Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight / Where ignorant armies clash by night

I was going to write something much harsher than this; but then I chanced upon “ignorant armies” and hence was reminded of Dover Beach and it was so gloriously beautiful again that I can’t bring myself to be unkind, at least for a while.

So instead I’ll just quietly point out that the vast slew of Trump stories are counter-productive. The one that triggered my… I’m being nice, aren’t I? OK, my disapproval, was Trump has violated his oath to the Constitution. But it is just an example; there are many many others. The bit they are worrying about is “emolument”; and they’re worried, for example, that The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd. (ICBC), which is controlled by the Chinese state, is currently paying rent for tenancy in the Manhattan Trump Tower (according to mortgage documents filed in 2012, it is the Tower’s largest office resident).

TP says The emoluments clause prohibits any person holding a federal office (such as, for example, the presidency) from accepting “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” Notice anything missing? If you’re not familiar with the constitution, or had cause to look at it recently, you won’t realise: the full clause is No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State. You can also read the Economist’s take.

So, the holes in this are near endless. The clause itself is designed to prevent gifts / bribes; it isn’t clear at all it is designed to prevent business transactions9. If it is so designed, since it applies to all office holders, not just the high up, it must (if you interpret emoluments to include commonplace commercial transactions) inevitably have been violated by large numbers of people.

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

And lastly, Trump’s conflicts were known before Congress ratified the results of the election, which probably amounts to “Consent”.

I’m probably getting carried away over-analysing this one example5. The point, in case I’ve obscured it, that all these stories are starting to amount to just so much noise. All the nice left wing people go tut tut and have their anti-Trump opinions confirmed. All the nasty right wing people go suck it up liberals and have their pro-Trump opinions confirmed. And no-one learns anything and nothing is changed, except dialogue becomes that bit harder.

You’re wondering – I know you are – why I bothered write this when it will obviously be ignored. And I have an answer. It’s going to be a great answer… people tell me my answers are great. It is this: many people – for example the Economist – are wondering “What is Donald Trump likely to achieve in power?” They note that one may be tempted to conclude that it is simply too soon to tell. But there is enough information—from the campaign, the months since his victory and his life as a property developer and entertainer—to take a view of what kind of person Mr Trump is and how he means to fill the office first occupied by George Washington. There is also evidence from the team he has picked. However, their “predictions” are rather vague. They note potential upsides to business from corporate tax cuts and deregulation, and downsides to diplomacy (NATO, EU, China) and to trade (protectionism). If they have a conclusion, it is presidents can do a modest amount of good. Sadly, they can also do immense harm. Which (I’m getting there, be patient) chimes with something I recently read via Paul:

Again and again, people imagine that, if their local pocket of order isn’t working how they want, then they should smash it to pieces, since while admittedly that might make things even worse, there’s also at least 50/50 odds that they’ll magically improve. In reasoning thus, people fail to appreciate just how exponentially more numerous are the paths downhill, into barbarism and chaos, than are the few paths further up. So thrashing about randomly, with no knowledge or understanding, is statistically certain to make things worse: on this point thermodynamics, common sense, and human history are all in total agreement. The implications of these musings for the present would be left as exercises for the reader.

However that, whilst wise, wasn’t my point. My point was to make some predictions, ta-da! Not because I have any great faith in them coming true, but because if I don’t, I’ll never be able to look back and see how I thought now. Let’s start with…

Global warming

All the stories about Trump deleting data will turn out to be nonsense6. All the people squirrelling data away will look stupid, and will do their best to quietly forget they ever did it or suggested it, or pretend it never happened. The US climate change programs will not be gutted (in the sense of… of, what’s gutting? I don’t know, let’s say 50% cuts or more1). There will probably be some modest funding cuts, some people will lose their jobs, but the overall momentum of the US (let alone the world) research will be essentially unaffected.

The US will not introduce a carbon tax, or cap-n-trade. It might pull out of the Paris accord, but whether it does or not the affects on the path of its emissions will be minor. Coal consumption will continue to decrease and coal firms will continue to look sickly on the stock exchanges.

Some regulations will be repealed. They won’t be terribly important ones2.

Civil liberties

People will whinge a lot but civil liberties in the US will be essentially unaffected.


Any protectionism, if it occurs, will be minor7. NAFTA will not be ripped up8.


Much harder to predict3. Since I’m deliberately going out on a limb, I predict: Trump will do some dumb / risky / unpredictable things, but will get away with them.


I shall be optimistic, and guess that: Trump has stuffed his cabinet with enough business folk that he’ll manage to do some sensible things4: reduce regulations, reduce corporation tax, perhaps even a tax-holiday for all the mountains that US companies have stashed overseas. Done right, there might be enough money flooding in to manage a mini-boom and make himself look good.


Ha. I am, as you know, no student of USAnian politics. But I guess that his opponents (Dems, liberal media, whatevs) will continue to fail to learn. They will remain so outraged by every little thing – which all the nice people they go to dinner parties with will agree are terrible – that they’ll lack any useful metric to notice anything truely worth opposing. And so they will fail. And even if they could get over that, whilst they disagree with Trump they don’t have any good ideas to oppose him with.


There has to be a chance that Trump simply blows up: he says or does something too embarrassingly stupid or outrageous to be covered up, or some of his prior activities turn out to be too bad to be ignored, or he gets impeached. FWIW, I think that’s unlikely. Do you disagree with me? Excellent! We have the basis for a bet. See just below.


As you can see, my overall prediction is “minor”. Since I’ve mentioned betting, above, I’m wondering if I could interest anyone on a sweepstake on just when at least one of the “predictions” above turns out to be obviously embarrassingly wrong. As judged by me, though you can propose an impartial arbitrator if you like. I have £1,000 sitting around not doing very much. Anyone interested? You can bid (serious offers only, no time wasters) in the comments for a (first day of) month and year. Lowest (i.e., closest to now) bid wins. If my “predictions” turn out to be still plausible on that date, I win. Otherwise you do.


1. That’s in total. Any one programme may get nuked.

2. As measured by impact on total GHG emissions.

3. I’m told it’s looking good so far.

4. Cancelling the FHA Insurance Rate Cut is minor but sensible. It’s also hard to see as anything that Trump cares about, so is presumably something his people wanted.

5. Another is all the fuss over Trump-at-war-with-the-CIA. Now peace has broken out: Graun: Donald Trump seeks to quell feud with CIA: ‘I’m with you a thousand percent’. Short war, few killed.

6. Although it was shitty of him to delete Obama’s “farewell” speech from https://www.whitehouse.gov/farewell (archive of dead state). The Internet archive has a copy (archive of that).

See-also The Scramble to Protect Climate Data Under Trump.

7. As Timmy, and doubtless many others, have pointed out, Trump doesn’t appear to understand trade. That’s bad, but it is what he does that matters; I’m hoping he will be restrained by those around him. OTOH, if he actually does some of the mad things he has said it would be very bad.

8. TTP will be, which is probably regrettable, but it counts as minor because it was probably dead anyway: see Timmy for example.

9. The Senate interprets “emoluments” as “gifts”.


* Donald Trump protests: Washington leads global rallies; Washington DC police refuse to give an official count for how many people turned up today. So we’re unlikely to know exactly how many people turned out in the nation’s capital. But it’s clear there were more people on the streets of DC today than when Trump was sworn in as president yesterday. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, also staged protests against Trump in more than 600 cities and towns around the world
* The rise of the Herbal Tea Party– Lexington / the Economist.
* Fascism and the Current National Emergency– Peter Woit

Other people’s predictions

* Why Trump’s Inauguration is Not the Beginning of an Era — but the End – Peter Leyden: I think Trump ultimately is going to do America and the world a service by becoming the vehicle that will finally take down right-wing conservative politics for a generation or two. Nah.


114 thoughts on “Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight / Where ignorant armies clash by night”

  1. Trump yelled at then hung up on a call to Australia’s PM.

    “Worst call by far”. Worse than even calling Putin. Right.

    Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan (R) : “Prime Minister Turnbull was in my office a couple months ago,” he said. “He’s a very important ally. Australia is a very central ally, they are and they will continue to be.”

    Was that “How to Win Friends and Influence Enemies”?

    Or the satirical version. “How to Gain Enemies and Piss Off Friends”?

    I can’t find it on line. Best I can find is


    So Trump can do it better next call, or better yet visit.

    From Americanistan the soon to be friendless.


  2. +1 Phil Hayes @ #34.

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

    Oh, and Millennium Bug.


  3. https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/02/energy-kids/516978/

    Almost 20 years ago, the U.S. Energy Information Administration had an idea: Make an educational website for children about energy sources and the science behind them.

    In short order, the EIA created “Energy Kids,” which now features energy-themed Sudoku and crossword puzzles, colorful pie charts, and a know-it-all mascot called Energy Ant. Images of a school bus parked between a coal plant and an oil rig adorn the bottom of the web page, along with drawings of wind turbines, solar panels, and an energy-efficient lightbulb.

    During the Obama administration, Energy Kids even won multiple international awards for its content and design, as well as one from a digital publishing company that hailed it as “the best of the best in open and engaging government.”

    The Trump administration, it seems, wasn’t altogether impressed with the site or its awards. In recent weeks, language on the website describing the environmental impacts of energy sources has been reworked, and two pie charts concerning the link between coal and greenhouse gas emissions have been removed altogether….


  4. “Energy Star, the program that certifies toasters, air conditioners, computers and buildings for energy efficiency, could be killed by the Trump administration as part of its effort to shrink federal spending.

    The administration wants the program to be “zeroed out” in the 2018 Environmental Protection Agency budget, according to news reports and a memo that the EPA provided to the National Association of Clean Air Agencies last week.

    The EPA estimated in its most recent Energy Star annual report that the program generated more than $31 billion in annual energy cost savings benefits in 2014 and cut about 5 percent of total U.S. electricity demand that year.”


    No doubt you will think this good and very minor in effect.

    [It seems quite likely that ES is a net benefit, but I’m dubious about the $31 billion number, which appears to be measuring only savings and not costs. See for example https://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/publications/pubdocs/Summary_of_the_Financial_Benefits_23June06_FINAL.pdf which as far as I can tell doesn’t consider the costs at all -W]


  5. The Energy Star thing is interesting because it combines several broad themes of that guy who signs things for President Bannon.

    One is the broad antipathy toward environmental protection. These folks are from the mindset that sees belching smokestacks as a symbol of industrial might. Losing the smoke then becomes a symbol of industrial decline.

    Another is bringing back the kinds of jobs that people had in the good old days, like coal mining. What better way to stimulate demand for fossil fuels — and so create fossil fuel jobs — than to make energy use less efficient.

    And lest we forget, energy efficiency and environmental protection are pet themes of those people. You know, the enemies of all right-thinking Americans.


  6. Well, Trump’s “thin” budget is out. The usual practice of Presidents has been to put out an outline “thin” budget first, and a detailed budget later. Then Congress will read the President’s budget carefully, and toss into the wastebasket, or use as an excuse for what Congress was going to do anyways.

    31% cut to EPA. Cut all funding for climate programs.

    Department of State, 31% cut. All climate international programs, cut.

    1% cut to NASA. Increase for manned deep space programs. Cuts in funding for Earth science, including climate, however only 5% cut. Will be “re-prioritized” whatever that means. Only one existing satellite cut, and three new satellites cut.

    16% to Commerce. NOAA is part of Commerce. Funding for current satellites maintained (some overlap with NASA), but no new ones. NWS seems untouched “maintain funding”.


    Is one program cut, web page seems unreachable today.


    All and all, far fewer cuts than I expected. We will see what Congress does.


  7. Perhaps you want

    Other items noticed:
    Zeroes out over $250 million in targeted National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education including Sea Grant

    Focuses funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Office of Nuclear Energy, the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, and the Fossil Energy Research and Development program on limited, early-stage applied energy research and development activities where the Federal role is stronger. In addition, the Budget eliminates the Weatherization Assistance Program and the State Energy Program to reduce Federal intervention in State-level energy policy and implementation. Collectively, these changes achieve a savings of approximately $2 billion from the 2017 annualized CR level.

    Ensures the Office of Science continues to invest in the highest priority basic science and energy research and development as well as operation and maintenance of existing scientific facilities for the community. This includes a savings of approximately $900 million compared to the 2017
    annualized CR level.

    [Some caveats apply: NASA’s Earth Sciences division escaped with lighter overall cuts than advance rumors had implied. But the overall pattern is a stark rejection of the idea that the rise of heat-trapping gases in Earth’s atmosphere, caused by human activities, calls for better understanding and response. I can at least half support that: we already have enough understanding to decide our response, which should be a carbon tax. It does increasingly appear that people are supporting climate research as a kind of proxy for actual action; as though putting relatively small sums into climate research will somehow cause the much larger changes that would actually make sense -W]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s