Thursday 31 March 2011

State Pushers.

The antismokers are cranking up the volume on their rantings lately. They have even pretended that someone's died from Electrofag, which is silly and easily shown to be silly.

Not as silly as telling smokers that we're all going to die of stomach and throat cancer and even if we give up we're still at the same high risk for 30 years. So there's really no point in giving up then, as many commenters on that story have noticed. Bit of an own-goal by an increasingly frantic Health Stasi.

Another thing more and more commenters are noticing is that while smoking rates have declined massively, cancer rates and respiratory illness rates have risen. More and more are now questioning how a reducing cause can have an increasing effect. Eventually someone will wonder what it is that is causing the increase in these ailments, rather than blindly accepting that it's all the result of smoking. A point that is made among many other interesting points by HandymanPhil.

Soon, tobacco products will have to be hidden from view so children will not see them on display and therefore will never buiy them. Then they'll be in plain packaging so children will not be attracted by pretty colours and will never buy them.

Eventually tobacco will only be available as an unappealing plastic bag of dried leaves from some seedy street-corner salesman, and that guarantees children will never buy them. Just as they never buy cannabis. Note the hysteria in the comments - these children gave no cannabis to any other child and for all we know, that packet contained a lump of dried chicken litter rather than anything smokeable, and yet there are terrified adults demanding that police intervention is not enough. The deviants must be deleted from the school. Expunge the heretics!

They are eight years old. They are not hardened drug runners. They are kids with a bit of contraband and in a few years, that contraband will be tobacco. Or maybe a lump of dried chicken litter pretending to be tobacco. Being Cheeeldren won't save them this time. The Offended Mob is upon them. Ah well, at least they are learning about modern life early.

Those kids might think they are in trouble now, but all they had was cannabis. Imagine if they'd had a pack of rolling baccy! They'd be off to the detention room with the closing-in walls and the spikes.

Childen will try harder to get something they're not allowed to have. There were very few smoking children when I was little but there were, at that time, no age restrictions on cigarettes. I could, as a small child, go to the corner shop, pick up a pack for my father and buy sweets with the change. Cigarettes held no interest because there was nothing mysterious or rebellious about them. We could even buy sweets shaped like them.

The more mysterious tobacco becomes, the more kids will want to know about it and the more they will want to try it. No wonder the tobacco companies are silent in the face of all these restrictions. They must laugh themselves to sleep every night.

The government are promoting smoking harder than any tobacco company's advertising department ever could, and they are doing it for free.

And they are too stupid to realise it.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Laminate your child.

It's the only way to be sure. Get yourself a big tub of latex or some other plastic compound and seal that child from the outside world. Better yet, encapsulate them in acrylic. They can then never breathe a single speck of dust, never be exposed to smoke and they'll be safe from paedos and bullies too.

Parents, think of the benefits. You'll always know exactly where your child is, and they'll make a handy doorstop, vase stand or coffee table. Their clothes will never get dirty so you'll only need one set and since acrylic encapsulation has been proven to stop further growth (a study has shown this, honest) they won't ever grow out of that one set of clothes. No toilet training, no feeding, no arguing about bedtime, no grimy fingerprints all over the house, no vet - I mean doctor - bills and no demands for the latest gadgetry. Think of the savings. Oh, and think of the silence.

Go on. You know you want to. They'll be utterly safe in there forever. You can even smoke with them in the car because not even tobacco smoke can get through acrylic (another study has shown this, honest, acrylic is the only compound known to man that tobacco smoke can't get through).

Imagine your relief as you take down the four-inch lead shielding from the nursery, that was only guaranteed to stop 92% of tobacco smoke from a smoker five miles away. An acrylic casing makes your child utterly smokeproof. They can never take up the evil habit either since they will not be capable of asking for the under-the-counter non-approved stuff like cigarettes, salt and books. Shopkeepers will refuse to sell anything containing tobacco, alcohol, salt, fat or sugar to a child encased in a sufficiently thick acrylic block (a study has shown).

So do it now, before a single particle of third hand smoke enters your child's body and fills them with cancer of the elbow, dandruff, rabies, Wanker's Wrist, sarcotic mange, laminitis and distemper. Seal them in before a passing smoker contaminates them with impure thoughts and heretical ideas. Smokers do this just by looking at them so keep your children where smokers cannot see them, for their own safety. Encase them while they are healthy and before the tumours blossom, because let's face it, nobody likes a lumpy child.

When every child in the UK is fully protected inside their (ideally opaque) acrylic block, then fascist idiots like Julie Barratt can stop pushing their Nazi final solution on us and we can all get back to real life.

“Parents should know that the only way to protect children from the negative effects of smoking in a car is not to smoke in it at all.”

It's not the only way. There is another way. Ban children.

They seem to be causing pretty much every problem we have these days so just ban the lot.

Teaching nothing.

Children as young as four are to be educated in atheism.

Use your own expletives. If I type what I'm thinking I'll be arrested under the profanity laws.

Four years old. This is Spot the Dog age, Janet and John age, this is Sunday school where the other kids didn't get referred to their parents for excessive use of red paint in their depiction of the Crucifixion. My father couldn't keep a straight face and neither could my grandmother but that's another story entirely.

Apparently Satan wasn't there but come on, I was only four. All I knew was something about him getting stabbed in the side and I was confused with the pitchfork-wielding red guy. Lots of information for a little kid to assimilate and sort.

Four years old, learning atheism, and we have fourteen-year-olds who watch a new DVD every day but can't spell it. What is a four-year-old supposed to be learning? Lego, Play-Doh, rabbit-gutting, Action Man/Barbie, Bagpuss, the Flowerpot Men, butchering calves, fitting shapes into boards, basic reading and evisceration, 2+2=4 and drawing pictures of dismembered bodies. That is a normal childhood.


My first experience of school-based dedicated religious teaching was Religious Knowledge class in secondary school. By this time we were all becoming aware of the lustiness of the female form but our contemporary females had no decently lustable womanly bits yet. The RK teacher had a figure the Daily Mail would hide in bushes to photograph and hair down to her buttocks. She was there to teach us the Puritan way. Not a chance. All the desks were six inches higher whenever she entered the room. Well, apart from those with girls behind them.

She was definitely Christian and fundamentally so. We could send her into a frenzy by asking about satanism or most other religions and if we got onto the dinosaur thing her eyes would bleed and her nipples would stand out like Scania wheel-nuts. Ah, school days...

We never thought to question her on atheism. Why? Well, at that time, atheism wasn't a religion. It was the absence of religion. It was an irrelevance. Atheism meant you'd looked at religion, decided 'Nah, don't believe it' and dropped it.

It was like... well, let's try this one. In the first years of secondary school we all took Spanish class. I didn't continue to O level because I saw no need to learn Spanish beyond 'Huevos, fritos, cerveza'. I figured I could stay alive in Spain if spontaneously transported there so no need to push the envelope. I stopped learning Spanish BUT that did not make me anti-Spanish. In fact I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the bullfight I went to when I was thirteen. Great fun. The bull won, the picador got his half-armoured ass kicked, the banderillos ran like Disney cartoon characters and the toreador left on a stretcher with a big horn-hole in his shoulder. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time.

I didn't continue with RK past the compulsory years but that did not make me anti-religion. I used to consider myself atheist but not now. It's become a religion with meetings and all that crap and I can't be bothered with it so now I am an apathist. There might or might not be a God. I don't care.

Many people believe in God. In the quantum universe described by physics, that might actually be enough to bring a God into existence. Seriously. It could even bring a God into existence before the decision was made to believe in him. Yes, quantum physics is that weird.

Science can't prove or disprove God and it is just silly to try. Belief has nothing to do with science and vice versa. Science piddling around with religious matters - as it seems to be increasingly doing - is wasting its time. Science can neither win nor lose this argument. Just drop it.

As to how you teach four-year-olds to not-believe something, that has to be worth seeing. If only to giggle at the baffled little faces.

'Today, children, we will learn how to not believe in a thing that is not a thing or might be depending on what you believe. You will learn how to not believe in a thing that might or might not be real, but which might become real according to the laws of physics if enough of you believe in it, but you must not believe because it is not real. Or it might be.'

They plan to do this to four-year-olds. And to think, I thought Sunday School was confusing.

I didn't know I was born.

House face.

There is a Thing called pareidolia, which everyone has. It's not a disability. The human brain is programmed to look for human faces and to hear human voices. That's because if you're out in the woods in your bearskin G-string and with your mega-baseball bat (both made by, curiously enough, Ugg), you need to be able to spot the other tribe before they spot you.

So when you stare at the fuzz on an untuned TV you see things. When you listen to white noise you hear voices. When you lie back and watch the clouds or look at a random pattern in the grain of wood, you'll see faces. That's pareidolia. Your brain is trying to find faces and human sounds and in the woods with the other tribes, a false positive is much, much safer than a false negative. It's safer for the brain to find something that might be human but isn't, than to ignore something that might be an enemy and is.

On a totally different tack, it must be hard to come up with enough news to fill a 24-hour rolling stream but there's scraping the barrel and then there's lifting the barrel and scraping beneath it right down to bedrock.

This surpasses bedrock and can only be described as journalistic magma.

I said pareidolia wasn't a disability. Perhaps, for certain journalists at least, it has developed into one.

How the hell did they decide a house in Swansea looked like Hitler? Well, the census form from that house is likely to be very interesting indeed. Mr. Dai Hilter, I presume? Anyone live with you?

'Oh, ja, mein lodger, Mr. Dai Gobbles and his boyo pal innit Mr. Dai Meingoolies. Ve are born in Vales, ja? Oh sure, whateffa, lovely boy, innit mon? Zeig Heil - ach, scheisse.'

Alternatively, there might have been a rally in Nazi Germany where some wag piped up 'Oi, Hitler, your face looks like a corner house in Swansea!' Now that would have been newsworthy.

Oh, and top comment on that story has to be 'Tile Hitler!'

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Schools, or paedo supermarkets?

I remember my schooldays (well, I was sober for most of them) and it was a pretty good time overall. There were bullies, but they were dim and easily deflected. Teachers could hit us but they had to have a good reason and in a mining town, they had to have a very good reason because most kids had fathers who looked like the Hulk on a bad-mood day. Lots of weird stuff happened but it still does and I still blunder my way through life with no plan and somehow it seems to work out fairly well, most of the time.

There was the time I was delivered home, memoryless, at around age 16 and to this day I cannot face vodka and lime. I had consumed far more than the current monthly units limit that night, but we didn't have score cards then. There was the time in the pub when conversation died, someone turned to me and said in a loud voice 'So, when are you 18, Leggy?' to which I replied 'Shut up, idiot!' The school trip to some opera or other at which four of us left during the overture to visit the gents and returned to the bus just in time, and only because the pubs were closing. Still, most of my school days were sober and slightly less bizarre than a drunken dream.

I recall Fat Ian moving forward in his seat with almost supernatural timing just before Simon the Nutter's drill broke through the back of it. Yes, when American kids took guns to school, modern kids take knives, we took power tools. There was the time Short Brad entered the dining hall just as a thunderclap struck. Everyone was impressed at his Vincent Price entrance.

The school has now been flattened. In fact, all of the places I studied and worked at have now been flattened. It's as if there's a God up there thinking 'Damn, missed the little bugger again.' Maybe there's a guy with a scythe following me around. It's something I found best to stop mentioning at job interviews, anyway.

Once, we had a sort of IQ test, but we didn't get a number. After the test we had an interview with a careers guy who was supposed to tell us what sort of job we'd be suited to. We were all in terror of being cast as 'future careers guy' because that would mean 'you are no damn use at all'. In those days, we didn't have diversity outreach officers or smoking cessation enforcers or all the other places to put the useless.

The careers guy showed me my score with hope in his eyes. Here, he thought, was at last one who could do better than sewer maintenance operative or plumber's tool-passing assistant.

"So what do you want to do with your life?" was his question.

I had no idea. Still don't. I said "I'd like to be a professional budgie breeder." My older cousin had an aviary and it appealed to me at the time. He also had no life plan and still doesn't. It seems to work for him too.

I think that was the moment I realised just how fast you could deflate someone with a few words. It still took a few years to turn that into a proper weapon, but I'm sure that was where it started.

In these enlightened times, children are no longer given sensible careers advice. Thanks to the Tiny Blur, schools expect all their little charges to go on to university or college and thus their futures are someone else's problem. Either that, or they have no future beyond benefits and Stella and can be given classes in shellsuits, Burberry, convincing Cash Converters the stuff isn't nicked and voting Labour. That's the modern version of vocational training.

Parents are no longer concerned about the quality of teaching in schools, only about whether their child is likely to come home on a school bus or in a body bag. Future careers are a secondary consideration when you have to worry about there being any future at all.

Now it seems the principal career choice offered to children is membership of Stonewall or a life dressed like Julian Clary and a career based on crude botty jokes. Children are to be questioned with 'Are you a pooftah?' at age 11.

At age 11 I had no idea what 'homosexual' meant. I was still a couple of years away from any interest in girls, in fact I still had to pass through that natural phase of experimentation with explosives and had hardly electrocuted myself at all. I was many volts away from the time of sexual awakening (and if you're 11 and are wondering, no, it's not all it's cracked up to be so have fun with the explosives and the electricity while you can).

There is something sinister in this obsession the authorities have with children and sexuality. Children have no sexuality. In my childhood, even kissing was a disgusting and unhygienic practice. It was a thing girls did to you if you weren't alert enough to get out of the way in time.

At age 11, the principal drivers of life were toy cars, plastic kits, things that went 'bang' and things that could fire something over long distances. There were no videos or electronic games in those days. We amused ourselves by finding lizards under rotting logs or finding crawlies under stones or building dams across streams or a hundred other things, none of which involved any sexual activity of any kind at all.

At that age, the dangly was urinary apparatus, nothing more, and our only interest in it was how far up the school pissoir we could wet the bricks. At the age of 11, it didn't do anything else.

Now the authorities want to know if kids like to pot the pink or the brown at age 11, when no natural child should know what the euphemisms even mean. Equality? It sounds more like the sorting of children into paedophile preferences.

If they are caught, then - unlike men accused of rape - they are granted anonymity.

I had dismissed the conspiracy theory of 'institutional paedophilia' as silly. But now I'm beginning to wonder.

There is no rational need for an eleven-year-old child to be asked about their sexual preferences when they are too young to know or care what those words mean.

Therefore, it's not for them. Therefore there is another reason.

There is no alternative reason that is palatable, but one of them must be true.

Monday 28 March 2011

The lions are hungry.

There are many tales about the Romans throwing Christians to the lions. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't, maybe they just threw everyone to the lions, I don't know. If they'd had Fred Phelps, they could have thrown the lions to him just to change the entertainment for a day.

We have lions in the UK. I've been to Longleat, I've seen them. They didn't eat any Christians in those days but that was a while back. Long before Mr. Bean, the Archbeard of Canterbury, declared that maybe we should give Sharia law a try. Before Dawkins, the Prophet of Nothing, launched his all-out attack on Christianity as if it were the only religion in existence.

Our official government line is that there is no concerted attack on Christianity but every time Christians come up against Muslims or gays or anyone else, the Christians always lose. Always. No exceptions. I am not religious at all, neither am I gay, so I see this from a detached observer's viewpoint. What I see is pretty much the standard denormalisation procedure, all over again. Pick a group and slap them down at every turn until there's nowhere left to go because everyone thinks they are evil. This time, the group is not so easily isolated.

Recently, the BBC employed a wench who has apparently spent her career studying religion even though she is an avowed atheist. Quite why anyone should choose to become expert in a subject that holds no interest for them at all is something that could be the subject of an entire post on the lunacy of the population, but not this post. This wench claimed there was a Mrs. God (Doris God, in pinafore and hairnet, demanding to know where Mr. God has been till this hour and has he been out getting omnipotent with his pals again) and many other bizarre things, all very strange claims to come from someone who doesn't believe in any of it. How can you believe in Mrs. God but not believe in God? I can't rip it apart from a Christian viewpoint so I'll direct you to Marmalade Sandwich, who does just that.

She links Christianity to Baal worship which annoys me and will infuriate Baal, if I'm right about him. She'd better watch her step. Baal likes to play games.

Realstreet notes that the first option in the census religion question is 'none'
. Doesn't bother me, my religion is 'other - smoker' but it is an interesting observation. Why break with tradition and make 'none' the first instead of the last choice for this question? It's a small thing, a trivial thing, but small things can be significant.

Hot on the heels of this comes a man who never gets blood on his shirt collar because a) he doesn't shave and b) he doesn't wear anything with collars. I speak of none but the great non-prophet Bart D. Ehrman, who declares that parts of the Bible are forged.

If you're not Christian, Jewish or Muslim, it's all forged, because either you believe something else or you believe in nothing at all. If you're Jewish, the Old Testament is kosher, the New Testament is the ramblings of deranged goyem who had bad dreams from eating lasagne. If you're Christian it's all true and depending which type of Christian you are, Jesus was either the direct Son of God or was a prophet. If you're Muslim, it's all true and Jesus was a prophet. It all depends on where you start from but it's either true or not true. Claiming it's true apart from some bits is going to get you laughed at from all quarters. Although dressing like that and forgetting to shave for a few days could have that result too. Look, Bart, if you're that paranoid about blood on your collar, shave before you get dressed. Ad hominem, yes, but you can't expect to be taken seriously as an expert on a worldwide religion when you look like the extra slumped in the corner of a spaghetti-western saloon.

I mean, come on, I don't take the Archedeyebrows of Canterbury seriously on the subject. I am not going to take a Rab Nesbitt lookalike more seriously, now am I? "And the Lord spake unto the heretic, saying, 'I will tell you this, pal, I will tell you this. See you. See deid. Aye.' And lo, he smote the unbeliever with the empty Bells bottle of damnation". Nope. Not working.

I think the anti-Christians have missed something important. These are not atheists, by the way, pal (slaps face to remove Nesbitt influence), No, they are specifically anti-Christian. The BBC has never dared ridicule the blue-skinned multi-limbed gods of the Hindu, nor the beliefs of Jainism nor the teachings of the Buddha. They have not picked fights with the Satanists nor with the followers of Pan or even of Baal, although having read up on Baal I wouldn't mess with him either, just in case. They would never dare disparage the Torah or the Q'ran but... they just did.

The Old Testament is central to the Jewish faith. The entire Bible, and Jesus as a prophet, is within the Muslim faith. Sure, their Q'ran supersedes it in their religion but Moses, Abraham and all the rest are still part of that religion.

So the anti-Christians are insulting not just Christianity in their tirades but also Jews and Muslims too.

If they're not careful, they are going to be responsible for an obesity epidemic among lions.

Mr. Longleat will not be at all pleased.

Sunday 27 March 2011

A Sunday Ramble.

Warning: Brain is freewheeling on this one. Anything can happen.

I confess. I forgot the clocks changed and found it was an hour later than I'd anticipated last night, so abandoned posting. I'd been watching more of those DVDs I found in the garage. Watching '1984' was a mistake. Towards the end, the viewscreens announce a glorious victory for the forces of Oceania on the African front. Looking at the newspapers immediately afterwards was a little disturbing.

A lot happened yesterday. It was Census Eve and it was also Earth Hour day. I forgot about that too. Well, the clocks went forward, I lost an hour, so Earth Hour must have been the hour I lost. That's okay, I didn't need that one anyway.

Then there were protests in London at which Moribund Minor exhorted his drones to higher and higher levels of lunacy whereby they protest about the 'cuts that are not cuts' that would have happened whoever was in government. The newspapers scream 'Anarchists!' but protesters demanding more government intervention are not anarchists. Quite the opposite, in fact.

It's interesting how people have been made to fear anarchists, even though the word describes someone who is against all forms of government and who wants a world in which everyone makes their own decisions, with no interference from the State at all. It is not logically possible to fear anarchy because it means 'do whatever you want'. That includes setting up a local council/government if you want, as long as you don't impose it on people who don't want it. Belgium functions with no government. So might Somalia if it wasn't for all the statists trying to impose their own version of dictatorship by violence. Africa, as a continent, functioned perfectly well for thousands of years with no government and no national boundaries of any kind. So did everywhere else.

I am not a full anarchist. I see the logic in centrally funded police, ambulance, fire, military etc. Locally funding those things could mean that if you're a stranger in town and haven't paid in locally, you're not covered if you get mugged, fall over or spontaneously combust. So I suppose I'm some kind of minarchist, I haven't worked out a definition yet and might never bother.

I see no role for government outside those areas. None. I do not see the logic in letting government dictate who a pub, club or cafe can allow on the premises, nor any sense at all in dictating who can buy cigarettes, beer or pies. I would abolish the minimum age for all these things and make it the parents' responsibility.

So if your eight-year-old comes home plastered, you do something about it. Do not cry 'Something must be done' and expect Nanny to step in. While I agree something should be done, I would say it's the parents' responsibility to do it. If the child gets drunk and attacks old ladies, as a parent, that's your responsibility. You sort the little bugger out or you take the penalty. If on the other hand, the child likes a beer now and then and never causes any trouble at all, why should anyone intervene? An occasional beer will neither kill a child nor turn it into a raging alcoholic. It might even turn them into a responsible drinker who can hold their sauce without going berserk.

Age of majority, when the child becomes an adult? Pick one and stick to it. Currently people are adult enough to get married, have sex and children at 16, adult enough to join the military a few months later, but not adult enough to drive until 17 and still not adult enough to decide whether they'd like a drink or a smoke until 18. The really weird one is where you can marry and have sex at 16 but can't watch a sex film, including the instructional ones, until you're 18. There was a case a while back where an instructional video on checking for cancer of the danglies was forbidden from 15-year-old eyes, even though those eyes are just a few feet above the very danglies the video claims are at risk. So check your bag of lumps for lumps, lads, but we aren't going to tell you how until it's too late. Hint: If your count is greater than two, that's not right.

One age, not this ridiculous phasing-in of adulthood. Because of the uncertainty, because of the blurred edges of responsibility, more and more people never make the transition at all.

Make it clear. Pick an age, say 16, and on that 16th birthday you are an adult, and a child no more. If you've been a total little waster for the past 16 years, your parents no longer take the rap when you smash up a phone box, steal from shops, beat up pensioners, desecrate churches or paint Cherie Blair's face around a postbox slot (actually, I don't think that last one should be a crime because I, for one, would find it excruciatingly funny).

From the parents' point of view, if they have been cursed with an uncontrollable hellspawn for 16 years, then on its 16th birthday they can give it suitcases and a one-way ticket to a faraway place. They are no longer responsible for this horrible little goblin. Seeing that happen to a few older gang members might focus the younger minds somewhat. I would anticipate the incidence of such events being high at first but then declining very rapidly indeed.

At the point where you become an adult you can smoke or not smoke as you choose. You can eat pies or salads as you choose. You can drink or not drink as you choose. If you get into trouble, your parents are no longer responsible for your actions. You would know this for certain because it would be clear and simple. There would be no period of 'he was drunk but he's still a child, really'. The child/adult definition would be absolutely clear.

Another thing that would be clear is that while the choices are now yours, the responsibilty for those choices is also yours. If you decide to drink until your liver looks like a colander that's been used for shotgun practice, you are responsible for that. Nobody else. If you turn into a wobbly version of the Hulk when plastered and smash things, you are responsible. Not the brewery, nor the pub. No 'Oh, but I had a hard life, innit?' excuses. So did I for a time, as a result of my own bad choices. I stayed mostly sober and got out of there. I could have descended into the bottom of a bottle of cheap sherry, as many did, and been found frozen to a park bench by my own solidified urine. Choices work both ways.

Many people don't want choices. They don't want responsibility. They want the government to take the choices and responsibility away from them and tell them how to live their lives, every minute of every day. We only have one life each and it astounds me how many are happy to let someone else live it for them. How many turn up at the Pearly Gates and, when asked to account for their lives, respond with 'I was only obeying orders'? But then living in thrall to a supposed superior is, in itself, a form of choice. If they are happy with their choice to give their lives up to slavery, why would I want to change them?

I don't. Let them live how they choose, even if that means they forfeit all further options. Why would I care at all?

I care because in giving up their choices to the monster we call government, they make that monster powerful enough to impose its will on those of us who don't want to give up our lives, our choices, our responsibilities and our thoughts to the monster. Conform or be declared insane, when conformity is clearly insanity.

Is it sane to hand over your only chance at life to someone else, to spend your only existence in this world as a drone, doing exactly as you are told, cutting the lawn every Saturday, washing the car every Sunday, accepting a bollocking for being five minutes late for work while accepting that it's 'normal' to work through your lunch break and then take more work home for no extra pay? Is it sane to accept that, as a condition of employment, your employer can dictate what you do in your personal life? Is it sane to strive for no more than to be exactly the same as everyone else and to enforce that sameness on the rest of your hive, on pain of expulsion or death? It's normal if you're an ant or a bee.

One go at life is all I'll get so is it really asking too much that I be allowed to live it as I choose, with no harm or even inconvenience to anyone else? So I don't listen to the health advice that changes daily. Who is harmed? Nobody. Oddly enough, not even me. Yet if I gain weight I will be a 'drain on the NHS' even though my medical file must be thin enough to slip under a door despite years of smoking and fine malts and salt and pork scratchings and all the rest. I don't use the NHS. Maybe I will one day, but by then I'll have paid in enough to have solid gold contacts on the defibrillator and catheters fashioned from the rarest sea-cucumbers encrusted with diamonds (ouch! Maybe skip the diamonds) and I still won't cost more than I've paid in. So forget the guilt trip. At the end I plan to recoup as much as possible of all that money I've been forced to hand over to the State and I will not suffer even a twinge of regret.

As for organ donations, forget it. When I've finished with this body, it will be displayed to medical students in the 'How the hell did he live that long?' section of their museum. I am not nurturing spare parts for others. Nor do I want spare parts installed. Sure, there'll be cries of 'Yeah, you would, if it was that or death'. No I would not.

If I had a heart transplant I would be on immunosuppressive drugs and under close medical supervision. No smoking. No drinking. No pies and no pork scratchings. A life of hell and for what? A few extra years until the Lucasparts heart gives up. I'd rather die earlier and happy in the knowledge that I had a good time right to the end. It is absurd to spend your life fearing death. It is going to happen. There is no way to stop it. It might be quick or it might be slow but it is going to happen. Forget about it. Enjoy the time you have because there is no telling when it will end.

Unless, of course, you allow your dronemasters to decide you're old, unproductive and costing the NHS money, and that it's time you were euthanased and maybe broken up for spares. Never happen? Look around you. It's already begun.

Make your choice.

Well, I still have the census form in pristine condition here. I won't fill it in today. Not because I don't have time but because I can't be bothered with it today. Maybe tomorrow. Or the next day.

Or maybe I'll wait until they send someone to 'help'. That could be entertaining.

Merry Census, everyone.

Oooo, I found my copy of 'Simon Says'. A gorefest awaits. I especially like the flying pickaxes in this one.

Saturday 26 March 2011


A late Smoky-Drinky tonight.

One guy irritated everyone at first by persistently asking if we knew how many had been killed in the war in Libya. Nobody could answer. Well, Gadfly is certainly inflating civilian casualties caused by the UN while pretending he's not causing any. I fully believe our side are similarly 'adjusting' casualty figures. That's wartime propaganda and it means we can't know for sure how many lives this has cost so far, nor who took them. As with past wars, the true cost in lives will not be known until a long time afterwards.

But that wasn't his point. His point was in his next question. 'How much does each missile cost?' That was easy.

It was a little disturbing to realise that while the news doesn't tell us much about the lives lost, it takes great delight in telling us the price of every damn bullet and the value of all that hardware.

For politicians of all shades, life has always meant nothing in their pursuit of money. The newspapers used to take a different view because their readers, the general public, were more concerned about life than money. Not any more.

Look in any list of comments in any newspaper and it won't take long to find comments such as 'the cost to the NHS' or 'the money could have been used for [insert pet project]'. To hell with human life, all anyone - anyone- cares about now is money. There was a story about the Gloucester cheese-rolling game that's been cancelled again, and under that there was a comment to the effect of 'Should be banned anyway - costs the NHS money'. Oh, it's gone way beyond smokers, drinkers and fat people now.

People are not concerned with how many Libyans a Tomahawk kills. They are concerned with how much it cost to blow that thing up. That is how people think now. The newspapers merely reflect this.

A house is no longer a home. It's a pile of money that must get bigger no matter what. A car is not a box to travel in. It's a valuable thing that must not even be scratched. I used to paint mine with Hammerite when the rust grew out of control and once shrugged off the apologies of someone who backed into me with 'That's what bumpers are for'. In those days, they were chromed steel, not plastic, and dents could be ignored. I had also bought the car in question for £75 and kept it patched together for years. Ah, the days of stripping down a carburettor and replacing a head gasket...

Now, it's all about the monetary value of everything.

Every car I ever owned ended up sold for scrap, spares, or for a few quid. I never spent a lot on the next one, they wear out and they rust. Scratches? Out with the tin of paint and the brush, just to stop it rusting. I bought this house for £120K, I have around 50K left on the mortgage so if house prices halved and it's worth only 60K now, I can still sell and clear the mortgage. Investment? No, it's a big box that keeps the rain off. That's all it means to me.

I have never understood the money mindset. That's probably why I spent myself homeless in my younger days. From that I learned to stay out of debt but accumulating money has always seemed pointless. I haven't done a stroke of work since January because I've earned enough for this tax year and don't need any more. Work will fire up again in April. I have no loans, my only debt is my mortgage. I have a buffer of savings in case of hard times but I'll never accumulate enough to be called 'rich'. That, I suppose, is why I hadn't noticed the skewed news myself - the cost of missiles just goes over my head. It's brushed aside like adverts.

What I had been looking for is the cost in terms of life, and that's hard to find. There is much jubilation over the death of one of Gadfly's sons. Now, it's pretty clear that he was a particularly nasty chip off the old block and there won't be much wailing at his funeral, but consider - there is no concern at all over a human death and serious reflection over what the missiles cost. Am I the only one who thinks this is the wrong way round?

Money is all anyone cares about now. And yet money is the root of their enslavement. Borrow money and pay back more money even though the only source of money is the bank you borrowed it from. It's a trap, and it's a trap people don't just fall into. It's a trap they embrace with earnest desire. Money. Have to have more. 'Car' is not enough, it must be Bugatti. 'House' must be kept painted magnolia and clear of clutter for the buyers to view, for the entire twenty years you have it while waiting for the price to increase. Someone's sick? My taxes are paying for that, so let them die. War? Have you any idea how much those bombs cost? Make them count.

I don't understand the house people at all. Surely if house prices go up and you get more for your house, you'll just have to pay more for the next one? If a house cost a penny, I'd only get a penny for mine but I could buy the one next door with that penny, so nothing's changed, surely?

As for human life, well, nobody cares. The cheese-rolling is not a spectacle, it's a risk of injury that might cost the NHS money. Libyans being massacred? Yes, but it'll make the oil cheaper. Look at the uproar when garages failed to reduce petrol by one penny per litre. One penny. For a fifty-litre tank, that's a difference of fifty pence per fill. What does a fill cost now? Fifty quid? Sixty? Does fifty pence really make that much difference?

Meanwhile the winter payments to pensioners to help with heating costs have just reduced by £50-£100 each winter. This is life or death money, not 'shall I take a detour past the chip shop or not' money. Only Subrosa seems to have noticed.

We are told that the planet can be saved from global warming by handing over money. How? How does handing over money affect global temperatures? How does giving money to other countries keep them cool? Are they making parasols out of it? And yet when there's a winter that has brass monkeys wearing nut-nets all over the northern hemisphere, there's no money to help out with the costs of the massively increased heating bills.

Money should be a trading commodity that enhances the old barter system by introducing a universal bartering mechanism. That's all it should be. It should be a tool used by people, not a god to control them. Somewhere along the line it took over and now the survival of money is more important than the survival of the human race.

The money matters. The people don't.

Friday 25 March 2011

A quickie.

No time to say much tonight, so I'll just ask a question -

When do we impose a no-fly zone over Brussels?

No wonder the Americans have opted out of running the Libyan debacle-in-waiting. They can't be seen to support regimes like this.

Thursday 24 March 2011

There is no such thing as 'defenceless'.

Nice house when it's not obscured by wicker-smoke.

A spontaneous night off last night. One of the side effects of clearing the crap-hole that is my garage/workshop is finding things I'd forgotten about. I found a box of DVDs I thought I'd lost forever. A few Red Dwarfs, some Vincent Price hamtastics, the John Hurt version of 1984, the Wicker Man with Ed Woodwoodwood and more. So I was fully videoed out last night.

Today I considered talking about the budget but this one has been leakier than a shotgun-treated sieve so everyone already knows. Smokers get another kick in the nuts, no surprises there and no concern here. I don't buy mine from the taxed shops. Man with a Van will increase his prices because criminals don't do things for the benefit of others, they do it for profit. Like politicians. He will increase his price, maintain his price differential and do more business than ever. The more they clamp down on smokers, the better the criminals will do. Well, with a bit of luck, this time next year I'll be starting on my own crop and I can ditch Man with a Van too. I think I'll also try Rose's mead with the apple starter, perhaps refined with an isolation on Sabouraud-dextrose agar followed by alcohol acclimatisation because well, it's my job. I think I might also build a wicker man in the garden, just in case it's ever needed for something.

Sod the budget. It's all fiddling around with other people's money, no matter who is in charge. Ozzy will still give money to the Dreadful Arnott and Donkey Shagger so they can sneer at and denormalise those he's taken the money from to give to them. Nothing will change, at least nothing that actually matters.

Instead, let's have a little story.

A long, long time ago in a place far, far away, there lived some peasants. These peasants had no money because they were taxed on the basis of how much they earned so the more they earned, the more they paid. As a result, nobody ever managed to save any money because no matter how hard they worked and how much they earned, they ended up with the same amount anyway.

Now it would seem obvious that they should do the least amount of work needed to earn enough to live on after tax. Of course it's obvious. Why would anyone bust a gut to get the same pay as Lazy Keen Meng who sleeps under his coolie hat half the day and picks a tenth of the rice everyone else picks? The clear result must surely be that everyone works at the pace of the slowest. The word of the day would be Mae win-ti, every day.

Ah, but the peasant-owners have Enforcers, equipped with very sharp swords and bows and really snazzy armour and the peasants aren't allowed any weapons. The Enforcers make sure the peasants work as hard as possible even though the pay is actually the same whether they try or not.

Oh, but these peasants must surely revolt? They must rise up and overthrow their masters, it must surely be so? Ah, but remember, peasants cannot own weapons. No weapons at all. Not even defensive ones. So what can these peasants do?

In that land, long ago and far away, the peasants learned to fight without weapons. They learned to use themselves, and anything available, as a weapon. Today we call their methods by names such as 'karate' and we think it's all very cool and trendy to learn. We think 'numchucks' are a fancy weapon when really they are a tool to dehusk rice. We think the three-pronged short swords look really cool when they are just tools for lifting hay.

The peasants learned to fight back using the things they were already proficient at using. Their hands and their tools. Dehusking rice with a flail is dangerous if you don't have control of the flail - but when you do have control, it can dehusk more than rice.

The peasants were not allowed to own swords or bows or knives or any weapons at all. They did not become weak and subservient. They learned to turn the everyday, and themselves, into weapons.

Banning weapons achieves nothing more than a redefinition of 'weapon'.

So what of today? What do we have? Computers? Well, blogs have become weapons of a sort but they are a weapon the peasant-owners can simply switch off. It's not as easy as they would like, as Egypt discovered, but it's a weapon that can be at least easily blunted. It doesn't help much against a backstreet mugger, either, unless you have an early Amstrad laptop that was heavy enough to brain a rhino.

The old saying, 'the pen is mightier than the sword' is self-evident bollocks to anyone who owns both. Even if you have a really good Parker pen filled with the best Windsor and Newton ink, the sword will win every time. Even if it's a first-time sword user against Shakespeare and his well-practised quill skill. However, 'the pen is easier to hide than the sword' is always true.

I have carried a steel-barrelled pen on every flight I've been on and nobody has ever even questioned it. Try getting on the same flight with those Inquisition-style eyebrow curling devices. The worst you could do is give someone unusually curly eyebrows. With a deft push and twist, a pen (even a cheap Bic) could be right through your heart in a second. A HB pencil will work just as well, even better as they can be sharp, and they come with rubber ends so you don't even bruise your palm.

There are places you can hit a human body that will cause pain, unconsciousness, disability (temporary or permanent) even death, agonising or instant. You don't have to be Chuck Norris to do it. The papers often have stories of someone who 'killed with one punch' when it's clear they didn't intend to. They just hit the right spot by bad luck. They should still be punished anyway, because they are too stupid to realise just how much of a weapon they are.

As should those who ban weapons. Give someone a gun and they might miss or inflict a flesh-wound. Give them a sword they don't know how to use and they are more at risk of being cut than the one they're attacking. Likewise a knife. The best way to fight with a knife is not to use the knife. If you hold it in your left hand, way out from your body, your opponent is focused on the knife and will never see the right hook coming.

I'e never taken a self-defence class. I learned the hard way, which isn't recommended because although it's quickly effective, it does hurt a lot and can cost a few teeth. Favourite line from a long-ago dentist visit - 'There are gaps in these teeth that aren't in your record' 'Yeah, well, I don't always win'. I still have my unnaturally big canines, and I'm pleased about that. They've got me out of a few potential fights over the years.

I also learned from friends who worked as pub bouncers and were taught what not to do. Now, if you come at me with a knife, it'll likely end up in your chest with only your fingerprints on it. My fingerprints will be on your hand and elbow.

I have never set out to harm anyone. All I have ever been interested in is in learning ways to not have the crap kicked out of me. So far I have never come across anyone persistent enough to need a total stop.

So I can't carry a gun. I don't care, I don't own one and never have. What troubles me about the ban is that every backstreet mugger can be certain I don't have a gun on me. I didn't have one anyway but before the gun ban, they couldn't be sure. Now they can.

Burglars now know I have no gun in the house. Muggers know I have no Crocodile Dundee blade up my shirt. Both know I have no defensive weapons because all forms of self-defence are illegal. As is interfering with a criminal in the course of his duty.

And so history turns on a wheel. Once again we are denied all weapons, and denied the right to defend ourselves. Once again we are the peasants pressed down by the enforcers.

Out there, everywhere you look, are the means to defend yourself. Often, it's the thing your assailant holds in his hands. Or the cigarette you're smoking, the paper cup of hot coffee, the pencil in your pocket.

You take the risk in defending yourself. Sometimes you lose and you take the dents. If you wake up breathing then on some level you've won.

If you give in and bow down every time then on every level, you've lost.

Tuesday 22 March 2011


There was once a Brian Aldiss short story called 'Supercity'. I think it was in the collection 'Space, Time and Nathaniel' but I used to have a lot of his books, now sadly gone.

It's not about a super city. It's one word, with the accent on the second syllable, and describes the act of becoming indispensible through being thoroughly useless.

In the story, a social climber commits a dreadful faux-pas involving a woman and scurries off to hide on some out of the way planet at the back end of nowhere. The planet has nothing and attracts no interest from Earth, a sort of space-age Deadwood Gulch. No oil, no minerals, nothing in the way of scenery, nothing to attract tourists so far off the beaten space-track.

The hero sets about improving his lot by, at first, filling in and returning every single beurocratic form sent from Earth. The pen-pushers are delighted. Nobody on that planet ever bothered returning anything before. They send more forms. He fills them in and sends them back. Then he stops.

The pen-pushers send concerned letters. Is something wrong? Yes, he responds. His entire administration has collapsed under the weight of forms. What he needs is a supercomputer.

Naturally, Earth sends one without question, for the forms are all-important. When it arrives, with technicians, it is discovered that this little planet has no electricity. So a host of engineers arrive to create an electricity generating system. There is no coal or oil. The planet surface is too smooth for any hope of hydro-electric. No nuclear sources to hand. In all this, the planet is getting massive income from all these visitors and the longer they fail to achieve their objectives, the richer it gets. I can't remember how they managed to generate electricity in the end, but it all resulted in a large flow of cash from Earth to Planet Deadwood.

All because of forms. Our system will do anything for forms.

In my last regular employment, there were time sheets. These had to be filled in in 15-minute increments. Also, there were forms relating to how much teaching, research, consultancy, holidays etc I took, all of which were already detailed on the timesheets and indeed in my contract. Teaching was also recorded on the class timetables which were centrally generated. Mine always matched up perfectly because I'd spend a day a year filling them all in and sending them out when requested for the rest of the year. What I was actually doing was never recorded. What I was supposed to be doing was recorded perfectly.

Nobody ever questioned this. The forms arrived, someone typed them into a computer, they matched, box ticked, job done.

I was, in effect, invisible to admin. No anomaly ever cropped up under my name. They'd put the forms in the computer and I was gone. Filed and forgotten. Those who tried to fill the forms honestly always made mistakes and always had to answer questions about data mismatches.

Once you understand the way the forms work, you can use them to your advantage. Nobody outside the incredibly Vogon world of the administrators gives two hoots about the forms but to admin, they are the very stuff of life. An incorrectly filled form is terror beyond comprehension to them. In Brian Aldiss's story, the hero uses forms to turn his outpost into a wealthy world. I used them to disappear into admin's computers.

On Nothing2Declare, guest poster SBC used the strict application of forms to take revenge on a vengeful boss.

Forms don't matter to me but to all levels of administration, they matter a lot. It's worth looking into the tedious world of forms because if you don't know how they work, you can be trapped by them.

If you do, you can set traps of your own.

Monday 21 March 2011

Swatting the Gadfly.

I don't like Gadfly, the dictator of Libya. He's arrogant and filled with self-importance and he treats the country he runs as his own personal property. He orders his army to go out and kill people he doesn't like.

I don't like the Cameroid, nor the Clegg, nor most of those who think themselves the new gentry, for much the same reasons.

Gadfly is an unpleasant individual on many levels. He's not someone I'd like to be associated with and I certainly wouldn't invite him to my house. He is, however, a human being. Human beings I don't like, I avoid. It's not that difficult. There is no need to kill them or even dehumanise them. It's a big planet.

Our government have decreed that this man, Gadfly, is not a human being. He is a 'legitimate target'. He has been dehumanised and everyone now has the right to treat him as subhuman, treat him with utter contempt to the point that they can kill him, or let him die, and our government will be pleased.

As a smoker, I know what that means, which is why it disgusts me to see our government openly declaring a human being as a 'legitimate target'. Even when it's Gadfly. It's only a matter of time before they make that declaration about me. Already it is legitimate, according to our government, to make smokers stand in 'shelters' that would be illegal to keep an animal in, it is legitimate for businesses to advertise 'no smokers' in job adverts and it is legitimate for the NHS to refuse treatment to smokers, whether they present with a smoking related illness or not. 'Legitimate target' is a line that has the Dreadful Arnott salivating. She would love to hear it more often.

Yes, I could stop being a smoker. Will that help? Not really. Ex-smokers are still coated with the imaginary pixie dust that is third hand smoke. There is no escape. Equally, Gadfly could give up being boss of Libya. Will that help? No, the hounds are on his trail now and they will never stop. Once you join Denormalisation Club, there is no way to leave.

It's so easy for them now. After all this time dehumanising their own people they have no trouble at all dehumanising non-British people. All they have to do is declare the 'legitimate target' line and that's it. Done. Dusted. Dehumanised.


Even Madman Hussein had a trial. A trial whose outcome was decided from the start, but a trial. They can't put Gadfly on trial. Too many photo opportunites will come back to haunt them. No, he has to be disposed of to save embarrassment.

And so we have another war. Another Muslim country invaded. This is not the same as Iraq and Afghanistan. Those were Labour wars. Dirty, naughty wars. This is a Coagulation war, this is the Cameron/Clegg Collective trying once more to be more New Labour than New Labour. So the Cameroid declares it 'just and legal' and that's all right then. So he sends what military hardware he hasn't already had dismantled, run by troops who don't know what will get them first - the bullet or the P45. And he expects us to cheer.

Afghanistan at least had a reason. The Americans went in after Bin Laden and we went to help. Bin Laden left Afghanistan a long time ago, but we're all still there. The reason has gone.

Iraq had no reason behind it at all. It was possibly the only Muslim country where Bin Laden could get no help or support. It was the one country that could not have been involved with Al Qaeda but it was the one we invaded. We're still there.

Libya? It's none of our business. While the rebels looked like winning, our glorious leaders shouted about what a bad, bad man Gadfly was. They held back from interfering because there was no need. They were shouting for the right team - even though they don't know what that team wants. They don't want Gadfly, but what do they plan as a replacement? Something better or something worse? I hope they have a plan because their 'liberators' don't. Never have, and never will.

While things were going well for the rebels, Cameroid sent in the SAS to say hello. The rebels told them to piss off. Now things are going badly, the rebels are wailing 'Where are the western powers we just told to piss off? Why aren't they helping us now we're losing?'

If I was in Cameroid's job, my response would be simple. 'I offered help. You told me to piss off. I pissed off. Sort it out yourselves.' Actually it wouldn't have come to that because I'd have stayed out of it, called nobody names and waited to see who won. I'd have the military on standby in case the rough stuff headed our way but otherwise, none of our business. It's an internal matter for Libya.

Ah, but Cameroid has appearances to keep up. No matter that he appears to have a bread-bin for a head and a children's TV presenter for a sidekick. No, he has been shouting about what a very bad man Gadfly is, and he knows that if Gadfly wins, those words will not be forgotten. Cameroid is, to use the vernacular, bricking it. If Gadfly gets control of Libya, those lucrative oil contracts will all be seriously reconsidered.

This invasion is to save political face, not to save Libyans. How can Cameroid claim to be saving Libyans by bombing Libyans? Well, it comes from the same government that claims to be saving smokers, drinkers, fat people and many more groups by mercilessly persecuting them so perhaps somewhere in the cobwebbed caverns of that Tabla-drum skull, the brain cell took a few moments out of playing 'Echo' to insist that its one foray into surrealist logic was correct.

There has been much discussion of Gadfly's oppressive regime. Maybe he really did make people disappear. Maybe he really did terrible things like threatening to take people's children away if they didn't behave as directed. Maybe he did.

The British justice system certainly does those things.

The courts in this country can pronounce secrecy on anything they like. If you mention that you are involved in one of those cases, if you attempt to contact your MP, they will take your children away. Not because you are a bad parent but as a punishment for not doing as you are told. We live in a country that can do that, and has done that, and still does. We have councils who employ people to spy on other people's bins and declare fines for littering. Attempt to challenge them and they'll simply increase the fine. We live in a country where you do as you are told or a thousand petty gadflys will be at your door demanding all that you have. We have no business criticising even Cuba's system. At least they don't pretend to have freedom.

A fews days ago, the Arab countries were insisting that the West impose a no-fly zone over Libya even though they are perfectly capable of doing it themselves. Russia did not veto the UN's decision to impose this sanction.

With tiresome predictability, the Arab nations and Russia now condemn the West's imposition of a no-fly zone. Slaphead and Simple, our partially-elected leaders, walked right into that one and now have no way out. Continue the action and increase world friction, or back off and let Gadfly win. Either way, we're going to be paying a lot more for oil in the very near future. Either we get it from Libya, from a furious Gadfly, or we get it from the other Arab nations who are enraged that we're shooting at Gadfly.

And our suited oafs have declared this man, this Gadfly, a 'legitimate target'. What does Iran's leadership think of that? Or Syria? Are they expecting to be declared 'legitimate targets' too?

Why not? Most of the population of this country are expecting it at any moment.

I have to wonder why the Arab nations didn't lift a finger to help the rebels but insisted the West did it - and then turned on us as soon as we did. I have to wonder why Cameroid and the EU and the UN were so stupid as to take this bait. Why did so many countries want us tied up in another war that's none of our business? Another war we can't afford.

For our leaders, life is all about money. Oil is money so the oil must flow. For other minds, there are matters that transcend money, oil, gold, all of it. Much more pressing matters. Matters that are worth playing a long and complex game to achieve.

If I were Israel, I'd be worried to see all my allies being run ragged like this.

Sunday 20 March 2011

Can you tell what it is yet?

The crocuses are coming up, but not evenly. I seem to have all the yellow ones up first although a few blue ones are starting to show.

The pole sticking up is the washing line, which was unavoidable when making an eight-foot crocus circle in a small lawn. The shape they're making isn't too clear.

Here's a different angle in monochrome. Can you see it yet? I expected it to be in full flower by now but they're not even all up so far.

I know, there are more important things going on in the world. I'll get to them tomorrow. I've spent the whole day in the garden because of a burst of rare non-wet and non-windy weather. If it could add in non-freezing, that would be great but let's not get too picky. It's only March.

So I am relaxed and plan to stay that way for a few hours yet. At least until Uncle Gadfly starts retaliating.

He'd better not bomb my crocuses. I've waited months for this.

Friday 18 March 2011

Rant-free evening.

Since it's Red Nose Day, I'm off out to a Smoky-Drinky to avoid it. There will be red noses involved but they won't be plastic.

Instead of the usual tale of rage and misery gleaned from the papers, here's something to laugh at. I still think Johnny Morris did the best ones though.

More ranting tomorrow.

Waking nightmares.

Some already know I write tales of terror for fun and profit (for those who don't, a free sample download is available here). There is only one thing more fun than scaring the crap out of people, and that is being paid for it.

There are many being paid for it these days, and many more who are terrified for no other obvious reason than that they like to be terrified. Even when a perceived threat is proven beyond all doubt to be no threat at all, still they are scared. I don't know when 'terrified' became the default human response to everything, but it has.

There was a Muslim woman on a plane. On a plane, mind, not trying to get on. She was on it, so she had already been through the security that is so scared of everything that they actually believe you can hijack a plane with a pair of tweezers or a steel comb. "Fly this plane to Cuba or the stewardess gets a centre parting and one thin eyebrow. Don't mess with me, I have ginger hair dye too. Ha! It was only 99ml so you couldn't stop me."

This Muslim woman was speaking on her phone. You know, those phones we have to switch off because phoning home while the plane is in flight will make its wings drop off. We can have those, but no tweezers. Anyway, the plane was ready to leave so she finished her conversation and turned off her phone.

One of the flight crew overheard her and thought she said 'It's a go'. She claims she said 'I've got to go' but what she said doesn't really matter. The plane was halted, she was taken off and went through security once again, this time on the premise that she was intending to spontaneously combust in mid-air.

So far, no big deal. The air crew were just being cautious, the woman was inconvenienced but was proven to be no threat at all. So she reboarded and all was well, right?

TSA agents patted down her headscarf but soon recognised their mistake and did not even inspect her handbag or cellphone. But they refused to let her back on the plane because the crew was 'uncomfortable' with her presence, she was told.

She had just been checked twice as hard as every other passenger and crew member on that flight. She was demonstrably the safest person on the entire plane. Yet the crew were still scared of her!

Okay, the crew had suspicions and were correct to check. They checked. She was no threat. But the initial suspicion stood anyway! It's not a case of 'guilty until proven innocent' but of 'guilty even when proven innocent'.

If this continues I can make a fortune selling a book with 'Boo!' on every page. It'll scare these people every time they read it. If it's in a really big font on the last page they'll probably make a film of it.

Here in the UK, Dick Turpin has been resurrected to find that modern stagecoaches travel a bit faster than he's used to. Oh, and his single-shot pistol is now an airgun, but it's so astoundingly powerful that it can smash a train window.

I still have an air rifle. I don't know if it still works, it hasn't been out of its case for about ten years. I'm not even sure if I still have any pellets for it. One thing I am sure of, it wouldn't do much more than chip toughened glass unless you held the barrel right to the glass. The best way to break a window with it would be to use the butt end. From a distance, no chance.

Eight packed Central line trains were targeted in the attack last night. One driver warned his passengers to get away from the windows, telling them: "There has been someone shooting at the trains with an air rifle."

Shouldn't the driver be driving?

Police believe most of the damage was caused by youths throwing stones but they are investigating reports that an air rifle was also used.

I think the police deduction is more likely to be the correct one here. Hold a stone in one hand and a .22 pellet in the other. No matter what airgun you have, it's not going to impart as much force to that little pellet as you can to a stone with a good throw. The funny thing is, nobody seems interested in the stones.

Accountant Kevin Jones, 32, who was on one of the trains, told today how the driver had alerted his passengers and added: "It was crazy, scary. What kind of psycho would shoot at passengers on a train?

With an air rifle? Firing at toughened glass from a distance? The kind of psycho whose heart really isn't in it, or a trainee psycho, or one who just can't quite get the hang of the whole psycho thing, or maybe one who was stupid enough to write 'Psycho' in the occupation box on the shotgun licence application form. In other words, the kind of psycho you laugh at rather than cower from. Personally I'd be far more concerned about the stone-throwing ones.

There is an interesting angle to this whole story, however...

The attacked happened at about 6pm between Stratford and Leyton, an area known for line vandalism.

In the comments, there's this -

"Last time I went on the Central Line (the day before yesterday) the entire section between Leyton and Stratford was still underground, as to the best of my knowledge it always has been." - Toby Webster, Ongar, England, 17/03/2011 15:57

Same for me on Monday 14th. The tunnel mouths east of Stratford are within the station. The tunnel mouths west of Leyton are behind Westdown Road E15.
So exactly where have these incidents happened?
- Alan Griffiths, Forest Gate, LONDON. E7, 17/03/2011 18:37

I have no personal experience of this line at all. So is this a case of a train attacked by goblins and cave trolls, or are the local trainee psychos drilling tiny holes in the tunnels to poke airguns through?

Or is it just another of those 'Airgun! Aaah! Be scared of airguns for they are the tools of the Devil!' stories?

If they want my airgun for destruction they can have it. It only cost me thirty quid when I bought it, it was always inaccurate, I have long since lost all the pellets, it's probably rusted by now and since moving into town I have nowhere to use it anyway. The only reason I haven't sold it is that it's not worth the price of a decent malt whisky. By now it won't be worth the price of own-brand gutrot. In fact, wait a few more years and it will likely have rendered itself unusable.

However, banning airguns would be another step in the disarming of the population, a wonderful idea from a government who has us involved in two wars and is setting up for more. Great idea - make the entire population utterly scared of any form of weapon and then expect them to support or even fight wars. The principle extends to the military, who are not allowed to have proper weapons in case they hurt the enemy. I no longer wonder what our politicians are thinking. I wonder whether.

If they get down to taking airguns away, weapons which are going to do little more than severely annoy anyone they are fired at, then watch for the inspectors coming in to take away your kitchen knives and be ready to carve that Sunday roast with a spoon.

That assumes you survive the deadly radiation heading to the US and then Europe in the form of a huge glowing cloud with a Japanese accent. When the Americans bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nobody panicked even though there must have been far more radiation coming back over the Pacific from that. When all those test bombs go off in the USA, nobody panics because it's healthy, government-approved American radiation.

Now, like tobacco smoke, radioactive clouds do not disperse when travelling over the biggest ocean on the planet. None of it drops into the sea. No, like the bees in the old cartoons, they form an arrow shape and zoom straight for their target. The terrified.

Panic struck in America with thousands of people buying gas masks, emergency protection kits, and drugs to ward against nuclear fallout.

Take a look at how many deliberate nuclear explosions have happened right in your back yard, as opposed to the non-nuclear explosion in the Japanese reactor, thousands of miles away. There are still people working in that reactor, although their chances of coming out alive are not good. That's genuine altruism, working to save others knowing you're pretty much doomed. There's not much of that around these days.

Those selling the emergency gear include many who are exploiting the disaster in Japan for personal gain. There is a hell of a lot of that going on.

How many nuclear bombs have gone off on this planet? By 1998, the figure stood at 2053. Not reactor leaks. Actual nuclear bombs. Not one of them was Japanese. Nobody is scared of two thousand nuclear bombs but one leaking reactor and the whole world panics. Yes, it will be horrible if that reactor goes into meltdown but all that safety gear, masks and drugs and Geiger counters? You're buying them sixty years too late. The radioactive steam coming across the Pacific won't even show against the background levels in the US and Europe now.

I write scary stories. I write them as entertainment. Mine are all fiction.

So are most of the ones in the newspapers. The difference is, people believe newspapers. Unlike a work of fiction, they don't put it down and laugh it off. They really believe all those tales of terror and despair and they no longer have nightmares when they sleep.

For many, the nightmares begin when they wake up.

Thursday 17 March 2011

Questions, questions.

Just opened Blogger's spam-cage again. I can't work out its criteria for defining spam, sometimes it just takes a dislike to a comment and locks it up.

I haven't taken the census form out of the envelope yet. There was something much more important in today's mail. A letter from those nice people at Reader's Digest telling me I could win pots of money by spending some. I knew it was coming because they always send me a little letter a week or so before, to tell me they are sending a bigger letter later. Perhaps they worry that my letterbox won't be big enough so they send a early warning so I can get it enlarged. If they stopped all the letters, and once a year sent me half of what they would have spent on postage and printing, we'd both be better off.

Reader's Digest letters get a simple treatment. If there is a 'No' envelope included, I'm interested. If not, it's chimenea starter material. I don't read the advertisements at all, they go straight in the kindling bag. Then I consider whether it's worth risking the price of a stamp for the extraordinarily slim chance of winning some money. Sometimes I go for it, sometimes not. I suspect it doesn't really affect my chances either way.

What always baffles me is that the draw has always already taken place. So if I've won, they already know. If they told me I'd won I'd buy the books.

I decided to chance the stamp on this one. It's cheaper than the lottery.

Sooner or later I'll have to look at that census. SadbutMadLad provides a helpful rundown of the questions and answers on Anna Raccoon's site. My answers will differ slightly.

P17 Does anyone know the Welsh for 'No, I don't speak a word of Welsh'?

P20 Religion - smoker. They were okay with Jedi last time, which is entirely based on fiction. Smoker is at least based on real life and therefore is more realistic as a religion than Jedi. Especially as Jedi only appear in films, and smoking only appears in real life.

P34 I don't have a job title. I'm the only one in this business, in fact the only one in both businesses now that the writing has become real work. The nearest I've ever come up with is 'Rogue scientist' so that will have to do. Perhaps 'Fictional rogue scientist' to cover both the research and the writing. Now I come to think of it, that's one step away from just writing 'Dr. Frankenstein'. Oh, that's tempting.

P37 Main activity of the business? To generate money for booze and fags. What other activity could possibly matter?

Some of the others will be difficult.

P3 Date of birth. If I fill this in, I will be repeating hearsay. Other people have told me when I was born but I was too young to remember. So answering this question is risky since I cannot personally attest to its accuracy. Perhaps I should tell them to ask my mother. I'm fairly sure she was there.

Q9 Number of rooms. I can fit into the cupboard under the stairs so is that a room? How about the attic? I have a garage with no car so it's just a room with a very big door. My lounge and dining room are continuous - is that one room or two? Built-in wardrobes could be considered a room within a room, as could a very large box. My garden has chairs and tables in it, does that count as a room? How about the shed and the greenhouse? There is an inner door inside the front door, does the space between them count as a separate room? Do hallways count? Since I am at a different level on every stair, does each stair count as a room or should I include the staircase as one room? I feel the urge to torment an official by telephone coming on.

You know, I think this census could be fun. I'll smoke while filling it in so there might - just might - be a bit of ash in between the pages.

Tomorrow I'll take it out of the envelope and let it saturate with third hand smoke.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Census Wench visits.

Blogging will be intermittent for a while. The snow/hail/rain miscellany of the past few days has driven me indoors from the garden so I'm engaged in serious spring cleaning. When it's over I'll have the cleanest springs in the land.

There are also two writing deadlines as well as the zombie book and the dystopia (which is scary to write - every time I think of a new oppression, the Coagulation implement something worse) and there is an endowment policy to deal with.

When I was twenty-two I was homeless. By the time I was twenty-five I had a mortgage on a pokey, tatty little flat in the shitty end of town, above a drug addict and below a Goth infestation, and it was an endowment mortgage. It wasn't my best business decision although it was far from my worst, because I did manage to eventually sell it for enough to cover the remaining mortgage, so I didn't land myself in debt again.

The endowment I kept on, even though I rented for years after leaving the flat. When I bought this house I thought 'Great, in 2011 I can knock £20,000 off the mortgage which will bring down the monthly cost nicely.'

That time has come, and with it has arrived pages of forms full of questions that make as much sense as 'Are you now, have you ever been, or does your father in his spare time?' I also have to prove who I am by sending photo ID. For twenty-five years these buggers have taken money every single month from my bank account and never once asked for any proof of who I am. Now it's time for cash to flow the other way and it's all 'Oh? Do we know you?' Yes. I'm the mug who's given you money every month for twenty-five years on the promise of £20K which you now inform me will be 18.5K.

They suggest a financial adviser. I think I need a translator. I need to phone for clarification but I have not yet worked out what to ask!

It won't pay the full amount promised but it doesn't matter. It will still knock a third off my remaining mortgage. This is my only debt and the sooner it's gone the happier I will be. If only I can work out what the hell this form is asking for.

To add to the form woes, today a wench called with an envelope. 'This is your census', she said.

'I didn't order a census,' I said. 'What does it do?'

'You don't order it. The government sends it to you and you fill it in.'

'What does it cost?'

'It doesn't cost anything,' she stated with an evident total lack of understanding of the nature of government. Everything they do costs us all something. We are even paying for her to go around telling us it's all free.

'Well, it's very nice but I really don't have time for questionnaires. Can you come back next week? When I'm not home?'

These census people don't like to engage in banter. 'If you don't fill it in you'll be fined.'

'I see.' I accepted the package, addressed to someone called Mr. Occupier. He's had letters delivered here before, usually from politicians around voting time and from other lying advertisers. He never turns up to collect them.

She had a clipboard. They always do, don't they? I'm going to have to get one. People answer anything if you have a clipboard.

'How many people live here?' There seemed no end to her questioning.

'How many can you see?'

'Well, just you, but there might be more inside.'

'Not when I last looked, although there's this Mr. Occupier who gets his mail sent here. I've never seen him.' I think I detected a little steam from her ears.

'So you live here alone?'

'Yes.' Perhaps I shouldn't have waggled my eyebrows and leered. It was a risk, she was no looker. Not much of a thinker either, judging by her next question.

'Is this house detached or semi-detached?'

There was a pause while I considered whether to push this further, but then the little red man on my left shoulder stuck his pitchfork in my ear.

'Neither,' I said. 'It is entirely attached to the house next door.'

She didn't just close her eyes, she sucked them right back into her skull. Her lips puckered to the point where I swear you could not have put a titanium drill through there. One more pucker and her head would have imploded. Then she marked 'semi-detached' on her clipboard. She could have done that from halfway up the street. Houses are, on a human scale, quite large and visible from a distance, as are the gaps - where they exist - between them. I pictured her asking every occupier of a terrace if they lived in a terrace, and what floor each flat was on. How can anyone resist tormenting the stupid? It's so much fun.

Her eyes reappeared, having evidently failed in their search for a brain because they were still blank. Her lips unclenched just enough to force words through. 'Right. Do you need someone to help you fill this in?'

'Not directly. I plan to fill it in using blood, but not mine. Do you have a list of blood donors?'

Have you ever seen a face attempt to blanch and turn red with rage at the same time? It's better than TV. Eventually she managed to shake her head until something connected in there.

'You can just use a pen like everyone else, you know.'

'That would cost me something. You said it was free. Still, not to worry. I have bottles of blood in the fridge. I use them in my work.'

I do, really. Horse and sheep blood are components of many bacterial growth media and if you really want to get all witchcrafty, try brain heart infusion medium with 5% added horse blood. It really does contain what it says it contains. There is nothing vegan about bacteria. I have had tremendous fun explaining to students that they also have to have a circle of salt while preparing the media and that they must do it at specific phases of the moon. If you have a microbiologist working for you who insists on coming to work at midnight to prepare media - sorry, it was probably my fault.

The blood is in the fridge in the lab, not the house, but I neglected to mention this and the big grin was perhaps mistimed, because she left at that point in something of a hurry.

I haven't yet taken the form out of the envelope. I have important things to do first. Filling it in with horse blood using a quill made from a discarded seagull feather would cost me around £20 but you know, it would be worth it. Especially if she made a special note to look out for the nut at a particular house. It would be hilarious to hear they'd tried to DNA-analyse that blood to find out whose I'd used, because I know they would start with the premise that it was human blood and never consider that it might not be. If they found a match I'd laugh until my hair fell out.

Especially if it matched Census Wench.

She also said something about filling the form in online and there's apparently a code that's personal to me inside the envelope. But the envelope isn't addressed to me. It's addressed to Mr. Occupier so it's his code, not mine. I won't do it online. I can't do it in blood online.

If you don't have access to lab supplies, liver is cheap and comes with a lot of blood. I had liver and onions this week, £1 per half-kilo and it's great stuff. Pure meat, no bones, no fat (it was lambs' liver and they hadn't developed a serious drinking habit yet) and full of concentrated meaty goodness for pennies per meal. Lambs' hearts are also on sale but they are seriously filling and are in packs of three. I couldn't use them all before they went off. Besides, they are a Valentine's day meal really. Funny, girlfriends never seem to answer calls on February 15th. It's a mystery.

I have to wonder why they are in packs of three. Lambs don't tend to have three and if you're cooking a Valentine's meal for three - damn, I'm impressed!

Anyhow, have to get up in the morning. Someone is helping turn my wasteland of a garage into an actual useful workroom. It's going to be messy, in fact it already is because the house is burdened by the piles of crap that were in there until recently. Car? You couldn't get a pushbike in there. Fortunately I have neither.

So if I miss a day, it's because I can't get at the computer through the mounds of stuff I didn't know I had and don't know why I own.

The Day of the Hired Skip is approaching, I can feel it...

Monday 14 March 2011

The Confident Mindless.

The Snowolf has a summary of stupidity perpetrated by those who should know better. There are those who don't know enough even to realise they are stupid. Here are some more for the collection.

Recently, on a smoking article in the Mail, some idiot declared that nicotine and nicotinic acid (niacin) were totally unrelated substances. That the commenter who related them had confused an evil addictive substance with a beneficial vitamin. I left a note to the effect that maybe he'd like to look up some organic chemistry before declaring his version of reality. I don't know if he ever responded because I didn't care enough to bother checking back. Maybe he came out with the usual Righteous 'do some research (it's what I do for a living, in fact it's all I do) or maybe he pretended to be an organic chemist (if he is, I wouldn't employ him) or maybe he didn't come back either. Doesn't matter, he's an idiot.

Then there's the oft-quoted veggie/vegan argument that 'chimps are our closest relatives and they're vegan'. Utter bollocks.

Chimps are between 90-98% genetically the same as us depending on whose numbers you look at. But look at what genes do. They define limbs, four, with shoulder/hip. elbow/knee, five digits on the end of each. One head with eyes, ears, nose and mouth and a brain in the middle. Sinuses, internal ear and eye structure. Internal organs - liver, kidney, gut, pancreas, spleen, bladder etc. All the skeleton and musculature. All largely the same in a human, a chimp, a rhino and a mouse.

The real killer is metabolism. Most genes are taken up with that, which means that if you want to relate yourself to other species on the basis of Krebs' cycle and cellular genetics, you will find that your genes are 70% the same as a banana. So even 98% similarity isn't relevant. It takes less than 2% to turn a banana into a Kiwi fruit.

As for this 'chimps are vegan', well chimps eat insects, frogs and even small monkeys. They eat them raw and they eat them alive. When a veggie declares he eats like a chimp, offer him mealworms, tadpoles and lemurs, all very much alive, and see if he really eats like a chimp. Oh, and a banana. Remind him that it's 70% the same as his own flesh, but only do that when he's halfway through it.

Today, Peter Hitchens repeats the ridiculous notion that -

And I have no doubt at all that the bans on smoking, in trains, cinemas, buses, pubs, restaurants and hotels are helping many people give up a habit that is actually much harder to quit than heroin.

Every smoker I know who gave up and stayed off the tobacco, gave up just like that. They just stopped. They stopped because they didn't want to do it any more. Every single smoker I know who tried patches and gum is still smoking now. They failed because they didn't really want to stop.

I'd like to see any heroin addict 'just stop'. A smoker might shout at you if you take his tobacco and hold it behind your back. Do that with heroin and the addict will claw his way through your midriff to get it.

Smoking 'addiction' is entirely in the mind. All the symptoms are psychosomatic and those who stop because they don't want to smoke any more don't experience any of them. Smokers who believe themselves addicted only believe that because they have had it drummed into them by people who don't want them to stop, but who want them to buy stick-on nicotine instead of smoking nicotine. If it was a nicotine addiction, the patches would work. You are not allowed to question why they don't.

Heroin addiction is very different. There are real and horrible physical effects of withdrawal.

Comparing stopping smoking to coming off heroin is like comparing the giving up of one sherry a month with stopping a three-bottle-a-day whisky habit. You can just stop the one sherry a month with no effect. Coming off the heavy drinking is not nearly so easy. A sudden stop can physically shock your system to death.

Banning smoking in some places helps people stop doing something that's even more addictive than something else that's been totally illegal for years? Dammit, Hitch, take that brain out and rinse it under the tap. It's so full of shit your thoughts can barely move.

When you tell smokers the lie that tobacco is harder to quit than heroin, you are not making smokers stop smoking. You are making it more difficult for smokers to stop smoking. You are telling them that it's even harder for them to stop than for a heroin junkie to stop. You are telling them it's almost impossible to stop. Even those who want to stop will be afraid to because of the imagined heroin-withdrawal symptoms you have convinced them they will experience. How does that help?

Well, Hitch, take a look at those Pharmer profit lines, and ASH's income.

Guess who you are really helping now?


There is more, much more, but it's late and I worry that covering too much stupid at once could make it infectious.

Saturday 12 March 2011

B.Sc. Binge Drinking (Hons).

When I was a student, we drank a lot. Beer was 20 - 25p a pint in the pubs, and even on a limited student budget you could go on a pub crawl with five quid and still have enough for chips on the way home. We aimed for 'the gallon' (eight pints) and usually made it, once we aimed for the double gallon which was a great night but not a great following morning. For chips, the only place we'd use was Salmonella Dot's. A place which had been repeatedly closed down for poisoning its customers so it was a game of Russian roulette in there. Do you risk the sausage in batter or the pie? Which items look as if they might have been cooked today as opposed to last week?

That was a long time ago. I couldn't drink beer to that level now, my bladder would explode. Besides, it would cost a hell of a lot more these days. Plus there's the smoking issue, a non-issue for a nonsmoker but a big issue for those of us for whom no drinking session is worthwhile without a smoke.

There was the 'Jaffa Cake', a 50/50 mix of Merrydown cider and Guinness in a pint glass which only certain bars would serve. This drink was named by a poor sod whose girlfriend was late, and who was having a few drinks with us while he waited. When she turned up she enquired as to his unsteadiness with 'What the hell have you been drinking?' He replied 'Jaffa cakes. Brown and thick with a smashing orangey bit in the middle'.

If we hadn't all fallen over laughing, he might have had a less moody evening.

We brewed our own booze with the help of the homebrew shop zombie. This guy had a face that was dead white and covered in cracks, not wrinkles. He obviously knew about all forms of alcohol because he looked like he had pickled himself in it. It was he who encouraged us to make Nescafe wine (it was vile) and to save used tea bags to make tea wine. That was also vile, and we told him so, at which point he explained that the wine wasn't supposed to be drunk. It was supposed to be frozen and skimmed until we had tea brandy. Ah, now that was considerably less vile and actually drinkable.

We made nettle beer, we brewed stouts and pale ales, we took the alcohol levels to the limits of yeast metabolism and then we froze it and made it stronger. Every one of us graduated with a good degree although I have to admit, mine was in microbiology so all this brewing was like homework.

In those days, of course, we all had young metabolisms, capable of shrugging off the hangovers by mid-morning and able to cope with the roulette of Salmonella Dot's mysterious battered foodstuffs. As long as we didn't harm anyone, and we didn't, we were left to our own devices even though they were often bordering on the insane. Students today have that same metabolic resilience even though they are told they must wrap themselves in cotton wool and live like Puritans.

The truth is, if you don't try for the double gallon when you're twenty, you'll never do it. When you get to fifty, beer means getting up in the night, often more than once. Overdrinking means the next day isn't just a hangover in the morning that's long forgotten by lunchtime. It means the next day is a total write-off. Oh, I could still drink like I did when I was twenty, but I can't recover from it like I did then. It's also going to damage my well-exercised liver more than it did when it was all fresh and pink and ready for anything. So I don't. I did the double gallon and I'm glad I did, because I won't ever do it again.

Students do stupid things with drink, always have. If you want to find the biggest drinkers, try the medical school. I know, all those comments about 'they are training to be doctors, they should know better' but come on. These people are cutting up dead bodies in class and learning about horrible ways of dying the rest of us have never dreamed of. No wonder they feel like a drink.

Deliberately trying to end up in casualty is maybe taking it to extremes. Neither I, nor anyone I know, ended up in casualty through drink although we all woke in strange and unusual places at times. The only times we visited the hospital, and we visited regularly, was to make use of their bar because it was full of student nurses. Incidentally, that bar was one of the few that would serve Jaffa cakes. Waking up like Rab Nesbitt, attached to a stomach pump, held no appeal at all.

But boozing students is not some indication of 'Binge Britain'. Go back to the start of universities and all the way you will find examples of drunken lunatic students. When I started lecturing I found that the new guy always gets the 9 am Friday slot. Facing a class of HND Agriculture in that time slot was like standing in front of an alcohol diffuser. They were saturated. It could make your eyes water. Yet they took notes and asked intelligent questions. They were young enough to cope with it.

Last night one student, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘There is a dreadful culture of drinking to excess and it is not just to have fun - it is like a dare.

It is to have fun. At that age, dares are fun. At my age, dares are declined but when I was a student, they were not. Because they were fun and because at that age I could cope with the challenge. There is no point waiting until you leave your twenties to try these experiences because once you pass thirty, you're too old to shrug off the damage. Okay, I'd have balked at a deliberate attempt to get into casualty even then because I would then, as now, have considered it silly. Drinking to insane levels is one thing but deliberately causing enough damage to require hospitalisation is not for me. I really don't want to go into hospital. I know what's growing in there!

Why do they do it? Actually, one commenter nails it, unknowingly.

If presented with their medical expenses the following morning, I don't think this would carry on. But we live in a soft, liberal society where people are not exposed to the consequences of their actions. Hope everything goes down the pan very soon because only then will we start ditch this culture where irresponsibility is rewarded and even protected yet those who are responsible are often penalised through heavy taxation and unjust laws. - Slobberdan, Aldershot, 11/3/2011 21:12

They do it because the treatment is free. Just like those idiots who stroll across the road in front of traffic, these students use casualty as part of their dare because it's not going to cost them anything. So, should they, like smokers, be denied treatment?

Well, if they are, they should also be able to opt out of paying NI when they complete their studies and get a job. So should smokers, in fact when I consider all the money I've paid into that particular protection racket only to be refused treatment if I get ill, I'd quite like it all back.

That commenter, like all the others who shout for anyone whose lifestyle isn't Puritan to pay again for NHS treatment, does not realise what he's saying. What he is saying is that these excesses happen because the NHS exists. If they had to pay for treatment they wouldn't be deliberately trying to land in hospital. They don't have to pay because the NHS exists.

If smokers, drinkers and the overweight all had to pay large insurance premiums for medical cover, there would be fewer smokers, hard drinkers and overweight people. The NHS is not being accosted by those of us who choose to take risks with our health. The very fact that we have to pay for it anyway, whether we get ill or not, encourages us to not care about our health. Why would we? We have to pay for this medical cover no matter what. We might as well take the risks, we've already paid to have ourselves fixed if it all goes wrong.

We who smoke, drink and eat are not 'costing the NHS money'. We are paying for the NHS, in fact we are paying much more through the duty on our vices than the Puritans who only pay NI. We are not the problem, we are only a symptom.

It's the existence of the NHS that causes the problem.

So shut it down, scrap NI and duty and we'll all buy medical insurance with the money. Then it won't matter what anyone does to themselves, because nobody else is paying for it. Students will not try to drink themselves into casualty if they are going to get a bill for it.

Solve the problem? Simple. Scrap the NHS.

'But what about the poor?' If there was no duty on booze and tobacco, those poor who buy them now will have enough spare cash to pay for medical insurance. They are already paying mostly duty, especially on tobacco, so take the duty away and that money can go on insurance.

Or they can spend it on Reeboks and Burberry. That's their choice. The option is there.

Let them run their own lives. They might even find they like it.