Thursday, May 27, 2004

Wait. . . . tear what down?

Huh. I suppose this is just par for the course, but the New York Times is reporting that the Pentagon claims that Bush's plan for tearing down Abu Ghraib wasn't something they'd ever heard of or discussed.

God, I even think it's a good idea . . . a really good idea, to the point that it doesn't even bother me that it smells of cheap symbolism rather than effective reform. I mean, sometimes symbolism is important too, after all. But the fact that it seems President Bush just pulled it out of his ass without talking to the Pentagon first? Well, it really just is the icing on the 'poor planning' cake, isn't it?

Liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein? Good idea, shitty planning.
Democratizing the Middle East? Good idea, shitty planning.
The postwar occupation and rebuilding? Good idea, shitty planning.

It's not even as if I share many of Bush's goals, you know? On 85% of the issues out there, I couldn't possibly disagree with him more. What's revealing to me is that even on the issues I totally agree with him on, he just can't be trusted to carry them out without screwing them up.

At this point, we would even be better off with another, different Republican in the White House.

I'm voting Kerry, of course. I meant that totally hypothetically.

The Wrong Side of History

Kevin Drum, as he often does, nails the connection between anti-miscegenation and anti-SSM folks.

What surprises me isn't that opponents of same-sex-marriage are so willing to go to ridiculous extremes to stem the tide of progress. I mean, readiness to go to ridiculous extremes is, like, the definition of crazy-ass fanatic. So no, I'm not surprised by that.

What I must admit I am surprised by, though, is that they've not figured out that they can't win this one . . . not in any kind of long-term way. My impression of America's Right (perhaps just of late) has been that their main 'principle' is 'win at any cost.' I mean, they arguably control all three branches of government, so they can do whatever they like, right?

Well, what are we seeing? Huge, massive explosions in government spending, contra any 'small government principle' we've heard about in the past. Why? It gets votes. People like lower taxes, but they don't like lower services, so the modern Republican Party just says, "heck we'll do both!"

It's possible that I am not the first person to notice this.

Anyway, this brings us back to same-sex-marriage. There's just absolutely no way that we're not going to see fairly widespread same-sex marriage within the next ten or fifteen years. I'm betting national, but if not, certainly a bunch of states. We've already got Massachusetts, after all, Mitt Romney not withstanding. Well, as soon as a little time has passed and we've got some proof that SSM won't lead to mass extinction through lack of heterosexual copulation (or whatever their argument is this week), I think we'll see public opinion start to shift . . . and, once again, the Republicans will have painted themselves solidly as the party of discrimination, separatism, and bigotry.

The thing is, they have just got to know this. I mean, say what you will about them, but they're not dumb, so why would they sabotage any future claim to big-tent inclusion like this? Weird.

This, THIS is my point!

David Craig Simpson, who also draws the sublimely funny Ozy and Millie, explains the recent political positioning of the Catholic Church quite succinctly.

Actually, now that I'm poking through his "I Drew This" archives, I'm enjoying it even more. Knowing him only through his Ozy and Millie work, I had no idea he was so political.

This is great. I love it when artists I already enjoy turn out to be people I can groove with politically. Of course, that just made me extra-bummed when I found out that Tom Stoppard leans to the right.

Monday, May 24, 2004

I want to have sex with Eric Idle

Supply, Demand, Liberals, Conservatives, and Role-Playing

DISCLAIMER: This post is part of my ongoing effort to reach new heights of geekery each day. Tomorrow I'll probably post on how Voltron and the Transformers lead me to embrace the virtues of a socialist, multicultural society at an early age. Lordy, I'm a big dork-ass.

Saturday, my friends and I had our twice-a-month game of Vampire. My buddy John and I are playing Jacob and Tobias Gould, a pair of twin brothers who were Kabbalists in life, before their embrace into House and Clan Tremere.

Now Jake and Toby are pretty good at all this 'magic' stuff, and because we work together well, we're turning out to be fairly formidable, despite our relative youth, newness to the group, and high generation. It was when we, as part of a larger coterie (or 'party'), were getting geared up to take out the third Sabbat safehouse in an evening (think of the end of The Godfather: multiple surgical strikes, not leaving the enemy any time to regroup) that our storyteller, Mike, said "Man, I think next time I'm going to have to limit how much willpower you guys can start with."

Well, this lead into a discussion on how Mike would like to see more broad-based characters with less narrow specializations . . . less "I'm the mage, I'm the fighter" more "jack-of-all trades realism", in other words. His proposed solution was to limit the number of points anyone can put into any specific skill or discipline at the beginning to three. Although I share his goal (well-rounded characters can be more fun to play, after all), I dislike his solution, favoring, instead, trying to modify the way the story flows so as to encourage people to build more well-rounded characters. Reward diversity and punish specialization.

My argument, in a nutshell, is that people are Smart, Devious, Sneaky Little Self-Interested Bastards, and saying 'no' never really works out as well as we'd like it to. If you tell someone that he can't increase his melee skill to 5, instead he'll increase his melee, brawling, archery, firearms, and flamethrower skills to 3 each. Or he'll find a way to kick ass with skills at 3 points anyhow. Or he'll wait for gameplay to begin and THEN begin the race towards specialization. If, instead, you just run your game in such a way that the player realizes that putting points in "science," "expression," and "politics" rather than "whoop-ass" is good for him, then he'll do that. Make his self-interest work for your plan, not against it.

Anyway, after that digression, we finished up, and the next day I was talking over the game with John, when I realized that the argument I made was, in microcosm, the liberal argument about all sorts of social issues. The two that come to mind immediately, of course, are drugs and abortion. If you take as granted that we want to reduce the number of abortions (I know, it's not necessarily granted, but indulge me) and the number of drug addicts, there are really just two ways to do it. We can reduce supply (outlaw abortions, outlaw drugs, arrest drug dealers and abortion doctors) or we can reduce demand (spend more on drug treatment facilities, spend more on drug education, make sure high-quality contraception is universally available dirt-cheap or free, make sure high-quality child care is universally available dirt-cheap or free).

That's it. Supply and demand. Those are our only options.

Reducing supply tends not to work, like I said, because people are SDSLSIBs, so when you make crack against the law, they won't stop getting high. They'll just buy it illegally, or make it themselves, or steal it, or move to another, still-legal drug . . . and, oh look you made the problem worse. When you make abortions against the law, women won't stop having abortions, they'll just have them illegally, or go out of the country, or try to self-induce, or leave the infant in a dumpster . . . and, oh look you made the problem worse.

The basic argument pattern seems to hold true for most issues across the board. On issues where liberals and conservatives agree on our goals, we disagree on the methods, with conservatives favoring attacking the supply and liberals favoring attacking the demand. The funny thing is, free-marketers that they are, you would think that conservatives would realize that attacking the supply without fiddling with the demand just makes the remaining product that much more valuable. Hell, even if you completely WIPE OUT the supply, as long as there's demand, someone will figure out a way to provide a supply.

I guess the one caveat is that for many conservatives, abortion, at least, is a 'moral' argument, so results aren't important. "Whether we increase or decrease the number of abortions isn't the issue. The issue is that abortion is wrong, period, so it should be against the law." This is why I've always had trouble with the image of conservatives as 'hard nosed realists' willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done . . . 'whatever it takes' never seems to include doing 'stuff that works.'

Anyway, does anyone have any issues this pattern doesn't hold true for? Anything where the rightward side of our political spectrum favors fiddling with the social demand while the leftward one favors outright criminalization? I guess might guns come close, although it's more that the lefties want to impose modest restrictions, while the righties don't give much of a shit about supply or demand. Huh. Go figure.

---Myca

Friday, May 21, 2004

Consent

Okay, so here's the issue: how do we meaningfully define 'consent' as in "consenting adults"?

The issue came up in a discussion over at Alas, a Blog (who I'll have a link to as soon as I figure out how the hell blogrolls work around here) while we were discussing prostitution, pornography, & related issues. Being a pretty committed civil libertarian, my argument has always been "look, pornography and prostitution may not be good things in any way, but do we really want to start denying consenting men and women the ability to decide for themselves?" Anyway, the rejoinder, as it usually is, was that prostitutes are not "consenting" in any sense that we would traditionally understand. They tend to come from backgrounds of poverty and abuse and are trapped in a system that amounts to sexual slavery. A similar (although, I believe harder to back up) argument can be made for pornography.

Anyway, that's the question. Is it really "consent" to do what you need to do in order to survive, even if you believe you have few other options?

If the answer is no, then wouldn't the shitty minimum wage jobs I've worked count as nonconsentual, even if they didn't involve any kind of sexual exploitation? How about the office job my wife has that's killing her hands through carpal tunnel related issues? She has to keep it for us to pay the rent, but it's affecting her physically in a serious way.

I guess my issue is, where do we draw the line? Is is just sexual exploitation? If so, why? Does psychological or emotional exploitation count? I mean, if my job is making me horribly depressed, but I need to keep it in order to buy food, am I in a nonconsentual position? Does the salary level offset any of this? Is a line-cook being exploited nonconsentually while an executive isn't? If so, then is a streetwalker being exploited nonconsentually while a high-priced call girl isn't?

I'm not trying to downplay the possibility that prostitution ought to be considered nonconsentual at all, and I apologize upfront if this post comes off that way, but I'm not so much making an argument as, seriously, saying 'hey, I don't know, and I think it's worth discussing.'

Where is the line drawn?

Posting Philosophy

So I was thinking about my blog's title, and I realized that I'm likely to be making two types of posts here (well, three if you count the RPG stuff). The first type "wistful musings" will probably cover my occasional semi-philosophical disagreements with some leftist thought. Now here's the thing . . . I don't disagree that much or that often, but, unlike my feelings about much of the right, I respect most leftists I know. Thus when I do disagree with fairly widely held opinions, I'd generally like to discuss it. I mean, hell, maybe I'm wrong, you know?

As for the "Howling Rage," that's where we get to the part of the blog where I discuss my disagreements with the right. Now, there's a lot of right-wing thinking that, although I disagree with it, I believe reasonable people can have differing views on. Affirmative Action, for example: I believe that affirmative action is necessary in order to correct historic and systematic discrimination against certain groups. However, I don't think that believing that affirmative Action does more harm than good is, itself, evil. I mean, I think it's wrong, but I don't think that it makes anyone a bad (or unreasonable, or racist, or sexist) person to have that point of view, and I can see how utterly well-meaning people could reach that conclusion.

There are some issues, however (and there seem to be a growing number of them) that I simply believe that good and reasonable people ought not to disagree on. It may not be fashionable to say it, but YES, I believe that if you are pro-torture, that makes you a bad person. I don't give a good goddamn what your reasons are, I don't care how you justify it, I don't even want to listen to you anymore. You lost my attention when you said "torture is justified sometimes, because . . ." See, when you said that, my mind filled in the rest as ". . . because I am a very very bad person who ought to be driven from polite society with torches and pitchforks. And I like to rape children."

Lately, this is how I've felt while reading the rightmost half of the blogosphere.

sigh

Maybe I just need more vitamin C or something.

Welcome!

Well, greetings, all. Welcome to my little corner of the universe. I'm Myca, your host around these parts. I'll be writing primarily about politics, with occasional stopovers into the land of role-playing games. it all depends on my mood.

Politically, I'm a big ol' leftie, but I'll often have views or perspectives that differ from the party line in one way or another. Fer example: "I believe that John Kerry is actually an okay candidate. I do not believe that voting for him is a vote for 'the lesser of the two evils,' because I do not believe that he is evil." Or: "Although I believe he is the wrong man for the job, I do not believe that George Bush is evil either. Horribly, unforgivably incompetent, perhaps, and almost certainly guilty of war crimes, but not evil per se."

When it comes to RPGs, I mostly play and run World of Darkness stuff, but I've had a lot of fun with Runequest (the much-hated Avalon Hill edition), In Nomine, Champions, Paranoia, and a few others.

D20 can fuck off.