Running With Dice

A collection of rambling posts about gaming, running, and politics. (and, in 2009, photography.)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Sprawl RPG, Episode 1

I was primed to start Blades in the Dark today, but I want to have all of the "for sure" players in attendance for the first game, and one was unavailable.  I'd grabbed a copy of The Sprawl by Hamish Cameron, Ardens Ludere.  It's one of the "Powered by the Apocalypse games", which I'm really very into at the moment.

So we ran The Sprawl instead, and it was pretty terrific.

Jacob and Billy showed up to play.  Billy and I have been trying to get a game together for a year or two, so it was good to make that happen.  Jacob played in my earlier Dungeon World game, and is as into a couple of RPG systems as I am.  These guys come from different RPG backgrounds, Billy has played a lot of D&D for awhile, and Jacob comes from Mouse Guard and Apocalypse world and the like.

We chatted for a few minutes about cyberpunk (neither has played Shadowrun!!), but our time was limited and I wanted to move things swiftly along toward actual play.  I talked a little about how the system works, and then we started to look at characters.  I felt super scattered, and sortof went back and forth about filling out playbooks, and the other early steps.  We made corporations, which we were pretty minimal about - just did names and types, didn't go into any depth about their goals or themes.  We spent a good bit of time on playbooks and moves and such, but I think that's unavoidable, with it being brand new to folks.

As simple as PbtA is, it still does require some system understanding I think, if the choice of moves and cyberwear are to mean anything.

Billy settled on playing a Tech who went by the moniker The Machine, and Jacob took a Hunter called Ritter.

They made some choices about how they'd acquired their cyberware: Ritter screwed someone over to afford his, The Machine is in debt to no one, but his cyber is +unreliable.

With two players, creating Links was a little wonky, but still alright.

And then we moved pretty quickly to play.

To be honest, I was having trouble jumping in.  I just couldn't get comfortable with describing it, and felt really rusty.  I had a really hard time just with the classic "Your phone rings, it's your fixer." And to be honest, the game suggests just jumping right to the interesting bits, and skipping all of the drawn out setup.

Eventually though they Johnson was chatting with Ritter and Machine, and had a job - an extraction - for them.  Again I felt awkward, figuring out how much negotiating to do before we did the move and dice roll.  But again, we soon went to the get the job roll.  They hit in the middle, and got some [intel] from the employer.

Once again I struggled - they had the job, but I wasn't sure how to start on legwork.  The players seem to flounder a touch as well, so I buried my nose in the book for a minute, and then started walking us through what information was already known, and what they needed to know.

The legwork was probably the toughest for me, and I feel like I was really getting too consumed by the mechanics of the game, and wasn't working enough on just running a fun game.

Eventually we sort of found a groove, and some contacts started appearing.  They ended up planning to create a situation by getting their mark to come out to an event that they'd lure him to.  It involved a corporate-world contacted named Dall, who could schedule him for it under the guise of a job offer from a rival corporation.  Dal was happy to help them, but he'd need their help in return.  He had a Russian mobster leaning on him for something, and so our protagonists set off to fix Dal's little issue with Viktor.

Viktor has an office in a run-down strip mall, and they parked nearby to observe.   They watched two guys in cheap suits hang out in a temporary-looking office space, then leave and hop into a car.  Ritter and Machine followed from a distance behind, relying on one of Machine's drones to keep tabs on them.  They took the north highway, which doesn't go to much other than Canada and the Docks.  They ran into a traffic jam, and were considering deploying the heavy combat drone when police started showing up in force, on account of the military cargo that had overturned ahead.  That curbed the violence option.  After a bit, traffic was diverted, and they followed a very long, slow line of cars off of the highway and onto surface streets.

Ritter called on his knowledge of the city streets, and directed them back under the overpass and up a side-street, betting that their target was heading for the Docks.  And sure enough, after a while, the car with the two men from the strip mall came around the corner and pulled up to the ramp, which they blocked - and then the combat drone came out.   Negotiations were swift, and Victor agreed to leave Dal alone for now, but implied that he'd be on the lookout for our protagonists in the future.

In short order, Dal had set them up with the extraction target.  The meeting was planned to go down in a private room at a local club.  Their target believed that it was an interview with a rival corporation, so he showed up without his employer-provided body guards.  Machine parked by the back door, with the combat drone in the back of the truck, while Ritter went in, and waited on the mark.

Soon enough, the mark arrived and made his way to the private room - and immediately set upon by Ritter, in an attempt to quickly subdue him for extraction.

Note to self: be sure to offer to let the player do the narration, since we know what the outcome is already.

In this case, it led to a somewhat epic struggle between Ritter and their target.  It was a brutal fight, that ended up spilling out through the floor-to-ceiling glass, and into the corridor.  But in the end, Ritter had the upper hand, and despite being pretty seriously injured, he carry-dragged the extractee out and toward the back door.

Shortly after the target had entered the club, another car pulled into the back lot and parked near Machine.  The two guys inside were clearly corporate security types, keeping tabs on the mark.   Machine was positioned closely by the back door, but made plans to open up on the security goons with the combat drone in the back.

Ritter was confronted by a security guard in the back hall, but when Ritter produced his pistol, security split, and Ritter made it to the back door -- just in time to hear the clatter of the combat drone's mini-gun opening up on the security guy's vehicle.  They'd armed themselves and were about to go inside when Machine moved to keep them pinned down.

Ritter made it into the vehicle with the target, and they rolled out.  The security guys fired at them ineffectually, and could not follow them.

They contacted their employer and arranged a meet to hand over the target, and the rest of it went off without a hitch.  They did the get paid move, and then we were done.

I did have a great time at this game, but I felt really off my game.  It took me forever to get into the groove of it.

I attribute this to the still seeming-newness of PbtA, and trying to describe cyberpunk setting to folks who didn't have the same experiences with it that I did.

Would I run this again? Fuck yes.  I really had a good time.  I'm about to start a blades in the dark campaign, but will keep The Sprawl handy as stand-by or fill in and such.

That is all.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I haven't gone on at great length about abstract gaming ideas in quite awhile.....

So here goes.


Let’s compare a role playing game to someone telling a story.  When someone is telling a story, they are likely in complete control of the narrative.  They talk, others listen. They dictate what happens in the story.  The audience are just passive observers who have no control at all on what happens or the outcome.  The narrator has complete control over the story and it’s characters.


You could also consider a shared story.  One person might be the primary narrator, and through some means the audience can have some impact on the story itself.  It could be as simple as a binary yay/nay, up/down, and the narrator tunes the story as he or she goes, influenced to some degree by the audience who is now interacting.  The narrator still has complete or near complete control, but has agreed to give the audience some voice in the story.


A more shared story might go round robin, where one person tells some story, and then the next person continues telling the same story.  In this case, each person who is at that moment telling the story is in complete control.  Thus participants have complete control over the story when it is their turn, and no, or little, control when it is someone elses turn.


In a typical D&D style RPG, the GM/Narrator is assumed to have complete control over the story.  The players don’t dictate what happens, the GM does all of that - but the GM might give players a chance to influence the story in small ways, no directly on the story but instead indirectly through their characters.  Thus you find that the players can perform specific actions in the hope of having some limited control over the story.  Their interface to the story is through their characters.


In other, more ‘indie’ style games, you might find an arrangement where the GM is considered to be in primary control of the story, but the players are also given some narrative ability.  The difference in this and the previous D&D example is that in D&D, the players can try to convince someone of something, or to perform some physical feat, or to kill a monster, or save a friend, but that’s the limit of their interaction.  In this indie example, they might still control a character in the story, but they might have the opportunity to have more narrative control - to perhaps change the story itself in some mechanically appropriate way.  The electronic game Scribblenauts comes to mind.  
GM: “Men in armor with swords burst into the room. They seem to be searching for something, or someone…”
Player, exercising narrative control: “They bear the colors and sigil of Duke Harald, and the man leading them is my father!.”


I theorize that a story that lets multiple participants have the control to introduce elements or in some fashion to narrate will be a better story.  When we play, we all aspire to be like an author in some fashion.  But unlike writing, role playing is live - you don’t have the luxury of an editor or rewrites.


Players can gain some level of narrative control - or influence perhaps - when they say to the GM “Hey, I’d like to do so and so in the game.” And the GM says sure, and later incorporates some element of that into the game.  This is just a slightly different way of giving the player some control.


Some systems specifically give the players means to control the story, or rather to move it in directions that they think are interesting.  There are a few systems that allow a player to say “I know that person” when an NPC is introduced.  Thus they can make the story more interesting, and feel/be more involved with the story.  


I experimented with this in a Shadow of Yesterday game.  The party was searching for someone, and had a few clues, and then wanted to go to dice to determine whether they found the person.  Dice rolls are commonly seen as having a binary outcome.  Did you find the person, yes or no.  The players want to find the person, and the GM wants the players to find the person too, but the GM wants they players to have to work for it.  A dice roll is commonly seen as that work.  But what if they dice are unkind, and they say no?  Instead of simply deciding yes or no, let the dice be an arbiter of what’s going on - you could say that a failure results in a twist.  “Did we find uncle Bob?”  If the results are a success, then great - there he is.  Story continues.  If the result is a failure, it does no good for them not to find uncle Bob. The whole story revolves around him, or he’s the next step in the story.  But instead throw in a twist.  Yes, you found uncle Bob, but he’s about to be killed by evil aunt Wilma, or his house is burning down when you pull up in front of it, or he’s just plain dead.  At best, it’s a conflict/encounter that may be interesting, but again has the potential to be show-stopping - what if the party gets TPK’d or the fight doesn’t go as planned?  If you go for heavy twists (bob is dead), you can’t just drop that on your players without a plan for them.  There needs to be a lead - can he be resurrected? Can the information that they needed from him be found some other way?  A twist should be interesting and exciting, rather than frustrating and disappointing.


An interesting story is generally going to be one in which some sort of adversity was overcome.  No one wants to hear a story about how you went to the grocery store - unless you were mugged upon your arrival.  A good story is always going to have at least one conflict.  Two sides who want two different things.  It may not involve violence or war, but it could instead involve some sort of negotiation or compromise.


If you think of stories in terms of RPGs, you can imagine the dice rolling behind any blocking or conflict scene.  Is that door locked, can the party get through it?  Can the party escape from their pursuers?  Can the Duke be convinced to support the claim?  Will the owlbear kill the party?  Can the group find its way through the labyrinth?  Each of these are questions that have the potential for more than one answer.  The door is locked or barred and the party must find another route. What happens when the pursuers catch up to the party?  And so on.


RPGs are still basically a game about storytelling.  The GM is telling a story and the players are helping.  Stories require details.  Details make a story come alive.  Details make a story interesting.  They introduce new elements or possibilities.


Player input and dice rolls are commonly going to be informational or factual.  Informational might be whether they spot a secret door, or pending ambush, or interesting clue.  Factual is whether they were able to succeed or fail at some task. Climbing a wall, riding a horse, killing an orc, convincing a shopkeeper.  There is some logic that insists that informational dice rolling be dispensed with.  


There’s another facet here - and that’s random twists.  Much like the random encounter chart.  Consider that the party is traveling through a dark and sinister looking forest.  A player asks “Do I hear anything, or notice anything suspicious?”  The GM has not intended to drop an encounter here, and can simply say “no”, and move on.  Or the GM can have them roll a dice, the dice roll determines whether there IS in fact something to be encountered.  Random twists can be fun, but they can also distract when there is a story being told.  Some games could be very nearly one random twist after another - but this will result in a disjointed story.


So, what kind of control do the players want?  How do they want to interact with the story?  Do they simply want to be told what’s happening, and try to push buttons to influence the story?  Or do they want more control, and to be able to modify the story in significant ways.


When players create characters, they are making decisions about the kind of game that they want to play, and how they want to play it (and how they want to interact with the world around them, and the game before them).


Most popular RPGs, no matter the genre, boil down to the same effective level of control for the players.  They are provided with opportunities to tweak the story in small ways by the mechanics and by the GM.


Consider that there are already many elements of decision making done by the GM via fiat.  Is there a car on the street? asks a player.  Is the castle gate open?  Do the orcs notice us?  Is the Baroness mad?  All of these could be determined by GM fiat, or a random (or semi-random) dice roll, or even by player input.  “Say yes or roll dice” is a line from Dogs in the Vineyard.  That game encourages a GM to give the players what they want in the story, and if the GM is unsure of the outcome, to go to dice and let the game’s mechanics sort out the answer.


Those of us who are familiar with RPGs oftentimes have learned how to play “correctly”, or the way that we are accustomed to.  People who are new to the game will be interested in exploring how much control they have and what they can accomplish.  


What type of story or game is the GM going for though?  If they are trying to tell a very specific story, then giving the players more control can be problematic for them.  If the Lord of the Rings were taking place in an RPG environment, and the GM had already planned out much of the story, letting the players have more control could derail the story.  The GM wants it to be about the difficult journey to Mordor, fraught with difficulties, and the fate of the Ring and the protagonists.  Player control could send the story spinning off in some other direction though.


The back and forth of player input and GM narration can be configured in a variety of ways.  Consider the question of “How will the party get to Mordor?”  The party can likely choose a variety of paths to get to their destination.  Each choice may result in descriptive and narrative differences, and in conflicts or further decisions.  In an RPG environment, this can be approached either with the “all roads lead to rome” philosophy in which the story still progresses in much the same way.  A better example is perhaps a party in a cave system.  They arrive at a fork in the tunnel and can choose to go left or right.  In some games, the GM may have prepared for each choice, having descriptions and encounters and such ready for either choice.  This requires more work certainly, and leaves the possibility of some of that work going unused.  Another approach is for the GM to let the players make their choice, and to run descriptions and encounters much the same either way.  The hazard here is if somehow both choices are invoked.  “Well we chose the left path, but lets go back and do the right path instead.”   This forces the GM either to make sometimes arbitrary and meta-seeming decisions: “Rocks fall and block your way back.”, or to come up with something for the other choice.  


A common pitfall (or feature, depending on your perspective) for a new GM is giving the players a choice, and having designed their game in such a way that the players are required to make a certain decision.  If the players make a different decision, or ignore the GM’s offer/bait, then the GM is potentially left struggling with something important that was missed.  “The party completely ignored the basement, where they were supposed to find the ghost!”  The simplest answer to this sort of problem is to simply present what you need/want the players to find.  You WANT them to find the ghost in the old house.  If for some reason the ghost needs to be in the basement, then the players need to be guided to the basement, or placed into the basement (the floor collapses, or what have you).  Having a McGuffin that the players need to find can result in a boring search, especially if the players realize that they are trapped in the scene - and even worse if the players don’t know what is required to leave the scene.  


The party finds itself in the old McLauren house.  The GM wants the players to find the ghost of old Ms. McLauren in the basement so that they can get a quest from her and put her to rest.  


That’s the story that the GM has prepared for the night.  The players are initially unaware of the ghost though.  One player says that they want to look for the way out.  The GM is naturally opposed, so has 3 choices.  Say yes, say no, or roll dice.  The GM in this scenario is unlikely to say yes or roll dice, since he wants the players to remain in the scene and find the ghost.  The players may feel frustrated, and try increasingly escalating methods of leaving the house, once they see that they are blocked.  


The doors are all stuck?  Fine, we’ll chop them down.  


Now the GM is forced to start using weird meta devices, or to simply tell the players that they can’t leave, which is still frustrating for many players.  Instead, give the players what they need!  Have the ghost pop right out, or give them a trail of breadcrumbs to the basement.  But remember that players may ignore breadcrumbs - either they fail to notice the trail, or they decide that they’re not interested, or they think that it is unimportant.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Extremism

Early this morning, gunmen burst into the offices of a French satirical magazine and murdered 12 people.  All signs point to the gunmen being radical Muslims.

I am generally pretty anti-religion, but I try really hard to balance that with the principle of respecting people's right to believe in pretty much whatever they want, as long as it is not infringing on or harming others.  If you want to believe that Odin is real and rides a magical Unicorn, that's your business, not mine.  But when you start murdering people because they are having a laugh at Odin, then fuck you.

I believe that you cannot blame the actions of a few on an entire group.  Not all anti-abortion activists are murderers.  Not all black people are criminals.  Not all Muslim people are killing in the name of their religion.  Yet it becomes increasingly difficult to excuse the actions of a small part of a larger group when it happens again and again and again.  At a certain point, the group in question needs to step up and start taking some corrective actions.

I am terribly sad for the families of those who were murdered.  I am sad for the chilling effect this sort of thing has on journalism and on public discourse.  I am sad for the many peaceful Muslim people who will likely experience scrutiny or prejudice based on the actions of a few.

I think that there is a cancer within the Muslim community.  I think that there is a fringe element that is actively perpetuated.  And until that cancer is eliminated, we will continue to see religious extremists murdering people, and the Muslim community at large will continue to feel the backlash.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

1st Marathon

If you're reading this, then hi.  This blog has fallen into disuse, so I'm using this as a memory-space.  But feel free to enjoy :)


Today was my first marathon.  26.2 miles.

We signed up for the St. Jude Memphis marathon for December 2013, but the thing got canceled after a nasty ice storm.  That was a real let-down.  I wish the weather had been different and we could have knocked it out, but there's nothing you can do about the weather.  Since it was 14 degrees out that morning though, I think they made the right decision.

So we rescheduled for the Nashville run in April.

Last year I'd trained pretty hard.  I had set out to run 1,000 miles over year (which I hit in November, I think), and had done a number of long runs leading up to the St. Jude Marathon.  So I was essentially finishing my marathon training, and then immediately starting my marathon training once again.  Frustrating.

But I kept up my running.  Not quite as consistently as last year.  I was getting in 4 or 5 runs per week last year, religiously, and was doing regular 7-9 milers, with long runs on the weekend.  This year I was only doing 5 milers regularly, and was doing somewhat long on the weekends, 9, 13 and 16 miles, I think.

Getting up to Nashville for the marathon turned out to be fun.  We left Piper and Griffin with Grandma.  I would have loved to have them there, but it was not fair to leave the two of them for Krissi to manage in downtown Nasvhille for X hours.  The drive up was rather fun, it was a chance for me to get into the thrill and differentness of a Marathon.  We got into town, checked into the hotel, then went and picked up our race packet.  The huge convention center was impressive, and we nearly got lost on account of some sort of Junior Star talent show.  Eventually we got our packet and wandered into the expo, which was kinda cool and a little culture-shock for me.  I don't recall having wandered through an expo - which I guess translates to "maze of vendor booths".  It was neat to see all the gear and tech and kitsch, and also to people watch, and after grabbing a few little things, we got the heck out of there.   We wandered a bit, trying to get some good local italian food, and ended up at Mirko Pasta on Lebanon Pike, though we tried to figure out a place that I'd decided on before the trip, but then couldn't remember the name of (it's Pomodoro East; next time, Nashville.)  Mirko was descent, with nice atmosphere, but my dish (angel hair pasta bolognese) was reasonable but not impressive.   We headed back to our hotel, the budget minded Nashville Airport Hotel, which was across the street from the La Quinta.  It was nice, we were on the third floor, our door opening out onto a balcony walkway and the parking lot.  All the normal ammenities, and it seemed clean and nice.  I could tell it was budget priced though by the wobbly faucet fixture.  Still, for the required "place to stay before the race where I can get some sleep", it mostly satisfied.  Though we were awakened twice by men walking on the walkway speaking in some southeast-asian language, and once by a loud motorcycle.

We sprang from bed early in the morning, 4:55 in fact.  We'd traveled light, and packed last night,  so we only needed to worry about prep in the morning.  I downed 24 ounces of electrolyte-water, a banana, and a couple of granola bars.  We dressed and grabbed our stuff and were out the door.  We'd mapped our route, and hit the road.  I navigated a wrong turn off, which cost us a few minutes, but then we were on our way-- and quickly ran into gridlock traffic, leading to the bridge toward where we needed to go.  Seemed like a simple case of 30,000+ people trying to get to the same place, even though it was only 5:45.

After consulting our maps, we took a detour, as it looked like we could get around the bridge snarl.  And it worked out.  We pulled into the Nashville football stadium parking lot, and then headed toward the race.

The crowd was huge, and pretty awesome.  So many different types of people, and different types of runners.  I'd dropped back in corral, and was hoping for a 5 hour finish time.  With the difference in elevation and temperature and my training, I had different expectations than I had for St. Jude Memphis.

The run got kicked off, and the corrals filtered down, and soon enough, my wave was off.  The first couple of miles was through downtown nashville, then it turned south and west a little, and went down through a bunch of small and pretty neighborhoods, including a Montessori school.  Then the full and half marathoners split off, and the marathon went north.  And it got warm.  And sunny.  Mile 13 was at the turn around point north, so back we came again toward downtown.  I was already starting to feel the distance, and as the warmth and sun worked on me, I slowed down.  The route went through downtown and over the bridge.  At mile 18 I met Krissi, who had water and nutrition, but I turned down the race goo/bars.  I didn't think my stomach could take it.  I put on more sunblock, and was off again.  By mile 20 though, I was getting spent.  The miles seemed way longer than a mile.  I had to walk for a bit before running again.  The route on the east side of Nashville was back through an industrial and impoverished area, and then a state park, and was an interesting route.  I was pretty beat by this time, and my feet were worn out, and my body was getting tired.  But I kept going, sometimes alternating walking and running, and by mile 24 or 25, I'd got a bit of a second wind, and was able to team up with another runner and motivate each other to get across the finish line.

Krissi was right there cheering me on, and we took a couple of minutes to rest and chat before we moved on.  Krissi had been super busy all day trying to keep up with me and the marathon, and so was almost as spent as I was.  We got to the car and drove straight to Gabby's Burgers and I devoured a double burger in like 90 seconds flat.

We headed out of town at that point hoping to get home and have the night off (from obligations and such).  We ran into two awful traffic snarls that turned a 3.5 hour trip into a 5 hour trip.  But eventually we were home and got to relax.

I was worn out after the run, but not demolished.  And today (sunday after the run) I'm in good shape, with only a small amount of soreness.

In hindsight, I'm glad to have a marathon done.  I hoped to do it much faster, but I'm not gonna complain.  It just gives me an easy PR to beat.  Krissi and I talked about whether I'd do another marathon, and beforehand I said that I wasn't sure if I'd do another marathon after this one.  Having just finished my first, I think I'll do another.  Not this year - but maybe in 2015.

Meanwhile, I think half-marathons are just my speed!

postscript -   I meant to mention (actual today) the day after the marathon, Sunday.  I still had some energy on the marathon itself, it was just my feet that were so completely spent.  I think that next time I'll do a marathon in running shoes.  And in colder weather.  The day after a marathon is often tough, but I've been in really good shape today.  Some soreness and a little stiffness, but if I walk around for a bit, the soreness goes away and I'm in good shape.  I think I can destroy my PR at St Jude Memphis 2015

Monday, January 28, 2013

Composure as a stat

I've played a few games that have a 'Composure' trait or something similar.   I think more systems should have this.

Think of it this way - most likely your character has a strength score or something along those lines.  This is how the group can all have an idea of how strong the character is, and there's a way to adjudicate what he/she can do.  "I bash the door down" -  not with a four in strength, buddy.

So what about when the group meats a 30 foot tall, fire breathing dragon?   Or is involved in a firefight with bullets whizzing by?    Its super easy, from the comfort of your game table, to declare that Bob the Bad Ass shrugs off care or concern and advances grimly to meet his foe.  We don't get the quiver of fear in our stomach, or the paralyzing terror from having someone else try their best to kill you.

Granted, when we sit down to play these games, we want to be heroic.  And this can still work.  We also want to be ridiculously strong and have awesome abs.

Friday, December 14, 2012

This is all bullshit

I'm going to write about something that you already have an opinion on.  I'm going to hope that my compelling argument will sway you to my viewpoint and that you'll better understand my perspective   Maybe I'll change your mind!

Nah.  That's not going to happen.

You've already made your mind up, and if today's events didn't change your mind, then this stupid fucking blog post certainly won't.

America loves guns.  We make a fucking ton of them.  And its easy to get one.  And then you're on your own!  I sure hope you're not a fucking lunatic who wants to shoot my baby girl at her school!  Hot dog!

So why am I even bothering to type some nonsense here?   Well I'm glad you asked.  Its because I am sick to fucking death of this argument.  Its because I want to scream at how completely insane this is.  Its because I'm furious at every friend and relative of mine who insists that guns are not to blame, and if anything, we should make them easier to possess.

When the fellow shot up the theater in Aurora, I sat down and took the time to write a well reasoned post, complete with references and facts and stuff.  I'm not going to do that right now.  I'm too emotional.  I have a kid who attends school.  This could have been my family.

To those of you who continue to shriek "guns don't kill people!"  I simply say this:  fuck you.  I know, its  harsh.  But this is an emotional subject.  20 kids just died, 11 days before Christmas.  Thanks to an asshole with a gun.  I know that most of you gun owners are responsible people who would never shoot up a theater or a classroom.  But that's no fucking excuse.  You cannot justify to me the need for you to keep your gun, while a dick head used his gun to kill 20 children.   Fuck your right to keep a gun.  What do you need it for? To feel safe?  To feel powerful?  To feel manly, or in control?  I wonder how many parents at that school had a gun in their closet or bedroom, or even in their car or on their hip.  Didn't help much did it?  That's because a lunatic had little difficulty in getting his hands on an assault rifle and at least two handguns.

I could go on at length, but I don't feel like it.

I'll say it again,  fuck you and your guns.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Government Meddling (or 'How will the CEOs feed their families?')


Government meddling in business is nothing new.  We are all aware of recent news, mandating that employers provide healthcare coverage to employees that meet specific criteria.  Let’s take a look back at how the government has meddled in business in the past.

In 1916 the National Child Labor Committee successfully worked with Congress to pass the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act, also known as Wick’s Bill.  This statute prohibited the sale in interstate commerce of goods produced by factories that employed children under fourteen, mines that employed children under sixteen, and any facility where children under sixteen worked at night or more than eight hours daily.

The outcry was immediate, and in 1918 the US Supreme Court ruled the Act unconstitutional in Hammer v. Dagenhart.

And then all was well in the world of commerce and capitalism.

Until 1933.

Under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, Congress passed the National Industrial Recovery Act.  One of the provisions of this act established a national minimum wage of $0.25 per hour, a 40 hour workweek, and enacted regulations for working conditions. 

Big business did not take this lying down though, and in 1935 the Supreme Court declared the act unconstitutional in Schechter Poultry Corp v. United States.

Once again, the invisible hand was allowed to regulate things, and government was told No! when it comes to deciding what is right and good for capitalism.

But FDR wasn’t finished.  In 1938 the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed, which brought back a national minimum wage of $0.25 per hour ($3.77 in 2007 dollars), a 40 hour work week, allowance for overtime paid at 1.5 times the normal rate of pay, and prohibited children under 16 from working.

But business did not consider the matter to be settled.  In 1946 the case of Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co. reached the Supreme Court.  Employees were not being paid for their time preparing their workplaces (walking to their station, turning on equipment, donning special clothing, and so on).  The Supreme Court upheld the Act, forcing employers to pay their employees “portal to portal”.

And now here we are in 2012.  Once again, government is dictating how employers treat their employees.  And some employers are doing the only thing they can do: reducing employee hours to dodge the requirement, or simply passing the increased cost on to their customers.

Some regard healthcare coverage as a basic employee right, similar to a safe and harassment free workplace, or to a minimum wage.  Others see healthcare more as a luxury.  For a low wage or minimum wage worker, it must be reassuring to know that if they are injured or become ill, not only are they likely to miss out on work and pay at their job, they could even be fired.  That on top of massive medical bills well beyond their ability to pay, on account of their low wage job, and lack of healthcare coverage.  For someone working to support a family, it must be reassuring to know that the job creators, the people at the very top of the capitalism food chain, are not taking a hit in their pocket book.  For a CEO with a luxury mansion and a private fleet of automobiles, suffering any loss in profits is absolutely devastating.  I mean, how would they support their family?