Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Game 393: StarQuest: Rescue at Rigel (1980) and Game 394: StarQuest: Star Warrior (1980)

An uninspiring main screen kicks off the first game.
           
StarQuest: Rescue at Rigel
United States
Automated Simulations, Inc. (developer and publisher)
Released 1980 for Apple II, TRS-80, and Commodore PET; 1981 for Atari 800; 1982 for Commodore VIC-20; 1983 for DOS
Date Started: 7 October 2020
Date Ended: 3 January 2021
Total Hours: 2
Difficulty: User-definable, ranges from easy to hard (2-4/5)
Final Rating: 9
Ranking at Time of Posting: 12/404 (3%)

StarQuest: Star Warrior
United States
Automated Simulations, Inc. (developer and publisher)
Released 1980 for TRS-80; 1981 for Apple II and Atari 800; 1983 for DOS
Date Started: 7 October 2020
Date Ended: 3 January 2021
Total Hours: 4
Difficulty: User-definable. Ranges from very easy to hard (1-4/5).
Final Rating: 14
Ranking at Time of Posting: 50/404 (12%)
      
The brief StarQuest series started as an attempt by Automated Simulations (soon to be Epyx) to squeeze a bit more out of their Dunjonquest engine, which had been introduced in 1979 with The Temple of Apshai. (For a rundown of the series in general, I recommend my Hellfire Warrior review.) StarQuest gives the engine a science fiction theme but otherwise cuts the features to the bone, removing so many elements that I would not consider either game an RPG. Indeed, when I first visited Rescue at Rigel in a brief 2010 entry, I quit in the middle after rejecting it. I suppose I could have let that stand as the BRIEF, but it was a bit too brief even for a BRIEF, if that makes any sense.
    
Automated Simulations' approach to production qualities has always amused me. If they published a game that consisted of nothing more than a blinking cursor, it would still be accompanied by an illustrated 20-page manual providing an epic backstory for that cursor. Their manuals for the Crystalware titles that they re-published in 1982 walk the line between high art and high fraud, and here we see them cutting their teeth. Rescue at Rigel, whose gameplay complexity struggles to exceed that of Frogger, nonetheless comes with an illustrated short story that endeavors to seat the hero, Sudden Smith, among such luminaries as Flash Gordon, James T. Kirk, and Han Solo.
    
The StarQuest titles are set in the same universe as Automated Simulations' Starfleet Orion (1978) and Invasion Orion (1979), a pair of strategy games in which humanity faced off against invaders from the Confederation of Orion and the planet Klaatu. The strategic space battles in these early games use simple ASCII graphics and display minimal information on screen, so to enhance the players' imaginations, each scenario has a backstory in the manual, featuring a variety of characters and establishing the lore of the setting. Sudden Smith appears in one scenario in each game, a pilot whose combat experience has left him with some cybernetic parts.
          
I fight an enemy while a prisoner waits to be rescued.
        
In Rescue, you "play" Smith directly rather than just flying his ships around. An insectoid species called the Tollah have abducted 10 human VIPs and have brought them to their base orbiting Rigel. The base has 6 floors and 60 rooms, and 10 of those rooms have the VIPs. You must maneuver Smith through the rooms and corridors, fighting aliens and rescuing the captives. You only have one hour to accomplish this.
 
This setup makes Rescue akin to the "MicroQuests" that Automated Simulations developed for its Dunjonquest series. In both Morloc's Tower (1979) and The Datestones of Ryn (1979), you play the default Apshai character, Brian Hammerhand, on a time-limited mission. Like Rescue, these "MicroQuests" use the Dunjonquest engine but lack character development, an inventory, and the detailed room descriptions from Temple of Apshai. But at least they have treasure descriptions, offer varied monsters, and give Brian Hammerhand a (fixed) set of statistics. Rescue doesn't even go that far. Sudden Smith has only his silly name, a shield, and a couple of weapon options.
        
Heading into a new game.
           
I will admit that there is more strategy to the game than this limited setup suggests. Even on the easiest level, time, health, and energy are all severely limited. The base maintains a fixed configuration, but the locations of the hostages are randomized for each new game (within some rules, at least; I think they're all found within "dead-end" rooms, with only one entrance and exit). Even the fixed configuration is difficult to master, as there are shafts and teleporters, some of them taking you to predictable destinations, some randomized. You have to map out a path that maximizes coverage of potential hostage rooms.
          
My map of Level 3 of the base.
         
Enemies--common and high Tollahs and robots, mostly--pop up to block your progress. You have to decide whether to fight them or just blow past them, and if the former whether to expend a limited number of B)lasts or just F)ire your regular weapon, which depletes energy and can be set to various levels of lethality. (There's only ever one enemy in any room, and when you fire, your weapon aims at him automatically.) You also have to decide when to activate and deactivate your personal shield, which also drains energy. Nothing replenishes energy. You have some health packs to replenish health, but they go fast.
           
Transporting a rescued prisoner back to the ship.
      
When you find a hostage, you hit "T" to transport him to safety. If you hit "T" when not in the presence of a hostage, you yourself get teleported out of the base to safety. You can do that after you've rescued all 10 or some lesser number of hostages. Either way, the game simply gives you a screen that says, "Safe Aboard!" and gives you a score based on the number of hostages you rescued (one particular hostage, Delilah Rookh, gives you more points) and the number of enemies you killed. This screen is the same regardless of the number of rescues; you don't get a special "won!" screen for having rescued all ten.
          
The closest we get to a "win" acknowledgement.
       
By far, the hardest part of the game is mastering the Dunjonquest system of movement by which you adjust your facing by turning L)eft, R)ight, or V)olte-face and then hit a number to indicate how many steps you want to go in that direction. Lots of steps in quick succession depletes fatigue (which, unlike the other statistics, does regenerate), so you have to make sure to find rooms without enemies to rest and recharge occasionally. Still, unlike the other Dunjonquest games, you're not picking up inventory here that causes encumbrance issues, so fatigue is less of a problem.
     

        
The old Dunjonquest engine is still at the base of Star Warrior, but the creators managed to make it a much more interesting game. It still isn't an RPG, but they've replaced the missing RPG elements with some new tactical options, and the result is a game that I found both challenging and fun in its own way.

The setup, on which we will have more in a moment, is that the planet Fornax has been taken over by a tyrant. A resistance leader has sneaked off-planet to hire a mercenary group called the Furies (motto: "Retribution is Our Business") to overthrow the despot. The Furies, apparently as martially-gifted as the Spartans, respond by sending one agent with the cringy name of Purvis Youngblood.
           
Flying with my jetpack, I arrive on screen to see an enemy fortress.
         
You play Purvis in two scenarios: "Diversion" and "Assault." The first has no particular objective; you run around the map trying to destroy as much as possible (obtaining the highest score possible) in the time you've allotted. In the second, you're trying to destroy the installation housing the military governor. But accomplishing this task simply adds the line "Mission Successful!" to the scoring screen at the end of the scenario; both scenarios are fundamentally about pushing yourself and your character to achieve higher points.
      
You have more resources to accomplish these tasks than in Rescue at Rigel. In addition to the blaster and power gun (which again may be set to different ranges), you have a nuclear missile launcher with a fixed number of shots, two different shield levels, two different armor levels, a jetpack, and systems for auto-healing and remote sensing. Any of your weapons or systems may be destroyed in combat but repaired with an auto-repair module. Finally, there's a complex set of terrain-related variables that allow you to hide from the enemy, or detect the enemy before he detects you (or vice versa), adding a stealth element to the game.
            
An equipment summary precedes your outing.
       
Supporting these features are three character builds that you choose at the beginning: "dragoon," "marauder," and "ninja." You can also customize your own class by specifying exactly what systems and how much inventory you want to take; extra space is converted to speed and energy.
         
The game's explanation of the different "classes."
      
In either scenario, you roam an open map with terrain features but no barriers. The map is 6 screens wide by 10 screens high, although it has the illusion of endlessness because if you try to move off the edge of the world from a border screen, it just repeats that screen (except for the south, where it ends the game). Movement is with the same system as Rescue, but there's no longer a fatigue statistic, so there's really no reason not to spam "9" repeatedly when you're trying to get somewhere. 
   
The screens offer multiple types of enemies and fortresses. Fortresses remain fixed in position, appear the moment you step on a map, and do not respawn once you destroy them. Other enemies can come and go as you traverse a screen, wait, hide, or destroy them. Fortresses might be civilian or military. you lose points for destroying civilian ones. You can distinguish them with the O)bserve command. Only missiles work on fortresses.
      
Preparing a missile strike on a compound.
     
You get to set the minimum time in the first scenario, as well as a difficulty level from 1 to 5, so it's not hard to "win." You just set it for "easy" at 1 minute, kill a couple of things, and then leave the game when it says "Recall!" You end the game by moving south off a southernmost screen. The game gives you more points the further north you travel as you destroy enemies, presumably to encourage you to take risks. The manual offers that 100-300 points would be normal for a first attempt; 1000 once you get some experience. "We are still waiting for the first player to break 2000," it challenges. That would be tough. Even if you were willing to fight indefinitely, you'd eventually run out of rounds and energy.
   
Scenario #2 has no fixed time. You leave when you're done. A sensor tells you the direction and distance of the installation containing the governor, and if you kill him, you get an extra line in the scoring screen. You can boost your score with extra destruction beyond that. The two scenarios are otherwise indistinguishable.
       
I fight a heavy tank in the forest with the ruins of a fortress behind me.
      
I found the game challenging and fun up to a point. A lot that happens is random and extremely variable. Sometimes you pass through multiple screens without a single enemy; sometimes, you encounter five enemies in a row on one screen. Sometimes, the enemy appears on the other side of the screen and doesn't see you through the trees; sometimes, he appears right on top of you. Sometimes, his shot does 43% damage and disables your shields; sometimes, it does 3% damage. I suppose this kind of randomness is necessary given the nature of the game. It maximizes replayability and keeps the player from developing a sure-fire system.
    
I won, but I'm not proud of that score or time.
    
I rated Rescue at Rigel a 9 on my GIMLET and Star Warrior a 14, the latter entering the realm of "not bad" for games being rated on an RPG scale that aren't RPGs in the first place. They do best in their inherent challenge and replayability, and I could imagine that if I had someone to play with, and we kept leapfrogging each other in high scores, it would keep me playing. If you're curious about the dates, I had this entry written in October, but for reasons not worth explaining, I lost my screenshots. I kept it in reserve until I had time to replay the game and replicate the shots.
 
As you can see, the graphical style is quite different between the games, but this is as much to do with platform differences as game differences. Both games featured very different graphics depending on their platforms. Some of the platforms have sound; others don't. At best, the sound boops and screeches and slows down gameplay. I was grateful that Warrior had a setting to turn it off.
       
Rescue at Rigel for the Atari 800.
       
I want to return to the backstory of Star Warrior, because it reads a bit like a sci-fi update of The Turner Diaries. The reason Fornax was so easily taken over by a despot is that private ownership of firearms was outlawed a couple of generations before. As for the complaints of the resistance: "Controls. Censorship. State-issued identification. Regulations no one understands. Taxes on everything: income taxes, sales taxes, use taxes, excise taxes, import tariffs, export duties--something new every week." This leads the Furies leader to make a wry historical quip about "taxation without representation."
    
I don't know about you, but if I was writing a backstory about a dystopian civilization whose governor the player was expected to murder with nuclear weapons, I might try to justify it with more than vague Libertarian trigger words. I'd have the resistance leader say something like: "Death camps. Passes required to travel outside the city you live in. Bands of government enforcers invading private homes." Seriously, state-issued identification is the rallying cry I'm supposed to get behind? As for "taxes," every civilized nation in the world has at least as many tax types as are listed here. It's what we pay for the trappings of civilization. The fact of taxes isn't oppressive; the amounts can be, as can the means of assessing them--but the character doesn't try to justify that here. It's just their existence alone that we're supposed to sympathize with.
   
As for "controls," "censorship," and "regulations no one understands," I guess I'm against those, but I want to hear a little more before I throw in with your side. Because "censorship" is what some people cry when they get fired for using racial slurs at work; some amount of "controls" are what keep life livable; and "regulations no one understands" could be someone trying to overturn environment laws, food safety measures, and the licensing of airline pilots.
       
The death screen from Rigel, because someone asked.
        
Now, someone's going to read the manual and note that I'm being a bit disingenuous, because Chambers does mention "conscription, night arrests, and 're-education camps'" among his objections, although in an internal monologue that he never voices to the Furies leader. Even here, there's nothing particularly tyrannical about "night arrests"; it depends a lot on what the person is being arrested for.
    
It gets better. The Furies representative mentions that Fornax could always join the Stellar Union. Chambers rejects this: "No. We want to be free." This is what drives me crazy: the idea that government, especially--god help us--world government--is necessarily the opposite of "freedom" instead of the guarantor of that freedom. The Furies leader approves: "The only thing worse than taxation without representation is taxation with representation, but most people never learn that." Uh, no. The only thing worse is no taxation at all, and thus no police, roads, regulations against monopolies, national defense, consumer safety, clean water, national parks, disaster relief, universal education, and nuclear power plant inspectors. Most people never learn that because lives in such societies are nasty, brutish, and short. There are still places like that in the world today, to everyone's shame, and I can't help but note that a lack of gun regulations hasn't caused stable governments to magically form there.
      
The manual is reflective of the personal philosophies of its writer, Jon Freeman, described as an "ardent libertarian" in the bio section of his later Archon (1983). Freeman would leave Automated Simulations in 1981 to start Free Fall Associates with his wife, Anne Westfall. The first game from the new company was called Tax Dodge (1982).
       
I veered into the political at the end there, and I welcome respectful, reasoned counter-arguments. I will delete insults, bumper-sticker slogans, and other forms of nonsense.

158 comments:

  1. No counter-argument here.

    My personal theory on the appeal of "taxation is theft" to a certain crowd that it can be justified in a wholly philosophical way, whereas the more practical "we need taxes, at the right amount" requires a wonky dive into numbers and statistics -- what does "right amount" mean exactly? -- in a way that is hard to encapsulate with a slogan. That is, the feeling that a system that can't be encapsulated with a few axioms is wrong, somehow.

    Or to pick a practical example: it's easier to assume the tragedy of the commons doesn't exist (or won't with enough deregulation) rather than picking out what circumstances, exactly, the government might need to intervene: a specific, ad hoc list, which might change due to practical circumstance as opposed to any philosophically pure guiding principle.

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    1. There is still a distinction between those who want the government to take as much in taxes as is practically possible and those who want the government to take as little in taxes as is practically possible.

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    2. “There is still a distinction between those who want the government to take as much in taxes as is practically possible and those who want the government to take as little in taxes as is practically possible.”

      The distinction is more like “those who want the government to take as much in taxes as necessary to create the changes in society that they want to foster, whether or not those changes are wise or even possible” and “those who want the government to take only as much as is necessary to maintain a minimal set of functions which was largely exceeded a hundred years ago.”

      Of course, at the rate we are borrowing to fund the benefits we get today, we are actually taxing our great-grandchildren.

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    3. Some vices miss what is right because they are deficient, others because they are excessive, in feelings or in actions, while virtue finds and chooses the mean.

      Could be reasonably applied to taxation, and there's a considerable range to be had between minimum and maximum take.

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    4. The issue is also that governments abuse tax money to a large extent and there are no laws in place to make politicians responsible for that take responsibility. It happens all the time. Here in Germany we've had government-funded construction and design projects such as a city putting LEDs on the sewer manholes to make them glow at night... because it looks cool. It ended up looking way less cool than expected and cost about 8000 euros. Wasted money. Elsewhere, politicians decided that a prominent local hill should receive an observation platform from which you can look out across the landscape. It cost tens of thousands to construct, ended up being only a few meters high, and the view atop this platform isn't much better than when you just stand on top of the hill itself. Completely useless, a waste of money. In another town, they placed half a dozen "no parking" signs in a rarely-used dead end road. Barely anyone drives there anyway, and why do they need that many signs? Waste of money.

      Also, politicians earn way too much money. Their wages shouldn't be this high. They should be adjusted to be around the average middle class income level, not significantly above it. Politics shouldn't be a career to get rich in.

      If tax money was used more responsibly, they'd be able to cut quite a lot of taxes and still have enough money to do all the necessary government work.

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    5. I'm doubtful that wasteful discretionary spending is a major driver of government spending. My understanding is that in the United States, at the federal level, the real heavy hitters in the budget are national defense and welfare state entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. Corporate bailouts and 'stimulus' spending don't help any.

      If you really want to reduce government spending, you don't need to make government spend more responsibly. You need to make the government responsible for less. If you aren't willing to do that, I don't think you're really engaging with the issue.

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    6. Discretionary spending is a small percentage of the federal US budget. Kyle's correct that the biggest items in the budget are defense spending, Social Security and Medicare. At the state level, items like education, Medicaid and hospitals that are the big outlays.

      These are all generally programs that people like, so the argument that taxation is theft really implies that people just want someone else to pay for it, whether it's either different people living now or future generations.

      There's also the issue that some of these programs never directly benefit people who pay for them. For example, people without children still pay for primary school education. This is a somewhat more coherent argument, at least to me, but still ignores the indirect social benefits from these programs.

      With all of that said, bailouts/stimulus can help the economy; fiscal multipliers are a real thing. It just so happens that a lot of programs that the US federal government has done lately don't help (i.e. have multipliers above 1).

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    7. "There is still a distinction between those who want the government to take as much in taxes as is practically possible and those who want the government to take as little in taxes as is practically possible."

      It fills me with sadness that this is how some people cast my side of the argument. That we honestly want the government to tax as much as possible.

      Halligan39's response is perfect. I, personally, want the government to tax as much as is necessary to pay for the things that Congress has voted to provide in its annual budgets. I want a democratic process to decide what those things are. The problem is that we've divorced the idea of taxes from the government services that we receive. This has both ideological problems (it makes no more sense to be "against taxes" than against paying the grocery store for the items you've put in your cart) and practical ones (a $28 trillion national debt).

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    8. "Also, politicians earn way too much money. Their wages shouldn't be this high. They should be adjusted to be around the average middle class income level, not significantly above it. Politics shouldn't be a career to get rich in."

      Jarl, this sounds good on its face. But in my opinion our experience in the US has been that if you don't set politicians' wages very high, then the politicians you get are people who are already rich enough to not need the salary, are going to get rich afterwards by lobbying or working for industries that they dealt with in government (which means that they are legislating with an eye to their next job), or worst of all, politicians who enrich themselves in office by means other than their salary--witness the soon-to-be-ex-president showily rejecting his salary while spending government money for him and his entourage to stay at hotels and resorts that he owns.

      This problem is even worse in our state legislatures, which in many states are part-time--which effectively excludes anyone who has a job where they can't take off for the legislative session.

      Paying politicians a lot feels icky, but it's not that expensive in the scale of a country's budget, and ultimately it saves money to have politicians whose job is to be a politician and not to get rich some other way.

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    9. There are more than two sides to the argument. There definitely are people who want the government to take as much tax money as they can get away with. But not everyone outside the "tax as little as possible" camp is in the "tax as much as possible" camp; obviously there are other possibilities.

      Where I think you and I may differ is in the extent to which we consider a democratic vote to validate a government action. There are some things the government should not do, period, even if a voting majority says otherwise. This raises the question of what the proper function of government is. Governments should not tax to fund actions that are outside their proper purview.

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    10. I also wanted to thank Halligan39 for that measured depiction of the discussion. Reasonable people can disagree about where they want to draw that line between government services and lower taxes.

      In any system, there will be rules. There will be actors trying to manipulate those rules for their personal benefit. Incentives matter, but demonstrably so does culture, even when opposed to incentives.

      Government can work, or not work, depending on these particulars. But, so can private companies work or not work. I don't find the Public/Private distinction too compelling as a way to evaluate solutions to societal ills.

      I do have concern with authority vs liberty, though. I think "night arrests" implies a lack of due process...

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    11. Kyle, there is not political position for which it would even make sense to "tax as much as possible" for its own sake, except I suppose in dictatorships where the taxes go directly to the pockets of those taking them. I challenge you to find one example in any western democracy of a politician or political philosophy that values taxing for its own sake.

      "There are some things the government should not do, period, even if a voting majority says otherwise." Sure, if the country's Constitution prohibits it or if it's not among the enumerated powers of the government. Otherwise, the voting majority gets to decide what the "proper function" of the government is, not your own ideology.

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    12. "I think "night arrests" implies a lack of due process..."

      Probably. It's just a bizarre way to say it. If the government is making arrests without due process, that's what's important, not the time of day that it happens.

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    13. "Otherwise, the voting majority gets to decide what the 'proper function' of the government is..." I think this is the point where we will simply have to agree to disagree.

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    14. The problem, Kyle, is that the word "should" -- as in your statement "There are some things the government should not do, period, even if a voting majority says otherwise" -- is meaningless without a clear explication of the source of the authority claimed by that "should".

      In other words, if you're going to assert some basis to deny a group of people the right to self-determination -- which is essentially what you're doing by saying that a voting majority can't decide the "proper function" of its own government, right? -- then you ought to be clear about exactly what that basis is.

      There are, by the way, legitimate (or at least defensible) bases on which to do such a thing. One could, for example, state an objection to race laws by objecting in religious terms, which in turn is often a way of pointing out inconsistency or hypocrisy: you can't claim to believe X and then do Y, in other words. But you have to be speaking to people who actually do believe X; otherwise your objection is meaningless to them, like quoting Buddhist doctrine to a Southern Baptist.

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    15. Frankly, the notion that some party simply wants to tax "as much as possible" is such obvious propaganda and so transparently false that I'm baffled that anyone would fall for it.

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    16. Taxation at the federal level has just about nothing to do with the government having the money necessary to pay for things. The dollar is a fiat currency with no intrinsic value, quantified at will by the same entity. It isn't backed by rice or rare metals and the physical bills are largely vestigial. You can't think of income tax as a transfer of resources from citizens to the government; it truly doesn't gain any from the act.

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    17. @man of stone

      Yup. That's a fundamental property of governments with a sovereign currency, and one which confuses most people.

      Gov't doesn't put tax in its purse. Taxation is the destruction of money, and gov't spending is the creation (or printing) of money.

      The fact that govts 'borrow' to make up a deficit is actually kind of weird. It doesn't necessarily add stability to the price of currency.

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    18. "A tax is a compulsory financial charge or some other type of levy imposed on a taxpayer (an individual or legal entity) by a governmental organization in order to fund government spending and various public expenditures." - Wikipedia

      So-called "Modern Monetary Theory" is a fringe theory.

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    19. Sure, MMT is 'heterodox', but the observation I posted above is not particularly new, and predates MMT by something like 50 years. It's merely a description of how fiat currencies function from the perspective of the money supply. The only thing that constrains currency are the govts own arbitrary rules.

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    20. Rather than engage such an absurd discussion, I'll just point out that if this thesis were true, it would only be true at the federal level. No state or local government is allowed to spend more than it earns in taxes and other fees, and so for state and local governments, at least, their ability to provide services is precisely limited to their ability to tax.

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    21. Yep. Only true for govts who make payments with fiat money which they control the supply of. Not true for state, local and a number of federal govts even (eg the Eurozone). This is mot a complaint wrt fiat money, or a bug. It’s a feature.

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    22. "The only thing that constrains currency are the govts own arbitrary rules." Is this really true though? I thought that historically the main concern about printing currency was the fear of inflation and that MMT's change in perspective is that that fear is overblown. One can transfer value / purchasing power from the populace to the state either via taxation (keeping money supply constant) or via printing additional currency to be held / spent by the state with little taxation.

      Understanding the MMT viewpoint is something I've been meaning to do now for a while, so I am genuinely curious. It does seem that if there was ever a time to print money to fund spending that a pandemic would be the time.

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    23. Right, inflation will result if the money supply increases without a commensurate increase in the amount of goods and services produced. But while that's a consequence, I was referring to actual barriers to gov't spending - different countries have different requirements for authorising it.

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    24. It becomes robbery when you don't return all the money back in benefits. Different tax rates, welfare, useless bureaucracy, preferential taxation/services for different demographics are all forms of stealing from the taxpayer.

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    25. That just sounds like, "Taxation is theft if I don't agree with exactly how it's structured and what it pays for."

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    26. Why would I agree with people not getting the full amount they pay in taxes back? Those are just some examples off the top of my head and they all apply.

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  2. "I veered into the political at the end there"

    I can't imagine many other bloggers taking the time reading let alone publicly interrogating problematic manual content from decades ago in this way, but it yielded by far the most interesting part of your post! I wonder if libertarian ideology is over-represented in the games of early home microcomputing, as products of one of the few moments in history where intrepid individuals, equipped with the right gear, bold vision and unusual skill set, could make a comfortable living (and in some cases, a fortune) on their own and on their terms.

    It may also be worth considering whether this was a then-fashionable contemporary trend in eg. wargaming and SF fandom circles, communities which have their own basic biases but generally manage to accommodate people from all points on the political spectrum.

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  3. Atlas Shrugged... In space!

    It's also strange that the "good guys" are resorting to hired mercenaries to kill and terrorize the bad guys. You'd think they could find some support among the populace to revolt if their cause was as pure as it is being presented.

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    1. The populace doesn't have any guns is the excuse given.

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    2. Ah yes, you did say that, I should read better

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    3. Not really Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand had basically nothing to say about gun ownership, and rejected the idea that guns per se lead to freedom. She was also quite clear that government was a vitally necessary institution to a free society, and that without it there was no freedom, only anarchy.

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    4. "That rifle on the wall of the laborer's cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there."
      -- George Orwell

      "Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party."
      -- Mao Tse-Tung

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    5. The argument that guns lead to freedom seems stuck in the past when there is more of a parity in military equipment available to the public as compared to the government.

      In the late 1700's, muskets for everyone would help against a tyrannical government. At most the government could bring a few cannons to bear. Today? Even if I have a small arsenal in my house, when the army shows up with tanks and drone aircraft there's not much freedom fighting I'm going to be able to do.

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    6. Those are nice quotes, but I'm a data guy. I don't make decisions based on anecdotes. The fact is, when you study the growth of tyrannies over the last 200 years, you find that some happened in countries that had widespread gun ownership, and some didn't. (A lot of them had strict gun laws AFTER the despot took over, but that's not what we're talking about, is it?)

      But let's be real: We are in the middle of a series of events that, if they had been executed more competently, we would be calling a coup. We have political leaders at both the state and national levels deliberately sowing lies about the 2020 elections and using whatever loopholes they can find--including some that are patently absurd--to upset the will of the voters. Their constituencies seem to be cheering them on rather than punishing them for their flagrant assaults on our Constitution and democratic system. And those constituencies are the same ones that promote widespread gun ownership. So it wouldn't be hard to work out a scenario by which widespread gun ownership actually promoted, rather than protected, us from tyranny. Since either scenario seems likely, I guess I'm going to side with the one that also happens to result in fewer civilian deaths from firearms.

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    7. Guerilla warfare has been pretty effective at bleeding more traditional militaries, but it doesn't usually win without outside assistance.

      The deeper point is that guns are a means. Freedom is an end. Having access to guns doesn't mean you will use them to pursue freedom; there are many historical examples of armed groups with authoritarian or totalitarian goals.

      The thing that gives the "guns equal freedom" thing a veneer of plausibility is the fact that authoritarians and totalitarians are usually very hostile to widespread private gun ownership, and getting rid of it is often part of their agenda.

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    8. "But let's be real: We are in the middle of a series of events that, if they had been executed more competently, we would be calling a coup [...] it wouldn't be hard to work out a scenario by which widespread gun ownership actually promoted, rather than protected, us from tyranny."

      Right as you were typing that, armed protestors breached the Capitol to disrupt the affirmation process.

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    9. I was going to say that, if Chet wants to see whether this sort of libertarian talk can trigger revolts, he can just look at the news.

      After deposing Saddam Hussein, when I kept hearing that one thing that made it difficult to occupy Iraq was that the population was heavily armed, I kept waiting for people to realize that this meant that a heavily armed populace didn't necessarily prevent Saddam's brutal dictatorship, but I guess people didn't agree with me on that.

      BTW, another quote from the same Orwell article with the one about the rifle:

      "It would be from every point of view a disaster if the Home Guard lost its all-national, anti-Fascist character, and developed into a sort of Conservative Party militia...."

      The context being that at the time Britain was in a literal war, against Nazi Germany, and the rifle on the wall was a symbol that the people were free and would freely fight for their country against a fascist invasion, not that they were preparing to rebel against their elected government.

      https://orwell-rifle.s3.amazonaws.com/EVENING_STANDARD_1941-01-08.pdf

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    10. The high-tech US military hasn't been able to beat a bunch of guys with AKs in Afghanistan. It's been 20 years! If they were going to win, they would have won by now. But from the looks of it the guys with AKs will win.

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    11. I mean, the US military could "win" easily if its intent were simply to annihilate the population of Afghanistan -- or nearly any other country -- and especially if it were indifferent to the political and ecological consequences of doing so. The success of an armed insurrection depends on the occupying power's disinclination to commit genocide (especially in the age of weapons of mass destruction). The victory sought in Afghanistan isn't ultimately a military one, but a diplomatic, economic, and sociopolitical one, with some ethnic-conflict elements as well.

      By the way we should be very careful about differentiating between "authoritarianism" and "totalitarianism". They are not the same thing at all, and while I'm willing to concede that totalitarian governments tend to be hostile to private gun ownership (because they seek to control every aspect of life, by definition), it's not at all true that authoritarian governments are. For one, paramilitary groups and militias have been quite useful to some dictators; the arms possessed by those groups are, more or less definitionally, in private hands.

      (There have, of course, been dictators who pass laws against gun ownership by certain ethnic or religious groups, but there have been governments of every sort who have done that anyway. There's nothing about libertarianism that's antithetical to implementing a policy of racial and religious bigotry. If it's instead implemented at the corporate or community level, with a bare-bones laissez-faire government ignoring it or too weak to address it, the outcome is much the same for the people on the receiving end.)

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    12. I view a government's stance on private firearms ownership as a measure of trust a government has in its citizens and a statement on its own perception of its legitimacy. E.G. it correlates to the degree of fear the government has that those guns will be turned on it.

      A dictatorship with a popular leader might have no issue with widespread gun ownership because it is confident they will not be used to upset the existing order. Indeed, they would be a boon in allowing the population to resist another country attempting to remove the dictator by force.

      Whether they intend to or not, politicians who campaign to remove guns from the hands of the people send the message to gun owners that they are up to something that might merit an armed response.

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    13. "Politicians who campaign to remove guns from the hands of the people send the message to gun owners that they are up to something." Usually what they're "up to" is trying to prevent senseless homicides and accidental shootings. It would be nice if the pro-gun lobby occasionally admitted that those things ARE a problem. They might be the price you're willing to pay for the freedom to unrestrictedly own firearms, but 20 children killed in an elementary school ARE a price.

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    14. "Politicians who campaign to remove guns from the hands of the people send the message to gun owners that they are up to something." This seems to be the crux of America's issue, as this implies that government should not a priori be trusted to act in the best interests of its citizens.

      While clearly not all governments do so, as evidenced in malevolent dictatorships, I've seen no evidence that attempted restrictions on gun ownership in the US at least are for any reasons other than what Chet has listed out.

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    15. Vonotar: I think trust in the government is a situational thing.

      Do I trust that the government will send out social security checks on time and in the correct amount (and fix it if they make a mistake)? Absolutely.

      Do I trust that an accused criminal will get a trial? Yes. A fair one? Maybe; the justice system has demonstrated they are more interested in convictions than justice. There's plenty of documentaries showing egregious abuses by the prosecution.

      Do I trust that the justification we are given to go to war are true? Rarely to never after the last 15+ years of middle east adventures.

      Removing guns from individuals means removing their capability to defend themselves, which can be a hard sell when the same government that argues you should just call the police has repeatedly (and successfully) argued in court that they owe no duty to protect any individual citizen.

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    16. Gods, if I could get rid of one particular piece of nonsense on the Internet, it would be misinterpretations of Warren vs. District of Columbia. What the Supreme Court ruled is that police cannot be held civilly liable for failure to prevent specific crimes. It was a sensible ruling--the last thing we need is every crime victim suing the local police department.

      That does not mean that police do not have a general duty to protect citizens, including responding to emergency calls. Police have whatever duties are set out for them by their local governments.

      Nonetheless, that point is moot because no one is talking about completely disarming the American public. Such a thing would be patently against the Second Amendment, and no serious politician or policy advocate thinks that repealing the Second Amendment is in any way feasible.

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  4. Funny coincidence, a character in my CRPG has a bit of a "Ron Swanson" vibe. :D

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  5. That libertarian propaganda is a bit weird indeed.

    I was born in a country where taxes are high and services bad, especially compared to the neighboring countries. Did I ever think about bombing the capital or similar? No, I learned languages and settled in one of the neighboring countries.

    How would you compare the backstory of Star Warrior with the backstory of the Empire trilogy? By the way, did you find Empire III: Armageddon?

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    1. I am a bit late for New Year's wishes, so... Happy Orthodox-Christian Christmas!!! (They celebrate it on the 6th of January.)

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    2. I don't think you can compare the two backstories. Star Warrior is highly political but completely understandable. I'm not sure what the manuals of Empire are advocating, if anything. They're just bizarre. Yes, we should see Empire III within a few months.

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  6. "Lots of steps in quick succession depletes fatigue (which, unlike the other statistics, does regenerate), so you have to make sure to find rooms without enemies to rest and recharge occasionally."

    What, is Sudden Smith asthmatic or something? He must be the ancestor of modern FPS protagonists who can't sprint for more than 50 feet before they need to stop and use their inhalers.

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    1. Humans can't keep up their top speed for more than a few seconds. 100m olympic sprinters are already slowing down by the 30 - 60 meter mark. Go out and really run as hard as you physically can (I'm a very amateur runner, but have finished a few marathons). You'll be ready to collapse by 100 meters.

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  7. So are the briefs now going to get game numbers? If not, how short does a brief have to be that it does not deserve a game number?

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    1. These are examples of games that there's really no way to BRIEF. They're too short. If I cover them at all, I might as well win them and give them a number. When that's not true, and the game isn't an RPG or I otherwise have a problem with it, you'll see a BRIEF.

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  8. God, people get so triggered whenever you tell them not to do something. "What do you mean I can't drive 100mph in a school zone!? Tyranny! Oppression!" It's like a baby throwing a fit after you've stopped them from putting a fork in a light socket.

    And yes, I did slightly exaggerate the straw argument for comedic effect, but it's in the same spirit as anti-maskers and other "my freedumb is more important than your safety" types.

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    1. On the other hand, safety does not always trump liberty; if it did we would mandate universal surveillance. Think of how much crime we could solve, and don't worry about who might be watching you in the bathroom. You don't have anything to hide, do you?

      What these dueling straw man arguments suggest to me is that there is something wrong with framing the issue as freedom versus safety. Properly understood, the two should go hand in hand. People living under governments with no concern for freedom are not safe. Conversely, part of what freedom consists of is being safe from a certain kind of danger - being subjected to the initiation of force. I want people to be free precisely because I think that is essential for them to be safe.

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    2. I don't wanna drive 100 in the city, but I don't want arbitrary general speed limits on all roads in the entire country for no reason, even on long straight roads through the desert with barely any curves and no trees or other obstacles around that I could crash into. What sense does a speed limit make on a long straight highway through the wilderness of Arizona, for example?

      Here in Germany we have no speed limit on highways and it works out fine. Never got into an accident. In fact, German roads are among the safest in the world, despite the high speeds. If you wanna go slow, use the right or middle lane, people who wanna go fast use the left lane, everyone is happy. Fastest I ever went was 215 km/h, which was fun, but usually I stick to a reasonable speed of 160-170... which is already more than the speed limit in most countries.

      The roads in countries with general speed limits everywhere aren't any safer than ours, so what's the point? You take away a little freedom for... what exactly? Security? Not really.

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    3. In the mid-1990s the United States federal speed limit (55mph) was repealed. As I recall, injuries and fatalities from traffic accidents actually went down afterwards. For a period of time, there was no speed limit in Montana -- people called it the 'Montanabahn'.

      This points to a real problem with regulation, even if one accepts its fundamental legitimacy: how do you ensure that the regulations put in place are correct? What's the feedback mechanism for finding and correcting error? The federal government imposed a speed regulation for many years that, based on what happened after it was repealed, was literally killing people. The regulation made the roads less safe. Was anybody ever held responsible for that? I doubt it.

      It's easy to find cases where government regulatory authority is used for bad ends. Local speed limits are often set more with an eye to raising revenue from speeding tickets than to optimizing driving safety. Business regulatory regimes are often taken over by the very industries they are supposed to regulate and used for rent-seeking and to lock out potential competition. (This is so well-known the phenomenon has a name: "regulatory capture".) And there seems to be little to no accountability for those who abuse the regulatory system, which is nice for them, but not so much for the rest of us.

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    4. That looks like a “post hoc, ergo propter hoc” argument. You really can’t think of anything else in the 90s that might have had an effect on automotive fatalities? Drunk driving reductions? Laws requiring use of rear seatbelts?

      I’m not sure the numbers support your characterization, either. The repeal happened in 1995. Motor vehicle fatalities that year were 41,817. The next two years, fatalities were over 42,000. They remained in the high 41 thousands for the remainder of the decade, and only decline meanignfully in 2008 and 2009.

      It might seem useful to identify the cause of that decline and duplicate it, but there appears to be a range of theories from a decrease in younger drivers on the road due to recession to an increase in urban vs rural driving to improved car safety to ongoing efforts to reduce drunk driving.

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    5. The original speed limit law was passed to for fuel efficiency during the oil crisis of the 1970s, so one can argue that there's still a good reason for having a speed limit in place beyond driver safety. Is there a reason, other than fun, for really needing to go above 65-70 miles per hour?

      From a statistical perspective, I suppose the fatality rate reduction post-repeal could also be viewed as an example of correlation not being causation. As David implies, one should really have a causal mechanism in mind when making causal claims. I can't think of such any such realistic mechanism for an increase in speeds leading to a reduction in fatalities.

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    6. Another point I wanted to make regarding the anti-mask crowd is that the focus on freedom seems to ignore the concept of civic and social responsibility to others. The government wouldn't have to mandate mask wearing if everyone voluntarily did it to protect each other.

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    7. Research shows that INCREASED crashes are attributable to the removal of the federal speed limits:

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2724439/

      This is a perfect example of what Vonotar is talking about. Civilization requires that we give up MINOR liberties (e.g., the freedom to drive too fast or go about maskless and damn-the-consequences) in exchange for MAJOR ones (e.g., freedom to not be hit by a driver going 100 mph while making our way to work). When the ratio inverts, sure, that's tyranny. Maybe it doesn't even need to invert. I don't want to give up most moderate freedoms even if I get major ones in return. But so far, no one has asked. And I'm sick of "slipperly slope" arguments that suggest that every freedom we do give up somehow greases the road to tyranny. That just prevents anything positive from getting done.

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    8. A study published in American Journal of Public Health attributes an increase in injuries and fatalities to the increased speed limits throughout the states following the repeal of a federal speed limit. Rural interstates showed the largest increases, and I wouldn't be surprised if this correlated with having the largest speed limit increases.
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2724439/

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    9. Ok, it seems like my memory on that point was wrong. Noted.

      I think the point about feedback, error correction and accountability is still worth considering, though.

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    10. One other thought on the specific topic of speed limits. I don't see a speed limit per se as a violation of liberty, because there is no such thing as "the right to drive a car as fast as you want, anywhere you want". People drive cars on land, and land is owned by someone. The owner of the land sets the terms under which it is used, and that is no more a violation of liberty than my refusing to let you give a lecture in my living room at 2am is a violation of your freedom of speech.

      From my perspective, if I own a piece of land I should be able to drive on it as fast as I want. If I'm driving on a road owned by someone else, I have to meet whatever conditions they lay down, including speed limits. That principle also holds for government roads.

      One might argue (and some libertarians do) that roads could and should be private. But given that under present circumstances the government owns the roads, the government setting conditions on their use is not a violation of liberty at all. (The conditions should be directly connected to the use of the roads. A speed limit is legit. A regulation limiting road access to people of a specific race or gender would not be.)

      Similarly, there is no such thing as the 'right to go around maskless', if doing so crosses some risk threshold of infecting another person with a serious illness. Deliberately or recklessly infecting someone with a disease is a form of assault, and there is no such thing as the right to assault someone.

      Liberty does not mean the right to do whatever you feel like at any place, at any time, in any context.

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    11. Jarlfrank - my Audi would love to get out of the US and visit the autobahn!

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    12. Kyle: "how do you ensure that the regulations put in place are correct? What's the feedback mechanism for finding and correcting error?"

      You've found a flaw in US law. The courts apply different levels of scrutiny to laws that are challenged, and only one of these levels requires that the government prove that it has a compelling interest in the object being regulated and that the regulation being challenged is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. This "strict scrutiny" is reserved for laws affecting fundamental rights like freedom of speech.

      Most laws being challenged face less stringent review, down to a "rational basis" review where the law will be upheld if the government has any conceivable reason to regulate the activity in question- even if the specific regulation is overly restrictive and/or ineffective.

      IMO, it should be the government's responsibility, if challenged, to prove ANY restriction they place on individuals is both necessary and effective.

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    13. I'd love for you to show me what the people wanting to drive 100 mph on school zones look like. But I know already that they don't exist.
      You seem very concerned about your safety, do you think every morning "I don't know if it's safe to drive to work, I'm worried my car might crash".
      Speeding laws primarily exist for the police to earn more money in speeding tickets and pathetic sheeple proudly support it.

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    14. In most states, police don't get any of the money they write in speeding tickets. They got to the state general fund, sometimes the town general fund. Speed limits, and enforcement thereof, have been empirically proven to reduce crashes and injuries repeatedly.

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    15. The government wanting to get more money isn't much better. Also, here's an article saying how the problem isn't driving fast but speed differences that cause accidents. It even says that "there is a generally negative correlation between average speed and speed variance". It makes it pretty clear that the limit should be raised if it reduces accidents. The other side of the question is how time will you lose by driving slower. They lay out a city with the idea of reducing traffic, being able to go faster when there is none would also improve transportation. It would save a lot of time over years to get places a bit faster.
      The article is called "Speeding, Coordination, and the 55 MPH Limit"
      Charles A. Lave

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  9. I'm not on board with the tinfoil haberdashery of the guy's philosophy, but I have to admit I smiled at "Free Fall Associates". Although I hope he didn't choose his wife purely based on the pun.

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  10. This kind of in-your-face libertarianism was popular among the B-grade military sci-fi writers of the era, so you can at least say Freeman was following the literary inspirations.

    The most I know about him are the opinion pieces in the early Computer Gaming World. He was their pet "celebrity designer" (alongside Chris Crawford), but dropped out of relevance (and print) by mid 1980s.

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  11. "An insectoid species called the Tollah have abducted 10 human VIPs and have brought them to their base orbiting Rigel."

    Is that an Iran Hostage Crisis reference?

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  12. Ah, Archon. What a wonderful game that was. If you want to learn more about Freeman and Westfall, Digital Antiquarian recently covered them and Archon.

    https://www.filfre.net/2013/02/free-fall-part-1-archon/

    Of course, it's my suspicion that given the obscurity of almost every other game they developed, the genius of Archon probably came out of working with Paul Reiche III, who went on to develop Star Control 2.

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    1. Actually, I guess it wasn't recently ... 2013, how time flies.

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  13. "Their manuals for the Crystalware titles that they re-published in 1982"
    Got a list? I'd love to look at how they embellished the games.

    What purpose do "decoys" serve in Star Warrior?

    As for taxes, I'd argue that what they're spent on is important as well - when healthcare could be improved at no extra cost just by diverting funds from the military, increased taxes are a hard pill to swallow. Odd how libertarians can justify the U.S. helping in Vietnam and Iraq but not food stamps for their own country.

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    1. See my article on Crystalware here:

      http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2020/04/closing-books-on-crystalware.html

      The bulleted list mentions the ones that were re-issued by Epyx. Look up the manuals on mocagh.org and you'll get some sense of what I mean, especially if you read my entries on those titles and see how limited and short the gameplay was.

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    2. Thanks. Now about the decoys

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  14. Because "censorship" is what some people cry when they get fired for using racial slurs at work

    This isn't the case, though. Censorship is gathering steam and it is very rapidly being used as a weapon of first resort.

    Meet the Censored: Mark Crispin Miller. "By encouraging the school to sack him over a complaint, Crispin Miller’s colleagues are telling students that it’s faster to eliminate or suppress unpleasant ideas than find successful arguments against them. This feels like the opposite of teaching."

    Meet the Censored: Olivia Katbi-Smith. An activist for the Democratic Socialists of America talks about how arguments in favor of “banning hate speech” will end up being used against grassroots activists.

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    1. Isn't Crispin Miller suing his colleagues for defamation?

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    2. Crispin Miller is neither being censored (he is under behavioral review instead), nor is it a first resort (he's been involved in controversies for over a decade).

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    3. Oh my, a controversial thinker. A smart person who thinks for himself and challenges students to do the same is precisely whom the universities should be protecting at all costs. Instead they're closing ranks to cast him out. A man who teaches how to detect and resist propaganda is now the target of a propaganda campaign. I'm glad commenters are coming out in favor of the powerful and against the little guy. Comfort the comfortable, isn't how that saying goes? His words speak best:

      "But as my case shows, you don't have to be on the right to be attacked this way. I've heard from many people, professors at other schools, who've had their slings and arrows, had those shots at them, risked getting fired. Some have been fired. And they're long-time left people, but... the left today is… not the left that I remember, that I have long considered myself part of, which is antiwar, which is about rectifying grotesque income inequality, strengthening the working class, certainly civil rights… Those are, I see them as left issues. Many of them are also libertarian issues. So what the left has now become is a pro-censorship army. It wants censorship, so the left has changed immensely, and I think that I'm sort of a casualty of that."

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    4. 1) Two examples don't prove that anything is "gathering steam." I suspect that the list of things that would get you fired for openly talking about was longer a couple decades ago.

      2) Whether it's a problem or not, having your job at a private employer threatened by your public statements is not "censorship." There is no government reform that would direct affect NYU or its desire to protect its government image.

      3) While both of the people in your examples have done good things, that's not what they're being sanctioned for. A murderer doesn't get off by showing that he spent 40 years fostering orphans and saving the rainforests. We still punish him for the murder. And professors who spend their careers trying to do good things for their students still get fired when they promote conspiracy theories about the COVID vaccine changing DNA and say the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax.

      As for the article about Olivia Katbi-Smith, I read it and still don't understand how she's being "censored." She's a political activist and is getting the kind of flak that political activists get. None of it has anything to do with government regulation.

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    5. I think the term "censorship" is being widely misused these days. I reserve it for cases where speech is suppressed or punished by physical force or the threat of physical force. If the government puts you in jail for saying or publishing something, that's censorship. What happened to Salman Rushdie was censorship.

      That said, censorship is one type of speech suppression, and there are others. When I grew up I was taught that the proper response to bad speech was more speech. It seems like these days I'm seeing more cases where the response to bad speech is economic ostracism. That strikes me as a bad trend.

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    6. The right to free speech is (a) a right to express your political and religious opinions to adults who consent to hearing them without fear of persecution by the state; and (b) a right to the publication of journalism and debate in certain public spaces such as is necessary to hold free, fair and informed elections.

      Interactions between private citizens may be governed by other principles, but they have nothing to do with free speech. If someone doesn't want you in their private space, at their workplace, or published in their publication, you may have other legal recourse with them for discrimination but it has nothing to do with free speech.

      Also, if you're hearing anyone say they're being censored, then the chances are that they're not actually being censored because they clearly had access to a media channel to tell you about that censorship.

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    7. I think that's too narrow. Free speech covers much more than the expression of political and religious opinions. When the government bans literature, that's censorship, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with poltical/religious opinion or electoral debate.

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    8. Greg believes that as long as the state suppresses speech under the guise of "muh public companies" its ok to do it that way. When people lose the right to make a living off of their websites, youtube channels because a payment system bans them, the response of someone like Greg its "well just start your own credit card company dude".

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    9. @Vanhoffen - It's not "my opinion", dude. It's the fact. There are real problems around deplatforming of vulnerable groups - particularly sex workers - that do need to be seriously addressed, but the issue that's engaged by them isn't "free speech", and the people that you specifically are defending aren't being censored because they're clearly communicating to *you* completely effectively.

      @Kyle Haight - So the examples of state censorship which fall outside my definition are (a) the suppression of hate speech, incitement to crime, and incitement to violence; (b) laws suppressing the transmission of information where the information itself is an abuse against a person (e.g. child porn laws, revenge porn laws); (c) laws governing personal privacy; (d) laws indirectly suppressing information through right of civil action including defamation and copyright laws; (e) laws governing protection of state secrets; and (f) laws otherwise governing pornography or obscenity on moral grounds.

      Unless the censorship you're looking to have an argument about falls under categories (d), (e) or (f) then I'm not really interested. Playing devil's advocate is for high school debate class.

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    10. In a corporatist system of government, corporate censorship is state censorship. When there's no meaningful space between corporate power and government power, it doesn't make much difference whether the guy silencing your dissent is Mark Zuckerberg or William Barr. America most definitely has such a system.

      And when independent candidates run for office and can't get their message out for being shadow banned, and the corporatist candidates are always the number one trending subject, you'll be there to finger wag for not bothering to set up their own world-class content distribution system first.

      And when they do set up their content distribution system, Paypal will cut them off from payments, Kickstarter will stop them from raising funds, Facebook will disable sharing of their content, and Youtube will remove their channels. But it's not censorship! You tell those little guys where they can stick it! Speak truth to the powerless!

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    11. Ironically, it's something of a libertarian hands-off approach to antitrust regulation that's led to that so-called corporatist approach to government under the last six or so presidencies. I'd definitely agree that it's well past time to break up some Big Tech metacorps, as well as most other industries where 'moats' or private equity roll-ups of once competitive markets have been passively allowed (if not actively encouraged) for far too long.

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  15. Reading this as armed pro-Trump terrorists have control of the US Senate. It is not a good day to be arguing that the US style of personal firearm ownership is good for freedom and democracy. (Noting that culture plays as big a part as laws, and some other nations with high gun ownership have a very different culture around it.)

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    1. we didn't get freedoms by asking nicely.

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    2. Number of times in US history that the overall level of domestic freedom and democracy has been improved by people with guns: 2. Being (arguably) your war of independence and your civil war. Noting that one of those was, in large part, about one group of US citizens with guns ending oppression by another group of US citizens with guns largely by force of numbers and logistical supremacy, which is not really on the table for the average suburban gun owner.

      Number of times that the overall level of domestic freedom and action has been improved by disruptive or violent protest that did not involve guns: exponentially higher.

      Number of times that guns have been used to reduce the overall level of freedom and democracy in the US: more than I can count in the last 12 months alone.

      Also, of western democracies, by almost any standard the US has substantially less freedoms and poorer democracy than any of its peers who - surprise - almost universally have lower levels of gun ownership, and who all have a substantially more responsible culture around gun ownership.

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    3. GregT, I'm with you until your final paragraph. I'd like to know more about the standards by which the U.S. has "less freedoms and poorer democracy."

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    4. I don't mean to answer for GregT, but The Economist's annual Democracy Index has metrics on that very subject, and for the past ten years the USA has been slipping and ranks 25th in their latest whitepaper.
      http://www.uilpamagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Democracy-Index.pdf

      Most of that slippage concerns partisan dysfunction and public attitudes toward democracy, but it still rates more poorly on electoral process and especially civil liberties than virtually any other nation that we think of as a western democracy. Their exact criteria for evaluating this are in the text.

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    5. CRPG Addict: US democracy, by virtue of being one of the first in the modern world, didn't have a lot of examples to draw from, and thus it's very much a "beta test" version of democracy. It's riddled with flaws that more modern democracies have deliberately chosen to avoid, and despite some history of constitutional amendment the majority of these have never been addressed.

      For starters, it's fairly ridiculous that electoral boundaries and the conduct of elections aren't administered by an independent electoral agency. Most other western democracies (including Australia, where I'm from) have such a body, which is appointed and staffed in a non-partisan way, has legislatively guaranteed independence, and is respected by all sides of politics. This prevents gerrymandering, many forms of voter suppression, and provides a single point of truth about election law, vote validity, and the electoral process.

      Secondly - actually, there's too many things here for a comment - it would be an essay, so I'm just going to list off:
      * the electoral college (an artefact of a world without reliable telecommunications or air travel);
      * a cultural of partisan appointments to the Supreme Court;
      * sheriffs and judges being elected positions;
      * first-past-the-post presidential voting (as opposed to one of various preferential systems);
      * voter ID laws in many jurisdictions;
      * convicted felon voter suppression in many jurisdictions;
      * elections held during work days (what??);
      * vastly fewer polling places per capita during elections than basically any other western democracy...

      I could go on. For a country that alleged loves its democracy so much, the US version of it is fundamentally broken and in need of repair - but unfortunately the basis it's built on makes that repair very hard to achieve.

      That's all just the stuff that's baked into the system, before we get to what's happened culturally in the US in the last 10 years.

      It's probably also worth noting that it was the specific and explicit *intent* of the founding fathers that US government would stay almost entirely in the hands of landed, white, educated protestant males (much in the same manner as the House of Lords in the US is designed for this purpose), and despite some amendment this continues to be (from the perspective of the founding fathers) a deliberate feature of the system, rather than a bug.

      Delete
    6. Oh, and non-compulsory voting. How could I forget that? Which encourages partisan politics by incentivising making your base angry enough to actually get out and vote rather than simply polling the entire electorate on who they'd prefer to govern.

      Delete
    7. In terms of freedoms, while there's lots of small things I could pick at, the major one is that freedoms can only be enjoyed by people who are able to meet their basic needs for food, water, shelter, and safety, and the relative affluence of the US middle class masks the fact that a large and growing number of people in the US are living in third-world conditions, with entire communities going without access to clean drinking water, prevalent gun violence, poor access to healthcare, and a minimum wage that falls far short of what a single person can live on, let alone support a family.

      Delete
    8. Let me address some of your points, Greg.

      1. "The electoral college" (an artifact of a world without reliable telecommunications or air travel). The electoral college itself is a passive device. Maybe it's silly, but so is a lot of stuff we do by tradition. It doesn't hurt democracy in any way. Now if by "electoral college," you mean the system of alloting votes by a complicated formula that gives extra power to less-populated states, that's a fair argument, but our particular approach to democracy in the U.S. was to try to achieve a balance between the rights of states as individual political entities and the rights of people collectively. I'm not prepared to agree that was the wrong way to go.

      2. "Culture of partisan appointments to the Supreme Court." I don't know what this means. Your justices are also appointed by your prime minister. Does he choose justices that he DISAGREES with? Our Supreme Court, despite the theatrics around the confirmation process, has historically been a stalwart AGAINST the partisanship of the other two branches. Look how Trump got no help from them this year despite what was seen as largely "partisan" appointments. The process works pretty well as far as I'm concerned, except to the extent that nothing works well when you elect a lunatic to the executive branch.

      3. "Sheriffs and judges being elected positions." Making more officials accountable to the public is less democratic? If police chiefs of major U.S. cities were also elected positions, we might have fewer problems with police-community relations.

      4. "One of the various preferential systems." The systems that you talk about, are they the ones that always seem to result in newspaper headlines containing the terms "failed to form a government" and "called for early elections"?

      5. "Voter ID laws." I generally agree with this one, but I also agree that it isn't THAT tough to get an ID. I feel like this is one that we should just give to the conservatives so they stop complaining about "voter fraud." Enact the law with enough notice, and Aunt Petuniah living out on the bayou can fill out the appropriate paperwork.

      6. "Convicted felon voter suppression." No argument.

      7. "Elections held during workdays." Almost every jurisdiction in the U.S. has a system of early voting or mail-in voting. Having election day on a weekend or holiday would do nothing. Unmotivated people still wouldn't get up and go, and service-sector employees would still have to work. Many people find it easier to work in voting to their work commute, whereas if they had a full day off, they'd just take the vacation.

      8. "Fewer polling places." You may have a point; I'd have to see the research on that. I know it came up in a few jurisidictions this year. It certainly doesn't seem to be a problem in some states. I'd certainly be in favor of more polling places.

      I also agree that we could do a better job overseeing our elections, but what you have to understand is that the process we use has basically worked for over 200 years. It's hard to argue with that kind of success, except in a year where hyper-partisanship has served to highlight all the weak points of the system. Weak points that STILL resulted in a set of victories that most of the people complaining about how "undemocratic" the system is would have favored.

      I think your last paragraph is full of absolute horse manure, but this is long enough and off-topic enough.

      Delete
    9. I'd have to think more about compulsory voting. Why don't you and Ahab work it out? He's provided a list of all the countries in the world by "democracy index." From a cursory review, it seems that only two countries listed as "full democracies" have it: Australia and Luxembourg.

      Delete
    10. GregT forgot to mention the Senate, which is probably the biggest problem. Citizens have vastly different representation based on what state they live in, and it'll probably get worse.

      The electoral college doesn't favor less populated states much. (It does a little because every state gets a minimum of 3 votes no matter how small, another artifact of the Senate.) The problem is that there is no advantage for running up the margin of victory. All the focus goes to the states that are close, the rest are ignored, and there's no compensating representation for lopsided states compared to states that are close to tied. And that leads to situations where a candidate wins the popular vote and loses the electoral college.

      Delete
    11. I'm keen to have a respectful and informative discussion on this issue, which I'm a bit of a nerd about, but also aware that this is the comment thread on a gaming blog, and I've only gone this far in because the end of your article specifically invited it in a way that you usually don't.

      The answers to the questions you've asked are fairly complex, and some of them require some additional groundwork (such as your comment "it isn't THAT tough to get an ID", which requires a little cultural context about the experience of getting and showing an ID for some non-white communities, some disabled folk, and others).

      If you'd really like an essay addressing them and engaging in that conversation, let me know, but otherwise the things I'm referring to are fairly well-documented online and Google-able, and it does sound like you need to do some preliminary reading. (For starters you appear to be confusing preferential voting, which inherently finds compromise candidates and ensures votes are never wasted, with multi-member-electorate preferential voting, which I'm also in favour of but which does tend to return complex parliaments in demographically-diverse electorates.)

      Delete
    12. There are a whole lot of people out there who are just angry, and they take out their frustrations by bashing America. Ignore them; they have nothing to offer us. They're blowing off steam that should be directed towards their own corrupt politicians.

      Delete
    13. And quickly, in my relation to the purpose of the Senate, a historical reading might start with this statement by James Madison, 1787:

      "In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The Senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes, the people ought to have permanency and stability."

      Delete
    14. My objection wasn't that some founding fathers felt that way--no country in the world had popular democracy in 1787. My objection is that Madison's thinking still has any bearing on the current voting franchise.

      Delete
    15. Incidentally, I'm not prepared to say that Madison's thinking was entirely wrong. The landed class is going to lean more conservative in a classical sense, but they never would have elected someone as crazy as Trump. I am "landed" and educated myself, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't sometimes resent that my vote counts as much as a barely-literate hillbilly who gets all his news from social media.

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    16. All right. I just had to delete a hot-headed reply to Greg, so it's time for me to wrap up with an admission that I simply have a sore spot about people from other (largely un-scrutinized) countries criticizing the U.S., even if their criticisms are things that I would have said myself to a fellow American.

      As much as it galls me to let "it does sound like you need to do some preliminary reading" go unaddressed, I'm going to in an effort to keep my blog civil.

      Delete
    17. If it helps, I've worked for an Australian house of parliament, and I ran for political office to reform my own democracy, so I'm not leaving my home ground unscrutinised, and I've put my money where my mouth is through actual work.

      The fact our own federal Senate has largely been a champion of freedom is incredibly weird given its deeply undemocratic constitution; our federal electoral process have several key areas of reform; we nationally have deep-rooted problems with racism and anti-intellectualism; and our two major federal parties are corrupt, out of touch, and unwilling to offer real differentiation in policies that matter to our most vulnerable people. Plus a range of other more esoteric complaints.

      Delete
    18. But, well, we don't have people with guns shooting at our lawmakers in our federal parliament today, so it's not really a day for an "every nation has its problems" line of argument.

      Delete
    19. Why? A country has to be judged by its worst days? And on those days, it's somehow more invalid to argue that a system is generally sound than on a better day?

      Today sucked for a lot of reasons, but it didn't suck for any reason that had anything to do with our Constitution or system of democracy. As the mob that terrorized the capitol soon learned, controlling a physical building doesn't have anything to do with the American system of government. It accomplished nothing. The certification process was momentarily delayed; it's resuming right now. Those rioters that can be identified will be punished. Whether in two weeks or sooner, Trump will be gone. Our system will endure.

      Delete
    20. Chet, unless I'm really mistaken about at least one thing, a preferential system (as opposed to first-past-the-post) is something you have! The ranked-choice voting that Maine uses for some of its elections is a preferential system as opposed to first-past-the-post; the winner isn't just the one who gets the most first-place votes, instead you knock out candidates round by round and see who the losing candidates' voters preferred among the remaining candidates.

      That's how Jared Golden won his first election to Congress, and if it had been in place at the time it probably would've prevented Paul LePage from winning his first gubernatorial election. It makes it easier for third-party candidates to run, since they can run without worrying about splitting the vote and handing the election to a candidate they disagree with--if candidate A's voters and candidate B's voters both hate C, and they form a majority, then whichever one makes it into the final round will pick up the others' votes and win.

      By making multiparty voting more plausible this might lead to inability to form a government. But it's not necessary. And--I hope I can say it as an American--it'd be better if we had some system like that, because it would prevent some shenanigans involving third parties. It's not unique to the US though, I think both Canada and the UK have first-past-the-post in their individual parliamentary seats.

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    21. Matt is correct that many jurisdictions in the US do use some form of preferential voting, and it (largely) works as it's supposed to. It's generally acknowledged as just a more correct way to run elections, unless there's some logistical reason it can't be used. The lack of it in US presidential elections has the effect of locking in a two-party system - you can't seriously run for president as a third-party candidate because (a) voting for you is a waste of a vote and (b) you're actually spoiling the run of whichever viable candidate shares your voting base. Whereas preferential voting allows people to vote third-party as a genuine vote or protest vote but still say, "But if this guy doesn't get in, I would still rather see the guy that isn't Trump win."

      There's a nice accessible guide to preferential voting in the Australian context here:
      http://www.chickennation.com/voting/

      And if there's interest I can talk about the nerdy maths underlying its use in more complex situations.

      I'm in the ACT where we run Hare-Clark with Robson Rotation, which is a somewhat more complex implementation, and it works very well for us, albeit that we're relatively demographically homogenous, and richer and better educated than the national average.

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    22. Electing representatives can be proportional or not, and votes can be transferrable or not.

      Proportional voting is the ideal, and transferrable is better than not. Hare-Clark is good.

      I'm also from the ACT, hi Greg :p

      Delete
    23. I agree that voting should be compulsory, and 'vote day' a public holiday. I think it helps encourage the ideas that democracy is a collective responsibility, and that it's something to celebrate.

      I think the major issues with the electoral college are its lack of granularity, and lack of proportionality, which makes the system less 'democratic' in a mathematical sense and also leads to a two party equilibrium.

      Delete
    24. I'm hoping that my status as an American lets me say this without getting Chet mad, but the electoral college is just a mess. Jamelle Bouie has written about how the Electoral College never worked as originally envisioned (except when Washington was unanimously elected) and required constant amendment to kinda-sorta get closer to reflecting majority rule, and there's just no justification for a system that sometimes chooses someone who didn't get the most votes other than "It helps my side sometimes." (A group of Republican representatives made this explicit argument in urging his fellows not to vote against certifying the election; they said “From a purely partisan perspective, Republican presidential candidates have won the national popular vote only once in the last 32 years. They have therefore depended on the electoral college for nearly all presidential victories in the last generation. If we perpetuate the notion that Congress may disregard certified electoral votes — based solely on its own assessment that one or more states mishandled the presidential election — we will be delegitimizing the very system that led Donald Trump to victory in 2016, and that could provide the only path to victory in 2024.”)

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    25. You still aren't arguing against "the electoral college"; you're arguing against the method for allocating electors. Maybe that's supposed to be understood as shorthand when people say "the electoral college," but I wouldn't be too sure. I think many Americans are confused about how the system actually works. I could see us cutting out the electoral college--going to a direct certification of state election results by Congress, for instance--without fundamentally changing the method of allocation.

      Delete
    26. And there IS a justification for such a system. I said it earlier: to balance states' rights with the rights of the collective American populace. You may not agree with it, but it isn't baseless.

      Delete
    27. The fact that 538 electors determine the president is not necessarily an issue.

      The way states determine the voting of the electors is the biggest issue.

      The distribution of electors among states is also an issue.

      Delete
    28. But...If Texas switches to proportionately selected electors, it becomes harder for an R pres to win. I think the equilibrium is all states operating via winner takes all - if so, it’s fair to say the EC is the problem.

      Delete
    29. 538 electors DON'T determine the president. They're a passive body that votes the way that the state voted in the election. That's like saying the postman is responsible for your tax assessment because he brought you the letter from the IRS. Sure, it makes no sense that they have to show up and vote on behalf of their states--not in the era of instant electronic communications. Each state could simply publicize its election results with the electoral votes computed automatically. The only reason not to do away with them is that it would require a constitutional amendment and those are hard to pass, even to get rid of inefficiencies.

      The method of allocating electoral votes is an entirely different issue. I could get behind proportional allocation if every state did it, but I'm not sure how you'd get that to happen since it's a state-by-state issue.

      I'm not sure what you mean by "the way states determine the voting of the electors is the biggest issue." The electors are generally bound by law to vote for the candidate who received the majority in the state. I'm not sure how that's an issue.

      Delete
    30. 538 electors DON'T determine... except when they do. In most states, a so-called "Faithless Elector" can opt to override the state vote. Only fourteen states have a law that discounts such a vote. At the very least, this leads to unnecessary drama between the public vote and the elector vote.

      Delete
    31. I think the core point here is that our current presidential election system of winner-take-all by states (by whatever mechanism) can pretty easily lead to situations where the most popular choice does not win. It's minority rule, and that's relevant to GregT's original comment about "poorer democracy".

      (The Senate is still much worse though!)

      Delete
    32. I grant you the point about unnecessary drama. But so-called "faithless electors" have only ever occurred when their votes didn't really matter. 32 states, not 14, have laws binding electors or providing ways to replace rogue electors, and now that it's been raised as a possibility, states are a lot more careful about how they're chosen. Maybe I'm naive, but I don't see it as a real problem.

      Everyone is entitled to an opinion about what makes a poorer or richer democracy, but the Constitution's framers allowed for the possibility of a majority electoral vote/non-majority of popular vote for several reasons, and those reasons remain valid. It's fine to sit here 200 years later and argue that the majority ought to always rule, but such thinking in previous time periods may have made some regions unwilling to join the United States as states. It might impact such decisions further along, for instance with Puerto Rico statehood.

      I'm arguing for a position that I don't hold. I'd love if the Popular Vote Compact becomes a thing. It would completely change election campaigning. No more battleground states--every vote matters everywhere. But I strongly object to the idea that there's no basis for our current system, or that it can't be justified.

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    33. You're right about the shorthand--if the popular vote compact were passed I wouldn't have much of a complaint about the electoral college, though it might still provide an opportunity for the sort of mischief that we just saw.

      I do think, though, that the fact that there is a basis--the fact that some regions would've been unwilling to join the union if there hadn't been some compromises made--doesn't necessarily mean that the continuance of those institutions can be justified. Or at least that it wouldn't unequivocally be better if they were there. It's a cliché to point out that a lot of the institutions in the original Constitution were made to accommodate slavery, but the reason it's a cliché is that it's true.

      (I probably shouldn't argue with you too much here since we're on the same side, I'm also a big fan of the Popular Vote Compact.)

      Delete
    34. While it's true that 33 states require electors to vote as the popular vote indicates, 16 of those states have NO WAY to prevent the deviant vote from counting as cast. 3 more give a penalty to the faithless elector, but let the vote stand (source: fairvote.org).

      Only 14 states have a law that actually discounts such a vote.

      And well, as the last years have shown (and not just in the US, either) corrupted officials will do all kinds of things if they think they can get away with it.

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    35. The problem isn't the justification of the continuance of these institutions, but that there's no way to revise them without opening up the Pandora's box of a constitutional convention, from which literally anything could arise.

      Saying "things should be different" is meaningless, or even outright destructive (in that it creates a distraction from issues that something can be done about), unless you can offer a clear path to that difference which doesn't pose an unacceptable risk of unintended consequences.

      Delete
    36. Chet said "the Constitution's framers allowed for the possibility of a majority electoral vote/non-majority of popular vote for several reasons, and those reasons remain valid." I don't think that was the case at all. The framers didn't envision the idea of the citizenry voting for president and vice-president. Instead the citizens would be (if the state legislatures so chose) voting for the electors who would deliberate among themselves as to who to vote for president and vice-president. Electors were to be, in Hamilton's words, "men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice" and they were to assemble in a "detached and divided situation" where they would be less exposed to popular will, or, as Hamilton said, "heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people." (See Federalist No. 68.) According to Hamilton, one of the three key justifications for the electoral college was to insulate the choice of president and vice president from the popular will. But that design changed (or failed if you like) in short order, due to the creation of political parties who designated slates of electors pledged to vote for their known candidate, so that citizens could vote directly for specific candidates. Electors now perform a purely ministerial duty, rather than deliberating on who to vote for, which is the exact opposite of what the framers intended.

      So I don't think the reasons of the framers really can be used to justify our current system, since we no longer follow the method the framers envisioned as described in the Federalist. Once we went to direct popular vote in every state, there's really no good justification for not using a nationwide popular vote, instead of the state-by-state vote we have now. Why should the power of one's vote change when you move from one state to the next?

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    37. Another Canberra resident here, and the last two months closely following the US election from afar have made me realize how grateful I am for the Australian Electoral Commission, something I hadn't really ever thought much about before. It blows my mind that a good chink of USA states don't have independent election bodies for deciding things like district boundaries and election rules, I would have thought that should be a pretty important part of a fair democracy. I'm also a big fan of our preferential voting here in Australia, it means that you can vote for minor parties and still know that your preferred candidate from the 2 major parties will end up with your vote. It also has the benefit of keeping the really fringe far right and far left people out of the major parties (for the most part, this does seem to be sadly changing lately...) as they stick to their own minor parties.

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    38. For the record, Chet - Australia has it’s own federation-related strangeness:

      Tasmania, pop 500k, and NSW, pop 7.5M, each have 12 senators.

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    39. Not to mention ACT, pop 500k, 2 senators.

      Delete
    40. "Everyone is entitled to an opinion about what makes a poorer or richer democracy"

      I would think "democracy" could be crudely defined as majority rule, and a system that doesn't deliver that would be a poorer democracy than one that does? I'm not arguing that everything should be based on democracy, but I don't think it's opinion that our current system is less democratic than a direct popular vote?

      @Avenir Any idea why they didn't just have congressmen in the House double as electors? You already have a body of proportial representatives from each state. That would get us closer to a parlimentary system and
      make a whole lot of sense.

      Delete
    41. "but such thinking in previous time periods may have made some regions unwilling to join the United States as states. It might impact such decisions further along, for instance with Puerto Rico statehood."

      I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around this. I can totally see why equal representation in the Senate is appealing to smaller States or potential States. But I don't see how our presidential system play a role here, either now or historically. How is this a boon to states? It's just clunky and random.

      Delete
    42. I’m going to do the lazy thing and like you to an external source, since this writer is actually making the argument that I simply posit exists:

      https://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/in-defense-of-the-electoral-college

      This author defends the electoral college AND the method of allocating electors. CTRL-F “federal republic” to get down to the part that’s important for this thread.

      Delete
    43. Chet, thanks for the link to the Guelzo article. That article is full of arguments that might sound good on first read, but are really unconvincing when you think through them. Let’s take the argument you point to—the one about federalism. Guelzo argues that changing to a national vote for president “would also mean dismantling federalism” because “there would be no sense in having a Senate … and eventually, no sense in even having states.” So he implies that eliminating the electoral college in favor of a national popular vote would mean that we would need (or want) to eliminate both the Senate and the idea of states. That’s completely unsound of course. We could elect the president with a national vote and still keep the Senate and independent states. Any amendment to the constitution could establish a national popular vote for president and vice president and say nothing about the Senate or abolishing the states. It’s a totally illogical and unsupported argument which I don’t think anyone should accept as a reason for keeping the electoral college. Guelzo might have made the same argument about establishing the direct election of Senators, since that eliminated the representation of state governments in Congress, and yet the 17th amendment did just that and we still have independent states.

      Guelzo also argues that the electoral college is less complicated than Germany’s method. But how is that a justification for not using a national vote? A national popular vote would be less complicated than the electoral college! He also notes that some undemocratic countries like Russia and Turkey have elections for their leaders, in a bizarre suggestion that elections don’t help democracy, I guess. Does that mean we shouldn’t elect our legislators either because Russia and Turkey do so?

      Articles like this are really illuminating because they help to convince me that no one has been able to come up with any good justification for why the current system is preferable to a national popular vote. Instead they resort a lot to rhetoric and hand-waving, saying things like “Federalism is in the bones of our nation, and abolishing the Electoral College would point toward doing away with the entire federal system.” It’s just poppycock and sophistry in place of an actual logical or supported argument.

      @asimpkins See my out-of-thread reply elsewhere in the comments. I have some difficulty with this comment interface!

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    44. All I can say is that I've taken three "Great Courses" courses from Dr. Guelzo, and while his arguments, like any arguments, have counter-arguments, the man is more qualified than most people to discuss the issue, so I assume they must have at least some merit.

      My stance remains not that abolishing the electoral college/electoral voting method is a bad idea--I actually support it--but rather that America is not simply "is idiotic for doing it this way" and that there IS an argument to be made for it.

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    45. GregT said: "It is not a good day to be arguing that the US style of personal firearm ownership is good for freedom and democracy."

      I don't see why not. This country has plenty of firearms of all types and just came off a recordbreaking year of gun sales and they only arrested four rioters for illegally carrying pistols, and none were brandishing/using them.

      Citing violence that doesn't have guns as a component is not a logical argument for gun control.

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    46. "they only arrested four rioters for illegally carrying pistols, and none were brandishing/using them"

      ... Because Washington DC gun laws do not allow this.

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    47. Krtek: Washington DC gun laws also don't allow the unlicensed possession or carrying of pistols- which was why they were arrested. Are you saying you think that they were willing to commit the felony of illegally carrying the weapon, but only chose not to brandish it because it was illegal to do so?

      The point is that guns were a non-issue in the event, and there is no correlation to the violence that day and firearms ownership in America as GregT was trying to intimate.

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  16. I'm looking forward to Spelljammer and The Magic Candle III, the former because I heard it's incredibly buggy and strange; the latter because it's the final game in the Magic Candle series.

    Yeah, I have nothing to add politically, sorry.

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    Replies
    1. MC3 isn't the final game, except in internal chronology; Bloodstone was released a year later.

      Delete
  17. Addict, I've been reading for several years and wanted to pitch in my gratitude for your effort. My crpg experience is mostly limited to Wizardry and Might & Magic II, and you help me sort out what missed works to prioritize.

    I recall finding Temple of Apshai pretty nifty when I played on a friend's TRS-80; that was a good use of a hardcopy supplement to limited digital storage, I think.

    On the politics, I can only say that this day is very embarassing for me as a US American. Fortunately, there are but 14 more before a change of administration.

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  18. "We're not torturing you, silly Winston," said O'Brien. "Everyone just felt you needed a behavioural review. Now if you can just count the fingers right, you'll be out of here in no time."

    ReplyDelete
  19. "The only thing worse than taxation without representation is taxation with representation, but most people never learn that."

    If it were a one-liner in an absurdist game, I'd call that a pretty good joke. As a philosophy, it fails basic logic, I think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Funny thing. I have a strategy guide for the original Civilizaton game that includes faux quotes at the start of every chapter. The guide to taxation begins with:

      "Frankly, it's not much better WITH representation", attributed to Patrick Henry.

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    2. ‘Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time…’
      Winston Churchill

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    3. @Gnoman: Was that "Civilization: or Rome on 640K a Day"? Jimmy Maher has some interesting commentary on that book:

      https://www.filfre.net/2018/05/the-game-of-everything-part-9-civilization-and-economics/

      Delete
    4. It is indeed. I am actually surprised that I didn't comment on that entry - I remember reading it.

      Delete
  20. Running around with 25 nuclear missiles sounds pretty hardcore. Though I suspect that portable missile launcher will not get them very far, so you'd actually only get to fire one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. While the Mobile Infantry in the original Starship Troopers novel don't carry that many nukes, they do expect to survive the experience of firing them on the battlefield.

      After all, nuclear warheads can be as small as the W54, which weighs fifty pounds and can be configured for a yield as small as 10 tons TNT equivalent. Carrying 25, even in MI armour, would be ridiculous, but two or three would be perfectly reasonable.

      Delete
    2. My friend, let me introduce you to the AIR-2 Genie, a real life nuclear air to air rocket:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AIR-2_Genie

      There were also nuclear artillery pieces:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_artillery

      As Martin said, they can tailor the yield down pretty low.

      Delete
    3. There's even more in that last article: "Today, nuclear artillery has been almost entirely replaced with mobile tactical ballistic missile launchers, carrying missiles with nuclear warheads." Though you have to be careful with wiki, if true than the real joke is that reality has already catched up to that particular scifi element in the game.

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  21. @[b]Unknown[\b]: Donald owed his 2016 win partly to picking up the 'socialist' rhetoric of Bernie Sanders while Hillary looked more plainly like a shill for the status quo.

    He lost his bid for a second term largely because his first revealed how much of a lying con artist he was. On foreign trade his incompetence may have been a greater factor, but more generally he delivered just the opposite of his populist promises.

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    1. "Ima gonna drain the swamp!" People thought he meant remove murky career politicians, no he literally meant drain swamps so they could start drilling for oil. His appointments to the EPA reminded me of what happened to the role of firemen in Fahrenheit 451.

      Delete
    2. This is blatantly false. Steve Bannon had the same views well before Bernie got anywhere popular and was the main election advisor to Trump.

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  22. @asimpkins "Any idea why they didn't just have congressmen in the House double as electors?"

    That is also addressed by Hamilton in Federalist No. 68. The reason he gives is that the president should be independent of the legislature, and not beholden to it for his office. In this way, the president can act as a check and balance on the power of the legislature. He also gives the reason that because the electors are not a standing body, they are not vulnerable to corruption from foreign powers, as legislators would be. Basically, the framers did not want the president to be chosen either by the people or by legislators, so they came up with the electoral college as a clever solution. However, the advent of political parties changed the system in a way not envisioned by the framers, and eliminated the justification for the electoral college.

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  23. Instead of the politics, I will instead mention that Rescue at Rigel is one of the games I played when I was very young, and "GOTCHA SMITTY" is still something I remember from it. And something not present in any of the screencaps Chet posted, sadly.

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  24. Comparing libertarian resistence fighters to the plot in racist and genocidal Turner diaries seems pretty dumb.

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    1. I grant you it was slightly disingenuous, as The Turner Diaries is a mix of libertarianism, racism, and anti-semitism, and the backstory of the manual only features libertarianism. If I could have thought of a fictional book famous for advancing a libertarian philosophy WITHOUT the racism and anti-semitism, I would have used that.

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