The Shock Wears Off

Mail:

…for a moment on Saturday, Trump went back into campaign mode with a massive rally before thousands of supporters at an airplane hangar in Melbourne, Florida where he revived campaign promises to build a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, reduce regulations and create jobs – and continued his attacks on the media.

Trump told the cheering crowd that he wanted “to speak to you without the filter of the fake news.”

The rally was put on by Trump’s campaign, not the White House. Trump told reporters he was holding a campaign rally because “life is a campaign.”

Trump, who held a rally in the same spot in Florida in September, clearly relished being back in front of his supporters, welcoming the cheers and letting one supporter up on stage to offer praise for the president. He also enjoyed reliving his surprise victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

And the president’s supporters welcomed the opportunity to see him. Kenneth Wood, a 45-year-old electrical engineer from Daytona Beach, said this is his fourth or fifth Trump rally.

“His bond with his supporters is really like nothing I’ve ever seen,” said Wood. “They’re fun and Trump’s a hell of a showman.”

I thought this was remarkable. One month into his presidency, Trump was back in front of a crowd of his grassroot supporters.

Most politicians only speak in public when they’re campaigning for office. After they’re elected they mostly just talk to each other. But Trump clearly thinks that he needs to carry on speaking directly to the Americans that elected him. And if the “deep state” really is trying to topple him, he may need them.

He was speaking in Florida, but I now expect to see him periodically pop up in other states, and speak to similar crowds. Maybe he’ll even visit a few states that he didn’t visit during his presidential campaign – like California.

If he does this, Americans are going to love him. And he’ll build a deeper bond with them than he’s already got. And his numerous critics will start looking more and more like sourpusses.

According to some reports:

The majority of Americans seem to like what new president Donald Trump is doing as highlighted by Drudge Report which shows he has a 55% approval rating.

For a president who has sparked so much anger and outrage among certain sectors of the population (and media) his ratings are stubbornly strong.

While according to others:

Donald Trump’s approval rating a month into his presidency is at a historical low compared to past presidents, according to a new poll.

The US President currently has a 40 per cent job approval rating, the measure used to gauge a leader’s public popularity during their time in office.

It looks like opinion polls are as all over the place as they were before the election.

Some are suggesting that his hostile media may be punching itself out:

…the question is the media with the constant hysteria, with the constant sense of crisis, are they punching themselves out in the sense that they are undermining their own credibility?

And others that it’s time for the Democratic party to take a look at itself.

…Perhaps worse than the serial cheating itself was that it was all in service of coronating a candidate who — as many of us tried to warn at the time — all empirical data showed was the most vulnerable to lose to Donald Trump. So the very same people who bear the blame for Trump’s presidency — by cheating to elevate the candidate most likely to lose to him — continue to dominate the Democratic Party. To describe the situation is to demonstrate the urgency of debating and fixing it, rather than ignoring it in the name of talking only about Trump.

Here in the UK I’ve only recently gained the sense that, after the Brexit vote, the political class have finally accepted what happened, and aren’t going to try to undo it. But Brexit was 8 months ago. Trump’s election was less than 4 months ago, and he’s been in office less than a month. When something shocking and surprising and unexpected happens, it takes people a while to accept it. But the shock and surprise eventually wears off. In 4 months time, most of the Americans who once couldn’t abide the thought of a Trump presidency will probably be resigned to it, maybe even quite comfortable with it.

But sometimes shock and dismay never wears off. It’s coming up to 10 years since the UK smoking ban of 1 July 2007, and I’m no more resigned to it than I was 10 years ago. I still can’t abide it.

But why should I? Brexit and Trump are the products of popular votes in the UK and the USA. But the British people never voted for a smoking ban. The 2007 smoking ban was something deceitfully and tyrannically imposed on them. It should never be accepted. For to accept it is to accept tyranny.

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After Brexit

Yesterday’s big news was the ratification of Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA:

“Trump is the only Republican who repeatedly promised to rein in EPA,” said Steve Milloy, an attorney with the Energy and Environmental Legal Institute, who served on the Trump transition team focused on the agency. “That’s going to be Scott Pruitt’s job — to rein in the EPA.”

The actions could be taken during a welcome ceremony for Pruitt said to be planned for Tuesday — mirroring Trump’s decision to sign two executive orders at the Pentagon during a Jan. 27 swearing-in for Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Other directives the Trump administration is expected to issue in coming weeks include one to suspend the government’s use of a metric known as the “social cost of carbon” until it can be reviewed and recalculated. Another would effectively nullify guidance from Obama’s Council on Environmental Quality that climate change should be factored into government agencies’ formal environmental reviews.

This is a bit like appointing a pacifist as an army’s commanding officer, or a Buddhist as Pope – someone more or less completely opposed to the organisation’s values. There are going to be a lot of casualties.

I’m just hoping that EPA tobacco regulations are casualties as well.

The other thing I came across yesterday was After Brexit: The Battle for Europe. Since it had a BBC person going round Europe interviewing people, I wondered whether a TV-licence-non-payer  like me was allowed to watch it without paying the £155 licence fee. But it was on YouTube, not BBC iplayer, so maybe it was perfectly legal for me to watch it. Although these days I wonder if you have to pay the licence fee to watch anything in which the BBC even gets mentioned. Or in which the letters B, B and C are seen adjacent to each other.

The presenter, Katya Adler, did a lot of walking around in high heels as she spoke to Beppe Grillo, Matteo Renzi, Yanis Varoufakis, Marine Le Pen, Martin Schulz, Guy Verhofstadt. While I was watching it I didn’t think it was particularly interesting. But, as often happens when I watch something somewhere, a day or so later something I heard comes filtering back into mind.

For example, the interview of Marine Le Pen that starts at 45 minutes in:

Marine Le Pen: “I think that the division between Left and Right is an illusion. It’s an artificial division sustained for years to hid the fact that there is another option. The true division is between patriots and globalists. I am on the side of patriotism. And many European leaders have been on the side of globalisation.”

This new patriot-globalist division is something I’ve become increasingly aware of in recent years – with the patriots being localists or “nativists” who are rooted in one country or other, while globalists see themselves as “citizens of the world”, and want open borders and single currencies. Donald Trump, for example, is an American patriot.

But I couldn’t see that this new division rendered the Left-Right division illusory. For me, the Left is all about top-down state control, and the Right is about free markets and free enterprise. You’re a leftist if you regard the state as essentially benign, and free enterprise as rapacious. You’re on the right if you see it the other way round (as I now do, since becoming a victim of the state-sponsored War on Smoking).

Marine Le Pen’s Front National is (or was) associated with antisemitism and xenophobia.

Katya Adler: “What would you say to the people saying that you don’t respect immigrants or Jews, that the Front National is a racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant party?”

Marine Le Pen (with a look of profound shock and surprise on her face): “Listen, those critics no longer exist in France. OK, so the English Channel separates us. But it’s not so big that this can’t get through to you. None of those insults exist in France any more. So we have to stop them in the UK. They’re the argument of people who have nothing to say about the substance.”

The Front National was founded by her father Jean, who was said to be antisemitic. But Marine Le Pen kicked him out of the party when she took over, and started re-branding it.

And then, at 57 minutes in, Martin Schulz:

Martin Schulz: “We should be proud of what we achieved. Your country, the United Kingdom, and my country, Germany, were enemies in that war and became friends. It was a 2000 year history of war. And since [seven decades] we have no war. In my eyes this is a success story.”

Several things bothered me about this passage. Firstly, you’d think from this that Britain had been at war with Germany for 2000 years prior to the formation of the EU. In fact, there have been many occasions – most of the time, in fact – during which Britain either at peace with, or was allied with Germany (e.g. when Prussia was fighting Napoleon Bonaparte).

And if he meant the general absence of war in Europe over that past 70 years, isn’t that very little to do with the EU, and mostly due to the fact that the USA (in the form of NATO) was for most of that time in an armed stand-off with the Soviet Union, across an Iron Curtain that ran right through the centre of Europe?

And also, if they’re all Europeans in Europe now, the borders dissolved, why did Schulz make the point that Adler was British, and he was German?

Somewhere in the middle of the programme somebody made an interesting point about the difference between eastern and western Europe, which was that after many decades of Soviet control, eastern European countries wanted to re-assert their nationhood – while in western Europe the nation state was seen by many people as one of the principal causes of conflict and war.

Last word, at 58 minutes in:

Katya Adler: “It could be that our national debate in Britain about Brexit turns out to be an irrelevance. Sooner or later the EU as we know it may no longer be there for us to leave.”

A point I’ve made myself a number of times.

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Welcome To The Deep State

Just when I thought everything would calm down…

The Deep State. I’ve been hearing rumours about it on and off for the past year or more. But now it seems it’s become official.

Bill Kristol, the prominent Republican analyst who founded The Weekly Standard, wrote on Twitter, “Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state.”

Glenn Greenwald provides a definition:

GLENN GREENWALD: The deep state, although there’s no precise or scientific definition, generally refers to the agencies in Washington that are permanent power factions. They stay and exercise power even as presidents who are elected come and go. They typically exercise their power in secret, in the dark, and so they’re barely subject to democratic accountability, if they’re subject to it at all. It’s agencies like the CIA, the NSA and the other intelligence agencies, that are essentially designed to disseminate disinformation and deceit and propaganda, and have a long history of doing not only that, but also have a long history of the world’s worst war crimes, atrocities and death squads. This is who not just people like Bill Kristol, but lots of Democrats are placing their faith in, are trying to empower, are cheering for as they exert power separate and apart from—in fact, in opposition to—the political officials to whom they’re supposed to be subordinate.

It makes perfect sense. In the UK the deep state would be the Civil Service and the intelligence agencies, many of whose mandarins work inside them for their entire lifetimes, the Sir Humphrey Applebys satirised in Yes Minister.

But if there’s a permanent deep state, there’s also a transient deep state that’s made up of political appointees from different administrations. There are some 4,000 of these, it seems, and Donald Trump nominees for these various posts are only slowly being ratified by the Senate, with the result that maybe less than 10% of them are in place.

Which means that 90% of those remaining are Obama appointees. And if they are also Obama loyalists, then they’ll still quite possibly be taking their cue (and maybe even their orders) from Barack Obama, who has bought a house in Washington DC, perhaps so as to be best placed to direct matters. It seems entirely plausible to suppose that, right now, Donald Trump has only got political control of 10% of the US government, while Barack Obama remains in control of the other 90% of it. Perhaps that explains why Mike Flynn’s telephone conversations have been leaked, along with Trump’s telephone conversations with the Mexican and Australian prime ministers. Trump, in his press conference yesterday, said that neither of these two conversations were particularly important, but asked what if they’d been about North Korea or something. Trump is hamstrung right now.

Trump seemed to think that he’d eventually get all his political appointments in place, and get rid of the transient population of Obama appointees. But that would still leave the permanent deep state inside the CIA and other organisations. Glenn Greenwald again:

…Trump’s agenda that he ran on was completely antithetical to what the CIA wanted. Clinton’s was exactly what the CIA wanted, and so they were behind her. And so, they’ve been trying to undermine Trump for many months throughout the election. And now that he won, they are not just undermining him with leaks, but actively subverting him. There’s claims that they’re withholding information from him, on the grounds that they don’t think he should have it and can be trusted with it. They are empowering themselves to enact policy.

Greenwald said that he thought Trump was very dangerous (to the environment, Muslims, etc.), but there were legitimate ways in which he could be resisted, in the courts, in the House and Senate, and on the streets.

That isn’t what this resistance is now doing. What they’re doing instead is trying to take maybe the only faction worse than Donald Trump, which is the deep state, the CIA, with its histories of atrocities, and say they ought to almost engage in like a soft coup, where they take the elected president and prevent him from enacting his policies. And I think it is extremely dangerous to do that. Even if you’re somebody who believes that both the CIA and the deep state, on the one hand, and the Trump presidency, on the other, are extremely dangerous, as I do, there’s a huge difference between the two, which is that Trump was democratically elected and is subject to democratic controls, as these courts just demonstrated and as the media is showing, as citizens are proving. But on the other hand, the CIA was elected by nobody. They’re barely subject to democratic controls at all. And so, to urge that the CIA and the intelligence community empower itself to undermine the elected branches of government is insanity. That is a prescription for destroying democracy overnight in the name of saving it. And yet that’s what so many, not just neocons, but the neocons’ allies in the Democratic Party, are now urging and cheering. And it’s incredibly warped and dangerous to watch them do that.

It certainly seems like Bill Kristol wouldn’t mind if US democracy was destroyed, if that’s what it takes to stop Trump.

Add to that:

More than 12,000 tweets have called for Trump’s assassination since the inauguration

Assuming that Trump does manage to take complete control of the US government over the coming months, I’m beginning to wonder if he’ll want some payback for what’s being done to him right now – and we’ll be seeing arrests and trials of some surprising people.

Not unrelatedly, Breitbart:

LONDON (AP) — The European Union is blatantly anti-American and President Donald Trump’s administration regards it with suspicion, a leading contender to be the U.S. envoy to the 28-nation bloc said Thursday.

Ted Malloch, whose potential appointment has prompted anger and alarm in Brussels, said he and Trump “have very similar views about Europe.”

He said the U.S. is “somewhat critical and suspicious” of the bloc, an economic and political union involving half a billion people.

“We would prefer, certainly in the Trump administration, to work with countries bilaterally,” Malloch said in an interview with The Associated Press.

James Delingpole has a podcast interview of Ted Malloch, who compares 2016 to 1968, and thinks Mount Rushmore will need a new addition.

And

Marine Le Pen is on course to be the next president of France, according to one fund manager’s big-data analysis.

perhaps because

Fillon: ‘My Voters Will Go Straight to Le Pen’

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What’s So Progressive About Progressivism?

All ‘progress’, I was thinking this morning, seems to involve diminution. It’s something that’s perhaps seen clearest in modern architecture, where all – or almost all – ornamentation has been stripped away, and buildings are minimal boxes with windows in them. Or just glass boxes, with even the walls stripped out. And inside them, the interiors are equally devoid of ornament, with plain walls – usually white – and plain floors, and plain chairs and tables. And if there is any art inside these interiors, it is increasingly abstract and minimal and monochromatic: a green square with a red dot on it.

If the process continues, we may expect that architecture will completely vanish, and buildings will become invisible.

The same thing has been happening with clothing, that other form of architecture. Clothes have become simpler. And people wear less of them. Eventually, perhaps they will wear nothing at all.

A few days ago I saw a TV set which actually had vanished, and become a transparent sheet of glass when not in operation. Perhaps the final stage of this evolutionary process would be that it would remain transparent even when in operation: the minimal TV set would not only be invisible, but there would be nothing to see on it.

Perhaps the entire thrust of Western civilisation has always been one of simplifying and diminishing and minimising. Modern science attempts to explain the world with the fewest possible concepts – mass, length, and time -, and in so doing replaces elaborate systems of religious belief with something abstract and minimal.

And smoking bans entail a further diminution, entirely in keeping with the minimalist direction of progress. Smoke was another inessential item that could be stripped out, and so it was. In time, no doubt, they will also strip out the inessential wines and beers and spirits as well. And the music. And the quite unnecessary conversation. And finally they will dispense with all the inessential pubs and bars and cafes themselves. They will vanish.

Contrast that with the architecture of the Parthenon, with its sculpted frieze (now held in the British museum), or the Temple of Amun at Karnak, with its numerous sculpted gods and pharaohs, every inch of it covered in hieroglyphs. In the past, simplicity was only to be found in peasant dwellings and clothes: the rich wore elaborate costumes, and lived in sumptuous decorated palaces.

But as the inessential and unnecessary is stripped away, meaning is stripped away along with it. Modern art and architecture is increasingly meaningless, faceless, devoid of content. Smoke-free pubs lose their ambience.

So do smoke-free cinemas. Cinemas used to be social places in which people talked animatedly between shows, and ate and drank and smoked throughout, with the projection lights shining through a haze onto the screen. I stopped going to cinemas when, long before pub smoking bans, they introduced cinema smoking bans (and probably alcohol and talking bans). Cinemas were stripped down to their barest essential purpose, of watching movies. Everything else, including the slight thrill of anticipation that accompanied seeing any new movie, was excised.

Political progressivism also entails stripping away the inessential, and creating an administrative state in which people are simply kept alive, with the bare minimum of food and shelter and clothing. Our lives must be stripped of inessential tobacco, alcohol, fat, sugar, salt. We will live on bread and water in barren rooms inside faceless buildings. We will be prisoners.

What’s probably most disgusting to progressives about someone like Donald Trump is that he is quite unnecessarily rich, and flaunts his wealth in huge buildings, and large private jets (why can’t he have a little Lear jet, like other rich people?), and sprawling golf courses. He wears ties that are two unnecessary inches longer than everyone else’s. Most of the rich have learned to keep their wealth respectably out of sight, and to live lives as apparently minimal as everyone else’s. Not The Donald. He is a living affront to the ascetic minimalism of this progressive era.

But is this sort of ‘progress’ really progress? Isn’t it more like being gradually returned to a state of poverty? Isn’t wealth naturally expansive and loud and decorative? If we really were rich, wouldn’t we live in buildings as elaborately decorated as the Parthenon or the Temple of Amun, and wouldn’t we wear elaborate costumes, and eat and drink and smoke the widest variety of substances? Isn’t all wealth inessential? It is as if, as Christianity has lost its institutional hold over us, we have been invaded by a new army of secular, self-flagellating, self-denying monks preaching vows of poverty and chastity and silence.

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Trump’s First Three Weeks

After Donald Trump’s inauguration, I rather lost interest in US politics. Which was a bit of a relief, actually. After all, I don’t want to live on the edge of my seat the whole time. My view was: Let the man get on and do the job the American people elected him to do.

But it seems the Dems in the House and Senate, and the mainstream media, and quite a few other people, have no intention whatsoever of allowing him to get on and do the job. And they seem to be pretty effective about stopping him.

Trump still hasn’t had most of his government appointments ratified by the House and Senate. So, three weeks into his presidency, he still has only half a government in place, maybe less. And he’s seen what the mainstream media have been calling his “Muslim ban” thwarted by the judiciary. And now he’s already lost one of his appointees: national security advisor Mike Flynn.

Some people are saying that Trump has already been nobbled:

Trump is now clearly broken. It took the ‘deep state’ only weeks to castrate Trump and to make him bow to the powers that be. Those who would have stood behind Trump will now feel that he will not stand behind them and they will all move back away from him. The Neocons will feel elated by the elimination of their worst enemy and emboldened by this victory they will push on, doubling-down over and over and over again.

It’s over, folks, the deep state has won.

Arch-pessimist Paul Craig Roberts was already asking last week: Is The Trump Administration Already Over?

But Rush Limbaugh remains confident, despite Flynn’s resignation:

I’m gonna tell you, Trump’s not stopping. There will be more ICE raids this afternoon to make people forget about this. The media’s gonna try as hard as they can not to let go of this, because now they’ve got their scalp. They think they have blood in the water, they’ve got a scalp and they think they can get another and then another and then another and then another until finally they get Trump.

And Trump himself sounded bullish in his latest tweet today:

trump_tweet-14feb2017

He’s referring to leaks revealing that Mike Flynn spoke to the Russian ambassador, and then denied doing so to Vice President Mike Pence – which led to his resignation. It looks like there are people in the US intelligence agencies that are listening in on phone conversations, and then leaking it if they find anything damaging. With friends like those, who needs enemies?

I’m beginning to think that Trump’s daily twitterings are an example of welcome transparency, and give people (some idea of) what the President of the United States has been thinking about today. I have no idea what Theresa May or Angela Merkel or any of the rest of them are thinking about.

Of course I really have no real idea what’s going on. But it seems to this onlooker on the other side of the Atlantic ocean that the resistance to Trump hasn’t let up at all, and the Dems and the Media and some people in the intelligence agencies are working very, very hard to hobble Trump. And they’re being pretty successful.

And maybe they will succeed in completely neutralising him. Maybe in a few months time, Trump will sound exactly like Obama or Hillary Clinton. But I’ve yet to hear him say that he’s going to stop building The Wall, or allow in Muslim terrorists, or call off his war on ISIS/ISIL/Daesh.

All I really want to know is whether he’s going to slash government regulations, and in particular those regulations which have anything to do with tobacco. But if Trump is going to meet a wall of resistance to absolutely everything he tries to do, I suspect I’ll be waiting a very long time before I see anything happening.

But if there is such resistance to him, it surely suggests that they haven’t managed to neutralise him yet, and he hasn’t given up yet either.

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Terrible Science Was Used To Justify Smoking Bans

H/T Harley for this Slate article:

We Used Terrible Science to Justify Smoking Bans

Will we look at the new evidence for long enough to at least consider whether we’ve gone too far?

By Jacob Grier

The gist of this long article is that, while small scale studies like that in Helena had suggested that there were large health benefits to be gained from smoking bans, subsequent large scale studies had showed that there were actually minimal health benefits, and perhaps even no health benefits at all. Perhaps, the author suggested, it was time to roll back some of these smoking bans, and give back to smokers at least a few of their smoky pubs.

That will be nothing very surprising to most of my readers. It’s what we all think, and have thought for many years.

I think I can safely say that Slate is a left wing US website, with a large readership. When I visited yesterday there was an article about the resistance to Donald Trump. And the smoking ban article had attracted 1,500 mostly hostile comments inside one day, a number that has risen to 2,400 today. And it also had an article fingering a Supreme Court justice as a climate change denialist. That pretty much checks all the boxes for leftism these days.

All of which had me wondering why the left wing, politically correct, Trump-hating, climate change alarmist, and above all antismoking Slate had run this article. Quite a few of its readers and commenters were asking the same question.

I also wondered why Slate wasn’t deleting comments supportive of the article, as frequently happens in politically correct circles where the opposition is shouted down.

The proposed answer to these questions that I eventually came up with went like this:

Tobacco Control is very worried that Donald Trump is going to undermine its efforts in some way or other, they know not how (and neither do I). What better way to find out what he might do than to invite someone from the tobacco sympathiser camp to write a piece calling for a rollback of smoking bans? In this way they might gain some idea from which direction an attack on Tobacco Control might come, and get their tanks deployed in defensive positions before the blow landed. The Jacob Grier article would be followed up by masterly refutations from a variety of Tobacco Control luminaries, perhaps including Stanton Glantz. The purpose of the enterprise was as a kind of military exercise in which old arguments would be re-deployed, and perhaps even a few new ones developed. The Tobacco Wars were back on.

I remain unconvinced that Trump is actually going to do anything at all about smoking bans. In the first place he’s a lifelong non-smoker (he even made an antismoking ad some years back). In the second place he never said he was going to do anything about smoking bans during his 18 month campaign.

However, on the other hand, Trump is political incorrectness personified. And he’s vowed to slash government regulations. And even though he never touches alcohol either, he markets his own brand of wine. So if Trump will sell people the alcohol he personally won’t touch, maybe also he’d happily sell people the cigarettes that he won’t touch (Is there a Trump brand of cigarettes?). If Trump is going to slash government regulations, is he going to make an exception in the single case of tobacco? Furthermore, as a one-time casino owner whose casino was driven out of business by a smoking ban, which he tried unsuccessfully to get other casinos to fight, doesn’t he already know just how bad for business smoking bans really are?

The destructiveness of smoking bans even emerged in the comments in Slate:

Devhill
I was in favor of allowing bars to make their own choice. I used to meet friends at a cigar friendly tavern. We would drink for several hours. I made a point to get there early and sit in areas where nobody else sat. If I came late and had to it near a large group of people I would abstain. It generally was not big deal; only occasionally would someone sit near our group and leave due to cigar smoke. But, the key was to sit down and light up quickly before anyone sat near so they were not surprised by the cigars.

The law in my city no longer allows smoking inside. I no longer meet up with friends once a week to smoke cigars and drink beer for three hours.

DisplayName2 MEMBER 1 hour ago
@Devhill And your servers no longer have a 43% increase in the risk of lung cancer! I’m going with “win”.

Devhill 1 hour ago
The large tavern is gone. It did not survive the ban and the recession that came after it. The servers had to look for scarce, goodpaying part-time jobs elsewhere.

DisplayName2 MEMBER 1 hour ago
@Devhill Man! It’s so much better when your “choice” is to have environmental hazards at a level we wouldn’t permit in pretty much any other workplace.

In this brief exchange, the damage was laid out: a community of friends shattered, a pub bankrupted.

Other comments were equally thought-provoking. Several commenters, after reading the Grier article, said that they would no longer argue that tobacco smoke was harmful, but would instead continue to support bans simply because tobacco smoke ‘smelled bad’. But 50+ years ago, nobody thought that tobacco smoke ‘smelled bad’, any more than anyone thought that coffee or bacon or cabbage ‘smelled bad’. If there are so many people who now think that tobacco smoke ‘smells bad’, it is because they have been taught to associate it with disease, and respond accordingly: they have been conditioned. And if they no longer believe that tobacco smoke is harmful, they should also stop thinking that it ‘smells bad’.

One passage in Grier’s article particularly stood out for me:

The cost of these policies falls almost entirely on people who smoke, an increasingly put-upon minority of the population. Rarely are their preferences consulted. An exception is a perceptive paper published in the journal Sociology of Health and Illness evocatively titled “Every Space is Claimed.” The paper stands out for the empathy with which its authors approach smokers affected by smoking bans. They note that most tobacco research ignores the perspective of actual smokers and that the lack of interest in their experiences “speaks to the ways in which tobacco research is increasingly expected to further the goals of tobacco control.”

This is something I’ve also noticed: Tobacco Control has no interest whatsoever in smokers, except to get them to stop smoking. But then, in the Tobacco Control view of smokers, they are all mindless addicts, incapable of thought or free choice, and so consulting them about anything is futile.

And the Vancouver study that Grier mentioned only consulted 25 smokers. The ISIS survey that I conducted, in concert with about 20 other readers of my blog, consulted over 400 smokers in various different countries, and found the same sort of social damage that was mentioned in the Slate comment exchange I’ve just quoted. Most likely Grier has never heard of the ISIS survey. Perhaps I should email him?

P.S. I’ve just emailed him.

P.P.S.  He replied, saying he’d take a look at the ISIS survey. He added that he had pitched the piece to Slate, and not the other way around.

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Excerpts from Officious

Excerpts from Officious: the rise of the busybody state by Josie Appleton.

The Ban:

The red sign with a slash-through line has come to define the character of public spaces. The entrance of every public space is announced with large red signs saying what cannot be done within it: no smoking on the platform, no hoodies, no helmets, no cycling. The character of public space is given by its specific menu of restrictions, the things that cannot be done.

The meaning of the ban is legislation as mere restriction. It is legislation that creates a slash through social life, which puts up a barrier and says merely, ‘this cannot be done’. This is not legislation that seeks to provide services, or organise social life on a more rational basis: it is the creation of a no-go zone.

The ban is the embodiment of an interfering, disapproving authority, which finds its raison d’être in interfering in other people’s habits. The officious officer will look out of their window at children skateboarding or playing in the fountain, and think: they shouldn’t be doing that. The following week a sign will appear: no skateboarding, no bathing in the fountain. Over time an increasing number of activities will be added.

It is through this sort of restriction that the officious state defines itself and makes its presence felt. For the officious state, there is rarely a good reason not to ban things, and lifestyle bans are posed as the answer to every social problem and ethical failing. If young people are being disrespectful the answer is to ban them from spitting or wearing hoods or low-slung trousers. If there are street alcoholics. the answer is to ban them from entering the park or to ban drinking in public.

Here the banning of a habit – the symbol or emblem of social problems – becomes the primary way in which the state can affect society, and replaces substantive interventions. The ban becomes a public service.

Increasingly, the lifestyle ban defines state authority. One of the few things that a politician can do at a stroke is to ban something or other, which is why a ban is often the first act of a new regime or government. The first act of the London mayor Boris Johnson was to ban drinking on the Tube, a benign habit that had been largely restricted to tired commuters and snoozy drunks. The role of the ban was not to deal with a social problem, but to announce the new regime, to at a stroke effect a change in the life of the city.

This ideological role explains the excessive passion with which politicians propose bans on some minor habit or practice. Various smoking bans have been described as ‘making history’; councillors seeking bans on spitting are gripped by an ecumenical zeal. The parliamentary houses of France and Belgium pulled out all rhetorical flourishes to bring through bans on burqas. In particular. the Belgian government was in a state of dissolution, all lawmaking had ceased, yet politicians managed to come together for an emergency session to prohibit this rare form of women’s headwear.

It is through lifestyle prohibition that the state can make its own statement of values. And so French republicanism is increasingly defined against the burqa, without which perhaps it would lose all definition. The Spanish state of Catalonia banned both bullfighting, the habit associated with the rule of Madrid, and the burqa, associated with Muslim immigrants. So the Catalonian principle is defined: non-Madrid, and non-Islam. By prohibiting the cultural practices of others one makes one’s own statement of principle.

The ban, therefore, bears the weight of state ideological definition and legislative capacity. The ban doesn’t reflect society but serves ideological needs intrinsic to the state or those in authority…

Cameras:

Security cameras would have once been restricted to private property, facing outwards to guard against incursions along with the wire and the guard dogs. If there were cameras it meant you were not supposed to be there.

Now cameras define public spaces; they are facing across squares, on buses, in public buildings or restaurants. When a new public square is built the cameras are put in along with the benches and streetlights. Now if there are no cameras, you are not supposed to be there; if there are no cameras you must be in a no-man’s land or wasteland, an unsafe and shadowy space. Public space has come to mean surveyed space.

Unwatched spaces are seen as disorderly and a threat to public order: if there is no camera then anything could happen….

…it is only if they are being watched, apparently, that people will treat each other well. Ethics originates from the restraining presence of the third eye, without which it would be all against all.

Biometrics:

Stasi surveillance was obsessed with people’s activities and associations: what they had done and with whom. Now the citizen is categorised as a bare life form, as fingerprints, DNA, irises, face shapes….

A belief in the primacy of the paper world is characteristic of estranged bureaucracies that seem to generate policy out of themselves. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s novel The First Circle describes how Stalinist elites were more concerned with whether an event was recorded ‘on paper’ than whether it actually happened. The secret police would get to know somebody ‘by their files’ before they got to know them in person: the person would be interpreted through their files and not the other way around.

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