 200 VOCs (Phillips et al., 1999a,b; Teshima et al., 2005). Exhaled breath includes small inorganic compounds, such as NO, O2, CO2, volatile organic compounds (hydrocarbons, alcohols, ketones, aldehydes, esters) and nonvolatile substances such as isoprostanes, cytokines, leukotrienes and hydrogen peroxide, which can be found in breath condensate (Montuschi et al., 2002). These compounds are chemically very diverse. Major VOCs present in human breath gas include isoprene, acetone, ethanol, methanol and other alcohols, as well as alkanes (Libardoni et al., 2006). It is well known that the profiles of breath volatiles in patients suffering from particular diseases are different from the normal volatiles profile.

The source and physiological function of most of VOCs, however, are still not known. In most cases, specific metabolic pathways that give rise to their exhalation are unknown (Zolotov, 2005). Some VOCs in breath gas derive from the environment, because they may be absorbed as contaminants through the skin or taken up via inhalation or ingestion (Ma et al., 2006). These compounds are possibly metabolized in the body, and then excreted by expiration. Other VOCs are generated in the body, as products of metabolic processes or activity of intestinal bacteria. Endogenous biomarkers are not yet commonly used for diagnostic purposes. A summary of physiological origins of selected endogenous breath molecules is presented in Table 3. Factors affecting the great variability in the composition of human breath include physical condition, general health of the subject, food intake, environmental influences and overall lifestyle (Amann et al., 2004; Libardoni et al., 2006).

But then, most of these are pumped out by sick people, people with diabetes, like the man said? Seems not.

Elevated exhalation of some of these compounds occurs in certain diseases, e.g. acetone in heart diseases [17] and diabetes mellitus [18], pentane in arthritis and acute myocardial infarction [19] or ethanol in arthritis, lung cancer, and schizophrenia [20].

"Elevated" means that perfectly healthy people exhale these compounds as well, in smaller amounts. So everybody is exhaling a toxic mixture of gases, many of which are carcinogenic, just like secondhand smoke. Acetone, for example, is listed as toxic and tumorigenic in table 44.8 of the Encyclopaedia of occupational health and safety.

And it stands to reason that this is so, because the human metabolism is a combustion process just like a wood-burning stove or an automobile engine or a cigarette. It's a combustion process that simply takes places at a much lower temperature than them, but produces much the same combustion products (e.g. carbon dioxide).

And since the US Surgeon General and the WHO have seen fit to inform the world that there's No Safe Level of secondhand tobacco smoke (a claim reproduced in the Toolkit), then it follows that there is no safe level of exhaled air either. And not just from the lungs of smokers, but also from the lungs of antismokers and their precious little asthmatic children too.

But, as I discovered from one of the links provided in the Toolkit - Should smoking in outside public places be banned: Yes. by Thomson G, Wilson N, Edwards R, Woodward A (2008), that it's not so much that outdoor SHS poses a threat to children's health: it's that they might see people doing it and copy them.

We argue that society has an ethical duty to minimise the risk of children becoming nicotine dependent smokers. A reasonable step is banning smoking in selected outdoor areas frequented by children. Children need smoke-free outdoor places now, to help normalise a smoke-free society.

The Rapid Responses are worth reading, as they include comments from David Atherton and Michael Siegel. Anyway, I further found out from one of the other references listed towards the end of the Toolkit, that smokers' breath rapidly returns to its normal level of toxicity:

in 2007, a group of researchers showed that the mean time it took for a smoker to stop exhaling residual tobacco smoke particles after finishing a cigarette was 58.6 seconds, corresponding to about nine subsequent breathings.*

That's worth remembering. Just had a cigarette outside, and wondering when it's safe to come back inside? Take 9 breaths. Or count off 58.6 seconds. Don't forget the 0.6 on the end. 58.5 seconds and your darling daughter will drop dead the moment you step back inside. 58.7 seconds, though, and she'll continue to be an unstoppable bundle of toy-smashing energy.

I really don't know how that reference crept into the Toolkit. It all sounded rather subversive to me. Maybe someone from Big Tobacco snuck it into the references somehow. It started:

It is customary in my home country of Australia at the opening of conferences to invite representatives of the original Aboriginal landowners to welcome delegates. A common way of doing this is to perform a “smoking ceremony” where eucalyptus leaves are burned. This causes clouds of smoke to billow throughout the auditorium. These ceremonies are also performed outdoors, the site of a new frontier in some nations of efforts to outlaw public smoking. The smell of burning eucalyptus always transports me to my childhood, growing up in a small country town where I would often sleep around campfires with friends, returning home with my clothes and hair thick with the smell of smoke. I have since learned that these adventures exposed my lungs to large volumes of smoke particles, the great majority of which are indistinguishable to those contained in secondhand cigarette smoke. However, I do not subscribe to a worldview that automatically places risks to health, however small, above every other consideration. Consequently, I do not believe that sitting around campfires, nor lighting them in suitable locations, should be banned as a health hazard. Many will have visited cosy country restaurants and resorts where open log fires create an ambiance that transports us back to childhood memories of winter comforts and a somehow more authentic world. Well-flued fires send most smoke up the chimney, but as anyone entering a room where a log fire has burned the night before knows, considerable smoke also escapes into the room, impregnating carpets and furniture.

This reads like a dangerous outbreak of common sense. Further on it says:

while tobacco smoke has its own range of recognisable smells, there are few differences between the physics and chemistry of tobacco smoke and smoke generated by the incomplete combustion of any biomass, whether it be eucalyptus leaves, campfire logs, gasoline, or meat on a barbeque.

..or exhaled air.

* Giovanni Invernizzi et al., Residual Tobacco Smoke Measurement of its Washout Time in the Lung and of its Contribution to Environmental Tobacco Smoke, 16 TOBACCO CONTROL 29, 31 (2007)