Friday, 12 April 2019

Seeds of Destruction

   We are seeing a rise in violence by white nationalists and neo-nazis. The current popular narrative is that these bad people are appearing from nowhere, as if by magic, and no one can figure out where they are coming from, or why. If they are not simply described as individual nut-cases, this worrying trend is not being explained or addressed, but leaves a large number of people with lots of letters after their names scratching their heads and proposing any number of reasons why so very many seem to be appearing now in such numbers and laying the blame all over the place. I'd like to suggest it's actually those very erudite, knowledgeable people who are ultimately causing this problem.
   In the first place, for decades, the masses were lectured to about how people with lots of letters after their names had all the correct answers, and their policies were so carefully crafted that everyone was going to be just fine if they just went along, especially with the make-believe science of economics. So all the major Parties in all the democratic Euro-American sphere went along, certain economic policies became differentiated only by flavour, not any real difference, arguments over how wonderful or not social programs would be and how everyone would be helped into a utopian world where no one gets hurt and everyone gets to live a comfortable life. This failed. Miserably. Predictably, the scapegoat of Rich White Men who run the Capitalist System became the bugbear onto whom all the worlds woes were blamed. There is no lively discussion amongst economics schools as to whether their ideas actually work for the benefit of people, but that's not the point: decades ago the whole equation became flipped so that the economy no longer works to provide benefits to people, people now work to keep the economy healthy. People will put up with a lot, but when they start to get hungry and sink from relative wealth into poverty and they see everyone around them also sinking, they tend to turn to anybody who even pretends to address their concerns.
   Enter the populists, fronting for the real totalitarians.
   On the second hand, and this is where we get to the heart of the problem, despite decades of social work, social policies, social experimentation to elevate certain defined visible minorities from poverty and to integrate them into a utopian world where everyone has an equal chance to be well off and happy, this, too, has failed miserably.
   As the decades have worn on, the more these policies and hand-outs have failed to produce the promised results, the advocates have become ever-more strident in their insistence that, because they have gone to school, and made all sorts of studies, and have gathered all sorts of data that they must be right, and have doubled-down over and over again on their failed programs. In the process, this approach has become the holy shibboleth of social-activists promoting righteous moral causes. As their theories have needed to become ever-more abstract, their ideas have become ever-more hyper-sensitive to slights and injuries, real and imagined. The Noble Causes, having seen very little improvement, if any, then seek for any answer as to why, and, in typical human fashion, place blame outside long before they question their own behaviour, and The System is the easiest, most obvious target. But who runs The System is, of course, the largest minority group. And thus everything about them comes under scrutiny and this scrutiny must turn up all the ways in which The System works to prevent the suffering group in question from succeeding. And thus these intellectuals awaken to the realization of how much everything is stacked against them, and become woke to the awful situation.
   Then this hyper-awareness becomes the cause of their own failure.
   The Woke-Left has not only grouped together and conflated multiple assorted issues, some of which are turning out to be incompatible if not actually antithetical, but in each case, they have reduced the complexities of those issues to the simplest, most uni-dimensional Manichean definition of good vs. evil, and lumped everyone not wholly in agreement with the narrow, defined range of acceptable speech and behaviour as absolutely, unquestionably evil. There is no nuance. So if everyone else who questions a premise is derided as a “Fascist Nazi,” then this gives legitimacy over to actual Fascists and actual Nazis who can claim ownership of reasonable concerns and thus have a way to ooze out from the cracks and crevasses into which they were relegated decades ago. 
   This is the flip-side of the assumption of the mantle of Conservatism by Evangelical Christians who are absolutely socially restrictive and inflexible in their attitudes and utterly unwilling to compromise on any point, and who define everyone not entirely part of their group as Godless Marxist Socialists.

   e.g. immigration. I think this started to become an issue of social concern when the percentage of immigrants from very specific places North West Europe decreased and immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe increased, then particularly when immigration from even more alien cultures of Asia began to become the principal source of newcomers. Fear of cultural loss and valid questions around which aspects of foreign cultures are compatible with existing values and how much change a society can safely tolerate have become conflated with racism, and “racism=bad” is the reductionist simplification that has prompted so many social justice activists to twist themselves into knots trying to justify support for people who have essentially broken the law. The Woke-Left reduced a complex discussion to a spectacularly overly-simplified black-and-white (no pun intended) moral choice (these poor wretches deserve your pity and therefore must be uncritically welcomed) and defined everyone not wholeheartedly on their end as being equivalent to mass-murderers. It is one thing to have human sympathy for someone desperate enough to pick up all their belongings and make an arduous trek in the hope of succor and a better life, it’s entirely something else to dismiss out of hand any concerns about preserving the very way of life that attracted numbers of immigrants in the first place, as inherently evil. This has given the Alt-Right all the oxygen it needed to come crawling out of their dank holes, to become the standard-bearers against illegal immigration and cultural loss through mass-migration.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Political Dance

   I think I was about 10 when the basic idea first formed in my head, but it wasn't until I was in my 30s that I heard it neatly summed up:
                "You dance with those who brought you to the dance."
-- Pres. Lyndon Johnson
   On Feb 14th, The National on CBC ran a story about a convoy of truckers, angry at feeling 'abandoned' by Ottawa.

Pro-pipeline Protest Convoy Leaves Alberta for Ottawa

   The government is currently run by the Liberal Party (The Red Party of Big Business that pretends to care about the middle class). The Prairie provinces, where all these truckers come from, and who most apparently support, voted almost unanimously for the Conservative Party (The Blue Party of Big Business that supports very rich people).
   So, to sum up: people who aren't ever going to vote for the Party in power are protesting that the party in power isn't paying sufficient attention to them.
   They are going to continue to vote for the Party that tried to ram through their beloved pipeline with a kangaroo-court, show process that basically ignored the legitimate concerns of the people who would have to deal with any pollution or other issues, and failed utterly to allay all those concerns.
Which is why we have no pipeline.
   It's not that pipelines are inherently risky, just that the company that was supposed to build it has a bad track record of cutting corners and an appalling record of failing to deal with spills and therefore is not trustworthy or credible in its claims. It's not that pipelines are bad methods of moving liquids, but expanding fossil-fuel production in the face of all the evidence that it is causing unpleasant weather effects might not be the smartest policy action we could take. Bottom line: if you cannot actually get it past the smell test honestly, then we must conclude that they are wrong.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Premier Ford versus the Future

Sometime, I'd guess about 40 years ago, conservatives in general, and Progressive Conservative Party in particular, decided to stop conserving the health and well-being of the environment. (The same goes for 'conservatives' and Republicans in the U.S.)
They claim that their Party and philosophy is to support people's health and well-being. They have repeatedly claimed to want to give people jobs. They repeatedly claim that you want to put money into people's pockets, presumably so they can lead enjoyable lives.
And yet, in the face of reality, they have made a number of ill-conceived decisions that run directly against these goals and against Ontarians short and long-term best interests.
In my world, very educated people who have devoted their lives and careers to the study of climate and economics, people who know much more about these things than the typical voter, are telling us that our sprawl-based, car-dependent lifestyles, which involves paving over, and thus permanently destroying, the finest farmland in Canada, is both untenable and disastrous, both in the near and long-term future. These same experts give us effective means to change this behaviour and still provide for a decent standard of living for the long-term foreseeable future, and yet, for reasons I cannot fathom, they have rejected these entirely out-of-hand, even through they would seem to fit naturally with their often-touted goals and philosophy.
In the last few months they have:
  • Rejected renewable energy. This is a poor decision because cheap, non-renewable energy sources are all in decline and are ceasing to be cheap. Soon they will cease to be available. No energy, dirty or otherwise, will leave Ontario in poverty. Is that their real goal, then, to lord it over a mass of impoverished serfs? According to history, that will not be their fate.
  • Slashed environmental initiatives. We are witnessing increased numbers of intense storms around the planet, exactly according to the predictions made over 100 years ago, and exactly according to detailed studies made in the 1970s. The environment is changing in ways that will make it impossible to do more than just survive in abject poverty like the Easter Islanders. Is that to be their legacy? Perhaps they are comforted by the idea that eventually, no one in the subsistence culture surviving in our ruins will even remember their names or know anything about us, and so escape the censure in the future.
  • Made it free to pollute. Possibly they are imagining some 'good old days' circa 1950 when environmental regulations were not so onerous and conclude that the lack of controls was the cause of this sense of prosperity and expectation? There is a reason why all these environmental regulations came into force to prevent pollution within a decade: because the people who were alive in this purported golden age quickly found themselves dying miserably of pollution after a short time.
  • Fought a national carbon price that would put money in people’s pockets. Possibly they are thinking of the typical Liberal pattern of pretending to do one thing, then producing legislation that does not quite achieve that goal, and which, according to the rule of unintended consequences, produces no real benefit to anyone but their big supporters. Is that why they are opposed to the scheme, because they despise the people who suggest it? So, instead of producing a better one, instead of taking the advice of the world's best economists, they scrap the whole idea in what appears to be a childish fit of pique.

They don't even have the courage to even discuss their point of view. As a general rule, if someone wants to just shut down any opposition, it's because their point of view is, itself, indefensible.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Maxime Bernier and the Political Faux Pas

   Maxime Bernier, the senior Conservative politician recently tweeted out a series of tweets that question when is multiculturalism too multicultural? Immediately (of course) the twits the twitterati
lost their sh... minds, immediately dividing into the 'Muslims are taking us over' camp and the 'you are racists' camp. Then it degenerated from there. Immediately, and with standard de-rigeur-righteousness, the other political Party leaders denounced him as a racist, and TV shows found pundits to expound on his political future. Andrew Sheer dithered, there were murmurs at the Party convention about his expulsion when he ripped the rug out from under them by leaving. The real cause of all this ruckus was never actually addressed. Of course not, because he dared to question That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Questioned, viz., Canada's multicultural policies.
   It is an article of faith, amongst the Socially Concerned, that Canada's Official Policy of Multiculturalism is the best-that-ever-was-or-will-be in history, and, while we can easily see that societies which promoted multiculturalism, such as Norman Sicily (actually, Norman kingdoms in general),  the Roman Empire, the Chinese Empires (China is not a gigantic monoculture) were -- are --  more generally prosperous with less disparity between the uppermost and lowest classes and a vibrant, creative interchange of ideas allows for a wider, more open and better living opportunities for the people there.
   But the point that gets missed, or willfully ignored, that Bernier picked up on, is that none of the these societies was wholly open to hoover up every dust bunny with a-heart-wrenching-tale-of-woe floating around the world and welcome them in with open arms. Societies, at any scale, that did that didn't last very long.
   Every society needs to have a core set of stories, and beliefs, and values around which to coalesce. A successful multicultural society permits a multiplicity of different groups to participate, but still maintains a sufficiently large core set of values in common to be stable. If those core values are not sufficiently broad, if differences in opinions and beliefs are too intense, then, eventually, that society will fracture, and history shows us that when people get emotional, they get angry and violent. Calm only prevails when there is an agreement to disagree, in the understanding that the point of disagreement does not have severe consequences for one or another party.
   For example, the U.S. and slavery, Religious differences and bigotry as in the Balkans, cultural differences as in between Neustria and Austrasia (which became, respectively, France and Germany). In each case, they started with a common goal, but failed to abridge or abate their differences, harboring resentments and fears, creating small, isolated, inward-looking groups that became intolerably rigid, until they broke apart into violence and wars. There is not that much difference, originally, between the English colonists who created Maine and Vermont, and the ones who created Georgia and South Carolina, but different socio-economic paths eventually led to a bloody war, the echoes of which still reverberate. The Slavic people who populate the nations of the Balkans came from the same original stock, and for a while, as we can see from archaeological proofs, were creative and prosperous, but centuries under various different rulers, Roman, Greek Byzantine, then Ottoman Turks, left them fragmented into pockets defined primarily by different religions who have spent much of the past 300 years tearing at each other in periodic wars over territories that are poor in comparison to the rest of the world. The sons of Charlemagne each inherited a part of his Empire, and fought each other, until the two areas began to separate, the languages and cultures changed, and there has been continual warfare up until about 80 years ago. The formation of an overarching economic union has produced a great economic and cultural benefit for the peoples of Europe, but overweening bureaucracy is causing too much frustration for it to be maintained.
   What Bernier is giving voice to is the concern that the current government is welcoming in too many people from too many disparate regions too quickly who have too many differences to integrate to a sufficient degree. Because newcomers must integrate to a high degree with their new adopted homeland if that culture is to survive. By this means, they add their tastes and aesthetics to the existing culture, and thus change it, create a new, more vibrant culture. The pace of welcoming must be managed, it must be careful and it must not be faster than the psyches of the existing population can bear. People can, and do, eventually accept change, but different people at different rates, and there is no species that actively welcomes it. This is where those who are wholly open to new experiences fail with their agenda of forcing it upon others. There may be good reasons and a lot of benefits to welcoming different viewpoints, but there are a lot of reasons for moderation.
   That is what Bernier noted, and that is anathema to the Social-Democrats who fail to acknowledge the danger of unrestrained, unrestricted, and overly enthusiastic importing of people from too many disparate lands, with beliefs and values that are sometimes completely incompatible with the ones we have come to embrace. It is a tragic irony that the current government seems to be very open to welcoming people from close-minded cultures. Bernier has a note of caution as to what happens when too many people have too much difference, a very real danger that those on the right try to foster in their misguided self-view as heroic warriors fighting against monsters (probably played too much video games) and those on the left arrogantly dismiss in their own belief in their inherent goodness. And so he has been duly castigated by the chattering classes.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Disparaging Non-Science

 The Globe and Mail recently published this piece: that is just a laundry list and quick report that many people are turning to various fashionable pseudo-spiritual thimsgnaes to give more comfort and support that are lacking from their lives. The message is that people are gullible to believe them, and the simplistic answer is, yes, they are gullible and they don't work as advertised because the story suggests a simple causal relationship between events and these ideas. 
  The plaintive question is why are people turning away from Science to this obvious bunk? Because they are foolish and gullible, led astray from the One Path of True Knowledge by fashion? They are falling away from real knowledge is the message here.
  The issue is more subtle than that. People turn to other, non-science-based ideas because Science(TM) became an ersatz religion that demands total adherence to its tenets of materialism and disparages and denigrates all other subjective forms of human experience. Any bizarre facts that it cannot explain get airily dismissed and waved aside. Each fact is treated as a single anomaly, even when there is a statistically significant amount of anomalous events that defy the simple mechanistic cause-and-effect of Newtonian Physics. Yet people experience bizarre events every day. Being disparaged for their own experiences is a surefire way to get their back up and quit listening to someone and start looking around for other answers, even if that person is right and those other answers are bunk.
  Then, in the midst of the demand for absolute trust in Science as the Answer to Everything, the public -- most of whom aren't drawn to be scientists -- out on display are scientific debates and populist science loves to speak in sonorous tones of absolute gravitas about what is 'correct' (at this time). People are told one thing at one time, and the complete opposite at another time. Right now the evidence is that the global climate is warming and the prediction is we are going to have massive ecological disruption. Remember in the 1970s when the Earth was about to enter another global ice age that would cause massive ecological disruption? No? Science boosters are denying that any such discussion ever took place, but the record is out there, and people remember it. So when everything from 'coffee is good for you' to 'coffee is bad for you' to 'no, it's good for you' to 'no, evidence is it's bad for you' gets whiplashed back and forth people stop believing they can be relied upon. All this sounds like the religious disputes of the late Roman Empire.
   Scientists have done themselves no favours by either cautiously hiding away or boldly making pronouncements that are quickly proven wrong.
   Moreover, we have been witness to a long and dreary parade of science papers later shown to be falsified to satisfy the demands of grant money. Corruption is widespread enough that people -- even I -- have a hard time believing what is published. e.g. the GMO crop debate where Monsanto funds studies that says it's utterly safe and wonderfully productive and the EU produces studies that suggest mutagenic effects in rats. Hmm. I'd go for the precautionary principal, but corporations go for the profit now principal and those with money get their pet politicians to do their bidding, or so it appears. Hence one part of the world has government regulators looking to ban GMO crops entirely while the U.S. and Canada ban telling people on packaging whether they are eating GMO products.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Band-Saw

   I have a general rule that if I spend longer fiddling around with the tool than I do actually using it, it probably isn't worth it.
   The band-saw is pretty much on the edge of that category.
   Yes, I did manage to make long, lengthwise cuts that probably would have taken a very long time by hand, but the blade twisted and pulled off & I had to spend a great deal of effort trying to get it out of the wood and back onto the wheels. Now it has some permanent wonks it it, but it still cuts.
   So, I'm wondering if it's actually worth the effort, since, as I try to cut, the blade inevitably warps off to the right side, which means I have to keep twisting the wood off to that side to keep a straight cut, which, inevitably, does not remain straight.
   It does not work as advertised (then, again, what does?), it does not perform as 'experts' assure me it should, it does make a large job much faster, within certain parameters, but the cut must be constantly adjusted manually and requires a lot of sanding down to make it smooth afterwards. Despite lots of screws and guides to make exquisitely fine adjustments to it runs perfectly, these apparently make no difference at all in how it actually performs. I think the engineers were just thinking they were being clever. The cutting blade wrenches off to the side and no amount of guides or adjustments seem to compensate for that.
   The reason I say that is because, as much as some people love to use tools for their own sake, when the using of the tool is an end in itself, and love to spend hours on their craft, this is not my craft. I use wood because it is convenient and useful, but I am still trying to achieve an end, some other goal.   I suppose there is also an element of my own unfamiliarity with this tool. I don't use it every day, or even every week, so I'm not really familiar with it. Perhaps if I did, I'd understand it better and wouldn't have the problems that come up. I discovered that as I have become very good with other tools that I have used a lot, a hand-saw, for example.
   But, while I did have to spend almost as long fiddling with the band-saw as actually using it, it certainly was a lot faster than if I had cut the pieces by hand, and the inaccuracies will be easily sanded out.
   Conclusion, it's still worth it.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Bitcoin is a Doomed Bubble

  So, Bitcoin is IT! The latest, coolest, most awsomest tech to come along since the invention of the leather bag on a belt to hold your coins in. (Seriously, that's all it is. If you dropped your purse of coins, it was gone. God(s) help you if you drop your i-thingy into the water, your Bitcoin just vanished without a trace.)
  More to the point, as everyone who worships the God Hy-Tek in the Church of Eternal Progress gets breathless over this bubble, they (like most fervent religionists) blithely ignore the harsh realities of the world we live in, such as increasing energy constraints.

  If we need as much power to process a bitcoin transaction as a small town, and about the same amount to do a year's worth of transactions as a small country, what happens to all this as energy constraints bite down harder over time? We are Conventional oil production has already been in steady decline since 2005, the difference being made up by Condensates (a costlier method of extraction), Tar Sand extraction (a costlier method), and Shale Fracking (a very costly and very short-term method).
  We simply do not have the energy resources on this planet to support this high-tech economy crap.