Gone to:


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 "". 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

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.