Monday, 8 February 2016

Fake Charities, From Blog To Statute


What with the joyous news of both the imminent shutdown of Smokefree South West and the government's new rules on 'government lobbying government', it's been a marvellous few days, hasn't it?

On the latter, here's a bit of history for you that many might not be aware of. Back in 2008 I started writing here and the blogosphere was completely different. Iain Dale was not a publisher and presenter on LBC but instead one of the pioneers of political blogging (he was arguably instrumental in raising blogging to a level where many now rival or even eclipse the MSM). His enthusiasm for the platform was infectious and his Daley Dozen - literally a dozen blog articles every day - would promote left of centre blogs as much as he would his preferred Tory ones.

One of the best and most visited blogs of the time - and therefore featuring regularly in Dale's round-ups - was the magnificent Devil's Kitchen, a site which carried some of the best libertarian writing you could ever hope to read. Fiercely splenetic, unapologetically sweary and containing fantasy violence, it took no prisoners but could still make you laugh out loud over your monitor of a weekday lunchtime.

Despite this, the blog author, Chris Mounsey, was (and still is) an incredibly astute and knowledgeable observer of politics. It was he, back in 2008, who first noticed the proliferation of state-funded groups which would use their tax-leeched funding to lobby for new laws. The term 'government lobbying government' arguably began on his blog and he coined the description "Fake Charities" which still applies to lobbying organisations like ASH Scotland (85% state funding and whose sole function is to demand new laws) to this day.

The brilliant news of government clamping down on the abuse of 'charities' abusing taxpayer grants to further their own ends was brought to prominence by the IEA but it was DK who kicked it all off with a quite inspired website.
2009-01-19T03:47:08Z 
That was the date and time that your humble Devil first registered the fakecharities.org domain—19th January 2009. I built the first fakecharities.org site that night, using a simple Open Source CMS called WebsiteBaker. 
I then populated this simple site with a few organisations that I, and Kitchen contributor the Filthy Smoker, had identified as being particularly egregious specimens of the type we called "fake charities"
A few days ago, and a mere seven years later (!), the work of that night—and the efforts of many grassroots and blogosphere contributors—became a significant victory.
You will hear a lot of bluster from the charities who have been caught with their hands in the nation's till over this; they will try to blame corporations, or perhaps those nasty think tanks and their shadowy funders. But it is incontestable that this egregious abuse of taxes was first discovered by a guy who just enjoyed recreational political writing; was never paid for his work; did it in his spare time; and just knows a wrong 'un when he sees it.

It was a victory for the blogosphere and was a grass roots campaign which has gone from a corner of the internet to the upper echelons of the state, resulting in a rule which is - as we speak - prompting 'charity' meetings up and down the country to formulate plans as to how to keep their noses in the trough.

Congratulations, DK, you done good. And I say this as someone who never did get awarded a Bloody Devil you tight bastard!


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Why It's Right To Rejoice At Smokefree South West's Demise

Following Friday's fantastic news that Smokefree South West have lost their funding and are to close in six months, it seems there are many tobacco controllers who are rather piqued that some of us are delighted.

Apparently, it's considered bad form in tobacco control circles for anyone to express such a view. I've seen it variously described as "unpleasant", "unnecessary", and "spiteful" amongst other adjectives. For example:




I find the chutzpah being exhibited there quite staggering!

This is an industry which has routinely trampled on smokers for decades. Their jubilation and triumphalism when the smoking ban was installed was vile and vomit-inducing. I don't remember any concern for smokers at the time; there was no consoling arm for people whose social lives they had destroyed on the back of a lie they fabricated.

They didn't say "we're really sorry smokers, we realise this is unfair on you but it's something we feel we have to do". No, Health Secretary of the time Alan Johnson almost punched the air in delight announcing it; Cancer Research UK sent out newsletters to all its donors "rejoicing" in the news; and Deborah Arnott described how smokers had been "exiled to the outdoors". ASH then published a report boasting about how they had connived, cheated and bullied government into abandoning manifesto commitments to accommodate smokers.

They also didn't care one jot about the tens of thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of jobs they destroyed. In the particular case of Smokefree South West we can now see exactly why they didn't care about the carnage they caused pubs in their area, seeing as they recently morphed into Public Health Action to bully drinkers too. For them, pubs closing was a feature of the ban, not a bug.

Smokefree South West were part of all that, and very proud of it they were too.

Fully signed up to the policy of denormalising smokers, they have never cared that their approach has been described as turning smokers "into lepers".
Government anti-smoking policies, the report said, can generate hostility against those seen as a threat. 
‘The history of public health is scarred by policies which, pursued in the name of health protection and promotion, have served to intensify public vilification and state-sanctioned discrimination against already disadvantaged groups."
Their policies encouraged some of the most disgusting people in society to spit their bile at law-abiding citizens, and even as recently as last year they were still doing the same, describing outdoor smoking bans that they had demanded in Bristol as "exciting".

I don't see anything in any of the above which suggests Smokefree South West recognised that they were being "unkind"; no acknowledgement that they were making many people's lives "a wee bit worse"; no contrition that their policies cheerlead the most anti-social in society into "hating and hurting people". No, they couldn't have cared less.

Their attitude to e-cigs was also woeful. While composing the press release for the Bristol outdoor bans - as recently as February 2015, remember - they included a case study which attempted to smear e-cigs too. Smokefree South West was also one of only two respondents to a consultation which resulted in an outdoor ban on smoking and vaping in the grounds of North Devon hospitals, leading to a headline in the local press declaring "e-cigarettes not welcome".

That local news item was released just a few days after Smokefree South West had held a meeting with e-cigs advocates but decided to invite representatives from pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson along too. Just six weeks later, these ads started appearing all over the London Underground.


Needless to say, those lovely, cuddly, caring, sharing people at Smokefree South West - who we are supposed to feel sorry for - didn't bother to reply.

This, of course, after Smokefree South West had expressed their abject disappointment that the MHRA hadn't demanded that e-cigs should be immediately banned until licensed as medicines back in 2013, before they had even the first clue about what they were. Had they bothered to talk to vapers back then? No. Did they care what they would do to vapers with such a policy? Also no. So why the fuck should anyone care about them?

What's more, as Snowdon points out, it's all their own fault anyway.
This 100% state-funded lobby group has burned millions of pounds of our money in recent years to harass and demonise smokers. Dishonest to the last, its final act before it had its ill-gotten gains withdrawn was to retweet a lie from one of its fellow state-funded sock puppets.
Indeed they have wasted our money. In 2012, they spunked nearly half a million pounds of government grants, not on helping smokers to quit, but on lobbying government in favour of the tobacco control industry's self-perpetuation policy of plain packaging.

They also wasted government grants on tobacco control's smear site Tobacco Tactics, throwing £135k of your money down the drain on an ideological white elephant which is so inept as to be laughable.

In an era of austerity, such wilfully irresponsible waste of state funding is quite obviously going to attract the attention of politicians who are looking to make savings to cut the deficit. Just this weekend we have seen the government move to stop such blatantly wasteful spending in the future too, and I'm sure Smokefree South West's casual treatment of scarce government resources would have featured in the thinking behind that decision.

If Smokefree South West employees are hurting at losing their jobs, perhaps they should blame the person in charge of the organisation, seeing as they were so myopic as to think their tax-funded gravy train would last forever with them taking the right royal piss. After all, these wastes of taxpayer cash are all since the economy collapsed in 2008, so what on Earth were they thinking?

Well, I'll tell you. They had bought into the tobacco control industry's war on tobacco companies and denormalising smokers lock stock and barrel, launching themselves into it with gusto. Their own side - including those bemoaning the poor treatment of Smokefree South West above - often talk about this "war", so if you position yourself to be at war with a group of people how can you  possibly complain when the other side celebrates winning the odd skirmish?

So I'll say it again. I'm absolutely thrilled that Smokefree South West's days will soon be over, they brought it on themselves by being arrogant and stupid at administering taxpayers' money and not giving a tuppeny toss about the people their policies would negatively affect. Bravo to those who have stopped their obnoxious and wasteful practices, the south west is well rid of them.


Friday, 5 February 2016

Smokefree South West Just Quit

Aww such a shame, how will we cope without Smokefree South West and their government lobbying government antics, eh? Via Simon Clark:
The BBC has this morning revealed that eleven councils in the south west are to stop funding the anti-smoking campaign group Smokefree South West which will close in June.
Looks like these councils have decided to cut out the middle man and just take advice from people they don't pay to come up with biased bullshit.

As you can imagine, I'm bereft. How on Earth will those in the south west survive without an entirely pointless tax-sponging organisation which was already a replication of others doing the same job? They'll be crying in the streets of Truro tonight and no mistake. Well actually they won't, most won't even notice.


We're all happier today ta, and without the miserable whining from Smokefree South West there are many in that area who will be far healthier for not having to listen to their crap.

What great news for a Friday, cheers!


Thursday, 4 February 2016

Government Lobbying Government Spotted In Bristol

ASH organised a massive protest in Bristol yesterday.


What larks, eh?

The reference to "make them pay" is a demand by ASH that the government pass a law to impose a levy on tobacco companies to pay for tobacco control. That is, to steal money from legal profit-making businesses to pay for the likes of miserable, self-perpetuating, tax-draining, anti-social troughers like ASH. Ingenious, huh?
ASH, together with more than 120 health organisations, is backing Cancer Research UK’s call to make tobacco companies ‘Cough Up’ for the harm they cause to millions of UK citizens
Cancer Research UK's call? That's funny, because I distinctly remember seeing it in a report called Smoking Still Kills written by, erm, ASH.
Recommendation
➤ Introduce a new annual levy on tobacco companies, the Tobacco Companies Obligation, to help fund evidence-based* tobacco control and Stop Smoking Services in England.
And who paid for this report? Well you did of course, to the tune of £200k.

Oh, ASH will quibble about this, of course, they always do. They claim that that particular portion of taxpayer funding is not used for their political campaigning, oh no.


Y'see, when they receive the grant from the Department of Health, what they actually do is keep it in a box in the corner of their Hatton Garden office suite. If Debs does some work on the government's "Tobacco Control Plan", she'll dip in and grab a few tenners instead of it being paid out of the payroll; if Amanda Sandford comments on it for the BBC she will fish around in the box for loose change to pay her train fare; and if Hazel Cheesywotsit writes a couple of paragraphs of copy whoever is nearest to the Section 64 box will lob her a wad of notes based on how many words she penned. It's all sectioned up nicely at ASH HQ, nothing is just dropped in the pot with all their other funding. Absolutely not!

I think I must try this with my business one day. When someone asks for a pay rise (because we're doing quite well at the moment) I'll say "ah yes, but the profit isn't being earned on your particular contract, so I should actually be considering cutting your wages instead". I'm sure they'll understand.

No, it's poppycock. Section 64 grants have always been paid to ASH to produce their "Smoking Kills" series of reports, it's just that they are being stung by criticisms of 'government lobbying government' recently so have had a meeting with Cancer Research UK and decided it would be less toxic if the latter was credited with funding it instead. Especially since this one is demanding a levy on tobacco companies to hand directly to ASH and their chums. It's nothing more than an accountancy journal entry, because CRUK have given ASH money for quite a while now, in fact about as long as ASH have been receiving heat about their funding, funny that. The report which demands government steal from businesses to give to ASH is written by ASH, hosted on ASH's website, and the editorial board is dominated by ASH.

Besides, ASH have admitted themselves in the past that they certainly do use Section 64 grants for lobbying [pdf page 46].
Its DH grant for 2008-11 amounted to £572,500 and was earmarked for a project entitled ‘Capitalising on Smokefree: the way forward’. This project was rather non-specific, with the stated aim of ensuring that ‘ASH recommendations’ were ‘acted on by policy makers’. These recommendations included a smoking ban in prisons, higher tobacco taxes and limiting ‘promotional opportunities for tobacco products both on and off the packet.’ Contrary to the DH’s claim that it does not fund external research, ASH promised to provide ‘policy development research, research and analysis for DH, and for other government departments.’ Contrary to ministerial assurances that ‘none of this funding is to be used for lobbying purposes’, ASH specifically pledged to use part of this Section 64 grant for ‘media advocacy and lobbying’.
So, to recap, government dollies up the annual barrowload of taxpayer cash to ASH (every year for 43 years now); they produce a report demanding government pass a law to impose a levy on tobacco companies (to benefit themselves); then trot down to Bristol and drag some kids along to pretend it's not a government lobbying government thing.

No. It is government lobbying government. ASH receive money from the government, write a report recommending a tobacco levy, then lobby government for a tobacco levy. It's not rocket science.

It's also, sadly, not uncommon when it comes to tobacco control liars.

* "Evidence-based"? Pfft!


Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Should We Lie Like Tobacco Controllers?

Regular readers will remember that the campaign in favour of plain packaging by tax spongers in the highly state-funded tobacco control industry Goliath was a truly astounding display of mendacity and corruption.

The level of cheating, chicanery, political manipulation and blatant, unapologetic, provable lies was quite simply off the scale, as I described in 2014.
The often fraudulent abuses of process, democracy and common decency are too numerous to list in full, but just to remind you of a few highlights: 
Attempting to rig the consultation; producing literature containing bald-faced lies to MPs; enthusiastically encouraging corrupt multiple signatures; and attempting to influence government to exclude any consultation responses they disagreed with and then trying to hide the evidence. Along with inviting two zealous supporters of plain packaging to review the evidence, including a far-left lunatic who simply despises marketing of any product, before producing an impact assessment document which the Regulatory Policy Committee rightly considered shoddy. This without mentioning shovelling taxpayer cash to vested interests to lobby government with, making demonstrably false claims, and blatantly misrepresenting the results of their own research.
In fact, the lies are still continuing on the subject to this day. It's just what tobacco controllers do. They lie. In the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening. Heck, I reckon they even dream about lying.

I didn't think anything could top the outrageous deceit of that campaign, but the remarkable lies which we have seen in the past couple of months surrounding vaping have, if anything, been even worse! By that I mean that the plain packs campaigners at least tried to hide their lies, whereas those trying to undermine e-cigs don't even seem to care. The misdirection, untruths and junk science are so transparent it's like they are almost proud of them; blasé and safe in the knowledge that no-one - including journalists - is going to look deep enough into their source material to call them out on it.

We've seen them lying to pretend vaping is no safer that smoking and then refusing to alter the basis of the claim when the lie was globally ridiculed; lying to say e-cigs stop smokers from quitting, a study described as "misleading", "not scientific" and "a failure of peer review" by their own side thereby making the author, Mad Stan, guilty of the same doubt creation tactics tobacco controllers routinely accuse long-dead tobacco company execs of dealing in; lying to claim e-cigs cause drunk driving and car crashes even though their study clearly stated blood alcohol levels are not affected by vaping; and lying to claim teens who vape are more likely to take up smoking, contrary to all evidence on the subject and so poor a study that only oleaginous tobacco control extremist groupies bothered to publish on it.

This, of course, on top of anti-vaping crusaders quietly attempting to silence any positive commentary about e-cigs; inventing laughable conspiracy theories in order to try to weaponise the Chief Medical Officer against their use; and deliberately lying in their own professional journals, aided and abetted by the journal editors themselves.

If the plain packs campaign was a slurry pit of corruption, lies and deceit - which it most certainly was - then what is happening with e-cigs can be described as an entire fucking sewage works of dishonesty, fraud and vile, self-enriching, anti-scientific thuggery from people who claim to care about 'public health'.

The process the tobacco control industry lives by seems to consist of these purposely-designed steps:
1) Commit to a policy
2) Create junk science to fit that policy, by any means possible
3) If the junk science doesn't throw up believable results, lie in the press release
4) Sit back and ignore the inevitable debunking, the headlines are out and everyone will believe them
This is what tobacco control calls 'science', and the people who promote lies - because that's what they are - in this manner are described by the press as 'experts'. Yes, I know, bonkers isn't it?

Now, the reason I mention this is because I was out with a business consultant friend last night in London and this very subject came up. After my explaining how these false headlines are created, my analyst friend asked why our side doesn't do the same. Not verbatim but it went something like this.
"Perhaps you need to do your own studies, pick out a positive part - even if the whole study doesn't support it - and press release that. Get your own positive headlines to counteract their corrupt negative ones."
He summed up the situation very well (that's what he gets paid for after all) and, all things being equal, I suppose that would be the way to play it. What's good for the goose, as they say, is good for the gander. If they are lying, then it's obviously perfectly fair that the same approach can be employed to counter it. As Sun Tzu once said, "the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself", so if anti-vaping fraudsters are being successful by being economical with the truth for ideological ends then perhaps we should be doing so too.

However, can you see that ever working? For a start, if anyone on the pro-vaping side were to cherry-pick something and press release it to gain a headline - despite it misrepresenting that study - the first critics of the release would almost certainly be pro-vaping scientists. Carl Phillips especially would rip it to pieces!

Additionally, tobacco controllers being the debate-avoiding, objective science-phobic, play-the-man-not-the-ball types that they are, the instant reaction would be to accuse our side of being like the tobacco industry of five decades ago. Actually, scratch that, they're already doing it. They'd accuse us of being addicts, shills and astroturfers (oh yeah, they're doing that already too) and try to smear anyone who has a contrary opinion ... ah, yes they already do that as well.

After mulling this today, I really don't know what to think of it all. A detached opinion on the situation by my analyst friend, condensing all the facts and assessing how an equal and opposite reaction could be delivered, says that our side should be mirroring what extremist tobacco controllers are doing. At least then it would be  fair fight. But at the same time, we are not a bunch of blatant liars like they are and value things like principles, standards, scruples, ethics and - yes - the truth! We also don't get paid for what we do, of course.

So I suppose what it comes down to is that, once again, we are disadvantaged by being on the side of the angels, unlike the liars and generously-remunerated, consciously-fraudulent professional shysters who are ranged against us.

You might have a different view of course. Is it worth us sinking to the cesspit level of tobacco control and lying to get the true message out, or just hope that one day the public will work out how debased and corrupt the so-called 'experts' of 'public health' are?

Discuss.


Monday, 1 February 2016

Wartime Giants

When I was a small child in the early to mid-1970s we Puddlecotes used to spend alternate Sunday afternoons at my Nan and Grandad's council maisonette in south London.

After eating a slap up roast beef dinner complete with mushy cauliflower, butter beans, and a Yorkshire pudding cooked in a flan dish and weighing the equivalent of a small dog due to the fat that went into it (but boy was it gorgeous), we'd sit around watching The Big Match on ITV while Grandad alternated between telling us the score before each featured game and telling me precisely which dominoes I had in my hand. He was a lathe operator by trade but a truly gifted mathematician who ran the shop floor's complicated pools syndicate and was capable of working out the returns from an each way yankee in his head. 

Later he'd sit me on his knee, spark up a Players' No 6, and regale me with tales from the war when he was in the Home Guard, his particular forte back then being to make sure pubs observed the blackout efficiently. Of course, this involved visits while they were closed between 2:30pm and 5:30pm, but the Landlord was usually kind enough to give him a pint or two while he was waiting for opening time. 

However, clever as he was, one thing always baffled him. I remember his words clearly.
"We had rations in the war years sunshine, and for a long time after too. A couple of rashers of bacon, a chunk of chocolate each for the week and a few potatoes, yet there were fat kids fackin' everywhere! Big lumbering beasts they were and no mistake, all of 'em, and stupid too, could barely scratch their own 'arrises they were so fackin' daft. Sometimes I'd go down that alley to get to the Clockhouse (a pub, funny enough, pronounced Clock'aaase) and if they were playing Pitch and Toss I'd need to be Edmund bloody Hillary to climb over the bleeders! We were bloody starving all the fackin' time but there were huge fackin' sprogs up Lavender Hill ... and some of them so big they were down the other side of it as well."
Then, with an affectionate tousling of my hair and a post-dinner gravy belch, he'd muse. 
"I could never understand that, sonny, and I never fackin' will."
It's been a puzzle I've wrestled with ever since those distant dull yellow and brown faded days. But thanks to the marvels at 'Public Health' Industry junk science HQ, it's a puzzle that has finally been solved
CHILDREN whose parents smoke are more likely to be fat - and to lag behind in their school work, suggests new research. 
The study showed that being exposed to second-hand smoke can make children pile on the pounds and slow their mental development.
But of course! The world and his wife - and probably the family budgie too - smoked back then, and in every possible location. Even Woolworths was bathed in a fog of smoke throughout the day so no wonder the kids were all massive!

Oh hold on, isn't there supposed to be an obesity crisis? Now. In 2016. When just about no-one smokes and secondhand smoke has been banned everywhere including outdoors? And come to think about it, I just remembered more accurately. Grandad didn't say anything about huge kids, in fact he spent more time telling me about how you could play their ribs like a xylophone. 

Yes, the 'research' cited by the Express is utter utter bollocks, isn't it?