Monday, 31 December 2012

No Bradford's gambler's aren't spending £400 million


They really aren't.

So the gamblers are putting " estimated £392,690,480" into fixed odds gaming machines. However, only £12 million is going to the bookies. That's about 3% of that amount which means that the remaining £380 million is paid out in winnings. Which represents about £25 per Bradfordian.

When will journalists learn maths?


In 2013 I'd just like it to stop raining

So 2012 has been something of a washout. It seems that, for the last several months we've lived a closed existence. We scuttle from one cooped-up place to another cooped-up place via the medium of a cooped-up car. And, all the while, we watch the rain fall and feel like Rob McKenna:

“And as he drove on, the rainclouds dragged down the sky after him, for, though he did not know it, Rob McKenna was a Rain God. All he knew was that his working days were miserable and he had a succession of lousy holidays. All the clouds knew was that they loved him and wanted to be near him, to cherish him, and to water him.” 

We could coin a thousand different names for this precipitation - not just the prosaic sounding "rain", "heavy rain", "light rain" and so forth but other more creative terms. "It's a soft morning," we might cry as we peer through the mist at the road before us. Or, on speaking to the neighbour, we observe; "a bit damp again today" while torrents of raindrops bounce off ever surface and dribble into every nook and cranny, discovering the weaknesses of sheds, garages and even the houses we live in. Words like drizzle, smattering, bucketloads and, of course the seminal, "pissing it down" all battle with stair rods, lashing and downpour.

And the rain never stops.

Out in the garden, on the rare occasions when needs must have driven us up the path, all is mud, puddle and morass. The pond merges into the lawn which, in its turn, becomes a sodden border - more water margin that herbaceous. Even the cats and foxes tiptoe gingerly across the lawn - a swathe of grass that, were I to walk across a few times, would soon revert to its original sticky boulder clay.

And still it rains.

One wonder at the limits to the capacity of the soil to hold this water. A thought that's stressed by the rivers flowing down the gulleys into the middle of the village. Every drive, each field edge and even the gutters of the terraces pour more water into the streams. Looking over the walls to the real streams there are deep, churning, brown waters that have replaced the sparkling little delights that once filled these valleys.

But no let up to the rain.

So we sit, fractious, annoyed and grumpy in our little coops - watching the world, as if in Ballard's dystopia, get ever damper. And we row, we pass coughs, colds and headaches from one to another unable to take those germs out into a clear, bright world and let them die in the fresh air. And because we have to go out sometimes, everything is damp. Boots, socks, coats our very souls - all not quite drying out from the persistent rain.

But no end to the torrents of rain.

Rain is good, it brings the growth, the green - the beauty of England is mostly down to the rain and the work of the water it brings. But just as with chocolate and pork pie, it's just about possible for us to have too much of that good thing. For a time to arrive when you wish it to stop, when you've had enough. That time is now.

In 2013 I'd like it to stop raining.


Saturday, 29 December 2012

Lawyers - the world's most unethical marketers?


Over the past fortnight or so we have be somewhat plagued by telephone calls seeking to flog us something. And the thing that connects most of these calls is that they all link in some way or another to the legal profession and its agents.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those people who reacts to marketing calls by calling for bans or controls or the evisceration of the caller. Indeed, direct marketing was my business a while back and its principles still matter - more and more in this age of direct response, internet marketing and e-commerce.

But can someone explain why that most self-important of businesses - the law - has rushed headlong into the least ethical forms of marketing. We've had automated calls, spam texts, calls from people with English names but very thick foreign accents and a torrent of e-mails. This is all well and good (although the automated calls are probably illegal as may be much of the spam texts) but the lack of ethics in our legal brethren extends to the brief given to the caller. Here's a typical conversation:

Caller: "Can I speak to Mr Toldendo" (note: these is no person with this name but there is a Ms Toledano)

Me: "Who are you calling from?"

Caller: "We're calling about your recent accident"

Me: "And where did you get this information from?" (note: there has been no recent accident)

Caller: "From the national database."

Me: "There is no such national database. Where did you get the information?"

Caller: "It's the insurance companies..."

Me: "No you didn;t, they don't give out that information."

And so on - you get the gist. Yet the main beneficiaries of this sort of scam are lawyers - they're the ones who reap the big rewards. I recall seeing details of a successful claim against an employer. The employee with white finger got about £5,000. And the lawyers? They got over £20,000. Which I guess is why they can afford to fund these unethical marketing campaigns.

I can think of no other profession or area of business - not even home improvements - that has indulged in such an avalanche of invasive and deceptive marketing. Quite frankly the legal profession - especially given its penchant for lecturing the rest of us about ethics - has won the prize for the least ethical approach to sales and marketing.

It may be that lawyers are the world's most unethical marketers?


Raise a toast to indulgence!

In this time of austerity we’re encouraged to be thrifty, careful and to have a mind to our health and well-being. There is no place for indulgence, for hedonism. We must reject this outlook – life’s depressing enough at the best of times for many folk without taking away the little things that make it worthwhile – the small joys and pleasures in which we indulge.

I was rather struck by this from Damien Thompson:

...while the NHS isn’t actually a religion, it’s taken over from the churches as the repository of our deepest hopes and fears. To describe this as secularisation doesn’t tell the whole story: in a curious way we’re reverting to the shamanism of primitive societies, in which the holy man’s first duty was to cast out physical and mental sickness.

Now Damien limits his comments to the need for the NHS to be reformed – something I agree with him about. But, for me, his observation about reverting to paganism is more pertinent still. As our belief in the Christian god fades, we replace it with a sort of modern syncretism – bits of Christian ritual, spiritualism, symbols of times, places and event, and a host of angels, fairies and good spirits.

This new paganism – the world of the tooth fairy, Santa and Easter bunnies – contains at its heart mankind’s age old search for immortality. But whereas the old religion saw immortality in an afterlife, our new faith seeks that eternity on earth. Thus we have a cult of health that pervades everything – from politics to popular entertainment. We are urged to cast aside those things that would put at risk our health. Each day brings a new announcement from the priesthood – warning us of the dangers of some food or some activity. And this is matched by a litany of advice about “well-being”, “good health” and “healthy living”.

This new faith requires us to direct everything we do towards the purpose of that “healthy living” – indeed, those who indulge in undirected pleasure are terrible sinners and the suppliers of those pleasures are agents of the deepest evil.  Good men and women must reject such things and choose instead a modest, healthy life conducted in line with the strictures of the shaman. Above all children must be kept from the dark evils of purposeless pleasures – all their play, what they drink and the food they eat must serve the idea of “well-being”.

We have to learn again that life is but short and that we cannot sub-contract our responsibility to look out for our neighbour. Most of all we need to rediscover the joy of living, of pleasure for its own sake. To shake our heads free of that purposeful, directed life the acolytes of well-being would have us live.

“Lord for tomorrow I’ll not want” goes Therese’s prayer and that is how we should live. Celebrating each great day, enjoying great food, fine drink and good cheer wherever we can get it. The fearful cult of well-being is destroying pleasure and handing to the priests of public health the means to impose their bitter, depressing world of “healthy living”.

Pleasure is a thing to be sought, savoured and celebrated. We must reject the idea that such pleasure has to be directed to the cause of health. So charge your glass with wine or ale and raise a toast to indulgence – it’s what we’re here for, folks!


Friday, 28 December 2012

Can anyone reading this still wish to remain in the EU?


My epiphany on the European Union came a few years ago when I read of meat being dumped in West Africa where it destryed the livelihood of native herdsmen. If you still haven't decided that we should leave, read this:

The ruling stated that the commission could restrict dissent in order to "protect the rights of others" and punish individuals who "damaged the institution's image and reputation". The case has wider implications for free speech that could extend to EU citizens who do not work for the Brussels bureaucracy.
The court called the Connolly book "aggressive, derogatory and insulting", taking particular umbrage at the author's suggestion that Economic and Monetary Union was a threat to democracy, freedom and "ultimately peace".

I live in a free country - or so I was told. It would appear that our European masters wish to crush that liberty:

Mr Colomer wrote in his opinion last November that a landmark British case on free speech had "no foundation or relevance" in European law

Heaven save England if we remain in this ghastly fascism.


I'm not so sure Krugman is right here...

Not about the end of growth but about robots - mechanisation, if you will:

Smart machines may make higher GDP possible, but also reduce the demand for people — including smart people. So we could be looking at a society that grows ever richer, but in which all the gains in wealth accrue to whoever owns the robots.

Now I know Paul Krugman is a science fiction fan, so in the interests of exploring his speculation maybe he should read the Culture series from Iain M Banks. In the meantime:

A study commissioned by the tech advocacy group TechNet found that the “app economy” — including Apple, Facebook, Google’s Android and other app platforms — was responsible, directly and indirectly, for 466,000 jobs.

That's half a million jobs we'd not even thought about five years ago. A real value-adding jobs too - jobs created entirely by new technology.


Thursday, 27 December 2012

Gypsies, tramps and liberal angst...

Or so it seems. More to the point, the objects of that liberal conscience take full advantage of its owners naivety and stupidity. Funnily enough the rest of us are not remotely surprised at George Monbiot's predicament:

We had no idea how to handle them without offending our agonised liberal consciences. They saw this and exploited it ruthlessly.

Oh what a delight to see this posh leftie getting what might be called his comeuppance. You've lost count at the number of times some trendy or other has, through misty-eyes and rose-tinted glasses waxed lyrically at the traveller lifestyle. At how we should protect - even sustain - this culture rather than, on first sight of an old Transit towing a caravan, call the cops.

And this is the whole point. We can and should make the distinction between allowing people to roam around in caravans (just so long as they're not in front of me on the A64) and not allowing people to ignore the law. If someone wishes to live this life that's fine but they have to clear up their mess, refrain from destroying property to find pitches, try not to see public parks or cricket squares as camp sites and respect laws such as not stealing.

I recall sitting in a caravan at Mary Street in Bradford talking to a family (or rather several generations of women - didn't see a man) while eating cheap, shop-bought cakes and drinking sweet tea. Nice they were - illiterate but perfectly pleasant and I dealt with them on that basis. But I have no illusions about some of their relations - those still travelling, those on permanent sites like Mary Street and those now in houses. These people are just as George Monbiot describes - not all of them, all the time but enough for that "call the cops" reaction to be justified.

I also recall sitting in a neighbour's house with a dozen or so travellers - and friends of travellers - drinking and making music. I was asked - I'm the local councillor after all - what I thought of travellers. My response - as I recall - was that travellers are fine just so long as they don't steal stuff and break stuff. And that I'd like it if they got permission before they parked up. This was accepted and I was able to listen to the stories - most of these guys were in the antiques trade (in that loveable rogue, Lovejoy-esque way) and travelled from show to show up and down the country.

We have always to take people as they come. Rather than making sweeping assumptions about "groups marginalised by the concentration of control and ownership of land in Britain", we should look at them and decide whether they're good or bad, whether we want to associate with them and if they might be a threat to the peace. If we don't take this view, they will take full advantage of our indulgence with the result that:

At night they roamed the camp, staffies straining at the leash, cans of Special Brew in their free hands, shouting "fucking hippies, we're going to burn you in your tents!"

Part of me wants to laugh at the 'hippies'' predicament but part also thinks that there were children there (well I've never seen a hippy camp without children) who must have been terrified. What depresses me is that George and his mates didn't call the cops, didn't go for help - it was crimes elsewhere by these people that got them dealt with.

In closing, one last traveller tale. A friend of mine was a police officer in Essex - Grays and South Ockenden to be precise - and spoke of receiving the call announcing the arrival of some travellers. His response - as the grandson of travellers - was to ask what they had done.

"Nothing"; came the reply.

"What would you like me to do then" my friend asked?

"Arrest them before they do something!"

The right approach, I guess, lies somewhere between treating travellers as "marginalised" by our evil capitalist world and arresting them on sight. Society - that's us the taxpayer - invests a fair amount in these folk: providing designated sites, employing 'liaison' officers, setting on special education units and preparing grand strategies for working with "gypsies and travellers". I guess what society wants is for those travellers to respect this fact and cut the rest of society a little slack. That and stop breaking the law quite so often.



Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Thunderbirds creator just went - farewell Gerry Anderson

For anyone my age - and for many younger too - Thunderbirds was the greatest children's show bar none. Not only was it innovative, creative and fun but it was a show that worked for boys without war. For sure, it had baddies but mostly it was about saving people's lives. About International Rescue.

The death of Gerry Anderson, Thunderbirds creator brings all this back. And will remind us of those other shows - Joe 90, Space 1999, Fireball XL5, Stingray and Captain Scarlet. But for me it will always be Thunderbirds I'll remember first - I won't be alone in being able to reel off the names: John, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon.

A sad day - Thunderbirds creator just went. But Thunderbirds are still go!


The Panda Principle

Pandas are cute. Big, furry, friendly and, well, just cute. Indeed we know that pandas are cute because 'wuffie' use the panda as their logo - after all these lovely bundles of funny fur are just the sort of wildlife we want to save. For sure that giant international charity doesn't use a really ugly animal or one that might frighten the children. Nope they use the cuddliest of all animals as bait for our support.

And this is The Panda Principle. These are animals that have a seriously restricted diet, really aren't all that keen on sex and only live (wildly) in China where they - people that it - eat everything. None of these factors are great survival traits. But, trust me folks, the panda won't be getting extinct any time soon because the panda is cute. We'd miss pandas, it would be terrible if they died out. Whereas for lots of other animals - rats, leeches, those really ugly giant toads - our response to their extinction would be at best, "oh dear".

The thing with this survival lark is that you have to be either very adaptive, very fast breeding or living in a place where people don't live. Or else you have to be cute. Foxes are cute especially when we get that moonlit glimpse of the vixen with her cubs playing on the back lawn. And this cuteness trumps the fact that those same foxes were yesterday rampaging through a neighbours pen slaughtering her prized rare breed ducks and fancy chickens.

Cuteness wins as a survival trait in a world where humans dominate. Now I appreciate this is probably hubris but such views are essential to the modern idea of conservation and environmentalism. This isn't about nature red in tooth and claw. It's not about how small us humans are next to the awesome power of nature. Nope, it's about us, about how we cause all the problems (like those pandas getting fewer). However, us humans are suckers for cuteness - especially us urban humans far from the reality of living with animals.

And that cuteness means that those big furry animals we ooh and aah over will survive. Perhaps in bounded and controlled environments - they are animals after all. But survive they will - most so we can gawp at them, put pictures of their babies on the Internet and exalt the giving of alms to sustain their survival. Here's to The Panda Principle!


Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Happy Christmas!

Rather than a jolly Santa or even some tasteful arrangement of holly, tinsel and pine cones here's a photograph of Ullswater taken on Christmas Day 2011.

Hope you have a good one, that you overindulge, have plenty of fun with family and friends. After all, we are here to consume and Christmas - whatever the grumps may say - celebrates this fact wonderfully.

So eat the turkey (goose or duck), sip the champagne, quaff the red wine and savour the whisky. If it's your pleasure to smoke a fine cigar, do just that and do it with a smile and a sigh of pleasure.



Monday, 24 December 2012

Perhaps we should make higher rates of tax voluntary?

Yesterday evening I made – via the wondrous medium of Twitter – an observation about tax. It was simply that, if someone had a choice between two tax environments – high tax and low tax, then they’d opt for lower tax.

Of course, it’s not a simple as all that – living in the glorious South Pennines may indeed be sufficient of an incentive to pay higher taxes. The set of choices – ‘choice architecture’ I believe the boffins call it – do not exclude remaining in a place where there are higher taxes.

However, the real lessons in all this are firstly that there remain many people who at least claim to be fans of progressive taxation and argue that they’ll joyfully hand over most of their income to the benevolent state – it is as one remarked “the price we pay for living in a civilised society.”

And this is fine – if somebody believes that it’s a spiffing idea for the government to have 75% of his earnings that who am I to stop them handing over this cash to the government? But these enthusiasts for progressive taxation don’t do this do they? We know they don’t because almost nobody  makes such payments to the British government (and I’m prepared to bet that the same applies in France, Germany and the USA – indeed more or less everywhere).

Instead people who want to pay more taxes – for whatever reason – choose instead to clamour for higher taxes on “the rich”. What these people want is for everybody to pay more – including those like me who think the government takes way too much off us in taxes (certainly for the service we get in return).

If these progressive folk are so keen on paying more nothing is stopping them from doing so. And if such people believe that giving more is about securing “social benefit” then consider some alternatives:

  • You want money to be spent on caring for people? Rather than give it to the government, how about paying the nursing home fee for an elderly neighbour or providing someone to clean her house, bath her and help get her shopping?
  • Perhaps you want your money to go to housing the homeless? Here’s a suggestion, rather than giving it to the government how about paying the rent yourself or – here’s a thought – putting the homeless person up in your spare bedroom
  • Maybe you want lots of lovely arts stuff from your taxes? Just an idea, pay the money to your local gallery, sponsor a struggling artist or cough up for music lessons at your local school.

I could go on but you get the point. What these progressives are saying to us selfish Neanderthals is that we should be made to pay more in taxes because they want to pay more taxes. And what we get is a load of chittering about ‘civilization’ and ‘fairness’ – as if this is of any real consequence.

We live in a society where morality is defined – for some people – as being a fan of government. A culture where our duty to look out for our neighbour is sub-contracted to some state official meaning that we don’t have to do anything. Indeed, that state official actively dissuades us from such activity since it does him out of a secure, tax-funded living.

I am not a worse person than you if I believe that government isn’t the solution to social problems. Indeed, as one reads through the history of government, we see that for much of its time that government acts in the interests of the governors rather than the governed. And those governors include the scribes, the bureaucrats and the administrators as well as the god emperors, kings, senators and prime ministers.

The point of the revolutions – if I might be a little bit Jacobin here – was to secure the end of this tyranny, to establish a world where the interests of the governed, as determined by the governed, were paramount. And, since those interests were not universal (my wants, needs and preferences are different from yours) such an establishment can only be achieved by granting sovereignty to the individual. And this means removing that sovereignty from those god emperors, kings, ministers and scribes.

There remains a role for collective action, for collaboration, cooperation and co-production. And this can be delivered through a ‘government’ (indeed is perhaps best organised in this manner). But this doesn’t give us the right to argue that we should remove money from Fred simply because there are 100 or us and only one Fred. Yet that is precisely the principle behind “progressive” taxation – not that it is more practical to take money in this way but that it is somehow more moral to do so.

It would be a delight if, rather than coercing higher rates of tax from people, we make those higher rates voluntary. We can then apply the arguments – “fairness”, “civilisation”, “social value” and so forth – to persuading people to sign up to that higher tax rate. And it would finally call out the “progressives” – put up or shut up we might say.  And – forgive me for my cynicism – I’d bet that a fair few of those currently heaping coals of fire on the heads of us sinners would be found wanting in the taxpaying stakes!


Friday, 21 December 2012

Running amok...


In 'Stand on Zanzibar', John Brunner coined the word: "muckers". This describes someone who flips and engages in a seemingly random and purposeless act of violence usually in a crowded placed like an airport, high street or, dare we mention it, school. The word - in Brunner's etymology was a corruption of the word "amok" which we know and define as:

...behave uncontrollably and disruptively

But more importantly, the derivation of "amok" is:

...mid 17th century: via Portuguese amouco, from Malay amok 'rushing in a frenzy'. Early use was as a noun denoting a Malay in a homicidal frenzy

And this was Brunner's usage - a homicidal frenzy. And they've been around for centuries - probably much longer.

So a question - following the terrible events of the last week, we're talking again about gun control. Now while I'm equivocal about such controls, it does seem to me that we should consider why we get "mockers" rather than just the means by which such men run amok?


Rotherham Council gives local supermarket £80,000 - or so they don't say


Well that's what it looks like to me:

Carl Battersby, director of environment and development services at Rotherham Council, told the BBC the idea to arrange the loan came after suggestions from its welfare reform steering group.

"We're trying to do the best for our local people," said Mr Battersby.

"Clearly we're not quite sure what the demand and take-up will be but we think it's the right thing to do to help some of the most vulnerable people."

He added: "People are struggling to meet the cost of basic items, food being one of them. As a council we wanted to do something positive."

The vouchers can only be redeemed at Pak supermarket in Rotherham until 11 January and exclude cigarettes and alcohol.

For sure all the campaigners against evil loans sharks and other such demons will see this as the action of a wonderful caring council. Indeed that's how the BBC reports it:

Struggling families in South Yorkshire are being offered help with their food bills through Christmas in a bid to stop people borrowing from loan sharks

But why just the one supermarket - and not even one anyone has heard of? Why not just give cash loans? It wouldn't be that cigarettes and alcohol bit would it!

Put simply this is an atrocious use of public money - bordering on malfeasance.

And 'the-man-who-would-be-MP' seems to get on well with this supermarket!


Thursday, 20 December 2012

The poor can't be trusted with money, can they?


Alec Massie is a pretty mild-mannered writer. So it is a shock to read this:

I  wonder how many poor people, far less people on welfare, Mr Shelbrooke encounters. Some, presumably. But, my, what a vile little authoritarian he is. It has evidently escaped his notice that the reason many poor people spend a disproportionate quantity of their meagre resources on gambling is that they have such limited resources in the first place. It may not be an advisable or profitable policy but it is at least an understandable one.

For that matter, cigarettes and alcohol are not necessarily luxuries. They might instead be considered small pleasures that make life a little less ghastly. Especially when you lack means.

I notice, mind you, that Mr Shelbrooke makes no comment on whether it is OK for middle-class mothers to spend their child benefit on gin.

It may well be that Mr Shelbrooke has some support in these proposals. They are just the sort of saloon bar policy – I can picture him, G+T in hand at some golf club do, holding court with ways to make the unemployed behave properly. And it is this image rather than the policy that causes the problem. It is the moralising, patronage of the ruling classes to those less fortunate. We kindly provide these indigents and unfortunates with the means to sustain themselves and they promptly toddle off and spend it on cheap lager and superkings.

I lose count of the times when I’ve described the circumstances of the poor and why this leads to – almost requires – the consumption of small pleasures: booze, fags, sex and TV are what sustains these folk in what is a crap life. But people like Mr Shelbrooke from their blazered comfort choose instead to try and order the choices of the poor since, in his view, they are unable to make such choices without his help and direction.

"When hard-working families up and down the country are forced to cut back on such non-essential, desirable, it is right that taxpayer benefits be only used for essential purposes."

This approach describes entirely the problem facing the Conservative Party. People support benefits reform – the objective of making working financially more attractive that a life on the dole is admirable and overdue. But this is not about condemning the lifestyles of the poor, it’s about the practicalities of allowing these people to live while they – hopefully – sort their lives out. Patronising and judgemental policies such as this “welfare card” idea (and other idiocies that include minimum pricing for booze) just get people’s backs up.

Put simply, it isn’t the government’s job to judge other people’s lifestyle. And when a wealthy MP does this, the ordinary person looks up, shakes his head and mutters obscenities under his breath. If people like Mr Shelbrooke want to get re-elected in their marginal Northern seats they’d do well to take heed of this and start talking instead about responsibility rather than about dictating the choices for people with the misfortune to need benefits.


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Stephen Bayley is still a cultural snob...

The victim of Stephen Bayley's scorn

Three years ago Stephen Bayley - then described as  “…one of Britain's best known cultural commentators" - had a pop at what he dubbed 'kitschmas'. At the time I found this a terribly snobbish and ignorant approach:

But Stephen Bayley and his ilk wouldn’t understand this – schmoozing round their charmed circle of the cultural trendsetters, these folk are nearly as out of touch with the real world as Ed Balls. And they annoy me…I like my inflatable reindeer, grossly overblown Santas, great fat snowmen, kids singing “Away in a Manger”, over the top lighting on private houses, German Christmas markets, re-runs of “White Christmas”, happy drunks in plastic reindeer horns…all the trappings of Kitschmas. I loved it that the car parked next to mine outside PC World had horns and a red nose.

You’re welcome to your smug little view Mr Bayley – but it doesn’t reflect what the rest of us want.

It seems that nothing has changed - yet again the Spectator has given this monstrous snob space to tell us who like our Christmas kitsch-filled that we lack taste. He even enlists another hideous snob - this time a Marxist one:

Thus the gross Furby is the embodiment of our too brightly coloured contemporary Christmas and the redundant gifts and trick effects that are part of it. The Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm is rarely quoted, directly or indirectly, with approval in The Spectator, but here is an exception. Hobsbawm said that the less educated the consumer, the greater his taste for decoration. I do not know that Hobsbawm, who unfortunately died before the relaunch, was aware of the brightly coloured Furby, but he would surely agree that, if temporary decoration may be compared to ludicrous merchandise, his idea applied here.

Perhaps next year the Spectator might like to give someone the space to make the case for house bling, tinny carols and artificial snow rather than giving this so-called "cultural commentator" another chance to parade his ghastly prejudice.


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Now about that tobacco smuggling...


The smuggling that ASH and others say isn't happening. They need to tell their friends:

A public health report for Lancashire, produced for the first time in 2011, focuses on what the directors of public health in the county believe are the main current challenges in tackling health inequalities between richer and poorer communities.

The report said not only does the sale of illicit tobacco locally undermine all other efforts to reduce smoking rates, it also discourages people who smoke to quit, encourages those who smoke to smoke more and is linked to local and large scale organised crime. 

A little off message there! Isn't smuggling supposed to be declining not rising, less of a problem not more of a problem? Not in the Red Rose county it seems:

They are hoping readers will make more calls about illegal traders to police and Trading Standards so that the unscrupulous counterfeit and illicit tobacco sellers - often linked to the criminal underworld - can be brought to justice.

Illicit tobacco is more likely to be sold in poor and disadvantaged communities, often to children.

See what you've done, you nannying fussbuckets? You've made it more worthwhile for the smugglers to take the risk. And those smugglers don't care who they sell to do they!  And those standardised packs you want won't help either will they.


It's not the roadworks it's the drivers!


The man in charge of the interminable M62 roadworks between Brighouse and the M1 junction has exploded into a little diatribe of blame. Essentially it's us not them that's to blame:

The boss behind a £150 million scheme to upgrade the M62 in West Yorkshire has insisted the roadworks are NOT the main cause of continual traffic misery, instead blaming poor vehicle maintenance and drivers running out of fuel for causing huge delays.

To understand how wrong this man is, let me tell you a little story.

Back in 2007, I got a job in Leeds and used the M62 on occasion as a commute (before all the greenies cry foul, most days I went on the train). There has been  no time since then that this stretch of the motorway has been free from roadworks and their associated delays. To put is simply, this is too long for one of England's busiest sections of road to be under "improvement".

The delays, the closures, the crashes - all that driver frustration - is the direct consequence of the roadworks. It has precisely nothing to do with the behaviour of drivers. After all, those lousy drivers are lousy drivers everywhere. They don't suddenly become brain-dead numpties the minute they enter the roadworks.

What bothers me the most is that the road we get when this work is finished - if it ever actually gets finished - won't be any better than the one we started with. All that seems to have happened in the replacement of a perfectly servicable central reservation with a new concrete wall and the erection of gantries to carry speed cameras and shiny flashing sign things.

I'm sure that these chaps know better than us motorists and the billions of costs, the frustrations, annoyance and irritation will be worth it! This is despite us not getting a proper extra lane and not getting the junction at Chain Bar sorted out.


Jamie Oliver is killing us...


...or maybe it's Nigella?

In the latest piece of New Puritan dribble (published - where else - in that bible of fussbucketry, the British Medical Journal) we're told that those famous TV chefs are pushing an unhealthy diet:

The paper, 'Nutritional content of supermarket ready meals and recipes by television chefs in the United Kingdom: a cross sectional study', by Simon Howard, Jean Adams and Martin White, compared nutrient contents of supermarkets' own-brand ready meals with recipes from four TV chefs.

The celebrity chefs' recipes were found to be more unhealthy in terms of energy, fat and fibre content. Their recipes all have higher fat, saturated fat and calorie contents per serving than the supermarket ready meals. They also tend to have less fibre per serving than the microwaveable offerings of Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury's.

Not surprisingly the wonderful Lorraine Pascale (who in case the authors hadn't noticed makes cakes) scores worst. But overall it's a reminder of how the health fascists want us to eat carefully measured diets - doubtless under expensive medical direction and planning - that provide no pleasure, no joy. Just a soul-less pap sufficient to keep us alive to do that purposeful work that the New Puritans demand of us.

Sadly, Jamie's response is to display piles of guilt - rather than telling the writers of this ghastly drivel to go take a running jump, our favourite cheeky chef says:

‘We welcome any research which raises debate on these issues and in fact Jamie’s most recent book, 15 Minute Meals, does contain calorie content and nutritional information per serving for every dish.

‘We will soon also be re-launching the Jamie Oliver website with nutritional information on the recipes. However, we would regard the key issue to be food education so that people are aware of which foods are for every day and which are treats to be enjoyed occasionally.’

Jamie just reinforces the New Puritan message with their low salt, low fat, low pleasure diet. Rather than stick up for exciting, innovative and varied food - for eating as a pleasure - Jamie opts for the safe, approved, mea culpa approach.

I do not want to live in a world where we're only allowed to eat things approved by doctors, where our diets are picked at and criticised and where the New Puritans tell me that eating a glorious, fat-laden sausage sandwich is a sin. It is sad that Jamie Oliver - who started out telling us that ordinary food could be extraordinary - has morphed into some sort of New Puritan poodle unable to tell the fussbuckets to go away and leave us to live our lives as we want to live them.