Start A New Graveyard?

Via Smoking Lamp a few days back:

Six years ago, more than a dozen men with AK-47s shot their way into Akinbode Oluwafemi’s home in Lagos, Nigeria. They killed his house guard and his brother-in-law, and briefly held a muzzle to the head of one of his year-old twins.

“I do not know why I was not killed that day,” said Mr. Oluwafemi, who as deputy director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria has been one of his country’s leading antismoking activists.

He was one of several tobacco control advocates at last week’s 17th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Cape Town who in telephone conversations described violence or threats they faced as they fought the expansion of smoking in their countries.

No arrests were made in any case, and none of the victims could prove that the men assaulting or threatening them worked for the industry. But the pattern was consistent.

They were first quietly warned that they were upsetting cigarette companies, tobacco farmers or government officials connected to the industry. If the activists persisted, threats or violence escalated suddenly and unpredictably.

In 2012, Tara Singh Bam, deputy regional director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, discovered “wanted” posters with his face and those of nine other antismoking advocates — including Indonesia’s national health minister — pictured under the headline “Ten Enemies of Tobacco Farmers.”

A year later, he said, an intruder pushed into the lobby of his Jakarta apartment just as he was taking his children to school.

“He grabbed my hand and said ‘You must leave my country as soon as possible,’” said Dr. Bam, who is from Nepal. “Then he blew smoke in my face. My children started crying — and he left.”

And just two years ago, he said, he received a Facebook message warning: “Do not interfere in our tobacco affairs.” It ended with “Your coming made the atmosphere not good.”

When he looked up the sender’s name, Dr. Bam said, he found an official of the Indonesia Tobacco Growers Association.

Mr. Oluwafemi said he could not prove that his attackers were linked to the tobacco industry in his country, but he strongly suspected it. They were far better dressed and better armed than typical robbers in Nigeria, he said, and his modest home was an unpromising target in a neighborhood of mansions with Mercedes-Benzes.

Also, he added, they started firing even before they cleared the outside wall. He may have survived, he said, partly because of the chaos caused by all the shooting — the police later counted 75 empty shells.

I’m not in the least bit surprised. If anything, what’s surprising is that this sort of thing hasn’t been happening already. And been happening for a long time.

But I’m a tobacco smoker, not a tobacco producer or distributor. I spend most of my time thinking about smokers and what’s been happening to them. I hardly think about tobacco producers at all. I just buy their product. Apart from that I have nothing to do with them. Just like, apart from buying their products, I have nothing to do with dairy farmers.

And tobacco producers and distributors have been far more demonised by Tobacco Control, and for far longer, than smokers have been. Big Tobacco has been demonised for the past 50 years, if not longer. Smokers have only been feeling the heat for the past 10 or 20 years.

And people who are in the tobacco trade are people who earn their living growing and packaging and distributing tobacco products. It’s a very old business. It’s been going on for 500 years, pretty well. And now they’re probably being portrayed as being as bad as slave traders. Maybe even worse. What happens when you tell people that you’re an executive in some tobacco company these days? I bet a lot of people blanch and refuse to shake your hand. Maybe they even tell you that you should be ashamed of yourself for killing 400,000 people a year.

If you’re in the tobacco business, Tobacco Control isn’t just excluding you and demonising you: it’s also doing you out of your living, doing you out of your job. And not offering you any compensation, most likely.

If you’re a smoker, you’re merely being robbed by punitive taxation, insulted by warnings on your tobacco packs, and exiled to the outdoors. They’re small injuries, even if they slowly add up to a very large injury.

But if you’re in the tobacco business, you face losing your livelihood, and quite likely your home and everything you possess. You stand to lose everything.

And maybe in places like Nigeria or Indonesia, they don’t have well-established legal means of seeking redress when they’re injured in some way. And so you just send some boys round, armed with AK-47s, and get your redress that way.

I doubt if Philip Morris or R J Reynolds or BAT do things that way. They’ll be fighting back with lawyers through the courts. That’s the way things are done in civilised countries, much like they hold elections rather than have revolutions.

But there’s essentially a war going on. It’s a war between Tobacco Control and the tobacco business, and now a war between Tobacco Control and the world’s 1.5 billion smokers. Maybe it’s just a war between Big Pharma and Big Tobacco over who gets to sell nicotine products. Maybe Big Pharma simply wants to medicalise nicotine, and sell it as a prescription drug. Maybe Big Pharma would like to do the same with alcohol and sugar and salt as well.

But it’s a war either way, and in wars people die. I’ve already got a graveyard full of smokers who have died in this war. And the people in Tobacco Control should realise that, if they’re going to fight this war, they’re going to suffer casualties too. Some of them are going to die as well.

It’s a low level civil war. And it’s a low level civil war that’s slowly getting hotter. And it’s a civil war that is pitting Englishmen against Englishmen (most of my worst enemies are English people working in Tobacco Control), Frenchmen against Frenchmen, Spaniards against Spaniards, Americans against Americans, Russians against Russians. It’s the same everywhere, including Nigeria and Indonesia. It’s just that it’s in places like Nigeria and Indonesia that the shooting has started.

I’m hoping that governments will one day wake up to this gradually mounting civil war. Does the British government really want Englishmen killing Englishmen? Does the French government want French people killing French people? I don’t think any government anywhere wants that to happen. And so I think they’ll have to intervene to stop the war before it gets much worse.

There’s little sign of anything like that happening. Because none of these governments see this as a civil war. They see it as a Public Health campaign. And they’re on the side of Public Health. What government isn’t on the side of Public Health? Because Tobacco Control has sold them this war on tobacco (and on tobacco companies and tobacco smokers) as a Public Health initiative. They don’t know, most of them, that the Holocaust was also a Public Health initiative.

Perhaps I should start a new graveyard. A graveyard for antismokers. Antismokers who were shot dead or strangled. Or who died prematurely under suspicious circumstances. I can’t think of anyone who needs to be interred there. Sure, George Godber is dead, but he died aged 100. So is Richard Doll, but he died aged 92. And C Everett Koop too, but he died aged 96. But I’m sure the body bags will start arriving soon.

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A Fictional Trump

After watching Stephen Sackur interviewing Roger Stone on Hard Talk a day or two back, I idly clicked on a YouTube video of Stephen Sackur interviewing Stephen Pinker, who was someone I’d first come across 10 years ago as some sort of academic author with a bunch of books to his name.

In fact Stephen Pinker is a Cognitive Psychologist. And I don’t have a high opinion of psychologists. My kind of guys are scientists like Copernicus or Galileo or Kepler or Newton. They measured things. Psychologists don’t measure anything. And so for me people like Freud and Jung and all the rest of them (including Jordan Peterson) may as well have written best-selling fiction novels.

Anyway, the interview kicked off promisingly with Pinker talking about the Enlightenment, and saying that it was a late 18th century movement that put a premium on reason = as opposed to authority, tradition, and dogma -, and on science – the testing of hypotheses -, and on humanism in which the well-being of individual humans was regarded as the ultimate good – as opposed to the glory of the nation or the tribe -. And it was under threat from a counter-enlightenment that had arisen during the 19th century, in the form of the romantic movement, the glorification of blood and soil, militarism, and the idea that the individual is really just a cell in a super-organism consisting of nations or races or ethnic groups.

Good stuff, I thought, and wondered whether to make some more tea and toast and butter, and settle in to avidly watch the whole thing, particularly because Pinker looked just like an 18th century Enlightenment thinker with his mass of frizzy grey hair.

But then, barely 3 minutes in, the conversation took an unexpected turn:

Pinker: …And we are seeing a resurgence of counter-enlightenment thinking in authoritarian populism, in Trumpism in the United States, in the populist movements in eastern Europe.

Sackur: You’re sort of suggesting that Trumpism in the United States is, as far as you are concerned, an utterly illogical, counter-productive, political movement.

Pinker: So I would argue. It’s counter-productive indeed. Talking about the intellectual roots of Trumpism sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, but in fact it does have a pedigree. He was advised by people like Steve Bannon (and others), who consider themselves intellectuals, who are influenced by a counter-enlightenment tradition. And you can see some of the themes of Trumpism, such as that there is an inherent virtue in a particular people, whose soul is embodied in a strong leader, who needn’t be encumbered by the millstone of an administrative state but just voices their goodness directly. These are themes that run through the counter-enlightenment…

Sackur: It would seem to me that Donald Trump’s politics is a politics driven by emotion, driven by an appeal to a person’s gut instincts rather than necessarily their rational brain, and he connects. The skill of Donald Trump is that, unlike many of his political rivals, he found and continues to find a way to connect with a very significant part of the American population.

Pinker: Indeed….

I almost dropped my toast into my tea at that point. The programme had turned into a carefully choreographed attack on Donald Trump. Trumpism, we were being told, was the resurgence of counter-enlightenment romanticism and authoritarianism and militarism. And although the H-bomb wasn’t dropped into the conversation, it was clear that Trump was being portrayed as pretty much a new Hitler, only connecting with the gut instincts of Americans rather than their (rudimentary) brains. The only surprise about Trump was that he wasn’t yet wearing epaulettes and dark glasses. And the implicit message was that it was the Democrats and the Left who were now the sole champions of reason and enlightenment.

Was that the Donald Trump I knew? What had attracted me about Donald Trump when he first appeared as a presidential candidate in 2015? I think it was that he was so politically incorrect. He was loud, and he was brash. He broke all the rules. He disregarded the taboos. He was completely different from all the other cookie-cutter politicians with their speechwriters and pollsters and focus groups. He was a real person, and almost a force of nature, and there was nobody in America quite like him. If he connected with the American people it was because he was one of them, and spoke like one of them, and addressed what he knew from personal experience of talking to them were their real concerns.

The Donald Trump that Stephen Pinker and Stephen Sackur were constructing was a fictional Trump. They were frightened that Trump might be a new Hitler, and they were looking at him through terrified eyes. Their Trump was what they were projecting onto him. And if the projection hadn’t worked to dissuade Americans from voting for him, it was because Americans who supported him knew that he wasn’t any of those things.  Coarse, loud, brash? Yes, absolutely. Racist, sexist, islamophobic Nazi? No, absolutely not.

And it’s going to be very easy for Trump to deflate this fictional idea of what he is, by simply not doing anything they fear he might do. He hasn’t rounded up his political opponents and put them in concentration camps. And Making America Great Again wasn’t an appeal to any American super-organism, but simply meant making Americans prosperous and self-confident like they used to be back in the 50s and early 60s. It meant bringing jobs and industry back home. It meant stopping immigrant cheap labour flooding into the country, by securing the borders. Donald Trump is a businessman and entrepreneur, and he wants a thriving US economy, make and selling stuff that people want to buy. And he wants every other country in the world to do the same. He could have stood in the middle of Tiananmen Square in China and said, “You guys should go Make China Great Again”, and meant it.

Had Stephen Sackur or Stephen Pinker ever built a Trump Tower? Of course they hadn’t. They’d never made anything. They probably couldn’t even make a chocolate sponge pudding. But ordinary Americans could see what he’d done, because many of them made things too, things that worked, things that people wanted to buy. They didn’t mind getting their hands dirty. They don’t have contempt for manual labour that came from the wrong side of town.

I think that if Trump can repatriate a lot of the industry that’s moved offshore, boost the US economy, and reduce unemployment, (and Build The Wall), Americans will reward him in the mid-term elections later this year, and also in 2020. It’ll help if he can also come to some accommodation with North Korea without yet another war. And the more he doesn’t behave like the Hitler his opponents paint him to be, the more votes he’ll steal from the Democrats.

Anyway, here’s the video I’ve been referring to. I think Sackur and Pinker thought they’d done a great job on Trump, painting him to be an ogre from out of past history. But I think they just painted themselves into a corner, and they’ll regret it one day.


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Screw You Day

I rather snapped last night. I was watching Infowars, and David Knight remarked that the upmarket UK supermarket chain, Waitrose, had introduced gender-neutral Mother’s Day cards in its stores. Was it true? Within minutes I’d turned up a few other reports:

DON’T MENTION THE M-WORD Mother’s Day renamed You Day by Waitrose in bid to be more gender neutral

Waitrose has produced a ‘Happy You Day’ card in an attempt to be transgender inclusive for Mother’s Day

A SUPERMARKET has started selling gender-neutral Mother’s Day cards – as Happy You Day – in an attempt to be more “transgender inclusive”.

Waitrose has dropped the M-word from some of the Mother’s Day cards it sells and replaced the wording with “Happy You Day” as part of its range.

And I snapped. A few minutes later I had a Waitrose email address, and had written to them to say:

Having just learned that Waitrose has started selling gender-neutral Mother’s Day cards, might I suggest that Waitrose go the whole hog and endorse climate change, the EU, and Jeremy Corbyn.

I suggest that you stay out of politics and stick to just selling food to your customers. Because not everybody wishes to be Politically Correct, and those who don’t will probably not want to buy food from a supermarket chain that trumpets its Political Correctness either.

Not long afterwards, I had a response that started:

Thanks for getting in touch, we hope to personally respond to you within 48 hours, but sometimes it can take a bit longer – your case number is XXXXXXXX.

Whether I get a response or not is open to question, but I’m wondering if I’ll get a response re-asserting Waitrose’s determination to adopt gender-neutral language, and not use words like “mother”, “father”, “brother”, “sister”, etc.

I don’t usually respond to these sorts of acts of cultural vandalism. When PM David Cameron declared (unilaterally, as far as I could see) that gays would be allowed to marry, I didn’t explode. Instead I simply changed my opinion of Cameron from “trendy conservative” to “dangerous radical”.

But when a supermarket chain takes sides in the cultural war that’s going on, I’ve had enough. It’s one thing for a politician to do something political; quite another for a supermarket chain to do the same. Whatever next? When I take my car to the garage for its annual MOT next week, will the the mechanics tell me that red cars are no longer “culturally acceptable” or something? These days you never know.

David Cameron is a political casualty now, and I suspect that a few directors on the board of Waitrose will soon be casualties too. After Cameron had pulled the gay marriage rabbit out of a hat, he seemed to think he could do anything, and called the Brexit referendum, no doubt betting that the British people would roll over just as easily, and meekly agree to stay in the EU, and end the simmering debate for another 50 years. But the British people didn’t roll over, and when the votes had all been counted, Cameron resigned as PM. I don’t think he’s even an MP any more.

And I think this is going to be the fate of pretty much the entire European political class in the years to come. They’re all going to be evicted from office. Because they’ve all become far too conceited and arrogant and self-important. They think they can re-make society from above, using top-down control to tell people how to live their lives, and what to believe, and even how to speak – what words they can and can’t use. Europe is becoming conservative, and not trendy-conservative like Cameron was.

And it’s a response to a thousand small insults. Like the Waitrose ban on Mother’s Day. They’re small things, but they all slowly add up. And they push people to breaking point. And one day they snap. And you can almost hear the sound of the snapping echoing all around Europe.

Because my mother was a woman, and my father was a man. And that fact of life is going to be loudly re-asserted. And much else is going to be re-asserted as well.


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Two Topics of Conversation in the Smoky Drinky Bar

Interesting conversation in the Smoky Drinky Bar last night, between participants from England, United States, and New Zealand. A couple of the topics stood out, for me at least.

The first was prompted by Stephen Helfer, long time US smoking activist, when he said that NYC’s Audrey Silk had been trying to unite smokers, and get them to become politically engaged, to write to representatives, attend meetings, and so on. And he said she had failed.

And I said that I didn’t think Audrey Silk had been trying to unite smokers. I said that it seemed to me that she wanted to engage the enemy, and she wanted to get other smokers to engage the enemy.

I may be wrong about that. I don’t know Audrey Silk, or much about her, except that I think she was in the NYPD before she became a smoking activist. The one stand-out thing I know about her was that she showed up at some event where then-mayor Michael Bloomberg was speaking, and lit a cigarette in defiance of the (newly introduced?) indoor public smoking ban. Here’s a video of the occasion, where she lights up after giving a 2-minute-long speech:

Now this is memorable, and this is admirable, and it’s also rather heroic. But my question is: in what way does doing something like this serve to unite smokers? For I don’t I don’t think it does anything at all to do that.

Maybe it would have demonstrated a certain unity among smokers if 10 or 20 of them had all lit up simultaneously. But it was just Audrey Silk that lit up. And that meant that she was on her own. And that’s the message that any smoker watching the event would have got: we smokers are on our own. And it’s not even “we smokers”: that smoker would learn that I am on my own.

And because Audrey Silk’s cigarette was plucked from between her lips within 5 seconds of her lighting it and taking one puff, the other message this sent was: we smokers are on our own, and we’re also very easily and quickly defeated. So why bother fighting?

The way I see it, people like Audrey Silk are people who primarily want to engage the enemy. They’re only secondarily interested in uniting smokers, because they actually only want to unite them to fight the enemy. Fighting the enemy is what matters above all. Unity doesn’t matter.

And what’s true of Audrey Silk is true of lots of other people too. They all set out to engage the enemy, face to face, toe to toe, just like Audrey Silk. Dick Puddlecote does it, to the point that Deborah Arnott will leave the room whenever he walks in. And Chris Snowdon does it. And so does Simon Clark, ever ready to show up on some TV or radio chat show to put the smokers’ case in the face of assorted antismokers.

But they’re all on their own. They’re all fighting lone battles. And that’s why they all lose.

For my view is that, if you wish to engage the enemy and defeat them, you must first build an army. And until you have an army, you’re always going to lose. Every single time.

If Audrey Silk had showed up that day with a small army of smokers, would she have been so quickly and easily defeated? I doubt it. If there had been just 10 or 20 people who’d lit up along with her, it would have taken a lot longer to grab their cigarettes off them. And if there had been 100 people, it would have taken longer still. And if there had been 1000, they’d probably never have managed to overpower them at all.

So my view is: first you must build an army. And you must build an army with high morale and strong cohesiveness. And I think that to do that you must direct your attention to smokers, and not to the antismoking enemy.

The other interesting discussion, had Ross (RdM) saying that things might start to change if the legislators who passed all these smoking bans were to learn that they were being told a pack of lies by the antismoking activists. They were, he said, people who wanted to do the right thing, and if they knew the truth they’d do it..

He was quite right, of course. But it’s much easier said than done.

For how do you tell somebody the truth, and get them to believe you? And what is the truth anyway?

Most people have no way of knowing what the truth might be about more or less anything. It’s not just the truth about smoking and tobacco, but also the truth about everything else. Does carbon dioxide cause global warming? Was Stephen Paddock a lone gunman in the Las Vegas massacre? Did NASA astronauts really land on the Moon in 1969? Is the Earth round?

Most people will defer to the experts on all these matters. They’ll listen to what the LVPD says about Paddock. And they’ll listen to the climate scientists in the UN Climate Change conferences. And, above all, of course, they’ll listen to the WHO Tobacco Control experts. They’ll believe the experts. And who doesn’t?

And in believing whatever the experts say, they find themselves in the warm and cosy company of lots of other people, who also believe the experts.

The problem is a much wider problem than just smoking and tobacco. The problem is everywhere. Most people trust experts and authorities and pundits. And they usually judge them by how well dressed they are. Blue pinstripe suit and old school tie and handkerchief in the breast pocket = credible. How else do you tell if someone’s credible?

Most people are far too credulous. They believe more or less anything they’re told by anybody, if they regard them as sufficiently credible. They don’t think critically. They don’t think for themselves. They usually not prepared to say anything like: “Well, everybody else may think this, but I don’t.” And so they’re easily led by the nose anywhere where the experts want to take them. And they are led.

People need to stop believing. And I think they are beginning to stop believing. I think we’re entering a time of a complete loss of faith in everything, where people won’t trust any so-called experts about anything. They’ll want to see for themselves with their own eyes, rather than hear it secondhand from the mouth of some self-styled authority.

I was watching US political analyst Roger Stone being interviewed by Stephen Sackur on BBC Hardtalk yesterday. The key point (in my view) was touched upon 16 minutes into the YouTube video, as Sackur lounged back in his chair, and the hunched Stone leaned forward:

Stephen Sackur: “Goodness! You really, really don’t trust your own government, do you?”

Roger Stone: “Because they lie to us constantly.”

And that’s the difference between a BBC leftie like Sackur, and a conservative rightwinger like Stome. One believes his government and its intelligence agencies implicitly, and the other doesn’t. One trusts authorities and experts unquestioningly, and the other doesn’t. And you change sides when you lose trust, and stop believing.

Anyway, for those who wish to engage the enemy, here’s a link provided by Walt to FDA proposals to reduce the nicotine content of cigarettes.

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A New Smokers’ Blog

I’m delighted to report the launch of a new smokers’ blog today: Smoking Bandits International Blog. I’m always pleased to see new smokers’ blogs appear. The more people that speak up the better. I’ll be adding it to my blogroll, of course.

This one is a co-operative blog, based in Germany, with a distinctly international outlook. Its articles appear in three languages: English, French, and German.

And I have the honour of appearing in the first edition, writing about how I first started smoking, almost entirely thanks to the antismoking doctor I encountered at age 17, well known in these pages as Dr W (but given no name in the Smoking Bandits piece).

The other author who appears in the first edition is Dmitri Kossyrev, writing about the Russian experience of smoking bans. Dmitri is a well-known Russian author and smoking activist who appears regularly on Russian TV. He has also made a brief appearance in the Smoky Drinky Bar.

The Russians have an upcoming election in a couple of days time: 18 March. And Dmitri expects to see changes:

First thing you have to know is that the law enacted in 2013 is firmly associated with the man who was Russia’s President at the time of its passing, namely Dmitry Medvedev. And there were very few politicians in whole our history as unpopular as Medvedev is. Expectations are high about his post-election removal from the current prime-ministerial position, so as to give way to new generation of leaders who will replace Vladimir Putin one day.

Medvedev, Dmitri says, is a reformer. And there are few things Russians like less than “reform” of any kind. Putin, by contrast, tends towards the consensus of opinion on almost any matter, and that’s one reason why he’s very popular in Russia. Putin isn’t a smoker, but it would seem that he’s not the sort of reforming antismoker that Medvedev would seem to be.

Smoking bans are not popular in Russia, and are spearheaded (as everywhere else) by anti-smoking medics:

…they are nervous and in a hurry. That reflects the general state of the global anti-tobacco movement that feels the earth shaking under its collective feet, and pushes on with more bans and other ugly initiatives. The government officials in Russia by now know the general situation quiet well and quietly resist any new anti-tobacco initiatives, not to mention the implementation of the old ones.

In his opening piece (one of three, only two of which have so far been published), Dmitri writes about some important differences between Russia and elsewhere.

You have to have knowledge about both Russia and the outside world to see what’s the basic difference between life of smokers here and there. The difference is in the things that Russia cannot even imagine. Our smokers do not feel isolated. We are not in any way second-class citizens. Nobody (with very few exceptions) really believe that there is such thing as passive smoking that may harm somebody. We don’t have all those ugly hysterical women waving their hands in front of their faces or yelling “I can’t breathe!”. We don’t, simply speaking, have the grassroots idiocy that makes life of smokers intolerable in the US or some parts of Europe.

This should be no surprise. Up until about 1990, the then Soviet Union was a quite separate society from the Western world, and engaged in a Cold War with it. So Russia never had Doll and Hill, or Wynder and Graham, or C Everett Koop or George Godber. Antismoking is very much a Western disease, and it has only been very recently that Russians have encountered antismokers in any numbers (although Tolstoy seems to have been one). Russian smoking prevalence is variously estimated as between 40% and even 60%, by contrast with the 20% now current in the Western world. In fact, it seems that the further east anyone goes, the higher the prevalence of smoking, until you get to the international date line in the Pacific, where smoking prevalence abruptly drops to 20%, rather like the date and time of day.

…the bans in the West came after mass brainwashing, while in Russia the reverse was true. And even the brainwashing, which is very much there by now, is been viewed (with disdain) as the government’s totally doomed attempt to repeat its usual folly. Russia has a long history of governments trying to impose on people something that is supposed to improve general health and lifestyle. Such attempts invariably end with disasters. The most recent case was the “semi-dry” laws and regulations, introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985, right after his coming to power.

Yes, we in the West have been brainwashed. We used to think that it was the Russians who did all the brainwashing, but really it was our own governments that were brainwashing us.

The Russian method of resistance is one of a dogged refusal to give in.

…we are never actively resisting unpopular measures. We rather ignore them by communal consensus, sabotage them at the slightest chance, and that kind of resistance has proved, through the centuries, to be invincible.

I think that, actually, this may also be the English way as well. For we also have a history of doggedly refusing to give in, even when the situation seems utterly hopeless, and defeat is staring us in the face. And whenever I see smokers in English pub gardens, openly and unashamedly smoking, I see people who are, in their own small way, doggedly refusing to give in to the barrage of antismoking propaganda to which they have, every single one of them, been subjected to for the entirety of their lives (and not just the past 20-30 years as in Russia).

Perhaps the most interesting thing Dmitri has to say is about how leaders are chosen in Russia:

Russia does not have a civic society like in the West. It belong to a very long list of consensus-seeking societies. The most common case of such approaches is manifested in the way we choose our leaders. Like in China, Kazakhstan and so on, the nation starts from reaching a general agreement on who the leader should be, while elections are only a formal act of endorsement of that decision. Funny, but the agreement comes as if by itself, and the media or other means of mass communications are powerless to impose their will on the public. While a really contested election is usually viewed as a sign of a diseased state of the society.

If I understand him right, this means that Russians already know what the result of Sunday’s election will be. And he is perhaps suggesting that the unpopular (and non-consensual) Medvedev is likely to be one of its casualties. I will be very interested to see whether this is what actually transpires.

By contrast, perhaps the enormously divisive US election 18 months ago actually did indicate a “diseased state of society”, even though these sorts of divisive elections are the norm in the Western world, where elections are always fought between antagonists who are like boxers in a boxing ring.

I look forward to reading Dmitri’s third and final piece in Smoking Bandits. And I’m looking forward to reading my own second piece, which I have promised to write, and have no idea right now what it will be about.

As was today’s piece here on my own blog, as a matter of fact – for I seldom have any idea what I’m going to write about until I pick up a pen and watch the words flow out of the end of it.

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Crying Wolf Too Long

Via Roobeedoo a few days back:

According to a World Health Organization doctor, a global pandemic is imminent, and no one will be prepared for it when it hits. Dr. Tedros Adhanom, director-general for WHO, has said that the next outbreak that will hit us will be a “terrible” one, causing a large death all over the world.

“Humanity is more vulnerable in the face of epidemics because we are much more connected and we travel around much more quickly than before,” said WHO specialist in infectious diseases Dr. Sylvie Brand.

“We know that it is coming, but we have no way of stopping it,” said Brand.

According to Dr. Tedros, the flu is extremely dangerous to everyone living on the planet.This fear was also promoted by experts at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last month.

The claims came exactly 100 years after the 1918 Spanish flu that claimed 50 million lives and killed three times as many people as World War I. A mutated strain is the most likely contender to wipe out millions because it can join together with other strains to become deadlier.

“This is not some future nightmare scenario. A devastating epidemic could start in any country at any time and kill millions of people because we are still not prepared.”

“The world remains vulnerable. We do not know where and when the next global pandemic will occur, but we know it will take a terrible toll both on human life and on the economy,” said Dr. Tedros.

I think he’s quite right. It’s one reason why I pay attention to epidemics like Ebola and Zika. They can travel all over the world very quickly. And there’s not much to stop them.

However, not everyone is so sure of Tedros’ terrible warnings…

“Hidden underneath this fear-mongering message of a global pandemic is a far more sinister W.H.O. agenda,” warns Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, publisher of

“The real agenda is a global push for blind, fear-based acceptance of unsafe, unproven vaccines that will be rolled out alongside the next global pandemic,” Adams warns.

“Fear circumvents rational thinking, which is why the vaccine-pharma cartels routinely turn to irrational fear propaganda to demand absolute and unquestioning acceptance of risky medical interventions that should always be scrutinized for safety and efficacy.” –Natural News

And I think Adams is quite right too. Fortunately, nobody seems yet to have produced a vaccine against tobacco (or maybe they have?) But if they did, Tobacco Control would be pushing for a mass vaccination programme. And once you’d been vaccinated, you would never be able to enjoy a smoke again. And once you’d got the alcohol vaccination too, you’d never be able to enjoy a beer or a whisky or a glass of wine again. And so on, with more or less everything else. After all, that’s what they want: an end to pleasure.

And the way they work is always to push for blind, lie-driven, fear-based acceptance of their nostrums. That’s the modus operandi every single time.

And it’s also why the status of the medical profession, and of the WHO, is heading towards free fall. Fewer and fewer people trust them. And so when a real pandemic, rather than a non-pandemic like the “tobacco epidemic”, eventually hits, a lot of people simply won’t believe them. They’ve been crying wolf too long.

Would I believe the WHO if they declared one day that there was a disease – Disease X – against which everybody should be vaccinated, with a newly prepared vaccine produced by Pfizer?

Experts on the WHO panel say Disease X could emerge from a variety of sources and strike at any time.

“History tells us that it is likely the next big outbreak will be something we have not seen before”, said John-Arne Rottingen, chief executive of the Research Council of Norway and a scientific adviser to the WHO committee.

“It may seem strange to be adding an ‘X’ but the point is to Fmake sure we prepare and plan flexibly in terms of vaccines and diagnostic tests. We want to see ‘plug and play’ platforms developed which will work for any, or a wide number of diseases; systems that will allow us to create countermeasures at speed.”

Advances in gene editing technology, which make the manipulation or creation of entirely new viruses possible, mean that Disease X could emerge through an accident or act of terror.

No. I wouldn’t.

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It seems to be a law of nature that the less anyone knows about something, the more certain they are about it.

There’s a certain logic to this, which is that someone who knows very little about something usually possesses one or two incontrovertible facts about it, about which they are accordingly perfectly certain. It’s only when they find out a little bit more about it that they realise that what they had regarded as facts weren’t really quite as solidly factual as they had thought. Yes, it’s true that sailing ships are blown along by wind. But occasionally the wind is so strong that it capsizes them. And sometimes there’s no wind at all to blow them along. And, no, they don’t always run before the wind, going whichever way it blows: sometimes they tack across the wind, and sometimes they almost sail straight into the wind. So what started out as a simple fact about sailing ships gets gradually hedged around with exceptions, with ifs and buts and maybes and sometimes. And so I imagine that if I ever got talking to a sailor who had spent his life sailing ships across the seas, he’d quite likely say that the wind and the sea was an infinite mystery about which he knew almost nothing.

I’ve been having the same experience with atmospheric physics. When I started studying it I thought it would all be quite simple and straightforward. Now that I’ve had a few tries, it’s become far more mysterious and unfathomable than I ever imagined. So much so that I can say with confidence that I now know less about it than when I started.

And over the past couple of months I’ve been getting interested in Q. And Q is another mystery.

Q is the discovery of Jerome Corsi. Or perhaps it would be truer to say that Q is the invention of Jerome Corsi. For I’m not sure that he actually exists.

Perhaps the best introduction to Q is the one that he himself provided a few days ago, of Donald Trump tracing the letter “Q” in the air as he spoke about the trade war he’s just started.

Who is Q? According to Corsi, Q is someone from US Military Intelligence who is working very closely with Donald Trump in his battle against Globalism and the Deep State. He works with him so closely that he even predicts from time to time what Trump is going to say or do, sometimes just a few minutes or hours before Trump says it or does it.

Q has been posting brief, enigmatic, and sometimes indecipherable messages on a thread on 4chan. He came to Corsi’s attention sometime late last year, when somebody told Corsi that Q had been mentioning the titles of a few of Corsi’s books. That was what started Corsi paying attention to him, and becoming convinced that Q was a deep insider in the Trump administration, with uncanny insight into Trump’s activities (and a lot of other people’s activities as well). And Corsi now spends much of his time decoding Q’s cryptic posts, and translating them for his viewers.

For Corsi has now started a live video channel where he analyses Q’s posts, and tries to answer questions about them from the thousands of viewers (and fellow analysts) he has attracted from all over the world.

Who’s Jerome Corsi. According to Wikipedia:

Jerome Robert Corsi (born August 31, 1946) is an American author, political commentator, and conspiracy theorist best known for his two New York Times Best Selling books: The Obama Nation and Unfit for Command (with co-author John O’Neill). Both books, the former written in 2008 and the latter in 2004, attacked Democratic presidential candidates and were criticized for including numerous inaccuracies.

In other books and columns for conservative sites such as WorldNetDaily and Human Events, Corsi has discussed topics that are considered conspiracy theories, such as the alleged plans for a North American Government, the theory that President Barack Obama is not a United States citizen, criticism of the United States government for allegedly covering up information about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and alleged United States support of Iran in its attempts to develop nuclear weapons.

In 2017, he became the Washington, D.C. bureau chief for the conspiracy theory website InfoWars.

Corsi knows Trump. Corsi also has a new book, out yesterday, and already at number 5 on Amazon: Killing The Deep State.

I first came across Corsi on Infowars last year. He talks in a slow, steady voice. He never gets angry. He’s always polite. I can’t say that I’m much interested in Obama, or 9/11, or most other conspiracy theories. But Q isn’t another conspiracy theory. Q is more like a TV soap opera, or an internet version of the X Files. It’s an unfolding story, which goes whichever way Q takes it. The story is the trail of clues that Q leaves, and which Corsi (and now his army of assistants) then decode. What makes it riveting is that all the characters in the story are real people: Trump, Obama, Hillary Clinton, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange. Q is, or purports to be, a new Deep Throat. Only instead of meeting Washington Post reporters on street corners at night, he posts publicly on 4chan. And Q provides an alternative account of what Trump is doing.

I don’t myself read Q’s posts on 4chan. Nor do I watch Corsi’s live feed. Instead I watch YouTube (from which he was briefly banned) videos of Corsi talking about Q, and decoding his posts. And these days there are new videos, usually an hour or so long, posted up every day. And in these videos, Q from time to time drops some interesting new ‘crumbs’, such as:

Donald Trump has already met Kim Jong Un. He secretly met him when he visited China in November. The meeting was organised by China’s Xi. At the meeting, Kim agreed to stop firing rockets and detonating nukes. And has been keeping his word. Their meeting in May will be their second meeting.

Jeff Sessions is busy indicting and arresting lots of people. The MSM simply isn’t reporting it.

Theresa May is a “ghost” prime minister, installed in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. And she has been “neutralised”.

Edward Snowden has left Moscow, and is now in either Shanghai or Hong Kong.

Angela Merkel is a close relative of Adolf Hitler.

Obama and the Clintons won’t be tried in civilian courts, which are packed with Obama-era judges. They will be instead tried in military courts. Q jokes that Obama will seek Kenyan nationality.

Trump didn’t want to run for president. He was asked to run by people in  the military who had been plotting a coup to overthrow Obama until they were persuaded to do it democratically. Trump is very, very closely guarded by the US military. He’s the most closely guarded president in US history.

After dealing with North Korea, Trump will deal with Iran, and then with Israel.

Some of those things I can easily believe. Some I can’t. But Q (as decoded by Corsi) regularly provides a different perspective. It’s an alternative take on the ‘news’.

I’m treating it as a fascinating soap opera, a kind of topical X Files. I half think that Q is a real person, and I half think he’s a fictional character. But I’m hooked on it much like I got hooked on the X Files or Star Trek. It’s a new genre. And it tells a new and different story. And the story has the added twist that it might just be true.

Anyway, here’s Corsi’s YouTube video from yesterday, 13 March 2018. It takes a while (15+ minutes?) before Corsi returns to Q (In fact, this video is more a general discussion of the Trump presidency, Tillerson, Snowden, Assange, Hillary).

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