Making Sense with Richard Smith Episode 5 – The TPD

Friday the 20th of May was TPD day in Europe. That’s not a fun celebration, TPD stands for Tobacco Products Directive, and it’s a huge list of laws that apply across Europe covering tobacco products, mostly.

One of the aims of Europe is to create a really big place where all the laws are basically the same, especially when it comes down to the really little stuff like how many cigarettes you can buy in a pack, whether milk and beer should be sold in pints or litres, and ensuring that a Cornish pasty can only come from Cornwall. I’m a big fan of Europe and the EU, that doesn’t mean I like absolutely everything it does. Lots of things it does are just plain dumb or pointless, but hey, that’s government.

The TPD is an attempt to standardise a whole load of smoking related laws. For example, you can now no longer buy a pack of ten cigarettes or less that 30g of loose tobacco. The thinking behind that is if you can only buy 30g of tobacco when you normally only buy 25g of tobacco, you’ll probably just never smoke again. I didn’t say it was coherent thinking that in any way made sense. There are lots of other laws there like forcing the use of plain cigarette packets, and menthol cigarettes being banned.

Nobody is arguing that restricting the sale of tobacco is a bad thing. We’ve known the dangers of it for years and taking steps to getting people away from using it is the right thing to do. However, the TPD also covers the use of vaping products, even though there isn’t a single atom of tobacco anywhere near them, and that has made people who use those vaping products, including myself, very angry. But before we get into that, I need to get you onto the page as me when it comes to vaping.

What Is Vaping?

I’m an ex smoker. I started when I was 18 because I thought it made me dangerous and edgy. It did neither of those things, unless you count the danger I cases others by smoking around them. Unfortunately for me by the time I realised that smoking didn’t really achieve what I was going for, I was addicted.

Over the years I’ve tried every method you can think of to quit. Patches, gum, inhalers, hypnotherapy, and the super fun medication Champix. The only one that came close was the hypnotherapy which lasted around three weeks. I think the problem was that I didn’t really want to quit. Of course I understand the dangers of smoking and of course I don’t want any of them to happen to me, but that doesn’t mean I wanted to quit smoking. If I was going to give it up I needed something that replaced the nicotine and helped me to avoid thinking about smoking. Then I discovered vaping.

From my very first go on an electric cigarette I was done with smoking. There was no withdrawal, no stress, no nothing. It doesn’t even feel like I really achieved anything. I just switched from smoking to vaping and never looked back.

An electronic cigarette is a small battery hooked up to small metal coils which are wrapped in cotton. That cotton is soaked in ejuice, which is a mixture of flavour, nicotine, and a couple of other things. The coils in the e-cigarette heat up and vaporise the ejuice. You breathe that in and you get the flavour and a hit of nicotine. It feels like smoking, but it has none of the negative side effects.

There are two reasons people use a vaporiser. To give up smoking, or because they enjoy using that vaporiser. My girlfriend and I gave up smoking at the same time, using the same equipment. She has stopped vaping, loosing all interest after a couple of months. It stopped her smoking after a habit that ran for more years than she’d like me to admit. On the other hand I still vape. I vape all day long and I do it on all kinds of different equipment. I’ve got a vaporiser stashed in all kinds of places so I’m never far from one. I mix my own ejuice at home, make my own coils, I love it, and I have absolutely no intention of stopping.

Let’s be grown up and stop kidding ourselves over something nobody likes to say. Smoking feels good. There are loads of reasons people smoke and no reason is any more or less valid than any other. Given what we know about the risks of smoking, don’t you think that there must be something pretty special making people smoke regardless? Okay so it’s not exactly as enjoyable as Crack (or so I’m told) but there’s pleasure to be found there. The main trouble with smoking is that it tends to kill you in a very horrible way. Vaping is fun for the same reasons but doesn’t kill you. What’s not to like? If you smoke you should switch to vaping. It might just save your life.

But all of that is just my opinion based on my own experiences. With something like this we need to look at the data and research being done. What exactly are our medical organisations saying about vaping?

How Safe Is Vaping?

It depends on who you ask, and there’s a lot of misleading, and incorrect information out there. To get through all the rubbish out there you need to understand which groups of people hate vaping and what they stand to lose. While we in Europe are worried about the TPD, in America the FDA have just all but destroyed vaping. As a side note, any U.S. based vapers should take the time to join CASAA to see what you can do to help (http://casaa.org)

The biggest and most obvious enemy of vaping is big tobacco. It’s really simple, if people are vaping rather than smoking, then fewer people are buying tobacco. They’re followed closely big big pharma. They really don’t like us using e-cigarettes to quit smoking because we’re not using patches, gum, or anything else you can buy from your local chemist. Finally there’s the anti-smoking groups. I hate the anti-smoking groups. There’s something about groups of people who are so concerned about what other people are doing that really rub me up the wrong way. Anyway they’re of the belief that people shouldn’t be smoking, vaping, or anything else, and they’re going to do whatever they can to stop us. I get the impression that they aren’t really interested in the well being of smokers, they’re just frustrated by people doing something they don’t want them to be doing.

You can see their work in the form of badly written reports and questionable studies. Over the last year there have been a couple of sensationalist news stories following those bad reports.

There was the Diacetyl scare. That’s a food flavouring that gives things a buttery flavour. It was being used in a popcorn factory where a number of workers suffered massive lung trauma, probably as a result of the chemicals they were working with, and their condition ended up being called Popcorn Lung. Because there has been Diacetyl used in some ejuice flavours the media jumped and began publishing articles about how e-cigarettes were going to kill us all. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/03/14/e-cigarettes-contain-flavouring-chemical-linked-to-deadly-popcor/)

The truth is that Diacetyl has never been linked to Popcorn Lung. It isn’t even really blamed for causing the condition in the popcorn factory workers. The factory workers were exposed to far more of the chemical than any vaper ever would be, and that’s if they’re vaping an eliquid that happens to contain it. And there is something that contains more Diacetyl than any eliquid, and exposes you to more of it than the workers in the popcorn factory were getting, cigarettes.

When that story was shown up for what it is, we were suddenly hit with another study that showed how e-cigarettes were every bit as bad for you as smoking.

Some scientists took some living cells and put them in a petri dish. Then they blew cigarette smoke over some of the cells and eliquid vapour over some other cells. As to be expected the cigarette smoke caused genetic mutations in the cells. What wasn’t expected was that the eliquid also caused genetic mutations in the cells. There’s your headline right there. But if you’re the one writing that article be careful that you don’t dig any deeper than that. You don’t want to mention that the vapour took a number of days to cause the genetic mutation. And you really don’t want to talk about how the cigarette smoke caused the genetic mutations almost immediately, and then went on to totally kill off and destroy all cells after a couple of hours, something that vapour didn’t manage at all.

It’s not that the reporting on these studies is technically wrong, it’s just that they’re misleading. Yes both the vapour and the cigarette smoked caused genetic mutations, but the difference in the way it happened is extremely important information. Misreporting this kind of thing makes people decide not to give up smoking, and it kills them. When you’re looking for information on vaping it makes sense to get it directly from people who know what they’re talking about, rather than from a newspaper. Everyone else has an interest in either printing headlines that sell newspapers, or discouraging people from vaping all together.

Every so often you’ll see worries about children beginning to vape, exploding batteries, or poisonous chemical cloud. If not one of those then you’ll end up hearing about how vaping is making people actually start smoking.

What actual doctors have to say about vaping

The first major group to give their opinion was Public Health England. In August 2015 they released their work on the subject (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/e-cigarettes-around-95-less-harmful-than-tobacco-estimates-landmark-review) and declared vaping to be around 95% safer than smoking. That’s quite a significant reduction in harm right there.

More recently the Royal College of Physicians released their own 200 page report. You can read through the whole thing yourself if you like (https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/news/promote-e-cigarettes-widely-substitute-smoking-says-new-rcp-report) but let me give you a couple of the key points.

They found that e-cigarettes were not a gateway to smoking regular cigarettes, and don’t result in the normalisation of smoking. When they looked at how e-cigarettes help people to quit, they found that people who otherwise were not even considering giving up smoking we’re taking up vaping. The e-cigarettes actually acted as a gateway away from smoking.

The RCP are proper scientists so they have to include this bit at the end that I know is going to make some of you start shouting but please wait until I finish before you interrupt. They did state that there is the possibility of some kind of long term negative effects of vaping. HOWEVER… Those negative effects were due to the flavourings, not vaping in general, and as more testing happens, those bad flavourings go away making vaping even safer. And on top of that, the damage that they think might occur, is no more than 5% of the damage that smoking would have caused and is very likely to be significantly less than that.

So all of the evidence is pointing towards vaping being virtually harmless, and significantly safer than smoking. No wonder the NHS are now handing them out to people trying to give up cigarettes.

The British government’s reaction to vaping is something worthy of note. For the first time I can think of, a government has looked at valid scientific research, and based policy on it with the aim of positively changing the health of the country. I’m quite thrown by that. Usually the valid scientific research is replaced with invalid research that says something more along the lines of what the government want it to say, and policy is then made with total disregard for logic, reason, and public opinion, and that gets us back To The TPD.

Why It Is Bad?

The e-cigarette portion of the TPD (aka article 20) attempts to standardise the laws controlling e-cigarettes throughout Europe. For some countries that has actually meant that e-cigarettes will become legal for the first time. But for nations like Britain, it means we’re going to take a massive step backwards, and to make matters worse, it’s all based on old research, lobbying by big tobacco, and panic about something a lot of people don’t understand.

I don’t want to go into too much technical detail about what’s wrong with how vaping is controlled, suffice it to say that the new laws make pushing e-cigarette use very difficult.

Here’s an example. Section 5 of article 20 refers to the advertising of e-cigarettes. You’d expect that to be there as we’ve had very strict rules on advertising tobacco for years. If they’re going to treat vaping like smoking, then we can expect to get those laws. So it includes the basics like prohibiting advertising on television, radio, and in print.

Not being able to talk about vaping might somewhat impede the spread of vaping as a smoking cessation method. I’m not suggesting that we should have ads for e-cigs all over the place, but we should be able to talk about them in a positive light and encourage smokers to make the switch. Studies show that far too many people still think that vaping is worse for you than smoking. We need to be able to change that.

It doesn’t stop there. Many of the other new regulations aim to fix problems that simply don’t exist. For example it is now illegal to sell eliquid in bottles bigger than 10ml. Until the TPD the most popular quantity to buy was 15ml. That’s a 5ml difference that makes no actual difference in real life, but it does mean that every manufacturer of eliquid has to change their production process, and create more waste by producing more bottles. Why is that in there at all? Well it’s all about stopping us from overdosing on nicotine, and that’s stupid, because overdosing on the nicotine in eliquid is more difficult than you might think. The lethal dose for nicotine is between 50 and 100g depending on your size. Now it’s time for some maths.

As an overweight adult male, we can assume that I’d need to consume the full 100g of nicotine to be in with a chance of hurting myself. Where would I get my hands on 100g of nicotine. Well the previously legal 15ml bottles contain 0.045g of nicotine, and cost around £8.99 per bottle. To be harmed by that nicotine I would need to consume over 33 litres of eliquid at a cost of roughly £20,000. From that you can work on the basis that it’s pretty much impossible to be harmed by eliquid, unless enough of it lands on your head. Sitting down to consume 33 litres of anything is hard. Try it with some milk and let me know how you get on. Not only would you have to consume more liquid that your body can hold, but you need to get litre 33 in there before litre 1 has a chance to leave your system. Thank goodness the TPD limits e-cigarette tank sizes to 2ml. Just think of all the lives saved there.

The TPD reads more like a list of ways to annoy vapers rather than something that’s actually a good idea. It’s all very petty and childish in its approach. Most ex-smokers start with eliquid that contains 2.4% nicotine, as it most closely resembles a 20 a day smoking habit. The TPD limits liquids to 2% nicotine, which doesn’t sound like a lot, so to give you some context, most vapers use liquid with 0.3% nicotine. That .4% makes a serious difference to somebody trying to quit smoking. The vaping rules in the TPD go against everything our scientists and health professionals are telling us.

This limit on nicotine concentration could also kill off the DIY eliquid market. Some vapers, like myself, make their own eliquid at home. It’s much cheaper to do it that way, and you know exactly what’s going into your eliquid. To make our own liquid we buy nicotine in much higher concentrations than you would actually vape it in. It’s diluted down to get to the desired level for each vaper. Thanks to the TPD I can no longer buy the concentration I need, and any liquid nicotine I can buy, I can only get in those little 10ml bottles.

Honestly I could go through the entire document and pull apart every single rule and regulation in there. As much as I’d enjoy that, it doesn’t make for very interesting reading.

How can the TPD be so unfit for purpose and what can we do about it?

It turns out that we can get the answer for both of those questions from one Lord Callanan, a Tory peer in the House of Lords. He’s done great work for vaping in the past and it looks like he’s trying to do it again.

Recently there was a debate on vaping and the TPD in the House of Lords. You can see the whole thing online and it’s worth a watch just to see people in government say things that make sense. It’s not something you normally get to see.

Being that it’s over an hour long, all you really need to know about it is that everyone who speaks is in agreement with everybody else that speaks. Apparently the TPD was drawn up before much research had been done into vaping. The Lords don’t like the vaping restrictions one bit, and it turns out they might still be able to help us.

When European directives like the TPD come into force, it’s down to each individual country to write that directive into their own laws. We haven’t done that yet. For something to become a law it needs to be agreed upon in the House of Commons. Then it goes to the House of Lords for them to give it the once over before it gets sent to the Queen. Usually if the Lords don’t agree with a possible law they send it back to the Commons to be corrected. However it’s possible for a Lord to table a fatal motion. That means that if the Lords vote against something, it does not go back to the Commons. It’s just dead. Lord Callanan has tabled a fatal motion against the TPD. Soon there will be a vote in the House of Lords, and if they vote the right way, we’ll just never write the TPD into British law. Simple as that.

Of course that comes with some possible problems from the EU. We really are meant to write it into law, so there are some consequences if we don’t. But right now things aren’t all that great between the UK and the EU. There’s this little referendum that we’re having and it looks like the EU aren’t going to be doing anything to piss us off anytime soon. Besides, the French do whatever they want anyway.

The chance to change things for the better has mobilised vapers all over the country. You’ll find links to the change.org petition (https://www.change.org/p/david-cameron-mp-support-parliamentary-moves-to-block-crazy-e-cigarette-regulations?recruiter=227535661), and other sites where you can find out about all the activism that’s going on. I encourage you to sign the petition, and if you have managed to give up smoking thanks to e-cigarettes I encourage you to share your story on social media, preferably aimed at your MPs and other relevant people. (http://www.clivebates.com/?p=4105#more-4105). Hopefully with enough public pressure the Lords will vote in the way that makes the most sense.

Preview of Making Sense Episode 5

Friday the 20th of May was TPD day in Europe. That’s not a fun celebration, TPD stands for Tobacco Products Directive, and it’s a huge list of laws that apply across Europe covering tobacco products, mostly.

One of the aims of Europe is to create a really big place where all the laws are basically the same, especially when it comes down to the really little stuff like how many cigarettes you can buy in a pack, whether milk and beer should be sold in pints or litres, and ensuring that a Cornish pasty can only come from Cornwall. I’m a big fan of Europe and the EU, that doesn’t mean I like absolutely everything it does. Lots of things it does are just plain dumb or pointless, but hey, that’s government.

The TPD is an attempt to standardise a whole load of smoking related laws. For example, you can now no longer buy a pack of ten cigarettes or less that 30g of loose tobacco. The thinking behind that is if you can only buy 30g of tobacco when you normally only buy 25g of tobacco, you’ll probably just never smoke again. I didn’t say it was coherent thinking that in any way made sense. There are lots of other laws there like forcing the use of plain cigarette packets, and menthol cigarettes being banned.

Nobody is arguing that restricting the sale of tobacco is a bad thing. We’ve known the dangers of it for years and taking steps to getting people away from using it is the right thing to do. However, the TPD also covers the use of vaping products, even though there isn’t a single atom of tobacco anywhere near them, and that has made people who use those vaping products, including myself, very angry.

Making Sense with Richard Smith Episode 4

During the last budget, George Osbourne announced to the country that all schools were going to be forced to become Academies. That was a decision that was considered to be a bad one by pretty much everybody. Never the less the British government carried on almost as if they just didn’t care about anything.

Although the privatisation of our education system has been put on hold, it is a glowing example of the kind of thing our government is up to on a daily basis. It serves as a case study on how our public services are being sold off in secret, right in front of us.

What Are Academies?

In 2000 the Labour Party sort of came up with the idea of academies. It’s actually a direct copy of the american charter school system. The idea was that failing schools would be given to private business to run. That business or “trust” would offer up money and expertise that would hopefully make the school better. By the time Labour left power in 2010 there were just over 200 academies. Today there are over 4500 academies, clearly they’re something that Tories really like. Things Tories like tend to be bad for anyone that isn’t either a Conservative MP, or the close personal friend of a Conservative MP. Since most of us don’t fit into either of those categories it’s worth looking into this further.

For starters the idea of private business running our education system is terrifying. If you think it’s bad that people like Rupert Murdoch push their own political agenda on the world through their various media outlets, just imagine what they could do if they got their hands on our schools. I’m really struggling to see how anybody can do a better job of turning around a failing school than teachers. Professionals who know how education works. If you think that McDonald’s should be running our primary and secondary schools, please leave now.

Are They Any Good?

So while they look like a really shit idea on the surface, what if we look a little deeper. Surely a change as significant as this to our education system should have some evidence to back it up. Our children should have the best education we can give them, and any steps taken to do anything with our education system should be done with the aim of improving education. Did becoming academies do anything to improve education in failing schools? Well according to the Department for Education, no. In a study in 2011 they saw that 60% of pupils at non-academy schools attained five A* to C grade GCSEs. Surely the pupils at the 249 academy schools did better. Well actually only 47% of their pupils managed to get grades as good as their non-academy friends.

Here’s another example. Trinity Academy in my home town of Doncaster is a sponsored academy and in March 2011 it was judged by Ofsted to be of Outstanding quality. However that was over turned in December 2013 when the school was so bad it was placed in special measures. The teaching quality was inadequate, the curriculum was inadequate, and the leadership was inadequate.

In 2015 a cross-party committee running a Parliamentary enquiry found that there is no proof that academies raise standards, and said that the government should stop exaggerating the success of academies.

Academies aren’t even good value for money. In January, the Financial Times reported that 8 academies in financial difficulty have been handed £11m over the last 18 months. Obviously you don’t even need to run your academy within a budget. If you over spend there’s some more money there for you.

If all that wasn’t enough, we can also look at the exclusion rate for academies. One of the problems with academies is that they want to be seen to be getting good results in testing. One way to do that is to teach children well. Another way to do that is to teach children less well and exclude the ones you don’t think are going to do well. Between 2013 and 2014 academies expelled 2430 pupils. Over the same period state run schools expelled 2520 pupils. Yes the academies expelled 90 fewer pupils, but you should know that there are 3513 academies, and 17,644 government run schools.

How Did This Happen?

Time and time again we see evidence that academies aren’t really all they’re cracked up to be. Teaching standards fall, expulsion rates go up, and the students that aren’t expelled end up with worse exam results than their state school counterparts. No wonder the tories had to try to force every school to become an academy, Why on earth would any school choose to do it?

Right now we’ve only had a year of full fat Tory. For the five years before that we were living through years of semi-skimmed Tory after watering them down with some wet liberal democrats. Back in 2010 it wasn’t possible for Cameron to force schools to do anything, not to the same degree that he can now, so supporting further academisation had to come with a little bit of sweetener for the people who got to decide if a school became an academy. Queue lots of perks for head teachers.

They were offered the opportunity to set their own school curriculum. Do you really need me to explain why it’s a bad idea to have a school set its own curriculum? How can you tell how well they’re doing? How do you know that the curriculum compares to the ones being taught in other schools. How can pupils go onto university if they’ve all been taught to different levels of understanding? It’s just a bad idea. We have a national curriculum set by the government for a reason.

Heads were given the opportunity to buy in services from outside of their local education authority, basically allowing them to give school money to whoever they felt like giving it to.

Some head teachers even believed that becoming an academy would mean they didn’t have to undergo government inspection. Sadly that one wasn’t true and resulted in some head teachers being removed from their jobs as a result of doing bugger all since converting their school to academy status.

Of course removing a school from the control of the local authority and into the hands of private enterprise requires some legal work to be done. The government offered to pay the legal fees of the converting schools, and offered them a nice big chunk of cash on top of that so they could do up the schools a little bit and maybe supply kids with their school uniform.

Those financial incentives that the government were offering also acted as a way of coercing schools that weren’t already thinking about converting. While the government were giving more money to new academies, they weren’t putting more money into the education budget overall. I’ll break it down to really basic maths. Imagine I run three schools each with a budget of £1. Then I tell you that if you turn your school into an academy, I’ll give you £2 the next time I hand out the cash. When that time comes around, I give you your £2, but I give the other two schools 50p to make up for the extra pound I gave you. Suddenly those other two schools have a good reason to start thinking about becoming an academy.

I can’t help but feel that Tories get really excited about academies. Look at all the trouble they cause and we still haven’t uncovered what’s so good about them.

Why Do Tories Like Academies?

Remember how I said that academies are a copy of the American charter school system? Take a look at what education historian Diane Raviitch had to say about them in her book Reign of Error. She points out that the government believes that entrepreneurs should enter the education market. Almost overnight, consultants, vendors and businesses offered their services on such matters as teacher evaluation systems, teacher training systems, how to turn round failing schools, and so on. She also found that many businesses observed a fortune in public money that they could access rather than it going towards pupils. Now this sounds much more Tory! This sounds exactly like something lifted right out of David Cameron’s wet dreams.

Just think of all that money we’re pouring into education when we should be finding way to let private business have it. I must admit that this is one of those times where I just don’t understand the conservatives, and I think it proves them to be as heartless and stupid as I consider them to be. Just think about this for a moment. If you truly believe in all that right wing greed is good crap, then surely it makes sense to take steps to ensure that your businesses can thrive as far into the future as possible If we have class after class of dumb kids, destroyed by a massively underfunded education system, how can things continue? Oh wait, sorry, stilly me. I completely forgot that Tory MPs don’t send their children to state run schools. They can afford private education for their children. That way their kids get the good education as well as all the inheritance and can go on ruling the country for years to come, with nobody to appose them but the uneducated masses who had no choice but to go to a school run by Starbucks. That sounds like a joke, but don’t forget anyone can set up an academy chain, and the whole point is that those businesses that do are expected to inject their expertise into the schools, the only reason why we don’t have a Starbucks Primary School that specialises in Barrister skills, is that Starbucks haven’t decided to do that yet. There’s nothing stopping them now.
After a little digging around online, you start to understand why the Tories love this system so much. Here are a few examples for you:

  • Academy Transformation Trust , which controls 16 academies in the south-east and Midlands, has paid in total £57,282 to a trustee and a company owned by the daughter-in-law of the trust’s chief executive, Ian Cleland.
  • The Active Learning Trust, which oversees five schools, has paid £16,943 to a company owned by trustee, Marilyn Toft.
  • Cabot Learning Federation (CLF) has paid £9,000 for training courses to Transform Training and Consultancy, where a former trustee of the federation is also a director.
  • In July 2014, the country’s largest taxpayer funded chain, the Academy Enterprise Trust, came under fire following revelations of almost £500,000 worth of payments made to private businesses owned by its trustees and executive.
  • Between September 2011 and 2014, The Elliot Foundation (TEF), which runs primary academies in the West Midlands, East Anglia and London, has paid £452,373 to founding directors for their work as consultants and for travel and subsistence expenses.
  • School Partnership Trust Academies (SPTA), which has converted more than 30 schools to academies, revealed payments of £424,850 over two years for legal services to Wrigleys Solicitors, where the trust director Christopher Billington is a partner, and for education consultancy to Elmet Education, where another member of School Partnership Trust Academies is a director.
  • Leigh Academies Trust, run by Michael Gove’s newly appointed schools commissioner, Frank Green, has paid £111,469 since 2010 to Shoreline, a private company founded by him, in consultancy fees.
  • Grace Academy, which runs three schools in the Midlands and was set up by the Tory donor Lord Edmiston, has paid more than £1m either directly to or through companies owned or controlled by Edmiston, trustees’ relatives and to members of the board of trustees. Payments include £533,789 to International Motors Limited, a company owned by Edmiston, and £4,253 to Subaru UK Ltd, where he is the ultimate controlling party. More than £173,000 was also paid to the charities Grace Foundation and Christian Vision, both of which were set up by Edmiston. In addition, £108,816 has been paid to a company controlled by the son-in-law of one trustee. Grace Academy also employs Gary Spicer, the brother of Lady Edmiston, as its executive director, on a salary of £30,000 plus pension. Spicer’s own company received more than £367,732 from Grace Academy over the last six years for consultancy work.

The list goes on and on, for example:

  • One of Gove’s favourite academies was found to have serious weaknesses and this caused questions around the freedoms given to these schools.  An investigation found that in the year ending August 2012 £1,047,788 in 2011 and £924,316 had been lost through ‘unautorised transfers.’  The school was part of Haberdashers’ Aske Federation.
  • Three people have been arrested by detectives investigating an alleged fraud at a County Durham academy. (2014)
  • The founder of a flagship free school in Bradford will stand trial in 2016 accused of fraud. (Kings Science Academy)
  • The Perry Beeches academy trust is to have its five academies and free schools in Birmingham handed over to a new academy trust following a critical financial investigation. A report concluded that the academy made payments in contravention of academies’ financial rules and Treasury guidelines. 28 March 2016. In 2012 Gove described the CEO in receipt of some of these payments as, ‘Wonderful!’

And there it is. That’s why the Tories love academies so much. If you want to take some of the education budget, all you have to do is run a school, and then pay all the school’s money to various other companies that you own. That’s the secret, and almost forced, privatisation of the British education system.

To Sum Up

Look. I’m all up for being able to make money. I run a business myself. But there are some things that are sacred. There are plenty of ways to make a load of money without resorting to taking it from our education system. The biggest and most profitable company in the world makes phones. Below them are a whole list of big phama, oil, and other silicon valley companies. If your goal in life is to make as much money as possible then there are much better ways to do it. Surely raping the education of our children should be a way of making money that any decent person would rather avoid. I know I would. The fact that our government doesn’t have the same level of care about our children’s eduction as you would hope, should start alarm bells ringing. If they’re willing to do this to education, then what are they willing to do to other organisations. We’ve seen that they’re trying to do something similar to the NHS. The trouble with making all your money from selling phones is that you’ve got to be clever enough to make and sell a phone. Tories aren’t. If they were, they’d be doing it. All they do is find a way to cheat the system, or change the system to their advantage ideally without anybody finding out. More than anything I just can’t get over thinking about the kind of person who looks at the countries education budget and sees it as a way for them to make money. No! The education budget is for the education of our country’s children. Nothing else. If anyone personally benefits from education, it should be the men and women who operate the schools and teach the children. Without them there are no schools, and our country has no future.

There was a time when I was training to be a primary school teacher. There has not been a single second where I have regretted not becoming one. Those people work their asses off more than I’m ever going to, and they do it knowing that the government doesn’t care, and would sell them to the highest bidder at the drop of a hat.

The 35th Simply Syndicated Movie News

In this episode we cover all the news from the movies, and there’s far too much for me to remember it all and tell you what it is on here. The best thing to do is listen to the show.

Simply Syndicated is in need of your help and support. We don’t have ads on our site or our shows so we rely on our listeners to keep us going.

You can support us by visiting http://bit.ly/1MgFlxr and signing up to support us with £6 per month. That not only gives you the warm fuzzy feeling of keeping your favourite podcast network going, but it also gives you access to Simply Everything with is our entire back catalogue of shows, and lots of exclusive shows and other content.

You can also support us with $3 each month by visiting http://bit.ly/1povAJ4 where we’ll be posting single episodes of exclusive shows from Simply Everything.

Finally, we also accept donations of any amount at http://bit.ly/1MgFlxs.

Everything helps us keep going and we’re extremely grateful for your support.

189. Top Podcasters

In this episode we talk about Apple meeting with podcasters, Soundcloud Go, and much more. You can follow our news stories through the week on our Tumblr page at http://bit.ly/1s6tzTm

Simply Syndicated is in need of your help and support. We don’t have ads on our site or our shows so we rely on our listeners to keep us going.

You can support us by visiting http://bit.ly/1MgFlxr and signing up to support us with £6 per month. That not only gives you the warm fuzzy feeling of keeping your favourite podcast network going, but it also gives you access to Simply Everything with is our entire back catalogue of shows, and lots of exclusive shows and other content.

You can also support us with $3 each month by visiting http://bit.ly/1povAJ4 where we’ll be posting single episodes of exclusive shows from Simply Everything.

Finally, we also accept donations of any amount at http://bit.ly/1MgFlxs.

Everything helps us keep going and we’re extremely grateful for your support.

On Podcasting

By now you may have seen the news that Apple apparently invited seven “top podcasters” to their offices to hear their thoughts about the iTunes podcast directory. The story goes that the entire meeting happened under a non-disclosure agreement, but two of the people there decided to break it. We’re told that amongst the things they asked for were better stats, the ability to sell podcasts, and other bad ideas.

Marco Arment wrote a brilliant article (https://marco.org/2016/05/07/apple-role-in-podcasting) explaining why these things are bad ideas. The more I think about it the angrier I get with it all. Here are my thoughts.

Who the hell are these so called top podcasters and what on earth do they know about what I want? I guarantee they all live within driving distance of Cupertino. The world of podcasting is enormous, and we range from high end business productions, to the kid in her bedroom. The idea that top podcasters, whoever they are, can speak for all of us is a complete insult. I already struggle with the blinkered view of podcasting as it is. You could be forgiven for thinking that all podcasts are produced in the U.S. It might come as a shock to hear that there are podcasters all over the world, in lots of countries. This is why I’m coming up to twelve years in podcasting and I’ve made basically now effort to be part of the wider podcast community. If I choose to not be part of it, then I can’t be upset when it doesn’t acknowledge me. It was an insult when Google launched podcasting in Google Play and didn’t allow any shows from outside the U.S. to be added to the directory, and it’s an insult when Apple boils and entire industry down to a mystery seven people. I also guarantee that those seven people already knew each other.

Why do we need better stats from Apple? Seriously. Why? Speaking as somebody who has run a podcast network for over a decade I’d like to officially say that I really don’t know what I’d do with better download stats. Plus any stats you get from Apple will only include results for users of iTunes and it’s related apps and services. Lots of people don’t use those things so their behaviour wouldn’t be included in these mystical better stats. How many people use a non-Apple app for podcast listening? They’re just as important as the iTunes people. The only thing I can think of is that these people would like to know things like when we stop listening to a show, or which parts we skip.

Marco already said it, but I’m going to say it too. Be careful what you wish for. Podcasters sell a product that they know isn’t any good. The thing with podcast ads is that nobody listens to them. We all skip over them. We even have podcast apps that let you customise how far it will skip forward in the hope you can cut out an entire ad with a single touch of a button. We all know this. The fact that we know this and podcasters continue to sell ads makes them dishonest. A couple of years ago Tivo brought out a DVR that had a five minute skip button. They billed it as being able to skip entire ad breaks, and TV channels lost their shit. Of course they did. They knew that if people were skipping over their ads, they wouldn’t be able to sell those ads for as much money. Podcasts also come with that skip button, but podcasters pretend it isn’t there. Do you really want Apple to provide you with a nice graph that proves conclusively that none of your listeners listen to the ads? Why would you ask for that proof? You’re going to destroy yourselves with your unimaginative radio style business models. When the early podcasters claimed to be attempting to overthrow radio, and then attempted to do it by precisely copying radio as closely as they could, I lost respect for their intelligence. Now they live in a glass house and have asked Apple to invent a stone throwing machine. Idiots.

Why do they want Apple to sell podcasts? How would that even work? My shows are hosted on SoundCloud, would Apple take the downloads I sell from there like my RSS feed does? What’s the point of Apple doing it anyway? I’ve been doing it for years without any help from Apple, beyond this lovely operating system I’m using. For shit’s sake sell your own damn podcasts. Do you know what the revenue split I have Apple on Simply Everything is? I get 100% and they get 0% because I built it. I learned the PHP and Javascript that I needed to know and I built a subscription service. I did not go cap in hand to Apple asking for more ways to rip off my customers. If Apple sell podcasts then they’ll take 30% of that like they do with absolutely everything else in their store. Read Marco’s article and believe what he says.

The way podcasts work is bad. The ways podcasts are monetised are bad. Giving Apple any more power than it already has is bad. I wish these “top podcasters” could have come up with something better than a shit version of radio.

Apple, if you want to improve your podcast section, how about you clean out all the dead shows and stop emphasising podcasts from big media companies.

A Correction

None of you will really care about this but if I don’t admit to it, I’ll never sleep again. I got something very very wrong.

A little while ago I was having trouble with my laptop when it came to running games. There was a problem with stuttering graphics, which I put down to my Mac using the onboard graphics chip, rather than the Nvidia graphics it has. I recommended using an external monitor, which I’d decided would force the computer to use the beefier graphics processor.

For starters that stuff about using an external monitor to force the computer to use the right graphics card is total rubbish. It turns out that when you’re running Windows under BootCamp the computer can’t use anything other than the big graphics card. It’s actually something that power users complain about because it means they get even less battery life running windows than they do when they’re running OS X.

I didn’t make it up, I was just very wrong.

I have discovered what the problem was. Even though I’d given up on Windows gaming, the stuttering computer problems began to show themselves on OS X. It’s one thing if I can’t play Fallout 4, but it’s much more serious if I can’t record podcasts. After uninstalling and reinstalling most of my computer, including the operating system, I discovered the problem. I have a laptop. I have a dog. I work with my laptop on the floor. You know that blue-green fluff you get in your tummy button? Well imagine you’ve got a handful of that, and instead of being blue-green it’s actually brown-black, and it’s kind of sticky, and instead of being in your tummy button it’s actually crammed into all the air inlets in the back of your laptop. That was my life.

The moral of this story is that you should make sure your laptop vent holes are holes rather than storage for whatever crap is otherwise stuck to the underside of our furry friends.