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A Winter Interlude

Been a while. I'm going to save the fancy speeches, since I'm probably not getting back into regular blogging...sorry. Be aware that I am around, lurking in the shadows of the internetz.

So what's new?

I have been getting into the "old school renaissance" of D&D. Rather than figuring out ways to work with 3E, or even combine 3E with 2E, I have begun to go back to 1E...and even older. There are a ton of little (but often surprisingly well-read) blogs out there that are about playing with pre-AD&D. Stuff like the Moldvay-Cook Basic boxed set. Or the Holmes OD&D, which predates that. OR (for the truly hardcore) the "little brown books" that Gygax and Arneson originally put out as rules supplements to Chainmail.

All of this is fascinating stuff, if you're into tabletop gaming. I would never play one of the originals (they are far too messy and haphazard), but there is something very appealing in the simplicity and "innocence" of those early games, when nobody really knew what they were doing. The feel is very different. And a lot of these bloggers have good insights as to what the game means for different people, and what it can mean to you.

I am a tinkerer. I doubt I've ever played a game using the "rules as written" (maybe Cyberpunk 2020). I house-rule extensively, and always have. And that's part of the old school philosophy...use what you like, use what works, discard what doesn't suit you, and make up anything there aren't any rules for. Fly by the seat of your pants. Imagine.

I'll give you a few links, for the curious. If you read any, read "Joesky the Dungeon Brawler"...his stuff is just hilarious.

Joesky the Dungeon Brawler. Kinda crazy, but hilarious to read.

You have to love tables with results like:

"YOU CRUSHED THE SHIT OUT OF THOSE PECKERWOODS. ARMYS OF THAT RACE HAVE A MINUS -5% PENALTY AGAINST YOU IN ANY BATTLE FOREVER AFTER. THEY ALL DIED, YOU DUDES ARE STOKED, AND NOW YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU WANT. YOU WONT HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT REBELS. YOUR NEXT BATTEL YOU GET +50% BONUS. BUT YOU WILL SEE A CHILDS TOY TRAMPLED IN THE MUD AS YOUR ARMY ADVNCES AND IT WILL MAKE YOU CONSIDER………. IS WAR WORTH IT (PROBALY “YES”)??????"

(forgive his typos, I don't think English is his first language)

Jeff Rient's Gaming Blog. This is his rant on "the real threefold model of gaming", which is IMO a hell of a lot better than the other one.

Anybody who has a graphic of IG-88 wearing a robe and wizard hat is fucking awesome.

Delta's D&D blog. A math nerd as well as a history/gaming nerd, he has some of the most useful houserules and hacks. Does a lot of statistical analysis, which is cool if you like that stuff.

James Maliszewski's blog. He's kinda pretentious, but he has a lot of interesting stuff, and a long list of good links. Check it out, and ignore his delusions of grandeur, and you'll have a good time.

Maliszewski actually argues that OD&D rules are good, and should not be houseruled without careful consideration. I'm more with Jeff Rients when he says:
"Furthermore, I reject as ridiculous any argument that the original Gygax campaign ever played OD&D as published. Have you read OD&D lately? I can’t believe that anybody can play it as it appears on the page. It’s a goddamn mess. A glorious one, full of wonder and mystery, but a mess nonetheless."

Damn straight.

Zak's Gaming Blog. Beware, possibly NSFW (but not much). Lots of interesting discussion, of games and gaming culture. I particularly like his "Gygaxian Democracy" pieces.


I'm still reading Radley Balko's blog on a regular basis...it has caused my already healthy distrust of government to flower into full-fledged anti-authoritarianism in general.

I was reading "S.W.A.T." magazine again today, and this thing is a perpetual reminder of the kind of mindsets being promoted in this country. And the fact that people say this stuff unironically...do they even know what they sound like? This is Brent Wheat, one of their staff writers, in an article about whether you should automatically inform an officer that you are carrying a legal concealed weapon:

"Today, if you mention "gun" on a traffic stop, the resulting hoopla will make a soccer riot seem tame and orderly by comparison.
"I have heard credible stories where law-abiding citizens have been taken out of their vehicles at gunpoint, handcuffed, and searched simply for stating that they were legally armed."

I'm glad he acknowledges this...what he does not do (and should) is condemn it. This is flat-out fucking wrong, and if cops won't point out when other cops are in the wrong, all it does is tell the average citizen "cops are not on my side". If even the ones who can realize this is a bad thing won't speak out against it, how can we trust that anything will ever be done about it?

He goes on...

"If the officer turns a routine matter into a huge hassle, simply comply with his or her directions even if you feel like your rights are being violated."

WHAT? This guy's advice, if you feel you are being abused by the law, is to meekly take it and hope it doesn't get worse? Yes, he advocates this...and his reason is because he guarantees it will get worse:

"If you start arguing, you could end up on the ground, in the back of a police car, or even being zipped into a body bag."

He does not condemn this either. Keep in mind, we are not talking about pulling a gun on a cop, or even getting physical or resisting one. We are talking about arguing. And for that, you could get shot dead, and this man will not even point out how fucking wrong that is. How wrong the situation that lets people like this carry guns and badges is.

His advice is to suffer the abuse quietly, and then politely ask to speak to their supervisor or file a complaint afterward. Here is the problem: because of the exact same "brotherhood" that makes this guy reluctant to condemn the actions of his fellow officers, it is highly unlikely that any disciplinary action will be taken against a cop who abused or mistreats you, unless you have hard evidence (preferably video). They will take another cop's word over yours in a heartbeat, in most cases. I have seen cases of police and district attorneys justifying some of the worst abuses you can think of, because "the officer was the one on the scene, and he shouldn't be second-guessed".

And after he advises citizens to meekly surrender their rights, he advises his fellow officers (who he just admitted might abuse authority, violate civil rights, or murder people in cold blood for daring to carry a gun and talk back to a cop) to "lighten up". As if all they're doing is just getting a little too uptight.

The cops he talks about, who overreact, they are definitely a problem. What this guy does not understand is that he is a part of the problem. And that's why the problem is not likely to be fixed from the inside.

We need to stop the "war on crime" rhetoric and paranoia. We need to stop training cops like soldiers. And we need to return citizen oversight to the law-enforcement system. Until we do these things, this is going to get worse, not better.


Song lyrics:

The girls in the bars thinking, who is this guy
But they don't think nothing when they're telling you lies
You look so careless when they're shooting that bull
Don't you know heartaches are heroes when their pockets are full

Tell me you're trying to cure a seven-year ache
See what else your old heart can take
The boys say when is he gonna give us some room
The girls say god I hope he comes back soon...


--"Seven Year Ache", Roseanne Cash

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
maihgread
Feb. 16th, 2011 01:57 am (UTC)
Nice to see you around. I'm also a fan of your "douchebag" tag.
eremos
Feb. 16th, 2011 02:00 am (UTC)
1. Cops are assholes not out of arrogance (although that is sometimes true) or sadism (also sometimes true) but out of fear. I don't think most people know what it's like to wake up every day, put on an outfit that makes you a target, and go out actively looking for trouble. Of course, not every police officer meets that particular description- but the real assholes, the ones that will frisk you for what appears to be no reason, and the ones that will seemingly violate your rights for even claiming to have a gun, do so because they fear for their safety, not because they get off on being a dick to you.

Doesn't mean they're doing the right thing. It just helps to understand why they do what they do, so if you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to deal with a jittery LEO, you'll have an idea of how to defuse the situation.

2. Unless his instructions put your life in danger, or he himself is endangering your life, it is ALWAYS wise to comply with a police officer's instructions, no matter how unreasonable or unconstitutional they may seem. In most jurisdictions, resisting a cop is an offense in itself- so regardless of whether you've done anything else wrong, refusing to follow an order might automatically make you an offender. But really, it's realism over idealism. Arguments escalate, intentions are misunderstood, defenses get raised. Certainly when reputations and careers are at stake, even more so when one or both participants are armed. Resist a policeman, and the situation WILL get worse for you. Period.

It has nothing to do with what's right or wrong. It has to do with what's realistic. My courageous and constitutionally-justified protest against unfair treatment by a LEO is unlikely to do me any good. If I get shot dead over a misunderstanding, hey, maybe it will raise awareness of police misconduct, and hey, it might make a difference (laughably unlikely). I wouldn't care, though- I'd probably just wish I weren't dead. I have no interest in being a martyr for a cause that is unlikely to be changed by my sacrifice, and neither should you.

There's no point arguing about what is and isn't wrong and who what wherever the fuck. It's wrong that people die of cancer. It's wrong that terrorists blow people up. It's wrong that my dishes don't wash themselves. We can either do something about it or not, but discussing the rightness or wrongness of something isn't terribly useful. It's not about right or wrong, it's about utility. And resisting an officer's instructions has incredibly little utility. It's a risk assessment and an ROI calculation.
spartakos
Feb. 16th, 2011 06:50 am (UTC)
Re: 1.), yes, a lot of cops ARE assholes out of arrogance (which often comes with being granted the ability to shoot people without legal repercussion) and sometimes sadism (I actually think that one's relatively low as a motivator, but I do think the job attracts more bullies than it should). They also do it out of racism and other prejudices. And yes, they do it out of fear.

The problem is that the fear they have is not justifiable. It is a paranoia inculcated in them by their training and a society that raves about how the nation is a cesspool, despite the fact that crime rates have been dropping for years. It is a product of a law-enforcement culture that see their role as soldiers, not keepers of the peace and public servants. It is a mindset that encourages cops to see all citizens as potential criminals.
Despite the hype, being a cop is not an extremely dangerous job...compare it to taxi driver, crab fisherman, and lumberjack as far as on-the-job fatality rates. And yes, it does take a special kind of person who actually wants to go out and, as you put it, "look for trouble". Unfortunately, the kind of person that wants to do that is often a violence-prone adrenaline junky.

I understand why they feel like they do...they've been made to feel that way. What I don't understand is why society and government continue to condone and even encourage that mindset.

Re: #2...there are several things to cover here.

First off, refusing to comply with an officer's instructions may be a crime, but it is not a crime punishable by violence. As long as I am not resisting, I am under no obligation to comply with any instruction from an officer...there is a HUGE difference between resistance and simple non-cooperation. Yes, I can be arrested for that, and I would not resist arrest. But I am not going to obey what I consider unreasonable demands. And if I refuse to obey an officer's unreasonable demands, it is NOT all right for him to abuse me or shoot me, no matter how "afraid" he may be of a challenge to his authority.
We trust police to use violence in defense of the law. They must be worthy of that trust by NOT using violence unless there is no other way. Violence should only be used by police to meet violence, not to address "disrespect" or any other such thing.
Finally, besides "resisting arrest", the usual charge is "refusing to comply with a lawful order"...and the word "lawful" is the key one there. I am 100% sure I would be arrested and charged...but I want the chance to prove my innocence before a jury of my peers, not merely plead guilty to the cop by complying with unlawful orders.

"Resist a policeman, and the situation WILL get worse for you. Period."

I have not advocated resistance, and hope I made that clear above. I will always be courteous to law-enforcement, and I would not raise a hand or weapon to one unless I was in fear of my life and felt I had no other choice. But you CAN stand up for your rights, and the situation does not always get worse. There have been many cases of police officers backing down from what was initially an overly aggressive stance or attitude when a citizen calmly and confidently asserted their rights...because a lot of the time, they know they're in the wrong, and don't want to get caught at it. The increasing prevalence of cell phone cameras has been having some impact here, and has caught many instances of police misconduct...believe me, officers are aware of it (which is why they often try to crack down on citizen recording of them, even though it's also wrong and unconstitutional).

It is realism vs. idealism, and I guess my idealism isn't quite dead yet.

"There's no point arguing about what is and isn't wrong and who what wherever the fuck."

I am grieved that you feel this way. Honestly. Arguing and caring about what is right and what is wrong is one of the most important things human beings can do. Because otherwise, wrong will be done, and we will be complicit in it.

I can't deny it's a cost-benefit analysis, and if you come up with a different calculation than me, that's your prerogative. But don't pretend your calculation is universal; people value different things in life.

eremos
Feb. 17th, 2011 02:43 am (UTC)
Their fears might not be totally justified, but they are partially so. On an average day, you and I don't have to worry about being shot. For most of our lives, we are unlikely to even come face-to-face with a criminal. For some LEOs, they have to contend with those risks on a regular, if not daily, basis. Just a few weeks ago, an officer in my state was shot dead while sitting in his cruiser. Plenty of cops have been wounded or killed doing things as routine as traffic stops. Of course this happens much less frequently than movies, TV, and popular perception would have us believe- but certainly far more frequently than for the average civilian. Is the LEO community's perceived self-risk accurate to reality? Maybe, maybe not, but it is justified in being much elevated over the average citizen's.

There's no point getting into an argument over "I know this many cops" and "You know this many cops", but the LEOs I know are nearly as diverse as any other group I know. Most just view their career as a job like any other, some like the power and authority they get from it, some like carrying a gun, some are genuine assholes, and a very small few are honest-to-god Captain America types who truly believe in the law. They have one thing in common, though: above all, they're trained to be legal and procedural technicians. Most of their focus is on adhering to legal restrictions and agency policy, far more than looking for ways to abuse their power. Abuses usually arise from ignorance, misunderstanding, or overcompensating for fear- not from malice. It doesn't change the outcome, but understanding why points us in the direction of how to fix it.

Different LEOs need to have different mindsets. Tactical officers serving high-risk warrants should, by all accounts, be trained and indoctrinated in in a paramilitary style. Neighborhood cops should have a more open and approachable demeanor, but that also depends on the neighborhood. Traffic cops and highway patrol officers face a different kind of risk, and they may be as likely to be hit by a passing truck as they are to be shot during a routine stop. UCs and detectives might mingle with criminals much more comfortably, but the danger of violent escalation is also greater, and that escalation usually is faster and has greater consequences than in other situations. The one thing all officers have in common is that the majority of their interactions are with actual or potential criminals- from jaywalkers and parking violators to embezzlers and gun runners. In some cases, for some officers, it is justified for them to view all people with a suspicious eye.

Violence, as used by LEOs, is rarely a punishment. Certainly it is not legally allowed to be used that way. It almost always occurs as a defense or a preemption. A cop won't shoot you for disobeying him, but he will shoot you if he thinks you might try to shoot him first. Ignoring your rights, and ignoring the law, and thinking only of your obligation to maintain your survival, your very first priority should be to make sure the officer feels certain that you pose no threat to him. If that means putting up with a hassle once you declare that you're armed, so be it. If that means surrendering your firearm, so be it. If that means putting up with unfair treatment, so be it. You might be able to get your gun back, you might be able to have the officer cited, you might be able to get justice for yourself. You cannot, however, come back from the dead- and you will do no good to any cause, no matter how just, if you get yourself shot to death. Airlines tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before you try to help anyone else on with theirs, because you can't help anyone else if you're dead.
eremos
Feb. 17th, 2011 02:44 am (UTC)
Realism always beats idealism, for the simple reason that realism is supported by truth and fact, and idealism is supported by nothing more substantial than hopes and wishes. Certainly there are people who are willing to give up their lives or livelihoods for ideals, but those are very similar to the people who blow themselves up for extreme causes, or commit crimes of hate because of their religion, or blindly charge into a fight without reason or logic. I don't have much in common with them. Our goals and objectives might be idealistic at times- but our methods must always be realistic. We cannot force ourselves to sacrifice with no perceivable benefit because "it's the right thing to do". While you are reveling in the "rightness" of your action, you're ignoring the "wrongness" of your result. If we are to be productive people, we must consider the result more important than the action. Exitus acta probat, always.
spartakos
Feb. 18th, 2011 06:39 am (UTC)
"On an average day, you and I don't have to worry about being shot. For most of our lives, we are unlikely to even come face-to-face with a criminal. For some LEOs, they have to contend with those risks on a regular, if not daily, basis. Just a few weeks ago, an officer in my state was shot dead while sitting in his cruiser. Plenty of cops have been wounded or killed doing things as routine as traffic stops. Of course this happens much less frequently than movies, TV, and popular perception would have us believe- but certainly far more frequently than for the average civilian."

Do you have any statistics to support that assertion (any of those assertions, really)? The best evidence I've found is that police are no more likely (and perhaps less) to be shot or killed by dangerous criminals than the average person. AND, a cop faces these dangerous criminals with a gun, a bulletproof vest, taser, mace, and numerous other weapons and assets an average person doesn't have, plus the ability to call in backup. How do they have it harder than me?

I do not believe cops have any more reason, or right, to be afraid of criminals than I do.

(supporting information: http://www.theagitator.com/2007/12/28/how-dangerous-is-police-work/)

"above all, they're trained to be legal and procedural technicians. Most of their focus is on adhering to legal restrictions and agency policy, far more than looking for ways to abuse their power."

Really? Seriously? That may be the claim and the ideal, but the reality often falls short.

"Abuses usually arise from ignorance, misunderstanding, or overcompensating for fear- not from malice. It doesn't change the outcome, but understanding why points us in the direction of how to fix it."

Abuses arise from a variety of reasons, but a contributing factor to the frequency or likelihood of abuse occurring is the consequences of it. And if you take a good hard look, the consequences are quite often negligible. Departments don't discipline officers, police who are dismissed are rehired in neighboring counties, and prosecutors refuse to prosecute police.

And if, as you say, understanding the why points us in the direction of how to fix it...how do we fix ignorance, misunderstanding, or overcompensating for fear? By letting police tromp all over our rights?

"Different LEOs need to have different mindsets. Tactical officers serving high-risk warrants should, by all accounts, be trained and indoctrinated in in a paramilitary style."

The problem is that when you give them that training, they want to use it. Even when it isn't necessary.
Do you know that use of SWAT teams to serve routine warrants has increased by several hundred percent in recent years? That some departments routinely have SWAT teams serve ALL warrants?

(some more reading material...http://reason.com/archives/2009/07/13/swat-gone-wild-in-maryland. I strongly encourage you to read Balko's paper "Overkill" about the rise of militarization of police forces, and overuse of SWAT teams, and the tragedies that result from this.)

The other problem is that even non-tactical units, even standard patrolmen, are often given military-style training (sometimes by actual soldiers), and are conditioned by their organizations to view their job as "a war". The fact that law-enforcement often recruits from ex-military personnel is another contributing factor.
spartakos
Feb. 18th, 2011 06:40 am (UTC)
"The one thing all officers have in common is that the majority of their interactions are with actual or potential criminals"

Do you have any evidence to support THAT assertion? How many people does a cop interact with every day? How many of them are actual criminals? How do you even determine who is a "potential" criminal?

"Violence, as used by LEOs, is rarely a punishment. Certainly it is not legally allowed to be used that way."

Of course it isn't legally allowed to be used that way. But it certainly is. And of course, the common defense is "we had to". But there have been many recent cases where, aided by cell phone footage from bystanders, it has been shown that cops initiated completely unnecessary violence against nonviolent people, in some cases innocent people.

And keep in mind I'm not referring merely to shootings or Rodney King style beatings. If an officer grabs me and throws me to the ground, that is violence, and he has no right to do it unless I have initiated violence or pose a credible threat of doing so. But it is commonly used as punishment, especially for "contempt of cop".

"We cannot force ourselves to sacrifice with no perceivable benefit because "it's the right thing to do"."

Where is your evidence that there is no perceivable benefit? Shall I find you cases where people have stood up for their rights and either a.) avoided a humiliating experience at the hands of police or b.) received large cash settlements because officers were in the wrong?
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