Barrel Strength

Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Craft Whisky

Now that every young hip urban metrosexual is drinking “craft beer” made by a “hobbyist” with distinctly anti-Trump views in a “microbrewery”, you don’t have to be left behind if you are older and wiser. Beckon the rise of “craft whisky”! In particular, Balcones from Texas.

After a tumultuous two years between the founders and the money, their new operation in Waco is up to speed producing great whisky and a bourbon with Texas corn. The old single malt that won all the awards, is what is being shipped now and it was made under the railroad trestle at the old location. The new production, in their historic warehouse property, will start shipping sometime in the summer.

800-year financial perspective

The linked article, “Venetians, Volcker and Value-at-Risk: 8 centuries of bond market reversals” by Paul Schmelzing, a financial historian atHarvard University, delves into the esoteric details of the fixed income market but some stated facts are relevant for general discussion.

Paul Schmelzing, Harvard UniversityThe economist Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk once opined that “the cultural level of a nation is mirrored by its interest rate: the higher a people’s intelligence and moral strength, the lower the rate of interest”. But as rates reached their lowest level ever in 2016, investors rather worried about the “biggest bond market bubble in history” coming to a violent end. The sharp sell-off in global bonds following the US election seems to confirm their fears. Looking back over eight centuries of data, I find that the 2016 bull market was indeed one of the largest ever recorded. History suggests this reversal will be driven by inflation fundamentals, and leave investors worse off than the 1994 “bond massacre”.

Chart 1: The Global risk free rate since 1285

Chart 2: Length and size of bull markets since 1285

As chart 2 shows, over 800 years only two previous episodes – the rally at the height of Venetian commercial dominance in the 15th century, and the century following the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis  in 1559 – recorded longer continued risk-free rate compressions. The same is true if we measure the period by average decline in yields per annum, from peak to trough. With 33 bps, only the rallies following the War of the Spanish Succession, and the election of Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor surpass the bond performance since Paul Volcker’s “war on inflation”.

The article goes on to conclude, “On balance, then, more than to a 1994-style meltdown, fixed income assets seem about to be confronted with dynamics similar to the second half of the 1960s, coupled with complications of a 2003-style curve steepening. By historical standards, this implies sustained double-digit losses on bond holdings, subpar growth in developed markets, and balance sheet risks for banking systems with a large home bias.”

“Republicans to gut ethics office”, flavour added

Once again BBC hyperventilates about the misdeeds of Republicans and informs us of the following.

Republicans have ditched a plan to gut the independent body that investigates political misconduct after a backlash.

The lawmakers’ surprise vote to strip the Office of Congressional Ethics of its independence prompted public uproar and a dressing down from Donald Trump…

The secretive move, which overshadowed the first day of the 115th Congress, was reversed in an emergency meeting.

Perhaps some background material is in order to put this in perspective.

Jun 10, 2010 (recall that during this period Democrats controlled the House and the Senate). Liberal publication Politico informs us of the following:

Lawmakers seek to gut ethics office

The Office of Congressional Ethics, a powerful symbol of Democrats’ promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington, is in danger of having its power stripped after the midterm elections.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have led the charge, airing complaints about the aggressive, independent panel in a private session with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month, and they’ve drafted a resolution that, if approved, would severely curtail the panel’s power.

Jan 2, 2017. Liberal publication WaPo informs us of the following:

The 119-to-74 vote during a GOP conference meeting means that the House rules package expected to be adopted Tuesday, the first day of the 115th Congress, would rename the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) as the Office of Congressional Complaint Review and place it under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee.

Under the proposed new rules, the office could not employ a spokesman, investigate anonymous tips or refer criminal wrongdoing to prosecutors without the express consent of the Ethics Committee, which would gain the power to summarily end any OCE probe.

The OCE was created in 2008 to address concerns that the Ethics Committee had been too timid in pursuing allegations of wrongdoing by House members. Under the current House ethics regime, the OCE is empowered to release a public report of its findings even if the Ethics Committee chooses not to take further action against a member.

The move to place the OCE under the Ethics Committee’s aegis stands to please many lawmakers who have been wary of having their dirty laundry aired by the independent entity, but some Republicans feared that rolling back a high-profile ethical reform would send a negative message as the GOP assumes unified control in Washington.

A bit of a different perspective than BBC, don’t you think? On top of that, this perspective is from liberal publications, which highlights how out of touch BBC has become.

EU, light at the end of the tunnel?

 Jan 7, 2017, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel:

Germany’s insistence on austerity in the euro zone has left Europe more divided than ever and a break-up of the European Union is no longer inconceivable, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told Der Spiegel magazine. (emphasis added)

Gabriel, whose Social Democrats (SPD) are junior partner to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in her ruling grand coalition, said strenuous efforts by countries like France and Italy to reduce their fiscal deficits came with political risks.

“I once asked the chancellor, what would be more costly for Germany: for France to be allowed to have half a percentage point more deficit, or for Marine Le Pen to become president?” he said, referring to the leader of the far-right National Front.

“Until today, she still owes me an answer,” added Gabriel…..

Is that because Merkel has suddenly realized that there are greater threats elsewhere?

Dec 31, 2016:, German Chancellor Angela Merkel:

Islamist terrorism is the biggest challenge facing Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said in her New Year message.

That’s Queer!

We’re all used to the lapdog media portraying any gay or lesbian as some lefty, pinko or Democrat (but I repeat myself) weirdo, leading us to believe that the entire LGBTQ community is simply an appendage of the political class and the university and college soviets that control all thought.

Well, surprise, surprise, LGBTQ Nation ran a poll recently for 2016 Person of the Year and guess who won? Not some oily Democrat apparatchik or some clammy-handed pajama boy selling Obamacare, but, none other than MILO (formerly Milo Yiannopoulos), senior Breitbart editor and Internet Super Villain famed for his fanatical support for Donald “Daddy” Trump (who will make America FABULOUS Again!) and the “Dangerous Faggot Tour” of American Re-Education camps formerly known as universities. He pulled in 70% of all the votes.

Even more surprising was the runner-up with 20% of the votes—none other than conservative Republican Vice President-Elect Mike Pence! No-one else came close. Go figure. Next time some pinko tries to tell you that the LGBTQ community is so prog, point them to this.
Rebel Yell

Michael Lewis: The Undoing Project

 

Michael Lewis is the author of books on Wall Street: Flash Boys, The Big Short,  and Moneyball. He recently published The Undoing Project: a friendship that changed our minds. The book recounts the extremely productive intellectual relationship between two Israeli psychologists, Amos Tverski, and Daniel Kanneman.

The essence of the Tverski/Kanneman approach was to look at the way the human mind has characteristic ways of miscalculating probabilities, such as risks, chances and expected outcomes.

When I first read Daniel Kanneman’s Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow, I confess that I was irked, and that in some sense I thought the author was just being a smart-ass. I gather from reading Micheal Lewis that my reaction is quite common,  because the results are so devastating to one’s belief that, more or less, we humans get it right. We do, and we do not. Kanneman and Tverski show how we do not correctly appreciate risks,  in quite exact and well described ways. By so doing they launched a direct attack, via statistical results from psychology, on the notion of the economically rational man. More than this, their thinking about our error-pronedness  has had an effect on how hospitals treat  patients, even so far as why cell phone use while driving has been banned, and why governments now enroll you automatically for benefits rather than expect you to tick a box to express your assent.

Oban once remarked that “economics was a peculiarly anorexic discipline”, because of the extreme narrowness of assumptions about human behaviour and the excessive mathematization of the issues with which it deals. The mathematization allows for precision, but the assumptions that allow the mathematical approach drastically limit the range of thequestions that may be asked. Nowadays the works of Tversky/Kanneman are among the most cited works in economics papers.

The Lewis book examines the remarkable collaboration between two utterly different psychological types as represented in Kanneman and Tversky. It also covers the effects of their thinking on other domains. I recommend it highly.

For a more complete discussion of the Tversky/Kanneman approach to thinking, you will well served by Kanneman’s Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow.

 

 

 

 

 

George Soros analyzes the world situation, and fails the test

 

 

George Soros has published a state of the world letter at Project Syndicate, which I recommend you read. His analysis shares several important features with Donald Trump’s, and gives insight into a man who otherwise consistently misapprehends what is the real threat to an open society, of the type to which every reader of this blog is committed, I can say without fear of contradiction.

First he shares the concerns of Karl Popper for the preservation of what Popper called “the open society”, the kind we live in, and the defence of same against closed societies, such as Russia, and other tribal or mafia states.

Second, he adverts to the liberalization of the flows of capital after the fall of Communism in 1989.

The major development since then has been the globalization of financial markets, spearheaded by advocates who argued that globalization increases total wealth. After all, if the winners compensated the losers, they would still have something left over.

As with Trump, Soros feels that the losers were not compensated adequately, a point they share in common. Soros continues:

 

Because financial capital is an indispensable ingredient of economic development, and few countries in the developing world could generate enough capital on their own, globalization spread like wildfire. Financial capital could move around freely and avoid taxation and regulation.

Soros should know whereof he speaks.

Globalization has had far-reaching economic and political consequences. It has brought about some economic convergence between poor and rich countries; but it increased inequality within both poor and rich countries. In the developed world, the benefits accrued mainly to large owners of financial capital, who constitute less than 1% of the population. The lack of redistributive policies is the main source of the dissatisfaction that democracy’s opponents have exploited.

In particular, Soros observes that the European Union has stopped being a relationship among peers and has become an arrangement between creditor and debtor countries. Institutional rigidity in the treaty uniting Europe, and the inability to fix what is wrong with the Maastricht Treaty, have compounded the trouble.

So far so good. Globalization has been bad for certain groups, and the European Union is dysfunctional. At this point Soros steps off the mesa and starts walking on air, à la Wiley Coyote. Enter the archvillain Vladimir Putin.

“At first, he [Putin] tried to control social media. Then, in a brilliant move, he exploited social media companies’ business model to spread misinformation and fake news, disorienting electorates and destabilizing democracies. That is how he helped Trump get elected.”

“With economic growth lagging and the refugee crisis out of control, the EU is on the verge of breakdown and is set to undergo an experience similar to that of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Those who believe that the EU needs to be saved in order to be reinvented must do whatever they can to bring about a better outcome.”

With the exception of his demonization of Putin, I am not sure there is much to distinguish his views of what is going on in Europe and the world from those of Trump or Nigel Farage. So why the hostility to both from Soros?

What I find ludicrous in all the ravings of the anti-Trumpists, is their total and complete misperception of Trump, who is the least right-wing, least ideological, least establishmentarian, most centrist, most pragmatic Republican  President since Eisenhower. The guy is a positive leftie compared to Hillary, in terms of economic intervention. He only appears “conservative” because he does not give a damn for political correctness. This in turn shows how far leftism has strayed from an economic agenda of wealth redistribution to a values agenda of redistribution of victimhood.

The political positions which anti-Trumpists take in consequence, of supporting the arch-globalizer Hillary Rodham Clinton, against the conclusions of their own analysis, is incomprehensible.

Yet there is some element of Jewish political hysteria  at play here in Soros and other neo-conservatives. Those who are always sniffing for Nazis are quick to perceive it in any popular movement of ordinary people to reject the terms of governance laid down by the political classes. Thus Soros can talk of a refugee crisis but not of an Islamic invasion crisis. Soros can observe the destruction of faith in the European Union but is reluctant to see any merit in those who oppose its plans for further integration into the politically irresponsible morass of the European pan-state.

I cite David Goldman, who channels Spengler, in his latest analysis of the mess that Jewish neo-conservatives have got themselves into by opposing Trump. It is relevant to the claims about Jewish political hysteria that I made above.

Goldman cites Irving Kristol:

“Jews to this day continue to combine an almost pathologically intense concern for politics with a seemingly equally intense inclination toward political foolishness, often crossing over into the realm of the politically suicidal,” wrote the late Irving Kristol, the original neoconservative. His son Bill Kristol proved the Jewish proclivity for political hara-kiri remains undiminished in his generation by doing everything he could to prevent the election of Donald Trump—along with such high-profile Jewish conservatives as pundit Charles Krauthammer and Commentary  Editor John Podhoretz.

I find that Soros, Krauthammer, Kristol , Podhoretz and others, though different in their politics, are alike in being highly intelligent and completely unable to understand the Trump phenomenon. Indeed, they are barking up the wrong tree. They are not alone in their folly, as many a goyish Democrat will  attest, but when all you have is the hammer of anti-Nazidom, everyone is suspected to be Nazi nail. It is time to stop looking for Hitler in every goy.

_____________________

If there were any further evidence needed that the enemies of the Jews are now on the left, look at the lead article in the National Post today. Alan Dershowitz now realizes that Obama has betrayed the Jews. A little late, don’t you think, Alan? This is why every ignorant 18 year old will trust an experienced  sergeant to lead them in battle in preference to an officer whose only military education has been to read books. And this is why the  cunning of Trump has been preferred to the vapidity of his former rival, Hillary Clinton.

____________________________________

And for a devastating critique of Soros, who is blamed for the destruction of the Democratic Party, read this from Daniel Greenfield:

Trump’s victory, like Brexit, came because the left had left the white working class behind. Its vision of the future as glamorous multicultural city states was overturned in a single night. The idea that Soros had committed so much power and wealth to was of a struggle between populist nationalists and responsible internationalists. But, in a great irony, Bush was hardly the nationalist that Soros believed. Instead Soros spent a great deal of time and wealth to unintentionally elect a populist nationalist.

Leftists used Soros money to focus on their own identity politics obsessions leaving the Dems with little ability to interact with white working class voters. The Ivy and urban leftists who made up the core of the left had come to exist in a narrow world with little room for anything and anyone else.

Soros turned over the Democrats to political fanatics least likely to be able to recognize their own errors. His protégés repeated the great self-destruction of the Soviet Union on a more limited scale….

George Soros spent a fortune to turn a national party favorable to the left into an organization that has difficulty appealing to anyone not on the left. He wanted to control a country he did not understand. And, as the left so often does, he achieved his goals and in doing so destroyed them.

 

Barrelstrength year-end exchange over data, Hillary and Trump

In which the contributors to BS and friends of the contributors discuss data analytics

Dramatis Personae:

Arran Gold, numbers guy; Rebel Yell, chief scientist; Duke of Toronto, financial doomist; Dalwhinnie, Tory squire and Avatar of Enlightenment.

Arran Gold started it by sending the following article to the BS list. It went as follows:

https://www.nationaljournal.com/s/646194?unlock=O0PSAHTAHF7G58Y1

How Analytical Models Failed Clinton

Her campaign was so confident in its data that it opted not to do tracking polls in states that decided the election.

The Novem­ber elec­tions pit­ted Demo­crats against Re­pub­lic­ans, con­ser­vat­ives against lib­er­als, Trump-style pop­u­lists and tea parti­ers against the es­tab­lish­ment and con­ven­tion­al politi­cians. An­oth­er con­test, fol­lowed mainly by polit­ic­al afi­cion­ados, matched tra­di­tion­al poll­sters against newly fash­ion­able ana­lyt­ics wiz­ards, some of whom—pre­ten­tiously in my opin­ion—called them­selves “data sci­ent­ists.”

It was well known that tra­di­tion­al polling was hav­ing prob­lems. The numb­ing ef­fect of bil­lions of tele­market­ing calls and the ad­vent of caller ID and voice mail had re­duced re­sponse rates (the per­cent­age of com­pleted in­ter­views for every hun­dred at­tempts) from the 40s a couple of dec­ades ago to the high single di­gits. As they struggled to get truly rep­res­ent­at­ive samples, poll­sters “weighted” their data more than ever be­fore, mak­ing as­sump­tions of what the elect­or­ate would look like on elec­tion days that were weeks, months, or even a year or more away.

You can read the rest of the article at the hyperlink. It offered a view of  the election what was beside the point, as if any improved techniques could have saved Hillary.

 

Dalwhinnie responded:

 

I am sure Rebel Yell and his statistician William Briggs will have something to say about this. For my part, the bias of this report is that better numbers could have told Clinton something and would have helped her make better decisions about ad-buys.

No. This election was not won or lost on polls directing ad-buys.

In an important  sense, this article doesn’t “get it”. Clinton lost because pride went before a fall, because Democratic votes are excessively concentrated in urban areas , and enough people voted in the right states in the right proportions for Trump to win, and that was because they had someone to believe in.

This is just more shouting at the bar.

Arran Gold responded in his characteristically polite way:

She never went to Wisconsin. The best explanation I have seen is that Putin put a cloaking device on that state so her campaign never saw it. She did go to Arizona and there was even talk of her taking Texas. That is just dumb.

That article was written by Charlie Cook of Cook Political Report who is non-partisan so there is no “get it” because his job is to analyze political campaigns. Is HRC a born loser, yes, but what should she have done differently? That is the question Cook is addressing.

AG

He added:

Here is another example of Clinton’s approach being wrong.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hillary-clintons-vaunted-gotv-operation-may-have-turned-out-trump-voters_us_582533b1e4b060adb56ddc27

Hillary Clinton’s Vaunted GOTV [ get out the vote ] Operation May Have Turned Out Trump Voters
A focus on big data over people may have backfired.

=====================================

Clinton-was-gonna-lose-anyways doesn’t address the question on how to improve on a data driven campaign strategy next time around.

AG

Rebel Yell then interposed:

Basically, the Clinton campaign believed their own bullshit about the voters.  And Trump. Big mistake.
Never assume away the capabilities of the enemy. The Clinton campaign outspent, out-organized and out-everything else the Trump campaign, but they still lost because it wasn’t about that.  It was about motivated voters getting to polls and doing it big time for Trump. If you get 30,000 people to rallies all over the country and have another 10,000 lined up waiting to get in, then that should tell you something.
As far as the polls go, the decline and fall of supposed whizz-kid Nate Silver should be a lesson to all.  He was totally wrong about Trump right up to election day and into the evening. Professor Briggs, Scott Adams and Don Surber (new book: Trump the Press) were on to Trump a year before anyone else was taking him seriously, not really because of stats, but just because they were listening to what Trump was saying and how the voters were reacting to him.
Always, the limits of error and polling sample size are never mentioned in all this.  Once you do that, you can see how absurdly small are the sample sizes (and where they come from) and large are the error bars.  Put those together and anyone can win.
Then, look at the size of the Trump rallies….the enthusiasm. I mean, haven’t these clowns watched Triumph of the Will?
It was a truly major disaster for the pollsters. Another one of many. They fell for the latest fad—in this case, Big Data.
Also, it’s not that she didn’t “get the message across” or anything like that.  The voters DIDN’T LIKE THE MESSAGE!  They got it all right. That’s why they voted for Trump.
Rebel Yell
He then added:

Of course their approach was wrong, but it was little to do with data.  Look, a chunk of the electorate is going to vote Republican, whatever, and a chunk Democrat, whatever.

If I’m a floating voter who may vote Clinton, or may vote Trump, you want my vote.  If you call me and my buddies ignorant, racist, xenophobic, prejudiced whatevers, because we’re thinking of voting for Trump, do you really think that I would consider voting for you?  Is that the approach that is going to attract voters? Big Data has nothing to do with it; it’s just common sense when you consider the attitude of the Democrat toady media and the progressive left.
The Clinton campaign, despite its obsession with hi-tech stuff, was the stupidest campaign I’ve seen in a long time.  And BTW, the Remainiacs in the UK did the same thing during the EU Referendum vote.  Look where that got them.
If you are running a candidate who is a lying, crooked, plastic robot who tries to do human imitations, at least try to make her seem human.  The overweening, oceanic sense of entitlement that oozed from her every pore was enough to make a maggot gag, but the campaign did everything to impress that on the voters.  Trump’s bloviating, brash approach was a big feature, not a bug, in his system.  He talked like ordinary people.  That’s how he got to them.  Scott Adams was on to this from day one.  And all his predictions turned out to be correct.  All of them.  No Big Data required.
The Duke of Toronto then bestirred himself from the sofa to write:
Well Ranted Rebel Yell
Stupid is a Stupid does…..they were sold a Bill of Goods for delivery of election results (based on using an untested process I should mention)  by some pencil necked geeks with higher maths and not much else. Occam’s razor applies in explaining the event  as your last mail underlines.
Arran Gold then found the piece of data that tells the important story. It appears that people who liked neither candidate voted for Trump by considerable margins.

http://www.edisonresearch.com/hidden-group-won-election-trump-exit-poll-analysis-edison-research/

The Hidden Group that Won the Election for Trump: Exit Poll Analysis from Edison Research

By: Larry Rosin “I don’t think there’s ever been two more unlikeable candidates,’ said Michael Che during the Weekend Update sketch on Saturday Night Live this week.  “Not one time in this election have I heard anyone say: ‘You know what? I like them both.'” The data from the Exit Polls conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool show Mr. Che to be correct – an extremely small portion of the voting public (only 2%) told our exit pollsters they had a favorable view of both.  While most voters did have a favorable view of one of the two major candidates – an astonishing 18% of the electorate told us they had an unfavorable opinion of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  And this is the group that won the election for Trump. …..

The story gets even more pronounced when we look at the states that swung the election to Trump.  In each of the cases in the table below, the votes gained by people who said: “I don’t like Trump but I’m going to vote for him anyhow” is greater than his total margin in these states.  In other words – it was the “Neithers” who pushed Trump over the top in these states and ultimately won him the election.

State % “Neithers” Trump Clinton
Wisconsin 22% 60% 23%
Pennsylvania 17% 56% 31%
Michigan 20% 50% 29%
Florida 14% 61% 24%
North Carolina 15% 63% 28%

The “Neithers” are more likely to be men (61%) and are more likely to be age 30-44 than in the younger or older age groups.  They are 78% white, as compared to the total electorate which is 70%. One of the most intriguing aspects of the “Neithers” is that a significant portion of those who were unfavorable to both Clinton and Trump were favorable to President Obama.  Nearly half of those who didn’t like either of this year’s two major candidates do have a favorable impression of President Obama – and a significant portion of this group voted for Trump. The 2016 election was unique in so many ways.  One distinguishing characteristic is just how many people had an unfavorable impression of both of the major party candidates.  To be sure, some of these people decided not to vote for either – Gary Johnson and Jill Stein combined for 18% of the vote among the “Neithers.”  However in the end, far more people who liked neither candidate chose Donald Trump and that provided him with his margin of victory in the battleground states.

The last mentioned article is both persuasive and relevant. It asked the right questions, and gets the right answers.  I particularly like the fact that many of the Trump votes liked Obama. The same nation elected them both.

 

 

1789, 1917, 1848, 1989, 2016?

The Political Year 2016

Dear Friends:

 

1066, 1789, 1939, 1848, 1968, 1989: all years that evoke ideas of revolution, war and discontinuous change. The question I ask is whether 2016 will be one of those years. I do not know yet. In many years of writing my Christmas letter, I cannot recall a year in which it occurred to me that this was one of those times. I cannot recall writing a Christmas letter as far back as 1989-1990 when Russian communism collapsed, as a Marxist would say, from its internal contradictions.

When Soviet Communism collapsed, something we had expected to be fixed and immutable disappeared. After all, we had been told for ages by the likes of Gwynne Dyer and others that it was a permanent part of the life of mankind and we had better get used to it. Several years were needed to adapt to its disappearance. It was like leaning against a wind when the wind stops and the sun comes out. The Russian state reverted to autocracy, but without illusions that its form of society and economy represented the inevitable outcome of objectively determinable historical forces, to which other countries would sooner or later submit.

I expect something of the same nature is underway in the West 26 years later. I cannot be sure, but I think the electorate is revolting against what they have been told by every organ of proper opinion that they must believe. In other words, what happened first in Eastern Europe in 1989 is proceeding westward through Western Europe and has arrived in North America.

Throughout the past summer I have heard apparently sane and well educated Americans go completely nuts on the subject of the Donald. There is no need to dwell upon that here. I hold in my wallet a Canadian $100 bill, earned in a bet just before Christmas, 2015, that Trump would beat Hillary. I felt sure of it at the time. The onslaught of negative press, the smear campaign throughout the year, made me doubt he could win. I ought to have had more faith in the American people, perhaps, but the same people who elected Trump had elected Obama twice.

 

If I am right, something is happening in the public mood. We shall be slower to see it in Canada because we have more reason to be satisfied with our system of government. Nevertheless, 2016 may signal a change in public mood. If 1968 marked the beginning of this period, the outbreak of the baby boomer post-World-War-2 revolt, this one may be in the reverse direction, away from permissiveness and towards a tightening up of the naively hopeful assumptions that guided us for the past fifty years.

 

Let us start with climate alarmism.

I will suggest for your consideration that, despite numerous fundamental differences, Marxism has been replaced by climate alarmism, as the dominating impulse of the political left. In turn, climate alarmism is the idea driving the people who are most upset with the world and who believe that action must be taken to save the planet from human depredations.  Ecological concerns provide a legitimacy to the political engineering of social and economic outcomes. Appearing to care for the environment, “climate change” and “global warming” endow our politicians with the belief that they are saving the planet even as they hobble the economy with high energy costs. They do this by making renewable resources (e.g.windmills) artificially price-competitive with fossil fuels, and by energy taxes, which raise the costs of production throughout the value-chain. Climate alarmism provides a ready basis of electoral strength for those who espouse these ideas, so that a politician can wreck the economy and still get elected. Witness Ontario or Germany under Angela Merkel.

 

The global warming scare is founded on a scientific idea, which is to say, something capable of being proven wrong. If it could not be proven wrong it would not be science. It would be a religion. The theory is that humans are loading the atmosphere with carbon dioxide (CO2), and that the CO2 will raise global temperatures by many degrees and thereby cause disastrous climate changes, such as desertification, sea level rises, and excessively rapid changes to the living spaces of wildlife. Cause leading to effect.

The first part of the global warming thesis is absolutely correct. Since World War 2 we have increased the amount of atmospheric CO2 to over 400 parts per million. It is the deductions from that observed fact which is almost wholly unwarranted: uncontrolled and large increases of global temperature.

 

Have the predicted increases of global temperature taken place? No. The observed ranges of global warming are less by several degrees centigrade than the most conservative estimates of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC’s estimates are based on computer models, and as we all know, models are based on inputs and assumptions. Do you think the model-builders might be biased? That they might have an ideological and career interest in having their theories confirmed by facts? And in hiding the tiresome gap between what their models have predicted and the sorry fact that global temperatures are not rising faster than they have in times past, from natural causes?

 

Vast amounts of money by governments have been spent to “prove” that man’s activities (burning fossil fuels)  are the exclusive cause of global warming, and that this tendency is extremely dangerous. You cannot read a newspaper today without reading about some catastrophe that we are causing through our burning fossil fuels.

The amount of government money being spent on research to prove these notions is in the billions, with governments firmly pressing their thumbs down on one side of the balance.

 

Worse, the discussion has been embittered by the fact that one side feels it is saving the earth, and the other thinks “hey wait a minute, I am less persuaded”. One side believes it cannot be wrong, and the other has no such passionate conviction. One side is promulgating religious belief, and the other is gingerly attempting to do science. As has been shown by the release of the Climategate emails a few years back, significant hiding and fudging of the data has taken place. Where is the missing heat? If the AGW theory is correct there is a lot of missing heat. If the theory is wrong there is nothing to explain, since the heat was never captured in the first place

 

As with religion, when one side cannot be wrong, deviation, no matter how small, is no longer error, but heresy. It is not enough to claim there is some global warming – which is true – it is required that you believe that we humans alone are causing it and that unless drastic abatement of our energy use takes place, we are doomed. This is religion, with Gaia in the place of God, and as scientific idea, it is complete rubbish. As a religious idea it has its merits, but so does Wotan.

 

I could spend pages on this subject without changing anyone’s mind on the issue, but I will venture a few observations. As little as 11,000 years ago, Canada resembled Greenland, with Ottawa under 4,000 feet of ice, and Toronto under 2,000.  That Canada is ice-free in summer except for the northern Arctic islands says that there has been global warming from natural causes, and global freezing before that.

Second, in the last two billion years, 80% of the time there has been no ice at the earth’s poles. We are in one of those periods in the life of planet earth when it is cold.  The world that has been getting colder for the past 30 million years as CO2 has been leached out of the atmosphere for various natural causes, and humans are putting it back in, just in time to prevent, possibly, the recurrence of next advance of the ice, which is scheduled to happen in the next 2-5,000 years. In that cheeky suggestion, humans are taking out of the ground “sequestered” carbon dioxide and putting it back into the atmosphere from which it has been leeched for the past thirty million years.

Just as with the supposedly “scientific” socialism of Karl Marx, I am confidently expecting climate alarmism and its basis, man-caused global warming,  to be tossed on the garbage dump of history, like cholesterol, phlogiston, the ether, and the idea of humors controlling the body. All junk. All believed in their time, and all rubbish.

For reasons I will explain, I think 2016 will be linked to the beginning of the end of the dominance of this idea.

The evaporation of Political Correctness

The second thing whose end I can foresee, or whose power we can see evaporating, is political correctness. The theory goes like this. If all humans are equal, in every way, then disparities in their respective collective and individual attainments can only be explained in terms of oppressions and disadvantages. (The issue goes away as soon as you realize that humans are unequal in ways as powerful and important as the ways in which they are equal, but that idea is never explored, let alone embraced).

This belief (axiom really) has led to the proliferation of “isms” and “phobias” which are, in essence, thought crimes. Sexism, racism, classism, heightism, body shaming, and so forth: there is a new one every month. And you are presumptively guilty if you use the wrong term for some group in some context.

Hence “youths” torched 1500 cars in riots in France last year. Terrorism is the product of social disadvantage, and so is crime. No one is at fault if everyone else is at fault.

The effects of political correctness are more insidious than that, however. Take names changing for groups. They used to be Eskimos (which is Athabaskan for “eaters of raw meat”, and now they are Inuit. Now suppose you witness a gas station robbery and the –admittedly unlikely perpetrator is a –what do you call him? –Inuit? But the robbery occurred in Arizona, where they still sue “eskimo” for Eskimos. The point of PC, and this is the deep result of not being sure what anything or anyone is named any more – is to force people to keep their observations to themselves, because to share their observations is to share their views on race, sex, class, religion, and other topics on which one is forbidden to have views about human differences.

Thus people become walled off from each other and are made to feel the need for someone to give them permission to speak. I guarantee you that that permission is not forthcoming. By the time you have found the politically correct term for someone in Iowa, it has evolved into something different in New York. And you are a socially cripple for saying as much aloud, only we cannot use the word “cripple”.

The ultimate goal of PC, as far as I can see, is to cause people not to trust one another with their thoughts. It is really a formidable form of political control, without the need for a KGB or a Gestapo.

If my analysis has not been offensive enough so far, it is about to achieve a new level of deplorability. You know where this is going. The US election this year produced an upset to established opinion on economics, trade, political correctness, the role of the media, climate alarmism, and God knows what else.

Trump. His name is Trump, and he just threw over the applecart in an election the closest parallel to which was Andrew Jackson’s in 1828. Out of the backwoods came Jackson against the coastal elite of the Federalist party. Jackson is still on the $20 bill, and John Adams is not. I am not an admirer of Andrew Jackson on the whole, and by the time Trump is done with the US Presidency I may no longer be an admirer of his. On the other hand I think right now he could be as important as Reagan was in transforming a dispirited America into something, as the phrase comes to mind, “great again”.

His choices for cabinet appointments concerning energy show that he has embraced the view that climate alarmism is ill-founded, and that liberating US energy production will make the country a globally competitive powerhouse.

On the subject of energy policy, Trump has appointed people to government posts who will rip into the man-caused global warming consensus and liberate oil and gas production in the US. Costs of manufacturing will go down, and direct employment in domestic energy production will go up. These will be the real world benefits, greater prosperity, even as places like Canada and Germany hobble their economies with the “clean energy” delusion.

More important, from my point of view, the heresy sniffers and persecutors of science are about to face the debate they have been avoiding these past twenty years (“settled science”, “97% of scientists agree”) . To a great extent, I expect the defunding of the obviously biased research directed at proving the existence of large global temperature increases (greater than 1 centigrade degree a century). Those paid to wring their hands about impending climate catastrophes will have to get a real job.

Climate alarmism has had the same effect in the natural sciences as Lysenko had in Soviet biology, but the recovery can begin as soon as the catastrophists face some actual competition for the research dollars which the government allocates.

Like communism when it fell, the theory of man-caused global warming thing will go poof! And in a few years we will forget how much we were in the thrall of this ludicrous pseudo-religion. People who think themselves clever will no longer be parroting the approved lines in conversation, and something like debate will once more be socially tolerated.

As to political correctness, its tide is apparently at the height. Since no one legislated it, no legislative change can completely fix it. What then will happen to it?

 

Here is an intimation of how I think it will be pushed back. One time during the election I watched Trump dealing with a bunch of reporters. He issue concerned the disabled, as I recollect, but it could have concerned any group which has been assigned sacred victim status. An Hispanic-American reporter in suit and tie started to make a fuss about the term “disabled” in the usual way this is done, by expressing moral outrage at the use of one term to designate the afflicted over another. It went like this:

“I am inconceivably offended by the use of that term”. Not quite but close enough for rhetorical purposes. So Trump asked him: “What term would you use?” The reporter replied with some 12-syllable euphemism. Trump considered it for a moment and said: “No, I’ll use disabled”. And that was the end of it. Unlike most politicians, Trump did not cave in to this pseudo-outrage on the part of the reporter and issue blushing apologies for his insensitivity and promise to put himself in a consciousness-heightening sensitivity session of the kind to which people are now directed by campus administrators/thought police.

I think that the US President, as the head of state as well as the head of government, has an important role in determining how far the euphemism nonsense of political correctness will be carried. There was a story in the 1980s that the Salvation Army was about to be kicked out of a Washington DC shopping mall for collecting money at Christmas, on some specious grounds of separation of church and state. Barbara Bush arranged for television cameras to film her putting a $20 bill into the Salvation Army’s lucite sphere at the mall, and that put an end to the matter.

 

It will take moral leadership of a different kind to expand the range of what can be said instead of constantly contracting it, as has been the case since I went to university 45 years ago. It may take as many decades, perhaps, to remove as it has taken decades to erect the edifice of speech control under which we are now living. Or it may go poof!, like communism did, when people shuck it off.

We all want to live in a liberal and tolerant society, where we all try to see that people will be treated fairly. I assume if you are reading this you feel the same way too. This PC stuff has nothing to do with fairness or tolerance; it is the impulse to enforce conformity of thought, and to prevent people from reaching obvious conclusions on the basis of observed facts. Future ages will mock us in derision for our version of political correctness, even as they suffer under newer forms of the same disease.

2016 saw the Brexit vote and the Trump election victory. Both signaled the rejection by significant sections of the population that all is working out well, that we are happy with what we see happening in society, that our media are reliable and concerned with facts, that unlimited immigration is what we want, that Islamic terrorism should not be called for what it is, or dealt with, and that we are happy not being able or permitted to discuss any of these feelings and observations in polite company, let alone in public.

Consequently, will 2016 be recalled as a revolutionary year on the scale of the French or Russian revolutions? Probably not. But it will mark one of those episodes where the rot was arrested, where repairs were begun, and where evil in the world started to be reduced.

Patriotism is not racism. A sensible and manly defence of liberty is not fascism. The poor of the earth are not sacred victims. It should not feel like a brave or politically dangerous thing to say any of these truths.

Happy new year!