Barrel Strength

Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Barrel Strength - Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Walking the dogs in Westboro

I ran into a civil servant last night walking her dog in Ottawa’s pleasant district called Westboro. She works in a senior capacity at a central agency. Three of us were talking about the new regime.

(A note to the rabid conservatives who may read this: Please understand that all parties to this conversation are political realists. We are aware that the F-35 cancellation, the Syrian refugee influx, Trudeau’s energy program and other parts of the Grit ideology are of doubtful value, possibly quite dangerous, and some are outright mistakes. There was an interesting level of agreement with Harper’s  approaches and world-view, from people who were not regular Conservative voters, so far as I knew).

She was observing how weird it felt to adapt to the friendliness of the new regime. Ministers were actually being nice to civil service staff, introducing themselves, remembering names, being considerate. She was in a state of mild shock, after the years of surliness, disrespect, and unapproachability of the previous Conservative ministers and staff. Like people who had been long abused, they were coming out from behind their protective shells, asking themselves, if this could really be real, or was just a trick?

canadian parliament

I repeat, this is not a person confused by the Liberal charm into believing impossible things; she maintains an appropriate skepticism towards all politicians and their programs. No, her feelings were just as I have described: the suprizing feeling of not being looked down upon every day by Ministers and staff of the former regime.

Fanatics of the Harper regime (the mysterious “Base”) might wish to factor in this appreciation of the new regime by a seasoned civil servant. It may explain why the Trudeau regime will be getting a pass for a few more months, not because some vast Laurentian-elite consensus has taken over the country again, but by the simple expedient of not being actively hostile and rude to the members of the civil service.

If you want to know why the institutional structures of Canada provide better government than what you find in the United States, I recommend Francis Fukuyama’s Political Order and Political Decay, chapters 32, 33 and 34 – “A state of Courts and Parties”,”Congress and the Repatrimonialization of American Politics”, and “America the Vetocracy”. Fukuyama is our deTocqueville, and will be remembered for ages.



To examine the extent of American institutional decay, and the awkwardness of its constitutional arrangements,  is beyond the scope of this article. But I will point out that one of the reasons we have a tolerable political order in this country is that we have a civil service with significant independence and separate functions from the partizan political layer., and that the United States does not, for the most part.

And this leads me to a final consideration. The idea that the useless vestige called the Canadian Senate is actually taken seriously and its reform debated, while our new overweening governor, the Supreme Court, is untouchable and undiscussed, is one of the most disturbing aspects of contemporary Canadian political life.

Complaining that concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s Office is “Americanization” of Canadian politics, while ignoring the Americanizing influence of the Canadian Supreme Court in inventing new rights nearly every month, reforming the Constitution by fiat (Nadon, Delgamuuk, extension of Charter Rights hither and yon  etc), demonstrates a profound misreading of Canadian constitutional arrangements, approaching political illiteracy.



It is starting to sink in

The media are starting to take seriously the attempts of the political left to shut off all discussion of essentially whatever they want to shut off. For the moment the forbidden topics are race and sex, but the list of topics will inevitably expand. This excerpt comes from an article in New York Magazine by Jonathan Chait, and is worth reading.

The upsurge of political correctness is not just greasy-kid stuff, and it’s not just a bunch of weird, unfortunate events that somehow keep happening over and over. It’s the expression of a political culture with consistent norms, and philosophical premises that happen to be incompatible with liberalism. The reason every Marxist government in the history of the world turned massively repressive is not because they all had the misfortune of being hijacked by murderous thugs. It’s that the ideology itself prioritizes class justice over individual rights and makes no allowance for legitimate disagreement. (For those inclined to defend p.c. on the grounds that racism and sexism are important, bear in mind that the forms of repression Marxist government set out to eradicate were hardly imaginary.)

American political correctness has obviously never perpetrated the brutality of a communist government, but it has also never acquired the powers that come with full control of the machinery of the state. The continuous stream of small-scale outrages it generates is a testament to an illiberalism that runs deep down to its core….

The scene in Columbia and the recent scene in New Haven share a similar structure: jeering student mobs expressing incredulity at the idea of political democracy. As far as the students are concerned, they represent the cause of anti-racism, a fact that renders the need for debate irrelevant. Defenses of p.c. tactics simply sweep aside objections to the tactics as self-interested whining. “It’s not about creating an intellectual space,” shouts one Yalie. Notably, the events at Yale have redounded in New Haven to the benefit of the protesters, who have renewed their demands, and Nicholas Christakis, the Yale administrator seen pleading futilely for reason, issuing apologies for his behavior. Likewise, at Wesleyan, the student newspaper that sparked outrage by publishing the op-ed of a student (cautiously) questioning elements of the Black Lives Matter movement has been harshly sanctioned.

That these activists have been able to prevail, even in the face of frequently harsh national publicity highlighting the blunt illiberalism of their methods, confirms that these incidents reflect something deeper than a series of one-off episodes. They are carrying out the ideals of a movement that regards the delegitimization of dissent as a first-order goal. People on the left need to stop evading the question of political correctness — by laughing it off as college goofs, or interrogating the motives of p.c. critics, or ignoring it — and make a decision on whether they agree with it.

No bad idea of the Marxist period of the 1960s and 70s has died; on the contrary, every loonie and repressive, freedom-hating idea of the Left has only gone from strength to strength. I will believe  a genuinely conservative government has arrived when  Mark Steyn or an intellectual combatant of that calibre is made the Minister responsible for funding higher education. Or perhaps we can begin by systematically defunding faculties and even entire universities on an explicitly  political basis. I do not mean in this case conservative versus liberal. No, I mean totalitarian versus everyone else.

This is not a satire

Every word you read in this New York Times article of November 8, 2015 is supposed to be taken seriously. You are not allowed to laugh, smirk, guffaw, smile ruefully, snort, cry out, but are ordered to read it on a spirit of hushed reverence as truth goes marching on. Got it? This is the only proper way to appreciate your various sins as a white, old, and conservative person who reads this blog.

I did not make up a word of this, I swear.

I quote in full:

Weeks of simmering racial tension at Yale University boiled over in recent days into a heated debate over whether the administration was sensitive enough to concerns about Halloween costumes seen as culturally offensive, students and adminstrators said.

Peter Salovey, the president of Yale, said he had been left “deeply troubled” by a meeting he held with students of color last week who were “in great distress.” Many said they did not believe the university was attuned to the needs of minority students.

“The experiences they shared went beyond the incidents of the last few days,” he said in a statement. “Their concerns and cries for help made clear that some students find life on our campus profoundly difficult.”

The debate over Halloween costumes began late last month when the university’s Intercultural Affairs Committee sent an email to the student body asking students to avoid wearing “culturally unaware and insensitive” costumes that could offend minority students. It specifically advised them to steer clear of outfits that included elements like feathered headdresses, turbans or blackface.

Students in front of the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University. Credit Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

In response, Erika Christakis, a faculty member and an administrator at a student residence, wrote an email to students living in her residence hall on behalf of those she described as “frustrated” by the official advice on Halloween costumes. Students should be able to wear whatever they want, she wrote, even if they end up offending people.

An early childhood educator, she asked whether blond toddlers should be barred from being dressed as African-American or Asian characters from Disney films.

“Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious … a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?” she wrote. “American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition.”

Ms. Christakis’s email touched on a long-running debate over the balance between upholding free speech and protecting students from hurt feelings or personal offense. It also provoked a firestorm of condemnation from Yale students, hundreds of whom signed an open letter criticizing her argument that “free speech and the ability to tolerate offence” should take precedence over other considerations.

“To ask marginalized students to throw away their enjoyment of a holiday, in order to expend emotional, mental, and physical energy to explain why something is offensive, is — offensive,” the letter said. “To be a student of color on Yale’s campus is to exist in a space that was not created for you.”

Ms. Christakis’s email also led to at least one heated encounter on campus between her husband, Nicholas Christakis, a faculty member who works in the same residential college, and a large group of students who demanded that he apologize for the beliefs expressed by him and his wife, which they said failed to create a “safe space” for them.

When he was unwilling to do so, the students angrily cursed and yelled at him, according to a video posted to YouTube by a free speech group critical of the debate. On Sunday it had been viewed over 450,000 times.

“You should step down!” one student shouted at Mr. Christakis, while demanding between expletives to know why Yale had hired him in the first place. “It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? It is about creating a home here!”

“You’re supposed to be our advocate!” another student yelled.

“You are a poor steward of this community!” the first student said before turning and walking away. “You should not sleep at night! You are disgusting.”

The debate over Halloween costumes comes at a time of escalating racial tension at college campuses across the United States. Last month, the president of the University of Louisville apologized to students after he and over a dozen friends were pictured wearing ponchos, sombreros and bushy mustaches with maracas in their hands as part of Mexican-themed Halloween costumes. And on Sunday, dozens of black football players at the University of Missouri vowed to boycott school athletic activities over the university’s handling of racial incidents unless its president resigned.

The debate has erupted against an increasingly tense racial background at Yale. The campus has seen a long-running debate over a residential college named in honor of John C. Calhoun, a 19th-century South Carolina politician, outspoken white supremacist and member of the Yale class of 1804. His name continues to adorn its graceful Gothic halls.

And one week ago a black undergraduate accused a fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, of denying her entrance to a “white girls only” party on the basis of her race, an allegation that the fraternity denies. Jonathan Holloway, the dean of Yale College, said that his office took the accusation seriously and was investigating.

In an email sent to the student body on Thursday, Mr. Holloway said that he was “fully in support” of the request that Yale students avoid culturally insensitive Halloween costumes and that he regretted the sense among some minority students that Yale had “a poisonous atmosphere.”

“We need always to be dedicated to fashioning a community that is mindful of the many traditions that make us who we are,” he wrote. “Remember that Yale belongs to all of you, and you all deserve the right to enjoy the good of this place, without worry, without threats, and without intimidation.”

The real cause of global warming

What starts as satire will eventually become a serious movement. Hats off to Wiley Miller, the grumpy genius who writes and draws Non Sequitur (Latin for “it does not follow”).


  • I read an article on the Internet that said that studies show the real cause of global warming
  • Man made?
  • Yeah, but not the way previously thought. Apparently it’s due to gas emissions coming from too many boys in the world.
  • Wait..what studies?
  • Didn’t say, but I guess it’s well researched.
  • oh, okay, good enough for me

Pet horse to evil little Deanna, above the sign Studies “R” us:

  • You were born for this era
  • Thanks!
  • That wasn’t a compliment

Serious proposals for exterminatory policies are only a few years away. Mark my words.

Obamacare deathwatch?

Oct 19th, 2015. NY Post

ObamaCare is heading toward a death spiral.

The Obama administration is having trouble selling insurance plans to healthy people. That’s a big problem: When the young and healthy don’t enroll, premiums have to be hiked to cover the costs of older, sicker people, discouraging even more young people from signing up.

Last Thursday, the administration predicted enrollment for 2016 will be less than half what the Congressional Budget Office predicted in March.

Nov 2, 2015. Wall Street Journal

When it passed Congress in 2010, the Affordable Care Act offered substantial financial support to create nonprofit health-insurance plans. Today 11 of the 23 such regional Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans have failed – seven since the beginning of October.

Of course ObamaCare isn’t going to die easily. Not if it is held up as Obama’s signature achievement. Large amount of money will be poured into it to resuscitate it.

This is decadence

A New York city neighborhood undergoing gentrification is normal. But when the gentrifiers are robbed at gunpoint, they blame themselves.The thief in question stole the laptops of the writers’ group who had assembled at the cafe. The writers went on to the Internet crowd funding sites and made back the value of their laptops quickly.

In a long rumination on the incident, Babu (a writer stolen from)  writes that she and her writer friends “felt angry and violated, but not in a way that necessarily placed blame on the person who did it.”

It seems that if they blame anyone, it’s themselves — for existing and choosing to live in Ditmas Park in the first place.

In the weeks following the robbery, she and her friends worked on “finding space to take into consideration the broader social and economic circumstances surrounding the incident” and “cultivated our sense of compassion toward the robber, whom we imagined must have been acting out of dire need.”

The poverty of the liberal imagination never ceases to amaze me. No you precious twit! The robber was not in dire need. He had on $150 sneakers and a $600 pistol. His women collect welfare for him. He is a worthless piece of shit. And he could have had a job if he wanted one, but is too lazy and worthless to get one.

Stop “cultivating a sense of compassion” for the robber, or he will be back for more, maybe this time including your precious twit lives!

Newspapers run articles about the kinds of people robbed of their laptops to elicit this kind of reaction among the morally normal.

But really!….

Still worth reading

Five years ago, Professor Emeritus Hal Lewis resigned from the American Physical Society (APS). His resignation letter , which I am sure to have read a while back, reminds us all of what a brave man may say on his way out the door.

The cause of his resignation

… is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.

His letter then discusses the shenanigans inside the American Physical Society to discredit skepticism with a claim that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) was “incontrovertible”.

I do feel the need to add one note, and this is conjecture, since it is always risky to discuss other people’s motives. This scheming at APS HQ is so bizarre that there cannot be a simple explanation for it. Some have held that the physicists of today are not as smart as they used to be, but I don’t think that is an issue. I think it is the money, exactly what Eisenhower warned about a half-century ago. There are indeed trillions of dollars involved, to say nothing of the fame and glory (and frequent trips to exotic islands) that go with being a member of the club. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst. When Penn State absolved Mike Mann of wrongdoing, and the University of East Anglia did the same for Phil Jones, they cannot have been unaware of the financial penalty for doing otherwise. As the old saying goes, you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. Since I am no philosopher, I’m not going to explore at just which point enlightened self-interest crosses the line into corruption, but a careful reading of the ClimateGate releases makes it clear that this is not an academic question.

Harvard-NY Prison, Kennedy-Khrushchev and Obama-Putin

What do these three disparate phrases have in common? Consider these two historical facts.

June 4, 1961. Vienna, Austria. (NYT)

Kennedy’s assessment of his own performance was no less severe. Only a few minutes after parting with Khrushchev, Kennedy, a World War II veteran, told James Reston of The New York Times that the summit meeting had been the “roughest thing in my life.” Kennedy went on: “He just beat the hell out of me. I’ve got a terrible problem if he thinks I’m inexperienced and have no guts. Until we remove those ideas we won’t get anywhere with him.”

October 7, 2015. Napanoch, NY (The Guardian)

Months after winning a national title, Harvard’s debate team has fallen to a group of New York prison inmates.

The showdown took place at the Eastern correctional facility in New York, a maximum-security prison where convicts can take courses taught by faculty from nearby Bard College, and where inmates have formed a popular debate club. Last month they invited the Ivy League undergraduates and this year’s national debate champions over for a friendly competition.

In light of the above two facts, consider this outcome.

October 9, 2015. Washington DC (Bloomberg)

White House Is Weighing a Syria Retreat

A week into Russia’s military intervention in Syria, some top White House advisers and National Security Council staffers are trying to persuade President Barack Obama to scale back U.S. engagement there, to focus on lessening the violence and, for now, to give up on toppling the Syrian regime.

Summary: It doesn’t matter which Ivy League university you went to or the colour of your skin, thugs using street smarts will beat you up both physically and intellectually. .

Watch this

Then make up your own mind. Part stand-up comedy, part boasting talk, part policy, part stream of consciousness, part  posturing: it is tedious, it is entertaining, it is great, it is petty. It is so New York. If he could stop talking about himself for a moment, and talk about policy, he might be less tedious, for people like me,  but it is an amazing show. He reaches the point of seriousness 35 minutes into a one hour and three minutes long speech. And he takes off from there.

  • “We should be more unpredictable”.
  • “Of course I have say I’m a politician, but I’m sorta not”.
  • “Now I’m becoming mainstream – I’ve been on the top of the polls for months”.
  • “People want to see something happen“.
  • “If I win, they (the Iranians) will be back so fast to release their prisoners…because Iran knows it’s going to be a whole different ball game”.
  • “They’re smart and they’re great negotiators” [Iranians]
  • “You know Bergdahl? He’s a traitor” [the US sergeant who deserted].
  • “We have a President who doesn’t have a clue”.
  • “Walls work. Look at Israel”.
  • “We can’t take care of everybody. What do we owe? 19 trillion”
  • “I have guys lined up [US billionaires to negotiate for us]. It’s a chess game. We can play it”
  • “Why are we having gun-free zones in a military camp?”
  • “If I win you will be using “Merry Christmas” all the time”.
  • “We are going to win and we are going to do it better than ever before”.

Loose lips sink ships

I am tiring of liberal tolerance. To be more precise,  I am tiring of tolerance itself being promoted as a virtue without reference to what is being tolerated.

I had occasion to issue a gentle reproof yesterday to an American friend who keeps uttering nearly homicidal anger at Evangelicals, fundamentalists, and Republicans. In short, I grew intolerant of loose talk the net effect of which was to legitimize violence against one’s fellow citizens. Even if the speaker is civilized and over 65, I am becoming sufficiently alarmed at the general atmosphere of loose talk that I feel it necessary to risk social offence in saying: “tone it down”.


Myspace Chris Harper-Mercer, 26 gunman in the Umpqua Community College in Oregon
Chris Harper-Mercer, 26, gunman in the Umpqua Community College in Oregon

The rampage killer in the Oregon community college, Chris Harper Mercer, martyred – that is the word – ten Christians yesterday for the crime – in his eyes- of their faith. I can only shudder at the bravery of those who, seeing their classmates killed for admitting to being Christians, still admitted to being Christians themselves. I am not sure I would have had the courage. But my concern is the atmosphere of loose anti-Christian talk of the Dawkins-Dennett variety that has pervaded the culture, and given the justification to the crazy angry young men of this world to kill Christians. The killer was not a Muslim; he was what can be described as a secular-humanist, an atheist. Such people used to lack convictions; recently they have been led to believe their atheism amounts to a justification for martyring the faithful who have convictions or beliefs different from their own.

In the same way that we can hold Wahhabist doctrines to be the source of Islamic jihad, so we can now hold militant atheism/materialism  to be responsible for this martyrdom of Christians. They have now joined the ranks of the rest of us fallible humans: people will kill for what they believe, and now the atheist/materialists have their own home-grown American mass killers.

Of course, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot beat them to the punch many years ago.