Saturday, 2 January 2010

Winter evenings...

It's cold outside, and inside - thanks to my insane electric powered, storage radiator centric, central heating (no gas in this part of Edinburgh) - metal boxes filled with bricks warmed by a 12 foot heating element might have seemed a good idea in the 1970s - but that was when electricity was cheap, if a bit unreliable.  Oh well, I've got a large pot of warming home-made soup on the stove, and have just polished off some stovies - hopefully I should manage to generate my own heat...

Now ensconced in front of the laptop, glass of wine in hand, my thoughts turn to yet another year of the righteous anti-alcohol onslaught; an exercise in infantilising nazi-esque social engineering epitomised by the BBC's 00:05 1st of January "Happy New Year" story.
Rising alcohol addiction costs 'could cripple the NHS'
The cost of treating the growing number of people drinking heavily threatens to cripple NHS hospitals, warn experts.
Now where was I? Sorry went through to the kitchen to chop some leeks into my soup and lost my train, and as for trains - what about that new year hike in fares, during a time of recession? I thought the fares tracked the RPI? (sorry) That was about 0% over the last year, was it not?

Erm, sorry that wasn't it, I'm obviously struggling to get back into this blogging thing - or is it just holding back the floodgates of outrage that's the problem?

Oh I've found it, there's my gall bladder, and my train of thought - my poor excuse for a cogent intellect...

It would appear that us naughty adults are under attack from all angles over alcohol, the SNP are on the bandwagon whipping the horses in this cheery New Year propoganda release, radio and TV repeated the same kill joy "press-release disguised as a story" ad nauseum - and to top it all the sorry excuse for a stink-tank, Policy Exchange, thinks we should all pay £500 if we turn up at hospital after imbibing a couple of drinks.

The Filthy Smoker over at the inestimable Devil's place has a poke at this story, revealing some of the life-hating villains behind this festive guilt trip; topping it off with an exemplary demolition job on the already very dodgy financial claims - it's worth a read if you haven't already.

I have a slightly different angle; the anti-alcohol lobbyists have derived considerable self congratulatory justification in their festive message by the timely announcement that the Russian government have decided to impose the second minimum vodka price in 5 years, increasing the minimum price of a bottle of vodka to $3.  This increase has been hailed by the SNP, campaigners and the press as an anti-alcoholism measure, and who are we to doubt that?

Well informed people that read non-UK based media, perhaps?

The motive behind the Russian minimum price is not health, it is officially about putting a stop to non-excise duty paid cheap vodka - hooch, or 'samogon'. It's about tax revenue, as always - follow the money. The Russian government and health campaigners alike publicly acknowledge that minimum pricing will not reduce deaths by alcohol, they know - it's been tried already. The consensus of opinion is that the causes of Russian alcohol abuse are much more deep rooted; social, financial, climatic and education - to name but a few.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Health Minister ignores Moscow's real intent; co-opting their hike, to £1.60 per bottle, to help justify an ill-informed social engineering policy that will ultimately fail - I wonder if we will see a retraction of that 'news' piece?

As for alcohol deaths in Scotland, the statistics are quite clear - there were 1360 deaths wholly attributable to alcohol in 2003, not 3000, of a total of 58064.  There were 14049 wholly attributable patient-specific discharges, not 42000, of a total of 569269 [Alcohol attributable mortality and morbidity: alcohol population attributable fractions for Scotland, June 2009].

The difference in the actual figures and those quoted by politicians and press? The inclusion of 'partially attributable' figures, make of that what you want - personally I see it as symptomatic of lazy thinking and scare-mongering of the most risible kind. Behaviour typical of campaigners who choose to ignore reality to further their campaigns - grabbing at meta-data straws and anecdotal evidence does not a case make.

The reality is that many of us drink, and regularly - given that, a biased researcher could cite alcohol as contributory in many medical admissions/conditions even if an actual mechanism does not exist, and that's exactly what the much inflated and well publicised Scottish figures demonstrate.

Drinking is normal behaviour, not aberrant and dangerous - surely an analytical starting point should take heed of this fact?  Not to do so is to set an unrealistic norm from which to measure the expected "adverse" influence of the demon drink - you might even get the lazy lazy campaign backing and terror inducing results you want for your social marketing exercise.

Me? I can't fly - personally I blame the booze, need to drink more.

And stop wagging your finger at me, bastards...


  1. Danish Pastry (Mrs)2 January 2010 at 22:05

    Clara, can you see my IP address and if so, what does it say?

  2. Hiya DP, happy new year.

    It says you are using an anonymiser based in Switzerland via VPN, and you visited my site from Address is

  3. I was hoping to get through New Years Day before a barrage of binge stories on the 2nd but no, these people had to try and ruin my day with what you quote.
    I had three conversations along the lines "Well it my or may not be true that alcohol related illness costs the NHS £3B pa but the tax take from alcohol is someting like £9B pa (+VAT)so I'm not getting my monies worth and want a refund". All three agreed.

    Incidentaly, I have come across people who have been to A&E for what they regarded as a drink related accident only for their admission to be classified as "slippery dance floor hazard" or " running in high heels hazard"; some junior doctors in A&E not quite on message perhaps?

  4. Danish Pastry (Mrs)3 January 2010 at 11:23


    It works, thanks.

    I am a Perpetual Traveller

    Be travelling to the two conferences in London, on Afghanistan and Yemen,

    There bound to be lots of business for me there.

    A real double dipper, if you like.

    Dansk Pastry (Mrs)

  5. Some day I'll get round to writing all about alcohol consumption in different countries, the falsification of statistics and the hidden consumption that is significant but never quantified.

    In the former USSR and China the alcohol industry is run by 3 Mafias, all State institutions. Their production and distribution statistics are never enumerated and thus Government consumption statistics are bollox.

    Doubling the price just doubles the take these Mafias rake in.

    I have sat opposite these people in Russia and Ukraine and am about to do so in the next few onths in China, honestly.

    The Swedish of surtaxing and limiting by physical access apparently drops sales but there are a myriad of other ways to get the drink!

    The Ferryboat Estonia which went down in The Baltic some near 20 years ago, with all souls, was full of vodka mules carrying duty free from Talin to Helsinki.

    Ever been to Helsingor in Denmark? The ferry ride to Helsingborg takes 15 minutes and Hesingor is full of duty paid booze shops with Swedes doing the "Calais" run. It is not unknown for them to get boozed up, and drive up the ship loading ramp when the ship has not yet arrived. A few have died that way.

    Naieve to base any policy based on these dodgy statistics and policies.

    I wrote to Alex Salmond and offered my "experience" if they wanted it back in the fromulation of the proposed legislation, at no charge. I received the "standard" please subit your opinions in writing to the appropriate committee and the appropriate time so I dodn't bother.

    Restricting consumption of alcohol by price or by physical access have NEVER worked anywhere in the World I have been. If anyone says it has, they are not looking at the real statistics of alcohol consumed, in all forms and from all sources.

    Last of all, why the fuck do we want to consume alcohol in the way that we do?

    That is too much a difficult question for politicians to answer because it would involve them in some soul searching as to what this society has become, thanks to them in the first place.


    Missing a "UN" or change the Ms for Ns

    Take your pick

  6. Fascinating Bugger, as I hinted at in my piece I think it's more about taxation than health. The nub of the problem is why do people drink; and that is obvious - life for the bulk of the population is pretty shit, they feel powerless and disconnected. As we get older, anybody with one iota of self awareness, begins to explore the philosophy of the pointlessness of life - and the drugs do work, particularly ethanol...

    I spend some time working in various Baltic locations in the early 90s, and was bemused by the Swede's booze runs, to Lithuania, Poland, Estonia etc

    I once bought a case of Vodka in Klaipeda for <£10 and sold it in Gothenburg for £100.00.

    It doesn't surprise me that the SNP are not interested in your experience, all politicians fall foul of un-justified self-belief, how dare you know more than them? You naughty smart-ass!

    Mrs DP, are you really a PT?

  7. @banned, I think perhaps those physicians are accepting the reality of alcohol and life - we should applaud them. The figures concocted by the government include some very questionable guesses/stats of a similar kind.

    As for income vs cost - as somebody once pointed out to me, the only tax that is hypothecated is the BBC Licence fee - all others are simply income, or theft? Depends how you look at it...

  8. Perpetual Traveller, sorry I shouldn't use acronyms...

  9. Booze is only available here from the provincially run LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) stores and a brewers monopoly - The Beer Store. Prices rise regularly and no one wants to limit consumption. Funny that.

  10. Danish Pastry (Mrs)3 January 2010 at 13:48


    Just getting into the groove baby.

  11. Scunnert, I knew the LCBO and was very heavily involved with the Brew your own business back in the old days when the injuns were running booze and fags from the US into Canada. My cousin was in the OPP and he said they were outrun and outgunned by the runners.

    Can you get a single can of beer from a LCBO outlet yet? You buy a carton and what do you do, you drink the carton. y cousin had a Beer ridge, FFSake!

    Funny that. The Provincial Liquor Boards were supposed to be monopolies to restrict consumption.

  12. Prohibition is the natural extension of control of supply - and that worked out well in the USA and really boosted Breznehv'z popularity when he proposed it...

    States control something we can all manufacture easily and cheaply, the revenue is significant - it's just a tax issue. Health of the nation? A pathetic excuse for market manipulation and revenue collection.

  13. It worked out well if you were a rum runner into the USA and your name was Seagram and you lived in Montreal.

    I worked for a company called Publicker Industries who had to shut down their drinking alcohol business during prohibition. They continued to produce "medical alchol" and their cooperage side bought up all the empty wooden spirit casks for firewood.

    Firewood, my derriere, they swaeted the casks and drained about 4 pints of very good alcohol per cask and then they burned the wood, after a further extraction with medicinal alcohol.

    It kept Philadelphia, Washington and the Kennedy Family in booze, and money, for years or generations.

  14. I should have added "allegedly" at the end of my post 3 January 2010 14:44


  15. LOL Bugger, of course it's only here-say...