SFWA shenanigans

One of the problems of organizations that rely primarily on volunteers is that all too often, the people most prone to volunteering are the very last people you want in charge of anything. Charles Stross rightly waxes apoplectic:

The core of our report, in a nutshell, was this: SFWA should represent its members interests when asked to do so. (It should also poll the membership to figure out what they want to do.) In order to deal with members asking SFWA to act against copyright infringements, SFWA should establish a new copyright advisory committee to replace of the piracy committee, with set procedures (and a quorum of members required to implement them) to avoid anything like the earlier debacle recurring.

In addition, we made various other recommendations. (Mine included: avoid, at all costs, emulating the activities of the RIAA and MPAA. Rule #1 of being a professional writer should be: your fans are Not The Enemy. Unlike RIAA or MPAA, SFWA is actually a loose trade association of content producers — RIAA and MPAA are rather different organisms, funded by a cartel of major content distributors. Following their example would not only be disastrous and make enemies — I trust I don’t have to explain why — but would rapidly bring individual writers into disrepute with their readers, something I think most SFWA members have enough brain cells to realize would be disastrous.)

A further recommendation was discussed, but the general feeling was that it would be inappropriate to put it in the committee’s formal report. It was my understanding that it would be brought to the attention of the president of SFWA via a back channel. This recommendation was simple: that at all costs, Andrew Burt must be kept the hell away from the copyright committee. In view of his earlier activities, his appointment to it would automatically destroy any credibility the new body would have — not to mention sending out a clear signal that SFWA is a dysfunctional organization, institutionally incapable of learning from bad experiences.

Guess what’s happened?

Yup. I am not privy to his thinking, but our dear president and executive have voted to reinstate the old piracy committee, with Andrew Burt to chair it, under the new name of the SFWA copyright committee.

To say that this is a fuckwitted decision is an understatement. Under Dr Burt, the new copyright committee will almost inevitably devolve into a reincarnation of the old piracy committee. If I thought it’d do any good I’d be resigning in protest right now; only the expense of a life membership purchased a couple of years ago is restraining me right now. Clearly the current executive of SFWA is making damaging decisions and ignoring input from committees it appointed, and and in view of this I call on SFWA president Mike Capobianco and the rest of the SFWA executive — including Andrew Burt — to resign immediately. Meanwhile, I’d like to call on all other SFWA members who don’t want to see their organization commit public relations suicide to make their voices heard.

I don’t think Capobianco needs to resign, but I do think he needs to encourage Burt to get his poky little nose to get out and stay out of all of the various committees and sub-committees which he seems to find so very irresistible.

The rollback begins

I predicted a backlash against the New Atheism, but I had no idea that the Pope would get involved. Interestingly, he cuts right to the heart of the materialist matter:

Pope Benedict XVI strongly criticized modern-day atheism in a major document released today, saying it had led to some of the “greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice” ever known to mankind….

“We must do all we can to overcome suffering, but to banish it from the world is not in our power,” Benedict wrote. “Only God is able to do this.”

It is interesting how every significant atheist idea for making the world better and reducing human suffering almost invariably ends up with a recommendation to impose murderous dictatorship on mankind. From Meslier to Marx, from de Rouvroy, to Russell, from Heinlein to Harris, the atheist solution is inevitably simplistic, brutal and devoid of positive result.

And yet they consider themselves freethinkers, apparently without any sense of irony.

The curse of intelligence

Scientific American helps explain why so many smart people are so bloody useless:

Our society worships talent, and many people assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability—along with confidence in that ability—is a recipe for success. In fact, however, more than 30 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings.

The result plays out in children like Jonathan, who coast through the early grades under the dangerous notion that no-effort academic achievement defines them as smart or gifted. Such children hold an implicit belief that intelligence is innate and fixed, making striving to learn seem far less important than being (or looking) smart. This belief also makes them see challenges, mistakes and even the need to exert effort as threats to their ego rather than as opportunities to improve. And it causes them to lose confidence and motivation when the work is no longer easy for them.

Praising children’s innate abilities, as Jonathan’s parents did, reinforces this mind-set, which can also prevent young athletes or people in the workforce and even marriages from living up to their potential. On the other hand, our studies show that teaching people to have a “growth mind-set,” which encourages a focus on effort rather than on intelligence or talent, helps make them into high achievers in school and in life.

I don’t think this tells the whole story, but it is a relevant element of the problem. The truth is that you can’t think your way to anything; I don’t think execution and hard work is 99 percent of the equation but it is more than 50 percent. I don’t think the intelligent are actually any less averse to risk than the norm – the overwhelming majority of people won’t lift their finger if it’s not of immediate material benefit to them – I suspect that it’s the realization of opportunity cost that is a larger factor among the highly intelligent. The “I wasn’t trying” defense becomes pretty empty once one is pushing thirty and begins to realize that one has accomplished absolutely nothing of any note despite one’s supposed intelligence.

I personally find it very difficult to concentrate on any one project for a long period of time, mostly because I get bored easily once things are past the strategic stage. I’m quite willing to work hard, but working hard at one specific thing and ignoring all the other opportunities out there is pretty much impossible for me. The problem is that as studies of the truly great have shown, it takes about ten years of near psychopathic concentration on an activity to reach a level of superlative excellence.

But the study is a real wake-up call to parents with highly intelligent children. There’s nothing wrong with being open about their intelligence, trying to hide it from them merely gives them a greater sense of elitism and contempt for those who attempt to deny the obvious. (Seriously, would you ever try pretending that a tall or fast kid is just like everyone else? It’s just as stupid to try to deny a child’s intelligence, which is equally observable to all and sundry, including the child.) But presenting it to the child as a challenge to excel rather than a fabulous aspect of his self is more likely to foster that excellence.

Talent and intelligence are great tools. But like all tools, their utility depends completely upon how – and if- they are used.

Education is the answer

Rod Dreher seems a little stunned by the new report from the The Center of Immigration Studies:

+ Immigrants account for one in eight U.S. residents, the highest level in 80 years. In 1970 it was one in 21; in 1980 it was one in 16; and in 1990 it was one in 13.

+ Overall, nearly one in three immigrants is an illegal alien. Half of Mexican and Central American immigrants and one-third of South American immigrants are illegal.

+ The primary reason for the high rates of immigrant poverty, lack of health insurance, and welfare use is their low education levels, not their legal status or an unwillingness to work….

The report concludes that: “Even during the great wave of immigration at the turn of the 19th century, the immigrant population was much less than half what it is today.” We simply are being swamped, and there should be a time out for assimilation. Yet as a liberal, Spanish-speaking friend admitted to me yesterday, in a conversation about what each side in the immigration debate is loath to admit, that on his pro-immigration side, “The uncomfortable truth is that Latino immigrants are not assimilating.”

Thank the NEA that we’ve got all those excellent public schools with which we can bring transform all those little Garcias and Rodriguezes into productive Anglo-Saxon Americans. That’ll work, right? All they really need to get caught up is a few years of indoctrination in global warming, gay rights and gender-bending. But not in English, of course. That would be ethnocentric.

I stand corrected

LBRFTHOI demonstrates statistical incompetence:

Actually, statistics bear out that well over 50%, and upwards of 70%, of all child abuse- sexual and otherwise- is committed by parents. So, as much as I hate to respectfully disagree with those being so ignorantly and vulgarly disrespectful to our public schools and their teachers, I will nonetheless do so respectfully and rationally using nothing but the numbers: statistically, it is the public school that should be worried about protecting children from parents, especially in the area of sexual violation, and not the other way around.

This would only be true if you happen to ignore the accessibility and population factors. The average parent has access to his children around sixteen hours per day. The average teacher has access to a particular child approximately one hour per day. There are also far more parents than teachers. LBRFTHOI is doing the equivalent of comparing the number of murders in the United States with South Africa and concluding that the USA is more dangerous despite its far lower murder rate per 100,000 population.

Also, if you’re using “nothing but the numbers”, it would be helpful to provide an actual number; a range somewhere between 50 percent and “upwards of 70 percent” is so imprecise as to approach completely meaningless.

My disrespect for the teachers and schools is hardly ignorant; I have yet to see or be informed of any reason to regard either with even the slightest bit of respect. As for the vulgar nature of that disrespect, I only seem to recall referring to the latter. But I do appreciate the notice that I have been remiss, by all means, fuck the idiots at the chalkboard who so amusingly call themselves “teachers” too.

True, that

And yet the “conservatives” at National Review won’t support him:

Poor Paul [Kate O’Beirne]

So unfair to ask Ron Paul to name only three federal programs he’d eliminate.

But you have to wonder where this moron has been for the last thirty years. Yes, Seth, it does exist.

Point of Order [Seth Leibsohn]

Please all NRO readers and writers raise your hand if you’ve ever had any contact with or from the trilateral commission. Paul said ‘it exists’. Does it? Does it really? Does it influence anything?

There’s idiocy, there’s lunacy, and then there’s a demonstated inability to use Google. NRO should revoke the loser’s Corner-posting privileges for total intellectual incompetence.

Another day, another scare

Violence depicted on television, in films and video games raises the risk of aggressive behavior in adults and young viewers and poses a serious threat to public health, according to a new study.
After reviewing more than 50 years of research on the impact of violence in the media, L. Rowell Huesmann, of the University of Michigan, and his colleague Brad Bushman concluded that only smoking posed a greater danger.

“Exposure to violent electronic media has a larger effect than all but one other well known threat to public health. The only effect slightly larger than the effect of media violence on aggression is that of cigarette smoking on lung cancer,” he said in a statement.

Wolfenstein 3D and Mortal Kombat, the two games that are primarily responsible for violence in video games, were both published in 1992. That year, there were 23,760 murders in the USA which represented a murder rate of 9.3 per 100,000 population. In 2005, following more than decade of spines being ripped out with bare hands and demons being disemboweled by chainsaws, there were 16,692 murders, but the nation’s larger population means that the murder rate is 5.6, a 40 percent REDUCTION.

Another day, another video game scare.