Wednesday, 20 March 2019

A Voter Looking For A Cause




What a complete and utter clusterfuck UK politics has become. It has been going downhill for many years, but since the UK voted to leave the European Union, we have been able to clearly see the disconnect between what the people want and what our so-called ‘betters’ in Government actually think we want. Actually, it is far more than a disconnect, it is actually that the Politicians are scared stiff of actually having to make a decision for themselves and many more of them are scared that their noses are going to be forced from the very lucrative trough they all have their noses in.

It has got so bad that I now consider myself to be a Voter Looking For A Cause. Politics in the UK is so fucked up that I really cannot see any party that I would seriously consider voting for. Furthermore, the UK as a whole voted to Leave the European Union. Yet these same politicians seem determined to deny the will of the people and keep us in the EU. If that happens, then democracy in this country is well and truly dead and I question whether it is even worth casting a vote at all.

So, in my simplistic way (and to stop this blog entry from becoming an essay), I will go through the reasons why each of the parties cannot currently secure my vote.

At a UK level, we see a Labour party that will promise anything to get in to power, knowing full well that they will be unable to deliver any of it. The so-called ‘progressive’ party is riddled with instances of anti-semitism at every turn, and has some serious racists in their midst who seem to delight at trying to stoke up racial hatred at every turn (you know who they are). They continually roll-out vaccuous non-entities (who somehow got elected as MP’s) spouting completely incomprehensible policies, only to find that the next vaccuous non-entity they roll out completely contradicts what the previous non-entity has just said on National TV or in the MSM. Nobody has a clue what Labour stands for or what it wants. The only thing one can say with certainty is that Labour does NOT represent those upon which the party was formed over a century ago – the Working Class. The only people Labour seem to represent these days are the 'Metropolitan Elite'.That they consistently trail the Conservatives in opinion polls just shows that the people have no idea what Labour stands for either. Any party that cannot overhaul the complete ineptitude being shown in the Conservative Party over Brexit is in serious trouble.

Speaking of the Conservatives, where do we even start with this lot. Elected on a manifesto of taking us out of the European Union, they seem to spend much of their time consistently shooting themselves in the foot. It started with the installation of Theresa May as Leader of their party (and consequently as the Prime Minister), following the resignation of the equally useless (and vaccuous) David Cameron. Who could have believed that Theresa May would go on to make Cameron look like an absolute genius in comparison. One of her first acts as Prime Minister was to give platitudes such as ‘Brexit Means Brexit’ and promises to deliver the will of the people. All things which she would go on to hamstring herself at every turn. She started by calling a General Election which resulted in her instantly losing the comfortable majority that the Conservatives had previously held and then spent the rest of her time desperately thrashing this way and that as she fought a rear-guard action against circumstances entirely of her own making. Her biggest mistake was allowing party members who had campaigned on a manifesto of leaving the EU, to completely ignore the will of their constituents and campaign against May to try and frustrate the Brexit process. The result is a Conservative Party that is likely to be completely crucified at the next General Election (whenever that may be).

Of the other parties, little better can be said.

The Liberal Democrats have proved to be neither Liberal or Democrats. They came out all guns blazing demanding that the will of the people be overturned and that we stay in the European Union. Then they campaigned vociferously for a so-called ‘Peoples Vote’, or a second referendum as it should be known. This resulted in the almost complete and utter wipe-out of the Liberal Democrats in ANY Government – Local or National. Now they are more often than not just an irrelevant side-note for most National TV and MSM reports. A joke to the majority of the country.

UKIP dramatically and spectacularly imploded as well once the Brexit vote was delivered. Nigel Farage stepped out of the hot-seat and ushered in a dramatic civil war in their ranks which has seen them lurch so far over to the right that they are practically out of the picture. Leaders have come and gone, whilst members have deserted the party in their droves. It has got to the point that I would imagine that few people can even name any of the elected politicians they still have in their ranks.

The SNP are in an unusual position as Scotland actually voted to remain in the EU. Therefore, they are one of the few parties that operate at a (UK) National level that can genuinely claim to be representing their people. Though even there, I am aware of large numbers of Scottish Nationalists who did NOT vote to remain in the EU. The problem that the SNP have (IMHO) is the person who leads them. I don’t know what it is about Nicola Sturgeon, but I just want to turn the TV off whenever that woman appears. She too comes out with complete vaccuous nonsense and, like Theresa May, managed to lose a considerable majority of MP’s during the last General Election. She still has those politicians at a Scottish Government level of course, but there has been no further elections for the Scottish Government since the Brexit vote was delivered so we have no way of knowing if her majority in the Scottish Parliament will be similarly affected until another Scottish Election happens. While I can see some of the arguments for Scottish Independence, the fact remains that the Scottish people voted to stay as part of the Union a few years ago. Anyway, I cannot see the SNP gaining any traction for Independence while Sturgeon remains in charge.

The DUP are the DUP. Northern Irish politics is a political minefield at the best of times and all I can say of them is that they have the ability to make or break Theresa May as a result of the alliance they currently have with the Conservatives.

The Greens I am just going to ignore as they have only one elected MP and as far as I am concerned are a party full of fruitcakes who would return us all to living the life of serfdom a la the 16th Century if they had their way.

Now, as I am Welsh, I am not going to discuss Plaid Cymru at a National Level, but rather from a Welsh perspective (especially as I do have the option to vote for PC if I wanted to, an option I wouldn’t have in relation to the SNP) and therefore at a Welsh National Level.

So what of Welsh politics ? Let’s put that into a bit of perspective.


Up until 10 years ago, I had never been much of a political animal. Sure, I’d vote (if I was not away working somewhere), but I had always kept politics at an arms length. But over the last 10 years, that has changed very much.

I grew up in one of the many mining communities that were once common across South Wales. I was very much working class and very much a product of the working class. Growing up in the Amman Valley, you either voted Labour or Plaid Cymru. It was an area that was thoroughly immersed in what we would now call the ‘old’ Wales. Everybody spoke Welsh as a first language in the Amman Valley then. Just about the only time you ever heard English being spoken was when somebody from ‘outside the area’ found themselves in the village (I can tell many anecdotes of English tourists finding themselves lost in the village and asking for directions to places they had no hope of ever pronouncing properly). Indeed, I still remember the buzz around the village the day S4C was launched – and the complete disappointment the following day once everybody had realised that they couldn’t understand barely a word uttered by that ‘Gog’ that read the news (a 'Gog' is a coloquial term often used in South Wales to describe somebody from North Wales) !!

In those days (1970/80’s) there was very clear ground separating Plaid Cymru and Labour. I know that many were torn between supporting the Nationalist cause or supporting the Working Class cause. But both Plaid Cymru and Labour have shifted substantially since those days.

Labour in Wales (I won’t call them Welsh Labour as they are merely the Welsh Branch of the UK Labour Party) are not any different than Labour as a UK whole. The main difference in Wales is that Labour has been in constant control of most Welsh Constituencies for over a century, and has been the party in power since the Welsh Assembly (now Government) was first formed in 1999. They have relied on the old adage that people vote Labour because it is what their Fathers and Grandfathers did. But where has it got Wales ? Precisely nowhere is the answer.

Wales has spent the last 20 years under Labour rule stagnating and declining. We have consistently the worst Education standards, the worst performing NHS, little to no real industry and a country that is deteriorating and worst performing than any other country of a similar size to be found anywhere in the world. On top of that, Labour spend most of their time blaming the UK Government for this stagnation and waste (other than in Cardiff for which there is always an open purse of money available), ignoring the fact that it is they that hold the purse strings for Wales and it is they that waste the monies they do have on hair-brained schemes (that inevitably fail), consultations and the plethora of third-sector ‘charities’ that leech off Welsh Government funds, rarely improving the lives of the people they purport to serve and usually staffed by people who enjoy the patronage (or are paid members of) the Labour Party. Furthermore, the Labour Party in Wales seem determined to control every single aspect of the lives of the population through to their life choices, right down to what we eat and drink. You only have to look at the policies and legislation they have brought through to see how the population have been ‘infantilised’ such that we are rarely able to decide how we choose to live our lives or have any kind of freedom of speech, thought or act. That’s not to say that all their Assembly Members (AMs) are just as bad. I have met a few good ones, but they are very much in the minority.

Furthermore, Wales voted to Leave the EU, yet Labour in Wales are campaigning to try and keep Wales in the EU. How does that represent the people ?

The Conservatives in Wales suffer from the clusterfuck that is going on in Westminster. They often have some interesting ideas to improve life and standards, which I feel could be worth a shot in Wales. But it is highly unlikely that they will ever have a majority in the Welsh Government to be able to try any of those policies out. So we will never know.

The Liberal Democrats in Wales crashed even more spectacularly in Wales than they did at UK level. Such that now they only have one sitting AM (in Kirsty Williams), but that she sits as part of the Welsh Government alongside Labour (as Education Secretary). Now I will admit that I quite like Kirsty as a person (I have met her), and she has done some good things in the past. However, I was extremely disappointed that she chose to take up the offer to sit as part of the Labour-controlled Government. I am not even convinced of how much autonomy she has in the role she currently holds.

UKIP in Wales are an even bigger joke than the UK version. They too have been hit with people leaving the party and numerous scandals. Not least of which is the fact that they chose the disgraced Neil Hamilton (he of ‘brown envelope’ fame) as their Welsh Leader. I have to admit that I cringe every time I hear either him or any of their other remaining AMs speak in the Senedd.

Which brings us finally to Plaid Cymru.
The Plaid Cymru of today are an enigma to me. They claim to be a nationalist party that is dedicated to establishing an ‘Independent’ and ‘Free’ Wales. But almost everything they do, or seem to stand for, would suggest the complete opposite. Their policies are so left-wing that they are indistinguishable from the policies of the Labour Party. Furthermore, I cannot see how any political party that claims to want Independence for Wales can also want to remain a part of the European Union. The clue is in the name guys:

Independence

noun

Also independency. the state or quality of being independent.
freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others.
Archaic . a competency.

As far as I am concerned I cannot see how any party that campaigns for Independence would want to remain shackled to the European Union. That is NOT Independence, that is merely discarding one Master, only to install another in its place. For that reason alone, I could never vote for Plaid Cymru in any future election (and yes, they have occasionally had my vote). I had expectations when Adam Price took over as Leader of PC that the party might actually move back to what it was originally supposed to be when Saunder Lewis founded it all those years ago. But Price has been a complete disappointment on that front. Plus he is one of the loudest proponents for staying in the EU AND for a Second Referendum, despite the fact that his own constituency voted to LEAVE.

Conclusion
To get my vote, one of the parties would need to get reasonably near to what I want to see happen in my own country – Wales.

I want to see a Wales of opportunity, where hard work and enterprise is rewarded, not hamstrung. I want to see a Wales where the people are free to make their own life choices and be encouraged to do so. I want to see a prosperous and vibrant Wales where the people are valued for the contribution they can make to everyday life. A Wales where the red tape is cut out along with the vast waste of money that we constantly see on a daily basis. This would bring a prosperous Wales where enterprise is valued and brings jobs and prosperity to the country such that our young people do not continually have to leave Wales to succeed. A land of opportunity, challenge and freedom to choose. I do not want a Government that constantly hectors, harasses and restricts what we can do or achieve. I want a Wales to be proud of, a Wales that attracts investment and more opportunities. An outgoing and welcoming place, not the tired and delapidated country and industry that Labour seems to think we want and deserve. I want a Wales that is capable of standing on its own two feet, not constantly relying on handouts.

Does that mean an Independent Wales ?
It could. If an Independent Wales delivered the vision I detailed in the previous paragraph, then I could genuinely and enthusiastically support that.

The thing is, is there a political party that could deliver that ? My vote awaits the one that shares my vision.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

1990





1990 was a TV series that aired in 1977 on the BBC. It starred Edward Woodward in the lead role and was based on the novel by Wifred Greatorex. It was quite groundbreaking in its time, depicting as it did, a dystopian future not dissimilar to the more famous one written by George Orwell that became ‘1984’.

A quick synopsis can be gathered from Wikipedia, but I will include the background summary of the world depicted that I obtained from that source:

This state of affairs was precipitated by an irrecoverable national bankruptcy in 1981, triggering martial law. In the general election, only 20% voted. The economy (and imports) drastically contracted forcing stringent rationing of housing, goods and services. These are distributed according to a person's LifeScore as determined (and constantly reviewed) by the PCD on behalf of the union-dominated socialist government. As a consequence, the higher-status individuals appear to be civil servants and union leaders. An exception to this are import/export agents, which appear to be immune to state control due to their importance to the remnants of the economy. The House of Lords has been abolished and turned into an exclusive dining club. State ownership of businesses appears to be near-total and prohibition of wealth and income appears to be very high. The reigning monarch is male due to the unfortunate death of the previous monarch (Elizabeth II) but his identity is never made clear. The currency is the Anglodollar (replaced the pound sterling in 1982 due to economic collapse) which appears to have little value overseas due to the international boycott of British exports. The armed forces have been run down to the extent that they are little more than an internal security force. This is made clear in one episode where the RAF is depicted as consisting of little more than a handful of Harrier Jump Jets and a few dozen counter-insurgency helicopters. Despite this National Service has been re-introduced (via the Youth Behaviour Control Act 1984 which enforces conscription and Genetic Crimes Act 1985, which makes sexual offences punishable by hanging). It is said that in 1986 two Army Generals and a retired Air Chief Marshal attempted a coup against the government, but it failed. 

Although running the bureaucratic dictatorship, the state appears to shy away from explicit political violence, preferring to set up psychiatric pseudo-hospitals called "Adult Rehabilitation Centres" which employ electro-convulsive treatments to 'cure' dissidents. Ordinary criminals found guilty of traditional and new economic and social crimes are prevented from clogging up the prison system by having short sentences during which they are force-fed "misery pills" (via the Oral Swallowing Induction Device, which was first tested at Ashworth Asylum for the Genetically Defective on Ian Brady and 21 others), which induce severe depression and agony during their incarceration. Despite this, fatalities and injuries do occur due to the PCD's lack of democratic accountability but these are misreported or ignored by the state-controlled press and television or are suppressed by the print unions on the last independent newspaper in the UK. The state can also declare a person to be a "non-citizen" which denies them any entitlement whatsoever to consumer goods, accommodation or food. (This often happens to sex offenders, even ones who have served their sentence and been released.) Labour is controlled by a mandatory closed shop in every workplace. For at least part of the series, the country is on a three-day working week, presumably to conserve energy or to promote full employment through job sharing. Taking a second job ("moonlighting") is illegal as is "parasitism", defined as claiming state benefits while fit for work. Ombudsman's Courts which are fixed in favour of the state are the key part of the legal system. 

Emigration is a key problem with a steady "brain drain" countered by PCD Emigration officers who try to watch every port and airfield. Despite this, professional and skilled labour is fast disappearing from the country in a similar manner to East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

So why am I discussing this TV Series from 40 years ago ?

Because recent events that have made the news has made me realise how this dystopian vision is actually in serious danger of becoming a reality. 

In the TV series we have the PCD (Department of Public Control) who dictate every aspect of how one may live your life. There is strict rationing of food, housing and services, with what you get strictly regulated by your ‘Life-score’ (i.e. how useful you are to society). Private businesses are illegal (everybody must work in a mandatory closed-shop ‘Union-controlled’ workplace), taking a second job is illegal (parasitism), Ombudsman’s Courts are fixed in favour of the state, a free press are suppressed by the print unions, Britain is isolated as the rest of the world will not trade with it, emigration is illegal (though escape is still possible as shown by the ‘brain-drain’ which sees the most talented people constantly fleeing to other countries.

In real life Britain of 2018, for the PCD, read Public Health. In real-life Britain 2018, we have Public Health trying to exert an ever greater stranglehold on the civil liberties we used to take for granted (can you guess what ‘Life-Score’ Public Health people would have ?). We have seen the recently introduced Soda Taxes, Sugar taxes, proposals to tax red meat, proposals to put cancer warnings on alcohol (and meat) as examples.

Even the Government depicted in 1990 has eerie parallels to what the Momentum (and Trade Union) controlled Labour party want to do. In recent months we have had various people in the Labour party (and indeed Trade Unions) calling for Press regulation. We have heard John McDonnell calling for Nationalisation of our industries, another Labour MP only this week calling for all housing to be nationalised. The Left are also trying hard to suppress free speech and are always screaming for more and more so-called hate-crimes to be investigated with greater zeal than real crimes. We have even had calls from some quarters of the Left trying to incite people to kill anybody who does not agree with their extreme left-wing views.

The parallels are quite uncanny. The only things in the series that we do not (yet) have in real-life 2018  are the ‘Adult Rehabilitation Centres’ centres and the force-feeding of ‘misery’ pills to prisoners who have very short sentences.

About the only thing depicted in the series (which, as the title suggests, is set in 1990) that they got wrong is that in the 1990 TV Series, everybody still smokes. I put this down to the year that 1990 was actually made as a TV series. In 1977, nobody could have dreamed that smoking would be illegal in enclosed public spaces, let alone that moves would be afoot to banish smoking from ALL public spaces.

I really do recommend you view this TV Series when you have the chance. I believe it is available on DVD, and you can also find episodes on Youtube (and for the tech-savvy you can find it through Bittorrent). There were two series of eight episodes each. The 1970’s filming techniques have not aged well, but the acting is very good and the series ia very dark, gritty drama. Even more so when you take into consideration the 1970’s TV habit of having extremely minimal background music.

It is a dark, apocryphal, scary look into what this country could become. What worries me is that the more I watch the different episodes, the more I see that world becoming a reality with what I am seeing in 2018 ‘modern’ Britain.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Sticks & Stones


The last week has seen an extraordinary spat break out across social media all because it has been revealed that some vape stores are going to start stocking IQOS. Then a whole new level of stupid was reached by the (over) reaction from certain quarters to the news that the New Nicotine Alliance supports this move.



I have watched dumbfounded as people have declared open season on anyone who dares to show any kind of support for IQOS because (shock & horror) it is made by the tobacco giant PMI. I don’t recall seeing the same reaction to ecigs such as Ploom, Blu, Vype etc – all of which are owned by tobacco companies.


However, for some reason which defies all logic, the organisation which has borne the brunt of the criticism is the New Nicotine Alliance because they have openly supported IQOS.

Many others have also pointed this out, but I will say it again anyway. The hint is in the name. The New NICOTINE Alliance. It means precisely what it says. The NNA supports ALL forms of harm reduction products that contain nicotine. That includes vaping, snus, nicotine patches (yes, really) AND it includes IQOS. If it comes under the umbrella of HARM REDUCTION from lit tobacco, then the NNA will support it.


However, because IQOS is made by Philip Morris International Plc (a tobacco company), some self-righteous vapers have taken it upon themselves to openly abuse and troll the NNA.


I’ll admit that I have never tried the IQOS (I have tried the ecigs made by tobacco companies and found them vile). But some good friends of mine have tried the IQOS and found it to be quite palatable. I also know of a number of smokers (who did not like ecigs) who have tried IQOS and are also very impressed with it. Some of them have actually quit smoking altogether as a result of trying the IQOS.


The evidence-base around how much harm reduction is given by IQOS is still quite sparse. That is to be expected, it is a very new product. But we do already know enough to say with confidence that it is most definitely a harm reduction tool. The evidence-base around ecigs was also very sparse when they first appeared. I have been vaping for almost 8 years and even when I started vaping the evidence-base was sparse. However, right from the start, we always knew that ecigs were a tremendous harm reduction tool. We did not know how much harm reduction we were getting, we just knew they were working because we felt healthier and fitter with no adverse effects. Now of course, more than 10 years into the ecig story, the evidence base has grown exponentially in favour of ecigs – proving what we all knew all along, that ecigs are an effective harm reduction tool.


But it seems that some of the ‘vaping evangelist’ types out there are not prepared to give IQOS a chance because it is made by a tobacco company. The hypocracy is quite stark.

I do not recall anybody criticising the NNA when they announced that they were to challenge the snus ban in the ECJ.. In fact, the general mood was that the NNA had made a fantastic move by deciding to challenge the snus ban. Nobody made a fuss that the NNA was working with Swedish Match in the snus-ban challenge in the ECJ. But Swedish Match are also a tobacco company. Sure, they are not one of the big tobacco companies of the standing of PMI, but a tobacco company they are nonetheless. Lest we forget, snus is a smokeless tobacco product that is placed inside the mouth, and that is what Swedish Match’s main business is. However, Swedish Match also make Cigars. Yes, you read that right, Swedish Match make cigars – which are most definitely NOT a smokeless tobacco product. In fact Swedish Match have quite a large proportion of the American cigar market (just behind the three big players).


So, you can clearly see what I mean by hypocracy. Ecigs that are made by tobacco companies are fine. A heat not burn product made by a tobacco company is not. The NNA supporting a tobacco company (Swedish Match) to overturn a European Union snus ban is fine. The NNA supporting heat not burn product (IQOS) made by a different tobacco company is not.


Confused yet ?


Apparently, two of the biggest critics of the NNA (and of several prominent advocates) have been two Youtube Vape ‘Reviewers’ called ‘Vaping With Vic’ & ‘Empire Vape Co’. You can find an article of their outpourings here.


I have to admit that whilst I have been vaping for almost 8 years, I have never heard of either of these people. There are plenty of vape ‘reviewers’ out there that I have heard of, and even know, but I have never heard of these guys.


However, like a lot of the people they have chosen to criticise, I have been heavily involved in vape advocacy for many, many years. I have no doubt that many of you reading this article will be surprised to hear that because you will never have heard my name spoken in the same breath as the advocates that these reviewers (and their apparent supporters) have been attacking on social media.


However, I can assure you that I have done a LOT of advocating (as most of the other UK advocates will attest to). I have sat in front of a huge number of politicians, scientists, medical personnel, tobacco control people and public health people and argued the case for vaping. I have also been on countless demonstrations, flashmobs and protests against impending laws, legislations and bans. In all that time not ONCE have I ever seen any Youtube vape reviewer get up off their arse and actually advocate.


I can attest to the many HUGE sacrifices that advocates make on the behalf of millions of vapers across the UK, USA and the world. You will not find one advocate who has ever earned even a single penny from their advocacy. Similarly, those same advocates often give up huge amounts of their personal time, often taking time off work and thus sacrificing their holiday entitlements to advocate for ecigs. Advocating for ecigs also puts a great strain on families as an advocate is often called away (usually at short notice) to speak in front of some committee or another, or to help an organisation develop a sensible strategy/policy on vaping. Many advocates have paid a price with their health as a result of the strain that advocacy places upon them. One advocate was even placed in danger as a result of engaging in advocacy (but that is a story that will not be told here).


They all did all that because they believe in what they are doing and because nobody else was prepared to do it. So, before you people (and you know who you are) start shooting your mouths off at such advocates, just think about where the vaping scene would be without those advocates.


The advocates I refer to have been instrumental in stopping the worse parts of the TPD being enacted (none of the Youtube Vape Reviewers would have such channels now if the TPD had been enacted the way the EC originally envisaged because the EC wanted to BAN such channels). Those same advocates are the reason why such bodies as Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians openly support ecigs. Those same advocates are also the reason why UKCTAS, NiCE and many other health organisations have issued such ecig-friendly advice and policies. Those same advocates are the reason why bans on ecigs in public places have not been enacted in many countries around the world and those same advocates are your best ally and hope to stop any future detrimental ecig laws being enacted. Because those advocates have got themselves in to the corridors of power and are best placed to influence the decision-makers and law-makers/legislators from ever implementing bad laws around ecigs and vaping.


Those advocates have sacrificed a LOT so that you don’t have to. Those advocates are the biggest reason why you still have the choice to choose between using an ecig, an IQOS or (hopefully) snus. Think about that before you have a pop with ill-informed and misguided barbs and attacks in their direction. Because if you don’t you might find that the next time some ban on ecigs is proposed those same advocates will have walked away in disgust and the ban will come in unopposed.


If that happens you will have no-one to blame but yourselves.






Footnote:

If you want to use ecigs exclusively, that is your choice. If you want to use IQOS, that is also your choice. Just thank your lucky stars you have that choice. Don’t be like the ANTZ and start spouting ‘my way or the highway’. That’s not how freedom of choice works and, in my opinion, taking that kind of stance makes you no better than the likes of Glantz/Chapman/McKee’s of this world.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Opinions, Opinions

In my last blog-post, I elaborated on the fact that I consider myself a Libertarian. That is, that I believe that everybody has the right choose to live the way they want to live their lives, without hassle, without busybodies like Public Health and Government constantly dictating what we should and should not be doing/consuming. My Libertarian beliefs also extend to freedom of speech. It is the old saying of 'I may not like what you have to say, but I will defend your right to say it'.

The last few days have seen a furore erupt in Wales over the announcement of the intention to rename the second Severn Crossing as 'The Prince Of Wales' bridge. It spawned a petition and an outcry amongst many Welsh people - even including Leanne Wood, the leader of Plaid Cymru. As it happens, I also think that they could have chosen a much better name for the bridge (if they even have to rename it at all). However, it is just a bridge and I was not that bothered about what they name it - certainly not enough to sign any petitions.

Now I happen to know that quite a few people who will consider themselves Welsh Nationalists happen to read and follow my thoughts on Twitter and indeed probably read this blog from time to time. I am pretty sure that quite a few of them will not agree with what I am about to say, but I am going to say it anyway (that's Freedom Of Speech).

As most of my Twitter followers will know, I am a Welshman through and through. I can speak Welsh fluently, went to a Welsh medium school, and passionately support all things Welsh - including my defence of the Welsh Language. My three grown-up kids are also fluent in Welsh (in fact none of them spoke English at all until they were taught it in school at around 7 years old).  Yes, I know my surname is not a Welsh surname (which means somewhere along my family tree somebody 'English' must have appeared), but I have managed to trace my family tree back 200 years so far and have not yet found an English ancestor (though I have found some Scottish ancestry but that will keep for another time). So there ya go. I am Welsh and have lived in Wales my entire life, bringing my kids up as fluent Welsh speakers with very Welsh names.

Over the weekend, the flames were fanned somewhat with an article that Rod Liddle wrote for The Sunday Times. I will not put a link in because it is behind a paywall and if you don't have a subscription then you will not be able to read it anyway. However, even a cursory glance around Twitter will soon find you the content that seems to have caused so much offence. Here's a screenshot of it


Do I agree with what Rod said ?  No, absolutely not
Do I like what Rod said ? No, absolutely not

But here is the thing. What he said is not actually unusual. I spend most of my time working in England and what Rod Liddle said is bloody tame to a lot of the stuff I have heard, whether to my face, behind my back or just overheard while out and about. It happens. Deal with it. It's called Freedom Of Speech.

I have a lot of English (and Scottish, Irish) followers and friends on Twitter. A quick check back through my Twitter timeline will find all sorts of exchanges between me and those followers which are close to, or far worse than what Rod Liddle wrote above. It's called banter. They use the usual Welsh stereotypes to try and wind me up and I bite back with comments about their heritage/nationality/stereotypes. As one of my more colourful (Scottish) followers would say, it's all bollocks. I've heard it all before. In work, socially and on Social Media. Such banter is commonly heard all across these Isles. It just needs a sense of humour to cope with it as most of those who say that to me do not actually mean it, it is just banter.

I am not going to defend the content of what Rod said. I do not know the guy. I know OF him because I have read quite a lot of the articles he has written through the years AND I have seen quite a few of the speeches he has given at various functions. What I have observed of him is that he has a very dry sense of humour that some people just do not get or understand. I can say that because I also have a very dry sense of humour that is often misunderstood. Now I have no idea whether he actually meant the things he said in the article, or if he was trying to be humourous. He is well-known for coming out with controversial opinons, views and speeches throughout his career, so this is not exactly new ground. However, true Freedom Of Speech means that he should be allowed to say such things. You may not like what he says, you may not agree with what he says. You may even take offence to what he said (as many have), and that is your right. It is also your right that you do not have to listen to him or read what he says. That is your choice. What he wrote is his choice. THAT is what Freedom Of Speech is all about.

Should The Sunday Times have printed what he wrote ?

Well, The Sunday Times is a privately-owned newspaper so such decisions are entirely at the disgression of the Editor. But any worthwile newspaper will have a belief in Freedom Of Speech otherwise they would not be worth reading or they would be totally under the control of the Government (and we all know where that leads).

Some people have suggested that had that article substituted the words Wales or Welsh with any other racial or religious minority then the The Sunday Times would not have printed it as they knew they would face a storm of controversy. I have my thoughts on that but will let you , the reader, ponder on what you think.

Today I have seen calls for such articles to be legislated against. I have seen other people want to report Rod Liddle for race-hate. Still more want the Police to be knocking on his door.

Really ?  In the current climate where violent-crime, including knife and gun crime, is going through the roof, do we really need more Coppers taken off the front line to deal with somebody expressing an opinion in a newspaper that may well have been intended as a (bad) joke ?

We have already seen people locked up for things they have allegedly said on Twitter or Farcebook. The so-called 'progressives' would love to see yet more legislation enacted to stop articles such as what Rod wrote ever seeing the light of day. One more step closer to a Police State in my opinion. If legislation was enacted to stop what Rod Liddle did, then where is it going to end ?

Ever been  to a soccer match ?  The things the opposing fans call each other in chants and songs would see entire crowds locked up for hate-crime every time a match is played in that case. We are getting ever closer to 'thought-crime'.

1984 was a book of fiction. It is NOT an instruction manual no matter how hard the so-called progressives wish it was.

I have never met Rod Liddle. Maybe I will one day. If that ever happens, I will find out if he actually believes what he wrote in that article or not. Either way, if he used words like that to me, he would find it returned in kind. It is called Banter. If he is offended by it, then I will find he is not the paragon of Libertarianism that I thought he was. However, if he is amused by it, then I will know he can take it as well as give it out.

Until then ...

I did not agree with what you wrote in that article Rod Liddle. But I will defend your right to say it.

Free speech depends on such attitudes to life and society can only learn by hearing opposing views.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Splinter Cells


I have been holding my tongue over the last few days, though the temptation to lash out and say a few choice words has actually been overwhelming. I have watched as vapers have attacked other vapers, watched smoking advocates attack harm reduction advocates and vice-versa, then watched everyone attacking everyone over the new sugar tax. Now today, I have seen some people going ballistic over seeing an advert for Heat Not Burn at a Vape convention.

It seems that everybody is getting hot under the collar with everyone else over the past few days merely for a slight difference of opinion. It has to stop. At the very time when the Tobacco Control squealing has become ever louder and more and more desperate (because they can see they are losing the battle and have run out of arguments), it seems that everyone else is determined to self-destruct and engage in an orgy of name-calling, faux-outrage or silly (misplaced ?) words.

I am, and have been for some considerable time, a vaping advocate. I've done my bit online and I have also done the rounds of meeting with health officials and many, many politicians - all in the name of protecting my right to vape. I like to think I have been fairly successful in my efforts.

However, I am also proudly Libertarian. That means that I believe that everybody can enjoy the freedom to speak as they like (free speech) and live life the way they want to live their lives. Free from persecution and free from the pronouncements of interfering busybodies like Tobacco Control and/or Public Health.

If you enjoy smoking and want to continue smoking, that's fine by me. Enjoy your smoke with my blessing. I will not chastise you for your choice and neither will I shun you for your choice. Hell, if I like you, I will even sit with you and chat while you enjoy your choice.

The same goes for those who choose to enjoy harm reduction, whatever their reasons for doing so.

If snus is your choice, then go for it. I've tried it once, but didn't like it. But if it is helping you switch away from smoking, then it is working for you and I applaud you for it.

Neither have I tried Heat Not Burn. Some good friends of mine have tried it and they actually liked it. The jury is still out as to how much harm reduction you actually get from HnB, but that it is still harm reduction is without doubt. 

But it is made by Big Tobacco they cry!!

So what ?   Some ecigs are made by Big Tobacco too, but I don't see any fuss being made over that. If you don't want to use a product made by Big Tobacco, then don't. That is your right. But do not chastise other people who actually LIKE Big Tobacco's products (we were all Big Tobacco customers at one time). It is STILL harm reduction. Why should Big Tobacco not embrace harm reduction if they so choose ?   They are a business. Businesses exist to make money. If they choose to make money by embracing harm reduction, then that is their choice and I applaud them for it.

Same goes for the Sugar Tax. If a company has reduced the sugar in their product and consequently their product now tastes like shit-on-a-stick (like Ribena, Irn-Bru and Lucozade), then you are free to NOT purchase their products any more. There are plenty of companies out there that have chosen to ignore the sugar tax - Coca Cola and Pepsi are the two biggest names to stick two fingers up at the Nannies. So you have plenty of choices where you can go to get your sugar rush.

Don't be like the permanently offended masses you find on Twitter. Those offendatrons will always find something to bitch and moan about. Be smart. Be an advocate of freedom of choice.

I'll be honest. I actually thought all vapers and smokers WERE advocates of freedom of choice. I was wrong on that. Events of the past few days have proved that to me.

I will not go there. I am a Libertarian. I believe in freedom of choice. Live your life the way you want to live it. That is fine by me. I may not like your choice, but I will fight with every fibre in my body to ensure that you have that choice.

******Rant ends*******

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Get Real Tobacco Control


News reports have revealed that online streaming service - NetFlix - has got itself into hot water for the portrayal of smoking almost three times that of broadcast TV, on its programmes. The complainant according to article is The Truth Initiative - an organisation which should be sued for using a misleading name as most vapers and smokers will know that this organisation is 'liberal' with facts, evidence, science and truth, to say the least.

The complaint is not just against Netflix, other streaming services have also come in for flak. But Netflix seems to have borne the brunt of the latest criticism.

Apparently, the Netflix show that has been singled out as particularly bad for portraying smoking is the hugely popular and successful ' Stranger Things'. I have actually watched Stranger Things so for those unfamiliar with it I shall give a bit of background.

Stranger Things is a supernatural series set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana in 1983. According to The Truth Initiative, it is supposed to be a children's TV series. This is something I seriously doubt. Most children I know would be scared to death by this programme and its portrayal of monsters invading from an alternate universe. Whilst it is true that the show itself centres around a group of kids, I would in no way class this series as a kids TV programme.

Anyway, back to main thrust of this article. As stated above, Stranger Things is set in the year 1983. I remember the 1980's very well. I may have lived in the UK, rather than the USA, but I have clear memories of the 1980's (I was 20 years old in 1983). One thing I do remember of the 1980's is how prevalent smoking was. Whilst it is true that smoking had declined since the previous decade, smoking was still a very commonly witnessed activity. In the 1980's, you could still smoke just about anywhere you wished. I can remember going on holiday in 1980's and being able to light up on an aeroplane (smoking one side of the plane, non-smoking the other). I can still remember watching films in the cinema through a fug of cigarette smoke. You could smoke in your workplace, in resturants, and of course in pubs. Formula One racing was still sponsored by tobacco companies, as were tournaments in sports such as Rugby League, Darts, Snooker, Cricket, Golf. The list was endless. In Snooker and Darts, players would commonly be seen toking hard on a cigarette whilst awaiting their turn. I remember Dart-boards in particular being covered by ash that had been shaken off the darts being thrown by the smoking players. However, the universal truth of the 1980's was that smoking was ubiquitous. Yes, the rate of smoking was declining, but the fact remains was that it was to be seen everywhere.

So, given that Stranger Things is set in the year 1983, then why should it not portray smoking as it actually was in those days ?

The problem with TV these days is that they are too frightened to upset the permanently offended. People like the The Truth Initiative who, if they had their way, would airbrush the act of smoking out of every TV show and movie that has ever been made.

The whole point of making TV shows and movies is that they should be reflecting what real life is like. Even in 2018, there are still plenty of people who smoke (10 million in the UK according to ASH's latest figures). The smokers, while they may be a minority these days, still make up a large proportion of the population. Airbrushing such people out of TV programmes because they are 'undesirable' is not a true reflection of life.

If you went back to watch TV programmes that were made in the 1980's, you will find that the majority of them still featured smoking heavily. In the UK, even soap operas such Coronation Street and Eastenders featured smoking heavily (Elsie Tanner & Dot Cotton anybody ?). I can remember watching many guests on Parkinson (for example) openly smoking on TV whilst they were being interviewed..

The improvisation comedy program 'Whose Line Is It Anyway' often featured Peter Cook as one of its participants - and Cook was rarely seen on screen without his trademark cigarette. Many other comedy programmes of the day, whether sitcoms or Live performances, featured smoking. The Irish comedian Dave Allen's trademark was a cigarette and a glass of whiskey. There were plenty more like him. The USA in the 1980's was no different.

Admittedly, I have not seen the other programs mentioned in the article. But that article chose to focus on Stranger Things and the fact that there was so much smoking on screen, and I have watched Stranger Things..

Newsflash Tobacco Control. If programmes are set in a historical context then we expect them to respect that particular context. Smoking was a common sight for the majority of us in the 20th Century. In the 1980's it was still a very common sight. Stranger Things is just reflecting that reality. Just because Tobacco Control does not like that reality does not mean it did not exist. Stop trying to re-write history. That is a battle you are NEVER going to win.