26 April, 2006

War profiteering isn't anything new

Sun Tsu warns of the danger of fighting long-term and far away battles. The primary concerns are morale(which naturally dampens as soldiers spend more and more time away from their homes and families) and supplies. The cost of transporting supplies strains the treasuries at home, weakening the domestic economy and merchants near the front will always come with supplies, but will sell them at exorbitant prices - knowing that the commander will not have a choice but to buy. War profiteer is therefore as ancient as war itself, wherever there's been war, there have been peddlers who make their fortunes at the expense of the armies and territories that field the armies. The ultimate price is paid by the warring territories, and their people and the costs can run high for a prolonged conflict. Modern technology has resolved the supply line issues but have created whole new ones. Modern supply technology is expensive and advanced. Therefore only a few developers have the resources and technology to produce them. Therefore the companies with the technology replace the merchants hanging around the front lines seeking to make a profit. This form of profiteer creates a whole lot more wealth and concentrates it in fewer actors and is unavoidable in long-term conflicts. So war profiteer is here to stay despite our advancements. No longer is distance the main issue, it is time. Planning, quick resolution and the support of neigbouring allies is key then to solving the issue of reducing war costs. While planning does not eliminate war-time profits, it can curb them to the point where they don't make a huge impact on the economy.

23 April, 2006

Bin Ladin is a big, ugly orc

Bin Ladin is an orc, and not one of those in movies or in games or in paintings - he is a big, ugly, nasty orc. He's just called for "jihad" in Sudan. Why? To "protect Islam" - lets see - mass atrocities/genocide - the perfect way to protect a religion when it already under attack for being violent. Want to protect Islam - stop exploiting people to commit suicide bombings, stop acts of terror - like with attacks on democracy, direct attacks on Islam come from within and any outside attacks are collateral. Terrorists and dictators have always been few in numbers, but their actions have marred large populations and, when combined with other loonies(like the kind who are salivating for Israel to blow up so that the second rapture comes) and when combined with opportunists results in a literally bloody mess. Take the Crusades: a few ideological loonies + opportunists + people whose main hobbies are plunder, rape and looting = Mission Accomplished. Sudan has enough problems without the shadow of Al-Qaida sweeping accross it. The janjaweed do enough damage, they don't need any orcs helping out.

22 April, 2006

No, I'm not killing wraiths wearing that

Found this interesting tidbit at Feministing. According to a study, more adult gamers are women, but that women prefer "casual" games like Solitaire while men prefer more "real" games like console games. The Queen wonders why, its not like the video game industry puts female customers into much consideration when producing games. Games are targeted for a male audience, and female players are too often an afterthought. When games are made for women, they suck - something along the lines of Barbie chatting on her cell phone while rounding up horses, and changing clothes with horrid pink graphics and music that would make any 9 year old girly-girl puke. Ordinary games, fun as they are, have horrid female avatars. Their story lines almost always have to do with being a romantic interest for one of the male characters, they're dressed horribly and have weird attacks and weapons. No small wonder that women gamers aren't much into these games.

Being a Three Kingdoms fanatic - the Queen of Randomness thoroughly enjoys the Romance of the Three Kingdoms games and the Dynasty Warriors series. The RoTTK games rock - you can make a female avatar who kicks as much tuchus as her male counterparts and then some, can be as smart and as good of a military leader as any male character. What's cool is that there is absolutely no distinction between playing a male or female character. Dynasty Warriors isn't so bad too, with the expansion packs in the current version, girl characters can have the same move sets as the male characters so you can create a kick-ass girl warrior, the costumes aren't so bad either - a bit sexy but you can avoid fighting in a bikini or a dress if you want. The existing characters are ok, a bit annoying - but they're based on historical women during the Three Kingdoms period most of whom never held a weapon in their lives. The weapons are sometimes weird, paper fans, a flute, but other girls have scythes, spears & chakram. Being a hack & slash game, the girls do the same thing as the men - kill, kill, and kill some more, win the battle and then repeat. Other games are far more annoying - RPGs I've played in particular have either cutesy girls, sexpots and normal girls who turn into whiny romantic interests as the story plays on, all while wearing things that a normal woman would never wear anywhere much less a battle. If a developer with all the innovativeness as Koei can give girls equality in gaming - then all the other developers can follow suit and get a whole lot more profits.

Sometimes it's fun to play as a cute or sexy girl, but when that's the only option you get - it gets old fast. There's a market for women gamers, a market that developers have ignored for way too long. Making a game appeal to women can be as easy as just giving players the option to play a girl whose purpose is to fight and do the same things as the men, not just to be around for one of the male characters to fall in love with. It's not the violence or the action that women don't like, its the fact that the female characters in games are too often unappealing and insulting to women. We want to play games, but we want good ones, and we don't want to fight orcs in bikinis while making googly eyes at the male characters(in real life, you'd be killed in an instant). And please, no more Barbie games - they're not games, they're crimes against humanity.

20 April, 2006

Virginity is stupid

There's been a lot of talk about "women's purity" - from the Duke University rape indictments, to abstinence education, to purity balls(which have to be the stupidest things the Queen has ever heard of). All of these have to do with the sacred place of virginity, which is really, really stupid.
Virginity used to matter because of property issues, in the English Common Law, the eldest son of the patriarch inherited property and it was important that the first son was the son of the patriarch and not of the hot, muscular stable lad. Now, with the decline in the importance of real property, equality in property laws and the ease of property transfers and estate planning, these issues no longer arise.

Virginity all too often measures female worth. A stripper that gets raped is viewed as suspect because she's had sex, while the rape of a nice(i.e. white & Christian) girl is viewed as a tragedy. It is not just unjust, it makes no sense. If you are going to measure worth by a set of criteria, virginity is the most imbecillic trait to pick.
Being a virgin does not improve your job performance.
Being a virgin has no effect on a person's competence in doing everyday tasks
Being a virgin doesn't give any positive character traits
Being a virgin doesn't give a person the tools they need to have a successful relationship
Being a virgin has absolutely nothing to do with who a person is or what they can accomplish
and most importantly,
Being a virgin will not help anyone who is trying to fight of a horde of mutated sea urchins armed with large boxed of blueberries while humming the William Tell Overture.

It is of course easy to say that virginity until marriage will solve all our social ills. It is also easy to say that putting a yellow magnet on your gas-guzzler will solve the Iraq war. It is easy to say that bowing down to corporate interests to allow guest worker visas, so companies can continue to pay indecent wages to immigrant workers, will improve the lives of immigrants. It is easy to say that waving a giant pair of boxer shorts with comical designs will scare the mutated sea urchins from their blueberry flavoured attacks. It is easy to say a lot of things, to come up with nice sounding solutions but these solutions don't work. Being a good husband or wife is more than having an intact hymen or unused dick - it is knowing how to communicate, respecting your spouse, being honest, open, and loving. You can wait and wait for the magic moment, to have happily-ever-after end in divorce.

That is, of course, in some cases virginity is not good. Virginity + "purity" propaganda is setting up young people for a whole lot of disillusionment. Combine abstinence education with teenage hormones and you get young people engaging in risky and unprotected sexual contact. Forget the post 9/11 world - we live in AIDS world, and anyone teaching kids to avoid using things that have been proven to reduce the virus should be prosecuted for criminally negligent homicide. Yes, throw all the abstinence fucks in - they are part of the reason why kids are getting infected with AIDS and other STIs, why kids have unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

The fathers at these purity balls are nitwits, morons and imbeciles. Fuck the religious tradition, seriously. If they want their daughters to be successful, make them promise to finish school, make them promise to finish university, make them promise to drive safely - these things will matter to whether a child succeeds in life or not. If they want their daughters to be successful wives & mothers, then they can teach them to cook, to babysit, they can spend time communicating with their daughters, to give them respect - so when or if the girls get married or get in relationships, they'll have the actual skills to be successful. By focusing on their daughters' "purity" they go for the easy option - the easy option that accomplishes absolutely nothing and that is stupid.

17 April, 2006

Iraq and Military Order

The recent uprisings by retired generals against Rumsfeld(motto: "It if ain't broke, we'll break it")
has been blamed on a breakdown of military order. What is forgotten about the criticisms of the generals that stand up to address the failures in Iraq, is that order comes from the top down, not the other way around. It is the leadership, not the generals, not the soldiers that are responsible for maintaining order, through wise governance and through careful planning - this of course has not been done and therefore the presence of discontented generals is nothing surprising. Zhuge Liang writes of 15 things a leader must do to maintain order, by maintaining order a military functions effectively.

1. Thoughtfulness: using secret agents for intelligence - George II had intelligence, much of it was inconclusive, yet he did not look at the intelligence as a whole but picked out the intelligence favourable to him, therefore there is a failure of thoughtfulness.

2. Organisation - collecting news and watching carefully. Again by only favouring news that supported the administration's position, and by ignoring the many warning signs, the Bush regime has invited disaster.

3. Courage, not being disturbed by the number of the enemy. Here, the initial numbers were small, therefore no concern. But underestimating the insurgency that was to follow and by failing to address soldier's concerns at an ever strengthening movement, the Bush administration again fails.

4. Modesty - thinking of justice and duty when seeing the opportunity for gain. The Iraq war was fought for opportunity, for corporate opportunity with Halliburton and others, for theocratic opportunity with the Rapture-frenzied base, for oil... Justice and duty never played a part, only a justification once mistakes started coming to light.

5. Impartiality - being egalitarian in matters of rewards and punishments. Giving the Medal of Freedom to those responsible for intelligence breakdowns, keeping members of staff on despite repeated mistakes and scandals, punishing whistle-blowers, etc. Impartiality definitely not one of the administration's beliefs.

6. Forbearance - being able to accept humiliation. This administration has been ever reluctant to admit any mistakes, even ones that are glaring. Instead of dealing with the issues, the administration repeatedly undertakes public relations campaigns to save face.

7. Magnanimity - being able to accept the masses. Despite repeated criticism, the administration has turned a deaf ear to the voices of the masses. It has repeatedly shown itself beholden to a small number of interests to the exclusion of everyone else. In terms of the Iraqis, the administration ignores civilian casualties, fails to fix fundamental infrastructure such as electricity, water and hospitals. The torture scandals show clearly the disdain that the regime has towards the Iraqi people(you know, the ones we came to liberate)

8. Trustworthiness - so there can be effective cooperation. Bush and his cronies do not seek cooperation, they do not even try to make themselves appear trustworthy. It is no wonder the international community and the majority of the American people no longer see the Executive branch as being honest or concerned with anything but its own private interests.

9. Respect - honouring the wise and able. Competency has not been a qualification of Bush appointees, ideological conformity and blind loyalty has. Therefore, competent persons are demoted, fired or quit in frustration while the Liu Shans of modern times get medals and honours.

10. Clarity of mind - not listening to slander. Slander is prevalent, most of it comes from the Executive Branch which seems to believe its own slander. Clarity of mind could have addressed the glaring faults in Iraq policy, but a need for temporary self-preservation has overshadowed this crucial component.

11. Reason, not forgetting past experience. Nation-building has been a disaster from Colonial times. Using the same techniques as European colonisers has led to the same results(though quicker - perhaps the Iraqis have not forgotten past experience). We cannot expect to conquer a state, destroy its infrastructure, kill and torture its populace and expect them to throw flowers at us in gratitude, hasn't worked in the past, will not work now.

12. Human kindness, taking care of the soldiers. Soldiers have been neglected, they have not gotten necessary fighting equipment, have seen cuts to veterans benefits and even lack armour in battle. If that's kindness then Slobodan Milosevic was Mother Teresa to the Bosnians.

13. Loyalty, devoting oneself to the nation. Bush has no loyalty to the United States, he wants blind loyalty while spitting in the face of the populace. This war does not benefit the people, it was not started to help America, it was started to help Bush and his friends.

14. Moderation, knowing when to stop when you have enough of anything. Haliburton and other contractors have reaped giant profits, they want more, there are never enough profits for Bush & friends to stop doing what they're doing, hence the rhetoric towards Iran.

15. Planning - assessing yourself first, then assessing others. Planning has been almost non-existent. There was no objective analysis of the aftermath of the war, there was no analysis of our military's capacity to fight an insurgency.

With the fundamental mistakes in planning, and carrying out the Iraq war, it is clear why things aren't working, why problems stay unresolved and why generals complain.

11 April, 2006

Death of Macho Man

Masculinity has been in favour for a long time now, not surprising since early civilisations survived on physical strength and masculine strength was key to survival. Then civilisations became more advanced, governments were created by people, cities were created by governments, and cities unified to make the first states. With states came armies and with armies came the death of macho man. Glorified as the hunk of brute strength, virility and low mental capacity has been through fiction, it is the wise man who has flourished. Strength and stupidity make for a good soldier, but intelligence is needed to be a military leader. In war, the soldiers do not gain much from success, and lose everything to failure but the winning leader gains fame, reputation, wealth and power.
Lu Bu has been characterised as the quintesential macho man. From his brute strength, to his ignorance of anything remotely intellectual to his winning the gorgeous girl - he exuded manliness in his fictional portrayal. Cao Cao, in comparison, was no macho man - the adopted son of a eunuch, capable of wielding a sword but no duelist and brilliantly skilled in strategy. Cao Cao's strategy beat Lu Bu and so died macho man and Cao Cao flourished with wealth and power until his sons destroyed the family's claim to the imperial throne.
Yet, the portrayal of masculinity continues to be worshipped. Short, bald Napoleon was brilliant and successful until his fall, yet ordered himself to be portrayed as tall, long-haired and manly in portraits. Media bows to the macho man, from the movie superhero, to the dashing novel knight who saves damsels in distress and yet all this worship is no more than the worship of a ghost, long dead since we moved past our cave man roots. Society has always been ruled by non-masculine smart people, the macho men were always mere pawns to be used to fulfil the hopes and dreams of the intelligent, though I fear the legend will always be with us.

02 April, 2006

Why the immigration bill sucks monkeys

Well the Queen of Randomness has heard much about the immigration debate and she's concluded that it sucks. The Queen is also concerned that so many progressives are supporting it. It is not racist to want to protect borders, although racism is the reason why so many wingnuts are supporting draconian crackdowns on illegals. Allowing guest worker visas and an expanded residency program for illegals is racist in itself - it will create a permanent underclass of mostly Hispanic immigrants who will work at the lowest paying jobs, have the worst access to education, be prone to exploitation from big business and have the worst odds of achieving the ever-elusive American dream.

America is already falling behind in domestic spending to improve its infrastructure, we give tax cuts while cutting aid to schools, student loans, and assistance to the neediest of our people. As a result, the rich are getting richer while the middle class is eroding, our educational standards are falling to the point where the origins of life are so difficult for people to grasp that they've given up and decided to instead say that anything difficult must have been created by some old dude sitting in the clouds. Other states are outpacing us in science, technology, mathematics, etc. We are destroying a developed state to make it into a developing one. Schools and hospitals are being built with our tax dollars in Iraq, yet they're not being built domestically. With this lag in development, how can we justify opening our borders to millions of persons without creating programs to make sure that they are productive and contribute to a developing economy.

If we want to be humane and progressive, we should instead push for greater international aid. Aid that isn't tied to corporate interests but that is interested in helping countries become developed and productive. If we want less illegal immigrants, we should give aid to Mexico and other states to build their infrastructure, to become strong so that their best political solution isn't to encourage their citizens to leave their state. Allowing greater access to immigration to those that come over illegally only reinforces states like Mexico which see immigration as a way to solve their problems, it only reinforces the gap between the rich and the poor and further institutionalises the corporate powers to the point where they become almost like feudal warlords.

Furthermore, allowing illegal immigrants greater access to the immigration process will have an impact on our already shrinking assistance to refugees. Will a person from Sudan who is fleeing the genocide there be denied a visa because it's been given to support Walmart's low wage policies? Will a woman fleeing the oppression of fundamentalists in the Middle East be denied refugee status because King George needs to gain points with voters?

Finally, the best reason to oppose King George's immigration reform is that King George has proposed it and anything that King George supports has proven to be an unqualified disaster. King George never acts without self-interest, he never acts with pure intentions and therefore there must be scrutiny to his proposals. The proposed reforms will not help Hispanics, they will not help the United States be a better state, they will further send our country into political and economic ruin while exploiting cheap foreign labour. What then? Will we start to illegally immigrate to countries that actually care about the survival of the state over short-term political points?