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Monday, March 30, 2015

"A necessary supplement to Clausewitz"

A HISTORY OF STRATEGY: From Sun Tzu to William S. Lind

Martin van Creveld ranks high among military historians, and given the changes in technology since Napoleonic times, his work is a necessary supplement to Clausewitz. His reflections have influenced strategists and grand tacticians since his first books appeared, and as an Israeli historian, he has been in a unique position to observe the changing nature of modern warfare on both the grand strategic and tactical levels, particularly with regards to asymmetric warfare. Scholars and military planners ignore his thoughts at their peril.
 

I don’t entirely agree with him on the effectiveness of guerilla operations absent a sanctuary, or with his conclusions concerning Viet Nam, which I consider to be a victory won, then given up. And while the Iraq War was certainly unwise, I don't believe that it was necessarily unwinnable, as the U.S. military was given an impossible mission, then undermined by political errors made above their pay grade. That being said, if winning is defined as a nation being better off after the war than it was before, it is hard to see how winning in Iraq was ever possible. So perhaps we agree after all.
 

But whatever your position on modern conflicts might be, Martin van Creveld’s writings are worth reading and they are vital to reaching informed conclusions about the art of war.

Jerry Pournelle
Studio City, California


Castalia House has published a lot of books over the last twelve months. I'm proud of those books and I believe all of them are worth reading by at least one group of readers or another. But most books, even the excellent ones, are not what I consider to be absolute must-reads by everyone of sufficient intellect to comprehend them. Such books are very few and far between, and the last one we published that I personally felt this strongly about was AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND by John C. Wright.

I feel much the same way about A HISTORY OF STRATEGY: From Sun Tzu to William S. Lind by Martin van Creveld, although for different reasons. Most of you are aware that I am very well read in strategic matters. I read Caesar and Mahan for entertainment, I rely heavily upon Frontinus, and to a lesser extent, Onasander and Vegetius, in my fiction and I am no stranger to the great works of military strategy and tactics from the ancients to the moderns.

And yet, van Creveld not infrequently cited military thinkers of whom I'd never even heard before, let alone read. This is not a history of war, but a history of thinking about war, and it is arguably one of the most masterful summaries of a millennia-spanning train of thought ever written. It's not long, it's not deep, and it's not hard to follow, but it is an education in 116 pages. Read this, and you will be better-informed on the subject of war than 99.99 percent of the human race.

Better still, you will be in a position to dive deeper and to understand where you are diving as well as the historical significance of that area. Van Creveld begins at the beginning, with the ancient Chinese, and proceeds methodically through time, crediting each cognitive breakthrough to its author, then explains its significance as well as its consequences.

I highly recommend this book, especially to parents who are homeschooling. Featuring the foreword by Dr. Jerry Pournelle quoted above, it is available for $4.99 at Castalia House in both EPUB and Kindle formats and at Amazon.

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Iran's nukes: an Israeli perspective

Last week, a number of people were expressing their opinions concerning the prospects that Iran would obtain nuclear weapons as a result of the Lausanne talks and what this meant for the USA, Israel, and the Middle East. Most of those opinions, including mine, were largely uninformed, but then it occurred to me that Castalia House's newest author, Martin van Creveld, was someone who has spent a good deal of time thinking about this very subject, and as Israel's leading military historian, he is in a position to know considerably more about the situation than anyone else here.

Later today we will be announcing a second Castalia House book by Dr. van Creveld that I cannot recommend highly enough. Perhaps reading this response to my question about his perspective on the likely consequences of the prospective Lausanne treaty will help you understand why.
“More may be better” was the title of an article published back in 1981 by the redoubtable political scientist Kenneth Waltz. Going against the prevailing wisdom, Waltz argued that nuclear proliferation might not be all bad. Nuclear weapons, he wrote, had prevented the US and the USSR from going to war against each other; as, by all historical logic since the days of Athens and Sparta in the fifth century B.C, they should have done. Instead they circled each other like dogs, occasionally barking and baring their teeth but never actually biting. Such was the fear the weapons inspired that other nuclear countries would probably follow suit.

To quote Winston Churchill, peace might be the sturdy child of terror.
Since then over thirty years have passed. Though Waltz himself died in 2013, his light goes marching on. At the time he published his article there were just five nuclear countries (the US, the USSR, Britain, France, and China) plus one, Israel, which had the bomb but put anybody who dared say so in prison. Since then three (India, Pakistan, North Korea) have been added, raising the total to nine. Yet on no occasion did any of these states fight a major war against any other major, read nuclear, power.

And how about Iran? First, note that no country has taken nearly as long as Iran did to develop its nuclear program. Started during the 1970s under the Shah, suspended during the 1980s as Iranians were fighting Saddam Hussein (who invaded Iran), and renewed in the early 1990s, that program has still not borne fruit. This suggests that, when the Iranians say, as they repeatedly have, that they do want to build a bomb they are sincere, at least up to a point. All they want is the infrastructure that will enable them to build it quickly should the need arise—a desire they have in common with quite some other countries such as Sweden, Australia, and Japan.

Second, the real purpose of the Iranian program, and any eventual bomb that may result from it, is to deter a possible attack by the U.S. Look at the record; one never knows what America’s next president is going to do. With another Clinton, who attacked Serbia, and another Bush, who attacked Afghanistan and Iraq, in the White House a distinct possibility, caution is advised. The Mullahs have no desire to share the fate of Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Khadafy.

The latter’s fate in particular gives reason for thought. In 2002-3, coming under Western pressure, Khadafy gave up his nuclear program.  As his reward, no sooner did the West see an opportunity in 2011 than it stabbed him in the back, waged war on him, overthrew him, and killed him. Leaving Libya in a mess from which it may never recover.

Third, Israel is in no danger. Alone among all the countries of the Middle East, Israel has what it takes to deter Iran and, if necessary, wage a nuclear war against it. What such a war might look like was described in some detail by Anthony Cordesman, an American political scientist a former member of the National Security Council. His conclusion? The difference in size notwithstanding, the outcome would be to wipe Iran, but not Israel, off the map.

Netanyahu has Iran in his head and effectively used it to win the elections. Yet truth to say, no Iranian leader has ever directly threatened Israel. To be sure, neither Iran’s presidents nor the Mullahs like the Zionist Entity. They do not stand to attention when Hatikvah is played. They have even had the chutzpah to deny the Holocaust. Yet all they have said is that, if Israel attacked them, they would respond in kind. Also that “rotten” Israel would end up by collapsing under its own weight. All this serves to divert attention away from their real purpose. That purpose, as I just said, is to deter the U.S. And to draw as much support in the Moslem world as verbal attacks on Israel always do.

Finally, morality. Are the Iranians really as bad as some people claim? Taking 1981 as our starting point, we find that in the three and a half decades since then the U.S has waged war first against (or in) Grenada; then Panama; then Iraq; then Serbia (in Bosnia); then Serbia again (in Kosovo); then Afghanistan; then Iraq again; then Libya. In some of these praiseworthy enterprises it was supported by its allies, the Netherlands included.

The Iranians are not angels—far from it. They have meddled in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, as they still do. They have also assisted terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas. But everything is relative. They have not waged large-scale warfare against any other country. Let alone bombed it or invaded it.

And that, in the final analysis, is all that matters.
Now, Martin van Creveld is the very opposite of an innocent on this subject. He knows more about war, the history of war, and the strategy and tactics of war than nearly anyone on the planet. And so when a world-famous military expert, who lives in the heart of the land that is most threatened by Iranian weapons, contradicts the neocons living in the USA who have been beating the war drum for a decade and claiming that the mad mullahs are simply slavering to hurl nuclear-tipped missiles at Israel the moment they have them, I suggest that it is wise to listen to the former, not the latter.

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Her precious....

You may recall that the Toad of Tor said this yesterday:
1. I have less power than I feel I should have.
2. I feel those people over there have power I don't have.
3. They must have stolen mine!
A clear case of psychological projection, one would have to conclude. Especially after reading her subsequent statement today:
"The Hugos don't belong to the set of all people who read the genre; they belong to the worldcon, and the people who attend and/or support it. The set of all people who read SF can start their own award."
- Teresa Nielsen Hayden, March 29, 2015, 03:43 PM
That's coming right from the Toad's mouth. And yet, here is what Sasquan itself has to say about the Hugo Awards.
Worldcons are the site of the Hugo Awards, the premier awards in the science fiction field, recognizing the greatest books and stories, related works, film, television, podcasts, and fan works.
So, we're supposed to believe that the premier awards that recognize the greatest books and stories in science fiction don't belong to the set of all science fiction readers?  Then what makes them "the premier awards"? Why are they even supposed to be relevant, if they mean nothing to anyone who isn't one of the small number of people who attend "the worldcon"?

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No income growth in two decades

Despite two stock market booms, there has been no real income growth since 1994:

Real Median Household Income Has Been Flat for 20 YearsDespite ultra-loose monetary policies over the past several years, incomes adjusted for inflation have fallen for the median U.S. family. With the benefits of monetary expansion going to a small share of the population and wage growth stagnating, incomes have been essentially flat over the past 20 years. In the long run, however, classical economics would tell us that the pricing distortions created by the current global regimes of QE will lead to a suboptimal allocation of capital and investment, which will result in lower output and lower standards of living over time. In fact, although U.S. equity prices are setting record highs, real median household incomes are 9 percent lower than 1999 highs. The report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch plainly supports the conclusion that QE and the associated currency depreciation is not leading to higher global output. The cost of QE is greater than the income lost to savers and investors. The long-term consequence of the new monetary orthodoxy is likely to permanently impair living standards for generations to come while creating a false illusion of reviving prosperity.
Karl Denninger was among the first to point out that even if it worked, Quantitative Easing could not possibly do what was claimed of it. Thus demonstrating what I pointed out, which is that it was merely about buying more time for the bankers to make hay before the eventual crash of the global economy. We're already seeing signs of the wars that conventionally accompany depressions, and depending upon your definition of depression, we're only six years into this thing.

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Asymmetric warfare

The war in Yemen has now gone regional:
Saudi Arabia's King Salman said the military operation against the Houthis would not stop until Yemen was stable and secure. It will continue “until it achieves its goals for the Yemen people to achieve security,” he said.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi, meanwhile, endorsed the creation of a joint military force, saying the Arab world was at a crucial crossroad and facing unprecedented difficulties. “The challenges are grave,” Sisi told the Arab leaders, like Salman not mentioning Iran by name. “It is a huge responsibility, heavy and burdensome.”

A Houthi spokesman countered Saturday that Hadi was a “puppet” of the United States and Saudi Arabia. “Yemenis may not have great and strong weapons like Saudi Arabia and their allies, but they have strength, and faith in God will win this battle,” said Dhaif Allah Shami of the Houthi political office.

In Tehran, a government TV station reported that thousands of people took to the streets of Sana to voice their readiness to confront Saudi aggression. The station also reported Houthi militias moving toward the border of Saudi Arabia. A third night of airstrikes targeted military bases and air defense sites around Sana and destroyed stockpiles of weapons that the Houthi militia had seized, said Ahmed Hassan Asiri, a spokesman for coalition forces. There were also late-night reports of airstrikes on Sana’s civilian airport.

Yemen airspace remained exclusively under the control of the coalition, Asiri said, and the Houthis suffered “grave losses.” He said their capability is “weakening on a daily basis.” But he acknowledged that the Houthis were continuing a push toward the port city of Aden and were also mobilizing near the Saudi border.
As always, combined arms are the most effective. What appears to be happening so far is air forces versus ground forces, and the latter usually win as long as they can reach the enemy. But it appears that the Saudis are not confident that their ground forces will be sufficient to repel a Houthi invasion, otherwise they would not be looking for help from Egypt and other Arab countries.

Brad Torgersen breaks the narrative

As you might expect, Brad Torgersen's response to the Toad of Tor and the carnival of the grotesque on display at Making Light is considerably more polite and measured than mine. But it is equally dismissive in substance:
We’re about a week out from the release of the final ballot results, for the 2015 Hugo awards. These results will determine which picks are available for your choosing when it comes time for you to cast your ballot. Best Novel, Best Short Story, etc. Already, the critics of Sad Puppies 3 have been laying the groundwork for de-legitimizing SP3. To include statements which completely misunderstand the point of Sad Puppies. Some of it is innocent. Not everybody’s had time to do a deep-dig on the history of Sad Puppies, nor to be able to discern that each iteration of the project has tended to assume its own personality. What they’re hearing about SP3 is probably hear-say from friends, and much of that is at least one to two years out-of-date. And even then, many of the “facts” put forth are demonstrably wrong.

But other commentary is not so innocent. There are people who find the very existence of Sad Puppies 3 to be an affront to their personhoods. A sinister outside force come to trouble their precious genre and its establishment. For the people deliberately misconstruing the purpose and thrust of Sad Puppies 3, it’s all about getting out in front and shaping a narrative. They’re smart. They know that truth can be overwhelmed with lies if you just spin your narrative adroitly, and with enough volume.

Thus the charges, in no particular order.

● SP3 is a trojan horse effort conducted by and for the benefit of authors who cannot earn a Hugo award the honest way.

● SP3 is just ballot-stuffing, which ought to be disallowed according to precedent and the rules of ballot-counting established through WSFS.

● SP3 is artificially trying to warp the Hugos out of true; an outside effort conducted by and involving people who are not real fans.

● The SP3 slate works are substandard based on (insert garbledy-garble talk about taste here.)

● The SP3 slate is just a bunch of right-wingers who should go set up their own awards, and leave the Hugos alone.

● SP3 is not legit because its participants were drafted for the effort, and are not willing participants.

● SP3 is not legit because Larry Correia is a terrible human being who is hated by all real fans.

● SP3 is not legit because Vox Day is also running Rabid Puppies and everybody knows Vox Day is also a terrible human being who is hated by all real fans.

● SP3 is a trojan horse for GamerGaters, and all real fans hate and loathe GamerGaters.

● SP3 is just a bunch of straight white guys who are terrified of women, gays, trans, and folks with brown skin.

● SP3 would never happen in the first place if (resurrected conservative editor of the past) could lecture them about their wrongdoing.

● SP3 is a fringe minority faction that does not represent the “main body” of real fans.

● SP3’s slate selections are not the “natural” selections of real fans.

There’s more, but I think you get the gist of it.

Much of this is simply the “in” crowd reacting badly to watching the “out” crowd take a seat at the lunch table. As I’ve mentioned before in this space, according to the dyed-in-the-wool denizens of WSFS and Worldcon, a “real fan” is defined as someone who has been attending Worldcon (and other cons) for a long time, has been properly inculcated into the specific culture of Worldcon and con-going fandom, is someone who volunteers time and effort to cons, generally makes Worldcon (and con-going) a “family” affair, etc. So if you don’t go to Worldcon and you’ve not been part of that culture for a number of years, you don’t qualify as a “real fan” in their definition. And they resent the hell out of anyone who is not a “real fan” showing up to vote on the “real fan” award.
Imagine that, an SJW trying to deceitfully shape the narrative in her favor. Keep in mind that Brad is addressing those who are still running around saying demonstrably untrue things like "Vox Day is the originator of Sad Puppies" and "Spacebunny does not exist". These SJWs are not so much insane as willfully delusional. I have no doubt that I could show up at Sasquan with Spacebunny and some of them would claim that I somehow managed to find and hire an escort who happens to look just like the model whose pictures I've been using to make it look as if I am married to a slender and attractive woman. Because #GamerGate. And also, raciss.

Of course, they know better, but they're perfectly willing to lie for rhetorical effect. Which raises the question: once you know that, why would you believe a single word that comes out of their mouths? The good thing is that it is easy to destroy their narrative. Because it is false, all that is necessary to do so is to relentlessly tell the truth.

Since 1986, Tor Books has 84 Hugo and Nebula Best Novel nominations. In 2014, Tor.com had 50 percent of the short story nominations, 40 percent of the novella nominations, and 20 percent of the novelette nominations. Tor has also won the Locus Award for Best Publisher for 26 straight years, beginning in 1988.

Keep that in mind when you read the Toad of Tor's claims about people being afraid of losing their privilege.

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Toad of Tor croaks

This ludicrously dishonest croaking from the Toad amused me. It demonstrates how completely, how utterly, how absolutely, the SJWs in science fiction have no conception whatsoever of the zeitgeist. Teresa Nielsen Hayden, who may or may not have already been fired from Tor, croaked:
A sense of injured privilege is what PUAs, Gamergaters, and Sad Puppies have in common. Their fury at SJWs comes from a sequence of assumptions that's very common in individuals and groups that are smarting from a sense of wounded self-importance:

1. I have less power than I feel I should have.
2. I feel those people over there have power I don't have.
3. They must have stolen mine!

And poof, there's their evil enemy, made to order.

Gamergaters think gaming belongs to them, and should answer solely to their preferences. PUAs hate women who selfishly consult their own feelings and preferences, then turn them down. Torgersen wants awards to go to the people and works he thinks should win, rather than the ones the voters would naturally vote for.

In the long run, this is doomed. What the Sad Puppies are doing will not make disinclined readers love their work or respect them as authors -- readers really are stubborn that way -- but they might conceivably do a lot of damage along the way.
She might as easily have written "ribbit, ribbit, ribbit" for all that it has any relationship to reality except for her statement about Brad.  Let's identify and count the errors just from the quoted section:
  1. Pick-Up Artists do not have a sense of injured privilege. They have a sense of mastery. Because they are sexually successful men who have sex with large quantities of women much more attractive than the Toad of Tor ever was. They don't hate women who turn them down; the abundance mentality teaches precisely the opposite. She has literally NO IDEA what she's talking about here. Or she's simply lying.
  2. GamerGaters do not have a sense of injured privilege. They don't think gaming belongs to them. They have a sense of being betrayed by the gaming media, which they no longer can trust to honestly review games, and a correct sense of being attacked by people for developing the games they want to develop and playing the games they want to play. The entire core message of GamerGate is simple: fuck off and leave us alone to play what we want to play, not what you think we should be permitted to play. Again, the Toad is saying things that are demonstrably false.
  3. Yes, Torgersen wants awards to go to the people and works he thinks should win. So does the Toad of Tor. Notice the deceit here about what the voters would "naturally vote for". What is this "natural vote" and how does the Toad somehow know what it is? Isn't that what the actual vote is meant to determine?
  4. What is doomed in the long run? Long after the Toad of Tor is dead and forgotten, pick-up artists will be picking up women, game developers will be developing games, and gamers will be playing them. As for Sad Puppies, here is a prediction: Sad Puppies will outlast Patrick Nielsen Hayden's career at Tor Books.
  5. It's true that Sad Puppies will not make disinclined readers love anyone's work or respect anyone as authors. Now, I can't speak for any other supporter of Sad Puppies, but as for me, the Toad is ludicrously mistaken if she genuinely believes I give even the smallest fraction of a damn. And Sad Puppies don't have less power than they think they should have or that anyone stole their nonexistent power. This sounds a lot like psychological projection coming from someone who was until recently associated with Tor Books, the winner of the Locus Award for best SF publisher 20 years in a row and a sizable chunk of all the major science fiction awards given out over the last two decades.
  6. Our contempt for SJWs is because they are obnoxious individuals like the Toad of Tor who believe they have the right to tell other people what to write, what to read, what to develop, what to play, and for what it is natural to vote on the basis of their pinkshirted ideology. We stand for freedom. They stand for them being in control. And we do not accept it.
SJWs are the people of the lie. They are Aristotle's people who are intellectually limited to the rhetorical level. We all know that no amount of new information will change the Toad's mind. We all know that the Toad will not address any of this honestly. She will not recant her observably false claims. She'll simply tell more lies about what other people really think and produce more incoherent rhetoric. And that is why she merits nothing but the utmost contempt. As disgusting as the Toad of Tor may be on the outside, she's even worse on the inside.

All you need to know who is right and who is wrong in this is to note who is able to directly quote the other side, and who almost invariably has to resort to writing complete fiction about the other side's thoughts and motivations. I don't give a damn why the Toad thinks what she thinks. I don't give a damn what her motivations might be. All I need to know, all anyone needs to know, is what her words are in order to reach an accurate conclusion and dismiss her accordingly.

If you do feel like a safari through the SJW fever swamp, I would encourage you not to leave any comments there. You cannot engage in rational discourse with the intrinsically irrational and Making Light is not a place where you are going to find anyone even remotely capable of dialectic. Treat it like the zoo it is, just drive through and marvel at the grotesquerie.

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Punch harder

It's amusing how many SJWs don't understand how this "Internet" thing works. A woman whines about being criticized by Dalrock, among others.
A group of supposed "Christian" men bantered back and forth under a blog written with the sole intention of saying that women divorce so they can profit off of it by writing about it and I Laura Lifshitz, am one of the most evil women profiting off her dissolved marriage. Oh and by the way, the article is categorized under "ugly feminists."

First, the comments focused on how terrible I was for writing about my divorce not only for The Huffington Post, but also for the New York Times because you know, the divorce must be my fault since I write about the experience, and I'm an evil Jewish feminist. And not only must the divorce be my fault but that I am a selfish mother who cares not for her own child and how she feels in the matter. In addition, let's not forget to add that female writers writing about divorce are a bunch of leeches set to destroy our families all in the name of money.

Because, you know, I'm just filthy rich. It's too bad my student loan lender doesn't realize this.

Then, the commenters started to focus on my last name: Lifshitz.

"Ha, Ha, Ha! Is it even a real name?" joked one commenter.

Then the other commenters joined in to bash my last name, these anti-Semitic, vile, and immature babies (I mean men).
Now why would anyone be moved to criticize a woman who calls them "anti-Semitic, vile, and immature babies"? What is the bright line that separates a woman calling men "vile and immature babies" and a man calling women "rancid cunts"? And for crying out loud, look at her name. "Is it a real name" is about the mildest possible sport anyone could make of it. As for people getting personal about Ms Lipshits, it's not hard to see why they might feel justified in doing so:
There is this one dude at the gym who is very buff. He’s not my bag of treats, but apparently he feels that any woman who looks in his direction must be interested. He has this stone face grimace. I see him at least three times a week. Smile you grouchy fuck! I am not interested in you, but I just hate looking at such a crabby face.
Any woman who writes like this has made herself entirely fair game for any verbal abuse anyone wants to pour out upon her. Like the McRapeys and McRacists of the world, she wants to be able to dish out abuse without being subjecting to it in return. Women like this are in shock that men on the Internet aren't treating them the way that men in their daily life do, and that they can't get away with talking about others in public the way they do in private.

The thing is, if you're going to be a public figure and express your opinion on the Internet, you are going to upset a subset of the people who encounter it. A subset of that subset are going to respond by attacking you using nothing but rhetoric. I've had people calling me nearly every name in the book on the Internet since 2001. So what? It clearly hasn't harmed me in the slightest. I quite like that it also gives me complete carte blanche to call everyone else anything I please since it seems to bother most of them considerably more than it bothers me.

The first rule of dealing with SJWs is Andrew Breitbart's: always punch back twice as hard. The second rule is this: keep punching. Women are particularly susceptible to attacks on their appearance and their sexual behavior, so those are the most effective subjects to target with rhetoric. Once it is clear that they're not engaging in honest dialectic or rational discourse, your best bet is to either ignore them or nuke them rhetorically.

The third rule is this: quote them and quote them ruthlessly. Patrick Nielsen Hayden is a self-admitted racist. John Scalzi is a self-admitted rapist. NK Jemisin is a self-admitted savage... and proud of it.

The SJWs have to choose. Either they can engage in rational discourse or they can accept being called sluts and savages and racists and evil, ugly feminists on a regular basis. What is not on the table is one-way communication where they attack and lecture us and we humbly accept it in dutiful silence.
There are some things I cannot understand -- like internet trolls and people who hate chocolate -- but there is one thing that I do know is that I will never stop writing. I don't care if they come to my house and call me the ugliest cunt on the planet. I will never stop writing my story.
Oh, I don't think there was every any chance that Ms Lipshits was going to stop talking about herself. But she can be assured that as long as she subjects the public to her story, the public is going to talk back.

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The failure of accomodation

The Washington Post laments the decline of the American church:
America’s churches are in trouble, and they are in trouble in communities that arguably need them the most.

One of the tragic tales told by Harvard scholar Robert Putnam in his important new book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” is that America’s churches have grown weakest in some of the communities that need them most: poor and working-class communities across the country. The way he puts it, our nation’s churches, synagogues and mosques give children a sense of meaning, belonging and purpose — in a word, hope — that allows them to steer clear of trouble, from drugs to delinquency, and toward a bright and better future, warmer family relationships and significantly higher odds of attending college.

The tragedy is that even though religious involvement “makes a bigger difference in the lives of poor kids than rich kids,” Putnam writes, involvement is dropping off fastest among children from the least privileged background, as the figure below indicates.

The picture of religion painted by Putnam, a political scientist and the foremost scholar of American civic life, is part of a broader canvass in his book showing that kid-friendly institutions — not just churches, but also strong families and strong schools — are withering, but almost entirely in less-affluent communities. American children from better-educated and more affluent homes enjoy decent access to churches, families and schools, which lifts their odds of realizing the American Dream, even as kids from less-privileged homes are increasingly disconnected from these key institutions, making the American Dream that much more difficult for them to pursue.

Why is it that the country is witnessing not only a religious decline, but one that is concentrated among its most vulnerable men, women and children? Four factors stand out in understanding the emptying out of the pews in working-class and poor communities across the United States: money, TV, sex and divorce.
These things are all symptoms, not the actual problem. There are many, many strong Christians across the USA and around the world who do not attend organized churches because the organized churches have been invaded by entryists and gutted. The tolerant, welcoming, accomodating, and worldly churches are dying because they lack the only thing a Christian church needs: an unflinching commitment to Jesus Christ and the Bible.

Society cannot destroy the Church, but the Church can destroy itself by making societal approval its priority.

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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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