2030 Agenda

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph:

There is a high likelihood that 40,000 delegates from 200 countries will agree to legally-binding rules at the COP 21 climate talks in Paris in December. As a matter of pure economics, it makes no difference whether or not you accept the hypothesis of man-made global warming. The political argument has been settled by the world’s dominant powers.

That’s December. But there’s more of the same due this September. I came across the UN 2030 Agenda on Zerohedge today. I’d never heard of it before, but

later this month, nearly every nation on the entire planet is going to be signing up for this new agenda.

The preamble reads (my added emphases):

This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom. We recognise that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. All countries and all stakeholders, acting in collaborative partnership, will implement this plan.

We are resolved to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet. We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path.

As we embark on this collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets which we are announcing today demonstrate the scale and ambition of this new universal Agenda.

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

There have come to be a number of words whose use regularly signifies that some sort of baloney is being talked about. “Challenge” is one of these words. “Sustainable” is another. “Urgent” another. Action is always ‘urgently’ needed.  These are words which serve as signals to indicate the political orientation of the speaker. When I read these words, my baloney meter starts flashing red.

And then we have Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere. It’s simply mind-boggling in its utopian ambition. And anyway what do they mean by ‘poverty’? Well, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Because for every different definition of poverty that’s supplied, they can say that’s another form of poverty to be ended.

They may as well have called for the end of ‘suffering’ or ‘unhappiness’ in all its forms everywhere.

Anyway, ‘climate change’ is in there too:

Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

I haven’t looked, but I wouldn’t be surprised if making the world ‘smoke-free’ is another item on the list of actions ‘urgently’ needed.

I always wonder what is meant by ‘sustainable development’. The explanation

the focus of sustainable development is far broader than just the environment. It’s also about ensuring a strong, healthy and just society. This means meeting the diverse needs of all people in existing and future communities, promoting personal wellbeing, social cohesion and inclusion, and creating equal opportunity.

is just another jumble of vague words: ‘Strong’, ‘healthy’, ‘just’, ‘diverse’, ‘cohesive’, ‘inclusive’, ‘equal’.

But of course you know that these are the very same people who are – in the name of ‘health’ – exiling smokers to the outdoors, and ensuring that ‘diversity’ becomes uniformity, ‘cohesion’ becomes division, and ‘inclusion’ becomes exclusion.

Because all these words mean whatever they want them to mean, and almost always the exact opposite of what they’re supposed to mean.

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Losing Cultural Unity

Telegraph (my added emphases):

Tony Blair has admitted his government made a “mistake” by failing to do enough to ensure that devolution of powers to Scotland did not undermine the United Kingdom’s national identity.

The former Prime Minister insisted that he still believes he was right to create national assemblies in Edinburgh and Cardiff in 1999, arguing that resisting demands for the devolution of power would have stoked up demand for outright independence.

But, in a new book entitled British Labour Leaders, he acknowledged that he did not understand at the time the importance of maintaining cultural unity between the different parts of the UK…

Mr Blair said: “I did feel that we made a mistake on devolution. We should have understood that, when you change the system of government so that more power is devolved, you need to have ways of culturally keeping England, Scotland and Wales very much in sync with each other.

“We needed to work even stronger for a sense of UK national identity. But I don’t accept the idea that we should never have done devolution. If we had not devolved power, then there would have been a massive demand for separation – as there was back in the 60s and 70s.”

I’m a bit surprised at Blair fretting over British ‘cultural unity’. It wasn’t with devolution that Blair undermined British cultural unity. He did that with the smoking ban, which dealt a shattering blow to cultural unity, dividing society into valued and included non-smokers and reviled and excluded smokers, and turning friends against friends, husbands against wives, sons against fathers.

Cultural divisions are probably the most visible when they are experienced as an earthquake in one geographical location – like Scotland. By contrast, the deep cultural divisions created by smoking bans were experienced equally and everywhere, at more or less the same time, and didn’t show up on the political seismographs. In fact, the UK smoking ban was probably counted as a great success simply because there wasn’t rioting on the streets accompanying its introduction on 1 July 2007.

Also, much of the damage was invisible. Friendships are invisible and intangible bonds between people, and the snapping of ties of friendship entails the fracture of something invisible which have no immediate direct effects comparable to the snapping of a geological fault. And since the smoking ban had been deemed a great success from day one – no riots -, it was easy to find other explanations for the closure of thousands of pubs than the fact that smokers were staying away from them, or the rise of UKIP as millions of smokers shifted their political allegiances.

The political class counts smoking bans among their few successes. There seems to be a conviction that a valuable and irreversible change has been made in British culture. This is probably one reason why the UK government has followed up with further extensions to the smoking ban in the form of tobacco display bans, plain packaging, and car smoking bans. They were all more of the Same Good Thing.

But I think that, despite its apparent success, the smoking ban will one day come to be seen as a catastrophic mistake, compounded by several further mistakes. It was true that there was no immediately visible damage after the ship hit the reef. It did not begin to start to list or settle in the water. Reports from below decks did not seem to indicate any hole in the hull through which water was pouring. The sudden coincidental abandonment of the bars and cafes on the lower levels was put down to a new preference by passengers for the bars on the open decks. And so the captain ordered full speed ahead, and continued on his course to the open ocean. But the impact had left the ship deeply structurally compromised. Invisible beneath layers of paint, thousands of the rivets that held the ship together had fractured. Entire bulkheads and trusses had lost much of their strength. And as the ship proceeded out into the open ocean, the ordinary stresses induced by the deepening swell gradually caused further rivet failures, and lengthening hairline fatigue fractures traced paths from rivet to broken rivet. The ship had become as fragile as an eggshell, and it was steadily getting weaker all the time. The end came quite suddenly, on a sunny day in calm waters, when the captain ordered a sharp turn to starboard – and the ship slowly folded in half, the decks collapsed, water came pouring in everywhere, and it sank within minutes.

The ship, of course, is the ship of civil society, and the rivets that hold it together are the numerous invisible ties between people – family ties, ties of friendship, work ties, ties of many kinds.  And when a great many of these ties have been broken, the entire ‘cultural unity’ of society is compromised. And if the damage is progressive, society is held together by fewer and fewer ties, and disintegration gradually becomes inevitable.

I don’t really understand why Scotland now seems set to secede from the Union – some Scot may care to enlighten me -, but I’m quite sure that the social fragmentation wrought by smoking bans has weakened Scottish civil society just as deeply as elsewhere in the (dis)United Kingdom. And having lost in the process many of the rivets that tied Scotland to England, the ship may now be folding in half. And Tony Blair is looking at the wrong piece of legislation as he tries to explain Britain’s mysteriously lost cultural unity.

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Fill In The Questionnaire

I’ve been on the UK Conservative party’s mailing list for the past few years, probably as a consequence of emailing my Conservative MP about plain packaging or car smoking bans.

Most of the emails have purported to come from one prominent Conservative or other, telling me something or other. But occasionally I get questionnaires asking my opinions on various issues, of which the smoking ban is never one.

But today I got another questionnaire, asking me if I was a member of the Conservative party (No),  Have you ever supported the Party in any other way? (No), Would you ever consider doing any of these activities to support the Party? (None of them), and finally Why haven’t you become a Member? And beneath this question there was, wonder of wonders, a little text entry box, in which I gleefully wrote:

I’m a smoker. Smokers have been treated appallingly by all the main parties, and above all by Labour and Lib Dems. I will never vote for any of them, let alone become a member of any of them.

Aside from my emails to my MP, this is the first time in about 5 years that I’ve managed to let the Conservative party know why I don’t vote for them. And it’s really only because they don’t actually want to know what I think.

I doubt if it’ll make an iota of difference.

I don’t see why a few other people shouldn’t fill in the questionnaire, particularly people who used to vote for them.  You may of course have different reasons than mine for not being a party member.

lana-x1800-1404852162

I’m a bit of a Lana Del Rey fan. In fact I really only liked her first few hits (Video Games, Blue Jeans, Burning Desire). But I signed up on Google for news about her a long time ago, and so I also now get fed snippets of gossip about what she’s doing/wearing, and who her latest boyfriend is (Francesco Carrozzini, since you ask), etc, etc. Here’s a snippet from a recent Rolling Stone interview:

On the second-floor, on a coffee table, near a Serge Gainsbourg box set, there’s a book called The Boudoir Bible. “No shame,” Del Rey says with a grin. She’s sitting on the brown couch, smoking Carrozzini’s American Spirit cigarettes in her languid way, below a huge black-and-white photo of a bunch of slim, naked people, piled on top of one another. The midday sun is blazing through an open window, and her brown hair and fair skin are glowing in its haze — an Instagram filter or cinematographer couldn’t do better. “I quit sometimes,” she says, of the cigarettes. “And then stop quitting.” She smokes onstage, too — it’s pure craving, not an image thing. “I find, sometimes, halfway through the set, I definitely need to have a cigarette.”

The interview, which seems to have been conducted over an entire day, is actually quite fun. And in the end Lana walks out in a huff, eyes blazing – as befits a big star.

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Smoking and Non-Smoking Lanes

Various news items I noticed today, presented without comment.

Number one: smoking and non-smoking lanes:

smoking_and_nonsmoking_lanes

Number two: Smokers in Norway ‘like Jews under the Nazis’

A politician from a fringe conservative party in the far north of Norway has compared the plight of smokers in the country to that of Jews during the Nazi occupation.

“We are fighting against a systematic discrimination against smokers,” Geir Finne, leader of the Coastal Party in the country of Troms, said an article published by TV2. “We have not seen anything like this since the time of the occupation.”

The party, which describes itself as “culturally conservative” has made the battle against smoking bans in cafés, restaurants and bars key to its campaign ahead of this month’s municipal elections.

“This is legally enforced discrimination. Jews were also already being persecuted from 1933,” he continued. “We are more monitored today than under the Stasi.”

Number three: Clinton email scandal spills into UK politics:

As the scandal surrounding the Clinton emails continues to grow, private criticism of British politicians by the Democratic Party establishment has been revealed. A close ideological ally of Hillary Clinton described Prime Minister David Cameron as snobbish, his deputy Nick Clegg as suffering from “inbred arrogance” and then Foreign Secretary William Hague as disingenuous.

Number four: Quran older than Mohammed?

Upon this Quran’s discovery last month, experts believed that it could have been written by the Prophet Muhammad himself and may have included many of his teachings, BBC reported.

But now historians say the Quran’s parchment may have been produced between 568 and 645 A.D., the Daily Mail reported. Muhammad’s existence is often believed to be between 570 and 623 A.D., according to the Daily Mail.

“It destabilizes, to put it mildly, the idea that we can know anything with certainty about how the Quran emerged — and that in turn has implications for the history of Muhammad and the Companions,” historian Tom Holland told The Times.

Muhammad is believed to have verbally received the Quran’s words from God, which he used in his teachings, Breitbart News reported. After his death, his companions wrote the Quran based on his teachings, Breitbart reported. But if this book existed before Muhammad was born, it would mean the religion was created years earlier.

“This would radically alter the edifice of Islamic tradition and the history of the rise of Islam in late Near Eastern antiquity would have to be completely revised, somehow accounting for another book of scripture coming into existence 50 to 100 years before, and then also explaining how this was co-opted into what became the entity of Islam by around A.D. 700,” Holland said, according to Breitbart.

Number five: Ebola in Sierra Leone again.

AFP August 31, 2015 4:41 PM

Freetown (AFP) – A woman who died last week in northern Sierra Leone tested positive for Ebola, the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) said Monday, in a setback for the country’s bid to gain Ebola-free status.

There had been celebratory scenes last week when the country’s last known Ebola patient was released from hospital in the central city of Makeni after being cured of the virus, raising hopes the west African nation may finally have beaten the devastating epidemic.

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The Art of Smoking

A remark by regular non-smoking commenter Wobbler:

I cannot fathom out no matter how hard I try how breathing in concentrated smoke directly into the lungs can possibly be good for you.

I replied that what I inhale isn’t particularly ‘concentrated’. It’s not as if I suck smoke out of a cigarette straight into my lungs. What I actually first do is draw a little smoke into my mouth, and then inhale with my mouth open so that I draw in a lot of air with the smoke. The intake of air serves to cool and dilute the smoke.

It’s like using hot and cold taps. Some hot taps produce scalding hot water, which can actually cause harm. But if you mix it with water from the cold tap, the scalding hot water is cooled to a temperature at which it is harmless. It’s the same with smoking.

It’s even the same with drinking tea or coffee. Tea starts out at near boiling point with water out of a kettle. But add some milk, and it’ll cool the hot tea enough to make it drinkable. We do stuff like this all the time. Nobody ever says: “How can you swallow hot water into your stomach? It must be causing harm!” Or at least I haven’t heard it yet. and nobody ever says, “You cook food at 200°C, and then you take it out of the oven and eat it! You must be damaging your mouth and throat!”

It occurred to me that maybe this is the problem with antismokers (Wobbler isn’t one of them): they never learned the art of smoking. They probably just thought you lit the things, and sucked the smoke out of them straight into their lungs. And when they tried doing that, they ended up with epic coughing fits, and decided, “Never again! That could’ve killed me.” And could never understand why anyone else would want to do it either. Maybe that’s how antismokers start?

They’re perhaps like people who never learned to swim or ride bicycles, because when they tried they nearly drowned  or they fell off and hurt themselves. And they end up being frightened of water and bicycles. And when there’s enough of them, they’ll ban swimming and cycling – out of sheer spite for something they can’t do.

I think swimming and cycling is far more dangerous than smoking cigarettes. People quite often drown, or die in cycling accidents. But nobody ever dropped dead from smoking a cigarette or – same thing – drinking a cup of coffee. It took me a long time to learn to swim, and quite a long time to learn to ride bicycles. But I stuck at it, even though I nearly drowned a few times, and came off the bikes pretty regularly.

Nevertheless, everybody now thinks that the harmless pastime of smoking is far more dangerous than swimming or cycling. When actually it isn’t.

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Stop Pretending

Writing about the US political scene last night, I started out by saying that the UK smoking ban had changed my outlook on life in all sorts of ways, and moved me from left of centre to right of centre. I’d like to try to explain why that smoking ban mattered so much.

The smoking ban, as ASH’s Deborah Arnott accurately predicted, “exiled smokers to the outdoors.” It would probably be just as true to say that they were expelled from society. Smokers ceased to be welcome anywhere at all. They became marginalised.

The result is that I for one no longer feel that I’m no longer part of the British culture in which I grew up, and take almost no part whatsoever in it. It’s not just that I only ever go to pubs in order to sit outside. It’s also that I don’t go to art galleries, museums, cinemas, or theatres. I never attend any public meetings of any kind. I never go visiting places further than about 25 miles away. I never stay in hotels. I don’t watch television or listen to the radio. I no longer travel by train or bus or plane. Why should I, when I’m no longer welcome in any of them?

I used to have a wide circle of friends. They’re all gone now. The smoking ban immediately took away the principal venues – bars and cafes – where we used to meet. Furthermore, many of my friends implemented their own home smoking bans, so I soon wasn’t welcome there either. There was no longer anywhere to meet. Friendships of 30 or 40 years duration began to die one by one.

And also, while I used to be an ‘inclusive sort’ of guy, welcoming immigrants and persecuted minorities (like homosexuals), I found myself changing my mind about that. Why should I want all these other people included in society, when I myself had been so thoroughly excluded?

I no longer give to charities, since I’ve found out that many of them (e.g. ASH, CRUK, BHF) are active in the persecution of smokers.

I also no longer have a doctor. Fortunately for the last 10 years or so I’ve never needed one. Now I think: Why should I want to go and see people in the profession that has been leading the witch hunt against people like me? I no longer trust them. The distrust has extended to science in general.

Once I used to be a bit ‘progressive’, and could imagine a bright future. Now I think that the past was a better place, and that Britain was much better before 1 July 2007 than it has been since. I’ve become a bit of a conservative, and much keener to preserve institutions that we have (the monarchy, Christianity, democracy) in the face of what now seems like mindless vandalism.

I now judge people and institutions solely by whether they’re antismoking or not. I became anti-EU when the EU parliament voted for a European smoking ban. If I vote for UKIP it’s because Nigel Farage is a smoker. If I don’t like Hillary Clinton, it’s because she’s an antismoker. The moment I discover that anyone is virulently antismoking, they’re dead. I don’t want to know such people. I wouldn’t even want to be in the same room as them.

I spend most of my time at home. I don’t need a job, and I don’t want one, because I wouldn’t be welcome there either. My principal contact with the world is almost exclusively through the internet, because they haven’t managed to ban smoking on that yet, and so I’ve not yet been made unwelcome there.

All in all, the UK smoking ban (and other smoking bans elsewhere in the world) have had a shattering impact on my life (while at the same time having no effect whatsoever on my smoking habits: I smoke just as much as I ever did). I am profoundly no longer part of the society around me. And it’s all because of the smoking ban.

If there’s any difference between me and the other 10 million smokers in the UK, it’s probably that I completely reject all the pseudoscience that’s been used to demonise smoking. I don’t think there’s any health justifications whatsoever for smoking bans. I don’t even think smoking is unhealthy. In fact, I think that smoking is good for you. But most smokers believe what they’re told by their persecutors about smoking, and meekly assent to their shabby treatment, and suffer in silence. I guess I’m just someone who doesn’t unquestioningly accept whatever ‘experts’ tell me. Most people don’t seem to be able to do that. And also most smokers like to pretend that they’re still respectable members of society, when they’re not. They’re actually just as unwelcome as I am. I just don’t pretend to myself (or anyone else) that I’m welcome, when I know I’m not.

Being a smoker in modern Britain is like being a Jew in 1930s’ Nazi Germany. The exterminations only started in the 1940s. This also was a ‘public health’ measure.

And I think that this rejection and exclusion of fully 20% of the population (in the UK alone. It’s much more than that elsewhere) is a crime. It’s a crime against humanity. And I hope that the people responsible for it are one day brought to justice.

Smoking bans may not be hot political issues right now. They never get much in the way of media coverage. But given the colossal damage they do, I think that sooner or later they’re going to get the attention they deserve. But for that to happen, smokers are going to have to stop pretending that they haven’t been expelled from society. And the media and the politicians are going to have to stop pretending that smoking bans are a great success, when they actually cause colossal political and social and economic damage. People can’t go on lying to themselves and lying to each other for ever.

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Some Thoughts on The Candidates

I didn’t pay much attention to the last US presidential election. In fact, I didn’t pay much attention to the last two US presidential elections. I haven’t really noticed Barack Obama at all. I vaguely remember that he seemed to come out of nowhere, an outsider who could make passionate speeches, and who snatched the presidency from Hillary Clinton.

In the past I always used to be rooting for the Democratic candidate, whoever it was. Back then it was quite simple: Democrat = Good, Republican = Evil. If a Republican got in, he’d make poor Americans poorer, and start a war.

But that was then. Because now I’ve switched sides. So I’m most likely to be rooting for the Republican candidate, whoever it is.

And as with everything these days, it all goes back to smoking bans which always seem like somebody is pinning me to the ground with their foot on my throat. I was a contented little Lib Dem voter here in the UK until 95% of Lib Dem MPs voted for the UK smoking ban, and I realised there was nothing liberal about them, and nothing democratic either. They’ve never got my vote since, and they’ll never get it again. And since 90% of Labour MPs voted for the smoking ban (including Jeremy Corbyn), I was hardly likely to vote Labour, was I?  I would have voted Conservative in the last two general elections if Cameron had even made a few faint noises about maybe relaxing the ban, but he didn’t, and so I didn’t. All that was left was UKIP, who actually do want to relax the ban.

I now identify the ‘progressive’ political left as antismoking, and the political right as being not quite so determinedly antismoking as the left. I realise it’s not quite that black and white. But since the smoking ban is the sole determinant of my voting patterns, that means I’m most likely to vote for the right. If Genghis Khan was running for office, and promised to lift the smoking ban, he’d get my vote.

So who will I be rooting for in the upcoming US election? Almost certainly a Republican. Because there’s obviously no way I’d ever want to see antismoking ice queen Hillary Clinton elected. It’s anybody but Hillary as far as I’m concerned.

But I was reading recently that she already got a whole bunch of delegates pledged to support her, and it’s actually going to be quite difficult for anybody else to muscle in like Obama did. Short of a miracle, it looks like she’s going to be the Democratic candidate.

But I really don’t know why anyone wants to vote for her. She’s thoroughly uninspiring. Obama was a rousing speaker with a message: “Yes We Can!” Hillary is dull, and she has no message. Or, if there is a message, it would be something like, “It’s My Turn Now.” Because I think she just deeply envied Bill when he was in office, and convinced herself that she could do the job just as well.

But aside from all that, the bad news for her is that her campaign is losing support. I’m not sure why. It seems to be something to do with sending confidential emails from an insecure private server while she was Secretary of State. And being in some way partly responsible for the death of a US ambassador in Benghazi. And being widely regarded as dishonest and untrustworthy. And maybe also just being another thoroughly uninspiring machine politician.

Which more or less describes most of the Republican candidates she’s likely to be up against. All except Donald Trump, that is.

Donald Trump makes all the other Republican candidates look like bit part players in the movie: Trump The Candidate. He hogs the limelight completely. He’s torn up the political rulebook, and thrown it away. He’s amazingly politically incorrect. He has no spin doctors or pollsters. He just shows up and answers questions himself, bluntly and unhesitatingly. And if anyone attacks him, he hits back even harder. He may be getting a bit too cocky. Everybody is expecting his candidacy to implode (myself included), but he seems to be bullet-proof, and his support keeps building.

I seem to read four or five news stories about him online every day, which has me wondering whether he’s running a viral campaign. When I go on Facebook, there are always lots of stories about him posted by fanatical supporters. And it’s not as if I’ve subscribed to any Trump newsfeeds. The other guys never get a look in, except when Trump has something to say about them. It’s Trump, Trump, Trump, and then some more Trump.

His big problem is that, aside from his growing grassroot fan base, nobody in the Republican party really wants him. He’s a bit of an embarrassment. They’re not even sure if he’s really a Republican. They want one of their safe, boring, neutered, machine politicians to be adopted as the Republican candidate. And so given that he’s already fighting Hillary and the Democrats, Donald Trump is fighting a war on two fronts. Maybe three. It’s The Donald versus the entire US political class and the US mainstream media. And at the moment, if he’s beating the lot of them, it remains most likely that the political class will win in the end, by fair means or foul.

In Donald Trump America is being offered a wild card. The real choice, if it comes down to Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump, will be between More Of The Same and Something Completely Different. It’ll be a choice between sticking with two pairs, or twisting.

In fact, a Trump presidency would probably be just like the Trump candidacy, except instead of other candidates being the butt of his damning criticisms, it would be other world leaders. The diplomatic rulebook would be torn up. There’d be a war of words from day one. And lots of brinkmanship. And maybe it would all go over the brink, not once, but several times – and become a real war on two fronts, maybe three.

But aside from that, I’m not sure that Trump has thought through his policy positions very carefully. Many of them seem over-simplistic. Is an enormous wall really the right way to deal with illegal immigrants on the Mexican border? Aren’t there smarter ways?

Last, but not least, Trump is a strange man. I’ve yet to hear him say anything against tobacco or alcohol, but here’s a man who doesn’t smoke tobacco (or anything else), and doesn’t touch alcohol, and also doesn’t even drink coffee. And also doesn’t like shaking hands with people either. What kind of man is that? Is this another Sir Thomas More, wearing a hair shirt under his Chancellor’s robes?

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