Sunday, 30 August 2015

Talk about an upgrade...

Most people would be pleased about upgrading from economy to business class on a flight. But when you're the greatest band of all time, "upgrading" your mode of transportation takes on a completely different, and vastly more awesome, meaning:
British heavy metal lagends IRON MAIDEN, whose new studio album, "The Book Of Souls", their first for 5 years, will be released worldwide next week on September 4, are taking touring to a new level using a Boeing 747-400 Jumbo Jet (a.k.a. Queen of the Skies) for their world tour next year. Vocalist Bruce Dickinson is currently in training for his license to fly the massive four-engine jet, which is almost twice the size and over three times the weight of the Boeing 757 used on previous tours in 2008/9/11. 
The new Ed Force One will take the band, crew and over 12 tons of equipment more than 55,000 miles (88,500km) around the planet with concerts in six of the seven continents (Australasia, Asia, North and South America, Africa and Europe), with "The Book Of Souls" world tour 2016 expected to visit around 35 countries.\ 
Details of the precise schedule are currently being finalized and the band will commence announcements of specific dates for the different territories in a few weeks' time. 
However, it can be revealed that "The Book Of Souls" world tour will open in the USA in late February, with Ed Force One flying in for three shows before, in early March, heading into Central America visiting Mexico, followed by a much-anticipated first-ever concert in El Salvador and a return to Costa Rica. Ed Force One then proceeds into South America for concerts in Argentina, Chile and a number of shows in Brazil before flying back to the USA at the end of March for ten more cities covering the USA and, of course, Canada in the first two weeks of April. 
A long awaited return to Japan follows later in April, and then the band are delighted to be playing their first ever shows in China before heading to New Zealand and Australia for a comprehensive tour during the first half of May. Shows in South Africa, 
MAIDEN's first visit there with Bruce, will be the last port of call before Ed Force One heads to Europe for a very extensive tour starting in late May and finishing in early August. This will the first time Ed Force One has ever been used on any European Tour dates (other than Bruce's fan club trips to shows) and will provide transport there for at least for the first few weeks. 
Bruce Dickinson comments: "When the opportunity arose from my friends at Air Atlanta Icelandic to lease a 747 for 'The Book Of Souls' world tour, of course, we jumped at the chance. Who wouldn't? The greatest benefit of travelling in a 747 is that because of its colossal size and freight capacity, we can carry our stage production and all our stage equipment and desks in the cargo hold without having to make any of the immense structural modifications needed to do this on the previous 757, the extent of which fans will have noted on the 'Flight 666' DVD. Although in reality we cannot carry much more gear, the savings in complexity, time and cost make using the 747 even more practical. All we will need to do is 'paint' it and move a few seats around, with the added advantage that there is much more room for band and crew — our Krew can almost get a row of seats each to catch up on sleep on the flights! Furthermore, it is marginally faster 0.85 MACH and the range of around 7000NM (13,000 km) is much greater, which means we will not have to make the refuelling stops we needed to with the 757.
You know you're badass and awesome when you can lease AN ENTIRE BLEEDIN' 747 to ferry yourself around.

And yes, I know, the POTUS has his own very specially modified 747 that he gets to use as his own personal bus. But let's be very clear about one thing: the next person who compares the idiot clown that is President Jackass with THE GREATEST BAND OF ALL TIME is going to learn how to fly, face-first, through the nearest window.

The best thing about this, of course, is that IRON MAIDEN are finally returning to American shores. The last time I saw these titans perform live was back in 2012- they played two shows nearby. It has been way too long since we saw this band performing live. They never fail to put on an incredible show, and I have no doubt that they will exceed all of their previous outings in 2016.

This band has been around for damn near 40 years, and they're making bands one-twentieth their age look slow and amateurish even now. And it never ceases to amaze me how stylishly they manage to do it, either.

They are also, without question, the greatest live act I have EVER seen. Here's an example to show you why:

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Blast from the past

And I do mean past:

This was a trip down memory lane for me. I grew up watching these videos- must have seen them a hundred times as a little kid in Southeast Asia, back in the days of VHS. I think my parents got me started on the books when I were a very wee lad, and then got me watching the videos- presumably as a distraction of some kind.

Must have been pretty damned effective, too. I loved these old Chuck Jones cartoons.

I haven't seen those videos in, like, 20 years. A fellow VFM jogged my memory about them and reminded me that these still exist out there- to my amazement, someone else actually saw these and remembers them.

Now, fortunately, we can all enjoy these reasonably faithful adaptations of Rudyard Kipling's finest works for young children- works that have stood the test of time and which still have the power, even now, to enthrall and delight.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Domain Query: Lincoln's folly

Prince LaQroix was rather surprised by the not-very-nice things I had to say about President Abraham Lincoln in yesterday's post about the IQs of the occupants of the Oval Office:
Abraham Lincoln as the worst president? That's a new one to me. It's kinda funny because most conservatives I know tend to praise Lincoln. Then occasionally I'll hear a someone talk about how horrible Lincoln was and they also tend to be really conservative. In school you learn he was an awesome president, so I'm curious what made him so bad? Really, I'm genuinely curious, not being sarcastic. Any books out there you can recommend about this?
This is an excellent set of questions. While I unfortunately lack the time, expertise, or resources to do them all justice, I can perhaps provide a starting point from which the intellectually curious and reasonably open-minded reader can proceed.

Conservatives and Lincoln

Prince LaQroix correctly notes that most "mainstream" conservatives are fulsome in their praise of President Lincoln. In my experience, this is due to three major reasons.

First, they are simply flat-out ignorant of the history behind the War Between the States. In fact, they have never even heard of the "Civil War" being called anything other than that. This ignorance is due to the well-understood fact that history is inevitably written by the victors. The fact is that the Union won that war, and ever since then, the history of what really happened in the War Between the States has been suppressed and lost. For this reason, most mainstream conservatives and Republicans have never been told that much of the South calls that same conflict "the War of Northern Aggression". And because the South's side has never really been told in school, they do not know why the South is perfectly justified in calling it that.

Second, President Lincoln was the first Republican President, and presided over the greatest Constitutional crisis this country has yet seen. He emerged victorious from it and in the process cemented Republican dominance over the politics of the nation for very nearly all of the next 50 years. His accomplishments as President were hugely controversial, but there is no getting around the fact that during his time as Chief Executive, the abominable institution of slavery was ended and the Union was preserved.

This leads nicely to the third reason why mainstream conservatives love Lincoln. Such conservatives tend to be law-and-order types (as am I, for the most part). Real conservatives hate war, and no war has left a greater scar upon the American psyche than the War Between the States. When you combine their ignorance of history with the fact that it took the bloodiest and most costly war the country has ever seen to preserve the Union, you can begin to understand why it is that such folk will naturally look to Lincoln as the saviour of the nation.

Libertarians and Lincoln

As Prince LaQroix also notes, there are those who truly despise Lincoln's legacy, and they seem to be, if anything, even more conservative- like me- than their counterparts on the right.

How is it possible that one conservative can revere Lincoln, and another despise him?

The answer to this question comes back to the issue of ignorance that I noted above.

Those who revere Lincoln do so because they believe he prevented the destruction of the nation and upheld his sworn oath to protect, preserve and defend the Constitution of the United States. Above all, they revere him because they believe that he ended the unquestionably abominable and evil institution of slavery. They believe these things because they have never been taught or told anything different.

(Public school FTW, eh? Though for the sake of fairness I should point out, I was privately educated all my life, and I never knew any of this until my mid-twenties when I started thinking for myself.)

Those who despise him do so based not on belief, but knowledge. We do so because we know that his actions amounted to severe abuses of the very Constitution that he was sworn to protect. We know that he assumed dictatorial powers during his Presidency, violated repeatedly the sacred strictures upon executive power, and flagrantly abused the powers of his office to carry out a bloody and terrible war that was as unnecessary as it was tragic. And we know that what followed after Lincoln was in many ways even worse; we know that the damage suffered by the South during the Reconstruction era was so great that to this day the American South still has not recovered economically.

There is a (probably apocryphal) quote attributed to General Robert E. Lee along the lines that, if he had known what would happen to his beloved South after the War, he would have ordered his Army to fight and die to the last man rather than surrender at Appomattox. While the attribution of the quote is very poor, once one knows anything about what the post-war Republican Congress tried to push President Andrew Johnson to do, it's not hard to see why the Deep South still holds such anger about the post-bellum period; talk to any real Southerner about the War, and you're sure to get several earfuls about how unjust and unnecessary the whole thing was.

How do we know these things? Because those are the facts.

The Real Lincoln

I invite the serious and open-minded reader who is not convinced of President Lincoln's abuses and usurpations to go look up the following facts. Every one of them is true and is a matter of public record.
  • As President, Lincoln signed executive orders authorising the suspension of habeas corpus, the right to seek relief from unlawful and unjust imprisonment, repeatedly and despite lacking any Constitutional authority to do so, in direct contravention of Article One, Section 9 of the Constitution;
  • Under Lincoln's aegis, a military draft was instituted, in direct contradiction of both the spirit of the Declaration of Independence's complaints about standing armies;
  • President Lincoln was a disciple of the Kentucky politician Henry Clay, who believed strongly in a powerful central government that provided subsidies directly handed to big businesses for the purpose of developing and modernising the American economy, along with punitive tariffs leveled on foreign trade for the purposes of gaining revenues;
  • He authorised the imprisonment, without due process, of thousands of suspected Confederate sympathisers;
  • His generals, especially William Tecumseh Sherman, were perfectly willing to violate the norms and rules of war by inflicting catastrophic damage upon civilian areas in order to bring the South to its knees- see especially Sherman's March to the Sea;
  • The Emancipation Proclamation, since considered Lincoln's political masterstroke, did not free a single slave that was in the South at the time;
President Lincoln's staunchly pro-business attitudes, incidentally, are another major reason why mainstream Republicans respect him so much. They choose to conveniently ignore the fact that the Republican Party was formed out of the political wreckage of the Whigs, and was the party of big government, big business, and protectionism.

All of these things are facts. They are matters of public record and are readily accessible to anyone with the time and interest to go looking for them.

The real Lincoln was not a man reluctantly pushed to war by an aggressive South that rejected all means of rapprochement. The real Lincoln was a dictator, a war-monger, an imperialist, and a masterfully canny and hard-working politician who was willing to go to great lengths to preserve the Union even against the will of its several States, and who was in every way the antithesis of the spirit and legacy of the Founders themselves.

Even his most reverent biographers openly admit and concede that Lincoln was a dictator. They simply regard him as a "benign" one, who did what he did because he was desperate to save the Union, an end that they regard, to my considerable mystification, as being far more important than the lives of the 600,000 people who died- 10% of the American population at the time- in the name of a house undivided.

The Secession Question

There is not room enough here to go into all of the intricacies and details of the causes of the War Between the States. There are many, and the reading list I will provide below will provide far more information than I ever could.

I would, however, like to address one issue that is at the heart of the divide between conservative types of various stripes. That is the question of whether the South was right to secede.

The background to the secession question goes all the way back to before the Founding. The northern states, by virtue of being settled first and therefore having closer ties to England, were able to begin industrialising long before their more agricultural southern counterparts. The southern states knew full well that they could not compete economically with the more technologically advanced North, and relied heavily on slaves to keep their economies competitive.

The less populous, less wealthy Southern states were so reliant on slaves, in fact, that the issue came to a head during the Founding itself. The infamous "Three-Fifths Compromise" came about as a direct result of the fears that the South had with respect to their representation in the new Union; they knew that if the Northern states had gotten their way and allowed only free men to count as citizens, the South's representation in the House would be reduced to near-uselessness.

Furthermore, the South abhorred the North's industrial, big-government philosophy. Being far more agrarian, the South depended heavily on trade with Britain and Europe through exports of its cheap cotton and grain to keep its economy going. That dependence was brazenly exploited by the North through punitive tariffs designed specifically to punish the South in the years leading up to the war. This was, by the way, in direct violation of the Constitution's strictures against tariffs and taxes imposed by one set of States upon any other set.

All of this begs the question: did the South have the right to secede?

Well, if you happen to think that a Union voluntarily formed by states- tribes, really, if you think about it- can be entered into and left at will, then the answer must be yes.

In order to disagree, you have to believe at least one and possibly all of the following things:
  • A voluntary union that is explicitly agreed to be non-binding is, somehow, absolutely binding, in perpetua;
  • The Union of States somehow precedes in time the actual states in its composition;
  • The rights of the several member states are somehow less important and less worthy than the rights of the government created by their union, with their express consent
So, quite simply, did the South have the right to secede?

On logical, historical, and philosophical grounds, the only possible answer is "yes". The Founders knew it, and both James Madison and Thomas Jefferson regarded secession as one of the most powerful safeguards against an overbearing and all-powerful Federal government.

Further Reading

There are a number of great books written about Lincoln's legacy. Unfortunately, most of them are highly hagiographical in nature, praising Lincoln fulsomely and sticking to the party line that he was the greatest of all American Presidents since Jefferson.

The best of those books is probably James McPherson's magisterial, monumental work, Battle Cry of Freedom. I would recommend reading it if only to get an idea of what the "mainstream" views on the War Between the States are. Only then will the other side's views make any kind of sense.

The book that radically changed my thinking about Lincoln and the War was, of course, Thomas DiLorenzo's The Real Lincoln. This is the book that you wish you had in high school. Vividly written, extraordinarily readable, it positively seethes with indignation about what Lincoln did, yet it never crosses the line into polemicism and sticks to the facts and analysis that have made its author one of the giants of modern libertarian thought.

Mark David Ledbetter's America's Forgotten History, Pt. 2: Rupture is an astonishingly well-written libertarian history of the United States. Picking up where Part 1 left off, shortly after the Founding and the first major Constitutional crises faced by the Founders, Part 2 is perhaps more even-handed in its treatment of Lincoln than DiLorenzo's book, but still nails him for being the dictator that he was.

(He recently released Part 3: Progressive Empire, which is on my, unfortunately rather long, reading list.)

Finally, if you really want to get the South's point of view- and why wouldn't you- then I strongly recommend the Kennedy's brothers' The South Was Right!. I haven't even read through more than 30% of this book- it is extremely detailed- but I can tell you now that if you aren't angry about what the North did to the South after the first hundred pages, then you aren't paying attention. It is this book that opened my eyes to what the South has suffered, and it is part of the reason why most people who know me well think that I would be better suited to living in Texas than the Northeast.

I hope that this is enough to get the curious novice started. There is far more to look into than I can possibly cover, but Prince LaQroix is to be commended for being willing to ask hard questions of one of history's most misunderstood, and mistakenly praised, leaders.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings by Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling
A man with a moustache like that is not to be trifled with
I was introduced to this magnificent poem by (who else?) Bill Whittle, whose video on the subject is appended below, and which will probably give you the chills just like it did to me. But first, here is a great poem by a legendary writer that seems to explain, perfectly, in every detail, precisely what it is that ails our modern society, and why:
AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.
With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."
On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wobbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
And now, take a look at Bill's only very slightly updated take on the same, wherein he explains precisely what the great poet meant when he contrasted the "Gods of the Copybook Headings" with the "Gods of the Marketplace":

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

So who's the real dunce?

Back when George W. Bush was elected President, an email hoax was circulated reporting that President Bush had the lowest IQ of any occupant of the Oval Office in the entire history of the nation, and that President Clinton had, by far, the highest ever recorded. Those my age or older may remember this one; like most such poorly informed and unsubstantiated hoaxes, it served the liberal narrative that only progressives are smart enough to truly understand what is good for the country, and therefore only they should ever be trusted with power.

That belief, that the Wise and the Smart should rule over us benighted idiots, has been one of the principle shaping forces of Western culture throughout all of its entire history. I say that it is a "shaping" force because a very great deal of the canon of Western thought concerning who should wield the sovereign franchise has revolved around the question of whether power should be restricted to the one supreme ruler, or distributed to all, or some measure in between.

As Thomas Sowell pointed out in A Conflict of Visions and expanded upon in The Vision of the Anointed, the views of those who presume to rule over the rest of us tend to fall into a continuum defined by two endpoints.

The first argues that Man is what he is- flawed, Fallen, broken, incapable of attaining any kind of perfection. The best that any ruler or ruling class can do is to try to restrain Man's worst impulses while encouraging his better ones. Based on this fundamental axiom, the only form of government that can or will work is one that is as restrained as Man himself is by his own failings. Such a government does not need the smartest and Wisest in order to achieve optimal results; it needs only those who are responsible and disciplined enough to acknowledge their very human failings to restrain themselves in the uses of their power.

That philosophy resulted in the American Revolution- one of the only instances in the entire history of Man in which the new class of rulers sought to limit their ability to rule over their fellows.

The second argues that "Man is born forever free, but lives everywhere in chains"- the philosophy of Rousseau and the bastard abomination spawned by him, the French Revolution. The logical endpoint of that philosophy argued that anything was permissible in order to reach Utopia, and that those who were Wise and smart and clever were to be trusted explicitly with absolute power, since they were best positioned to show the rest of us the way to live enlightened and happy lives, free of want and misery.

History has shown quite clearly which philosophy was right. But because the first requires intense self-discipline and restraint in order that men be free, the second holds far more appeal- as I have pointed out before, most men DO NOT WANT to be free.

And that is why we continue to see, in every single Presidential election, an insistence among the chattering classes that only the Wise should ever be allowed to wield the enormous power of the Presidency.

After all, surely only a Wise and highly intelligent man could possibly be qualified to hold the levers of power...


The actual record tells a very different story.

There are various tables floating around that show the best estimates of what US Presidential IQs were. They reveal a rather startling picture:

We can draw a few conclusions from this data set, subject to the various usual problems with studies like this, which rely heavily on analysis of subjective interpretations rather than objective facts.

First, there can be no denying that the Founders themselves were extraordinarily brilliant men. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and even George Washington were, for all of their many personal failings, men of astonishing learning, skill, and erudition. They governed as ably as they could, and have since gone down in history as legends among men. This, despite their many errors and lapses of judgement.

Second, the record clearly shows that having a high IQ is by no means a guarantee for a skillful or wise and temperate President.

According to this table, John Adams had an IQ of 160. Abraham Lincoln apparently had an IQ of 150. Woodrow Wilson and both Roosevelts had IQs north of 150. Yet all of these men committed acts that eroded the freedoms of the American people; in the cases of Presidents Lincoln and Wilson, they became the very tyrants that the American system of government was supposed to prevent.

They did such appallingly bad jobs that, in my book, at least, the top three spots for the worst Presidents ever are occupied, in descending order, by Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Third, it is of considerable interest to me to note that many of the greatest Presidents in American history had IQs ranging in the 140 band.

Calvin Coolidge- "Silent Cal", whose brilliance was exceeded only by his determination to keep it a secret from everyone, apparently had an IQ of "only" 142 or so. Yet he is a criminally underrated President whose quiet, calm character steered America through the crushing grip of the post-WWI depression in the space of just a single year, and set the stage for the greatest expansion of American wealth and power that the country had ever seen up until that point.

George Washington may not have been anything great as a commander and general- General Cornwallis did not, in fact, surrender to the Americans directly at Yorktown, and his subordinate General O'Hara initially attempted to present the sword of surrender to Count de Rochambeau, not General Washington. But he is remembered with good reason as the Father of the Nation, for keeping the newly born nation out of foreign entanglements despite the fondest wishes of his Cabinet, and- above all- for establishing the precedent that no President should serve more than two terms wielding executive authority. That precedent was never broken until the second President Roosevelt came along; it is not without good reason that I regard that President with such disdain.

And then we have Ronald Reagan. The clown, the cowboy, the idiot, the simplistic fool, the amiable dunce, the midwit showman actor playing the part that others had designed for him- who turned out to be the greatest President of the 20th Century, and whose titanic accomplishments have thus far dwarfed all who followed him. The man who the political chattering classes called a simpleton and a hick was constantly reading, could recite entire passages of Scripture and books from memory, and spent more than 40 years carefully and methodically crafting his own personal political philosophy before achieving the highest office in the land- and once he attained it, he proved to be resolute, principled, and able to make the seemingly impossible a matter of routine.

Ronald Reagan man apparently had an IQ of no more than 140- already making him an extremely intelligent man. While few would deny that his predecessor, President Carter, had greater raw intelligence, President Carter was nothing short of a catastrophe, while President Reagan became a legend in his own lifetime.

The lessons we can learn from these facts are clear.

First, raw intelligence is no measure whatsoever of fitness to rule. Remember that the next time the chattering classes try to hype up the "towering brainpower" of characterless midgets like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or Carly Fiorina. The first has been an even greater calamity for this country than President Carter; the second would be a disaster beyond measure; and the third did such a terrible job as CEO of HP-Compaq that she was unceremoniously given the boot so that a male CEO could come in and repair the damage that she did.

And let it be remembered that we don't actually know what Barack Obama's IQ is, because he has gone to extraordinary lengths to hide his school and university records from the rest of us. Be it noted, though, that the best estimates we can come up with indicate that his IQ is probably somewhere between 115 and 130.

That, by the way, makes him a very strong contender for the dumbest man ever to occupy the Oval Office.

If you have been paying attention to his public appearances and off-the-cuff speeches for the last 7-odd years, this will come as precisely no surprise.

Second, principles and character matter. The great Presidents of the past- Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Grant, Cleveland, Coolidge, Reagan- had character and integrity in spades. These were good and decent men, called upon in extraordinary times to serve and to lead- and in so doing, they became great men that the rest of us remember and, rightly, revere.

Third, and most importantly, the real dunces are not Presidents like George W. Bush and Warren G. Harding. They are the Presidents like Jimmy Carter and Woodrow Wilson and Barack Obama- progressives who were narcissistic and stupid enough to fall for the trap created by their own belief system, who came to think that they really were smart enough to know what is best for the rest of us. In so doing, they made grave and terrible errors of judgement that doomed their people to lives that were less free, less happy, and less prosperous.

The choice facing Americans in this next election cycle will be portrayed in the media as a choice between the "smart and enlightened progressive" and the "backward, intolerant, stupid, bigoted conservative". The evidence tells us very clearly that it is the former that will lead us into disaster, and the latter that might just have enough humility and self-discipline to avoid taking the final step over the abyss that will plunge this country into eternal darkness.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Red-card the whole thing

The folly of unlimited immigration becomes more transparent by the day:
The overwhelming majority of immigration to the United States is the result of our visa policies. Each year, millions of visas are issued to temporary workers, foreign students, refugees, asylees, and permanent immigrants for admission into the United States. The lion’s share of these visas are for lesser-skilled and lower-paid workers and their dependents who, because they are here on work-authorized visas, are added directly to the same labor pool occupied by current unemployed jobseekers. Expressly because they arrive on legal immigrant visas, most will be able to draw a wide range of taxpayer-funded benefits, and corporations will be allowed to directly substitute these workers for Americans. Improved border security would have no effect on the continued arrival of these foreign workers, refugees, and permanent immigrants—because they are all invited here by the federal government. 
The most significant of all immigration documents issued by the U.S. is, by far, the “green card.” When a foreign citizen is issued a green card it guarantees them the following benefits inside the United States: lifetime work authorization, access to federal welfare, access to Social Security and Medicare, the ability to obtain citizenship and voting privileges, and the immigration of their family members and elderly relatives. 
Under current federal policy, the U.S. issues green cards to approximately 1 million new Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs) every single year. For instance, Department of Homeland Security statistics show that the U.S. issued 5.25 million green cards in the last five years, for an average of 1.05 million new legal permanent immigrants annually. 
These ongoing visa issuances are the result of federal law, and their number can be adjusted at any time. However, unlike other autopilot policies—such as tax rates or spending programs—there is virtually no national discussion or media coverage over how many visas we issue, to whom we issue them and on what basis, or how the issuance of these visas to individuals living in foreign countries impacts the interests of people already living in this country. 
If Congress does not pass legislation to reduce the number of green cards issued each year, the U.S. will legally add 10 million or more new permanent immigrants over the next 10 years—a bloc of new permanent residents larger than populations of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina combined. 
This has substantial economic implications.
That's the understatement of the century.

And now we see that Germany, or at least the German government, has decided to welcome in over 800,000 of their Little Brown Brothers into Der Vaterland, while dusting off the best furniture and displaying the family silverware:
Germany has thrown open her doors to Syria, declaring it will welcome all that country’s asylum seekers. In doing so, it has overturned a EU convention which insists that asylum seekers must register in the first country they reach. 
Germany will now cease handing out forms which ask new arrivals to declare where they landed in the EU. 
Under the Dublin Convention of 1990, migrants seeking asylum within the EU must usually register with the country they first enter. The system was put in place to ensure that migrants didn’t submit multiple applications in a number of member states, and is binding under law
However, according to the Independent, yesterday the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees ratified an order suspending the protocol. “Germany will become the member state responsible for processing their claims,” a government statement said, adding that all current expulsion orders for Syrian asylum seekers would be revoked. In addition, new Syrian arrivals will no longer have to fill in forms informing the German authorities which EU member state they first entered. 
In the first six months of 2015, Germany received 44,417 applications, the vast majority of which have yet to be processed. But even before yesterday’s declaration, it was expected that most of the Syrian applicants would be granted asylum. 
It appears, therefore, that Germany is using the announcement as a way to persuade other EU countries to take more migrants of their own. Many of Germany’s fellow member states have been using the protocol as a legal basis for refusing to take on large numbers of migrants pouring across the borders.
If the American experience is anything to go by, this is not going to end well for the Germans. Or for their government. But most especially it will end very badly indeed for the millions of Islamic and Middle Eastern immigrants that they brought in.

Before I continue, I should point out in the interests of transparency that I work here in the US on an H-1B visa, and am currently in the (very long) queue for a company-sponsored green card.

Now, as I have pointed out before, there is a very great deal wrong with the American visa system for foreign workers. The H-1B is practically designed to be abused, and it is abused, openly, by companies that bring in foreign temporary workers to be trained in the US and then sent back to their original countries.

The most recent USCIS data, by corporate sponsor, that I was able to find comes from 2012. It shows that 10 tech companies and IT consulting firms take up roughly one-fifth of the total number of H-1B visa applications and approvals. This is consistent with my actual experience with the visa process; a large chunk of the remainder is taken up by banks and financial firms, with the rest being dispersed among various smaller firms throughout the US in various industries.

Now, if a company hires someone who came to the US, studied here, got an American-certified degree, and clearly shows evidence that said employee will be paid significantly more than his or her peers in the same company or industry, then there are legitimate grounds to issue a guest-worker permit that allows that person to stay and work. That individual will then be contributing to the US economy directly, along with all of the considerable taxes that he would end up paying due to his significantly higher salary.

That has, in fact, been precisely what happened to me. I came here 9 years ago for my Master's degree. I found a job. I stayed. I switched employers twice. Each time, I left the US in accordance with American law until such time as my new visa was lawfully issued and paid for. At no point during those 9 years have I ever resorted to the American welfare system. And as for what I get paid- well, let's just say that I make enough to live quite comfortably.

But the same thing cannot be said of most H-1B visa holders and of the companies that issue them. Several of the IT companies mentioned above- InfoSys and Microsoft, for instance- use the H-1B almost as a "training visa", by bringing over employees from other locations to sit in American offices as part of American headcount, to be trained by American employees, and then sent back to their countries of origin.

That is nothing short of a flagrant abuse of the system. That is not how a limited-issue guest-worker program for highly specialised occupations is supposed to work.

And that is before we get into the mess that is the American green card system.

If ever there was a system that needed a complete re-think, that's a prime candidate right there. A system that grants over a million people a year access to the American welfare system, along with the ability to bring their entire families over to live with them, is just asking to be abused.

And abused it is.

Most people who haven't had to deal with the, uh, joys of this system don't know just how easy it is to game it.

Your specific country of origin heavily influences how fast you can get a green card- for instance, if you're from India or China, you essentially join the back of the world's longest line, with a green card taking up to 5 years to work through the system (and that's with premium processing). Personally, I'd say that's justified; India and China seem to supply most of this country's yuppie population in certain parts of the East Coast.

But if you're from, say, Brazil, you could get a green card in under a year. I've seen it happen.

Moreover, if you are being sponsored by a company, your employer has to prove that no one else domestically can do your job and that you occupy such a specialised niche that they have no choice but to hire you and keep you. Of course, there are plenty of ways to get past this requirement- I'm not going to go into details, for a number of reasons including the disclosure above, but suffice to say that it's not as hard as you might think.

The end result is that, even as the US lets tens and hundreds of thousands of invaders and lawbreakers stream across its southern border with a rapidly failing state, it is legally allowing over a million people every year to become legal permanent residents of this country.

In the current process, no effort is made to ascertain whether those LPRs understand the American Constitution, agree with the Bill of Rights, support America's republican system of government, or understand and appreciate America's culture.

It is for this reason that I say that America must scrap its existing system and slam on the brakes for any new immigrants, regardless of country of origin.

I am fully aware that I would directly suffer from such a policy. I support a new set of tighter, stricter, and more difficult rules because I love this country, and because I recognise what too many of my fellow foreign workers here apparently do not: we are guests here.

We live here because of the generosity and decency of a fundamentally good and kind people, who have welcomed us into a vast land of plenty that they built and which they expect us to further improve. By living here, we accept that we are bound to obey certain rules and norms- and one of them is the rule that, if our hosts get tired of our presence, we must leave.

And if it is the verdict of the American people that I must go, then so be it. If that day ever comes, I would like to believe that I am a big enough man to harbour no ill will, and to be grateful for all of the opportunities that I was given while I was here.

I've said before that getting the chance to come to live and work in America is like being handed a winning lottery ticket in life. That belief has not changed. But not all of my fellow foreigners here in this country necessarily feel the same way. Some of them- too many of them, I think- seem to believe that they are owed something for being here and for working here.

I say that they are wrong- it is we who owe much, and from whom much can and must be expected.

The entire American immigration system must be "actioned by transformational defenestration of obstructors", to borrow a Ringoism, from the ground up. It must become impossible for invaders to continue their law-breaking, and it must be made clear to legal entrants (like me) that the American culture and civilisation is a proud and strong one that bows down before none other. If foreigners wish to come here, to live here and work here as guests, then so be it- let us do so, but in strictly limited numbers.

And if, as time goes by, some of us are found worthy of becoming legal permanent residents, or even- God willing- citizens of this land of beauty and wonders, this shining city upon a hill, then let us prove that we are worthy of such a singular honour.

Under no circumstances should such a precious gift ever be devalued by handing out green cards and citizenship like cakes at a fair. America's people seem to recognise this- why is its government incapable of doing the same?

The answer, of course, is that America's government no longer answers to its people. It has not done so for at least twenty years. It will not do so again until forced to the task by an angry and resolute people determined to take back their rights and their sovereignty.

And at long last, praise the Lord, I see precisely that beginning to happen in this country.

Monday, 24 August 2015

I might have been mistaken

A little over 4 months ago, I wrote a somewhat grumpy response to one Radhika Sangani's Bonobo Nose's sentiments about the very sad and untimely demise of THE GREATEST TV SHOW OF ALL TIME, also known as Top Gear. In that response, I noted on a bit of a tangent that I was just waiting for Ryan Reynolds to ruin Deadpool the way he ruined Green Lantern.

Judging by the evidence shown in the Deadpool Red Band trailer, there is a distinct possibility that I was, in fact, wrong. And that this new Deadpool movie could be, frankly, amazing.

If Ryan Reynolds does, in fact, pull off the Merc With The Mouth properly, it would go a very long way toward redeeming his reputation after the horrible abuses of cinematic product that were RIPD and Green Lantern.

Domain Query: A VFM's response, pt. 1

During l'affair de Gallo a few months back, I posted a write-up in which I argued, among other things, that a boycott of Tor Books and Tor Online is not only permissible, but perfectly justified, in light of certain, shall we say, injudicious remarks made by an employee of Tor. This garnered the attention of a commenter who went by at least two different handles in his response- "Steven Schwarz" and "imnotandrei".

For those who (quite understandably) can't be bothered to go back and read the whole thing only to get to the comments at the bottom, I reproduce the entire conversation here, in full:

Steven Schwarz, June 10th 2015:
"Let me state for the record that I commend Mr. Doherty for graciously and clearly noting that neither Sad Puppies nor Rabid Puppies are about promoting racism, misogyny, or homophobia." 
Actually, he noted that it was not for the purpose of promoting straight white men. That is a different thing. 
Given that Vox Mustela has argued, repeatedly, that RP is part of his culture war, combined with the fact that his culture war *is* "about promoting racism, misogyny, or homophobia.", then Rabid Puppies, at least, *is* about precisely what you falsely claim Tom Doherty said it wasn't about. :) 
"In labeling the Puppies, Gamergate, and the supporters of both movements "neo-nazis", 
Actually, if you look at words like "respectively", "some", etc., you get a much different picture. She compared the Sad Puppies to extreme right-wingers (which, for much of the First World, they are) -- and the Rabids to neo-nazis. One can argue that Vox Mustela is not precisely a neo-nazi; that he is instead a reactionary xenophobic misogynist homophobe of a different flavor than nazi -- but it is an argument, not a clear and simple libel. If that were a libel, then every single Republican commentator who's described Obama as a "Marxist" is far more guilty. 
"[Vox Mustela] has been all over this issue since it first broke a few days ago" 
Given that he broke it, at a time and place of his choosing, having sat on it for weeks, this is not surprising. I am shocked, shocked to find out that he's paying attention to something that he chose to bring up.

"then Ms. Gallo absolutely should be fired for going far beyond the pale of protected free speech and openly defaming us."

Well, let's see; the leaders of the Puppy movement are all published authors, hence public figures. This does set the bar rather higher -- and since, as established above, Mr. Beale and many of those complaining about her have been either deliberately or cluelessly misreading what she actually said, libel would be very difficult to prove. 
"My friends, this will not stand. I, and others like me, have tolerated and will tolerate many things, right up to and including the initiation of physical violence, by those who oppose us- but now we have been pushed too far, and we are responding in no uncertain terms. Calling the Puppies "neo-nazis", given that several active-duty and retired US military personnel are on both slates, is the last straw. We will strike hard, strike home, and exact justice for this egregious insult." 
And I presume you will call for the removal of the publisher of Castalia House, whose comments about con-going fandom were just as terrible and offensive, let alone his comments about other subsections of his potential audience? 
And given that at least one slated individual, an ex-military person, has publically stated the correctness and right of killing anyone of a particular political group he disagrees with before they could take office, and who feels the Fascists were very unjustly maligned, why do you think that being a member of the Armed Forces is a defense against an accurate accusation of neo-Naziism? Being a soldier does not guarantee in any way your purity. 
I will also point out that it was just last week that the very possibility of someone writing bad reviews on Amazon, thus damaging someone's potential earnings because of what they said (rather than what they did as an author/other professional) was being declared a terrible, terrible crime -- and now, because of what someone said, the calls are out to get them *fired*? 
Consistency, it is lacking.
Didact, June 11th, 2015
Actually, he noted that it was not for the purpose of promoting straight white men. 
Read the rest of that paragraph of Mr. Doherty's statement: 
"Each Puppies’ slate of authors and editors included some women and writers of color, including Rajnar Vajra, Annie Bellet, Kary English, Toni Weisskopf, Ann Sowards, Megan Gray, Sheila Gilbert, Jennifer Brozek, Cedar Sanderson and Amanda Green. Some of the authors on the Sad Puppy slate have been published by Tor and, including Kevin J. Anderson, John C. Wright, Ed Lerner and Michael F. Flynn. Many, many Hugo Award nominees and winners are our authors too, including Kevin J. Anderson, John C. Wright and Katherine Addison this year[...]" 
Actually, if you look at words like "respectively", "some", etc., you get a much different picture. She compared the Sad Puppies to extreme right-wingers (which, for much of the First World, they are) -- and the Rabids to neo-nazis. 
This is hair-splitting given Ms. Gallo's very next sentence. 
One can argue that Vox Mustela is not precisely a neo-nazi; that he is instead a reactionary xenophobic misogynist homophobe of a different flavor than nazi -- but it is an argument, not a clear and simple libel. 
He is a reactionary. For that matter, so am I. Where is your evidence that he is xenophobic, a misogynist, or homophobic, given that he is a Zionist, happily married with children, and allows gay commenters on both of his blogs? Moreover, where is your evidence that he is a neo-nazi, if you are willing to make that argument? 
There is substantial anecdotal and empirical evidence that shows that Obama is not merely trained in economic Marxism, but cultural Marxism as well. 
And I presume you will call for the removal of the publisher of Castalia House 
Vox Day and Markku Koponen own Castalia House. They cannot be removed from what they already own. They can be penalised for treating their customers badly through the simple laws of the market- which, in my experience, they have never done. 
Based on what evidence do you accuse Vox or Markku of making terrible and offensive comments about convention-going fans? 
And given that at least one slated individual, an ex-military person, has publically stated the correctness and right of killing anyone of a particular political group he disagrees with before they could take office, and who feels the Fascists were very unjustly maligned, why do you think that being a member of the Armed Forces is a defense against an accurate accusation of neo-Naziism? 
I presume you are referring to Lt. Col. Tom Kratman. Where is your evidence? 
I will also point out that it was just last week that the very possibility of someone writing bad reviews on Amazon, thus damaging someone's potential earnings because of what they said (rather than what they did as an author/other professional) was being declared a terrible, terrible crime -- and now, because of what someone said, the calls are out to get them *fired*? 
Amazon reviewers posting fake reviews are acting in their own capacity as private individuals to abuse a publicly available system of information for their own purposes. They are able to do so under pseudonyms. That is their right, Constitutionally protected. That they seek to abuse that right is their problem and failing. 
When Ms. Gallo, as a public and recognisable face of her compnay [sic], insults both customers and clients of the same under her own name, she should either apologise, or resign. It's Customer Service 101- don't piss off the people who buy your product. That is a firing offence in most companies, including mine- but apparently not at Tor.
I then charged Mr. Schwarz- I presume my interlocutor is male- to come up with evidence for the allegations that he had made against Vox Day, Tom Kratman, and others in his response to my writing.

Somewhat to my surprise, he did so. Annoyingly, he did it under a different handle, but no matter, here is the full text of that reply:

imnotandrei, June 11th 2015:
"Actually, if you look at words like "respectively", "some", etc., you get a much different picture. She compared the Sad Puppies to extreme right-wingers (which, for much of the First World, they are) -- and the Rabids to neo-nazis.

This is hair-splitting given Ms. Gallo's very next sentence." 
The next sentence: "They are unrepentantly racist, misogynist, and homophobic." 
Let's see -- if we apply that to people who are Puppy leaders -- the ELoE, as they describe themselves (facetiously, obviously) --

Mr. Correia -- I lack enough evidence at the moment to say, but could go digging.

Mr. Torgerson -- at least 1 out of three, and I would be utterly unsurprised by 2 or 3 out of three. Indeed, since he has argued that most of the recent winners of the Hugos were "affirmative action" votes, implying they couldn't have won on their own merits, this could easily bring us to 3 of 3.

Mr. Beale -- 3 of 3.

Mr. Wright -- 3 of 3.

Mr. Kratman -- at least 2 of 3. 
By the standards of evidence established by Mr. "SJWs always lie" Beale, and Mr. "affirmative action Hugos" Torgerson, that statement certainly holds up. 
"One can argue that Vox Mustela is not precisely a neo-nazi; that he is instead a reactionary xenophobic misogynist homophobe of a different flavor than nazi -- but it is an argument, not a clear and simple libel.

He is a reactionary. For that matter, so am I. Where is your evidence that he is xenophobic, a misogynist, or homophobic, given that he is a Zionist, happily married with children, and allows gay commenters on both of his blogs? Moreover, where is your evidence that he is a neo-nazi, if you are willing to make that argument?" 
I am going to start by making a more general statement: I don't know if you're willfully blind, or simply ignorant here. 
(and please note, I am not attributing any of the below quotes to individuals -- they are exemplars, not direct references.) 
Saying "I have a gay commenter" does not mean one is not homophobic. If someone says "Oh, blacks are on average inferior to whites, but I know this one really cool outlier! He's my friend!" they're still racist. "Oh, women are great around the house, but I mean, they couldn't handle doing real work?" is something many married men have said. It doesn't mean they're not sexist. 
Also: Being a "zionist" when your idea is "get them all in their own country so they're not in others" is not a sign of being pro-semitic. As for xenophobic: " the idea of the functional multi-ethnic society is not long for this world." -- that is about the definition of xenophobia. 
I can also link you here, for more evidence on Beale's commentary: 
"There is substantial anecdotal and empirical evidence that shows that Obama is not merely trained in economic Marxism, but cultural Marxism as well."
Someone being trained in something, or having once been something, does not mean they are now. After all, if that were the case, I'd be a libertarian Republican. :) 
In all seriousness, you should try talking to even socialists -- not full-bore Marxists -- and see what they think of Obama. Hint -- he's a democratic centralist.
imnotandrei, June 11th 2015, continued:
"Based on what evidence do you accuse Vox or Markku of making terrible and offensive comments about convention-going fans?" 
Vox, from a post May 19, 2015: "You have not seen true human wreckage until you've been to a science fiction convention. I've seen physically and psychologically healthier people on reservations and in refugee camps; one can hardly blame them for being drawn to escapism." 
And before you go rattling on about context, it is very clear from the rest of the post that he's not just talking about a few people.

"And given that at least one slated individual, an ex-military person, has publically stated the correctness and right of killing anyone of a particular political group he disagrees with before they could take office, and who feels the Fascists were very unjustly maligned, why do you think that being a member of the Armed Forces is a defense against an accurate accusation of neo-Naziism? 

I presume you are referring to Lt. Col. Tom Kratman. Where is your evidence?" 
Tom Kratman: "It is never wrong to kill a socialist when socialism gets close to the levers of power; it is always an act of legitimate self defense." -- comment in one of his EveryJoe posts. If you dig around further you will find him vigorously defending Italian Fascism. 
"Just to pick an example.

"I will also point out that it was just last week that the very possibility of someone writing bad reviews on Amazon, thus damaging someone's potential earnings because of what they said (rather than what they did as an author/other professional) was being declared a terrible, terrible crime -- and now, because of what someone said, the calls are out to get them *fired*? 

Amazon reviewers posting fake reviews are acting in their own capacity as private individuals to abuse a publicly available system of information for their own purposes. They are able to do so under pseudonyms. That is their right, Constitutionally protected. That they seek to abuse that right is their problem and failing." 
The complaint has been levied not only at people posting so-called "fake" reviews (indeed, the person most often blamed for that specifically said "read the works, and then, if you feel like it, review them.) but people posting honest reviews that are simply bad. 
Indeed, it does not seem to have occurred to people that forcing them (by saying, in effect, to honorably vote for the Hugos, you have) to read works, they should expect that they won't get the same level of "Oooh, wow!" praise from people who picked up the work coming from other people who liked it.

"When Ms. Gallo, as a public and recognisable face of her compnay, insults both customers and clients of the same under her own name, she should either apologise, or resign." 
She did apologize for painting with too broad a brush. Since her statement is true in reference to many of the leaders of the Puppy movement, there's no need to apologize beyond that. 
"It's Customer Service 101- don't piss off the people who buy your product. That is a firing offence in most companies, including mine- but apparently not at Tor." 
And here we're back. While I know that authors are not the same as employees, they are often the *more* public face of the company. So, for example, should Tor drop John C. Wright, as he has certainly managed to piss off many people who buy Tor's product? 
If not, can you explain why not for any reason other than "One is, under tax law, an employee, while the other is an independent contractor"?
Based on what you already know of the people mentioned by Steve/imnotandrei/whatever- Brad Torgersen, Larry Correia, John C. Wright, Vox Day, etc.- see if you can spot the various errors of fact, logic, and interpretation made above. I will respond in my own good time over the coming days.

I should admit at this point that I really ought to have responded much sooner. There are two reasons why I didn't.

First, I am basically lazy about most things if I have a reason to be lazy about them. This blog is no exception. And since this is my blog, under my rules, then beyond the norms of common courtesy, I honestly couldn't care less about whether or not people feel as though they are responded to in a timely fashion.

If that makes me a jerk, well, so be it.

Second, subsequent events have shown that the Puppies leaders were right, and that the Hugos have effectively descended into a pathetic, cliquish industry circle-jerk that heavily favours women and progressives against men and conservatives, led by people whose characters are so devalued and disgusting that they are unworthy of even the effort it would take to spit upon them.

Now, if the awards were given on the basis of the quality of the works being presented, there would be no reason at all to argue with this state of things. I would have no argument whatsoever with a science-fiction book trying to deliver a serious message, if it turned out to be good literature.

There is a reason why I think so highly of Starship Troopers, for instance- that book is the very epitome of message fiction. Yet it is also a phenomenally good read, and introduced multiple innovations into the genre that are still cornerstones of the military sci-fi canon to this day.

But we know, from the SJW reaction to the Puppies slates, that the quality of the works in question is not their primary concern. And that has been the case for at least fifteen years.

For example, works by John C. Wright and Tom Kratman were both nominated for the category of "Best Novella". I have read two of those works- "Big Boy Don't Cry" and "One Bright Star To Guide Them"- and consider them to be outstanding pieces of SF/F writing. Both works are attacked regularly by SJWs because they were written by God-fearing Christian political conservatives.

Meanwhile, Lines of Departure by Marko Kloos- an avowed liberal who has publicly called Vox Day "a sh*tbag of the first order" (which to his credit he later retracted)- was withdrawn from the Hugo nominations process by its author, because apparently he felt uncomfortable that he was being nominated for political reasons.

That is flatly untrue. He was being nominated by us Rabid Puppies because his work is really damn good- I've read that book and I think well of it.

As to the specific charges brought by imnotandrei above, as I said, I'll respond to them over the next week or so, if and when I'm able. Unlike the Supreme Dark Overlord of our movement, I have a full-time job working for someone else, so my ability to respond to things at length is limited.

(Also, unlike him, I don't have a dungeon full of screaming SJWs gibbering frantically for a few more moments of precious life before His Unspeakable Evilness flays their soul from their bodies, turns their skins into heads for his war-drums, and fashions their skulls into drinking goblets. I'm working on it, but you have to understand that there are significant sunk costs associated with building such a thing.)