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.

About Frank Davis

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11 Responses to After Brexit

  1. And since [incomprehensible????]
    Schulz’s accent is strong, almost a little ‘Ve haff vayz off meking tsu tock’ but i have just watched the clip and he says “and since seven decades

    • Frank Davis says:

      Thanks. My best shot was “and since seventy-eight…” But I couldn’t remember anything that happened in Europe that year.

      • It surprised me that Schulz is obviously neither fluent nor comfortable when speaking English when one considers he held such a leading role in the EU for so many years. It sounded very much like “school English” and it is clear he hasn’t had much practice. You heard ’78’ because he used ‘since’ instead of ‘for’ , he pronounced the ‘de’ of ‘decades’ as ‘dee’ not ‘de(k)’ as you would.
        I have said often that we Brits are mentally stuck in 1945 and both Schulz and Le Pen would have done better to have borne that in mind for their interviews. Schulz should have spoken German- it wouldn’t have made him anymore sympathetic to a Brit audience but he could have played on the stereotype of ‘hard working, punctual, ‘correct’, humourless Prussian’ which at least Brits respect. Speaking his ‘school English’ he just sounded like every Wehrmacht Officer in a 1950s War Film ever. All it needed was for him to say ‘schweinhund!’ or ‘Hände hoch’.
        Le Pen on the other hand should have remembered she wants to get into bed with a post brexit Britain, spoken English and done the whole ‘sexy French accent’ thing . At least 2 generations grew up after the war believing that French women spoke English with a ‘come to bed, mon Cher’ accent …voulez vous coucher…
        Since the famous Thatcher/Kohl ‘typical German’ meeting , European leaders must be aware that they can’t talk to Brits without playing the WW2 stereotypes if they want to get their message across.
        For extra points Le Pen should have slipped in an ‘Oh La La’ and smoked a cigarette which all the ‘promise of a blow job’ eroticism and glamour that only continental women can pull off (bad choice of words?) and Schultz should have tried to make a non-joke.

  2. Harleyrider1978 says:

    Frank it’s the FDA that has the tobacco regulations not EPA

    • Frank Davis says:

      Didn’t the EPA say there was no safe level of tobacco smoke, and/or rigged research to make it seem dangerous?

      Anyway Trump wants to blow up the FDA.

      • Rose says:

        Frank, the EPA classed second hand smoke as a human carcinogen in 1992.

        Without that the house of cards couldn’t have been built.

        “Relying on weak and inconclusive epidemiological data, the supposed similarity between ETS and MS, the presence of “known or suspected carcinogens” in MS and by extrapolation in ETS, and the “biological plausibility” of an adverse relationship between ETS and health, the EPA recommended that ETS be classified as a “Group A (known human) carcinogen.”


        “EPA’s willingness to distort the science in order to justify it’s classification of ETS as a “Group A” or “known human” carcinogen seems to stem from the Agency’s determination early on to advocate smoking bans and restrictions as a socially desirable goal. EPA began promoting such policies in the mid-to late 1980′s, ostensibly as part of its efforts to provide information to the public on indoor air quality issues.”

        “The risk assessment thus was never intended to be a neutral review and analysis of the ETS science. Rather, it was intended from the start to function as a prop for the Agency’s predetermind policy.”

        • Frank Davis says:

          Thanks for that. I thought the EPA had a hand in it. And now Trump has got Scott Pruitt in to run the EPA, of course I’m hoping if he’s can do something about the smoking bans that killed off his casino(s), and which probably relied on the EPA’s findings on ETS.


          Of all Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks, it’s hard to find anyone who’s been more overtly hostile toward the agency he’s about to lead than Scott Pruitt has been toward the Environmental Protection Agency.

          Pruitt made no secret of this; during his tenure as Oklahoma’s attorney general, his bio page called him “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” Over the last six years, Pruitt has filed lawsuit after (mostly unsuccessful) lawsuit to halt EPA rules on mercury pollution from coal plants, thwart EPA plans to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, block President Obama’s efforts to tackle climate change — and much, much more.

          Pruitt’s record is so stark that nearly 800 former EPA employees signed a letter opposing his confirmation. They criticized Pruitt’s cozy ties with Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry, his opposition to the federal government regulating air pollution that crosses state lines, his history of downplaying global warming. “Mr. Pruitt’s record,” the letter states, “raises serious questions about whose interests he has served to date and whether he agrees with the longstanding tenets of U.S. environmental law.”

          But none of this was enough to derail Pruitt’s nomination. Trump wanted an EPA head who would roll back Obama’s climate policies. And the modern-day GOP is in sync with Pruitt’s views on environmental regulation — namely, that the feds should do less of it. Pruitt also enjoyed widespread support among industry groups and conservatives, who have been running ads in his favor for months.

          So, on Friday afternoon, the Senate confirmed Pruitt, with support from 50 Republicans (Susan Collins was the lone “no”) plus two Democrats (Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp). Democrats tried to delay the vote until after Oklahoma released Pruitt’s email correspondence with the fossil fuel industry, but they were unsuccessful.

          The big question now is how far Pruitt will actually go to reshape the nation’s environmental policies. It’s possible he’ll face intractable obstacles in trying to shrink the EPA’s reach over the next few years, hemmed in by various legal constraints and pushback from career staff. But it’s also possible that he’ll roll back the EPA’s climate policies and make it much, much tougher for both the United States and the world to tackle global warming for years to come. If the latter comes to pass, Pruitt could end up being one of Donald Trump’s most consequential Cabinet picks.

  3. complexkid says:

    It was indeed the EPA that jiggered the research on their second-hand smoke research and started this. Judge Osteen (who was anti-tobacco) vacated the study because it was so worthless. His decision was overturned on a matter of law – jurisdiction, not on a matter of fact – he was right about it, I don’t think anyone’s questioned that seriously. Dave Hitt wrote about that and put in links to the documents if you’d like to read them:

  4. Vlad says:

    How ‘salami slicing’ tactic worked on smoking bans:
    I was watching a Charles Bronson movie released in early 1983…in a scene at the LA courthouse, there were no smoking signs on elevator doors and inside the elevator. Nowadays there’s no smoking within 10 feet or more of the entire building!!! No smoking in parks! Madness or what?!

  5. Rose says:

    My husband flicking through the channels tonight landed on that film 2012, which reminded me about the Mayan prediction of the coming of Bolon Yokte K’uh.

    “God of Business Bolon Yokte Ku, a demanding deity who has the ears of a jaguar and smokes cigars.”
    http: //
    Now subscription only.

    2012 is not the end of the world, Mayan elder insists
    “The year 2012 will not bring the end of the world, a Mayan elder has insisted, despite claims that a Mayan calendar shows that time will “run out” on December 21 of that year.

    But hysteria surrounding 2012 does have some grains of archaeological basis. One of them is Monument Six.
    Found at an obscure ruin in southern Mexico during highway construction in the 1960s, the stone tablet almost did not survive; the site was largely paved over and parts of the tablet were looted.
    The inscription describes something that is supposed to occur in 2012 involving Bolon Yokte, a mysterious Mayan god associated with both war and creation.

    However, erosion and a crack in the stone make the end of the passage almost illegible.
    Guillermo Bernal, an archaeologist at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, believes the eroded message is: “He will descend from the sky”.

    “He will descend from the sky”.

    Trump Force One?

    In that case, he’s taken less than four years to manifest and take over.


  6. jaxthefirst says:

    “ … 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 …”

    That and the fact that both Germany and Britain had only fairly recently been through two harrowing wars against each other, which had pretty much ruined both of them, dissolved the last vestiges of each country’s empire and slain a whole host of their youngest and fittest citizens so that, quite frankly, the populations of neither power were particularly keen on the idea of another gruelling, ruinous conflict.

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