MV Gaasterland

Chris Snowdon has a piece today – Soda is new tobacco – which mentions in passing the growing calls for a Framework Convention on Alcohol Control, modelled on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. He mentions the European Alcohol Policy Alliance. A bit of searching turned up a Lancet editorial calling for a Framework Convention on Alcohol Control from back in 2007.

I suppose they’ll get one. Our spineless politicians and our even more spineless captains of industry will do their bidding, and the new treaty will be signed, and the denormalisation and demonisation of drinkers will commence.

Control. Control. Control. They always want control of everything.

They seem to see themselves as being airline pilots, or captains of ships, steering society this way and that. And all they need do is turn the wheel, and the whole ship of humanity will head down the course they choose. Their conceit seems to know no bounds.

But does it ever work? Does society actually change in the way they want? I was arguing gently with Churchmouse about this today, over at his pad:

It’s one of the oddities of prohibition that it always results in stronger drugs. Instead of beer and wine, you get whisky. You get more of a bang per litre. Same with cannabis, where we now have skunk, with a greater bang per gram. And the same with opium, as it led to heroin. And coca leaves led to cocaine. And in every case it becomes easier to overdose.

If prohibition was lifted, the reverse process would happen. The most powerful drugs would fade out of use. It’s prohibition that forces these powerful drugs into existence, and the end of prohibition that would drive them away. One might even say that the prohibitionists are the real drug pushers.

To me it always seems that, when you apply pressure (or force) to a society, you’re unlikely to get your way. People resist. To every force, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It’s simple physics. Apply pressure to a society, and it compresses like a spring, storing up energy. And when that energy is released, it pushes back the compressing force the way it came. And this seems to me to be the inevitable fate of Tobacco Control: they will be expelled from society like arrows shot from a bow (which is a kind of spring). They will depart very suddenly, and at very high speed.

But this is something that I very much doubt that they will have foreseen. It will come as a complete surprise to them.

But then, I’m not a control freak. I don’t want to make anyone do anything. I don’t want to live in a society in which everything is under control, right down to what people eat and drink, and what they wear. If anything, I want a society which is out of control, and in which everyone is free to do as they like (within limits). A society that is under control is one that is a prison. And I don’t want to live in a prison.

But it seems that, for the controllers, it just comes naturally to want to control everything. As if there must always be a helmsman standing at the wheel of the ship, and it can’t be allowed to just do its own thing.

Which brings to mind an experience of mine when I was just nine years old. I was sailing on a Dutch cargo ship from Brazil to Holland. There were very few passengers on the ship, and I was the only boy on it, and I had the complete run of the ship. And I went everywhere, and looked at everything. I looked at the enormous and noisy diesel engines, and the big shining cylindrical propeller shaft that spun out through the stern of the ship. And I looked at the funnels and the lifeboats and the hold (she was carrying raw sugar, and I was occasionally given a sticky lump of it to eat). And I looked at the map room and the radio room and the bridge. And I peered through telescopes and binoculars and various other instruments. She was called the m.v. Gaasterland.

There were always one or two officers on the bridge, and occasionally the captain too, and they were more than happy to show me anything I wanted to see, and tell me anything I wanted to know.

And then one day, when I’d climbed the steep stairs to the bridge one day, to my astonishment I found that there was nobody at all on the bridge. There was no-one keeping watch. The bridge was deserted, and so was the map room, and the radio room too. The captain’s cabin was just behind the bridge, but when I tapped on the door there was no reply. Where was everyone?

With mounting alarm, I gazed out of the bridge windows to the horizon ahead, as the ship drove on at full speed (25 knots). What would happen if, all of a sudden some other ship crossed our path? Or some whale had surfaced in front of us? Or we encountered an iceberg? Or a line of rocks?

The ship had an automatic pilot. You set the course by twiddling a dial to select the course in degrees from north, and the automatic pilot held the ship to that course. Next to it was a switch that returned control to the wheel. And I knew how to work it.

I examined the automatic pilot, and noted the course. I also noted that the ship was on autopilot.

Quickly, in this emergency situation, I decided to assume command of the ship.

I memorised the course setting of the automatic pilot, and then switched to manual control, and took hold of the wheel. And then, wondering if I was actually in command of the ship, I turned the wheel a bit. And, to my surprise and gratification, as I stood on tiptoes to see out the window, I watched the ship’s bow began to swing to one side. It was an astonishing thing to see. I had 25,000 tons of ship turning under me!

The ship must have turned by 10 or 15 degrees before a horrifying new thought occurred to me: the ship was now off course. What would happen when the captain returned, and discovered that his ship was on a new course? And what if there were rocks nearby? I had not consulted the maps in the empty map room to see where in the Atlantic ocean the ship now was.

So, no sooner had I taken the ship off course, than I decided to return it to its previous course. I turned the wheel the other way, and watched with relief as the bow started to slowly swing back the way it came.

And when it had returned back to its original course, I switched the autopilot back on again. And then stood watching the wheel intently, because under autopilot the wheel would turn back and forth slightly, as the autopilot made minute adjustments to the ship’s course.  I noted with relief that it did.

And finally, both elated and terrified, I left the bridge as empty as I had found it, and let the ship take its own course over the empty ocean, doing its own thing.

Now, was the ship under control when it was on autopilot? Or was it under control when I boldly assumed command? There’s a very good case to be made that the ship went out of control once I assumed “command.” Because I didn’t really know what I was doing. I knew a little bit, but not half enough. Would anyone seriously think that a nine-year-old boy could really command an ocean-going 25,000 ton ship? No, of course they wouldn’t.

And the same applies to Tobacco Control.

About Frank Davis

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44 Responses to MV Gaasterland

  1. “One might even say that the prohibitionists are the real drug pushers.”

    A doctor out in California has been fired from her position on some board because she appeared (without any pay) in TV commercials against California’s $1 cigarette tax fight last month. I added the following to a discussion on it after a poster named Beelzebub dumped on her:

    Beelzebub, you wrote, “I mean, she HAD to know what was going to happen when did did this. She is a medical doctor and I assume that there’s are a few marbles inside her skull.”
    Assuming that she believed what she said, perhaps she also believed that stating the truth about an issue might be considered acceptable behavior. Would she have had the same problem if she’d appeared in an ad and expressed a political opinion on the opposite side of this issue? Should all the medical personnel who appeared in various ads to express political opinions on the other side be fired from their positions as well?

    As I just noted in my previous post, it could well be argued that those in support of 29 were hoping to increase the profits of cigarette smuggling and help make sure that cigarettes would be more available to children, so firing them all might make some sense, true?

    Fair is fair, right?


    • churchmouse says:


      Whilst I’m unhappy that the doctor was fired, I am glad she volunteered to make an advert against this tax. Am looking forward to finding out the final results of the referendum.

      Also liked these quotes:
      ‘Would she have had the same problem if she’d appeared in an ad and expressed a political opinion on the opposite side of this issue? Should all the medical personnel who appeared in various ads to express political opinions on the other side be fired from their positions as well?’


      ‘ … it could well be argued that those in support of 29 were hoping to increase the profits of cigarette smuggling and help make sure that cigarettes would be more available to children, so firing them all might make some sense, true?’

  2. forcesnl says:

    A story about a ship. Nice to read at the moment that I am planning a Crusade Against the Smoking Ban in Belgian waters! Arriving in Antwerp on June 30 for the official start….
    Hush! This is not official yet ;)

  3. smokervoter says:

    The theme of yesterdays ‘Thinking Geographically’ post couldn’t possibly be more pertinent to my thoughts right now. I’m staring a hole through the map of the Prop 29 results and realizing that this is the answer to the dilemma of what happened to my beloved home state.

    I’ve been chiming in, it seems forever on here, that California is not actually a Nanny State. It just never made gut sense to me.

    Because of Prop 29, I’ve researched the real numbers on this state in more detail than ever before.

    I used to say that 40% of Californians are A-OK. I’m now prepared to up that ante to 55% on a geopolitical basis. If we cut that contiguous band of 14 counties which voted adamantly Yes on Prop 29 off and created another state you would never hear tales of Nanny California any more.

    Somehow I knew this all along in my heart. I was born and raised here.

  4. Smokervoter, on the comforting side, if California ever DOES get hit with “The Big One” that sends part of it into the Pacific, it’ll be the “Yes On 19” Counties that will slide in first…


  5. harleyrider1978 says:

    Frank perhaps its time to fire up the old still!

  6. smokervoter says:

    I’m afraid I may be altering the course of todays post a bit but I missed yesterdays piece, well, yesterday.

    On geographically splitting California up:

    One problem I can see here would be how to deal with people like commenter Tom, who would then be trapped in a world of $20/pack cigarettes or tobacco-cessation concentration camps. Truth be told, about a third of the folks who live in those 14 counties are very good people. I was one of them for 13 years in Santa Cruz. We were definitely the minority but that only made us stronger. I had a great time with them. We fought the damnable Liberal Fascists’ tooth and nail.

    The area is not too wide latitudinally so cheap tobacco shops would flourish on the periphery. If worse came to worse, we could fly supplies in Berlin Airlift style. We could create a fund to help pay relocation costs for those that wished to escape to Free California, paid for with a tax on bean sprouts.

    Now back on the topic today:

    Their conceit seems to know no bounds.

    That has been a problem since time immemorial. Humility is a lost art form.

  7. Rose says:

    “And all they need do is turn the wheel, and the whole ship of humanity will head down the course they choose. Their conceit seems to know no bounds.”

    It’s easy to be conceited if you have a very limited view. Everything you decide will work exactly as imagined, the smokers will all take the products you recommend and give up the habit of a lifetime,as soon as you shock them out of their normal way of life.

    The sunlit uplands beckon and the pubs will be full to bursting with happy non-smokers and joyous reformed smokers as they rejoin the social whirl.

    But when you see the world through a filtered pinhole of your own choosing, the easily foreseen can be completely missed.

    Smokers arrested in various towns wrongly

    “Friday, June 22, 2012 – Ministry of Public Health officials are been accused of violating citizens’ rights after they started operations in various towns to get rid of cigarette smokers along streets following a clarification from Attorney General on the provisions of the Tobacco Control Act which said a street was not a public place.

    Public Health officers backed by plain clothed regular and Administration Police officers carried out operations in Murang’a and Nyeri and arrested dozens of people. Some of the arrested were arraigned in court and fined for purportedly contravening the Act.”

    “Following the enactment of the Tobacco Control Act 2007, local councils arrested hundreds of Kenyans for smoking in the streets forcing the former Attorney General Amos Wako to publish a clarification, which indicated that streets were not public places as defined by the Act.”

    Well that’s cleared that up then…

    The situation may be ridiculous, but the punishments weren’t a bit funny.
    “In Nyeri those arraigned in court were fined Sh15,000 or face one and a half months imprisonment each after they admitted the charges by Chief Magistrate Wilbroda Juma.”

  8. prog says:

    The automatic pilot tale reminds me of something an old land dog (farm worker) told me.

    Apparently, years before, another worker had had a flash of inspiration whilst ploughing (this was grey Fergie days). Knowing that the tractor more or less steered itself along a furrow he hammered a big stake into the ground, coiled a rope around it, tied one end to the steering wheel and left the tractor ploughing in an ever increasing circle whilst he went to lunch. On return, the Fergie was in a hedge.

    I’d like to think it was true, though simply writing about this makes me wonder if this was just shaggy dog story (I mean, for a start he’d have needed a bloody long rope). Also, when I was a kid he handed me a roll of wire and told me to nip to the shop to buy some electricity….

    Yep, total bull.

    • Frank Davis says:

      My story is a true story. It happened exactly as I’ve told it.

      There’s perhaps one extra detail to add. Later that day I realised that, although I had returned the ship to its former north-easterly course, it was actually sailing about 50 yards to one side of its former course. The ship was still slightly ‘off course’. And that meant that when, under automatic pilot, it arrived at the coast of Holland, and sailed into port, it would miss the entrance by 50 yards, and sail straight into a pier.

      It was with some relief therefore that, when we arrived in the English channel a week or so later, the ship was returned to manual control. We wouldn’t hit the pier after all.

      • prog says:

        No doubting you Frank. Just the type of thing you might have done…..

        Actually, I think I probably got my story wrong (I was told this about 40 odd years ago). For this to be remotely feasible he must have ploughed a circular furrow at the furthest point, attached the rope to steering wheel and stake and then ploughed in decreasing circles so that the tractor front wheel was tight up against the furrow wall and the rope gradually coiled itself around the stake. It might have worked if he’d have returned before the circle got to tight. Anyway, it ended in disaster (allegedly, though on reflection think this might have happened, and he did say the guy was sacked on the spot). Mind you, it’d have been a bugger of a job to finish off the corners unless it was a round field, which it wasn’t.

        Ok, I’ll shut up now :)

  9. Walt says:

    Great story. Perfect analogy.

    Here’s a long but worthwhile article about the vanity of, what the author rightly calls, The Ruling Class. Be patient with it. He covers about everything.

    Excerpt: “”While the unenlightened are stuck with the antiquated notion that ordinary human minds can reach objective judgments about good and evil, better and worse through reason, the enlightened ones know that all such judgments are subjective and that ordinary people can no more be trusted with reason than they can with guns. Because ordinary people will pervert reason with ideology, religion, or interest, science is “science” only in the “right” hands.

    “Consensus among the right people is the only standard of truth. Facts and logic matter only insofar as proper authority acknowledges them. That is why the ruling class is united and adamant about nothing so much as its right to pronounce definitive, “scientific” judgment on whatever it chooses. When the government declares, and its associated press echoes that “scientists say” this or that, ordinary people — or for that matter scientists who “don’t say,” or are not part of the ruling class — lose any right to see the information that went into what “scientists say.”

    And one more thing. The Final Frontier is being infiltrated faster than we thought:

    (HUD is our federal Housing Dept; HHS is our federal Health Dept.)

  10. Frank Davis says:

    No 29 Tax on Cigarettes for Cancer Research 2,489,823 (yes) 49.7% 2,517,149 (no) 50.3%

    No leads by 27,326 votes. This is about 10,000 more than last time I looked.

    At 9 pm UK time:

    No 29 Tax on Cigarettes for Cancer Research 2,490,456 (yes) 49.7% 2,518,344 (no) 50.3%

    Yes has picked up 633 votes during the day, while No has picked up 1195 votes. Almost twice as much.

    • Frank, thanks for doing the math on that. At some point several hours ago I somehow added 10,000 and 17,000 in my head and came out with the answer of … 17,000. LOL! 27,000 is indeed the correct figure, and the chances of the Antis pulling a win out it are truly vanishingly small at this point.

      – MJM

      • Frank Davis says:

        Yesterday, Junican commented that the figures were:

        YES…..2,473,377…….49.8%. NO…… 2,488,935…….50.2%.

        So Yes has picked up about 16 thousand votes since yesterday, and No has picked up about 28 thousand. That’s about 44 thousand in total. And it rather looks like it’s come from SoCal. I’ve no idea how many more mail-in votes have to be counted, or where they’re coming from.

        So I can’t agree that the chances of Yes coming out ahead are ‘vanishingly small’, much as I’d like to.

        • smokervoter says:

          I’ve no idea how many more mail-in votes have to be counted, or where they’re coming from.

          I’m hoping that we have finally reached the finale of the post election vote count at 5,400,654 for several reasons. The more votes that come in at a Yes skew, even a slight one, the higher the likelihood of a Yes victory. The other reason is the value of my credential as a prodigious political prognosticator.

          Here verbatim and all its naked glory (susceptibility to eventual public scorn) is the pre-election forecast I rendered over at Livejournal’s Pro-Smokers Community:

          “Using past June California primary elections as a guide and applying some of my own homegrown mathematical adjusters I predict that roughly 5,400,000 will show up on June 5th. The Republican primary has lost its significance now that Romney has prevailed. It would have helped us if the race was still undecided.”

          Anyone remember this link I once put up our your site?

          What it will take to defeat Stanton Glantz

          And for Christ’s sake, the post election vote count is now up to 28.7%.

          The earlier estimates of a million remaining uncounted votes now stands at 1,547,730.

  11. harleyrider1978 says:

    Looks like they finally started counting the no counties down south! lol

    • Frank Davis says:

      Yes. That’s her! Her hull was painted a sand (or maybe light brown sugar) colour. Is m.s. any different from m.v.? Motor ship or motor vessel.

      Somewhere or other I have a lined paper book that the officers gave me, which is filled with my drawings of flags and maps and things. It’ll try and dig it out. I think it has a plan of the whole ship in it.

      It’s rather sad that she was broken up in Taiwan in 1979 :-(

  12. Frank Davis says:

    I found my Ship Book. Here’s my drawing of a cross-section through the Gaasterland:

    Another image here.

  13. garyk30 says:

    I find it amazing that you have managed to keep such things in decent condition for over 50 years!!!!!

  14. smokervoter says:

    Damnit !!!!!!

    5,402,503 is final vote tally, I think. That means I was off by .0004635%

    What timing! Literally two minutes after I posted that last comment, the lady on KFI radio in Los Angeles just announced that Prop 29 has officially failed.

    She was likely quoting from the LA Times.

    June 22, 2012 | 12:17 pm PST (8:17 pm in the UK)

    The tight vote count for the June 5 tobacco tax ballot initiative swung sharply toward the opposition as elections officials across California continue to tally the last remaining uncounted ballots.

    The measure, known as Proposition 29, was losing by 27,326 votes Friday morning -– two days after the gap was just over 13,000 votes. The gap has narrowed from 63,000 on election night.

    More than 5 million ballots already have been counted across the state. The California secretary of State’s office estimates that, as of Friday morning, just over 148,000 ballots remained uncounted. Shortly after the primary, there were more than a million uncounted ballots statewide.

    • Frank Davis says:

      The California secretary of State’s office estimates that, as of Friday morning, just over 148,000 ballots remained uncounted.

      So it’s still not over, then.

      27326 + (1-Y).148000 = Y.148000

      Y = 175326 / 296000 = 59.23%

      That’s the fraction of the remaining 148000 votes which must go Yes for Yes to win. But over the last day or so, it’s been running more like 59% No rather than 59% Yes.

  15. Click to access unprocessed-ballots-report.pdf

    shows the remaining ballots: 111,000. About half those are “provisional” ballots which, I believe, often just disappear, leaving about 55 to 65,000 additional incoming votes.

    This link:

    shows how the Prop29 vote is doing.

    The final vote count on 29 will probably be about 55,000 higher than it presently stands, or about 5,065,000 (These are the votes on Prop 29. Evidently about 350,000 voters didn’t vote on it.)

    For the current vote gap on 29 to turn into a win for the Antis roughly 80% of the remaining votes would have to be Yes votes. Since even the most radical counties (e.g. San Francisco) never got past the 60s in percentage of Yes votes it would seem impossible in any practical sense for the vote to turn around.

    – MJM

    • Frank Davis says:

      I make it

      27888 + (1-Y).55000 = Y.55000

      Y = 82888 / 110000 = 75.35%

      I don’t think Yes was even getting that percentage in NorCal.

      Looks like it’s all slipping away from Stan!

    • smokervoter says:

      Thanks Mike for that clarification. I noticed early on what I thought was a 2.5% non-proposition voting phenomenon. Now it looks as if 7.3% didn’t vote on the Propositions. By the way, you should see this spreadsheet I’ve been working on – it’s 26 columns wide and 300 rows deep. Like I said, I know enough about math to be dangerous.

      This whole time I’ve been unable to open up that PDF you refer to, as I’ve got Acrobat v4.0 on this old computer.

      As of yesterday the late results which turned the tide came not only from SoCal but from points east and north of the San Francisco bay area, I’ve been tracking them closely. Thank Butte county and Shasta and Tulare counties for wiping out a late Yes surge from (drum roll) Santa Cruz. So glad I left that place, but hats off to the 36% there who voted NO. They’re my old circle of friends – and my older brother.

      And finally Frank, I transposed that great formula of yours and labeled it the ‘Frank Davis Formula’ on the spreadsheet. I cut and pasted the substitutions from that California website daily and thus kept realistic expectations throughout this whole dragged out ordeal. Thanks.

  16. junican says:

    At 5pm 22nd, the results are the same – but California is some 6 hrs behind us (isn’t it?), os it will be about 11am there.

    I found a spreadsheet: “Estimated Unprocessed Ballots for June 5, 2012, Presidential Primary Election”

    I don’t quite know how to interprete the title – does one assume that the figures represent ONLY the presidential election, or do the figures include both propostions (ie. uncounted ballot papers/cards?)

    Anyway, here are the figures (which may not be accurate according to Secretary of State):

    Vote by mail……………………..76107.


    A few counties had reported their unprocessed ballots up to the 21st, but many seem to be very behind. However, that may be just because they have not reported rather than thay they have not counted! Most counties have completed the count.

    The reports seem to fall into two groups – those which are almost right up to date (18th – 21st), and those which seem to have not reported for some time (11th – 13th). NB. The two groups fall within those dates – there are no late reports dated 15th, for example.

    Those reports which have reported up to 18th – 21st show 38,183 still uncounted. Those which have not reported since 11th – 13th show 108,648. If we assume that many of the later votes have been counted and are in the voting figures at 21st, then there cannot be very many left.

    Looking at Harleys list of figures, unfortunately, there are no dates. But Harleys figures must be quite recent since the distribution has only recently been 49.8% – 50.2%. Anyway, with some difficulty, I have ploughed back through Frank’s recent posts to find a date with firm totals at that date.I found a comment from Frank at 14th June with these figures:


    Harley’s figures start at 4,902,647, so Harley’s figures must start sometime after 14th.

    Now…….(is this getting confusing??)
    Between Harley’s starting figure and present, 104,325 of the absentee votes have been counted. This must surely mean that an awful lot of those uncounted votes (the ones not reported about, totalling 108,648 as at 13th) must have been counted as at 21st. So I doubt that there are many left.

    Two other points which people may no know about:
    1) The count must be finished by 6th July. The final tally will be announced on 13th (I think). As far as I can see, both prop 28 and 29 will be announced then.
    2) I had some uncertainties about the absentee voting system. I though, “Surely people cannot wait to see what the results are so far and then cast their votes?” It seems that all votes have to be cast on or before the end of polling day. The delays seem to be caused by a lot of people handing in ‘postal’ votes on polling day itself, the need to verify these votes and to ensure that these people have not voted elsewhere, and the need to check ‘damaged’ votes.

    It would therefore be a most extraordinary turnabout if the remaining votes to be counted were sufficient to overturn the 27,000 majority against Prop 29.

    Forgive any typos – I’m off to the pub.

  17. smokervoter says:

    The earliest result I had from San Francisco was 77,676 total Prop 29 votes. Then came two power surges of 35K and 28K uncounted ballots. The final result I have is 141,326. That means 63K came after June 5th or 45%. If I was in charge of investigating election irregularities that would certainly raise a red flag for me.

    Think of the Two-Fer. Stan loses $735 million annual and ends up in the gaol for vote rigging. And takes up smoking to kill the time.

    • smokervoter says:

      Whoops. This spreadsheet is getting way too long and scattered. It was 106K originally and 141K final or just 35K extra for SF. So sorry Stan.

      You might want to take it up anyway – for the relaxation and focus.

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