Monday, November 28, 2011

Smoke and mirrors - cigarette adverts by another name

Dear Newspaper Readers,
It’s amazing how papers that have made their names to a large extent on their investigative abilities have two types of morality. There’s one for advertisers and another one for non-advertisers.
         Non-advertisers accused of all kinds of suspect activities will get nailed to the wall, but paying customers are immune from this kind of treatment.
         Is this what they call journalistic licence? Is advertising allowed to have more flexible morals than the rest of the paper? Is this what they mean when they say, money talks?
        Both the Johannesburg based Sunday Times and the Mail and Guardian (M&G) have greedily carried huge cigarette advertisements from British American Tobacco (BAT). In the M&G it was a whole page and in the Sunday Times, which has a larger format, it took up half a page.  
         These probably raked in a total of close to half a million bucks for these papers.
         What’s wrong with that you might ask? Nothing much except the suspect part was that BAT was using smoke and mirrors to get round the South African law that banns the advertising of tobacco products.
What was even more disturbing was that the papers were quite prepared to go along with this without question, even though another publication had earlier cast doubt on the veracity of similar adverting.
Big hearted BAT was suddenly concerned that illegal cigarettes were costing the country over R3 billion a year in lost tax revenue. This is what it told the 3.6 –million people who read these two national publications each week.
That’s the equivalent of the cost of more than 44 000 new policemen and 60 000 new homes, the adverts claimed
It deliberately failed to mention the cost to the nation of treating the millions of people, including policemen, whose health is affected or who die through smoking.   

The main thrust of the advertisements was that smuggled cigarettes bring crime syndicates into your neighbourhood.
So BAT and the papers that support this campaign believe that it’s better to die a slow lingering death from lung cancer or some other nicotine induced illness than to have bullets whizzing around your street. If I had a choice I think I would rather take my chances in that crime riddled neighbourhood that BAT is so worried about.
Earlier this year BAT was flying higher with scare tactics that were even more ridiculous. It had billboards on major highways with messages like DANGER-Buying illegal cigarettes may fund hijackers and armed robberies.
Complaints were made to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and it ordered BAT to pull the ads because there was no proof that contraband cigarettes lead to violent crime. The Authority conveniently ducked the issue of whether or not this was an illegal means of adverting cigarettes.
In its issue of July this year Noseweek, the News you’re not suppose to know magazine, attacked this type of advertising saying, Tobacco companies are blowing rings around the law with subtle advertising and smuggling tricks.
How right it was. And the Government can’t be fagged to do anything while lives continue to go up in smoke.
            Significantly the magazine quoted from a submission made to the World Health Organisation by a group called Action on Smoking & Health Canada. It said that a company that does not ensure its brands are smuggled risks losing market share to those that do. The evidence shows that companies treat smuggling as just another distribution channel and manage it through third parties where they control the price and availability of their products.
        And low and behold, one of the companies that does this, the group claimed, is none other than our public spirited BAT.
        So BAT if you are so worried about the distribution of illegal smokes why don’t you do the decent thing and STOP making cigarettes altogether.
         That way you will eradicate the gun runners, the hijackers, the gangsters and all the other criminals and contribute enormously to the general health of the nation and we can all live happily ever afterwards.
         Jon, a Non-smoker of Note, Consumer Watchdog and Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman 

P.S. I forgot to mention that BAT had this comforting, understatement at the end of its ads, Smoking has health implications.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Silensing the people - draconian new law

Dear President Jacob Zuma,
         If you take off your dark glasses for a moment you’ll see that it’s only a very small section of the population that believes you should change your spots. They’re barking up the wrong tree completely when they run down your brilliant idea to change South Africa’s national coat of arms to something more meaningful.
         With that in mind I’ve attached a few ideas that could form the basis of the new design. These are so appropriate in a view of the modern direction in which you are leading our country with your see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil legislation.
         The one with bananas is very much in keeping with African culture that has spawned so many of those wonderful banana republics that have all adopted this approach.
        Enough of the praise.  I thought you should know that I’ve come across something of great national importance to South Africa. It’s something that could ---- your Government sky high.
         It concerns a ----- of well ------- , well ----- people who are hell bent on ---------- our country.
         I’m not talking about the usual Government officials who are busy ---------- their nests with the tax payers help and your ----- ing. No, this is a lot more serious than that.
         But thank goodness your Government has ensured that I can’t talk about these things. I didn’t even mention it to my four wives and ten children.
         They’ve kept secrets before but I couldn’t trust them with this one. After all who wants to spend 20 years in one of our overcrowded jails now that you have very wisely outlawed loose talk with your Protection of State Information Bill?
         That sort of thing only alarms everybody and gives people the ----- idea about our leaders.
         In the past anybody who had stumbled on the kind of information I’m not talking about would have rushed to some newspaper or TV channel and then it would have been all over the place.
         Now, thank goodness, all we are going to get is the good news. It’s so much more uplifting than the kind of thing I’m not talking about.
         Shutting up whistleblowers is long overdue. All they do is tell lies, disturb the neighbourhood and wake babies. So that’s another service you have done for our country Jacob.
         And if anybody knows what hell it can be when somebody wakes the little ones, it’s you. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to mention how many you’ve got or whether that’s now classified. But don’t worry I’m not taking any chances.
         Don’t let those depressed Western Nations try and tell you that preventing people from blabbing about all our secrets will do irreparable harm to our country. Look where that policy has got them.
         In Britain for instance, if you were a celebrity or somebody else in the public eye you couldn’t even fart in private without it making headlines somewhere or other. So it looks as though they will soon be coming round to your way of thinking.
         And if Joseph Stalin and the rest of that Commy mob could successfully keep the Soviet Union going for all those years there can’t be much wrong with this closed mouth policy of yours. If it does nothing else my neighbour will think twice about telling everybody what he thinks I’m doing with the girl down the road, when it’s a figment of his imagination.
         I hope, Mr President that you are going to have enough secret police to back up this new legislation. Why not do what the Russians did and get everybody to spy on everybody else.
         My mistake. That won’t work. In such a law abiding country as ours nobody will ever talk about these things once there’s a law against it. They are too patriotic to do anything that would endanger the security of the State.
        And you and your Government are shining examples of this kind of thinking.        
        As you rightly surmised, all our people needed was a good, healthy Act of Parliament to spell it out for them.
         Thanks for your foresight Mr President.
         Yours faithfully,
P.S. I badly need coaching from one of your advisers just to make sure that I don’t end up being WANTED. 


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Paradise for the rich - City that gives money away

Dear Financiers everywhere,
         Don’t all rush in at once because I don’t think there will be room for all of you.
I doubt if you will ever come across a better place for the rich, the very rich and the stinking rich than this. This is especially so as your main aim in life is to find somewhere where you can get something for nothing.
         And apart from anything else it’s a great place to live. It’s just had its mountain listed as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature by spending a fortune on advertisements to get people to vote for it.
         The campaign showed Archbishop Desmond Tutu on top of Table Mountain proclaiming that when God created the world he said, I’ve got to do something special here.
Of course you have to be an Arch to know what God was thinking at the time.
        Anyway the City of Cape Town told us in these adverts that if the Mountain got this honour it would boost the South African economy by R1.4-billion a year and create 11 000 new jobs. That sounded about as believable as Tutu’s ability to read God’s thoughts.
         A report I saw indicated that the only people who will be making money out of this 7 Wonders of Nature caper are the Swiss promoters of the idea.
        The mountain has been around forever so are people suddenly going to flock there now that it's suddenly been given a title?
         Sorry I’ve got off the point I’m trying to make. The same City that spent so much on this high flying idea has an even better claim to fame. This is guaranteed (no airy, fairy thumb suck) to put money in your pocket if you choose to live in the shadow of that mountain and you will no doubt bring billions with you.
But can you believe it the City is ever so coy about this.
         So I thought I better tell you the secret. It makes Cape Town a paradise, particularly for the rich. You know why?
         Because this City gives money away and the richer you are the more you are able to get.
         How about this for a mind boggling concession?  In Cape Town, which has the slogan The City Works for you, property owners can forget about paying their property taxes and their water and their electricity bills for months. Then when the authorities get round to cutting off, say the electricity, all the owner has to do is to pay the small reconnection fee and make one of their golden lined arrangements.
        An arrangement is the popular money making word that everybody is cottoning onto fast. As an example I asked a City official, Does this mean if I owe R100 000 and I arrange to pay off say R4 000 a month can I do it without any interest being charged?
The answer incredulous was, This is correct.
        They just have to keep paying the instalments as well as their current monthly bill and everything will be fine.
        Everybody who owns property in Cape Town can use the Council as a bank for these interest free loans. Where else can you get this kind of public service? And of course the people who benefit the most are the rich because they are able to run up the highest debts before the Council gets round to cutting off the electricity.
         This is suppose to be done after 60 days of non-payment. But one case I heard of must have been going on for a lot longer than that before the Council woke up, because the amount was so huge. This indicated that there were probably a lot of other fat cats watching what they owe mount up and up, safe in the knowledge that they could actually use it as an interest free loan.
         I understand that Greece is in such financial mire because so many people dodged paying income tax and they didn’t even have a property tax system at all.
        So how long can Cape Town last if it continues to give away money and reward non-payers with a scheme that encourages defaulters on a grand scale?
         No wonder Moody’s, that international organisation that rates the financial status of countries, has downgraded South Africa’s prospects to negative.
        News Flash: Cape Town has just been awarded another title; the Number 1 Free Money City of the World.
         Perhaps Tutu can tell us if that was another of God's ideas to keep Cape Town in the public eye.
         Jon, the Consumer Watchdog with a strong sense of Smell. 

P.S. I’m thinking of buying a R10-million house on the slopes of that mountain overlooking the sea, and using the City Council to finance the deposit.

Buy my book 'Where have all the children gone' on Amazon. com It's a thriller with an underlying love story that defied generations of prejudice. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Former strip club waitress hits big time - designing High Fashion

Dear Glamour Girls everywhere,
         Spencer/Lacy is promoting their new winter range in the USA and anywhere else where there is raw weather.
         And the designer is none other than our Belinda Abbott, better known as Boo.
         For those of you who don’t know, Boo has been a designing woman since birth. She actually came into this world with a pencil in her hand. No wonder her Mum, Gayle wasn’t too amused.
         She would be drawing in the playground when all the other kids were on the swing or the jungle gym.
         And when they were handing out the art cup at school, who do you think got it year after year?
         And when she left school and went on to study Clothing Design her disciplinarian father (that’s me) told her gruffly, Fail a year and you are out. We are not paying for you to party and have a good time.
         And boy! did our Boo take that seriously. She worked her but off. She got the highest overall marks in her first, second and third year. She must have got her brains from her mother because her father spent his entire school career banished to the corner.
         Boo got Certificates of Merit for the highest end of year marks for History of Costume (two years running) and Clothing Factory Practice.
        And in her final year she passed CUM LAUDE with 11 DISTINCTIONS - two more than the next best student in the class of 35.
         She was also a finalist in the Du Pont Lycra Fashion Awards for which there were 79 entries.
         So Spencer/Lacy could hardly have somebody better qualified for the job. But you be the judge. Her designs are on the left hand side.
         Boo’s other claim to fame was that she was a waitress at Stringfellows, that famous London strip club patronised by the rich and famous. This was something her father could relate to far better than High Fashion.
         But it wasn’t her mother’s idea of a career for one of her girls. She had to make sure that none of the Christians, who attended her home church got a glimpse of any of the pictures of our Boo in her skimpy waitress outfit.
         Here’s one of the club’s reviews: No wonder Stringfellows’ restaurant is world famous. From a man’s point of view it’s a “MUST – The Times.  Its website describes it like this, As you step into the club you are transported into a world of stylish luxury and joined by the most seductive girls.
        But for Boo that’s in the distant past now. She’s into designing, hopefully for some of those rich and famous who go to clubs like Stringfellows.
         With over 15 years of product design and development experience working with brands like Witcherry and Country Road, Boo is taking Spencer/Lacy in a much more fashion focused direction, creating beautify and unique pieces.
         Her first Winter 2012 collection was inspired by the raw beauty and free spirit of the Native American Indians.
         If you don’t know what Spencer/Lacy is don’t admit it. You will only embarrass yourself.
        It’s an Australian brand that is available through retailers from women’s fashion boutiques to home and lifestyle stores across OZ, New Zealand and now in the US of A.  You can also buy from it on-line through
         Happy Dressing Up,
P.S. By the look of Boo now (bottom right) she hasn't exactly gone to seed sitting at her sewing machine for all these years. I would say that she should do the modelling as well as the designing. What do you think?