Ursula von der Leyen

The EU is getting a new EU Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen., who will replace Jean-Claude Juncker:

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has warned that an EU under Ursula von der Leyen would “take control of ever single aspect” of Europeans’ lives…

“She wants to build a centralised, undemocratic, updated form of Communism where nation state parliaments will cease to have any relevance at all.”

Isn’t that pretty much what it already is?

The warning comes after German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen, the European Council’s preferred figure to lead the most powerful institution in Brussels, delivered a 30-minute speech in the Strasbourg chamber, where she called for half of all EU Commissioners to be women, and pledged to put forward a “green new deal for Europe” which would aim to “reduce CO2 emissions by 2030 by 50, if not 55 per cent”.

So she’s a feminist and a global warming alarmist.

She is apparently Angela Merkel’s choice:

Ms von der Leyen is a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a member of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party…

…the EU has faced criticism that the nominations went on behind closed doors and that the Spitzenkandidaten process – where European political parties appoint lead candidates – was ignored.

Mr Juncker today admitted that the appointment of his successor was “not very transparent”.

Isn’t that how it’s always been?

She won by a narrow margin:

The European Parliament voted 383-327 with 22 abstentions to approve von der Leyen’s nomination. The confirmation required an absolute majority of 374 votes and the outgoing German defense minister scraped through with barely nine votes to spare in a cliffhanger vote.

“A majority is a majority in politics,” she said when questioned about her narrow escape…

Von der Leyen will replace Jean-Claude Juncker when his term expires at the end of October.

She was put forward as a last-minute candidate by EU leaders as part over an overall appointments package, sidestepping parliamentary wishes. Many legislators felt cold-shouldered and said they would oppose her out of principle, not over personal considerations.

The end of October is when Britain is supposed to have left the EU. I wonder what odds I could get at the local bookie that Britain will not have left by then, because I’m prepared to bet that we won’t.

Even if Boris Johnson becomes the next UK Prime Minister, and really does want to leave the EU, I think the europhile British political establishment won’t let it happen.

The Labour party has now come out in favour of a second referendum:

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage believes that the Labour Party has “signed its own death warrant” by finally declaring its support for another Brexit referendum in which it would campaign for Remain, in defiance of the predominantly Leave-voting working class which was once the party’s base.

“This betrayal of Brexit confirms that Corbyn’s Labour is now the party of north London – not the North of England, the Midlands or Wales,” Farage wrote in an article for the Sunday Express.

Add to that Unelected Peers Plot to Block No Deal Brexit.

Add also a former Conservative Prime Minister threatening the same:

Sir John Major has said that he will take Boris Johnson to court if he tries to suspend parliament to facilitate a no-deal Brexit.

Add it all up, and I think there’s no chance whatsoever of Britain leaving the EU any time soon.

So we’ll all have to become feminists and global warming alarmists and have Ursula von der Leyen take control of every single aspect of our lives.

Which will of course include stopping smoking.

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Ice Ages Are Not Fully Understood

Yesterday I read in Wikipedia:

Based on past estimates for interglacial durations of about 10,000 years, in the 1970s there was some concern that the next glacial period would be imminent.

Back in the 1070s was when I spent much of my time building electronic heat flow models, but knew next to nothing about glaciations.

Now that I’ve become interested in ice ages, I’m a bit concerned that the next glacial period (ice age) could be imminent. So I’ve begun to think like some people did back in the 1970s.

But, as we all know, things have moved on a bit in the intervening 50 years. For the climate scientists all seem to have stopped worrying about an impending ice age, and have instead been worrying about Anthropogenic Global Warming. It’s become a very hot political potato indeed.

So why did the climate scientists change their minds, and start worrying about warming instead of cooling?

However, slight changes in the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit around the Sun suggest an extended interglacial for about 50,000 years.

“Suggest”? Is that all?

Models assuming increased CO2 levels at 750 parts per million (ppm) current levels are at 407 ppm have estimated the persistence of the current interglacial period for another 50,000 years. However, more recent studies concluded that due to the amount of heat trapping gases emitted into Earth’s Oceans and atmosphere, that this will prevent the next glacial (ice age), which otherwise would begin in around 50,000 years, and likely more glacial cycles.

So they seem to think that slight changes in the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit mean that we’re going to continue in a very long interglacial period. And in addition CO2 in the atmosphere will likely ensure that we never see an ice age again.

Now that they’ve discounted any possibility of global cooling, and of a new ice age starting, the only thing left to worry about is global warming. And so that’s what they worry about.

They may be right, but all this supposes that they have a good understanding of how ice ages begin and end. But the Wikipedia Ice Age article, which is presumably written by climate scientists and glaciologists, doesn’t seem to think this is the case:

The causes of ice ages are not fully understood for either the large-scale ice age periods or the smaller ebb and flow of glacial–interglacial periods within an ice age.

And in my copy of Raymond Pierrehumbert’s Principles of Planetary Climate, in Chapter One he starts listing the Big Questions:

Some of these questions have been answered to one extent or other, but many remain largely unresolved.

Of the Snowball Earth, when the whole Earth may have been completely covered in ice, he writes:

The Snowball phenomenon is pregnant with Big Questions. the most obvious of which are: How do you get in? How do you get out? And if your planet does succumb to a global Snowball, how long does it take to get out again? Is it a matter of centuries, millions of years, or billions of years?

Does this sound like someone who has got all the answers? It sounds to me like someone who hasn’t got all the answers at all. Pierrehumbert has lots of Big Questions, and they include lots of Big Questions about ice ages.

So if nobody really knows how ice ages begin and end, why is anyone sure that one isn’t going to start for another 50,000 years? Or that CO2 in the atmosphere will stop them happening forever?

I don’t trust these climate experts. I don’t trust them about global warming, and I don’t trust them about the supposed absence of cooling either. And that’s why I’m building my own models.

You can’t trust anyone these days. I think that there are honest people like Pierrehumbert who will readily admit to not knowing lots of things, and there are less honest people who will pretend to know far more than they really know. Unfortunately it’s the latter sort who seem to dominate the airwaves. Yeats:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity

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Multilingual

The Putin interview I mentioned a couple of days back reminded me that when I spent quite a long time in Spain a decade ago, I could read Spanish quite easily, and also write it, and I could speak Spanish quite well, but I could never understand fluent spoken Spanish. I could only understand it when it was spoken very slowly.

Mi amiga in Spain always spoke to me in English, in which she was fluent. But she would throw in a bit of Spanish now and then, as when, at the end of a game of cards, she once enunciated very slowly, “Yo gano. Tú pierdes.” I win. You lose.

So, on reflection, listening to his English interviewers speaking to him slowly in English, I think that Putin’s understanding of spoken English was like my understanding of spoken Spanish: he only understands if it’s spoken slowly. And if it was spoken slowly, the interpreters speaking to him on an earphone might well have been able to translate it word for word as it was spoken.

And Putin can also speak a bit of English. A few years ago I saw him speaking English rather haltingly. It seems that Stalin was similar:

…there’s also an anecdote from F D Roosevelt’s son that he met Stalin in 1946, after the war, and noticed that Stalin seemed to be reacting to things people said to him in English before his translator had put them into Russian. He asked Stalin about this, and Stalin’s reply was to laugh, and say in very strongly accented English “You’ve caught me out, have you?”.  According to Roosevelt, Stalin admitted he could understand English but only speak ‘a little’. The implication was that he used this to his advantage in meetings: he could get the gist of what the British or Americans were saying, but waiting for his translator to translate it properly gave him some extra time to consider what his answer should be.

All of which means that when Donald Trump meets Putin, they can probably talk to each other without interpreters, just so long as Trump talks very slowly in English, and listens very carefully when Putin replies in English.

In this respect, Donald Trump has a tremendous asset in his wife Melania:

She’s fluent in 5 languages
Though she may not have experience in public service, Melania Trump is prepped to help her husband out on the diplomatic front: in addition to her native Slovenian, Trump speaks four other languages: English, French, Serbian and German.

But also, according to the Express:

Besides his native Russian language and English, Putin also speaks German.

He worked for the Soviet security services in Dresden in East Germany during the 1980s and used German on a daily basis.

When he travels to German-speaking countries he often uses it in official circumstances.

Since Slovenian is said to be similar to Russian, Melania Trump and Vladimir Putin may well be able to talk to each other using their native languages.

Donald Trump himself only speaks English, it seems. But he has a multilingual family. Ivanka Trump’s daughter, Arabella, even speaks Mandarin. Barron Trump can speak his mother’s Slovenian. So the Trump household is very likely a babble of different languages, all being spoken as once.

It might seem that people will always understand each other best if they all speak the same language. But this isn’t always true. I once spent a whole afternoon talking at complete cross-purposes to an American, because when I said that joules – units of energy – were highly valuable, he thought I meant that jewels – precious stones – were highly valuable.

The ability to express ideas in multiple languages may actually help prevent this sort of misunderstanding arising. While words like joules (like amps and volts and ohms) are in wide international usage, words like jewels are not. In French a jewel is a bijou, and in Spanish it’s a joya. and in Greek a kósmima, and so on.

One wonders how many wars start simply because people misunderstand each other.

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Globalism Means Global Smoking Bans

Breitbart:

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has vowed his Brexit Party will “replace the British Conservative Party” if Boris Johnson betrays Brexit.

Speaking to Breitbart News editor-in-chief Alex Marlow on his SiriusXM Patriot radio show, Mr Farage traced much of Britain’s current problems to the fact that many Brexit campaigners took Theresa May — a Remain voter — at her word when she took over from David Cameron and promised the Leave vote would be respected, even if it meant leaving the European Union without a bilateral agreement, or “deal”.

As it turned out, Mrs May broke her promise — issued at least 108 times from the Prime Minister’s despatch box in the House of Commons — to take Britain out of the bloc on March 29th 2019, and has delayed Brexit twice, because she could not get a “deal” denounced as a “surrender document” through Parliament and would not, after all, countenance leaving the bloc without one.

All this supposes that Boris Johnson is going to become the next UK Prime Minister. And as far as I know he probably will.

But I bet that Britain won’t leave the EU on 31 October. The British political class don’t want to leave the EU, and it’s the British political class who make these sort of decisions, not the British people.

Brexit isn’t going to happen.

And the result of that will very likely mean that the Brexit party really will replace the Conservative party at the next election. It’ll be an enormous political shock.

But it will be just one political shock among many. For there are political shocks happening everywhere these days. In France it never stops:

Paris Violence Worst In Months As Yellow Vests Clash With Police On Bastille Day

And Angela Merkel is tottering:

ANGELA Merkel could hand power to her successor earlier than planned amid growing health fears after her third shaking episode of public shaking in a month.

The old order is coming apart. But it’s still very strong. And it’s deeply entrenched.

Unelected peers in the House of Lords are plotting to prevent the next prime minister from suspending parliament and facilitating a no-deal Brexit.

My own revolt against the EU and the old order it represents grows out of the fact that the EU is one of the prime movers in the war on smoking. So I see the whole of European politics as the revolt of European smokers (led by Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, Matteo Salvini) against bullying antismokers in European government.

But nobody ever reports it this way. Nobody else sees things this way. In fact I don’t think that Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, and Matteo Salvini see it this way.

Globalism, as far as I’m concerned, means global smoking bans. And global smoking bans are what we’ve now got. And so the global revolt against globalism is the global revolt of smokers and their sympathisers against the straitjacket of global smoking bans.

And seen that way, the global revolt is just going to get stronger and stronger. Because smokers never get used to smoking bans, and they get to hate them more and more as time goes by.

So it’s not just the old order in Europe that’s disintegrating: the old order everywhere is disintegrating. There are lots of angry smokers in the USA. There are lots of angry smokers in Russia. There are lots of angry smokers in China. There are lots of angry smokers in India. And they’re all slowly getting angrier and angrier and angrier.

And so an explosion is coming.

The odd thing about it all is that this explosion could be very easily prevented simply by allowing people to smoke, maybe just in a few designated areas.

But governments everywhere are fully committed to banning smoking, and to tightening smoking restrictions more and more and more. So governments won’t do the simple thing. Lifting restrictions is unthinkable. So they just keep blundering on.

And they keep blundering on because they don’t know how much smoking bans are hated by smokers. And they don’t know because nobody ever talks about it. Nigel Farage doesn’t talk about it. Marine Le Pen doesn’t talk about it. Matteo Salvini doesn’t talk about it. Steve Bannon doesn’t talk about it. They’re all smokers, but they all talk about something else. They talk about the EU, or about abstract ideas like Freedom. or self-government, or the nanny state. They never talk about smoking.

And if nobody ever talks about it, how are governments expected to know how angry smokers really are? Nobody likes being exiled to the outdoors. They never get used to it. They all hate it.

So blind, stupid governments everywhere are ensuring their own destruction as they keep tightening the screw on smokers.

The coming explosion could be very easily averted. But nobody will do the simple thing that’s needed to avert it.

The eventual global explosion will bring down every government in the world. And it’ll bring down the UN and the WHO. It’ll bring down everything.

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Putin

A day or two back I watched an interview of Vladimir Putin by the Financial Times. I was a bit surprised to be able to watch it at all, because the FT is behind a paywall. At the beginning it says:

The Financial Times is the first major international newspaper to be granted an interview with the Russian leader for 16 years. Here is the exclusive interview with editor Lionel Barber and Moscow bureau chief Henry Foy in full.

The trouble with more or less all world leaders is that they are only ever seen briefly, and then usually making speeches, and so you never get to find out what they’re like.

But this interview lasts a full hour and a half, ranges over a great many matters, and Putin does most of the talking. The three of them are sat at a table, one asking questions in English, and the other replying in Russian (with English subtitles). It would seem clear that Putin’s grasp of English is not very good, because after he is asked a question there is a long pause while he listens to the translation from English to Russian of the questions he’s just been slowly asked. I wasn’t sure how well the FT staffers understood Putin, but they made notes as he spoke, which gave the impression that they understood what he was saying – but it could be that the long pauses while they listened to the translations from Russian to English were edited out.

The main thing that I took from the interview was that Vladimir Putin has a sense of humour. For there were little flashes of humour throughout the interview.

I found the principal interviewer, who was asking most of the questions, to be rather tiresome, because he was always trying to catch Putin out, to box him into a corner (although he never succeeded). So Putin came over as being very quick on his feet, very ready with answers. He didn’t confer with anyone either. He came up with all the answers himself.

He referred to other world leaders, such as Donald Trump, as “partners” rather than rivals. The world he depicted was one in which world leaders were all working together, more or less in agreement with each other. Given the opportunity to criticize Trump, Putin didn’t. Although he thought that Angela Merkel had made a “cardinal error” in inviting migrants to Germany.

One thing I didn’t quite understand was why he regarded the disintegration  of the Soviet Union as a terrible disaster. As he put it, it was a disaster because about 20 million Russians found themselves living in new states in which they were a minority (Ukraine would be one of these new states, I suppose). I couldn’t really quite see why that was such a disaster. Perhaps it was simply that there was a loss of status?

He also spoke (starting 1 hour and 9 minutes in) about the failure of liberalism in the West. By this I think he meant what I would call progressivism, because modern “liberals” are in no sense classical liberals. He said that the liberal elites had lost the support of the people. He said the same sort of thing had happened in the Soviet Union, in which ordinary people had ceased to have any belief in communism and their political elites, and so didn’t act to prevent the break-up of the Soviet Union. He said that they’d thought that things couldn’t get any worse than they already were, but they soon found out when the Soviet Union broke up that things got much, much worse.

The conversation also covered economics and Syria and China and North Korea. But for me the really good thing about it was that it provided an insight into Putin the man, talking conversationally about stuff for an hour or two. It brought him into focus. Other world leaders would do well to do the same thing, if they want people to know what they’re like, how they think, what concerns them.

Anyway, I thoroughly recommend watching this interview. And having watched it once, I’ve half a mind to watch it again.

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No Equilibrium

James Delingpole:

The Prince of Wales has warned global leaders that if we don’t tackle climate change in 18 months the human race will go extinct.

No, really. Here are his actual words, in a speech in London yesterday to foreign ministers from the Commonwealth.

“I am firmly of the view that the next 18 months will decide our ability to keep climate change to survivable levels and to restore nature to the equilibrium we need for our survival.”

The clue to the whole way the Prince thinks is in one word: “equilibrium.”

Prince Charles is an equilibrium thinker. The Greens (for he is one) are equilibrium thinkers. In fact, most people think in equilibrium terms.

Equilibrium thinkers see the world as being something that is essentially fixed and changeless. They think that there is some of sort of immutable order which, if somehow inconceivably disturbed, can only result in catastrophe.

Think of it this way: the world is like a beautiful Ming vase, sitting in perfect equilibrium on a pedestal in a museum. What happens when there’s an earthquake and the Ming vase falls off its pedestal? Why, of course it smashes into a thousand pieces on the floor.

And that’s the way that Prince Charles thinks, and also how the Greens think too. Quick! We’ve got about two seconds to grab hold before the Ming vase of Gaia rolls off its pedestal onto the floor!

But equilibrium is a fiction. Equilibrium is an illusion. There’s no such thing as equilibrium. Everything is always changing. Everything is always in motion. Nothing is fixed and changeless.

The fragile Ming vase on which we all live isn’t actually sitting securely on a pedestal. It’s actually spinning like a spinning top as it revolves around the Sun. And just like a spinning top it wobbles around. The  angle of wobble is called the “obliquity”, and it’s currently about 23.5º, And the obliquity of the Earth is always changing, in a 40,000 year cycle. And also the axis around which it is spinning is moving in a circle every 23,000 years, which is called “precession” or “longitude of perihelion”, where longitude ranges from 0 to 360º, and perihelion is the point at which the Earth comes closest to the Sun during its orbit which is not quite circular, and whose non-circularity is called its “eccentricity”, which changes in a 100,000 year cycle.

And the effect of all these gradual changes is that the amount of sunlight falling at any latitude is also gradually changing over these long periods of time, in what are called Milankovitch cycles.

Over the past week I’ve managed to include these cycles into the computer simulation model that I’ve been building for the past 18 months. Here’s (roughly) how mean solar power wiggled around 300 Watts/m² at latitude 47.5º N over the past 130,00 years. This covers the entirety of the last ice age prior to the warm interglacial period in which we’re now living.

There’s nothing that can be done to prevent these cycles from happening, and they have large effects on the climate of the Earth. And us humans lived through the last 100,000 year long ice age, and we may need to do so again fairly soon.

The important thing to understand is that the whole thing is completely out of control. There’s absolutely nothing that we can do to stop it happening. And the climatic effect of these unstoppable Milankovitch cycles is easily as great as that of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And we have next to no control over carbon dioxide in the atmosphere either, because we aren’t the source of most of it.

Prince Charles is a control freak. Perhaps all royals are always control freaks, because that’s what kings and queens are always trying to do: control things.

But we can’t control the natural world. We can only go along with it. We can only surf on the huge waves on which we ride, and we must expect wipe-out at any moment.

We don’t “need equilibrium for our survival”, particularly when there is no equilibrium anyway. We need instead to adapt to changing conditions, not try futilely to stop change from happening.

It’s equally futile, I might add, to try to stop people from smoking. For that also is control freakery. Tobacco Control is full of control freaks.

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Tiny Influences

I sent my Conservative MP an email yesterday. It’s the first one I’ve sent in about 18 months. I’m not a frequent writer to him.

In large part recently it’s because I thought he would probably be too busy with the internal rifts over Brexit inside the Conservative party. But now that MPs have finished voting for their next leader, I thought he might want to know what some of his constituents are concerned about. And my MP greatly impressed me when he told a number of his constituents in a town hall meeting in June 2016 that he wanted to represent his constituents. How amazing! He wanted to do his job!

Here’s my email:

Dear X,

Is this some stunt by the outgoing Theresa May administration to queer the pitch for what looks set to be Boris Johnson’s new administration?

The Government will vow to get all smokers to either quit the habit entirely or switch to e-cigarettes within the next 11 years

The government has no business getting the British people to do anything. It is instead the business of the government to do the will of the British people.

If this socialistic measure goes ahead, I will never vote Conservative again. And I’m sure that I will be joined by many others as we switch to voting for the new Brexit party, led by the smoking and drinking Nigel Farage, who I bet has no intention whatsoever in forcing smokers to do anything.

Best Regards,

Y

Do these letters and emails have any effect? Of course they do. They get read, and reading them will have an effect on whoever is reading them. It may not be the desired effect, but it will have an effect all the same.

Words have effects. I write a new blog post every day, and a few hundred people read my blog every day, and so I have a slight effect on those people. And some of those readers respond with comments under my blog, and I read all those comments, and so my commenters have an effect on me. That’s how words work.

Back in 2007, when I was living in Devon after the smoking ban came in, I used to encourage people I knew to write to their MPs about it. But they said it was “pointless”, and there was “nothing that could be done.” And that more or less ensured that nothing would be done. Because politicians really only respond to people who tell them things. And if you don’t tell them what you think, they’ll never know. How can they possibly know?

I complain about the public silence about smoking bans, but that silence is as much the silence of smokers as it is the silence of politicians or the mainstream media. It’s the silence of my angry Devon friends, who didn’t write to their MPs because they thought it was “pointless” to write. They all hated the smoking ban just as much as I did, but they thought there was absolutely nothing they could do about it.

It’s very simple: If you say nothing, you won’t be heard.

And I intend to write to my MP again soon, about this:

A Midland hospital trust has warned patients and visitors: ‘If you smoke ANYWHERE on our site you will be fined £50 – even in your car.’

Sandwell and West Birmingham hospitals NHS trust has brought in a zero tolerance ban – and all smoking shelters are now off limits except for vapers.

Bosses are warning that patrols will scour the sites at Sandwell and City Hospitals – dishing out fines to anyone they catch.

And when I write, my words will exert a tiny influence upon whoever reads it. The influence will be so tiny as to have an almost negligible effect. But, over time, the sum of these tiny forces adds up to a very considerable force.

Even if you go down to the sea shore, and a drop a little pebble in the sea, the ripples from it will spread across all the oceans, and all the way round the world. And the sum of all these little ripples is what creates huge storm waves.

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