Barrel Strength

Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Barrel Strength - Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Only government can engineer a marihuana shortage (2)

The National Post seems to have caught up with an earlier posting of mine. I wish the economists in the Financial Post would get their heads out of their ideological asses and apply the same economic reading they give to statist intervention in markets to this new doozy invented by Health Canada, which will

  • a) transfer large  amounts of now broadly distributed wealth to a small group of privileged licencees;
  • b) illegalize the previously legal growing of dope;
  • c) expand police powers; and
  • d) put more people in jail

Nice going, Conservatives!

On human inequality

Several articles have caught my attention of late on the inherent inequality of humans.

Jim Goad Equality: Where’s the Evidence?

Fred Reed: The Unfortunately Innate Nature of Intelligence

Gregory Clark in the New York Times “Your Fate: Thank your ancestors” 

Experts are concerned that advances of scientific knowledge are giving rise to neoracism

When you try to found your political doctrines on the sand of falsity, it is not surprising that advances of scientific knowledge of the human genome are threatening the foundations of modern political orthodoxy. Political equality is a belief; it is a postulate, it is not a fact. When you hold that all people should be treated equally, you hold to a political doctrine (one which, you may interested to know, that I believe). When you assert that people are in fact equal, I do not know what you mean. I do not know what you ever could mean. I am not Beethoven, Newton, or Darwin, and neither are you.

See Human Accomplishment. As Charles Murray wrote, the contribution to science of Michael Faraday alone is greater than all of Arabic civilization’s.


A target-rich environment (2): microaggressions

I wrote recently about how feminist discourse on the Internet was being poisoned by the impossibility of saying anything that did not offend someone well-versed (usually black and lesbian) in finding aggression, homophobia, gender-fixation, able-ism and other thought crimes in the writings of some other person  -preferably white and middle class. (Tone Policing, January 31st, 2014)

Now tone policing  has come to broader public attention through the antics of the McGill University students’ association. There is even a non-ironic site called McGill micro-aggressions (I am not making this up!) where everyone’s little senses of hurt can be set out for the cosmos to see and be concerned about.

Excellent coverage of the event is given at Legal Insurrection here.

The image in question was an extension of the cultural, historical and living legacy surrounding people of color—particularly young men—being portrayed as violent in contemporary culture and media. By using this particular image of President Obama, I unknowingly perpetuated this living legacy and subsequently allowed a medium of SSMU’s communication to become the site of a microaggression; for this, I am deeply sorry.”

Of course, the last thing ever to be discussed is whether the portrayal of young black males, or African American males, as more aggressive than other races is true. That remains undiscussable. Or as Thomas Sowell said in Race and Culture (at p.227):

“History itself has become the target of a desperate attack by those for whom truth threatens devastating consequences to their visions, their egos, or their projects. A whole new class of intellectuals has arisen to supply history geared to what people currently wish to believe, rather than to record the past”.

But no one is fooled. To make an issue of the fake gif of President Obama kicking a door only shows the power of the stereotype. Yet the stereotype of the aggressive black male is founded on reality, not on someone’s unfounded racial prejudice.

The equity policy says that if someone is offended, that is the fact which has to be addressed. Reality has nothing to do with it, indeed, reality may have to be denied, because the fact of comparative differences constitutes the offence.

-I believe you are a witch. Therefore, according to the rules of the campus equity policy, you must defend yourself against the accusation of witchcraft. The burden of proof is on you.

-But there are no witches because witchcraft is scientifically impossible!

-Your assertion that witchcraft is impossible is part of the hetero-normatve, phallocentric, able-ist  white logical mindspace which is the offence!

Fortunately, the occasional eruption of this sort of shit provokes the necessary and beneficial social reaction against it.

Anyone for an explicit political purge of universities? Volunteers, anyone?

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.