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Friday, March 27, 2015

Tech spying cutting US economic throat

This could bring a rapid end to the continued growth of the global data-mining business:
The European Commission has warned EU citizens that they should close their Facebook accounts if they want to keep information private from US security services, finding that current Safe Harbour legislation does not protect citizen’s data.

The comments were made by EC attorney Bernhard Schima in a case brought by privacy campaigner Maximilian Schrems, looking at whether the data of EU citizens should be considered safe if sent to the US in a post-Snowden revelation landscape.

“You might consider closing your Facebook account, if you have one,” Schima told attorney general Yves Bot in a hearing of the case at the European court of justice in Luxembourg.

When asked directly, the commission could not confirm to the court that the Safe Harbour rules provide adequate protection of EU citizens’ data as it currently stands. The case, dubbed “the Facebook data privacy case”, concerns the current Safe Harbour framework, which covers the transmission of EU citizens’ data across the Atlantic to the US. Without the framework, it is against EU law to transmit private data outside of the EU. The case collects complaints lodged against Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Microsoft-owned Skype and Yahoo.

Schrems maintains that companies operating inside the EU should not be allowed to transfer data to the US under Safe Harbour protections – which state that US data protection rules are adequate if information is passed by companies on a “self-certify” basis – because the US no longer qualifies for such a status.
Fortunately, we can be certain that the federal government would never sacrifice economic growth for centralized regulatory power, right? This could prove a rather serious problem if the one of the proposed engines of US economic recovery turns out to be intrinsically illegal in most of the rest of the world.

I've noticed that between Russia's move away from SWIFT, the support for the Chinese alternative to the IMF, the fall of Yemen, and the complete lack of European support for the USA's adventures in Ukraine, the world appears to be increasingly disinclined to follow the US lead. This does not bode well for the US if it indicates that the global perception of its effective power is on the decline.

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A shot across the bow

At this point, given recent steps like these, I think it is eminently clear that the US government has told the Israeli government to take a hike and is going to reach an agreement with Iran that will permit it to become an acknowledged nuclear power:
In a development that has largely been missed by mainstream media, the Pentagon early last month quietly declassified a Department of Defense top-secret document detailing Israel's nuclear program, a highly covert topic that Israel has never formally announced to avoid a regional nuclear arms race, and which the US until now has respected by remaining silent.

But by publishing the declassified document from 1987, the US reportedly breached the silent agreement to keep quiet on Israel's nuclear powers for the first time ever, detailing the nuclear program in great depth.

The timing of the revelation is highly suspect, given that it came as tensions spiraled out of control between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama ahead of Netanyahu's March 3 address in Congress, in which he warned against the dangers of Iran's nuclear program and how the deal being formed on that program leaves the Islamic regime with nuclear breakout capabilities.

Another highly suspicious aspect of the document is that while the Pentagon saw fit to declassify sections on Israel's sensitive nuclear program, it kept sections on Italy, France, West Germany and other NATO countries classified, with those sections blocked out in the document.

The 386-page report entitled "Critical Technological Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations" gives a detailed description of how Israel advanced its military technology and developed its nuclear infrastructure and research in the 1970s and 1980s.... Declassifying the report comes at a sensitive timing as noted above, and given that the process to have it published was started three years ago, that timing is seen as having been the choice of the American government.
This appears to be a clear message to the Israelis that since they have nukes themselves, they have absolutely no grounds to complain about anyone else obtaining them. I do find it somewhat amusing that the article claims the US has breached a nonexistent agreement.

If an agreement of the sort that appears to be in the works does in fact take place, it should be interesting to see how all the "Iran is the New Hitler" neocons explain the complete failure of a nuclear Iran to immediately launch the attack on Israel that they have been telling us is imminent for at least the last decade.

Given what is presently taking place in Yemen and Iraq, I would think it is Saudi Arabia that has a lot more to be concerned than the Israelis.

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Mailvox: The Singularity

One of the readers here, who also happens to have the good taste to be a John C. Wright fan, sends word of his band's new EP, "The Singularity". Good voice and some interesting guitar work.

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Depression or Sudden Jihad Syndrome?

Contradictory claims are being made about the murderous Germanwings pilot. The more explosive one is that the "significant item" that was found at his apartment was indicative of a conversion to Islam:
According to Michael Mannheimer, a writer for German PI-News, Germany now has its own 9/11, thanks to the convert to Islam, Andreas Lubitz. Translation from German:

All evidence indicates that the copilot of Airbus machine in his six-months break during his training as a pilot in Germanwings, converted to Islam and subsequently either by the order of "radical", ie. devout Muslims , or received the order from the book of terror, the Quran, on his own accord decided to carry out this mass murder. As a radical mosque in Bremen is in the center of the investigation, in which the convert was staying often, it can be assumed that he - as Mohammed Atta, in the attack against New York - received his instructions directly from the immediate vicinity of the mosque.

Converts are the most important weapon of Islam. Because their resume do not suggests that they often are particularly violent Muslims. Thus Germany now has its own 9/11, but in a reduced form. And so it is clear that Islam is a terrorist organization that are in accordance with §129a of the Criminal Code to prohibit it and to investigate its followers. But nothing will happen. One can bet that the apologists (media, politics, "Islamic Scholars") will agree to assign this an act of a "mentally unstable" man, and you can bet that now, once again the mantra of how supposedly peaceful Islam is will continue.
Now this sounds a little far-fetched and breathless to me, especially since there were only reports of the pilot breathing, not of any prayers or the customary jihadist battle cry. I'd take it with a grain of salt at the moment. Then again, I'm not sure that any direct statements that the pilot said nothing of any kind have been made. And it is true that claims of his mental instability are already being reported, such as here:
The Germanwings co-pilot who crashed his plane into a mountain killing himself and 149 people on board was receiving psychiatric counselling right up until the crash, it emerged today.

Andreas Lubitz locked the pilot out the of the Airbus A320's cockpit before setting the plane's controls to descend into a rocky valley, French prosecutors revealed yesterday.

As well as having been signed off from training with depression in 2008, it was reported this morning that Lubitz had continued to receive mental health support up until this week's crash.

German newspaper Bild also reported that the 28-year-old was in the middle of the 'relationship crisis' with his girlfriend in the weeks before the crash and may have been struggling to cope with a break-up.

It was claimed this morning that the couple were engaged to be married next year.

New information about Lubitz's life emerged just hours after police investigating the disaster began a four-hour search of his flat, which he is said to have shared with a girlfriend. Officers refused to reveal details of what they have found but have insisted no suicide note had been recovered.
The two things that are slightly strange here are a) the refusal to reveal any details of what has been found, except the statement that something was "significant". Of course, that could be anything from a Koran to the dead body of his ex-girlfriend. The other thing that is strange is that in all the previous reports, there was no indication of a girlfriend of any kind. For example, he was reported to have taken a trip to a resort with a male friend, the sort of trip I have never known any man to take except with a wife or girlfriend.

And, of course, given the growing strength of PEGIDA, we know the German authorities will be desperate to keep any indication of Lubitz being a Mahometan convert under wraps.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

SJWs take a scalp

The British SJWs at the BBC finally managed to bring down Jeremy Clarkson:
The BBC bosses have always been partisans of whatever ideology was the most elitist, the most sanctimonious, the most anti-public, in any given age: in the 60s and 70s it was full of communists, today it is full of Politically-correct Progressives. They are almost always Leftist, always Collectivist, and almost always humorless.

And the BBC’s mid-level bureaucrats have always, always hated Top Gear. The current BBC’s manager, Danny Cohen, had been very vocal about how desperate he was to get rid of Jeremy Clarkson, and now he got his wish. In the process, it made a pretty startling revelation as to how Collectivists work, and who they serve.

When it was announced that the BBC was using a dinnertime argument as an excuse to fire (or “sack” as they say across the pond) the driving force behind Top Gear, two big petitions were being promoted across the social media almost instantly. The first was in support of Clarkson, demanding that the BBC not fire him; it ended up with over a million signatures and became the fastest-growing petition in the history of change.org. The second demanded that Clarkson be fired for his various crimes against humanity (which mostly consisted of being anti-Europe, anti-Left, anti-nanny-state, and anti-political-correctness). This petition garnered a whopping 34127 signatures. It featured, in brazen shamelessness, a completely un-ironic picture of Clarkson with his mouth gagged on it, making it very clear what these people wanted: to totally silence those who disagree with them.

This is an interesting result for two reasons. First, it gives us a very good, albeit non-scientific, look at just what the divide between the Collectivist elitists and the Individualists is: the Collectivist-Crowd made up about 3.2% of the population who signed either petition. These are the people who are strident in their advocacy of the Collectivist values of the modern “progressive” Left, that believe in pogroms against free speech; but more importantly, that will despise anything just because everyday people like it too much.
Clarkson's case is actually quite similar to mine with the SFWA, despite the fact that considerably more people care about the former than the latter. When the SJWs are gunning for you, they will immediately grasp at any excuse, no matter how trivial, to at least try to get rid of you. It's something you must always keep in mind once you understand that you're being targeted by these vicious, spiteful little people. They can't handle power and they're control freaks, so perspective means nothing whatsoever to them.

So, don't think that they won't, and if you're at all interested in keeping your position, you must avoid handing them the ammunition they are so avidly seeking. Of course, if you don't give a damn, then don't worry about it, accept the inevitable when it comes, draw the process out as long as you can, and thereby permit the world to clearly see exactly what sort of lunatics they are.

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Equality: a review

Henry Dampier reviews Equality: The Impossible Quest by Martin van Creveld:
Throughout history, ‘equality’ has tended to mean different things, and it usually only pertained to certain situations or within certain groups. The most powerful argument that he makes is towards the end of the book, in which he points out that equality is an essential concept in military life, but that it isn’t generally sustainable outside that context. Members of a military unit of similar ranks must be somewhat equal — else the army loses coherence. It can’t hold a formation in reality, or be conceived of in a useful way by officers, if there is no attempt to make those men more equal.

van Creveld: Without equality, cohesion is inconceivable. Cohesion, the ability to stick together and stay together through thick and thin, is the most important quality any military formation must have. Without it such a formation is but a loose gathering of men, incapable of coordinated action and easily scattered, and of little or no military use. In all well-organized armies at all times and places, the first step towards cohesion has always been to put everyone on an equal basis. Often the process starts when all new recruits are given the same haircut. Beards may have to be taken off, moustaches trimmed, piercings and jewelry discarded.

This is the proper understanding of equality: equality of rank within a hierarchy. It has a limited conceptual and practical utility that becomes wasted when thinkers apply the concept beyond its carrying capacity, so to speak.
I thought this was a perceptive review. The important thing to remember when reading the book is that van Creveld is a scholar, not an ideologue or a polemicist. While he doesn't hide his personal opinions, he also doesn't place any particular weight on them in comparison with the historical facts and concepts that he delves into and describes.

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The ultimate argument against certification

This should pretty much end any discussion about the idea that government certification is necessary or even likely to prevent significatly negative outcomes. From the Aviation Business Gazette:
FAA recognizes Andreas Guenter Lubitz. Rheinland Pfalz-based pilot sets positive example.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is recognizing Andreas Guenter Lubitz with inclusion in the prestigious FAA Airmen Certification Database.

The database, which appears on the agency's website at www.faa.gov, names Lubitz and other certified pilots who have met or exceeded the high educational, licensing and medical standards established by the FAA.

Pilot certification standards have evolved over time in an attempt to reduce pilot errors that lead to fatal crashes. FAA standards, which are set in consultation with the aviation industry and the public, are among the highest in the world.

Transportation safety experts strongly recommend against flying with an uncertified pilot. FAA pilot certification can be the difference between a safe flight and one that ends in tragedy.
Imagine what might have happened if those poor Germanwing passengers had flown with an uncertified pilot?

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Smells like murder-suicide

The Germanwings airplane appears to have been crashed deliberately:
BREAKING NEWS: French prosecutor: Germanwings co-pilot appeared to want to ‘destroy the plane,’ the Associated Press reports.

An official who knows about the audio recordings from the recovered cockpit voice recorder of the Germanwings flight that slammed into the Alps said Thursday one of the pilots was apparently locked out of the cockpit when the plane went down.

The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation, told the Associated Press that this important detail was gleaned from studying data from the plane’s cockpit voice recorder, which was damaged, but recovered by emergency responders Wednesday.

Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, would not confirm nor deny the reports, the AP reported.

The New York Times quoted an unidentified investigator Thursday as saying the audio depicts someone knocking with increasing urgency — and force — on the cockpit door. The Times quoted the source as saying: “And then he hits the door stronger and no answer. There is never an answer.”
It's not hard to tell who was the pilot and who was the co-pilot who appears to have intentionally crashed the plane:
Lufthansa, the German pilots' union and the Lufthansa flight training school in Bremen where the pilots trained are not making any comment or giving out names. They have, however, given information on the pilot and co-pilot and their experience. But German media has identified the men as as Patrick S, a father to two children. Bild newspaper said he flew for over ten years for Lufthansa and Germanwings and had completed more than 6,000 flight hours on the Airbus 320.

The paper named the First Officer as Andreas L. He was "young". He was from Montabaur, in Rhineland-Palatinate. He had 630 flight hours. He joined Germanwings in September 2013 straight from the Lufthansa Flight Training School in Bremen.

Lufthansa said both pilots were trained at the Lufthansa Flight Training School in Bremen. The captain had over 6,000 flight hours' experience and joined Germanwings in May 2014. Previously he was a pilot with Lufthansa and Condor, a Lufthansa partner airline.
It's a good thing his name was Andreas L. and not Mohammed L. or you might see air travel come to a near-complete halt. Although if it turns out that he was a convert, you might see a noticeable slow-down anyhow.

UPDATE: Prosecutor identifies jet crash co-pilot as Andreas Lubitz: AFP\

UPDATE 2: From Zerohedge:
“At this moment, in light of investigation, the interpretation we can give at this time is that the co-pilot through voluntary abstention refused to open the door of the cockpit to the commander, and activated the button that commands the loss of altitude,” the prosecutor, Brice Robin, said. He said it appeared that the co-pilot’s intention had been “to destroy the aircraft.” He said that the voice recorder showed that the co-pilot had been breathing until before the moment of impact, suggesting that he was conscious and deliberate in his actions. He said that his inquiry had shown that the crash was intentional.
 UPDATE 3: I suspect Omega rage. Here is why.

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Fingerprints on the prize

SciFi Pundit shows that once again, if John Scalzi says it, you can be pretty confident that it isn't true:
WHATEVER:   John Scalzi announced on his blog today that he had predicted white chocolate M&M's in his book The Android's Dream. Unfortunately for Mr. Scalzi, white chocolate M&M's, called Pirate Pearls, were already on the market in 2006 when his novel about killing aliens by farting (yes, really) was published. Apparently, ripping off Robert A. Heinlein (or Philip K. Dick, or Joe Haldeman, or Gene Roddenberry) isn't sufficient to give someone powers of prognostication.
That's actually a good heuristic for any SJW. Did they say it? Are they an SJW? Then it probably isn't true.  Consider the following statements from the now-defunct Staffer's Book Review:
“Opera Vita Aeterna” by Vox Day, the originator of the Sad Puppy Slate, received far fewer votes than No Award, which took fifth place. “Opera Vita Aeterna” did not place at all. In fact, 698 ballots refused to even recognize “Opera Vita Aeterna” existed.
Actually, 698 ballots had no preference between “Opera Vita Aeterna” and No Award, which means virtually the opposite of what  Mr. Landon is suggesting. All that meant was that having voted for their preferred finalist(s), the voters didn't bother ranking the rest of them. One could also say, with equal justification, that 234 ballots refused to even recognize that the winner, “Lady Astronaut of Mars”, existed.

But more importantly, Vox Day was not the originator of the Sad Puppy Slate. Vox Day was not involved in any way with the Sad Puppy Slate; he was not even registered to vote for it. Vox Day was also not the originator of the Sad Puppy 2 Slate last year. Vox Day was not involved in any way with the Sad Puppy 2 Slate, except in that one of his works appeared on it. That's like saying Jim Butcher is the originator of the Rabid Puppy Slate. It is true, however, that Vox Day is involved with the Sad Puppy 3 Slate and is the originator of the Rabid Puppy Slate.

Mr. Landon, who now writes for Tor.com, might be forgiven for his ignorantly erroneous ways were it not for that it appears to be his obvious ideological bias that is leading him to assert things that simply are not true. Consider the fine line he tries to invent here:
Where Vox Day and Larry Correia intentionally sabotaged the process, authors like Seanan McGuire are finding themselves disproportionately represented due to a consistently adoring fan base. Without the Sad Puppy Slate, McGuire would have been nominated in Best Novel, Best Novella, and Best Novellete. She appears three times on the Best Novella longlist, three times on the Best Novelette long list, once on the Best Short Story longlist, once on the Best Related Work longlist, and once on the Best Fancast longlist. Many of these nominations totals are around 30 ballots. I do not believe McGuire has in any way intentionally manipulated the ballot, but the mere fact that she has fans willing to nominate everything she publishes in a given year, and the fact she’s rather prolific, has created a glaring issue. There simply aren’t enough ballots cast in the nominating process to weed out the obsessive fan. Whether it’s Vox Day and his crazy or Seanan McGuire and her charisma, the Hugo nomination process is flawed.
So, we're supposed to believe that Seanan McGuire putting herself on the Hugo  longlist nine times in one year is totally unintentional and indicative of nothing more than her charisma, but Larry Correia putting himself on the longlist once in a single category somehow means that Vox Day intentionally sabotaged the process? Now THAT is seriously crazy. It hurts the mind to even try to trace back how much doublethink is required to produce that conclusion.

But it does raise one question. Where did Seanan McGuire learn this little trick of charismatically inspiring such consistent adoration? Well, you're not going to believe this, but it brings us right back to McRapey! Consider these nominations from the 2009 Hugo longlist:
54 Best Novel, 09 Best Novella, 24 Short Story, 23 Fan Writer, 31 Related Work, 45 Drama Long
We're supposed to believe that this is all just the consequence of "a consistently adoring fan base", right? Unfortunately, there is one little problem with that explanation. Those six appearances on the longlist occurred back when Scalzi had 308,745 pageviews per month. How very strange, then, that his appearances on the longlist abruptly dropped to the following in 2012 despite his site traffic more than tripling in the interval, even hitting its all-time monthly peak at 1,027,644 that year. From the 2012 Hugo longlist.
79 Novella
And keep in mind that we are supposed to believe that all of these Scalzi ballots from 2009 and 2012, none of which amounts to even half of the 183 nominating ballots cast for Larry Correia last year, are somehow more valid or more genuinely indicative of the former's popularity than the latter's. And yet, even the 69 ballots cast for me (which, by the way, shows far less SP2 voting in lockstep than the Scalzi-Stross alliance in 2008), were at least 15 more than were cast for Scalzi in any of the six categories in 2009.

The only conclusion we can reach from all this is that the SJWs don't believe your votes are valid, simply because you are casting them for the evil people. Don't ever forget that. But you need not fear, because you have a great defense attorney speaking out on your behalf, namely, Mr. John Scalzi, Esq.
I see that Seanan McGuire is getting a fair ration of crap from various quarters because she’s on the ballot a remarkable and record-setting five times, including in the Best Novel category, and twice in Novelette. What I’m seeing heavily implies that McGuire’s on the list because she has an apparently mystical ability to drive hordes of fans to nominate her for everything no matter what. Hey, I have an alternate theory, which goes a little something like this: Seanan McGuire is a very talented writer! Who writes things that people like! Including the people who nominate for the Hugos! Seems the simpler explanation, all things considered.

Let’s say it again: change the Hugos by nominating, voting and participating, or (much more slowly and far less reliably) actively making your case to the people who are nominating, voting and participating. As a pro tip, explicitly or implicitly disparaging their intelligence, taste or standing to make choices when you try to do that is unlikely to persuade them to decide anything other than that you’re probably an asshole.
- John Scalzi, April 5, 2013
"Change the Hugos by nominating!" That is a proper battle cry. One can hardly fault Mr. Correia for taking to heart the advice of such a distinguished and oft-nominated science fiction luminary. Let's say it again indeed.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Interview with Martin van Creveld

Daniel Eness interviewed Dr. Martin van Creveld, the author of the newly published Equality: The Impossible Quest, at Castalia:
Q: Do you think that some of the contradictions regarding equality in the U.S. Constitution made the document a more stable guide for a new society, or do you see similar contradictions in Rousseau’s influence on the French Revolution?

MvC: Any attempt to institute equality, of any kind, is bound to result in restrictions on freedom. Personally I think that the U.S Constitution did a credible job in balancing between the two (and, of course, justice). Not so Rousseau who, in his quest for equality, went much too far. Not for nothing did my teacher, Jacob Talmon, see him as the father of “totalitarian democracy.” More problematic still, with him equality is the product of, and requires, constant plebiscites about everything. Given the technical means of the age—there was no Net—such a system implied a very small polity indeed. Against the fiscal-military states of the time it simply stood no chance.

Q: You argue that social equality is not a necessary outcome of economic or legal equality. Can social equality be achieved? Should it?

MvC: The only way to achieve equality is to restrict, or even do away with, liberty. Along with liberty justice and the quest for truth—namely the right to think, believe, say and write that equality is not the supreme good—will also disappear. With political correctness reigning as hard as it does, in many places that is already the case. Just try and say that women, or homosexuals, are and should not be equal in this or that way, and you will see what I mean. So I would argue that equality is a dream, and not even a beautiful one.

Q: What are the sexual and property impacts of organized equality in communal bodies?

MvC: It would differ from one type of community to the next, so let me focus on the kind of community, the Israeli kibbutzim, I know best. The kibbutzim were famous for having no private property. Everybody had his or her meals in the communal dining room and his other needs from the machsan, or magazine. Couples lived in “rooms” Children grew up not with their parents but in their own houses. A few specialists apart, people took turns at doing all kinds of jobs. Decisions were taken by the kibbutz assembly in which everybody had one vote. It elected the secretary-general and also set up special committees for such things as education, culture, etc.

For some two generations, it did not work badly at all. The fact that kibbutzniks saw themselves, and were seen by the rest of Israeli society, as an elite helped. What brought the system down was the women. First, they were unhappy with the endless routine of communal kitchen/communal laundry/communal child houses. Starting in the 1970s, they started taking on paid work outside the kibbutz. Next, they wanted their children back home with them. Families with children at home needed better houses, more appliances, and so on. Gradually the place of the communal dining room as the center of kibbutz life was taken by the home. Once that happened private property re-emerged and the kibbutzim started falling apart.
Read the rest of the interview there. And if you're interested in the book, you can find it on Amazon as well as at Castalia House.

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The new fApplism

Why developers are terrified of speaking truthfully about Apple:
According to Ian Parker of The New Yorker, "Apple has made missteps, but the company’s great design secret may be avoiding insult." It seems curious that they are able to avoid criticism and instead create a "reality distortion field," in a way that so few other companies have been able to.

Some might explain this fear away as standard corporate procedure. Developers in relationships with Apple are argued to have been required to sign NDAs in order to test prerelease software. Indeed, some developers felt pressure to take down blog posts critical of iOS 7 because they did not want to go against their contractual obligation to secrecy. On the other hand, there are plenty of public screenshots and walkthroughs available during any of Apple's releases and journalists and public commentators have made hardly a squeak when it comes to criticism of Apple, particularly relating to design. Non-disclosure agreements cannot be the explanation.

James Allworth, a former Strategist for Apple currently with the Harvard Business Review who partners on the Stratechery Podcast with Ben Thompson, sheds light on how Apple has gone about avoiding insult, and it has been anything but a passive strategy. He explains: "I'm generally pro-Apple. I love what they do, I'm completely invested in their ecosystem, I loved working there previously."

You are surely noticing a pattern here where would-be critics are preemptively apologizing for admitting publicly that Apple is imperfect. Allworth was brave enough to continue at this point: "at the same time, it [Apple] shouldn’t be above criticism. But anytime you think about wanting to write something like this [anything critical] you just pause before pulling the trigger."

In his days at Apple, Allworth recalls having been a member of a mailing list led by Apple's Chief Evangelist at the time, Guy Kawasaki. It was on this mailing list that a brigade of devout Apple employees and fanatics would go about promoting Apple's interests by destroying the opposition. Allworth described what was expected of him when Kawasaki would rouse the mailing list:

    I was one of the ones that used to send emails to journalists that said anything other than kind things about Apple. Like they used to post negative articles about Apple and a whole horde of Apple proponents would bear down upon this poor unsuspecting soul.
This is why you're a fool to buy into their walled garden. It's like volunteering to live on the wrong side of the Berlin wall. And it's why they're never going to own the game market that they threw away after the Apple II. Android will eventually beat out iOS on all mobile platforms for just that reason; game developers are among the few developers where the users are essentially platform-independent.

Eventually someone is going to figure out what Intel did back in the late 90s and realize that they can dominate the mobile platform with killer game applications across the various game genres. And it's not going to be Apple. Because fApplism.

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The Clausewitzian Congress

One would think that the experience of Napoleon and Hitler would be sufficient to convince anyone that getting into a land war with Russia is something that you simply do not do. But apparently the military geniuses in the US Congress know better:
Yesterday, in a vote that largely slid under the radar, the House of Representatives passed a resolution urging Obama to send lethal aid to Ukraine, providing offensive, not just "defensive" weapons to the Ukraine army - the same insolvent, hyperinflating Ukraine which, with a Caa3/CC credit rating, last week started preparations to issue sovereign debt with a US guarantee, in essence making it a part of the United States (something the US previously did as a favor to Egypt before the Muslim Brotherhood puppet regime was swept from power by the local army).

The resolution passed with broad bipartisan support by a count of 348 to 48.

According to DW,  the measure urges Obama to provide Ukraine with "lethal defensive weapon systems" that would better enable Ukraine to defend its territory from "the unprovoked and continuing aggression of the Russian Federation."

"Policy like this should not be partisan," said House Democrat Eliot Engel, the lead sponsor of the resolution. "That is why we are rising today as Democrats and Republicans, really as Americans, to say enough is enough in Ukraine."
Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad. That's the thought that ran through my mind when I read this.

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Spy vs spy

The latest revelations of Israeli spying on the USA may, in part, account for the increasing indifference the White House and the Democratic Party are showing to Israeli interests:
It is – rightfully – front-page news that Israel was caught spying on the closed-door negotiations between the U.S. and Iran. And the Obama administration is particularly outraged that Israel allegedly shared that information with Republican congressmen who want to stop any peaceful deal with Iran.

This is certainly outrageous … but small, in the grand scheme of things.

Why? Because Israeli spying on America is so rampant that U.S. officials have labeled it “alarming, even terrifying”.

And because the U.S. has only half-heartedly asked Israel to stop … Israel has told the U.S. to pound sand. As if that isn’t bad enough, the NSA voluntarily shares the raw data it collects on American citizens with Israel. This includes raw data on U.S. government officials.   This not only raises major privacy concerns for American citizens, but it might mean that Israel is spying on the American Congress and other high-level politicians.

Indeed, leaked NSA documents show that U.S. intelligence officials are concerned that the NSA may be putting Israel’s security needs ahead of America’s.
If true, the NSA is only doing what Tom Friedman does. I had to laugh after reading the conclusion of his article in the New York Times today:
So before you make up your mind on the Iran deal, ask how it affects Israel, the country most threatened by Iran. But also ask how it fits into a wider U.S. strategy aimed at quelling tensions in the Middle East with the least U.S. involvement necessary and the lowest oil prices possible.
This is rather remarkably blunt. Apparently US interests are now supposed to be an afterthought for Americans. Of course, it's a little difficult for the US government to convincingly affect much outrage about Israeli spying, when the US is so actively spying on the rest of the world.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Onward and upward

An ex-Gamma writes the fourth, and probably the most important, section in his Graduating Gamma series at Alpha Game:
There is no man on the planet more intellectually dishonest than a Gamma, as even an Omega has enough self-awareness to avoid being a buffoon at social event and will instead stay at home and play computer games. Everything from a Gamma is a con or a presented image, because behind that shell is a scared, miserable boy who uses whatever tools are at his disposal to build the Gamma Delusion Bubble. The Gamma Delusion Bubble shields the Gamma from somehow and some way ever being wrong about anything, as there is no being wrong about “something”, there is only being a wrong “person”. His identity is so tied up in his opinions about everything, including himself, that any slip-up is a catastrophe which must be avoided at all costs.
I've learned a tremendous amount from this series, some of which I've even been able to apply here. The most important thing for me has been the explanation of a) why Gammas like Scalzi, Brayton, and Myers flee from public debate when they are so otherwise argumentative and contentious, and, b) why it is almost impossible to get a Gamma to admit that he is wrong without him going through every definition in the dictionary, every pedantic nitpick, and every contortion in the Kama Sutra in order to avoid it no matter how obvious it is to you and everyone else.

Some of you have noticed that I've gotten increasingly intolerant of rhetorical arguments, particularly pseudo-dialectical ones, of late. This is because I now understand that there is no real prospect of normal dialectical closure if the other party shows repeated signs of being a Gamma and is engaging in customary Gamma argumentation. Chief among these signs are false summaries, digressions into motivation and psychological diagnosis, appeals to emotion, the production of ad hoc definitions, and the targeting of strawmen rather than the actual statements made. If you happen to be aware that you are prone to utilizing any of those rhetorical tactics, I would strongly recommend that you read the linked article, because you're not going to find much toleration for them here.

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Interview with Vox Day

Sam Roberts at Reaxxion interviewed me about the game industry, the SJW attack on it, and our upcoming plans for First Sword:
SR: Many commentators, at our site and elsewhere, have noticed the sudden outbreak of prudishness in the gaming industry. We saw this with PAX and its ban on booth babes, even to the point of specifying a minimum length for girl’s skirts. Even Mortal Kombat, the franchise that established itself in the 1990’s through its willingness to break all the rules, is moving to “more realistic” characters with smaller breasts and thicker waists. What do you think has changed in the gaming industry in the past 20 years that’s made it so much less able to resist moral scolds?

VD: The most important change is that game development no longer belongs to the mavericks. When we started Fenris Wolf in 1993, literally everyone thought we were crazy. We were throwing away good jobs and wasting our educations to do what people considered to be the equivalent of playing with digital Lincoln Logs. Now that games are widely understood to be big business, many of the jobs pay decent salaries, and you can get degrees in “game development” and “game design,” you have considerably more risk-intolerant, conflict-avoidant people entering the industry.

Twenty years ago, the average developer would have laughed his ass off at the idea that he should design or develop anything other than whatever the hell he wanted to do. These days, there are a fair number of bed-wetters in game development who are terrified at the idea that someone, somewhere, might take offense at something in one of their games. And then, of course, you’ve also got SJWs trying to stick their noses into the industry in order to change it, just as they did in comics and science fiction & fantasy fiction.
You'll definitely want to check out the screenshots of the 3DV engine in action. Be sure to click on the image of the High Elven archers. 3DV is visually spectacular and is intended to do for miniature gaming what VASSAL did for board-and-counter games. In addition to various other topics addressed, you can also see our response to the SJW demands for more women in games, beginning with the introduction to Morwyn Shadowsong, a female elf gladiator who is the face of First Sword, the fantasy gladiator miniatures game.

It probably won't take a genius to put two and two together and realize that the Tactical Uncertainty model I'm developing, which has been discussed in some detail over at Castalia, is intended for the third edition of Striker that Marc Miller has asked me to develop. The rules will be developed for use in 3DV and on the tabletop alike; the challenge is how to make something that works almost automatically in the former can be translated to the latter. With regards to some of the other games mentioned, we will have some exciting new announcements soon.

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The benefits of abolishing high school

It wouldn't just help those on the bottom, but quite a few of those on top as well:
[A]bolishing high school would not just benefit those who are at the bottom of its hierarchies. Part of the shared legacy of high school is bemused stories about people who were treated as demigods at seventeen and never recovered. A doctor I hang out with tells me that former classmates who were more socially successful in high school than he was seem baffled that he, a quiet youth who made little impression, could be more professionally successful, as though the qualities that made them popular should have effortlessly floated them through life. It’s easy to laugh, but there is a real human cost.
I think we see some of the human flotsam and jetsam that is the result of high school shipwrecks floating through here from time to time. From the overconfident midwit who has never recovered from the experience of being the smartest guy in a room with a 115 IQ to the deluded ex-cheerleader who is now fifty pounds overweight but still thinks she's as attractive to men as she was when she could fit into her little skirts to the bitter omega who can't accept a compliment at face value for fear that it is another cruel trick intended to humiliate him, the psychological scars of the high school experience are often visible to complete strangers on the Internet.

I tend to include myself in that mix, although perhaps wrongly since my psychological idiosyncracies tend to trace back deeper, which is to say, back to elementary school. My suspicion is that being constantly pushed around and marginalized by one's intellectual and athletic inferiors, and thereby simultaneously finding oneself at the bottom of some social hierarchies and at the top of others at a very young age, tends to leave one permanently unable to take any of them very seriously or place much value upon them, for good or for ill. When one is both king and beggar, how can one find one's identity in either state?

For a while, I thought it was strength of character or innate stoicism that enabled me to so easily walk away from various attachments and obligations without looking back. But eventually, it became clear that it was not a positive attribute, it was simply that I was lacking something normal, in much the same way sociopaths lack empathy, autistics lack social cognizance, and atheists lack an intuition of the supernatural. Specifically what it is, I don't know, but one might describe it as lack of set bonding.

So, I don't think the abolition of high school would have made much difference to me, but I do think it would greatly benefit those who are either oppressed by the social hierarchy or crippled by too much success too soon in it. And, of course, ending the intellectual lobotomization of entire generations by maleducated, intellectually sub-standard propagandists of the State would be a desirable outcome too.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Yemen falling to Shia

It looks like there is a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia being fought in Yemen. And Iran's proxies are winning.
The Iran-backed ethnic Houthis that captured and occupied Yemen's capital city Sanaa last year are following up from Friday's announce military mobilization have seized much of the city of Taiz and the surrounding province. They've taken control of the airport and security and intelligence buildings in Taiz, and have set up checkpoints in the area.

Yemen's internationally recognized president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi was forced last month to flee Sanaa, which is Yemen's largest city and is in in the north of Yemen, to Aden, which is Yemen's second largest city, and is a port city in the south of Yemen. Taiz is Yemen's third largest city, and it's located about halfway between Sanaa and Aden, so it's a critical waypoint on the Houthis' planned assault on Hadi's forces in Aden.

The Houthis have been using Yemen's air force for bombing strikes on Aden every day since Thursday. Now that the Houthis have control of Taiz airport, it's expected that further air strikes will be launched from there.

It now seems unavoidable that within the next few days there will be a sectarian civil war between the Shia Houthis versus Hadi's Sunni tribal militias. This will be further complicated by the presence in Yemen of two Sunni terrorist groups, the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The Houthis are now in control of the army and air force, and they're backed by Iran which is suspected of shipping additional weapons to them. Saudi Arabia and the other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have expressed deep dismay at the Shia takeover of Yemen, but it remains to be seen whether they take any military action to counter it. If they do, then the result will be a sectarian proxy war in Yemen between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The National (UAE) and CNN and AFP and AP
Meanwhile, the US has been forced to retreat and evacuate Al Anad air base.

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Another SFWA resignation

Holly Lisle resigns from Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America:
Ms. Kate Baker
Operations Manager
SFWA

Dear Ms. Baker,

I’m canceling my SFWA membership.

While it was encouraging to see SFWA edging toward acceptance of the indie publishing model, it’s too little and too late, and offset by an appalling reason behind the change of SFWAs incorporating state.

SFWA moved from Massachusetts to California for the purpose of allowing SFWA to claim tax dollars to offer grants. I’m aware that there were other—good—reasons for the organization’s move, but this particular poison pill in the changes made to SFWA requires me to walk away and never look back.
This is interesting, as her letter indicates how the SJWs in the SFWA intend to survive the opening up of the SF/F market and the inability of the publishing gatekeepers to protect their income: as government-funded parasites.

It helps make their continued move towards unpopular academic-style fiction somewhat more comprehensible, as you may recall Neal Stephenson's explanation of the difference between popular fiction that is funded by fans and academic fiction that is funded by bureaucrats.

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Ed Brayton wants to kill nationalists

Ed Brayton is one of those low midwits who stumbles through life thinking that he's intelligent because he's a little smarter than the average idiot. I've rubbed his nose in his own incompetence several times in the past; believe it or not, he's actually dumber than PZ Myers. But he's really outdone himself this time:
People often ask me how I manage to troll the right-wing fever swamps without becoming hopelessly misanthropic. Mostly I’m able to laugh rather than cry or explode in anger. But bullshit like this makes me want to climb a tower with a high-powered rifle and start picking people off.

When Andrew Zink passed the microphone over to his classmate and allowed her to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic, he said, he knew most students wouldn’t support his decision.

As president of the student senate at Pine Bush High School in New York, Zink leads the pledge every morning. But on Wednesday, a teacher asked him if he would mind if a classmate did it instead. It was National Foreign Language Week, and the students were encouraged to learn about different cultures.

 “I wanted to say yes because I felt this is the right thing to do,” Zink, 18, said in an interview Thursday with the Los Angeles Times.

Outrage quickly flowed throughout the campus, about 75 miles north of New York City. The principal apologized to the school later that day, Zink said, for allowing the Pledge of Allegiance to be recited in a different language.

  But the apology did little to quell student and parent anger.

 “The anti-Muslim sentiment started to build,” Zink said. “The poor girl who read it, she’s so sweet and when she finished reading it people called her a terrorist. They told her to go back to the Middle East. They mercilessly degraded her and I felt awful for her.”

 Zink didn’t get by unscathed either. He said he was threatened over Twitter and received death threats.


Of course he did. Because xenophobes are fucking idiots and I really don’t want to share this planet with them anymore.
I don't wish to share the civilized West with fifth column-coddlers like Mr. Brayton myself. I suggest we send Mr. Brayton to live in the Dar al-Islam where he can discover what true xenophobia is, and why it exists in the first place. When the civil wars start across the West, don't forget what side these treasonous idiots were on. And don't offer them safe haven when they try to escape those whose invasion they supported either. When they cry and plead that they've seen the light, tell them "too late now."

Speaking of Brayton's reliable intellectual ineptitude, this is my favorite set of Braytonisms, from when he was running away from a proposed 2010 debate with Ellis Washington:
"As for your challenge to debate, I will consider it - if you can give a coherent answer to the following question"
- Ed Brayton, February 26, 2010

"Ellis Washington did not challenge me to a debate."
- Ed Brayton, March 1, 2010

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Don't go out without carrying

And if you are confronted, don't hesitate to use lethal force. Because the vibrants, particularly the younger ones, won't hesitate to kill even when it's absolutely unnecessary and they've already got what they demanded:
According to NBC Philadelphia, the three black teens were playing basketball when one of them got the bright idea to go rob someone at random. After seeing a different man out walking his dog and deciding not to rob him, they saw 51-year-old James Patrick Stuhlman.

Stuhlman apparently would usually walk with his 13-year-old daughter, but on the night of his murder he had told her to stay home because it was getting late, likely saving her life. As he walked down the dark street on March 12, the father and owner of a local landscaping company saw three teens approach him, and upon running into him they announced a robbery.

“At one point, he did plead for his life,” Captain James Clark said Thursday at a news conference, according to the New York Daily News. “He said, ‘Please don’t shoot me, please don’t shoot me,’ and they still shot him one more time.”

On Thursday, 15-year-old Brandon Smith and a 14-year-old whose name has been withheld were arrested by police and said they had decided to rob Stuhlman rather than the other man they saw because he looked more vulnerable.
At this point, every robbery by young Africans is sufficient reason to believe one's life is in imminent danger and is sufficient justification for lethal self-defense. Of course, in the mainstream media's version, the three murderers were merely "teens" and "high school freshmen".

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Civil disobedience

The Germans aren't exactly known for it, but when they do it, they do it well:
“A few years ago the German Minister of Justice—kind of like the Attorney General here in the United States—he was pushing very hard for Germans to have biometric data on their national ID cards, and he wanted all Germans to be fingerprinted. And the Germans pushed back, particularly privacy advocates and those in the Chaos Computer Club. And so what they did is when the German Minister of Justice was out at a restaurant, they went ahead and after he left they got the glass that he had left behind, and they were able to lift his fingerprint off of the glass. They then took a photograph, brought it into Photoshop, cleaned it up, and then were able to replicate it on 3D printers, in latex. … [They] included it as a handout in their Chaos Computer Club magazine that went out to 5,000 people, and they encouraged their readers to leave the Justice Minister’s fingerprints at crime scenes all over Germany, which they did.”
This points out the only way one can reasonably expect to gain any privacy, which is by flooding the system. It is a known fact that figuring out what information is valuable is much harder than obtaining raw data in the first place, so rather than futile attempts to lock things down, one's focus should be in flooding the data collectors with vast quantities of meaningless information.

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4GW coming to America

The USA is about to discover the distinct military disadvantages of permitting a massive Fifth Column of immigrants in its midst:
A division of ISIS published a 'kill list' containing the names, photos and addresses of 100 US military members online and called upon its 'brothers residing in America' to kill them. The list was posted online by the 'Islamic State Hacking Division'. The group claimed it hacked several military servers, databases and emails to obtain the information.

The ISHD said it wants 'lone wolf' attackers to go after the military members and 'kill them wherever you find them'.

The list did appear to match up with information which was available online, TheBlaze reported.

The posting read: 'With the huge amount of data we have from various different servers and databases, we have decided to leak 100 addresses so that our brothers in America can deal with you. And now we have made it easy for you by giving you addresses, all you need to do is take the final step, so what are you waiting for? Kill them in their own lands, behead them in their own homes, stab them to death as they walk their streets thinking that they are safe.'
Notice how even ISIS recognizes that which neither the Democratic nor Republican parties are willing to admit. America is land that belongs to white Christian people of European descent, (only after being conquered and taken from my people, of course), it is not part of the Dar al-Islam, and it does not belong to the ISIS "brothers in America" who have invaded it or to the millions of other alien immigrants who presently reside in it. Not yet, anyhow. And perhaps not ever.

Perhaps after members of the US military begin dying in their own lands, Americans will begin to take the concept of defending their own lands, and their own people, seriously.

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More Hugo predictions

One Aled Morgan responds to the Chaos Horizon Hugo predictions, which were as follows:
  1. Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer
  2. Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie
  3. Monster Hunter Nemesis, Larry Correia
  4. The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison
  5. Skin Game, Jim Butcher  
First, the two I’d be astonished not to see on the ballot:

Lock In
Ancilliary Sword


Then very likely:

The Three Body Problem
Annihilation


Then at about the same level of probability fighting for the fifth slot:

Monster Hunter Nemesis
My Real Children
The Goblin Emperor
Symbiont


Possible but unlikely:

The Peripheral
The Darkling Sea


What you’re overlooking about Scalzi is that he has a massively popular blog, he has orders of magnitude more readers than the “Sad Puppies”, and while he never opersteps the line he encourages his fans to nominate him… and they do. The same goes for Grant, who has made the ballot so often already but doedn’t win — she has the same kind of nominating fans.

For the Hugos, what’s important is not wide readership but readership within Worldcon going fandom. Lots of the measures you’re assessing would be great if this were a wide-constituency vote, but it isn’t. It’ll be around two thousand people. SFWA’s even smaller, and everyone in SFWA knows each other. Butcher’s really really popular in the wider constituency, but his books don’t feel like the kind of thing people nominate for Hugos to the people who nominate, so I’d say it has zero chance except with Sad Puppies. And I expect a backlash against Sad Puppies this year.
I have to admit, The Three-Body Problem looks pretty good. I find the concept interesting, seeing as I used a variant of it to explain some of the problems with Keynesian economic theory in RGD. As a fan of Japanese literature both ancient and modern, I'm curious to see what Chinese SF is like. I tried Vandermeer's Balzac's War and ended up putting it down before long, but perhaps his Southern Reach Trilogy is better. In any event, Holmwood, who both reads the occasional Scalzi book and is a Sad Puppy supporter, offers a mild correction:
John Scalzi is a good author. I enjoyed both Old Man’s War and Agent to the Stars. His books are pushed heavily by his publisher (deservedly so) and Lock-In was a better work than Redshirts which won previously. That said, I believe his blog’s readership is a good deal smaller than (say) that of Vox Day, and certainly smaller than Day, Correia, Wright, Torgersen, Hoyt, etc combined.

Back to the general topic of Puppies, sad and otherwise.

I would be both surprised and disappointed if Puppies locked up overwhelmingly to vote a slate en masse without regard to quality. So far that’s not been the case, though I’m well aware there are those who’d love to poke a stick in the putative SF establishment fans’ collective eyes and do just that.
But this, while very well and good, VIOLATES THE NARRATIVE. Tudor leaps in to explain that Whatever is not merely big. It is ENORMOUS:
Scalzi’s blog is not big, is enormous. There are many good SF writers, but there are only a handful NY Times Bestsellers. Scalzi became one because of his blog. I only like some of his books but even I read his blog regularly. And if an author will write on his blog about her/his new book, than it’s certain that its sales will receive a great boost.
And so it fell to me to actually provide the relevant facts of the matter:
John Scalzi’s blog, Whatever, is not reasonably described as “enormous” and his blog readership is considerably smaller than mine, let alone the combined readership of the various Sad and Rabid Puppy authors. The most traffic Mr. Scalzi ever had is just over 1 million Google pageviews per month back in May 2012. Since then, his blog traffic has declined to around 450,000 pageviews per month. By comparison, my blogs alone now enjoy traffic of 1.5 million pageviews per month, about three times that of Mr. Scalzi's Whatever.

In 2014, Mr. Scalzi’s blog had 5.6 million annual pageviews whereas mine had 15.7 million. Where Mr. Scalzi is very popular, however, is on Twitter, where his 70k+ followers are more than all of the aforementioned authors combined. Whether Twitter followers or blog readerships are more predictive of Hugo success, I leave to Chaos Horizon to predict.

The reason many people have a false impression of Mr. Scalzi’s blog is that Mr. Scalzi has historically been prone to a considerable amount of exaggeration. For example, in an August 2010 interview with Lightspeed magazine, he claimed Whatever had 2 million monthly pageviews. The actual number of pageviews that month was 305 thousand, or about 15 percent of the amount claimed.
I do find it intriguing that more than a year after the greater part of Mr. Scalzi's claimed blog traffic was exposed as nonexistent, there are still those pinkshirts who fail to recognize that the numbers in the science fiction market simply do not add up in the way they apparently believe they do. I wonder what would suffice to convince them otherwise?

As for Holmewood's concern about quality, I would simply urge the prospective Worldcon voter to compare the Rabid Puppy slate to last year's Hugo winners. I contend that the Rabid Puppies are, across the board, considerably superior in terms of both science fiction essence and and science fiction quality to the 2014 winners.

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The danger of global warming

Dr. Patrick Moore explains why AGW/CC is not merely nonsense, but dangerous, anti-human nonsense:
I am skeptical humans are the main cause of climate change and that it will be catastrophic in the near future. There is no scientific proof of this hypothesis, yet we are told “the debate is over” and “the science is settled.”

My skepticism begins with the believers’ certainty they can predict the global climate with a computer model. The entire basis for the doomsday climate change scenario is the hypothesis increased atmospheric carbon dioxide due to fossil fuel emissions will heat the Earth to unlivable temperatures.

In fact, the Earth has been warming very gradually for 300 years, since the Little Ice Age ended, long before heavy use of fossil fuels. Prior to the Little Ice Age, during the Medieval Warm Period, Vikings colonized Greenland and Newfoundland, when it was warmer there than today. And during Roman times, it was warmer, long before fossil fuels revolutionized civilization. The idea it would be catastrophic if carbon dioxide were to increase and average global temperature were to rise a few degrees is preposterous.

Recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced for the umpteenth time we are doomed unless we reduce carbon-dioxide emissions to zero. Effectively this means either reducing the population to zero, or going back 10,000 years before humans began clearing forests for agriculture. This proposed cure is far worse than adapting to a warmer world, if it actually comes about.
No one who buys into the AGW/CC scam should be taken any more seriously than an economist who "invests" in a Ponzi scheme. AGW/CC is scientific fraud, it is historical ignorance, and it is political ideology. I've been saying this for years now, and every single piece of information that has come out since has strongly supported that contention.

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

#Comicgate

Dare we dream of a response to the SJWs in the comics world?
CB: And how will you react if and when they tell you some of your art is “problematic?”

EL: I don’t need to do a thing. I’m in charge here. Readers can buy what I’m selling or not. Ideally that’s what it should be. A candy bar company makes a candy bar and you can buy it or not. Those are your two choices. The internet assumes there are two other options: that candy bars can be pulled off the shelves and returned to their manufacturers unsold or that those buying candy bars can stipulate the ingredients. You want to make a different comic book? Make one of your own. You can buy the one I produce or you can not buy it, but you can’t dictate what goes on inside those pages. One guy makes that call.

CB: Lastly Erik, what do you think the long term effects will be if the comic industry continues to acquiesce to these sort of demands?

EL: The slippery slope is a return to the Comics Code. That, or some other kind of censoring body who knows better than the rest of us. Movies have gone in a direction where everything is pre-screened to an audience who weighs in on them and decides what’s good or bad and changes are made accordingly. The danger of taking cues from the audience is pablum like Star Wars Episode I where fans weighed in on what they wanted, George Lucas gave them what he thought they wanted and then they hated what he gave them. The audience is not wiser than the creative people. If they were better writers and artists than those in the field, they would be employed in the field. They’re mouthy amateurs and their suggestions should largely be treated like the witless ramblings of an insane person.

Years ago, Stan Lee instituted a new policy because of a number of letters from readers. Some vocal fans had complained that continued stories were problematic. Since distribution was spotty at best, many readers often missed chapters of continued stories and so they asked that Marvel stop producing continued stories. And so they did. The policy went into effect and a few months later all of their books were self-contained. And then another batch of mail came in complaining about the simple, dull one-part stories throughout the line. And so that policy was tossed out the window.

The danger is in thinking that the vocal few represent the entirety of your audience. They don’t. And so what we’re getting is situations like Jim Lee giving Wonder Woman pants in the Justice League because readers demanded it, then getting rid of them because other readers demanded it, all before the pants version saw print! These publishers are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to please everybody and not knowing who to listen to, and I can’t help but feel that a lot of the people yelling and screaming aren’t buying the comics, pants or no pants.
 #GamerGate has changed the rules. Blue SF is on the rise and the pinkshirts are reeling in dismay. All it takes is for one creator in an industry - just one - to stand up and say "I will create what I want to create" in order to inspire others to do the same.

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The slaughter of the development houses

EA kills another legendary name in game development:
In an a move to consolidate its studios Electronic Arts has announced that it will be closing down Maxis. One of the sad truths of the video game industry is that game studios close down and disappear all the time. That being the case, there are still moments when you see certain names coupled with the words "shut down" and can't help but feel a bit saddened.

Case in point, Electronic Arts has announced at GDC today that it will be closing down Maxis Emeryville in an effort to fold its staff and projects into other development houses under the Maxis brand. Recognizing that this consolidation will lead to many of the studio's staffers losing their jobs, EA stated that former Emeryville employees "will be given opportunities to explore other positions within the Maxis studios and throughout EA." The publisher also intends to work with employees leaving wholesale "to ensure the best possible transition with separation packages and career assistance."
What is that now, six or seven classic development houses that have been devoured by the EA monster? I was seriously concerned when they acquired Origin, and downright bummed out when it became obvious that they were going to kill both the Ultima and Wing Commander franchises. Chris Roberts even worked out a deal to try to revive the latter a few years ago, but wasn't able to find the funding, hence Star Citizen. One hopes that one day, he'll be able to buy back the IP that EA is never going to utilize.

I have fond memories of Maxis. Roger, one of their tech support guys, was my initial contact there in my Transdimensional Evangelist days, and we used to go into the city from time to time when I was in town. We had some unforgettable evenings, most notably the time another Maxis employee who had a jeep with the license plate "JAHARMY"  was driving and took us to DV8.

Well, at least they're keeping the brand name for now. I seriously wonder sometimes how EA even stays in business. They shut down a friend's studio last year that was highly profitable, just because the overall revenue was under the level dictated by their new corporate policy. They didn't sell it or anything, just shut it down and threw away literally millions of dollars in profit. So PopCap is next, after which it will presumably be Bioware's turn.

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Choose this day whom you will serve

Jon Podhoretz doesn't appear to like the idea of having to choose between America and Israel:
Today, the president of the United States told the prime minister of Israel he was reassessing America’s “options” with regard to Israel in light of remarks Benjamin Netanyahu made about potential Palestinian statehood and an election-day Facebook post urging Israeli right-wingers to go to the polls on Monday to counter a surge in Israeli Arab voters.

The crisis in the relationship we discuss in our new editorial statement has entered a new and potentially unprecedented phase.

It may well be that the president is going to present American Jews with a choice over the coming months no American president should ask us to make—to become parties to and participants in his effort to create what, in 2009, he called “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel.
The question, of course, is to what Podhoretz is truly objecting. Does he, a U.S. citizen, genuinely find it difficult to choose between the U.S.A. and Israel? Or is he more truly concerned that, as the Spanish Inquisition did with the false conversos, the president intends to expose where the true loyalties of the Jews in America lie?

There should be an amount of "daylight" between the U.S. and Israel. They are two separate and very different countries, and while they share some interests, they also have other interests that are distinct, and in some cases, even divergent. An alliance between the two countries makes sense. Attempting to force the two countries to march in lockstep does not.

The mere fact that Podhoretz would appear to oppose recognition of this basic reality is sufficient to raise some questions where his true and singular allegiance lies. It is telling that the name of his piece is "The Crisis Has Exploded" when the vast majority of Americans have no idea that there is any such crisis at all.

It's not anti-Semitic to observe that no man can serve two masters. But it is literally anti-American for a U.S. citizen to call for the sacrifice of U.S. interests on Israel's behalf. There is nothing wrong with being pro-Israel. I am pro-Israel. But there is definitely something wrong with selling out what is supposed to be your own country, regardless of what reason you give to justify it.

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