Barrel Strength

Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Barrel Strength - Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Exodus from France, exodus from Quebec

An interesting video news article on the exodus from France of the ambitious, the bright, and the monied. I observe that  Quebec has been going through the same, but that the exodus did not matter to the native population because it was composed mostly of Protestants and Jews (furriners). It took a while for the exodus to start among the ambitious, bright and monied among the French-Canadian populace, whom we can now observe in Toronto, Vancouver, and elsewhere.

If there is one thing we all hope for, for Quebec, it is that, when it separates, it will get real fast: 1) reduce its Marxist unions to impotence, and 2) adopt English as an official language. The opposite will happen at first, until the bills have to be paid. President Pierre-Karl Peladeau will smash a union or two.

BNN reports:

Montreal, home to Air Canada and Canadian National Railway Co., has seen the number of top 500 Canadian companies based in Quebec’s largest city decline to 75 in 2011 from 96 in 1990, according to the Fraser Institute, a Canadian research organization.

It would be interesting to know how many of Canada’s top 500 corporations were headquartered in Montreal in 1960. 40%? 50%? 60%?

Dark Enlightenment

For those who are curious about the places where you really should not go on the Internet, to taste the dubious fruits of seriously reactionary thought – I do not mean conservative, I mean reactionary – you can start with this rather dispassionate survey here from Vocativ, which is an interesting site in its own right.

What is the Dark Enlightenment? As the term suggests, the Dark Enlightenment is an ideological analysis of modern democracy that harshly rejects the vision of the 18th century European Enlightenment—a period punctuated by the development of empirical science, the rise of humanist values and the first outburst of revolutionary democratic reform. In contrast, the Dark Enlightenment advocates an autocratic and neo-monarchical society. Its belief system is unapologetically reactionary, almost feudal.

Having braced yourself for your encounter with stuff so far from electoral politics that it has disappeared through the event horizon, the  definition of which is surprisingly apt:

a boundary in spacetime beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer…

you may now safely observe the blogs I am about to direct you to. Start with Occam’s Razor, which is frankly anti-democratic and reactionary, and in particular to “The Dark Enlightenment/NeoReaction gets Mainstream Notice”.

There are enough links for and against for you to follow that you can waste your time productively in the murkier recesses of reaction, and hysteria about reaction.

The essential contention of the reactionaries is that there exists an established church of opinion, which is called the Cathedral, whose laws are to be obeyed.  The laws of the Cathedral are the summary of the generally anti-white, anti-Christian, and antinomian beliefs that animate contemporary political discourse. Whether you agree with the reactionaries or not, you will probably recognize that the Cathedral represents  the core beliefs of the far political Left.

I exclude from the category “far Left” people who might want more government spending, or higher taxes, or less social inequality. Many people to the left of me are in the zone of reasonable political disagreement. I am talking about the people whom I believe to be morally deranged by anti-white racism, anti-male sexism, and anti-Christianism, among other symptoms.

The Left is hysterical about the existence of political differences. It drives them bonkers that there can be difference of opinion on, say, anthropogenic global warming, and people writing in the obscure corners of the opinion environment who believe that liberal democracy is heading us all straight to hell, or keeping us locked up there, as the case may be.

I remain much more confident about the capacities of public discourse to hold back and eventually reverse the Leftist tide, than either the reactionaries doubt or the far Left fears. In this I may utterly mistaken. I am creature of the Enlightenment in many senses:  I have no use for atheism,  I remain confident that reason will prevail, and these two beliefs are not contradictory. I am also confident that representative democracy is the only one suitable for sustaining self-government. I am a conservative, rather than a leftist,  because I believe we must govern ourselves well or else we shall be governed by others, and that requires serious education of the soul. I am a liberal, rather than a reactionary, because I believe that, more often than not, we are able to govern ourselves.


Happy delving into the depths of genuine political debate. Do not forget to come up for air.


13 words that will kill municipal liberalism in US

Following is the opinion published yesterday by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes in Detroit.

Nothing distinguishes pension debt in a municipal bankruptcy case from any other debt…

City workers and their unions have carried on over the last several years as if the pension debt was sacrosanct. That delusion is over. This ruling might be overturned, but if it is upheld then it will enforce a degree of fiscal prudence that is unimaginable to the liberals.

The municipal governments cannot print money to overcome this hurdle and their ability to sell municipal bonds is limited by their credit ratings, which in turn limits pensions funds from buying bonds with such poor ratings. For the financial conservatives, instead of rejoicing, they should reflect on the fact that this is the equivalent of dancing on the grave because it will bring a lot of financial pain. For the liberals it will be yet another chance to employ their sophistry.

The wealth of networks, the hive mind, and the future of [mass] production

One of the more interesting books published  in the past ten years was that of a law professor called Yochai (pronounced Yohai) Benkler. His book was called “the Wealth of Networks”. Its contention was simple. The Internet is allowing for the return of a way of forming wealth that had all but disappeared from modern life: the free association of people contributing their time to a shared project.

Open-source software is an obvious example. A group of people devise an open standard; other people contribute continually via public discussion.   The economist asks why anyone would contribute free labour to a project.  It is obvious that when the costs of participation are low enough, people will freely contribute hours of labour to collective projects: for honour, for prestige (the same thing almost), for a sense of belonging to something important, even great. Among the many collective works shaping the world today are Wikipedia, Linux, Apache software, and a host of open-source codes.


The particular wealth-creating capacity of the Internet is not merely to facilitate trade and intellectual exchange, argues Benkler. Its genius is to allow for the conditions necessary for a group of volunteers to devise something complex and important: rather as if a group of amateurs could assemble a cathedral, a warship, or a car. In the conditions of production that prevailed until very recently, people lacked the tools of communication that would allow for mass participation, long-distance, specialized, and most important, voluntary association of a kind that would permit things to be done easily, without resort to the market or to the corporation.

Until now, the productive forces of society were organized either into markets, or corporations. Markets occur when people can trade safely, but markets have their own transaction costs. Corporations internalize a bunch of costs, so that you deal with another department of your corporation for services rather than go outside. The boundaries of the corporation are set by the relatively greater expense of dealing with outsiders rather than dealing with people in your corporation. In both cases, the transaction involves money, whether in the form of salaries for the insiders, or fees for the outsiders. Neither form of production runs on voluntary, unpaid association, whose emergence into significance is the change worth noting.

A case in point was raised in the National Post on Thursday in an excerpt from a book by Clive Thompson, “Smarter than you think”. The particular case was the  use of volunteers using their own computers to solve problems of protein folding. The biologists put out the problem for the public to solve, with the assistance of shared software and a scoring system. The project elicited the volunteers’  cooperation, and on the other, competition among them. The results were highly productive, and generated results that astounded the biologists. The same kind of shared use of computers occurs in the processing of possible signals from outer space, which involves a software download which then engages your computer’s idle time to analyze noise from radio telescopes for signs of intelligent life in the universe. Regardless of the possible futility of the idea, the SETI project is only possible because of the processing power of thousands of linked computers.

So far collective projects of this nature have involved the capacities of humans and computers to analyze signals and situations, write and improve software, and to invent processes. What if the next stage involved  the mass production of things? More accurately, what if the next step of collective creation involved the production of  complex objects and machines? What if the cost of producing tangible things, and not just computing, sank to the level at which a father and son shop in Bangladesh or Arkansas could produce a $100,000 gas turbine with only somewhat more effort than $300 bicycle?  What if “mass” production gave way to production at your local garage of complex spare parts that today need to be ordered from a factory or a warehouse?

Possibilities of this sort might suggest that  the era of the mass production factory might be coming to an end. More likely is that its preponderance would decline when every place with a bunch of lathes, a supply of electricity, and some skilled hands,  were enabled to create complex machinery to nanometer accuracy. If they can make Kalashnikov rifles in upcountry Pakistan with current pre-computer technologies, think what the same sorts of handy people could do with open source software driving their lathes.

That time is not far off. I am aware of an open-source software project, to be embedded on a chip, the price of which will be on the order of $30. Its purpose will be the control of complex operations of automated machine production. This is the missing link between higher-order software of the kind that runs our computers and machine tools. To a great extent, there has been no open-source software developed to control complex machine fabrication. It has all been proprietary, and as companies disappear with the regularity of mushrooms, the software they developed is not replaced, thereby idling huge and expensive machines for want of software to drive them. A friend of mine is leading a project whose purpose is to bring the most complex machine operations under the programmable control of users for a price that can be afforded, not just by McDonnell-Douglas, or General Electric, but by father-and-son shops in Arkansas, São Paulo, or Bangladesh.

The move to “print” solid objects is only an aspect of this development, and not the most important. Most useful tools will not be fabricated from injection moulding of plastics. Durable machines need to be made from metal. Here the trick is to get software controlled machinery to produce complex objects to nanometer accuracy, if necessary, and to do so as cheaply or more so than large factories.

Consider what is going on now: mass participation in improving software, which enables us to solve puzzles and problems, such as protein-folding, that could not be solved without mass participation. Next, inject into this picture of innovation and distributed participation the ability of very small workshops to produce useful tools and parts to the most exacting specifications, all across the world. This means that material objects might be subject to the kinds of criticism and orderly improvement, as well as the surprising innovation, that characterizes open source software, and scientific experiments conducted by computer-mediated mass participation.

Wealth creation has largely been conducted through corporations and markets, rather than by means of honour- and prestige- based cooperation. The promise of cheap, open-source software for the control of machines is  twofold: the same kind of innovation that has occurred in software can occur in the production of things and, moreover,  the participation in complex production is democratized to every place it the world with a stable supply of electricity, a few lathes, and a few pairs of hands. It raises the possibility that the driving force of open-source software will transform the productive powers of formerly backward parts of the globe, from Arkansas to rural Russia. As for the advanced portions of the world, maybe Speedy Muffler will get most of its parts for your car from workshops down the street, rather than from hundreds of miles away.

Your local machine shop may become the source of important technical innovation, just as it was at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Saint Suzuki of the Church of Gaia considers himself a failure

Failed to turn us into a North Korea, that is.

The Vancouver Observer reports:

The federal government has been vigorously spying on anti-oil sands activists and organizations in BC and across Canada since last December, documents obtained under the Access to Information Act show.  Not only is the federal government subsidizing the energy industry in underwriting their costs, but deploying public safety resources as a de-facto ‘insurance policy’ to ensure that federal strategies on proposed pipeline projects are achieved, these documents indicate.

Before the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel hearings on the proposed Enbridge oil pipeline, the NEB coordinated the gathering of intelligence on opponents to the oil sands. The groups of interest are independent advocacy organizations that oppose the Harper government’s policies and work for environmental protections and democratic rights, including Idle No More, ForestEthics, Sierra Club, EcoSociety, LeadNow, Dogwood Initiative, Council of Canadians and the People’s Summit.

Excellent! Keep up the good work. People who would send us back to the levels of prosperity (or poverty) we knew in 1913, or 1813, or what they have in North Korea, are active enemies of civilization and should be monitored.

I do not think enough people are aware that the end goal of “environmentalism” is the destruction of a free and capitalist society.

David Suzuki feels as if he has failed because the transformative leap into full-scale destruction of industrial society has not taken place yet.

MacLean’s Magazine records him saying:

“Many of the battles that we fought 30 or 35 years ago, that we celebrated as enormous successes . . . Thirty-five years later, the same damn battles have started again. That’s where I think we failed,” Suzuki says. “We fundamentally failed to use those battles to get that awareness, to shift the paradigm. And that’s been the failure of environmentalism.”

It is more accurate to say that Canadians failed to shift awareness to the ecological paradigm because they were not persuaded that returning to the energy usage of 1949, or 1919, or 1880, could be accomplished without returning to the poverty (you may call them levels of wealth) of those times.

Further, they failed to convert to the religion that says man is a noxious weed and our existence on Gaia an offence to Great Mother Earth, a religion whose logical outcome is a sincere wish to reduce human numbers by mass exterminations. Suzuki and his tribe have done their best to use the battles to shift the paradigm; the reason they have failed is not for lack of trying. People want freedom and prosperity, and they have a strong feeling that the two are linked.

Suzuki wants to reduce our freedom and our prosperity, as a necessary outcome of his doctrines. Environmentalism masks itself as a concern for clean air and water, a concern which all rational creatures share. Behind environmentalism, however, is the age-old anti-human ideology that we can return to a tribe living in harmony with nature if only we surrender our rights and freedoms to the priesthood of the ecology, who will assign us to our menial tasks, and appease Gaia with sacrifices which we must make because we have sinned against her, and the rule of ecological shamans is the propitiation of our sins. They will reduce our numbers through poverty, immiseration, and disease, probably sped along by timely mass exterminations to accelerate the cleansing of our planet from the disease of humanity.

No, Doctor Suzuki, we did not fail to understand you. We understood your doctrines all too well, and all the resources of the political left, the CBC propaganda platform, and the zillions raised from the faithful have not sufficed to turn us into self-annihilating zealots. You have every right to consider yourself a failure, thank God.


Why Obamacare failed

It failed for three simple reasons.

1. This was the biggest web startup and the business experience in the administration consisted of the following.



On top of this group is a guy who can’t even show up on time – one of the most basic requirement for a decent work ethic.



2. In 2008 we were told that Obama was running an election campaign and that was proof positive that he had executive experience. What these Obama fanboys forgot was that his experience was in a very narrow sphere, namely political knife fights. When that is all you have done all your life, then all steps you take will be in accordance with that modus operandi. That is why the following is not surprising.

It started with a slow-walk of critical Obamacare rulemaking, a key part of Plouffe’s do-no-harm election-year strategy of minimizing controversial regulatory action. “The number-one culprit was [that] they deferred rulemaking until after the election,” says Mike Leavitt, the Bush-era HHS chief whose face Bob Gates couldn’t quite place. “When they did that, it threw the entire process off. … They were issuing rules in September for implementation in October.”

In sum they were more worried about political optics than getting the job done.


3. Obama lied, or to use the NYT phrase made an “incorrect promise”, when he stated “If you like your plan, you can keep it” in one form or another, more than 34 times. The fact of the matter is that Obama is not averse to lying – yes shocking news for some. Here is a guy who was born in Hawaii and went around telling people that he was born in Kenya, because it helped the storyline.


Real social science through big data

I was sitting in a cafe last week in Wood’s Hole, Massachusetts with a senior director of oceanographic and atmospheric research. He was talking about Big Data, the process of gleaning useful information out of millions and billions of data points. The usual problem with statistics has been capturing enough samples to form credible predictions, such as “valid within 5 percentage point 19 times out of 20″. This is what happens when you have a thousand responses, if you are lucky. With ‘big data’ the issue is managing the analysis, because the number of data points is so large. Sampling errors hardly matter; indeed with bg data, you have got rid of the sample; you are analyzing the whole set of data points.

His comments about academic social science were priceless:

Up til now we have had a few social scientists in the 19th century, like Dickens and Tolstoy. Then we have had a century of academic crap in universities, so dominated by jargon and cant as to be useless. Big data promises the possibility of having real social science in the 21st century.

McKinsey has a useful piece on big data, if you are interested.

Weaker men support wealth distribution, stronger men do not

Social science is always telling you what you suspected but were afraid of thinking. From the Telegraph:

Researchers found that men’s opinions on redistribution of wealth could be predicted by their upper body strength, with powerful men more likely to take a conservative stance of protecting their own interests.

In contrast men who were just as wealthy but were of a flimsier build were less opposed to policies like those of Labour leader Ed Miliband, which would involve surrendering some of their wealth to society.

The scientists, from Aarhus University in Denmark, analysed the wealth, bicep size and views on economic redistribution of hundreds of men in America, Denmark and Argentina.

They found that wealthy men with strong arms were less likely to support economic redistribution, or the fairer sharing of wealth among society, and unsurprisingly strong men with less money supported the policy.

But among physically weaker men, the pattern was reversed. Those with plenty of money were less opposed to redistributing it, while those who were poorer were less supportive.