Standers And Sitters

I was wondering this morning how smoking bans might have been introduced without using top-down legislative control.

It might have been quite easy. You could have just allowed pubs and restaurants to go ‘smoke-free’ if they wanted to. In Devon, where I was living back in 2007, one large pub I used to go to went ‘smoke-free’ in this manner two or three years before they were required by law to do so.

I stopped going, of course. They didn’t ban smoking in its spacious garden, however. So  I used to occasionally go and sit in the garden, principally for the view that it had over miles of Devon countryside to the sea in the far distance.

I don’t remember it being plastered in no smoking signs. I somehow or other learned that it had banned smoking. I imagine that a lot of its customers probably only found out when they were politely asked to put out their cigarettes.

It was a pub that was ahead of its time in being a pub-restaurant. It was nobody’s local, because it was out in the middle of nowhere. So it had no regular customers propping up the bar. And no pool tables or dart boards or juke box. It just had lots and lots of different tables, of various shapes and sizes. I only ever went there with my parents, to eat in what had originally been its restaurant area, and which had gradually expanded to fill the entire pub. It could just as easily have become a snooker club, if it had one or two snooker tables which had gradually multiplied to fill it.

And it was a quiet pub. People talked quietly. It was possible to even imagine that, in addition to a smoking ban, they could have had a talking ban as well. Why not? There are talking bans in churches.

And after it had gone non-smoking, it seemed to prosper just as well as it had before. And this was because its customers went there to eat rather than to sit and drink and smoke and talk. They’d arrive, sit down at a table, order food, eat it, and then leave. That was all they wanted.

Pretty much all pubs have now been forced to adopt the same business model. Here in Herefordshire, all the pubs that I visit are pub-restaurants, although I mostly only visit them to sit in their gardens with a beer and a cigarette.

In the absence of a top down blanket smoking ban everywhere, I imagine that smoke-free pub-restaurants would have done as well as any other. But the small pubs in the towns, which would have a set of regular customers, and served no food, where people met to drink and smoke and talk, sometimes staying all evening, would have remained smoke-filled and noisy. Maybe, with smokers only 20% of the population, only 20% of pubs would have remained smoky. And if smoking prevalence fell to 10%, only 10% of pubs would have permitted smoking. In the end, maybe there’d be just one pub that still allowed smoking. And still allowed talking.

And nobody would have been “exiled to the outdoors”. There would have continued to have been somewhere for smokers to go to find their preferred environment. They would have remained welcome. They would have remained valued members of society until there were none of them left.

Of course it would have taken a lot longer that way. It may have taken 20 or 30 years for them to all go smoke-free. Maybe even 100 years. Or never.

But the antismoking zealots couldn’t wait that long. They wanted – and got – top down blanket legislation to ban smoking more or less everywhere. And I – along with every other smoker in Britain – was exiled to the outdoors, and expelled from society. And now I no longer feel welcome anywhere.

Pubs could have gone smoke-free of their own volition, in response to changing demands from their customers. They could have gone alcohol-free as well. Or music-free. Or talk-free. Or sugar-free. Or fat-free. Or meat-free. Or child-free. Or chair-free.

But for zealots, it’s always something they want now, not next year or the year after. And so when enough people have become vegetarians or vegans, you must know that one day there’ll be a meat ban imposed in all restaurants, just like there was a smoking ban imposed on them. And the meat-eaters will be forced to sit outside with their stinky bacon sandwiches, with hand-waving veggies squeezing past them to get inside. It’ll all be imposed in the name of Health, of course. Or maybe Saving The Planet.

Is it too hard to imagine a chair ban? In many pubs, there’s standing room only. For many years there was standing room only in many sport stadiums. And some people prefer to stand than to sit: when he was US Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld always stood at his desk.  Is it too hard to imagine a time when the standers have begun to outnumber the sitters, and pubs and restaurants start going chair-free? Is it too hard to imagine a time when chairs are banned in all public places, and everyone has to stand.  And all the benches in parks and railway stations are ripped out? And the seats from theatres and cinemas. And even the sight of their neighbours sitting out on their balconies becomes intolerable to eagle-eyed zealots? And chairs come plastered with health warnings (Sitting For Long Periods Causes Piles)? And there’s a chair tax, which is increased every year “to discourage people from sitting”? And the Secretary General of the WHO declares that it is their primary mission to fight the epidemic of chairs that has afflicted the world for far too long?

Mad? Yes, of course. But no more mad than what is already happening.


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The Political Hit Parade

A couple of days ago I wrote that the smoking issue was the Number One political issue in my life, and had been for the past 10 years and more.

That puts me pretty much out on my own (present company largely excepted). Other people have other fish to fry. Some that come to mind are: the European Union, Donald Trump, immigration, Islam, women’s rights, gay rights. There are any number of political issues out there, and for most people smokers and smoking don’t even enter the first hundred of them. Such people most likely never think about smokers at all, ever.

There seem to be some political issues which rise to the top of the political agenda, and then fall back down it again. There’s a political hit parade in which the hottest issues climb to the top, stay there a while, and then subside out of view. What’s at the top of the hit parade is what all the politicians and pundits are talking about. And the political hit parade is a dynamic, ever-changing thing.

Back when I was young, the sort of things that were at the top of the political hit parade were things like Unemployment (remember that?), the Unions, Health, Education, Housing, the Cold War, Communism, Industry, Transport. That was what they were talking about on the newly-invented television. And they’d talk about it all for hours and hours and hours in interminable party conferences. People with names like Hugh Gaitskell and George Brown float into mind, black and white phantoms gesticulating animatedly on the screen as they delivered speeches about Education or Housing or Unemployment.

The political hit parade varies from region to region, and from country to country. I dare say that the 1950s’ US political hit parade was rather different from the UK political hit parade or the French or German or Italian political hit parade. But these days there seems to be rather more uniformity around the world than there was 50 or 60 years ago.

Perhaps it’s simply the current most pressing problems that bubble up to the top of the hit parade. Post-war Britain was in a process of reconstruction, and so things like Housing and Education and Transport were important. And perhaps after reconstruction was complete, all these things lost importance, and slipped down the hit parade, while still remaining matters of concern.

By the 1960s, it was Youth (hippies, flower power, pop music, pot) that had begun to rise up the chart. And in the 1970s it was Women and Gays and Environmentalism. And then came Global Warming. Now I suppose the UK political hit parade is dominated by the EU and Immigration and Islamic Terrorism.

The Smoking issue was always in the mix there somewhere or other throughout the past 60 or 70 years. Antismokers were present in small numbers in the post-war era. People were beginning to worry about smoking, and more and more people were stopping smoking. Smoking bans, when they began to be introduced circa 1970, were restricted to a few compartments of trains, or the front seats of aircraft. But the antismokers were gradually becoming more and more powerful all over the world, and the smoking bans were being extended to more and more places. Tobacco advertising was banned in the UK sometime around 1990. And then, mostly in the 2000s, the public smoking bans were introduced almost simultaneously all over the world. And now we’ve got Plain Packaging of tobacco (which is anything but plain). And tobacco taxes are being raised on an escalator. If something like 80% of men smoked back in the 1950s (87% of the doctors in the Doll and Hill British Doctors study were smokers) now it’s something like 20% of both men and women who are smokers. Smokers who had once been a majority have become a minority. And a minority who are being as ignored and vilified  and taxed and evicted from society as any other minority in history (e.g. Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, blacks, women).

The situation in the world today is that something like a quarter of the world’s population – some 1.5 billion smokers – are being systematically robbed, defamed, and excluded from society (in Deborah Arnott’s language “exiled to the outdoors”). And the victimisation that is being visited on smokers is gradually being extended to other social groups – e.g. drinkers and fat people. It’s an utterly appalling thing to have happened. But it remains entirely absent from the political hit parade. It’s never discussed by the politicians and pundits, except when they rubberstamp the next routine tax hike on tobacco.

In my view, it ought to be at the very top of the current political agenda. It ought to be what everybody is talking about, all the time. Instead we’ve got the EU, and the newly re-ignited Cold War, and Immigration, and Islamic Terrorism, and Donald Trump, as the principal topics of political discourse.

And many of these seem to be re-heated leftovers from a former era. There was real cause for a Cold War in the 1950s, given the ideological division between East and West. But there’s no need for the current Cold War because the ideological differences have largely vanished. If a new Cold War has been conjured up, it is for the purposes of the military (who need an enemy to justify their continued employment), or for the purposes of politicians like Hillary Clinton (who need someone to blame for their political eclipse). It could equally be said that Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ and Antifa are re-fighting past battles from a former era. The same applies with the newly-overturned statues of General Robert E Lee (a man last heard of in about 1865, over 150 years ago). It’s almost as if the political hit parade has become frozen, and perhaps even returning to old hot topics – as if the musical hit parade was seeing Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley and the Beatles returning to popularity after a 50-year absence.

For there seems to be an attempt among the chattering classes to keep the agenda to already established topics of interest. We’re not supposed to talk about Immigration or Islamic Terrorism. We’re not really supposed to talk about the EU either, given that it was decided long ago that it was a Unquestionably Good Thing.

This stasis – or logjam – may in fact be the product of a moribund mainstream media in which the topics of discussion are always being fixed by their proprietors rather than their consumers. The mainstream media try to restrict topics of discussion to those that are tried and tested. It’s only in the online alternative media (of which I suppose this blog is part) where anything else ever gets discussed. And we’re living in a time when the old dead tree mainstream media are steadily losing ground to the online alternative media. One day the online alternative media will become the mainstream media.

It hasn’t happened yet, but I think that the systematic, state-sponsored, global persecution of the world’s 1.5 billion smokers is going to start climbing up the political hit parade very soon now. I don’t think it’s possible to ignore 1.5 billion people indefinitely, particularly when they are all getting slowly angrier and angrier.

And when it does happen, I suspect that the Smoking issue is going to jump to the very top of the hit parade overnight. Unless it gets overtaken by any number of other suppressed issues that make up the logjam of undiscussed matters.

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One Single Complaint

Hat tip Nisakiman:

If it’s your health the St. Paul City Council is worried about, then they apparently will have to take under consideration banning, at your gas station, Air Heads Xtremes Sweetly Sour Candy Rainbow Berry. We can’t get those kids hooked on sugar.

The danger of one-party rule is the absence of a counterweight to their capricious whims and constant need to showcase their virtue. The council wants to prevent gas stations, convenience stores, liquor stores and grocery stores from selling menthol cigarettes and mint and wintergreen smokeless tobacco. We are all in agreement that we are better off not smoking, but the products are legal and the council was not elected to pick and choose the products that Sean Kiger can sell at his Minnoco station at Snelling and Randolph.

And the author goes on to add:

Every time the council in a one-party town climbs onto their grandstand — never mind the holes in the streets or your about-to-skyrocket property taxes — you have to wonder what will be next. The bigger Big cinnamon roll, Hot and Spicy Cheez-its, Gummi Bears, Nacho cheese dip, Cheddar and Sour Cream Pringles?

Indeed, what will they ban next? Furry teddy bears? The Stars and Stripes?

I came across another example of this yesterday:

A market trader has been banned from having a stall after selling Knights Templar coffee mugs – in case they upset Muslims. Tina Gayle, 57, who was previously warned for selling books and CDs featuring Nazi swastikas, was ordered to remove the £6 mugs from her stall after Charnwood Borough Council received a complaint they were offensive.

The council climbed down:

Council bosses have admitted they were wrong to ban a market trader from selling Knights Templar mugs.

Officials at Charnwood Borough Council have apologised after banning Tina Gayle from selling the items bearing images and slogans of the Crusading order from a stall on Loughborough Vintage Market.

The council said it took the decision after it received a single complaint that the mugs were offensive from a customer.

But would they have climbed down if there hadn’t been an outcry? How many people have been banned from selling one thing or other who have just quietly dropped that item, powerless in the face of the omnipotent council/government? It took an effort by Tina Gayle to get that ban overturned. How many people will make the effort?

And if one single complaint isn’t enough to justify banning Knights Templar mugs, then would ten complaints be sufficient?

Along similar lines:

British police forces arrested at least nine people a day for “offensive” online comments last year.

Figures obtained by The Times through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that 3,395 people across 29 forces were arrested last under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, which makes it illegal to intentionally “cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another”, in 2016.

The true figure is likely to be significantly higher, as thirteen police forces refused to provide the requested information and two did not provide usable data.

Around half of the investigations were abandoned before being brought to prosecution, which critics say is an indication that the authorities are being excessively strict in their interpretation of the law’s restrictions on freedom of speech.

Annoyance. Inconvenience. Needless anxiety.

Aren’t the increasingly strident health warnings on tobacco products causing “needless anxiety”? So when are the police going to arrest Deborah Arnott?

Both annoyance and anxiety are psychological responses by people to something or other. They are judgments made about them: I don’t like that. I don’t approve of that. This worries me. 

But inconvenience means that action of some sort needs to be taken. It’s not just a psychological response: it’s a physical response. When I come to an obstacle or hole in the road, I have to step round it. Or walk round it. Or turn around, and go back and find another way round. What I feel about the hole in the road is a separate matter. I may be glad that at last the council is putting in some new drains. Or annoyed that my neighbour has left another grand piano out on the street after one of his all night parties.

Isn’t there a big difference between what people think, and what they do? It seems to me that the psychological responses of people to the same event may be very different from one person to the next. They may approve or disapprove, or be pleased or angry or sad or amused. But everyone must step around an obstacle or hole in the road. Or do something about it.

I’m inclined not to be too bothered what anyone may feel about something, and far more concerned with what they had to do about it. So for example, given various actresses’ encounters with Harvey Weinstein, I’m less concerned with what they felt (shock, dismay, fear) about it than what they did about it (fight him off, run away, lock themselves in the bathroom). And with what many of them apparently didn’t do afterwards (complain).

Harvey Weinstein seems to have been causing annoyance and needless anxiety to a lot of women, but he seems to have inconvenienced relatively few of them.

The same applies with soldiers in war. I’m less concerned with what they might feel (terror, despair) than with what is done to them (undergo physical injury or death).

Is that a reasonable distinction to make?

Another one:

UK to Imprison People Who View ‘Far-Right Propaganda’ Online for Up to 15 Years
People in the United Kingdom could face up to fifteen years in prison for repeatedly viewing “far-right propaganda” or “terrorist material” online, according to a report.

According to the Guardian, “A new maximum penalty of 15 years’ imprisonment will also apply to terrorists who publish information about members of the armed forces, police and intelligence services for the purposes of preparing acts of terrorism,” while the “tightening of the law around viewing terrorist material is part of a review of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy following the increasing frequency of terrorist attacks in Britain this year.”

Users who view the forbidden content only once by mistake, or out of curiosity, will not be charged, and it is reported that there will also be protections for journalists, academics, and “others who may have a legitimate reason to view such material.”

What’s “far-right”? Since this report is on Infowars, might it not just be itself “far-right propaganda”? Might not reading the Daily Telegraph be deemed to be “viewing far-right propaganda” filled with “terrorist material”?

And who determines whether something is “”far-right”, or “propaganda” or “terrorism”?


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Most of Trump’s Supporters Smoke?

Via Audrey Silk a few days back:

According to analysts with Cowen Washington Research Group, New York, most of President Trump’s supporters smoke. Of 25 states with the highest smoking rates, 23 voted for Trump in the 2016 election.

Statistically, Trump voters overindex to cigarette smoking, said Vivien Azer, beverages, tobacco and cannabis analyst for Cowen.

Unfortunately, that’s all I’ve been able to read of this article. There’s more somewhere, but I don’t know where.

I doubt if it’s true that “most of President Trump’s supporters smoke,” because that would suggest that over half of them smoke, and that doesn’t seem likely.

More likely is that more smokers voted for Trump than for Hillary Clinton. Or perhaps even that most smokers voted for Trump.

There are good reasons to suppose this. Hillary Clinton is the antismoking zealot who banned smoking in the White House more or less as soon as husband Bill got elected president. And she had a big hand in the SCHIP tax. And she’s a politically correct ‘progressive’, and antismokers always regard themselves as ‘progressive’.  So smokers are unlikely to have voted for her. And Donald Trump is far more libertarian and conservative than her. He might not himself smoke or drink, but that doesn’t mean that he’s anti-smoking or anti-alcohol. And he wants to liberalise the US economy, lifting restrictions placed on it, releasing its energies. But he’s never said anything about lifting restrictive smoking bans, so he’s never offered smokers anything. So why should smokers have voted for him? Perhaps that he looked less likely than Hillary to make life even harder for them.

In some ways, the real question is: how many voters are likely to change the way they vote over the smoking issue? Does it matter that much to them? And if it does matter, do they think that voting a different way might make a difference?

For myself the smoking issue is the Number One political issue in my life, and has been for the past ten years. It matters a lot. But on the question of whether voting differently would have any effect, I’m rather doubtful. Because no major political parties ever come up with proposals to relax smoking bans. Under Nigel Farage’s leadership, UKIP proposed relaxations (smoking rooms in pubs). But Farage never campaigned for it. He simply maintained an image of himself as a man who liked a drink and a smoke. And when he stepped down as leader, UKIP promptly dropped the smoking room proposal. So there’s now no more reason for me to vote for UKIP than for any other party. And there’s not much reason to vote for them.

The plain fact of the matter is that almost all mainstream political parties, everywhere in the world, are in the antismoking camp. So there’s no point any smoker voting for any of them, at least on that issue. So smokers are likely to cast around for other reasons for voting one way or the other, given that nobody is offering them anything. And so at the last UK election I voted Conservative (for the first time in my life), simply because the Conservatives seemed slightly more libertarian than Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.

And it may well be that US smokers voted for Trump than Hillary for the same reason. Trump wasn’t offering them anything, and neither was Hillary, so they voted for the slightly more libertarian-conservative Trump than for ‘progressive’ Hillary.

But if the smoking issue matters a lot to me, how much does it matter to other smokers? If, for example, 70% of them want to stop smoking, then maybe 70% of them would vote for Hillary in the hope that she’d force them to stop (I once had a friend who welcomed the UK smoking ban for this reason, so such people do exist) In fact, the truth (as established in multiple polls on this blog and elsewhere) is that 95% of smokers don’t want to stop smoking. And these smokers are feeling more and more the incursion of the bully state into their lives. But they probably think that there’s nothing they can do about it – at least when it comes to using their vote: there’s no one to vote for.

If I’d been a US voter, I’d have voted for Trump, but not because I had any expectations of him doing anything about smoking bans. I’d have voted for him because he was much more conservative and libertarian than Hillary Clinton.

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Attaining Self-Mastery

Stanton Glantz:

Cigarette smokers with high levels of psychological distress are often heavy smokers, and thus identified as a “hard core” group who are less willing or able to quit than other smokers. However, a study by UC San Francisco researchers shows that over the course of 19 years, from 1997 to 2015, this hard core group smoked progressively fewer cigarettes per day and tried to quit in increasingly greater numbers, along with every other group of smokers in the United States.

“Even though they smoke more than the general population, smokers with high psychological distress have been smoking less and trying to quit more, as the overall level of smoking has decreased,” said Margarete C. Kulik, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow with the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education (CTCRE) and the lead author of the study. “This shows that with effective tobacco control policies, even hard-core smokers will soften over time.”

What’s meant by “psychological distress”? How is it measured? What are its units (force, energy, speed)? It’s probably not being measured at all, and there aren’t any units. And so we’re dealing with pseudo-science here, as always. And it’s being used to come to predetermined conclusions, dressed up as ‘science’. The mere existence of people like Stanton Glantz inside the University of California is probably reason enough to simply close the whole place down. What’s the point of funding charlatans like him? What’s the point of having students taught fraudulent science? Who needs universities that have ceased to be centres of excellence, and have become centres of putrescence?

The suggestion seems to be that smokers all suffer psychological distress (however measured) depending on how much they smoke. Might there not be a simple explanation for this, which is that smokers are being persecuted (by people like Stanton Glantz), and this persecution is the cause of their distress? And they are more persecuted (and distressed) the more they smoke? And people who are being persecuted – for any reason whatsoever – will quite often eventually “soften” and surrender in the face of “effective tobacco control policies” (i.e. intense persecution)? Eventually, one army usually defeats another, and one side or other will surrender.

But is it that smoking causes psychological distress? Or that psychological distress causes smoking (which is eases the distress)? I’ve just set out one reason why smoking might cause psychological distress, as the act of lighting up and smoking brings the smoker into collision with rules and regulations forbidding smoking.

But I’ve actually always understood smoking as being a a way of alleviating distress (in the form of war, grief, danger, divorce, suffering).

And so we now have a situation where smoking to alleviate distress becomes itself a cause of further distress. And we have a positive feedback loop whereby distress causes smoking, and smoking causes further distress, which causes more smoking, which causes even more distress, and so on.  There will be more and more distress – and more and more smoking. Smokers will get angrier and angrier and angrier (anger is a form of distress).

But Stanton Glantz will never see this.

I was watching fragments of the 70s Kung Fu series yesterday. The shaolin monk Kwai Chang Caine, played by David Carradine, undergoes a lengthy apprenticeship in a monastery, where his mentor tells him that he must attain control of the body. And that, presumably, is what all the elaborate physical exercises are all about: attaining physical self-mastery.

Afterwards, it struck me that the antismokers are trying to teach smokers self-mastery. After all, isn’t it one of their regular complaints that smokers have no self-control? And in this sense the antismokers ideology of self-control is a religious – or perhaps monastic – ideology of considerable antiquity (I was myself a pupil in a Benedictine monastery school, and so am another sort of Kwai Chang Caine). It’s an ascetic ideology of self-control and self-denial.

But what’s the point of attaining self-mastery? What’s the point of shutting oneself up? What’s the point of preventing oneself from doing anything (like smoking, drinking, etc)? Isn’t the man who has attained self-mastery someone who has put himself into a strait-jacket, bound himself with chains of self-denial?

But there’s perhaps another way of interpreting self-mastery, which is that one becomes the master of one’s own life, rather than remaining the servant of some other master. In this interpretation, the man who attains self-mastery becomes the captain of his own ship, free to do as he chooses, and to go where he likes. And when Caine left the monastery, it was because he had achieved this sort of self-mastery, and was able to wander the world alone, without guidance from his former teachers and masters in the shaolin monastery.

But this isn’t the idea of self-mastery or self-control that is advanced by antismokers. The antismokers actually want to control smokers. They want to “soften” them into slavery, with the antismokers as their masters. To the extent that they want smokers to exercise self-control, it is to prevent themselves doing things (smoking). Their ideal of self-control is one of self-denial. You shouldn’t allow yourself to do things.

But this sort of self-denial must result in stasis: nothing is allowed to happen. A man of iron self-control can never permit himself any undisciplined thought about anything whatsoever. He can never invent anything, or discover anything, or dream anything. And when have any of these self-denying killjoys ever produced any new work of art, any new invention, any new insight? Never. And it cannot be otherwise. For if you keep your horse confined in a stable or a paddock, you are never going to go anywhere on it. It’s only when you give free rein to your horse, and proceed at full gallop, that you’re ever likely to go anywhere in the surrounding hills, and find anything new there.

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On The Beach Again

Reported in comments, this from California:

Smokers will continue to be able to light up at state beaches and parks after Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill Friday that would have banned smoking in both those places.

In his veto message, Brown suggested that the ban — which would have applied to cigarettes, cigars, marijuana and e-cigarettes — was overkill.

“If people can’t even smoke on a deserted beach, where can they?” Brown wrote. “There must be some limits to the coercive power of government.”

Brown also objected to the $485 penalty that violators would have been slapped with, calling it excessive.

This prompted thought.

Firstly surprise that Jerry Brown vetoed the bill. I imagine that more or less any other ‘progressive’ California politician would have readily assented to the bill, and thought nothing of it.

Secondly, given that Brown thinks there should be some limit to the coercive power of government, he sees the role of government as essentially coercive. He doesn’t seem to have any problem with that. Perhaps that’s his definition of government? It’s there to force people to do things.

In fact, ‘liberals’ and ‘progressives’ seem to be the most coercive people around. They always seem to want more government, and more coercive government, to make people do things. Their ideal world seems to a sort of prison or boot camp where people are being told what to do the whole time. Conservatives and libertarians, on the other hand, seem to want to minimise government, and minimise coercion.

Tobacco Control always uses coercion against smokers. They are to be coerced and coerced and coerced until they finally do as they’re told, and stop smoking. They are to be coerced with smoking bans. They are to be coerced with propaganda messages. They are to be coerced with taxes. They are to be coerced by exile to the outdoors. They are to be coerced by eviction from their homes. They are to be coerced by denial of medical care. They are to be coerced in every way imaginable. And in fact Tobacco Control spends its entire time dreaming up new ways of coercing smokers to stop smoking. Banning smoking on beaches is another great new way of coercing smokers. There is no limit to the coercion they’ll use – something very well expressed in one of the comments under the article:

New bill: If you drop your cigarette butt on the beach you get executed on the spot. Your choice: Stabbed a hundred times and tossed into the ocean for the sharks. Cyanide capsule. Old fashioned wire garrote. Poison needle to the neck. Sound suppressed .45 ACP to the heart. It will take several thousand examples but I believe eventually the smokers will have serious second thoughts about flicking their butts all over the beaches.

But Jerry Brown seems to think that there must be limits to the coercive power of government. Perhaps as State governor, wielding the full coercive power of the state, he’s sometimes confronted by the question: how far can/should you go? Why not just execute the smokers on the spot, like the commenter suggested? What’s wrong with doing that? Is there anything wrong with it at all?

And if Brown thinks there must be limits to the coercive power of the state, it rather suggests that he doesn’t know where those limits lie. He doesn’t have an answer to that question. And maybe he’s hardly even able to ask it.

Tobacco Control (most likely in the form of Stanton Glantz) must be outraged at Brown for turning down another golden opportunity to coerce smokers. Because Tobacco Control would use unlimited coercion. Which is why they’ve come out in support of ISIS executing smokers in Syria. That’s what they would like to do. Tobacco Control is always working to push the limits of coercion to a new level. But they have to do it step by step. Once people have become acclimatised to one level of coercion, they can be introduced to the next heightened level of coercion. And there’s no top limit.

I somehow imagine that Jerry Brown will be eventually prevailed upon to sign the bill. And if he won’t, he’ll be replaced by somebody who will. Look at the mess.

In the comments, and in the photo at the top of the piece, the focus was mostly on cigarette butts rather than secondhand smoke. You’d almost think that smokers visited beaches simply to litter them with butts, perhaps not bothering to actually smoke them. They just go down to the beaches, and empty their cigarette packs straight onto the beach unsmoked – perhaps finally crumpling up the pack, and leaving that behind as well in its torn cellophane wrapping.

It raised the question of what is and isn’t ‘litter’. Beaches are littered with all sorts of stuff. They usually littered with sand. Quite often they’re littered with pebbles as well. And they’re littered with seashells, which are the dead bodies of animals. In the photo there are bottle tops and straws and even a peanut shell.

The natural world is full of natural litter. It’s full of animal excrement and the corpses of plants and animals. Trees litter the ground with their leaves.

But nobody ever regards this natural litter as ‘litter’. It’s only what humans leave behind that is regarded as ‘litter’. Bottles, beer cans, cigarette butts, napkins. It’s only litter of this sort that spoils the beach. In fact, the presence of humans seems always to entail spoilage. Hence “unspoiled” regions, where nobody lives. As soon as humans show up anywhere, they despoil it, apparently. We humans seem not to regard ourselves as part of the natural world, but as invaders and interlopers who shouldn’t be there at all. Thinking of this sort seems to underlie environmentalist thinking: we shouldn’t be here.

But the natural world doesn’t seem too bothered. It just grinds everything down to dust. It grinds rocks down to pebbles and sand. It grinds seashells down into bright white sand. And it’ll grind bottles down into sand, because sand is what they are made of. And it’ll do much the same with beer cans and napkins and cigarette butts and oil slicks and plastic.

There are Pacific atolls whose waters are littered with debris of war. Ships, planes, guns. The bottom of the sea is everywhere littered with sunken ships. The wreck of the Titanic is a very large piece of human litter lying at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean. But this – and many other such wrecks – are protected. They are pieces of litter that must not be picked up. They are sacred places. In some cases they are even war graves.

Beaches are perhaps the breaker’s yards on which the natural world breaks things down to dust. They’re garbage tips. The beach is a scrapyard or junkyard in which everything is slowly being hammered to smithereens. The waves breaking on the beach are the hammer blows of nature’s smithie, and the beach his anvil. And the tides are the occasional sweep of his hand to remove the broken pieces. Taking the family to the beach is like taking the family to a used car scrapyard, to sit among the rusting wreckage eating sandwiches and drinking coke while watching cars being crushed. Why should anyone complain about bottles or cans or napkins or butts on a garbage tip?

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Mounting Chaos


Before Las Vegas Police unveiled the latest “narrative change” during a Monday press conference, it was believed that Campos had been shot after the rampage, not before.

With this news, we have learned that the police investigation has descended into chaos. Or perhaps that it hasn’t even started. They seem not to have managed to even put together a timeline of recorded events, of who did what when. Isn’t doing that part of Law Enforcement 101? What’s going on?

One clue (and we’re now looking for clues about what’s gone wrong with the investigation) might be the presence of the FBI as well as the Las Vegas police chief at press conferences: there are multiple agencies involved. And since many of these agencies seem to be rivals, perhaps what we’re seeing is a power struggle going on within the investigation, with the police chief being overruled by the FBI, and the investigation has become log-jammed with countermanding instructions emanating from various sources.

In fact, it may also be a microcosm of what some people are saying is a civil war that has broken out inside the US government since the election of Donald Trump. That’s to say that the chaos in Las Vegas is a manifestation of the same chaos throughout the US government, as pro-Trump government agents (and politicians) battle with anti-Trump government agents (and politicians). Every time Trump tries to get something done, he gets thwarted by someone or other, somewhere or other.

It’s a civil war that’s also being conducted in the mainstream media with non-stop ferocious attacks being launched on Trump. There seem to be a lot of people who want to see the 2016 presidential election declared null and void, or Trump impeached, or maybe even assassinated. And it’s a civil war which has spilled onto the streets with Antifa.

But it’s not just in the USA that there is mounting chaos. There’s also mounting political chaos in Europe. It started with the Brexit vote, and now sees the UK and EU log-jammed in deadlocked negotiations. And we’re seeing it in Spain, with the Catalonian government in collision with the the Spanish government. And Hungary. And Poland.

In fact, the whole world seems to be becoming gradually more and more chaotic. The Middle East has been in chaos ever since the Iraq war in 2003. In some ways, Islamic migration and terrorism have simply been exporting that chaos to Europe. Maybe the current Korean crisis is simply another manifestation of mounting global chaos?

Perhaps this is how wars start? Not when rational leaders and governments make cool, clear-eyed decisions, but when chaotic forces are unleashed,  pushing and pulling all concerned into head-on collision or close alliance. They are perhaps more like periodic volcanic eruptions than anything else: for decades, even centuries, the volcano sleeps, and the land around it is stable – but then one day, as a result of chaotic forces working deep beneath it, it erupts, and the landscape around it changes forever, as trees are blown away or covered in ash, rivers diverted, lakes filled or newly created.

In most histories of WW1, the major players are regarded as being the political leaders of the countries involved – Kaiser Wilhelm II, Franz Joseph, Tsar Nicholas, H. H. Asquith, Raymond Poincaré, Woodrow Wilson, Mehmed V, etc -. It’s believed that it’s the decisions made by these people that created and shaped the conflict. But weren’t all these people responding to unfolding events? And wasn’t one of those events the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip on 28 June 1914? Didn’t this set off a chain reaction of subsequent events, like a row of falling dominoes colliding with one another? Weren’t the supposed ‘leaders’ as helplessly caught up in the unfolding events as anyone else? In fact, weren’t they far more deeply caught up in events than more or less everyone else? Weren’t the telegraph wires in all the seats of government running red hot as the crisis developed? Did any of these leaders get any sleep? Within exactly one month of 28 June 1914, WW1 had broken out, and the world had changed completely. Did any of the ‘leaders’ plan or agree or foresee any such thing? I very much doubt any of them did.

July 1914 was almost certainly a period of chaos during which all concerned were being pushed and pulled and tugged and threatened and pleaded with, all day every day. All concerned were probably getting one hundred different rival opinions every day, maybe every hour.

And we seem to be living through a similar time of chaos right now. Donald Trump is being assailed from all sides by very heated, rival opinions of every kind. And so is Theresa May. And so is Mariano Rajoy. And no doubt Jean-Claude Juncker, and Angela Merkel, and Vladimir Putin as well. There is nobody ‘in control’ of anything, except their own small sphere of influence. Events are simply unfolding, and all are helplessly caught up in it the eddy.

And now that we have learned that the shooting started inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel before bullets began to rain down on the concert outside, rather than after, as we had hitherto been led to believe, then might it not be that the mass slaughter was a consequence of the events unfolding inside the hotel.

Paddock fired more than 200 bullets into the hall and nearby rooms at the beginning of his deadly rampage on Oct. 1.

This sounds like gang warfare had broken out inside the hotel, with multiple rounds being fired along its corridors. There have also been reports of shooting taking place at other hotels – e.g. the Bellagio. Maybe the mass killings were simply the collateral damage of gang warfare? Maybe Stephen Paddock didn’t plan anything at all that night. Maybe he just got caught up in chaotic, rapidly unfolding events.

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