Monday, 24 October 2016

Kids, Jobsworths And Clowns at #Battleofideas

"The current fuss about creepy clowns is a pantomime version of the world. Adults are no longer able to lay the law down to kids, and life is ordered not for adults but for children".

So opined Dr Andrew Calcutt, a lecturer at the University of East London, during a Battle of Ideas panel debate this weekend discussing the so-called 'killer clown' craze which swept America and is now reaching panic proportions in the UK and beyond too.

He was referring to how online-led pranks such as these are well understood by teens on social media and that kids are generally unconcerned, but that media panic and moral outrage contribute to blow things out of all proportion, despite history telling us that crazes soon die down to be replaced by something else, especially if there is little fuss.

Dr Calcutt tops up with water prior to the 'killer clowns' panel
The "life is ordered not for adults but for children" idea could also just as easily have been adopted as a partial theme for the other two sessions I attended at the Barbican event though. In fact, this is my sixth year of rocking up to the annual Institute of Ideas free speech festival, and it could describe most of what I've seen over that period.

The first of my chosen sessions this year was "The Busybody State" which discussed how we have arrived at the position whereby so much human behaviour is now frowned upon and controlled by petty bureaucracy and poorly-trained citizen enforcers. The archetypal 'jobsworths' who can now issue fines for 'crimes' such as enjoying a barbecue on a beach, lying down in a public place, busking, smoking in a park, handing out leaflets on the High Street, and even reading poetry in a pub without a licence.

The panel for The Busybody State
As we know here, using children as a weapon to impose illiberal rules is a favourite tactic of 'public health'. Denying adults the freedom to smoke in public in case children see them is one particularly fascist application of the weapon, but Dr Jan MacVarish - a lecturer at the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies at the University of Kent - told of methods employed by the modern day health visitor which are arguably more sinister. Explaining how the state now assumes that all new parents are incompetent and therefore require guidance, she expressed mild exasperation that "there is no thought that parents might, you know, just work it out for themselves". That the child is precious and the parent assumed to be a vector for harm no matter the domestic environment.

Josie Appleton of the Manifesto Club had kicked off the panel - partly as an unofficial launch of her new book, Officious - with a speech detailing the history of officialdom and how its roots used to be to control based on class, and how this is still partly true. Speaking to about 200 people who had trekked to the very remote Frobisher Auditorium on the 4th floor ... with no lift - an attendance which illustrates how many people can identify with the deteriorating relationship between citizens and the locally-administered state - she ran through abuses of power such as PSPOs and other infringements on liberty and described how it seems that none of these petty rules are designed to advance the public good, but more to place the bureaucrat at the top of the food chain and to value rules over and above the preferences and choices of the public.

Full house to hear about The Busybody State
Fellow panellist Max Wind-Cowie - a self-professed big C conservative who appreciates rules and order but is still concerned about the rise in petty criminalisation of mundane activities - succinctly condensed this phenomenon as "we've nationalised the clip round the ear". And it's true. The public is not trusted to resolve conflicts over minor irritations amongst ourselves now, increasingly it is local councils who seem to believe that the only members of the public who can be trusted to tackle mildly icky behaviour are those deemed to be an "accredited person" after arguably scant training. An accredited person is now elevated above their peers and their word trusted in any case of disagreement. If you were to receive a penalty notice from one of these people, you could argue that you did not commit the offence - and you may be 100% correct - but their word is worth more than yours because they have been accredited.

Common sense and assumptions of innocence have been replaced by control and the assumption of state-designated power as infallible.

Mark Littlewood of the IEA suggested that skewed motivations were at fault for the burgeoning bully state promoted by local bureaucrats; that they may well believe that since local services are paid for by taxpayers, councillors and officials are obliged to do everything in their power to reduce - for example - discarded leaflets on the High Street due to a marginal increase in cleaning up costs. However, he pointed out that this incentive often disregards the greater goal of local harmony; that most of the public will rationally value freedoms and human interaction more than a few pennies here and there on a council spreadsheet. The problem, then, is that local authority incentives regularly fail to serve the public adequately. His suggested solution was to shift these motivations by "naming and shaming" the bureaucrats involved; to personalise the issue and remove anonymity. If Joe Bloggs, accredited person or bureaucrat, is exposed to ridicule when writing illiberal rules or rigidly enforcing them, it might encourage them to take into account more human decency and introduce some semblance of discretion which is very often lacking. Publicity, he argued, is something that bureaucrats fear greatly, and I would agree.

He also expressed dismay that these attitudes had spread from the public sector into private industry, citing one particular example as quite shocking.

Of course, we know that this too is a state-funded - and therefore public sector - problem brought about by tax-spongers at Healthy Stadia misleading sports clubs with deliberate lies based on ideology not health and others like them exaggerating miniscule concerns into something bigger. Pubs, for example, can't be guided in the right direction all the while ASH refuse to vocally object to bans and offer the dire insipid advice that they do. Not that this makes the problem of private sector bans any less worrying.

One of the reasons for e-cigs not being allowed in sports stadia, of course, is that children shouldn't see them, which also came up as a theme in the second of the BoI sessions I attended entitled "Does Britain have a gambling problem?".

The gambling panel in the Pit Theatre
On the far right of that pic above is John Crowley - Editor-in-Chief of International Business Times - who argued that Ray Winstone advertising betting companies during daytime sports shows should be banned because his children see him. When it was suggested that there are tools by which it is possible to ensure they don't, he replied that he didn't think it should be up to him to police what his kids see, so therefore the ads should be restricted to after 9pm.

He had used the example of the England cricket tour of Bangladesh which he'd been watching at 11am that morning by way of justification. I struggled to think how many cricket matches take place after 9pm whereby the obviously child-alluring Winstone might be allowed, but I suppose there might be some.

Crowley was also not enthused by the suggestion that technology could solve his very personal problem. It was advanced that it is very likely that digital viewing may very soon allow account-holders to decide which adverts they wish to see and which they don't. Considering that betting and gambling companies pay top dollar to advertise - and therefore subsidise TV subscription rates - it might be that those who opt to reject those industries advertising might pay a higher rate for their viewing, but it would be worth it so their kids wouldn't see ads they find objectionable, wouldn't it? I didn't get the impression that Crowley agreed.

His ally was the baddie of the whole day for me (there is always one, last year was the RSPH's Duncan Stephenson, you may recall). Step forward Jim Orford, Professor of clinical and community psychology at the University of Birmingham, and proud founder of Gambling Watch UK.

Jim Orford
In Orford's world, there are no redeeming features of gambling, no pleasure derived, merely problems. He argued that despite problem gambling only making up a tiny percentage of those who regularly enjoy a flutter (and even amongst those there will be a significant number who shouldn't be classified as such), it is still a big number so there should be far more restrictions. He naturally agreed that seductive kiddie corrupter Winstone should be removed from view for the children, but also advocated even more stringent measures. He spoke of how "the balance is increasingly wrong between freedom and regulation" and talked about "going back" to an era he viewed as far more acceptable. By the way he spoke, I imagined that would be around 1950 when gambling was banned and only Flash Harry bookie's runners ran the trade.

As a side note, it's interesting that when those of us who believe 'public health' has gone too far argue that we should go back to something more realistic, we are condemned as being stick-in-the-muds who have a glamourised view of the past, and that 'progress' is being made. But when progress involves liberalising rules, bansturbators squeal that only a Victorian appreciation of risk is acceptable.

For someone who mentioned children as a justification, Orford's own understanding of the betting industry was remarkably childlike. Citing the 2005 Gambling Act as a root of much evil, he spoke of how local councils are no longer able to restrict shops opening by having to prove "unmet demand" and that this has led to tons of them populating our High Streets and making them look grubby. It's an interesting argument but only if you have a rather arrogant view of how businesses and humans interact. He seemed to be saying that it is only the power of the state - and clever people like him, natch - which had been stopping bookies opening up in every available shop letting in every High Street in the country; that businesses never take into account whether there is demand for their product, they just want to place loss-making operations in as many locations as they can muster.

Likewise, that the moment a shop opens up, vacant proles are instantly deprived of their better instincts and are seduced, like automatons, into becoming enthusiastic gamblers against their will. The betting industry is incapable of assessing demand, only the state can do that; and consumers are woefully incompetent at assessing their own level of risk based on their income. Only Jim and his mates can do that.

This strikes me as an incredible position to take. It masks what is an in-built disgust for the will of people and the wisdom of businesses. He may couch his 'concern' in fluffy terms but his basic message is that people are stupid so can't be trusted. I'd far prefer it if those who favour restrictions and prohibition would just come out and honestly say that rather than pretend that they're 'protecting' the public from avaricious businesses who are apparently not interested in profit, but instead merely want to thrust shops onto poor hard-pressed local authorities just for a laugh.

If you think you might have seen these kind of methods before, you'd be right. Orford also talked about how ads should be banned "just like we did with tobacco" and spoke often about gambling as a 'public health' problem. It was quite clear he was using the same tactics and the same dubious manipulation of statistics - I was ticking off the instantly recognisable template sound bites as he spoke. At one point, he condemned the gambling industry for providing over 90% of funds for treating harmful gambling, saying the he would prefer that they were not involved at all. "It's significant", he asserted, "that the only conference on gambling harm is funded by the betting industry!". He didn't quite explain why he and others who feel the way he does didn't hold their own conferences as they are quite entitled to do.

By way of response, Malcolm George of the Association of British Bookmakers - who had sponsored the session and asked that Orford be invited to flay them - declared that if taxpayers wanted industry to butt out of programmes to help problem gamblers and for the state to pay for it instead, he'd be very happy (I wouldn't, for the record), but that he was proud of what they do.

Despite all that, it was a feisty session which is most welcome and why the Battle of Ideas is such a great event to attend. Yes there are some hideous people there at times but the motto is "Free Speech Allowed" which is its charm. I'm sure there were plenty who would have a polar opposite view than mine, and they often make themselves known in the Q&A periods. If only there were more opportunities like that in the policy areas we discuss here, eh tobacco control?

After those two sessions, it was curiosity which drew my pal and I to the hastily-arranged panel on "Creepy Clowns: Horror, social media and urban myth" and the aforementioned remarks of Dr Andrew Calcutt. Was this another case of kids being over-protected?

Perhaps so. At one point, a head teacher objected to the suggestion that creepy clowns are mostly benign, and - with a barely-suppressed anger - argued that it was "not fun, but anti-social". His view was very quickly counteracted by a couple of Year 10 students in the audience (there were many youngsters in the sessions I saw) who said that the "killer clowns" didn't bother them much at all. The media, it seems, were more squeamish about the whole palaver than the kids they were concerned about. It makes you wonder how the whole thing got elevated into such a moral panic (which we know will evaporate in very short order).

Perhaps, I dunno, red top news organisations could start by not calling them 'killer clowns' I suppose. Elevating pretty mundane concerns to the category of 'epidemics', 'ticking time bombs' and crises' which require 'urgent' or 'courageous' action - often by invoking the children - when it's almost never worth the hysteria, and almost always harms society for no good reason overall, is great for those who profit by promoting such panics, but never good for the rest of us who have to suffer a never-ending net deterioration in quality of life.

Maybe there's a lesson in there somewhere.

About Time Too

Via The Guardian, this is awesome news.
A group of scientists and public health experts are to take legal action against the Times newspaper after it reported claims from a leading charity that they were in the pay of the tobacco industry. 
The experts, who work in fields that aim to limit deaths and health complications caused by smoking, are looking to sue the Times for defamation following a story which termed them “experts making a packet”. 
The Times has published an apology to one of the scientists cited, Clive Bates, the former head of Action on Smoking and Health. The correction stated that he had funded his own travel and accommodation costs at an industry-sponsored tobacco forum in Brussels and had not received any funding for tobacco or nicotine companies. 
But other scientists say that the same apology was not extended to them and they claim they have been falsely accused of accepting “tens of thousands of pounds from tobacco companies to carry out research into e-cigarettes”.
God speed them, I say.

If you haven't seen the appalling article in The Times, it's here behind a paywall. But these are the offending parts (click to enlarge).

Note that The Times doesn't say anything other than it is Cancer Research UK making these accusations. Because there is a hint at it later in the piece.

But the journo did say explicity in a box that they had "made a packet".

At the time ASH's daily news carried an unprecedented panicky clarification. Not by ASH but from Cancer Research UK.

ASH also failed to link to the article in question, almost as if they didn't want anyone to read it.

So where did The Times get their info from? We don't know, but you'd think CRUK would be fizzing about it enough to demand a full retraction, wouldn't you?

They did write a letter, but it was so lame as to be utterly pathetic.

Nothing in there demanded withdrawal of the accusations that The Times had hurled at the scientists and researchers who had been maligned in the original piece. Nor did it demand that the accusation that the smears had come from CRUK be removed either.

I was personally warned off tweeting about Butterworth's comments by one of the signatories too (since deleted). But if CRUK were so angry about how their comments had been portrayed, where is their lawsuit .. or even proper stiff letter of condemnation?

Instead, the idea of suing The Times was first mentioned by Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos in an article on the 14th October.
I think this is time for legal action. The unsubstantiated, misleading, inappropriate and insulting accusations are totally unacceptable. This is journalism at its worst. In general, I am against legal actions because they rarely solve such problems but divert the discussion to irrelevant issues. However, in this case I think the response should be straightforward and aggressive. Moreover, I think the issue here is not only related to the protection of the integrity of those named in the article. There is a much broader issue. Anyone (including myself) can be in the same position in the future, receiving these unfair and mendacious accusations just because we have an opinion. In that context, I think we should all condemn this shameful campaign. Perhaps a letter sent to The Times, co-signed by a large number of scientists not mentioned in the articles, is a step needed to eliminate these phenomena. I will be glad to participate to this, in an effort to put an end to these disgraceful tactics.
And so it has come to pass, and all power to them for that.

I'm just baffled as to why Cancer Research UK seem reluctant to take the same path themselves considering that their integrity has been equally rubbished. They've not demanded any kind of retraction and their letter was so limp as to be useless. Because The Guardian has even reiterated it.
A group of scientists and public health experts are to take legal action against the Times newspaper after it reported claims from a leading charity that they were in the pay of the tobacco industry.
Anyone have any idea as to why CRUK were desperately spinning to say that Butterworth's comments were taken out of context (though I struggle to understand in what context they would be correct) and why they seem largely apathetic that The Times has categorically attributed the smears to CRUK but seem reluctant to make The Times apologise properly? Perhaps they will now act considering The Guardian has repeated the claims, whaddya reckon?

I'm genuinely confused.

On another note, I really do hope that this kind of thing becomes a regular occurrence. Lazy and unsubstantiated smears by tobacco control organisations have become the norm. It's time they grew the fuck up and stopped it so we can have an honest conversation about such things.

It's almost like some with a perverse ideology would prefer it never happens.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

A Survey Of Smokers

One foible that anti-smoking organisations across the globe share is that they are absolutely terrified of actually engaging with the people they abuse ... smokers.

They will commission pliant fellow smoker-haters to conduct cleverly-dodgy 'research' of course, but they don't really want to know what smokers think. They just want a sound bite to use as a stick to beat them with. So this initiative from Forest is a good idea, I reckon.
ANTI-SMOKING campaigners like to bombard politicians and the media with 'facts' about smokers.  
The most common 'statistic' is that 70 per cent of smokers want to quit. More generally they like to give the impression that most smokers wish they'd never started. 
Some smokers probably do fall into one or both of those camps and if you want to quit smoking or switch to a safer alternative such as electronic cigarettes, good luck to you. That's entirely your choice. 
But it's not the full story. Despite the well-known health risks many smokers say they enjoy smoking and have no wish to stop. Sadly their voices are usually drowned out by politicians, the public health industry and even the media who all think they know better.
To find out what smokers really think about these and other issues the Centre for Substance Use Research (CSUR) in Glasgow has designed an in-depth survey.
Indeed they have, I've just done it myself, and I suggest you do too.

Unlike the questionable echo chamber pals that ASH use to gather their propaganda, the study designer - the Centre for Substance Use Research - is an impartial organisation which is actually interested in what motivates the public in nicotine use, not just out to create a headline to nag an MP into yet more prohibition which just happens to put more cash into Arnott and her pals' pockets at ASH HQ.

Do go contribute by clicking here.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The Exception That Proves A Fool

Surely today has seen the funniest load of disingenuous bollocks ASH has ever released.
ASH research shows corner shops don’t need tobacco to be profitable
Well actually, their report, Counter-arguments (geddit?), would be funny except for the fact that - in the absence of anything useful to do with the taxes government regularly shovel this wasteful bunch of parasites - you paid for it.

Snowdon has already sliced and diced it (a simple task since their economic acumen alone wouldn't even merit a GCSE E grade) but I did find this part particularly hilarious.
Newcastle-based small retailer John McClurey agrees, but says corner shops have little choice but to sell tobacco: 
“I have little choice to sell tobacco as many of my customers still smoke. But tobacco makes me very little money while tying up plenty of cash in stock. Tobacco is a burden to me.
Now, this is the best supporter ASH could find in the trade and he admits that he cannot stop selling tobacco because it is a necessity to his business.

It's very simple, John. If you believe what ASH says - that "corner shops don’t need tobacco to be profitable", simply stop selling it.
He believes it’s time for change and welcomes the ASH report because it challenges retailers to consider whether tobacco companies and their local reps really have retailers’ interests in mind. 
McClurey added: 
“The decline in the market, the disappearance of cigarettes behind gantry doors and the shift to plain packaging have made the traditional approach to selling tobacco out-dated. A better alternative for retailers is to reduce stock, shift the gantry and free-up space for products that actually turn a decent profit.”
Well off you go then, Johnny-boy, what's stopping you?

Here's the guy, next to those products he's been selling for over 30 years and which, it would appear, he doesn't intend to stop selling anytime soon.

Why? because, on the same day as ASH released their report, buried at the bottom of their bastard cousin ASH Scotland's daily news round-up was this article in Wholesale News (emphases mine).
“Independents account for 50% of all tobacco sales in the UK and this has been driven by PMPs which have around 80% of the market and have proven popular with both retailers and shoppers. By premium pricing tobacco products, many retailers are only forcing smokers to go to the multiple retailers who are still charging at the RRP or below. Offering a compelling price on tobacco will keep customers coming through the door as it is the primary driver of footfall into c-stores. We do not need to give the multiples a hand-up when it comes to attracting customers. Instead retailers have to protect and develop their own businesses. I firmly believe that it’s ‘RRP or RIP’ for many independent stores as their businesses are at risk if reduced traffic comes through their doors. 
“We have seen from Australia that retailers who price at RRP or below have had no adverse effect on their tobacco sales. This is critically important as the tobacco shopper visits c-stores more regularly than non-smokers and spends almost £1,500 per year more in store. As a customer group, these shoppers are vital to your business and for your continued success, you need to retain these shoppers rather than drive them to rivals.”
ASH, it would seem, would prefer corner shops to commit business suicide just to satisfy their extremist feud with tobacco companies. Needless to say, if that were to happen, salaries of the hideous tax-scrounging trolls at ASH would not suffer one little bit.

But it's not going to happen anyway. If even the anti-smoking lobby's only supporter in the retail trade (they stick him on the end of a broom handle quite often to spout their shit as a result) admits that his business needs to sell tobacco and would suffer if it didn't, what the hell is the point in ASH's report today?

Meanwhile, in the real world, newsagents and tobacconists will be lobbying MPs tomorrow with a manifesto entitled "Fair Deal for Small Shops", which will doubtless include criticism of the many abuses their trade has suffered at the hands of the selfish, ivory tower, empathy-free extremists at ASH. And will be backed by every small retailer up and down the country with the exception of John McClury ... who still sells tobacco.

Now, who would you believe about the economics of the convenience store business? Those who work in it day to day, 99.9% of whom believe ASH to be a force for evil? Or ASH, who would find it difficult to push beads around an abacus without a detailed manual and have never had to turn an honest profit in their lives, and their lone retail supporter who says convenience stores should stop selling tobacco even though he can't himself without going bust?

Please! Someone cut off ASH's fucking funding, for crying out loud, they're beginning to embarrass themselves.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Another Outbreak Of Common Sense In New South Wales

Those with a good memory might remember Peter Phelps, an Australian politician and Member of the New South Wales Legislative Council. Phelps is notable for being incredibly principled in defending liberal values in such an illiberal environment as NSW, and in a chamber which is situated in nanny state central Sydney. As such, I was thrilled to unexpectedly meet him in July during a coffee break at a Royal Society of Medicine event on over-regulation of pleasure.

Last year - when he was government whip no less - I wrote about how he casually entered a chamber packed full of variously ignorant prejudiced prohibitionists armed only with insults, smears, innuendo, wild assumptions, and downright lies, and placed in front of them simple incontrovertible facts about e-cigarettes.

And arguably won hands down.

Well, on Monday he was delivering more common sense, this time at the NSW "Inquiry into childhood overweight and obesity", colloquially known as the 'Fat kids' inquiry.

As expected he was sound throughout, but his exchange with Jane Martin - Executive Manager of what appears to be a turgid authoritarian organisation called Obesity Policy Coalition - was as amusing as it was accomplished.
Ms MARTIN: They should not be advertising to children so they should be happy to set that aside.
The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS: Why not? What is wrong with children who have high calorific outputs exposed to advertising which gives them high calorific inputs?
Ms MARTIN: Because children who do a lot of exercise need more healthy food, not junk food.
The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS: How you achieve your calories is a component part of that. If a child has a diet which only gives the child 8,000 kilojoules a day and the child is expending 12,000 kilojoules a day that child is manifestly unhealthy.
Ms MARTIN: Elite athletes who do a lot of sport do not eat more unhealthy food because they need more calories. We need to eat a nutritious, healthy diet. If you are exercising a lot you get your calories from nutritious food.
The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS: But no-one—certainly not McDonald's or any other company—is suggesting that your only diet be McDonald's.
Ms MARTIN: But it does make it a more normal part of life. It also associates sport with—
The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS: Having enjoyable food is not a normal part of life? 
The denormalisation of McDonald's, eh? Rings a bell doesn't it?
Ms MARTIN: I suppose if McDonald's is called a Happy Meal then maybe that means it is but it means that having these associations—as a mother, I know what it does. You go to play sport and then the kid thinks that they deserve a McDonald's or it creates that affiliation, it creates that association, it creates the pester power. That is exactly what it is designed to do. We need to protect our kids and support parents who have to deal then with the demand that is created by those associations. That is what it is designed to do.
The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS: But parents should be in a position to say, "No, you can't have that. You had a McDonald's yesterday. You're not having one today."
Ms MARTIN: But kids pester a lot because there are a lot of promotions that they are exposed to. Much more so than when you were young or I was young, it is a very different sort of environment. I saw some research the other day which talked about the amount of times that parents are pestered in the supermarket. It is massive. Why should parents be the ones to fight this marketing and promotion?
The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS: Because they are parents, Ms Martin. 
The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS: Are you saying that sweetened beverages in Australia are an increasing problem for people?
Ms MARTIN: I do not know that we said that in our submission. I think we said that what is acknowledged is that there is very high consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks. Most of the added sugar in the diet comes from sugar-sweetened drinks and some subsections of the population are very high consumers of sugary drinks, particularly young men.
The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS: Would you agree with the Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS] figures which indicate that the proportion of people aged two and over who have consumed sweetened beverages decreased from 49 per cent in 1995 to 42 per cent in 2011-12?
Ms MARTIN: Yes, that is true, but that is all people including people who do not necessarily drink sugary drinks.
The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS: Would you also agree that the ABS statistics show that the greatest decrease in consumption of sweetened beverages was seen among children, with the proportion of children aged two to three who consumed sweetened beverages decreasing by more than half, from 67 per cent down to 31 per cent?
Ms MARTIN: Has that taken into account the under-reporting in that survey? 
Ah, the old 'public health' under-reporting excuse, they trot this out occasionally. It's shorthand for "we can't argue with that so we'll try to pretend the data are flawed somehow". Phelps is on it, though.
The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS: It certainly mentions under-reporting; however, I am sure that a survey taken some almost 20 years afterwards has better reporting mechanisms than the 1995 survey, which was more likely to be under-reported.
Ms MARTIN: My understanding is under-reporting was a bigger problem in that survey. However, it does appear there has been a decrease but that does not mean that sugary drinks are not a problem.
The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS: Do you also agree with the ABS statistic which showed the overall consumption of soft drinks and flavoured minerals waters decreased from 33 per cent in 1995 to 29 per cent in 2011-12?
The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS: And, moreover, the only age cohort which showed an increase in intense sweetened soft drinks was the ages 51 to 70?
Ms MARTIN: That is one subsection of the sugary drink market. I do not know what an intense—
The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS: Presumably regular Coke and the like. Is it not true that in fact this supposed sugary drink menace is grossly over-reported whereby you have a situation of level or diminishing levels of sugary drink consumption in Australia over the previous 20 years and more particularly significantly lower levels of sugary drink consumption amongst children?
Ms MARTIN: I think you could still argue it is a serious problem ...
I suppose she will always have to say that no matter the statistics, considering it is the current approach of anti-obesity professional worldwide to lobby for taxation. They're not that interested in what works in so much as what is simple so they keep their highly-paid positions by producing 'results'.

And Phelps addresses this too.
The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS: Ms Martin, is it ever legitimate for a parent to feed their children McDonald's?
Ms MARTIN: We have all fed our children McDonald's. The problem is that these kinds of treats are everywhere now. I ate one chocolate a week when I was a kid; now there are three packaged foods in children's lunchboxes and they are basically all unhealthy. That is the problem.
"One chocolate a week"? I suppose there's a hint there as to why she's grown up to work in such a miserable, joy-vacuuming industry.
The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS: Children do not buy their own lunches and put them in their lunchboxes. Their parents buy it for them. Again it comes down to this: Are you saying because we do not think particularly working-class parents are very good parents that it is government's role to step in and stop them being parents and it is government's job to be parents for them?
Ms MARTIN: I think it is government's job to support parents and that parents are undermined a lot. I think a lot of parents, including myself, thought that things like Nutrigrain were healthy foods for my child. It has just been reformulated to 26 per cent sugar, but it was 33 per cent sugar. I did not know that was not a healthy product, because that is how it is promoted. A lot of people would think that Milo was a healthy product. The Olympics was sponsored by McDonald's and Coca-Cola, because being affiliated with health makes the products appear to have healthier attributes than they have. I think that governments should support parents.
The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS: They should, but they should support them not in a sense of prohibiting or using draconian powers to stop things from happening and rather to encourage greater participation in sport, surely?
Ms MARTIN: I think there are a lot of nudges, like taxing sugary drinks, like removing things that create the demand for these products in children, which is the incredible barrage and wallpaper of unhealthy foods marketing that our children are exposed to. We need to see the Health Star Rating made mandatory on all foods, and some improvements made in how the rating is applied so that Milo does not get 4½ stars.
The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS: That is simply because it is easier for governments to ban things rather than have effective behavioural change—you do not like the behaviour and so you ban things.
Bravo! Yep, that's about the sum of it. Well played again, Sir!

You can read the full transcript here, The excerpts above come from pages 10-14 of the PDF. Also look out for an appearance by Skype from Snowdon on pages 62-66.

H/T Catallaxy Files

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

We're Staying Alive, You .... Maybe Not So Much

A quick update on Monday's article.

Y'see, Dr Vera da Costa e Silva - head of the secretariat of the World Health Organisation’s FCTC - posted this incredible tweet congratulating the Philippines and their genocidal President Ricardo Duterte who has encouraged the murder of thousands of people and boasted that he wants to "slaughter" 3 million.

The very next day, the World Health Organisation's Western Pacific arm - the area which includes the Philippines - were dancing to ... Staying Alive!

Seriously, try to make something up as bizarre as that, I dare you.

Now, I thought the WHO was a pretty deranged and politically moronic organisation in 2014 when it decided not to cancel COP6 in Moscow after Russia had just shot down a passenger plane carrying 298 innocent individuals, amongst whom were "dozens" of medical professionals on their way to an International Aids conference, and which included one of their own World Health Organisation media officers.

In fact, not only did they not cancel it, the Director General Margaret Chan then held a photo opp and supped from the same samovar as Russia's leader to thank him for his, erm, trouble.

But dancing to Staying Alive the day after one of their senior spokespeople has praised a political leader who is happy that, daily, bodies of healthy people increasingly litter the streets of a country within their jurisdiction is truly jaw-dropping.

They may as well walk up to the grief-stricken families of the Philippines dead and slap them in the face. These rancid tax-draining animals have absolutely no shame whatsoever, do they?

Monday, 10 October 2016

Prior to #COP7FCTC, The WHO Plumbs New Depths

Not content with telling Syrians that the most important thing to worry about right now - over and above being one of the hundreds of thousands killed by barrel bombs or brutally executed by ISIS - is how to best quit smoking, the WHO's FCTC have found a way to disgust us even more.

The excitement Dr Vera da Costa e Silva - head of the secretariat of the WHO’s FCTC - is enjoying at this great news almost leaps off the page, doesn't it? He's such a nice man, that Duterte, he's one of the FCTC in-crowd and no mistake.

If you're not familiar with President Duterte, here's a quick primer. He is the President of The Philipines and has told his people that it is perfectly acceptable to just, you know, pop out onto the street and kill drug users. No evidence needed, no arrest, no trial, no courts; just see someone you don't like, slaughter them in cold blood, wrap their head in gaffer tape and say he was a druggie. The authorities won't bother you, in fact you'll be celebrated or even salaried.

He has said that he would happily "slaughter" 3 million drug addicts and is proud to compare himself to Hitler ... and da Costa is likewise very proud to be associated with him too, as her tweet shows.

The Inquirer has set up a regularly updated 'kill list' in an attempt to document the misery and carnage this disgusting dictator has wrought on his country, it's an imprecise science but at time of writing his policy has resulted in over 2,500 extra-judicial killings, with corpses just left on the street. Yet da Costa thinks he's just a regular decent guy.

Now, I've written before about how the FCTC does very much love a dictatorship so, including countries like Zimbabwe and Turkmenistan which boast shameful human rights records; today Guido published a picture of FCTC delegates all smiles on a Maldives beach treating delegates from North Korea and Burma amongst others; and the last major conference (COP6) of this group of extremist ghouls was held in Moscow, where Margaret Chan - Director General of the WHO - chose to simper over Putin just after Russia had blown a packed passenger plane out of the sky killing 298 innocent people instead of being at a summit to discuss tackling the scourge of Ebola in Africa.

DG of the WHO Margaret Chan, all of a flutter in Moscow 2014
As an offshoot of the United Nations, you'd think da Costa, Chan and all the other repellent hangers-on to this anti-smoking cult might be a bit embarrassed about being in cahoots with some of the most brutal and murderous people on the planet. After all, the UN carries a commitment to the protection of human rights and and aspiration to improving living conditions throughout the world in its principle goals.
To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and religion; and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.
How fawning over leaders who shoot planes of holidaymakers out of the sky, and murder many thousands of their own citizens without trial while comparing themselves to Hitler fits in with that motto is anyone's guess.

Still, it's nearly time for COP7 where these vile human beings will be trotting down to New Delhi to shower praise on India for its efforts in jailing vapers for the hideous crime of quitting smoking ... something the FCTC is supposed to be in favour of.

After reading the above, you'd think the UK would have nothing to do with such a revolting, corrupt and morally-bankrupt collection of utter bastards, wouldn't you? Well you'd be wrong. The Department of Health's Andrew Black will be there glad-handing these repulsive people, as will Deborah Arnott of ASH. And you're paying them to do so.

Doesn't that turn your stomach? I really don't know how such foul and sickening people sleep at night.

UPDATE: Fergus has had his say on this too.
When an organisation that’s supposed to be promoting health becomes so corrupted by prohibitionist zealots that it’s willing to endorse a madman who massacres his own citizens in the streets, it is no longer fit to exist. The WHO’s senior staff need to be swept away and replaced by sane adults. And until people like the odious da Costa are gone, no civilised government or organisation should have anything to do with the FCTC. Tobacco control fanatics are now so extreme that they’re openly allying themselves with Hitlerian criminals like Kim and Duterte. It’s time for the world to stand up and stop the bastards.
Do go have a read.