UK shops to sell cigarettes in plain packaging… whose stupid idea was *that*?

09/03/2011

It was UK health secretary Andrew Lansley’s idea, apparently. He has announced his intention over the next 5 years to reduce the number of smokers in Britain by a greater number than was reduced in the past 5 years. And he has identified cigarettes’ allegedly gaudy, inviting packaging as a chief reason why people take up the habit in the first place. He has also announced a “consultation” into the idea of banning cigarette displays entirely, so tobacco products will have to be sold from “under the counter”.

Obviously, Lansley is a massive tit. Plain packaging and discreet under-the-counter sales will make cigarettes seem very illicit… and we all know what teenagers in general think of illicit activities. I predict that these measures will not reduce the number of smokers at all. Maybe it’ll even increase the number of smokers. Which is, of course, no bad thing for a political party that counts amongst its members the very tobacco barons the government claims it wants to destroy.

The other day I was waiting in the queue for the tobacco counter at my local Sainsbury’s, and I was struck by the current packaging of cigarettes. Every single pack has emblazoned across its front in bold letters sentences like SMOKING KILLS and SMOKING WILL TURN YOUR UNBORN CHILD INTO A STUMP-HEADED MUTANT. If that hasn’t reduced the number of smokers by the “desired” amount, what in hell makes Lansley think his stupid idea will do any better? The answer, of course, is stupidity. And hypocrisy. We must never forget the hypocrisy factor when trying to figure out our Con-Dem government’s motives.

Incidentally, that same Guardian story says that 21.2% of adults in Britain are smokers. It’s a minority, for sure, but it’s one heck of a big minority. Who the hell do the government think they are, messing with more than 8 million people’s right to choose what they do? Plus the government makes a lot of money by taxing tobacco products. What are they going to do if we all stop smoking – increase the tax on road fuel (which, incidentally, is far more harmful to the general population’s health than a damn cigarette)? These pin-headed ministers really do need to think these things through…

Cigarette displays like this may soon be outlawed if the UK govt gets its way

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EFF on direct action against internet censorship

22/12/2010

Recently, the Wikileaks case has brought the subject of online censorship into the limelight: Amazon and EveryDNS withdrawing their services to Wikileaks, apparently due to US government pressure, has brought up some important questions: just who “owns” the internet? Is it right that access to “sensitive” info should be cut, even though that info doesn’t really compromise “national security” but just embarrasses politicians?

The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) has compiled a list of tools and schemes that can be used by individuals in a “direct action” type fashion. The EFF doesn’t advocate stuff like Distributed Denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks or tools like the LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon) that make DDOS attacks easier to engage in; but the list includes tools and services like Tor(an “anonymizing overlay network”), BitCoin(a decentralized internet currency) and the Dot-P2P Project(an “alternative DNS hierarchy that resists censorship”).

These tools and services will make it much harder for any central authority to limit our access to information. And as the EFF cocedes in the article, its list is nowhere near exhaustive – there are a lot of other projects that do similar stuff. If you are anti-censorship, check out the article then do a bit of googling of your own to arm yourself. We may need these tools sooner than you think!

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Wikileaks.org is back up! Not a *huge* victory for freedom and common sense – but a victory nevertheless

15/12/2010

On 3 December, we reported that you could no longer reach the Wikileaks site by using the wikileaks.org URL. Well, that is no longer the case: aim your browser at “http://wikileaks.org” and you get rerouted to http://mirror.wikileaks.info/ – one of the many, many mirrors that sprouted after the USA’s clumsy efforts to limit free speech. Not a major victory by any means. But a victory nevertheless.

In other (Wikileaks/Assange-related) news: Julian Assange is still in prison even though he was granted bail yesterday. The Swedish prosecutors have appealed against the bail ruling, claiming that he would pose a major flight risk. I’m not sure how the Swedes think he’ll flee: Assange’s face must be one of the best known in border security circles, plus they have his passport… but as things stand, he must remain in HMP Wandsworth for at leat another couple of days while this judicial circus runs its course.

This case is highlighting the problems with the new European arrest warrant system. Usually, it is only possible to extradite someone if the crime he’s accused of is also a crime in the country he’s “hiding” in. As far as I can tell, Assange’s alleged crimes are not illegal in Britain (what the Swedes call “rape” and “sexual molestation” are very different to the UK’s definitions – I believe one of the charges relates to Assange refusing to use a condom; the complainant admits that the sex was consensual, so how in hell can this be called a crime? He didn’t force her to have unprotected sex).

Anyway, a blog like this one is not really a good place to discuss the intricacies of Swedish law. But what I will say is this: Sweden has got very accommodating rendition agreements with the USA. If Assange is extradited to Sweden, it won’t be long before he ends up in America. And if you look at what politicians are saying about Assange it’s pretty clear he won’t receive a free trial and he’ll end up on a slab.

But do these people really believe that Assange is Wikileaks? The leaks will continue, regardless of his fate. All that will happen is that Assange’s colleagues will improve their security and anonymity. Killing (or imprisoning) Assange will not kill Wikileaks. And all politicians need to beware: if they treat Assange like a piece of shit, the leaks will become more and more damaging to the so-called “liberal” European “democracies” who are currently baying for his blood. So watch out, fools: the day of reckoning is nearly upon us… and you.

UPDATE: I just noticed this, a page that lists the very many sites that are mirroring Wikileaks in an attempt to stop the authorities ever again closing them down. Well, when I say “stop”, I actually mean “make it very difficult”. The USA has already demonstrated the length of its reach. But when Wikileaks is mirrored in a huge number of countries, some of whom dislike America intensely, the job of censorship becomes much more difficult.

There’s also info on the page about how you too can mirror Wikileaks on your web server. I say go for it! I think it’s about time that the USA learned what “democracy” actually means: rule by the people for the people; not rule by a bunch of rich geezers on behalf of their billionaire buddies. Or is my dictionary out of date?

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Wooh! No plans to deploy water cannons on the streets of England… for now.

14/12/2010

Well, Theresa May, the UK Home Secretary, has rule out the use of water cannon in the policing of student protests, saying there was no legal authority for their use on the streets of England and Wales. But the overall message was clear: May has no plans to use water cannons right now; but circumstances change, and police tactics must also change to deal with the ever-evolving problems.

Look what Commander Bob Broadhurst, the head of Scotland Yard’s public order branch, had to say on the matter after May’s speech:

“There has been a great deal of speculation over the weekend about the Met using water cannons. There are no current plans to use water cannons on the streets of the capital but we would be foolish if we did not take time to look at tactics such as this to see if it might be appropriate in the future.

In other words: the water cannons are on their way. Get ready for a soaking, boys and girls.

May also took the opportunity to blame the violence on an “organised group of hardcore activists and street gangs” who had infiltrated the protests. Government ministers always do this: they say the majority of demonstrators are there for a good time, but a hardcore of evil anarchists and street gangsters turn peaceful demonstrations into warzones.

“Some students behaved disgracefully. But the police also assess that the protests were infiltrated by organised groups of hardcore activists and street gangs bent on violence.

Evidence from the other recent protests shows that many of those causing violence were organised thugs, as well as students. It is highly likely that this was also the case last week,” she said.

May made mention of the attack on the Duchess of Cornwall (the adulterous “whore” who shagged Prince Charles while he was still married to Diana – remember that awful recorded phone conversation in whch he said he’d like to be Camilla’s tampon? Ugh!): she said “some contact [was] made” when the Duchess of Cornwall was struck through the window of her royal car (ie she got a well-deserved slap). The Metropolitan police inquiry into the attack on the car carrying Prince Charles and Camilla is due to report by this Friday but May warned that, for security reasons, the public details of the report are likely to be limited. No pix of the ugly woman’s war wounds then. Shame!

May revealed that 35 people had been arrested so far and expected the number to rise significantly. So far the mugshots of 14 of “key perpetrators of violence” have been published. The Met are to continue to publish pictures of other key individuals over the next week. All very interesting. But what about the police officers who used excessive violence and concealed their identification numbers? After the police actions that led to the death of Ian Tomlinson (an innocent passerby, not a demonstrator or rioter), Met police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said it was “absolutely unacceptable” for officers to cover or remove their shoulder tags bearing identification numbers. Yet a number of officers at this latest “riot” were seen with ID numbers concealed – look at this Youtube video. And what about the cop who slugged Alfie Meadows across the head with a truncheon – an attack that left Alfie needing emergency brain surgery. Will a mugshot of the offending officer be posted on the internet? Of course not: May used the standard cop-out answer when asked about this. She said that she was unable to comment as the Independent Police Complaints Commission had begun an investigation into the incident that had left him seriously injured.Yeah right.

May even defended the controversial “kettling” tactic, where police officers in full riot gear and armed with long batons corner groups of demonstrators and hem them in, even refusing to release peaceful demonstrators with major health problems. Even little children and old-age pensioners are forced to stay in the “kettle”. One woman asked a cop where she was supposed to go if she needed the toilet. The leering swine pointed down at the road surface in front of him.

It’s hard to blame individual officers: after all, they are merely following orders issued from on high. Then again, it’s very easy to blame those bobbies: they chose to join the force; they chose to obey the evil orders.

A little advice for those among you who might attend a demo where the water cannons are brought out: make sure you take with you a nice, dry set of clothes in a waterproof bag. When the filth shoot you with water, they’re hoping that you’ll become cold and dis-spirited and piss off home. If you go change into something dry then come back to continue demonstrating/rioting/whatever, the cops will become very confused. Remember, most cops are thick as pig shit (why else would they join up?); when faced with a situatuion that their orders don’t cover, most will just walk in ever-decreasing circles until they disappear up their own bottoms. So don’t let the assholes scare you. Believe me, they are probably more scared of you.

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Beware of beware of the dog signs

16/09/2010

I’ve got an American Bulldog (note, this is not the same thing as the so-called “American pitbull terrier“, which breed was specifically banned in British law as a banned “dangerous” dog).  My bulldog is extremely friendly, but she barks loud and often, and some of the expressions she pulls would definitely scare strangers.

Anyway, she spends her day going out of the house to the garden, then back again, barking at cats, dogs and children it encounters.  The garden is securely fenced.  But what’s worried me recently is this new family who’s moved into the neighbourhood.  I’ve seen these idiots’ kids actually sticking their fingers through the fence so they could “touch the doggy”.

All this reminded me of a story/urban myth/whatever it is that claims a dog owner who put up a BEWARE OF THE DOG sign is admitting he knows his dog is dangerous and therefore is more liable for any dogbites than an owner who “didnt know” their dog might bite.  From one point of view that seems quite reasonable… if you know your dog bites you should muzzle it or something… but from another POV it’s ridiculous: you’ve gone out of your way to inform possible trespassers that they might get bitten.

I decided to look around on the internet for any pointers on this (all the time remembering that the net is full of people from different places, with different rules, so I was unlikely to find a definitive answer.  And I found a typically self-contradictory discussion on snopes.com.  It seems that in some jurisdictions, a BEWARE OF THE DOG sign can be seen as an admission by the dog owner that his animal is a potential danger.  Whereas in other places such a sign is considered “fair warning” to potential trespassers and if someone gets bitten it’s his own stupid fault.  Which is the argument I agree with – if some fool enters my property knowing it’s guarded by a big barky dog, awful things may happen and it’s the trespasser’s own fault.

But laws are rarely sensible.  And if one of my new youthful neighbours lost a few fingers through teasing my dog, it’s quite likely that my poor mut would be dragged off for a lethal injection.  Doubleplusungood, eh?

But apparently there are ways around this.  One such is a picture of the dog looking suitably horrible, and a message saying something like I LIVE HERE!!!  This isn’t a threat – it’s just informative, right?  I’m not telling potential thieves and trespassers that they may get eaten if they enter my garden; I’m proudly showing off my pooch.

To this end, I have created the sign below.  It isn’t a threat; it’s just a statement.  My pretty little dog hangs out in my garden.  Maybe you’d like to stroke the pooch – some people do.  But if a stranger enters my property… well, it’s like I say to the neighbourhood kids:

Kid: Does your dog bite?

Me:  All dogs bite!  That’s why they have teeth!

Anyway, I want some feedback.  Is the sign threatening?  Or is it just informative?  Should I tie the pic to my fence or keep it in the house?  Please leave a Comment: I’d really like to know what people in general think of this.  Cheers.


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