On Friday, the UK introduced a “Sugar Tax” on sweet drinks, purportedly to help reduce childhood obesity. Will it work? Personally, I doubt it.
There’s a few reasons – first and foremost, that a lot of manufacturers have already chosen to reduce the sugar levels in their drinks to put them into lower rates for the sugar tax.
Connected to that, diet and zero-calorie versions of most of those drinks have been available for years. If people haven’t chosen to swap by now, will paying 10p extra make them change? Probably not. There’s not even a really visible price difference – at least two of the shop chains I use regularly have upped the price on all the drinks, not just the sugary ones, which also defeats the object. If there were a visible difference ( “I can buy 500ml of the sugary one for £1.50, or the diet one for £1.35, so I’ll save money”) then it might work, but without that, I don’t see that there’s a real driver to force the change.
Alongside that, I *personally* have a problem with government telling me how to be healthy, and attempting to enforce that. I have the same issue when it comes to smoking, the way government encourages people to stop smoking, while also getting massive amounts of income from the tax and duty on cigarettes. (This also applies for alcohol, telling people to drink less while getting the income from the tax and duty, and so on and so on)
I also suspect that there’s a lot more damage done by the ‘invisibly’ sweet drinks – the bizarre creamy milky super-sweet concoctions from Starbucks, Caffe Nero, Costa et al – which now seem to be far more prevalent than sweet fizzy drinks. I suspect there’s a lot more of the obesity blame that can be laid on the coffee culture now than can be laid at the soft-drinks industry. I’m not even sure that the coffee chains are being hit by the sugar tax – I haven’t seen any mention of it being on anything except the soft-drinks industry.
It’ll be interesting to see the results – although of course the government will always claim it to have been a massive success, even when it’s a clusterfuck of monumental proportions – but I really don’t expect to see it have any positive effects on reducing obesity, whether in children or adults.
Over the last week or so, there’s been an incredible amount of news coverage about the (alleged) ‘attempted assassination’ of an Russian ex-spy in Salisbury.
Today, the news has been full of stuff about how the nerve-agent used ‘points the finger at Moscow’, which just pings all the ‘yeah, but’ bells in my head.
Now, I’m not trying to say “Russia wasn’t involved”, because I simply don’t know. But… this sort of “well it must’ve been them, they’re the ones who made it” ‘evidence’ and hype always makes me a bit twitchy. If you extrapolate that, you might as well say that a car manufacturer must be responsible for every accident on the road, “because they’re the ones who made it”.
I don’t know enough on this one way or the other. But if I were a player on a much larger political stage, and I wanted to (for example) divert public and media attention away from one ongoing political clusterfuck, and point it all somewhere else, I’d be looking at making a Big Bad Enemy that can be blamed for Why You Should Be Afraid. And I’d probably work to either get materials that can be attributed to that Big Bad Enemy, or… well, or just make up all that ‘evidence’. Because of course it’s all ‘top secret’ and ‘in the interests of national security’, so they’re never going to produce that evidence in public anyway.
And it’s impossible to imply that only Russia had access to this stuff. If nothing else, American scientists (and there’s no way there weren’t security/agency personnel in that entourage!) visited and helped decontaminate the plant where the nerve agents in question were being produced. If they were approved for Russian military use (and they were) then those nerve agents would’ve been distributed to army installations and so on. All too easy at that point for them to be ‘mislaid’ and/or sold or stolen to anyone else.
All told, this entire story stinks, and rings very much as “A big boy did it, and ran away!” It’s all just a bit convenient.
OK, I’ve got a new doozy of a conspiracy/cynicism thing for you.
Remember a few years back, Cameron belted on about how cuts in services meant that “Big Society” should step up, and do the things that councils and governments could no longer afford to?
Since then, we’ve seen an explosion in crowdfunding stuff – goFundMe, JustGiving, etc., – and now, any time anything happens, one of those appeals gets started.
What if…. What if those crowdfunding sites are the Big Society plan – people paying what they can to help those less well off, or in trouble because of situations that’ve been initiated by councils and governments?
So like today, ‘raise £200,000 to help people at Grenfell‘ – a fire that’s at least been contributed to by the negligence and shitness of funding by councils and governments. And what’s the betting that those crowd-funded compensations take the place (to a degree) of councils having to take the strain and fund accommodation, clothing etc.?
It’s dark as fuck, but somehow it also makes sense…
Today the UK has changed Prime Minister, with Dodgy Dave stepping down, to be replaced by Theresa May. It’s going to be an interesting time, to say the least.
My own prediction now for the Brexit process will be this :
- Brussels won’t allow any negotiations to happen until the UK has stated it’s intent to leave the EU, by signing Article 50
- UK Government won’t sign Article 50 until the basic negotiations have happened, or at least are happening
And so, we’ll have a deadlock – where the UK Government can portray Brussels as “The Bad Guys” who won’t allow us to leave, because they’re being too harsh.
And that, I suspect, is where it’ll all stall, a total impasse that means the entire Brexit thing will gradually fade from the public mind.
Well, I’ve now posted my vote/decision on all the Brexit stuff.
My decision can’t be changed.
So can all the political bollocks about it please sod off?
Interesting to see today that there are new proposals to monitor the internet usage of all school pupils, ‘to prevent radicalisation’. (Because yeah, of course that’ll work)
It’s interesting to me, because I’d thought that was in place already – certainly at least twenty years ago, Research Machines did a whole internet-monitoring and dubious-link-blocking system, and I’d kind-of assumed that was the de-facto standard for schools even now. Apparently not.
It was certainly one of the strangest temp/contract jobs I’ve ever had – I worked for RM for three months, and the job description was to spend that time finding dodgy sites, so they could be added to the blacklist, and RM’s firewalls would then block those sites from being seen. So yes, the job was basically to look for porn. It was a challenge, honest. *cough* (Having looked, RM do still do ‘online safety’ stuff for schools, so I wonder why it’s not the standard. Maybe they’re priced themselves out of the market, or there’s just more companies that do it, and their market-share has shrunk. I dunno)
However, I don’t think it’ll be easy to do anything that will block the access now. There are too many routes – and any vaguely tech-savvy child will be able to go outside the school-enforced network on their own devices etc. Sure, you can lock a school-owned device (computer, iPad etc.) to the school network – but you can’t do the same for their own devices. On those, there’s always public wi-fi, and even ‘just’ the usual 3G/4G connection. And whatever internet access is available at home, and anywhere else.
Also, as with so much of this ‘monitoring’ crap, I’m sure it’ll only be of use once something has happened. There’s nothing that can proactively monitor these things, or flag up significant warnings beforehand. All the monitoring can do is provide a record, to say “This is what they looked at before they did something that brought them to our attention”, in true “locking the stable-door once the horse has bolted” style. As usual.
You know, I for one am getting really tired of the government phrases “It’s for your safety” and “it’s for your security”, which are getting bandied around more and more.
This week it’s been used about blocking flights to and from Sharm El-Sheikh because of an alleged – but unproven – bomb in the hold of the plane that crashed in the Sinai desert last week. It’s also been used in discussions about monitoring everyone’s internet traffic and holding those records for at least a year, and in revelations about MI5 monitoring every domestic phone-call in the UK for the last ten years.
Governments like people to be scared – and more and more, we seem to be happy to let the government take these measures ‘because it makes us safer’. It doesn’t, it just gives up more information to the government – and all in the name of ‘safety’.
Basically, it’s shit.
[I know, I need to think more about this and write more. But it’s a phrase that bugs me every time it’s used]