Barrel Strength

Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Barrel Strength - Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Pawn to King 4

I must say I am impressed with young Mr. Trudeau. Declaring his entire Senate caucus to be independents was bold. It shows the ruthlessness, lack of excessive concern for human sentiments, cunning, and leadership we expect in our Prime Ministers. This will be a game in which the real Prime Minister, the Supreme Court, the Opposition leaders, and even Preston Manning will be playing. But for a decisive gesture, I am amused and think better of him already, in a Machiavellian sense.

Says the Globe :

Mr. Trudeau, the Liberal Leader, took Canadian politics by surprise Wednesday morning when he announced that he was expelling all Liberal senators from his Parliamentary caucus and would advocate a non-partisan process for appointing future senators that would fill the Senate with independents.

It matters not at all that the gesture is dismissed by anyone; its effect is to show the public that Trudeau can be decisive. That is all he needs to do at this stage.

Harper hits homer

The Israel trip tells the world, once again, that it has lost its moral compass.  Like calling the Durban gatherings what they are, anti-Semitic hatefests, Mr. Harper demonstrates that there are rights and there are wrongs, with a clear distinction.  And even when the press jumps on the MP who wanted to be on the shot at the Wailing Wall with the PM, the message gets through – of course the man wanted to be seen with his leader, leading. Thank you, non-Sun media, for making sure his voters saw him trying to do just that.

York is quite right, of course.

If a student’s religion compels the avoidance of women, it is not the school’s duty, or anyone else’s, to force him into situations that compromise his values or deny him the education he is paying for. It is Canadian society’s obligation to accommodate him, now and throughout his lifetime. Women clearly lose nothing by his absence, and they gain the principle that they in turn can bar men from their activities. This is the fruit of multiculturalism under the Charter. How does it taste?

Ramachandran on IQ

A Californian neuroscientst called V.S. Ramachandran has written a highly informative and entertaining book called The Tell Tale Brain. I recommend it to all who are interested in brain/mind issues. His approach is rather open-minded, for a neuroscientist, that is.

Ramachandran has a few tough words for the proponents of a single number to describe “g”, or general intelligence.

Ironically, the IQ evangelists (such as Arthur Jensen, William Shockley, Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray) use the heritability of IQ itself (sometimes called “general intelligence” or “little g”) to argue that intelligence is a single measurable trait. That would be roughly analogous to saying that general health is one thing because life span has a strong heritable component that can be expressed as a single number – age! No medical student who believed in “general health” as a monoloithic entity would get very far in medical school or be allowed to become a physician – and rightly so – and yet whole careers in psychology and political movements have beenbuilt on the equally absurd belief in a single measurable general intelligence. Their contributions have little more than shock value. (page 171)

To which I say, not so fast, Dr. Ramachandran. What you think is plausible is actually piffle.

  • the various diseases of the body are not even roughly analogous to the ability or abilities of the mind to engage in thought;
  • we use statistical aggregates all the time as a stand-in for measuring ongoing phenomena (temperature, gross domestic product, mortality figures).
  • You do not have to understand how cars work to understand the significance of their cost and their longevity. Likewise with intelligence testing.

More to the point, intelligence testers and neuroscientists are engaged in entirely different pursuits. The intelligence testers  are concerned with outcomes, neuroscientists with causes.

Let Murray and Herrnstein speak for themselves. From The Bell Curve at pages 22-23:

  1. there is such a thing as a general factor of cognitive ability on which human beings differ.
  2. All standardized tests of academic aptitude and achievement ,easure this general factor to some degree, but IQ tests expressly designed for that purpose measure it most accurately.
  3. IQ scores match, to a first degree, whatever it is that people mean when they use the word intelligent or smart in ordinary language.
  4. IQ scores are stable, although not perfectly so, over much of a person’s life.
  5. Properly administered IQ tests are not demonstrably biased against social, economic, ethnic or racial groups.
  6. Cognitive ability is substantially heritable, apparently no less than 40 percent and no more than 80 percent.

 Or let us hear from Geoffrey Miller, who describes himself as a left-wing secular humanist Jew, and who has written The Mating Mind and Spent: Sex, Evolution and Mating Behavior. From page 186 of Spent:

General intelligence (a.k.a. IQ, general cognitive ability, the g factor) is a way of quantifying intelligence’s variability among people. It is the best established, most predictive, most heritable mental trait ever discovered in psychology….Intelligence predicts objective performance and learning ability across all important life domains that show reliable individual differences.

 The irony about general intelligence is that ordinary folks of average intelligence recognize its variance across people, its generality across domains, and its importance in life. Yet educated elites meanwhile often remain implacable opposed to the very concept of general intelligence, and deny its variance, generality and importance. Professors and students at elite universities are especially prone to this pseudohumility….

Similarly, general intelligence is not a mental organ, but a latent variable that emerges when one analyzes functional efficiencies of many different mental organs(such as memory, language ability, social perceptiveness, speed at learning practical skills, and musical aptitude.)

 Intelligence (says Prof. Miller at page 189 of Spent) is positively correlated to:

  • brain size
  • speed of performing basic sensory motor tasks (“reaction time is a factor”, as the cop said in Blade Runner)
  • height
  • symmetry of face and body
  • semen quality (!)
  • health, physical and mental
  • longevity
  • sexual attractiveness for long term relationships

Intelligence: the gift that keeps on giving. If you want to see what life is like when you lack the necessary minimum, go live in Detroit.

The Baltics and Riga, 2013

I arrived in Riga Latvia on Sunday April the 14th, some days before my conference. Riga has an Old Town that has had to be very extensively recreated after World War 2. I wandered happily throughout it for a couple of days. Riga is an old German town, part of the Hanseatic League, which was a kind of trade treaty organization of the Middle Ages. By old I mean that the cathedral there went Lutheran from early in the Reformation.


Many of you will have been to Amsterdam, so I would like you to imagine Amsterdam, and then do the following: remove the druggies, the red light district, the dirt in the streets, the Muslims, and the touristic riff-raff, then improve the architecture, clean the buildings, increase the politeness, provide totally awesome busker bands, and then you have Riga. You still have choral concerts, great beer and food, perfectly good shopping (from what I could see) and splendid architecture: everything you liked about European cities, without the dirt, the menace, and the Bangladeshis selling trinkets.

Consequently it was with a high degree of happiness and interest that I was able to walk about for a couple of days in the brisk April air, looking up at late nineteenth century statuary of posh hotels, or the rebuilt trade halls of the medieval times. Outside the Old Town was a layer of 19th century apartment buildings in the Parisian style, where tramcars ran, and more smart shopping was available. The city had the air of a place that had been eminently prosperous until World War 1, to which it had now mostly returned. Upscale fashion magazines in Russian and Latvian advertised bathroom and kitchen makeovers, the world’s obsession for those with a spare $30,000.

What a dreadful century for the Baltics! The Communist revolution of 1917 in neighbouring Russia was a disaster, the take-over of the country by Stalin in 1938 led to the usual mass deportations and executions of the social core of the citizenry – the ten percent who make a society run, the Second World War brought the Nazis into power, who slaughtered a different set of people, and then the Soviet reconquest slaughtered even more people. (Read Bloodlands for all the appalling details.) How they have managed to restore and recreate their town since the fall of Communism demonstrates the underlying strength and intelligence of the Latvian people. Some people seem to come out on top of cataclysmic disasters.

I did not think about it at the time but it strikes me now that Riga was one of the whitest European cities I have ever been in. There were no recent Arab or African immigrants, as you can find in Oslo, or Stockholm, or almost anywhere in western Europe these days. Ethnic Latvians still drive taxis. The clash of civilizations is not to be found around the corner or down in the subway. It is as safe as Tokyo. The largest risk is running into drunk Norwegians, and by drunk I mean Scandinavian levels of drunk.

The busking was tremendous. A six piece brass band performed on one corner, and another a few blocks away. At a bar there was a Buddy Holly type of singer doing the most authentic reproductions of American rock and roll from the period 1955-1962.On my first day there, I was standing at an enormous war memorial outside of the Old Town when I felt the urge to phone my friend Fred  in California, whose mother had been Latvian. I told him where I was standing, and he said “So you can see the MacDonald’s!” (tastefully discreet in an old building at the edge of Old Town). Fred had been there to settle his mother’s property, which the Latvian government had returned to her. I was wondering how he had kept the secret of what a great place the city is. The parents of another friend Alex the Bear also came from Latvia. In the course of the year I had occasion to deal with Moses Znaimer, the television entrepreneur, and found that his parents had come from there, too. Small world. Talent will flee to where it is free.

[This letter has not been sponsored by the Latvian Tourist Authority].

When you compare what has happened to Latvians in this century, and the Poles, Finns, Estonians, White Russians, Ukrainians and Lithuanians,  to what has happened to our French Canadian compatriots in the previous three centuries, you are forced inevitably to conclude that the eastern Europeans have a real cause of grievance, which they have overcome, and our compatriots have had none whatsoever.

The Hamper Harper Campaign

If this current campaign to weaken Mr. Harper’s leadership had the least chance of success, I would denounce it as irresponsible mischief on the part of those who, as journalists, seek copy or, as politicians, seek power. The greatest defect of the current system, in their opinion, is the fact that it has put Mr. Harper at the head of affairs in consecutive elections and promises to do so again. (That said, everything I hear privately about Mr. Harper’s management style reminds me of Nabokov’s Paduk. Fine. As long as Mr. Harper’s compass and mine point in the same direction, I do not care. He commands volunteers who may seek other employment any time they choose.)

I want to get to Burning Man

I want to get to Burning Man.

These people are doing some kind of  cultural festival, a Stonehenge which is disassembled every year, and every year re-created. The expansion of human possibilities in the Burning Man festival is so much more important to the future of society than Obamacare, expense scandals, and politics in general.

burning man


black rock city overhead


burning wolf

And I do not care whether Kathy Shaidle or any other sound conservative disapproves.

Not just another global warming skeptic

Dr. Tim Ball in Wattsupwiththat:

Elaine Dewar spent several days with Maurice Strong at the UN and concluded in her book The Cloak of Green that, Strong was using the U.N. as a platform to sell a global environment crisis and the Global Governance Agenda. Strong conjectured about a small group of world leaders who decided the rich countries were the principal risk to the world. These countries refused to reduce their environmental impact. The leaders decided the only hope for the planet was for collapse of the industrialized nations and it was their responsibility to bring that about. Strong knew what to do. Create a false problem with false science and use bureaucrats to bypass politicians to close industry down and make developed countries pay.

Compare the industrialized nation to an internal combustion engine running on fossil fuel. You can stop the engine in two ways; cut off the fuel supply or plug the exhaust. Cutting off fuel supply is a political minefield. People quickly notice as all prices, especially food, increase. It’s easier to show the exhaust is causing irreparable environmental damage. This is why CO2 became the exclusive focus of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Process and method were orchestrated to single out CO2 and show it was causing runaway global warming.

This is the first time I have seen laid out clear what I had always suspected. The article asserts  that the great anthropogenic global warming scare is the conscious creation of the  leading elements of the  political Left, and  not as some naive anti-capitalist sentiment, but as a high-level conspiracy involving Maurice Strong and others, to destroy capitalism. It has been brilliantly successful so far. It has every ignorant person in the “educated” world seeing every natural phenomenon as the result of man’s dreadful sin of burning fossil fuels. It has us shutting down nuclear plants, raising the prices of energy, engaging in futile solar and wind energy projects, simultaneously wrecking the countryside, wasting billions, and creating a crony capitalist “green energy” lobby that will seek to defraud us of billions more.

The article by Dr. Tim Ball goes into the many ways in which the IPCC has systematically lied to us about the agenda they are on, the data they have misrepresented or suppressed, and the truths they do not want to be more broadly known.

The article concludes:

The IPCC deception was premeditated under Maurice Strong’s guidance to prove CO2 was causing global warming as pretext for shutting down industrialized nations. They partially achieved their goal as alternate energies and green job economies attest. All this occurred as contradictory evidence mounts because Nature refused to play. CO2 increases as temperatures decline, which according to IPCC science cannot happen. Politicians must deal with facts and abandon all policies based on claims that CO2 is a problem, especially those already causing damage.

Tim Ball’s website is found here, and is worth your time.