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.