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A shameless plug for a fine musician and good man

I have quite liked the music of Joe Jackson but I did not realise he had such sound views on things like personal liberty. Check out his site.

34 comments to A shameless plug for a fine musician and good man

  • Nick M

    Well it is genuinely heartening to hear that at least one of our “celebs” isn’t an identikit lefty.

  • RAB

    I interviewed him many moons ago.
    Damn fine bloke!
    As is Stuart Copeland, probably the smartest and right thinking musician I ever met.
    We spent three hours working our way through the A&M hospitality fridge. 30 mins talking about music, and the rest of the time on Russia, China, capitalism Vs Communism and global communications.
    But then again his dad was head of the CIA for the Middle East! What the hell he has in common with Sting I’ll never know. The Police were strictly business I gather!

  • Lee Kelly

    His pamphlet [i]Smoke, Lies and the Nanny State[/i] is great.

    I remember when I was in primary school, about 7 or 8 years old, and swallowed every piece of anti-smoking propoganda whole. In fact, it was constant throughout my time in school, during the nineties, and I do not remember one word of protest or alternative. The anti-smoking teachers and literature, even suggested to the children that they should join the cuase, by going home and trying to convince any parents and family who smoked, to stop immediately. Of course, like good impressionable young things, me and my youger sister, two years my junior, carried out these orders optimistically.

    To my regret, we succeeded in presurring my Father to give up, armed as we were with copious and horrific scientific facts, and perhaps more importantly, belief of those “scientific facts”. It is the belief that is damaging, because our social relationships depend on what others believe, and not on the objective facts. If a close family member believes you are hurting their health irreparably, then it does not matter if you are not actually hurting their health, because the relationship depends on what is thought or believed to be the case.

    There is, however, a happy end to my little tale of creeping totalitarianism, in that my Father eventually took up the noble habit once more, and to this day smokes like a chimney.

  • Lee, freedom from indoctrination and all that aside, do you seriously believe that smoking is not harmful?

  • Lee Kelly

    Alisa,

    I do not doubt that smoking can have negative side-effects on health, but then that applies to practically everything. I am also sure that spending too long sitting in a chair browsing the internet can have negative side-effects on health. In fact, anything which I might choose to do other than smoke, can be hazardous to my health, provided I do it incorrectly or too much. Which means, as a nonsmoker, I am constantly putting myself at risk, no matter what I do.

    The purported health risks from smoking vary from the wildly exagerrated, to the outright false. I have no desire to stop my Father from overindulging in chocolate, any more than from overindulging in smoking. Both carry health risks, like everything else. There is more danger to my Father’s life everytime he gets in a car to go to work, and if he is going to risk his life, then he might a well enjoy himself at the same time.

  • lucklucky

    I think it can induce bad respiratory health in most persons including cancer. But there are other considerations to make that favour smoke: easier socialisation, better rest and less nervous in many persons that might overweight the smoke healthy problems.

  • Lee: I see your point, and I wish your Father a very long and enjoyable life. I have seen several smokers die a very nasty death (yes, not all deaths are created equal), but then I have heard of others that avoided that. I have also heard of non-smokers that did not avoid it (Dana Reeve was one of those, IIRC). My personal hunch is that it has to do with one’s genes, at least to some extent, and I hope your Father has the good ones, especially if he enjoys smoking that much (which in itself is beyond me: to me it is just a nasty habit, aside from the health issues).

  • The purported health risks from smoking vary from the wildly exagerrated, to the outright false.

    I believe you’ll find it’s the purported heath risks from second-hand smoke that “vary from the wildly exaggerated to the downright false.” I’m given to understand that the case against smoking is pretty rock solid (albeit that there’s more individual variation in the effects – some lucky people seem largely immune – than the public health nanny staters find convenient).

    Of course, it should remain an individual choice – and if your father enjoys smoking, then I think he should smoke. As you say – practically everything involves risk; can’t live as a monk (unless you’re a monk). But let’s not pretend it’s not unhealthy because it is.

  • RAB

    Joshua being a monk was only slightly more healthy than the rest of the population (serfs).
    But back to the subject in hand, sigh I’m wasteing my time arnt I?

  • Joshua,
    According to Joe Jacksons’ research any given smoker has a 99.8% chance of not developing lung cancer.

    I suppose many in our risk averse society would be devastated that smoking carries such a terrible risk (0.2%). Others might find this acceptable.

    At least all can make an informed decision based on the data.

  • John: it is not just lung cancer, there is a bunch of other diseases, emphysema for example . OTOH, I am willing to accept that the relative risks are highly exaggerated (as in AGW) if I see more contrary evidence. I am fairly convinced that this is the case with second hand smoking, given the amounts of other nasty stuff we breath in all the time. All that said, I still wouldn’t smoke, and still would avoid sitting next to smokers, simply because it stinks.

  • Ian Bennett

    What the hell he has in common with Sting I’ll never know. The Police were strictly business I gather!

    They were managed by Miles Copeland III, first son of CIA Miles and older brother of Stewart. The way I heard it, Sting needed a drummer and Miles happened to know one. (Miles also managed Wishbone Ash and Renaissance, among others.)

  • Nick M

    Err… Lung cancer is catastrophic (5 year survival <5% on the NHS) but… the other risks that Alisa alludes to aren’t all stochastic. Smoker’s lungs just don’t work as well, ever. And that’s ignoring the heightened risk of everything from bladder cancer to stroke. But back to the “just not as fit” argument. Well, we’re not are we? You wanna get anywhere in professional sport (excluding darts) then you just don’t smoke. Simple as.

  • A close friend of mine has lost a big chunk of her immediate family to emphysema – all were heavy smokers. At the memorial before the last (within one year of each other, each one for her older sisters, both in their fifties), her idiot brother kept smoking like nothing happened (he is an idiot – and a nasty piece of work in general – regardless of smoking). I am curious as to where, and especially how, he will end up. Anyway, and back on topic: people still should be free to kill themselves if they wish, especially if they enjoy the process:-)

  • Alisa,
    This is degenerating into a pro versus anti smoking debate. My point is that Joe Jackson, in the spirit of all free thinkers, has made an effort to strip away the hype, dogmatism, and bullying to which we are all subjected to present the true risks.

    As such the guy deserves a medal.

  • Eamon Brennan

    Ian

    It was the other way around. Stewart Copeland formed the Police himself, inviting Sting in. Miles didn’t come into the picture until later, after the band had recorded their first demos as a 3-piece.

    As to smoking. I am open to correction here, but as far as I am aware there is a statistical increase in the risk of lung cancer for smokers over non-smokers. However, the actual medical reason for this has yet to be established.

  • John: I agree, that’s why I added that last sentence. It’s just that it happens a lot in discussions about the need to let people make bad choices. When Lee said that he is happy that his father went back to smoking the big question for me is: is he happy that he smokes again, or is he happy that he is free to exercise his free choice. I get the feeling that it is both (correct me if I am wrong, Lee). Well, I agree with the latter, and the former is none of my damn business, but I do have an opinion:-)

  • BTW, and even more back on topic: so far the only issue on which this guy seems to be speaking out as far as freedom and the role of government, is smoking, and – surprise – he is a smoker. I am not terribly impressed so far, although it is entirely possible that through this pet issue (we all have one) he will reach other issues by using simple logic.

  • Lee Kelly

    Alisa,

    I am happy that my Father is exercising his free choice, and that he is again doing something which he enjoys. Of course, I would not recommend that everyone smokes, but only so long as they derive some benefit. There are people I would encourage to quit, and others that I would encourage to continue. My Father is one of the latter.

    In regard to Joe Jackson. I think he uses smoking, a personal cause, to illustrate a more widespread problem. From what I have read, though his research focuses on smoking, many of his arguments are employed as general principles, and he applies them to far more than just the smoking issue.

    He seems like a great guy, and a nice change from the bog-standard “lefty” celebrity.

  • In regard to Joe Jackson. I think he uses smoking, a personal cause, to illustrate a more widespread problem. From what I have read, though his research focuses on smoking, many of his arguments are employed as general principles, and he applies them to far more than just the smoking issue.

    I have sort of the opposite impression: that he started the game with fairly standard leftist opinions and the smoking issue is slowly opening his eyes. The way I understand it, he just sort of got tired of being bombarded with anti-smoking propaganda and … made the appropriate connections (to Naziism – yes, he says that in his pamphlet).

    Some lines from the conclusion of Smoke, Lies and the Nanny State that could’ve come from any “New Left Guide to Right Thinking” include the following passage:

    I’m bloody furious that the USA fails to address major issues of terrorism, poverty, violent crime or environmental disaster, but spends well over a billion dollars a year on dishonest antismoking propaganda.

    I’m bloody furious that AIDS, typhoid and dysentary are rampant in the developing world, and that more than 2 million children a year die simply from lack of access to clean water; yet the World Health Organisation spends millions trying to bully the comfortable citizens of prosperous countries out of their pleasures, when those citizens will live long and generally healthy lives anyway.

    Of course, it’s possible that these are just included as a sop to moveon.org types – which no doubt constitute a large portion of his audience (him being a gay popstar puts him in a good position to reach them after all – they listen to people like him). And there are some great libertarian lines in that pamphlet as well, don’t get me wrong. But it sounds more to me like Alisa’s on the right track: he’s an instinctive lefty whom the smoking issue might be bringing around, but it hasn’t quite happened yet. His libertarian instincts are largely confined to this issue.

  • Lee Kelly

    Joshua,

    I did not mean to suggest that he had not been more socialist in the past. Most people have. However, there are a nuber of times in Smoke, Lies and the Nanny State where he expresses a general concern about big government and is creeped out by the nanny state. He even stresses the importance of individual choice, free will and personal responsibility, dismissing socialist attempts to categorise every problem as a disease.

    Moreover, the quotes you provide are not particularly unlibertarian. I myself agree with them, though they would be far from my first concern. I am sure if you and Joe Jackson were to have a competition on the matter, then you would be far more libertarian, but compared to the majority of people, especially musicians, he is practically Murry Rothbard or F. A. Hayek.

  • According to Joe Jacksons’ research any given smoker has a 99.8% chance of not developing lung cancer.

    That statistic, however, is only addressing a disconnect between antismoking propaganda and reality. In fact, most health risks are negligible in the same way. For example, eating a particular red dye might, let’s say, double your chances of getting stomach cancer, but if the baseline risk of getting the cancer is vanishingly small, then doubling it doesn’t really matter (because twice “vanishingly small” is still “vanishingly small”).

    The fundamental dishonesty in antismoking propaganda is that they cite the multiplicative effect of smoking on your health risks without mentioning the baseline. It’s the most common method of tricking out your statistics I know.

    That doesn’t mean, however, that the research claims themselves are overstated. As far as I know, the research claims that smoking significantly increases your risk of certain diseases are all solid. This is patently NOT the case with research claims about second-hand smoke, which are pretty much all fantasy (at least as cited). But when you read research that says active smoking triples your risk of lung cancer or whatever, it’s usually true.

    As I understand it, Alisa’s also right that lung cancer isn’t the main concern with smoking. Sure, smoking significantly increases your risk of getting it – but since your risk is already very low (and the causes are poorly understood in the first place), it’s fair enough to keep smoking and assume you’ll never get it.

    Other things are not so neat. Heart disease/attacks, emphysema, etc. are all pretty significant risks for smokers – even when you factor in the baseline.

    Smoking’s not good for you. Of course, lots of things we do aren’t, so as I say, if smoking makes someone happy, then that’s what he should do. I just think it doesn’t get us anywhere if we on the side of defending smokers rights allow ourselves to select the science about smoking we want to hear they way the anti-smokers do. The issue isn’t really a health issue – it’s one of rights and choices. The health risks are irrelevant to the political issue.

  • Lee Kelly –

    Fair enough. As you say, his opinions are certainly more palatable than those of most musicians. Makes me feel better about spending money on his music (which I quite like).

    The thing that bugs me in these lines are the bits about “poverty,” “violent crime” and the World Health Organization. Any time you’re talking about a national government “addressing” issues of poverty and violent crime, it’s a safe bet your idea of “addressing” is some tax-funded program or another. For libertarians, these are not really issues for governments to “address.” A government “addresses” poverty by removing regulations and allowing corporations to create wealth and jobs. Granted, government might “address” violent crime by funding more police, but other than that they do it by getting out of our way and letting us have the guns and self-defense rights we need to protect ourselves.

    If Joe Jackson thinks the USA is not properly “addressing” poverty and violent crime, I’m sorry but that associates him a bit with these Michael Moore types who think that politicians have the ruby slippers to solve these problems locked away in a safe somewhere and only don’t use them because their corporate sponsors are mean-spirited, or whatever.

    Ditto the WHO. All of these statements sound like the words of a man who believes that poverty is a problem of wealth allocation rather than wealth generation.

    So I’m more inclined to believe that the smoking issue is just waking him up to the evils of government meddling. He isn’t quite there yet.

    Admittedly, I haven’t talked to him (though I’d jump at the chance!). I’m sure he is, as RAB says, a great guy. And yes, fair enough, his opinions are certainly a lot more pleasant than those of, say, Sonic Youth.

  • Kim du Toit

    I’ve enjoyed JJ’s music as long as he’s been making it. Night and Day is one of my favorite albums, and Stepping Out one of my favorite singles of all time.

    Nice to know he’s not some liberal, or a poseur like Geldof.

  • RAB

    Yes he is a great guy Josh. He was the only one from that era, apart from Copeland, who actively liked Maggie Thatcher instead of knee jerk leftist hating her.
    Unlike Stuart Copeland we talked mainly of music though.
    Given the era he came from, Punk/Post punk/New wave, his music was way more sophisticated than say the Clash, who I also liked to see live, because of their sheer energy and passion, and talked to several times. Their politics was utter bollocks though.Only touch their Sandinista album with a cattle prod
    But that is the general way with musos. They think they are rebels and anti-establishment but are hazy as to who the establishment is and what it is up to.
    Emotively intellegent, but not very often intellectually intellegent.
    Let us all here cheer for the exceptions like Joe. They are as rare as right of centre comedians.

  • RAB

    Whilst I wait for my last post to appear (that’s 2 of three on this thread so far)
    I note with great shadenfrade that the architect of the smoking ban, Caroline Flint, has been forced out of her office because the Palace of Westminister has put a designated smoking area right outside her ground floor office window, and it is all blowing in!!!
    Whoever designated the area is a chuckle brother and no mistake!

  • RAB

    Well well Ian Bennett, missed your post earlier.
    You know of those times then.
    I used to talk to Miles Junior a lot. He was running an indie outfit called Faulty Records at the time.
    The first time I saw the Police they were support for Spirit. A really great band of the 60s that were having a resurgence thanks to Miles.
    Randy California and his step dad on drums, a guy who looked like a beatnik Alistair Crowley.
    The Police got the best record deal in history.
    Stuart and the guitarist, Andy Summner, had been in Curved Air, and had had a taste of bad managers and dodgy accountants.
    The Police recorded the first album with their own money, then put it up for auction. No Mega deal, multi album advance= penal servitude for life crap for them.
    As we all know now, they made a load of money!
    Stupid socialist Sting though, had to take his Ex Accountant to court, over 30 million he hadn’t noticed the guy had stolen.
    You wont find stories like that in the Copeland family!

  • RAB

    That’s four times now!
    I’m a little miffed at your robot Perry!

  • mishu

    When I read passages like this:

    I’m bloody furious that the USA fails to address major issues of terrorism, poverty, violent crime or environmental disaster, but spends well over a billion dollars a year on dishonest antismoking propaganda.

    I’m bloody furious that AIDS, typhoid and dysentary are rampant in the developing world, and that more than 2 million children a year die simply from lack of access to clean water; yet the World Health Organisation spends millions trying to bully the comfortable citizens of prosperous countries out of their pleasures, when those citizens will live long and generally healthy lives anyway.

    I get the impression it’s about priorities. If government or ngo’s are going to spend billions on something, perhaps more lives could be saved by spending it on distributing potable drinking water or anti-retro viral research.

  • He was the only one from that era, apart from Copeland, who actively liked Maggie Thatcher instead of knee jerk leftist hating her.

    Alright, NOW I am officially impressed!

    Thanks for throwing in that bit. I didn’t know such a thing as a Thatcher-supporting (pop) musician existed. Pleased to see my stereotype dashed.

    I have to admit to being even more surprised at Stuart Copeland – but I know the cause: it’s guilt-by-association. Sting is a complete and utter douche. I’ll revise my impression of the other two then.

  • Ian Bennett

    RAB: “Stuart and the guitarist, Andy Summner, had been in Curved Air”. Stewart had (on ‘Airborne’ and ‘Midnight Wire’), but not Andy. He was in Dantalion’s Chariot and Zoot Money’s band, plus various others.

  • Ian Bennett

    Forgot to add; the guitarist is Andy Summers, Sting is Gordon Sumner.

    (Supplier of musical trivia to the bored and uninterested.)

  • RAB

    Thanks Ian I stand corrected. I can never remember Andy ever uttering one word.

  • My Wife is an avid JJ fan and has taken me along to see gigs four times now. I knew he was talking about quitting America because of the NYC ban a few years back (not that it would do him any good moving back to Blighty since 1/7/07) but I wasn’t aware he had written pamphlets, good on you Joe.

    Not all of his music is to my taste but some of it is simply stunning. His Autobiography is well worth a read as well but I don’t remember it being particularly political, more the hard life of a struggling muso not being famous, being mega famous and then back to relative obscurity (as in: wasn’t he the guy who…).

    The other thing is that he can sometimes appear a bit… odd. Whilst he isn’t Grayson Perry (a pottery painting transvestite in a baby doll dress who is strikingly unusual but does some great ceramics), his androgynous sexuality will be used against him by the small minded out to rubbish his libertarian views.