Sunday, 4 December 2016

How Dare Members Of The Public Respond To A Public Consultation!

Regular readers here will know that I often describe the tobacco control industry as 'extremists', and there is a good reason for that. You see, their methods are remarkably similar to those of totalitarian dictatorships.

Their policies consist entirely of lies, intimidation and suppression of debate and - rather like ISIS - they demand that what they say goes and for any dissent or opposing view to be silenced and/or ignored.

So this document which has just come to light won't come as much of a surprise. I've embedded it at the bottom of the page, and you can see that it is a letter from Florence Berteletti-Kemp demanding that EU President Jose Manuel Barroso ignore tens of thousands of responses from members of the public to the public consultation on the Tobacco Products Directive. Incredibly, one of the justifications she gives is that there are too many objections, because such consultations only usually attract about 20 responses, and she complains that there are organisations encouraging people to make their voice heard! I mean, how disgraceful is it that people should be urged to engage with the democratic process (such as it is in the EU), eh?

The pre-consultation report is here and, as you can see, included sections not only on conventional tobacco, but also snus and e-cigs. Considering the huge number of people across the EU who use such products, it should have been welcomed that so many wished to express their thoughts on early proposals, however briefly. I wrote about the consultation at the time in order to drive responses their way, as did former influential blogger and now LBC radio presenter Iain Dale and many others. But tobacco control has never been in the business of debating and will always try to silence any opposition to their insane self-enriching policy-chasing, so there's no way they want to hear from the ghastly public.

There is evidence that these vile anti-democratic and transparency-phobic creeps - including Debs Arnott in the days when she was still honest about her intention to medicalise all e-cigs, along with Anna 'Rent-a-junk-study' Gilmore, CRUK head Jean King, Monika Kosinska, Luk Joossens, Luke Clancy and other well-known fanatical prohibitionists -  got their way too, as we can see from this article in 2011.
The EU Commission, however, dismisses a significant portion of the responses from the 82,000 citizens on the grounds that two-thirds are from Italy and Poland, where tobacco merchants organised petitions.
This isn't an unusual tactic either. We saw the same with the tobacco display ban in the UK in 2008.
Ken Patel, Leicester retailer and National Spokesman for the Tobacco Retailers Alliance, said: "First the Minister refused to meet with retailers, now they have censored our formal response to a public consultation." 
Campaign Manager Katherine Graham said; "We are not listed as one of the respondents although our response was submitted by email and also sent by post, so we can be certain it was received. For some reason the views of 25,000 shopkeepers just seem to have been air-brushed out of the consultation report."
And it was also attempted during the plain packs campaign in 2013, again sneakily involving letters to politicians to demand the public is ignored.
It piqued my interest as I was rather intrigued as to what had been discussed at this meeting, so I submitted a freedom of information request. The response was a brief note which you can read in Scribd here, but this is the part which I found most interesting.
"On plain packaging, the APPG expressed concerns that results of any consultation could be skewed if consumer/retail groups were used to inflate responses. They also wanted to know when decisions were likely to be made."
Now, I don't know about you, but that does seem to suggest that the delegation of MPs Stephen Williams, Kevin Barron and Bob Blackman (not Paul as in the document) - along with Deborah Arnott their ASH secretary - were urging Anne Milton to ignore responses from groups such as Hands Off Our Packs, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, The Association of Convenience Stores etc. In fact, any organised group who are opposed to plain packaging. 
Note that they were not concerned about organised groups of any stripe collecting signatures which, of course, would have ruled out CRUK responses as well as SmokeFree South West's government-funded campaign. No, they were only addressing campaigns organised in opposition. 
Of course, there were no questions whatsoever about the signatures raised in support of the policy by state-funded fake charities, Cancer Research UK, and even the plain packs campaign itself, even though they were gathered using exactly the same methods. The stark hypocrisy of these odious creatures is stunning. 

All of which goes to prove that tobacco controllers are not just enemies of tolerance and freedom of choice, but also of the right of the public to have their views counted and, therefore, an enemy of the democratic process itself.

You can read their grubby letters demanding public responses be ignored at this Scribd link or scroll through it below. 

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Snus, E-Cigs, Now iQos - ASH Hate Them All

So, after months of hearing about the things, Philip Morris have today launched their iQos 'heat not burn' system in the UK (albeit only in London).

The press have avidly taken up the story, most probably due to PMI CEO Andre Calantzopoulos dangling the media-friendly suggestion that the global company "could stop making conventional cigarettes". This is not a new claim, there have been a lot of articles recently where he has been interviewed about this new stance, it's just something the British press has only now picked up on, presumably from the PR.

They are also opening a shop in the West End, which seems to me more like marketing than retail if it sells only one product but - as a Puddlecote Inc office colleague pointed out today - Apple shops do much the same thing.

It is interesting that Philip Morris claim 70% of those who tried iQos in Japan continued to use them, though it has to be recognised that it is an entirely different market; as far as I am aware e-cigs really haven't taken off over there. But having said that, if the claimed 90% safer product is that attractive to smokers then this is surely a good thing in the eyes of tobacco controllers, huh?

I think you know what's coming next even if you hadn't read the articles this morning.

No, of course not. Because tobacco control is not in the health game anymore, they just like bashing the tobacco industry and those who continue to like tobacco or nicotine. Dave Dorn put it very well earlier.
Yes, you read that correctly. PMI could, in the future, subject to the right market conditions, stop making fags. They've even said they're looking to working with Government to make that a reality.  
Now, if I was heading up an anti-smoking charity (which I'm not), I'd be happy as a pig in shit at that news. I'd be grabbing all my minions and despatching them to the Dept. of Health and various other top level bodies and doing my level best to, as Jean-Luc Picard would say, "make it so". 
Cos that's what anti-smoking bodies and charities ought to be about, isn't it? 
But no. No. "We don't trust the tobacco companies." "We're not in the business of promoting tobacco products" (which is, actually, very much missing the point - that the IQOS has tobacco in it is entirely specious to the argument - it can be demonstrated to be of much lower risk than smoking, so they SHOULD be promoting such things. You know, like they do with ecigs. Oh... wait...) 
They're screaming for independent research into the risk profile. Here's an idea. They leech public money - yes, WE fund them - so let THEM, in the public interest (which it undeniably is) fund the research. Let THEM actually use the money they trough from the public coffers for a good purpose - get it given to an independent and unbiased lab to replicate the studies and confirm or deny the claims.
Carl Phillips described this pathetic stance by tobacco control in a blog last summer entitled "Public health (heart) lung cancer", where he offered up a handy test whereby we can assess the motives of tobacco controllers everywhere.
The test for anti-tobacco extremism is the answer to the following question: If you could magically change the world so that either (a) there was no use of tobacco products or (b) people could continue to enjoy using tobacco but there was a cheap magic pill that they could take to eliminate any excess disease risk it caused, which would you choose? Anyone who would choose (a) over (b) takes anti-tobacco to its logical extreme, making clear that they object to the behavior, not its effects.

So what has been the reaction of ASH today to this massively safer alternative to smoking? Well, I think it woefully fails Carl's test, don't you?
But anti-smoking campaigners said products such as Iqos, like tobacco, need tough regulation. Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (Ash), told Today: "We still need to be very cautious about what the industry's up to." 
"Philip Morris is a tobacco company. They are still making most of their profits from selling cigarettes," she said: "On current trends, smoking will kill one billion people in the 21st century, most in poor countries. 
"If Philip Morris really want to see the end of smoking they have to stop promoting smoking to new young smokers around the world."
Absolutely nothing in there about the promise of heat not burn technology, just a load of irrelevant bleating cockwaffle and veiled smears of how industry is deceitful.

In fact, ASH's press release went even further than that.
ASH therefore believes that unless and until independent evidence shows that IQOS and similar products are substantially less harmful than smoking then these products should be regulated in the same way as other tobacco products.
This is the same ASH, remember, who went ga-ga about the non-existent proof of efficacy of plain packaging and still pumps out regular misinformation about passive smoking being dangerous outdoors which has never been proved and never will be. Yet they comically speak about deceit ...
Particularly because of the tobacco industry’s long record of deceit over the health risks of smoking, there is an urgent need for independent research into the level of harm these products may cause. 
... before declaring that even if it is provided they will ignore it.
We understand that the UK Government has asked the independent Committee on Toxicity to look at the data; this is welcome but not sufficient.
In other words, ASH will not accept any level of verification that iQos is 90% or more safer than tobacco, because ... well, tobacco industry.

Something which I had a good chuckle about this morning.

ASH are part of an industry which is now widely known to be the biggest liars the planet has ever seen, yet they are now set to place insurmountable burdens in front a technology which has definite potential to massively reduce harm from tobacco (their supposed policy goal) and citing deceit.

We've always known that ASH are morally-incontinent and only exist to satisfy themselves with tormenting smokers and looting their cash, but today showed that they are even lower than we previously thought.

I'll make some (not so) bold predictions here and now. ASH and their regional warped fucksticks will campaign vigorously for iQos and other HnB variants to be banned in public places. They won't have any evidence that it is harmful to others, they'll just do it anyway (because it was never about protecting bar staff). They will say, disingenuously, that no tobacco product is safe and follow the same shit path they did by getting snus banned in the 1980s, arguably killing people. And they will do all this because they are not remotely interested in health or harm reduction, and never have been.

They are just a dysfunctional, self-interested organisation - allied to blatant liars worldwide - who hate industry and get paid handsomely for doing so.

And how do I know this? Well, because ASH tried exactly the same with e-cigs. They attempted to strangle vaping in its infancy just like they did with snus; persistently tried to hamper its development at every turn, and still do; and only failed because of the huge enthusiasm and strength of vaper opposition.

ASH are not a friend, they are a vile prohibitionist organisation which has no care for health and which - as today proves - is in favour of tobacco harm reduction like Vichy France was in favour of freedom for the French people. It's shameful that the government funds them; for the good of public health they should be financially starved into extinction.

I look forward to the predictions above coming true, we should hold ASH and their provincial colleagues to account when they do. 

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

"Only Just Getting Started"

If you are one of the honking seals who happily claps along with anti-smoker sentiment - safe in the knowledge that the insatiable grant-ravenous 'public health' industry will never come after something you enjoy - you're either a monk, or you should never play Chess because you're so dim you'd probably fail to predict that your opponent might move a pawn first.

Y'see, as Snowdon wrote yesterday, it's pretty clear now that vile tobacco controllers have kicked open the gates of the citadel which used to safeguard liberty and free choice and, in doing so, have shown other repellent, self-centred, anti-social vandals how to smash everything else up as well. Of course, parasitical tax-gobbling charlatans wise tobacco control sages such as Debs Arnott and Simple Simon have denied this was ever going to happen but, in global Nanny State HQ Australia, they're all of a frenzy at the possibility of dictating everything you eat and drink from cradle to grave by way of the clunking fist of ignorant government.

Via the Daily Telegraph Oz:
Does junk food need the tobacco treatment?
Just let that sink in for a moment. Food. That you choose to eat.

OK? Right, let's continue.
OBESITY is the leading cause of poor health in this country yet little is being done to make junk food less appealing, affordable or accessible. 
Should we take a leaf from the anti-tobacco lobby?
So what do they mean by a leaf? Well, actually it is more like the whole rotten fucking tree!
[I]nstead of brightly coloured wrappers with mouth-wateringly tantalising descriptions, you faced shelf after shelf of sugary sweets wrapped in plain packaging with images of obese bodies emblazoned on the front. And imagine if adding a bottle of soft drink to your grocery haul meant asking an employee to get your chosen fizz from a locked cabinet behind a counter. Then, you find the bottle comes stamped with a picture of rotting teeth. Still thirsty?
In case you can't imagine that, the article kindly offers you a graphic that the joyless bastards in 'public health' will orgasm over.

Alarmist nonsense, I hear you say? Well not really, no.
“Overweight and obesity is the leading cause of disease and poor health in Australia,” Dr Gary Sacks, senior research fellow at the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention, says. “It’s fair to compare junk food and tobacco and we can learn a lot from what’s been done with cigarettes.”
So much for "the domino theory is patently false", eh Debs? Isn't it about time you publicly declared you were orders of magnitude wrong on that?
But should that include treating junk food in the way we now treat tobacco products? That is: hike prices, make plain packaging mandatory and slap packets with gory images of what obesity looks like and does. It depends on who you ask.
It does indeed. You see, you'll have some 'public health' extremists who won't yet admit that is the eventual goal, and others who feel adequately emboldened already to go 'all in'.
One of the most effective measures for reducing smoking rates in Australia was the introduction of plain packaging and graphic health warnings to cigarette packets. 
Following a similar tack with junk food packaging would cause a significant drop in obesity rates, say some experts. 
“Plain packaging would definitely have an effect,” Ferrie says. “We don’t give much thought to just how much money, research and thinking goes into making those packs as appealing as possible. Chips are my favourite example. You’ll find limes, chillies and perfectly roasted chickens on the label but inside is just salt, flavouring and potato starch. As for warning images, I’m sure companies would do everything they could not to end up in the category that required an amputated leg on their packet, which could be a good thing.”
Yep, these people are actually considering policies which would adorn a packet of crisps with pictures of an amputated leg. Or maybe a takeaway bag with a graphic health warning to punish you for your cheek in buying a Big Mac.

We used to throw people with insane views like this in the loony bin, but now they're apparently called 'experts'.
“From a public health perspective, I would love all these measures to be introduced overnight but we need to stagger our approach,” [Professor Stephen Colagiuri, director of The Boden Institute in Sydney] says. 
“It’s important to remember that it’s taken 50 years to get where we are with tobacco and we’re really only just getting started with obesity.”
"Only just getting started".

Some of us have been warning of this for quite a while, but how silly we all were saying that plain packaging would lead to such barking craziness, eh? Oh yeah, and in case you think this can only happen in Australia, think again.

I've always said that the smoking ban - the true root of this societal cancer - was the most disgusting piece of legislation this country has ever seen; it has directly facilitated this kind of lunacy. Once you pander to the most intolerant and snobbish in a community and make them important, the destruction of calm enjoyment of life on a scale never before witnessed is assured. Never has it been more encouraged to be a revolting no-mark obsessed with poking one's nose into the lives of others; pandered to by an elite, highly-paid bunch of professional extremists who, in an ideal world, should be slapped in a straitjacket and carted off to the funny farm. Or jailed, either is good.

A pox on all of them. Having said that, chalk one up for we jewel robbers on the side of the angels here, because we have been proved right. Yet again. 

Monday, 28 November 2016

Drafting A Sheffield Council 'Smokefree' Consultation Response

It seems that another daft council is proposing to waste taxpayer cash on illiberal, incoherent, unenforceable and pointless outdoor smoking bans, this time it's Sheffield.
Council chiefs are considering whether to ban lighting up outside hospitals and other NHS buildings, universities, council offices and leisure centres – and they are seeking the public’s views on the proposal.
Seeking the public's views, did they say? That sounds right up our street, I reckon.

The consultation can be found here and only consists of six questions, so let's have a bash at it, eh?
1. Tobacco is an addiction that takes hold in childhood. It is estimated that 5 children start smoking every day in Sheffield. We want to work with all secondary schools in the city to equip children with the skills to resist starting to smoke. Are you in favour of us doing more work in schools to prevent children from starting to smoke, and funding this work by moving some money out of stop smoking services?
Do you know, I can actually agree with this. I'd disagree that it's an addiction rather than a habit, and that it always "takes hold in childhood", but who could disagree that children should be educated as to the risks of any substance, not just tobacco. They are, of course, likely to be taught all kinds of alarmist bullshit, but the basic premise is sound.

Especially since the proposal is to take money away from stop smoking services, with which I can heartily agree. As I've mentioned before, they shouldn't exist at all, and not only because they are an abject failure.

Consider also that demand for stop smoking services has plummeted by around half since 2010 and there is simply no need for them now. So yes, remove that funding and spend it elsewhere. If you needed any further justification, ASH's Debs Arnott says education doesn't work (which is bollocks) and that only handing her and her pals more cash does, which speaks volumes about her seeing as she has strenuously tried to obstruct e-cigarettes at every step of their evolution so far.

It would be preferable if Sheffield didn't spend any money on such things, but taking it away from stop smoking services - which are used in certain situations as a tool to shame or bully smokers into quitting - and funding non-coercive education of children instead is a step forward.
2. We know that children learn the smoking habit from observing their parents and others, so we want to reduce the number of public places where people are visibly smoking so that children don’t think it is normal and copy this harmful behaviour. Are you in favour of us doing more work to increase the number of Smokefree outdoor sites in the city (e.g. outside NHS buildings, hospitals, universities, Councils, leisure centres, at events such as Skyride/Sheffield half marathon/Christmas light switch on) and funding this work by moving some money from Stop Smoking Services?
Erm, didn't we just get told that kids start smoking because of the glitzy packets? I wish they'd make their minds up.

This is an absurd suggestion. Yes, peer pressure is a factor in starting smoking, but the council has no business playing parent and getting involved, it is simply none of their business. Smoking is a legal activity and doing so outdoors has no harmful effect on bystanders whatsoever, nothing should be spent on preventing people from consuming lawful products where they can harm no-one else. It's a silly idea, is entirely unenforceable and would be a waste of taxpayer funds if so much as a quid is spent on signage, even if it's just a scribble on a post-it note.
3. Evidence suggests a very effective way of motivating smokers to quit is by developing mass media campaigns that smokers can relate to, using targeted messages about the reasons to quit. Certain groups smoke more than others, are more heavily addicted, and find it harder to quit. These groups are more at risk of poor health outcomes. We need to ensure that we successfully motivate these groups to quit smoking. Are you in favour of us funding more work on mass media campaigns; targeting those who find it the most difficult to quit smoking and who are the most addicted and funding this by moving some money from stop smoking services?
Why does Sheffield Council believe it is their job to "motivate smokers to quit"? Personal choices should be of no concern to them. While it's encouraging that this is the third question in a row which suggests taking money away from stop smoking services, wouldn't it be better to spend it instead on things that people actually expect their council to do properly? You know, fixing potholes, looking after the elderly, keeping the streets clean and picking up bins? Maybe even funding libraries better considering people are quite fond of them and yet Sheffield seem to have no cash for stuff like that.

Mass media campaigns? Do behave! If they can't fund books, why the blithering fuck are they even considering such a waste of taxes as this?
4. Since 2003 we have had a stop smoking service that anyone can access and we have supported around 3000 smokers a year to quit. From 2010 local demand for stop smoking support has reduced. This has happened alongside increasing popularity and use of e-cigarettes. More people are also choosing to quit on their own. Since 2015 councils across the country have faced significant budget cuts to public health grant funding. This means there is less money to fully fund a stop smoking service that meets the needs of everyone. We are therefore proposing to spend the most on those who find it hardest to quit. For those smokers who are able to quit alone we will direct them to online advice and support. Are you in favour of us supporting only the most addicted groups who find it very difficult to quit smoking, rather than having a universal service that anyone can access?
The reason those budgets are being cut is, hopefully, because politicians are starting to realise that the country can't afford such frivolities anymore, especially since it is none of their business if people smoke or not.

It's encouraging, too, that Sheffield have recognised that e-cigarettes are a good thing and are attracting quitters without need of state intervention. Funny, then, that the recent Freedom to Vape report on council policies revealed that Sheffield City Council treats vaping in exactly the same way as smoking; that is, you can't use an e-cig on any council property whatsoever, indoors or out. This is because, and I quote from their policy:
ii) Whilst they do not produce smoke, electronic cigarettes produce a vapour that could provide an annoyance to other employees.
iii) There is currently no reliable information about what substances and quantities are given off in the vapour from e-cigarettes and therefore no reliable indication of whether or not the vapour poses any risk to health to those in the vicinity of the user.
Now, just a thought, but if Sheffield want to be taken seriously about this new 'smokefree' drive, and recognise the promise of e-cigs, wouldn't it be worth their while changing that ignorant lunacy pretty damn sharpish - as in, now - before they start implementing something new? Motes and beams and all that. 
5. Due to the significant budget cuts to public health grant funding made by Central Government we are consulting the public on their opinion on funding stop smoking medication (such as patches) for the groups of smokers who smoke the most , who find it hardest to quit, and who are the most addicted. Are you in favour of us funding stop smoking medication (e.g patches, gum etc) for the groups of smokers who smoke the most, are the most addicted and find it hardest to quit?
Well this is simple, of course we agree disagree. Pharmaceutical products are utterly useless and ridiculously expensive. Save cash and just hand out a map to the local vape shop, it'll cost pennies. Just have a few handouts in reception and save Sheffield residents the grief of paying fat salaries for the council to employ people to hand taxpayer cash to huge pharmaceutical interests.
6. E-cigarettes have become popular amongst smokers. Public Health England recommends that all smokers should stop in the first instance, however those who cannot or will not stop smoking should swop to using an e-cigarette. There is evidence to suggest they are less harmful to a smoker as they contain significantly less toxic chemicals than mainstream cigarettes, and so encouraging smokers to switch to e-cigarettes will reduce the overall harms from tobacco. Are you in favour of promoting vaping to current smokers as a harm reduction method?
Erm, it's "significantly fewer toxic chemicals", for God's sake. But pedantry aside, see previous response, it's a no-brainer that the council should be promoting e-cigs which smokers buy for themselves rather than hugely expensive and massively useless pharmaceutical products. Spend the savings on a new lawnmower to cut some grass verges.

The consultation is open for a month but don't leave it too late. As usual, how you respond to the questions is up you (above are just a few thoughts) but I do always enjoy seeing what you've written and this consultation is another where they will send you a PDF if you include an email, so if you take part please do feel free to ping me yours.

You can take part in the consultation by clicking here. Enjoy.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Freedom To Vape Campaign Scores A Hit

Earlier this month, Freedom to Vape produced an excellent report after FOIing every local authority in the country to ask their policy on e-cigs at work. It was riddled with explanations oozing laziness, ignorance and often quite shocking disregard for its staff, as I wrote about here.

The report doesn't appear to be a wasted exercise either. Quite a few local newspapers picked up the information about their particular council to run a story - a benefit of localising the issue for regional journos starved of things to write - with glimmers of common sense breaking through as a result. Like this from Bristol, for example.
The Mayor of Bristol has conceded that council employees could be allowed to vape at their desks – or at least in a special indoor vaping room – rather than outside with smokers of traditional cigarettes. 
Marvin Rees could meet representatives from the vaping industry to discuss possible changes to the rules for council workers who have given up smoking and taking up vaping instead.
And this is because?
The Bristol Post reported earlier this week that the pro-choice lobby the Freedom Association claimed all but three local councils in the country – including Bristol and its neighbouring authorities – were going against Public Health England guidelines in treating vaping in the same way as smoking.
Bravo The Freedom Association!

This is a quirk of how local authorities operate. Much of the business will be performed by people in offices who really can't be bothered to make a fuss, and they've had anti-smoking harpies on their case for decades. A lack of understanding of vaping along with indolence from the likes of PHE, ASH, CRUK etc. in making councils aware of their advice means that they produce stupid policies founded on nothing but rumour and hearsay.

However, the buck stops with elected members of the council, and if they are outed by the media or receive a lot of correspondence on a subject, they tend to get quite irate at the officers in their authority for allowing it to happen. I can imagine that the Mayor of Bristol would have been deeply embarrassed that his staff were so ill-informed as to come up with a policy which made his council look foolish and not keeping up with current 'public health' guidance which is in their purview now. Council taxpayers certainly don't tend to take kindly to their council being run by idiots and often boot out councillors as a result while the office staff get away scot free.

With this in mind, you could have a bearing on your own council's policy by reading the Freedom to Vape report here; seeing if your local authority is one of those which currently has a stupid stance on vaping; and writing to an elected councillor or two to object.

Vapers in Power have done some great work on the subject and make it very easy to make your views known in a very short space of time. Go have a look here, they have done half the work for you.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Reason Does Delhi

If you read my letters from India during COP7, you might see a lot you recognise here from Reason TV.

Especially worth watching out for is the camera trained exclusively on the public area (around 2:10 mins in) as mentioned in my report from the Monday, as well as the peaceful protest by tobacco farmers being aggressively broken up at behest of the FCTC, and the media being physically ejected.

It seems bizarre after watching this, but the WHO at the time actually tried to say that their obnoxious behaviour was not their fault at all; that instead it was those evil tobacco companies just making it all up.

You have the proof above, what are your thoughts?

I might like, at this point, to remind you that Geneva, the venue for COP8, isn't far away and 2018 isn't either. Keep an eye on flights cos they're cheaper if you book early.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Farewell To The Raccoon Arms

Today brought some pretty flattening news with the publication of a short article by Anna Raccoon announcing that she is closing her blog.

If you are not aware of Anna, she has been one of the finest - if not the finest - libertarian bloggers in the UK for nearly ten years. Always written in a warm and chatty manner - with a large number of dedicated followers in the comments - her site was likened more to a cosy saloon bar chat in front of the fireside rather than a writer issuing forth from a soap box.

She has been suffering health problems for a few years and has disappeared for varying lengths of time previously (sometimes this has also been to thwart angry mobs when she touches on a taboo subject, which she has never been afraid to do), but this would appear to be the final last orders at "The Raccoon Arms".
There is nothing more to be said. This really is goodbye. I may tweet occasionally, I shall certainly watch the world go mad from a distance – and I shall spend a lot of time curled up next to Mr G for as long as I can.
As someone who began blogging in 2008 when Anna was producing content that had national dailies pricking up their ears and scouring her pages on a regular basis, the news that her site will not be there anymore is quite upsetting.

Her content has been quite simply awesome. Astute and incredibly rigorous, she has attracted the respect and admiration of journalistic commentators, and regularly put many in the news profession to shame with her attention to detail and almost bloodhound-like determination to verify sources and evidence.

Although long time readers here will mostly remember her partnering up with Old Holborn to spring Nick Hogan from prison, her articles have often been electric and searing on extremely spiky subjects. Tackling stories such as Savile from a position of accuracy rather than hysteria is not an easy thing to do, and her weaving of personal accounts into her writing - as she has done brutally in recent days - is as brave as it is hypnotically compelling.

And now it looks like that is all stopping. It is a sad day.

I first met Anna in person in 2008, and have spoken to her by phone and email occasionally since. She has always been a source of wisdom and guidance, both with offering her legal and administrative experience of running a site like this and also on the odd personal matter.

She will be sorely missed, and there will now be a big empty space in the libertarian blogosphere and my blogroll which I can't see anyone else filling adequately. So tonight I'll be raising one last glass of cheer for The Raccoon Arms, sadly closed but never to be forgotten.