No more blogging for the next week!
Back around 3rd September.
Have a peaceful and happy week.
No more blogging for the next week!
Back around 3rd September.
Have a peaceful and happy week.
Image by roberthuffstutter via Flickr
Actually the phrase “Nanny State” is not a good one. It has connotations of something nice and cuddly. It sounds like something that at the end of the day has your best interests at heart, even if its attentions may not always be welcome.
In reality, the State rarely has people’s best interests at heart. It has its own interests and motivations, which centre around increasing the power, status and material well-being of the people who are part of it, otherwise known as “the public sector”.
But I digress. The Lancet article says that governments worldwide need to take “tougher action” to tackle obesity. Or, as the BBC calls it without comment (presumably quoting from the Lancet) “the obesity crisis”.
They claim it is getting harder for people to live healthy lives. (It is important for them to say this, because it allows them to portray individuals as victims, who are in need of State “help”.)
They raise the spectre of huge amounts of money being spent – or so they think. Their predictions say that 40% of UK population will be “obese” by 2030, and that by then it will be costing the NHS £2 billion a year.
That will only be 2% of health spending, so doesn’t sound too bad really. Since the figure is completely made up anyway, they should have gone higher – say £20 billion. That would have had more impact.
Says the BBC:
The researchers accepted that the whole of society – from the individual to industry – had a role to play in tackling the problem.
Well, that’s nice of them to involve us. “The individual has a role to play.” How kind of them to accept that we do have a role in deciding how we should live.
But, according to them, we only have a role. We don’t have any autonomy or rights over our own lives. Because, as the article puts it:
Governments needed to take a lead by using legislation and direct intervention to create a better environment.
The BBC quotes one of the “lead researchers” thus:
Oxford University expert Professor Klim McPherson, who was one of the lead researchers, said: “It is about changing the environment in which people live so they can make healthier choices.”…
He said ministers were “enfeebled by their ideology” and too worried about accusations of the nanny state.
“They have this idea that government action in this sphere would not be a good idea,” he added.
Many of us would say to that, “I should bloody well think so too.”
The article gets yet more extreme.
Professor Boyd Swinburn, who is based in Australia and works (sic) for the World Health Organization, agreed governments had been too slow to act on the “obesity crisis”.
“There is more willingness to invest in drugs and surgery than dealing with the underlying causes.”
He also compared the tactics of the food industry – in terms of getting people addicted to their products and in blocking attempts to discourage consumption – to those of tobacco firms in previous decades.
Getting people addicted to their products. Note the tactics again. We are all victims. We cannot control our own lives. The wicked food producers are controlling us and we need the State to “help”.
The article quotes our own Public Health Minister, Anne Milton:
We have no current plans to impose a ‘fat tax’
Well, that’s so great of her. And so pathetically defensive. Why are they so scared of the lobbyists I wonder?
The self-righteous control freaks who produced these “reports” are on the public payroll. In other words, we are all paying their salaries through our taxes.
They need to be told in no uncertain terms that if they can’t or won’t mind their own businesses, their posts will be withdrawn. After all, reports like this serve no useful purpose – indeed, are positively sinister. If they were sacked, they could go and do something useful.
But of course, they won’t be told such things, because half our “leaders” are hapless and timid people like Anne Milton, and the other half are self-righteous control freaks themselves.
Break out the flags! It’s trillion pound day!
According to the Taxpayers’ Alliance national debt clock, the debt of Her Majesty’s Government has now passed £1 trillion.
UK Public Sector Net Debt 1940-2010 – Graph from www.ukpublicspending.co.uk
It is still rising, as you can see from the clock on the right of this blog. What’s more, since the Conservatives took power, spending has actually risen. And it is planned to continue rising to the end of this parliament and beyond.
UK Public Spending 1940-2015 – Graph from www.ukpublicspending.co.uk
The graph above shows public spending since 1940. The grey part of the graph on the right is the government’s projected figures from now to the end of the parliament in 2015. As you can see, the Conservatives are merely planning to reduce the rate of growth of spending ever so slightly.
The “spike” caused by the second world war is so small as to be hardly even visible at this scale. The astonishing profligacy of today’s government’s would have paid for that war many times over with money left to spare.
But look back at that debt graph. Remember, it is still rising. In spite of some hefty tax rises, the government is still borrowing more and more. It’s just borrowing more a bit more slowly.
We are spending the money our children and grandchildren will work to earn.
Did I say “we”? What I should have said is “the Government”. It is the State that cannot or will not control its spending.
It is the State that is stealing from our descendants.
Incidentally, in case you were wondering, the £1 trillion figure for today’s government debt does not include any amounts from bailing out Britain’s banks.
Immigration Minister Damian Green: Avoiding the Issue
The latest migration statistics are out. They are not happy reading for David Cameron.
The government is “committed” to reducing net migration to “the tens of thousands”, i.e. to below 100,000 per year. (The previous government was also “committed” to reducing immigration, although it did not have a precise target.)
Last year net migration ROSE by more than a fifth.
Long term immigration actually went up slightly, from 567,000 to 575,000.
But emigration fell, from 371,000 to 336,000.
“Net migration” is, of course, the difference between the two figures.
The BBC quotes Damian Green, the Immigration Minister thus:
After almost two years of increasing net migration the figures stabilised in the last quarter.
This explains why the government radically changed immigration policy, from our first months in office, to drive the numbers down with a limit on economic migration and changes to student visas to ensure we attract the brightest and best whilst tackling widespread abuse of the system.
The figures, of course, show nothing of the kind. Note how Mr Green smoothly elided “net migration” with “immigration”. What is actually happening is that emigration is falling but immigration is remaining roughly constant. If you think about it, they could meet their target for reducing “net migration” by encouraging a couple of hundred thousand British people to despair and leave the country each year.
That isn’t what the public think they hear when they hear that “net migration” will be reduced. What would they think of a politician who said:
We aim to reduce net migration to zero over the next few years. We will do that by making life so awful for British people that half a million of them choose to leave every year.
Basically, the government does not have the balls to cut immigration. They talk about “net migration” in order to continue the pretence that this is about the overall size of Britain’s population, or about pressure on local services. They are still in the grip of political correctness. When the conversation turns to things like cultural differences, they act like rabbits in incoming headlights.
The leaders of our big parties have still to engage with the British people in a real debate on immigration. I suspect that most ordinary, decent, civilised British people want immigration limited. That is not because they are racist. It is because if you have very large numbers of people with very different cultures entering the country in a short time, the social fabric is destabilised. That causes hostility between different races and cultures, and is linked with many of Britain’s social (as distinct from economic) problems.
It takes time to integrate people. You don’t have to be a racist nutter to understand that. That is why the rate of immigration matters. Net migration is not the issue. Immigration is.
The refusal of our political class to engage with this debate is outrageous. Not only is our social fabric being destabilised, but their point-blank refusal to even talk about the real issue here is driving people into the arms of those like the BNP who promise a quick and easy fix.
Our cosy, cosseted political class, for whom experiencing exotic culture means being able to buy curry powder in Tesco, need to wake up to this issue before it destroys our country.
Facebook. It’s Enough to Drive You to Drink. Or Cigarettes. Or Drugs.
Talk about special pleading.
The Telegraph today has a piece about the evils of Facebook.
At this point I must say that although I have a Facebook account, I hardly ever use it.
Which is lucky. Because the Telegraph reckons it “increases teenage drugs and alcohol abuse”. Although I am not a teenager, I would not want to lay myself open to being forced by the Facebook software to drink a bottle of Scotch, or indeed to my PC handing me a cigarette with a diabolical smirk.
What’s it all about? The Telegraph article quotes a poll of 12-17 year old Americans, which found that those who used sites like Facebook every day were
five times more likely to smoke tobacco as those who did not, three times as likely to drink alcohol and twice as likely to use marijuana.
And it’s a short step from there to the headline above the piece:
Facebook ‘increases teenage drugs and alcohol abuse’
The poll was carried out by Columbia University. The piece quotes Jospeh Califano, the “founder of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University” thus:
The time has come for those who operate and profit from social networking sites like Facebook to deploy their technological expertise to curb such images and to deny use of their sites to children and teens who post pictures of themselves and their friends drunk, passed out or using drugs.
It has it all, doesn’t it? Big nasty companies making profits. Technological wizardry bringing threats into our lives. And the poor little cheeeldren. Who, of course, are too slow-witted to set up a new account if their old one was blocked by Big Daddy Facebook.
And then he goes for the weapon of mass destruction – child abuse:
Continuing to provide the electronic vehicle for transmitting such images constitutes electronic child abuse.
Actually, publishing such drivel constitutes abuse of the scientific process, not to mention not reflecting too well on Columbia University.
Despite his contempt for Facebook, Mr Califano is not averse to using it himself. According to the Facebook page about him:
Founded in 1992, [the Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse] is now a think/action tank with a staff of more than 60 professionals, including eight Ph.D.s, 21 Masters, and five lawyers. It conducts public policy research and evaluates prevention and treatment programs involving all substances (alcohol, illegal, prescription and performance-enhancing drugs, nicotine) and has mounted demonstration programs at more than 119 sites in 48 cities and counties in 21 states, and one Native American reservation.
Wow! A think/action tank. Obviously much more effective than your run-of-the-mill thinktank. The page also reveals that CASA is an “independent non-profit research centre”, although maybe those 60 professionals may be making a living out of it.
Mr Califano’s personal Facebook page reveals that he was US Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under Jimmy Carter. There is an article by him on the Huffington Post about “the big three tobacco merchants” attempts to stop “New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s effort to remind citizens of the grim dangers of smoking by requiring stores that sell tobacco products to post graphic posters of the consequences of lighting up”.
It seems that once they have disposed of tobacco and alcohol, Facebook may be next…
The latest opinion polls are still looking dire for the Liberal Democrats. (Click to enlarge.)
Pretty much all the pollsters have shown a collapse in Lib Dem support since the general election. At that election, they polled 23%. As you can see from the graph (pinched from the BBC’s excellent Poll Tracker site), their collapse began as soon as they entered the Coalition.
By the end of last year, their support had slipped below 10%. It has been hovering around 8-10% ever since, with no sign of any recovery.
Tory support is roughly where they were on election day – around 36%. Traditionally that would not have been enough to win an election. Last year it was enough because Labour received a serious drubbing, getting only 29%, with people switching from Labour to the Liberal Democrats.
Nick Clegg has tried to portray his party as having a decisive influence on the government, and restraining the worst excesses of the rampant Tories. That does not seem to have worked – not least, perhaps, because it is plain for all to see that David Cameron is no more Tory than he is.
As Liberal Democrat support has melted away, Labour are back up to 42%.
42% is the magic figure that traditionally was regarded as enough to be sure of getting a working majority.
The Cameroons will tell you that David Cameron has revitalised his party, that he has made it electable. They are telling porkies. Tory support even at the general election was hardly up at all from the level achieved by Michael Howard at the previous election. And it has flatlined ever since.
At the general election, despite fighting a government that was widely despised and hated, the Tories under Mr Cameron achieved only a 5% swing – and even that was mostly due to a fall in the Labour vote rather than an increase in the Tory one.
Tory support then, as now, is not enough to avoid defeat in a normal election. Tory support has not gone down since the election. And yet, if there were an election tomorrow, according to the polls, the Liberal Democrats would be destroyed and Labour would win handsomely.
It was Nick Clegg’s success that handed the election to David Cameron, by robbing Labour of votes. And Nick Clegg’s success is now looking decidedly like yesterday’s phenomenon.
Tories ought to understand that all the sacrifices they have made in the name of David Cameron’s soft focus Conservatism, all the beliefs and values they have abandoned, have availed them nothing. Far from leading the Tories to victory, David Cameron’s Tory Lite has achieved nothing in terms of increasing support for the Tories.
The rich irony is that Mr Cameron’s disastrous performance in those TV debates during the election campaign was what allowed Nick Clegg to achieve his surge.
Of such ironies are political fortunes made. Mr Cameron’s mistake in agreeing to those debates and then performing badly in them allowed him to win the election.
It is always difficult to predict what will happen in politics. But all the indications right now are that the Tories will almost certainly lose the next election. The Tories are not forgiving of leaders who lose. Mr Cameron should enjoy his time in the sun while it lasts.
Gaddafi in His UN Spectacles
Today in Libya the reign of Colonel Gaddafi seems finally to be at an end. Since the demise of Saddam “WMD” Hussain, Gaddafi has been The World’s Number One Nasty Dictator. Now, despite his Dark Glasses – presented to him by the United Nations when they first declared him a designated Third World Tyrant – he is out of power.
He has been removed from office by a mass uprising of doctors, lawyers and students. The world stands in awe of the power of a mass popular uprising, especially when backed by NATO bombers.
As the rag tag band of unarmed civilians swept into Tripoli on foot, firing their AK47′s into the air, they met little resistance. Colonel Gaddafi’s heavily armed and ruthless army, the means by which he has kept order for 42 years, fled in their tanks.
A spokesman, on his way to negotiate a surrender, said
We could take the bullets. It was The Sound of Music that did it. We just couldn’t take any more of Julie Andrews.
Meanwhile, in London, British strong-man David “Hug a Hoodie” Cameron was basking in his moment of glory. Outside his bunker at 10 Downing Street he declared:
It is great news that Colonel Gaddafi has finally been ousted. Despite his Dark Glasses, he has been defeated by nice democrats like me who look you in the eye in a kind, trustworthy sort of way and smile, you know, just like this, and are oh so Britishly decent.
A message should go out loud and clear to all nasty third world dictators. We are on your case, and we will ruthlessly hunt you down, er, protect civilians from you based on United Nations resolutions. Only today we have put down a deposit on 14 new helicopters for next time. I would like to thank the Chinese for their positive attitude in lending us the money. We’re a bit short just now.
A spokesman for the North Korean government denied they were next on the list, and hurried to his next engagement with a Chinese anti-helicopter missile manufacturer.
The newly-elected President of the International Community, Barack Obama, was seen clutching his credit card, which seemed to observers to have the Bank of China logo on it.
I only hope they don’t want us to pay for it this time
he was heard to say.
At Labour’s press conference, Ed Balls chuckled as Ed Miliband became a little muddled:
It is of course welcome that Colonel Gaddafi’s rule is at an end. As you know we worked tirelessly to bring this about during our time in office. The government’s austerity programme is going too far and too fast, and … woops. Wrong script. Sorry! Er … wait! Where are you all going?
But today belongs to the Libyan Opposition, who were this evening preparing for government.
The Arab Spring has claimed another Designated Nasty Person, even if it is August. That’s global warming for you.
Philip Hammond: Proposing a New Stealth Tax
The Department for Transport has begun consultation on proposals to charge utility companies for digging up the roads.
The charges would vary depending on when the disruption was caused. Charges would be high during peak times, and less overnight or at weekends.
All that sounds really good, doesn’t it? Those nasty utility companies being charged money for causing traffic jams. As Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary put it:
This disruption is expensive as well as inconvenient, with one estimate valuing the loss to the economy from road works congestion at £4bn a year. We simply cannot afford this.
That is why I am putting forward proposals which would incentivise utility companies and local authorities to carry out their works at times when they will cause the minimum disruption to the travelling public.
As with any proposal for the government to grab money, however, the awkward questions need to be asked.
Like what will be done with the money? And how will the charge levels be set?
So what will be done with the money? The BBC says this:
Under the plans, any revenue raised from the lane rental charges would be used by councils to fund measures which could help to reduce future road works disruption.
Clear as mud then. I’m afraid we all know what councils would do with the money. They would waste it.
And how will the charges be set? The BBC says that local councils want to be able to set the charge levels themselves. Sounds like a great way to supplement the council tax.
But it’s only those nasty utility companies who will pay after all. Isn’t it? Surely they won’t pass the charges on to their customers will they?
This is a new stealth tax on our utility bills that is being proposed. And the money will be spent by our local authorities, who are quite possibly the most notoriously wasteful part of the public sector – which is saying a lot.
This is Philip Hammond’s road works tax.
Our economy may well not be able to afford the costs of congestion, as Philip Hammond says, but it can afford even less a new way for the government to rake in tax money to pour down the drain.
RAF Tornados Are Helping Oust the Libyan Government
The Daily Telegraph reports that RAF airstrikes have sunk a boat filled with Libyan troops after a battle over an oil refinery.
The government just a few weeks ago was claiming that British forces were in action in Libya purely to protect the lives of civilians. That is what their United Nations Security Council resolution allowed them to do.
The report says that Libyan government forces were escaping in a tug boat after losing control of the refinery.
It quotes a Ministry of Defence spokesman as saying:
Although a challenging target, small and under way at sea, a direct hit was scored with a laser-guided Paveway bomb which sank the vessel.
How on earth could anyone argue that was being done to protect the lives of civilians?
Our government is supporting the rebels to oust Colonal Gaddafi. They are now being utterly blatant about it. They are using the RAF to provide the rebels with air power to back up the rebel ground forces.
Maybe that is a good thing. But it would be nice if they could be honest about it.
More importantly, it would be nice to get a sense that the government have some idea what comes after Gaddafi is out. They made that mistake in Iraq. Getting rid of Saddam was the easy part.
The risk is that Libya will end up destabilised. The Middle East is unstable enough already without another wobbly failed state to prop up.
Lack of Sunshine Causes Osteoporosis (Brittle Bones) Too
That is the bone disease caused by Vitamin D deficiency. It was common in Victorian times but largely disappeared with improved nutrition.
As well as getting Vitamin D in your diet, your body makes it when it is exposed to sunshine.
Says the BBC:
A recent study in inner-city Birmingham found that almost one in two Asian women were vitamin D deficient.
The level was one in three in the wider Asian community, one in four in the black population and one in eight among Caucasians.
There are two causes for the rise in rickets in the UK.
The first is that black and asian people have dark skin and are protected from the sunshine that helps their bodies make the vitamin. In fact, that is why Caucasian people originally evolved fair skins. Our lack of skin pigment is a genetic adaptation to our low-sun northern environment, to allow us to make vitamin D even with low sunshine levels.
With the high levels of immigration over the last few decades, we have basically seen large numbers of people coming to the UK who do not have the genetic mutation that causes the Caucasian fair skin. Clearly they are at higher risk of getting rickets.
Notice the higher incidence among the asian community than among the black population too. That is because asians often wear clothes that cover up all their skin, as the BBC also notes.
The other factor, of course, is that people are obsessed with sun cream. When I was young, nobody used sun cream. I got sunburnt as a child many times. And so did everybody.
Then along came sun tan lotion – originally marketed to stop the painful sunburn. It was not long before it was being marketed as a protection from skin aging and skin cancer.
People started to use higher and higher factor lotions. When they first came out, most were factor 4, with perhaps factor 8 being regarded as a very high one.
Now the do-gooders jitter on about how you need to use at least factor 50 on children otherwise they will die a ghastly death later. What’s more, they must use it all the time, not just when they are on the beach. The letters about school trips never forget to mention that you should lather your children with sun block and make them wear hats.
There was more. Evidence started to appear that people who used sun tan lotion were actually more likely to get skin cancer, not less. How could that be?
It turned out that there are two kinds of ultraviolet light – UVA and UVB. One causes sun burn, while the other causes cancer. The sun tan lotions were blocking the sun burn type but letting in the cancer type. So people were not realising how much sun they were getting, because their lotions were stopping them getting sunburnt.
Sunburn is nature’s way of telling you you’ve been out in the sun too long.
The manufacturers were quick to change their formulations. Now sun tan lotion has a “star rating” for skin cancer protection as well as a factor rating for sunburn protection.
The BBC article is full of ideas about what we should do about the rickets issue.
Dr Jonathan Berg, director of pathology at City Hospital, Birmingham, says:
Screening in selected populations is currently the way forward.
A consultant paediatrician at Ealing’s hospital, Dr Colin Michie, says that:
The idea of screening is interesting but he argues that providing free vitamin D supplements for all pregnant women would be cheaper and easier.
A spokesman for the Department of Health says:
All pregnant women are advised to take Vitamin D supplements.
I have a better idea. Let’s stop running around like headless chickens about all the sun and get some simple messages across:
Of course, that would represent different advice for different racial groups. Yikes. And it would be common sense as well.
No chance of that then.