Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Can we talk about "justice" for a minute? When something bad happens in our society, there's often a call for "justice" or when our legal system fails, people decry a lack of "justice". But I think very few people stop to think what it means, both in specific cases and in general. Most of us, in fact, have it dead wrong.

For the framework of this blog post, here are some synonyms for the word justice: fairness, justness, fair play, fair-mindedness, equity, evenhandedness, impartiality.

Let's say that someone smashes out your car window. What's justice in that scenario? Certainly that the person who did it should pay to have it replaced. But the cost of the window isn't the only consideration. Maybe you had to take time off of work or had to spend time with the police. Maybe you were frightened. The best society can do in that scenario is compensate you financially by perhaps penalizing the person who broke your window with a larger fine. But that's civil litigation. If there were criminal charges, the person might be sent to jail and maybe they'd lose their job over that lost time. The criminal justice system though isn't there to provide justice to a wronged individual though. You, as the victim of the crime are not important to the criminal justice system. That system is concerned with society as a whole. Its job is to both ensure public safety and attempt to reform the behavior of the perpetrator. 

By its very nature the criminal justice system isn't concerned with actual justice. Justice is about restoring the balance of things prior to the crime. In the example above, you want your window replaced and compensation for any time or effort it took to get it back to that state. Justice is getting things back to the way they were.

Even if it were allowed by a court, would you feel justice was served if instead of having your window replaced, you were authorized to go smash out the window of the person who smashed yours? It might feel good, you might have a sense of revenge. But at the end of the day, you then have two people with smashed out windows. Is that fair play? Equity? Or just tit for tat? How do you feel then when you have to go pay for your window to be repaired?

Let me give you another example. A person breaks into an elderly person's home, finds their secret retirement stash of money, piles it all up and then burns it. Every last dollar. They've left that elderly person destitute. Revenge would say that the elderly person would be allowed to burn all of the burglar's money. That still leaves the elderly person broke though. Justice says that the burglar should be forced to repay that elderly person in any and every way possible. Perhaps with his own immediate cash or through ongoing reparations.

Which brings me to murder. Unlike a broken window, a life can't be brought back, replaced or repaired. Money burned cannot be reimbursed. Once someone is dead, that damage is done. If Jane kills Bob, how does Jane offer Bob restitution? How does Bob get justice?

He doesn't. Ever. Bob never sees justice. Because justice would be that Bob gets his life back. There is no justice when someone is murdered. Penalizing Jane isn't justice for Bob. 

Society can do what it does to people who commit crimes: try to protect the rest of society and try to reform the criminals. The families and loved ones might cry out for the death penalty, and if they get it, they have revenge. But they weren't the ones wronged, Bob was. That's not justice.

In case I haven't yet crystallized my point for you, consider this: If you believe that executing Jane because she killed Bob is justice, then what is justice for Jane if she killed Bob and Mike? If Jane is executed for the murder of two people and you believe that's justice just as it is for her murder of one person, you're either saying that Mike's life didn't matter or that Jane's life is somehow worth more than other people's. 

I can't speak to the dead, but in this scenario, I bet that Bob and Mike would find it more just to be alive along with Jane than for all three of them to be dead.

Murdered people don't ever get justice. Murder is never fair, never just.

That's why it's wrong to murder. Not because some god told you or even some law. It's because the scales can never be balanced. No one murdered ever gets justice.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Fuck the 2nd Amendment

And you know what else? Fuck the U.S. Constitution. But that's a different post. Let's stick with the 2nd Amendment for today.

Every time I hear someone say something to the effect of "But it's my RIGHT. I have a RIGHT to own a gun," I picture some indignant old white man pounding a cane on the ground as he says it. Yep, you're right, the 2nd Amendment did give you the right to own guns. I'm not going to get into the whole 'well regulated militia' argument that some folks have decided is their battle ground as my stance is "Fuck the 2nd Amendment" in its entirety.

Let's go over the amendments in general, first. Most of you don't know dick about them and probably won't ever take the time to look them up. According to this poll, less than 20% of Americans know that the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion. And according to this poll, only a third of Americans even know what the Bill of Rights are. I don't know as much as I could. However, I'm also capable of using the internet, collecting data, and then using that data to make measured adjustments to my opinion.

"So many words!"

Some of the Amendments are vaguely functional (the 4th for example or the 13th or the 19th). But most of them suffer from one major flaw: They were written by people who are no longer alive, who lived in a world that we don't live in. The authors of the Constitution, much like the authors of the Bible, have no clue - none - what life in Earth is currently like. That's not their fault. But it is your fault for listening to *anything* they have to say. You don't listen to Ben Fucking Franklin about the power that's running through your computer that's allowing you to read this. Why would you listen to anything that James Madison or George Mason had to say about AR-15's? What the fuck do they know about a country with 400 million people, 5000 miles across, populated with people from all over the planet? Hell, both of those men owned slaves and one of them refused to sign the Constitution. Neither of them thought women should vote. But based on their morale compass, you pro-gun advocates are going to plant your flag on the 2nd Amendment?

Gun control isn't the answer, you say? Well, let me make three requests of you, Mr. or Ms. 2nd Amendment.
1) Please explain this chart:

Please keep in mind that all of these countries have stricter gun laws than the U.S. Also keep in mind that these are just murder rates. This doesn't include accidental deaths, justifiable homicides or any other forms of firearm injuries or deaths.

2) Do you believe that firearms are the only way to defend yourself or your property? Do you realize that owning a gun doubles your risk of being the victim of homicide? Do you realize that owning a gun triples your chance of death by suicide? These aren't opinions. They are hard numbers. Feel free to peruse them yourself here:

3) Are you prepared to take a life with your firearm? If you answered "yes" immediately, I believe that you are either unstable and should seek help or don't really understand the psychological ramifications of killing someone. Here's a quick read on that:

Okay, so I probably have all of you hardcore 2nd Amendment folks in a lather right about now. Either that or you stopped reading awhile back. Let me take this opportunity to say this:

I think it should be legal for a citizen to own a firearm.

Also, I own a handgun. A nice 9mm that I'm very comfortable using. I'm a veteran. I also lost one of my best friends in the world to a gun-related death.

But that doesn't change the fact that the 2nd Amendment is an after thought piece of shit legislation made by slave owning white men 250 years ago that know absolutely jack shit about our world today. It needs to go.

In it's place, we need laws that presume we can't own a firearm and need to prove we are up to the responsibility on a regular basis. We need to be certified and registered with state and federal authorities. Our ammo needs to be limited and monitored. Our weapons need to be limited to those that are for sport or hunting. Simple as that.

(If you're now jabbering about defending ourselves from government tyranny, please know that I'm laughing. You are in no way, ever going to take down the federal government with any amount of your buddies or your weapons stash. That ship sailed at around the end of the Civil War.)

Let's stop arguing about what those asswipes meant when they cobbled together the 2nd Amendment and let's start thinking about gun laws that make sense in 2016. Let's start by looking around the world at what other countries do that works and stop pretending we invented and are therefore the experts on 'freedom'.

If you're still in a lather, relax, I'm sure your penis is totally adequate.  Except for you, Wayne LaPierre. You've never given a woman a real orgasm and you never will.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sexism, misogyny, racism and bigotry in Android:Netrunner

As I write this my computer is quietly dinging at me every few seconds to let me know that new comments are appearing on a post on the Netrunner Facebook group. I started to write a long response of my own when I realized that it needed to be longer than just a few words.

The original post the person made isn't that important except to say that a commenter made a casually sexist remark and then defended it by saying that he was joking.

I love Netrunner. It's important to me. It's the first game in years that has gone from being just a game and into full fledged hobby for me. Part of what attracted me to it was its diversity. In the game, Runners come from all over the world and are often not male. Hell, they even have a 'Natural' tag (to differentiate from genetically modified, cyborg, etc.)

For all intents and purposes, I'm a straight white male. But having been an outsider in other ways for much of my life, gaming is something that I *need* to feel is inclusive. Netrunner became a beacon of maturity and thoughtfulness as well as creativity and theme and it wasn't hard for me to step into the role of a league and tournament organizer, which I've been doing for more than a year now.

I'm proud that we have plenty of people who aren't white men in our league and that we held what may have been the first Ladies Netrunner event.

That said, I've had to deal with sexism in our league on two different occasions and I'm here to say that I have absolutely zero tolerance for that shit and if you love Netrunner, you shouldn't tolerate it either.

In both cases, I had female players approach me and detail an uncomfortable situation. In both cases I asked what I could do to ensure it didn't happen again to them specifically. I also sent out a general email detailing my lack of tolerance for any kind of sexism, bigotry or other ugly behaviors.

The reason I'm writing this is because it's important that we call it out. Loudly. Call it public shaming. Call it whatever you want. It needs to be called out because it is corrosive, divisive and deadly to the community and the game. Netrunner is too important and too good to let it be dragged down by backwards, outdated thinking.

Netrunner is a game about the future and it's a game that portrays a role for all people in that future. I want to play Netrunner with everyone - straight, gay, Ugandan, Russian, female, male, cis, trans - everyone, except assholes.

So, I'm challenging all of you Netrunner players to either stand up and call this shit out...or quit playing my fucking game.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Richard Marx Is Punk as F**K

I realize the title might elicit some extreme reactions, but before you completely dismiss me, hear my tale.

In the 90s, I was heavily steeped in the goth and industrial culture, crowd surfing and moshing to bands like Nine Inch Nails, Ministry and the like. In the 00s, I embraced post punk and indie sounds. But my musical evolution had a clear and distinct beginning: pop rock.

For a good chunk of the 80s I was an avid fan of Huey Lewis and the News, Bryan Adams, The Cars, Tom Petty, etc. In fact, up until 1988, I'd only been to three live shows and they were all to see Huey Lewis.

In August of '88 I was just out of high school and planning on going into the military. I was a naive little nugget and the world seemed like a very big place that I was about to be thrown out into, head first. I'd also really been enjoying Richard Marx's first self-titled album. Its first big single, "Don't Mean Nothin'" was on regular rotation in my car's cassette player, the volume cranked to the maximum my little Datsun B210 could take.  If you need a refresher, here it is:

Anyway, once I heard Mr. Marx was coming to the Ventura County Fair, I was in like Flynn. I lived in Ventura at that time and it was rare to have artists that I was interested in come up our way. I bought a pair of tickets, hoping to take a girl that I liked, but after getting the 'I like you as a friend' speech, I asked my friend Rob to go with me.

I'd been to a few fairs and I expected it to be an open, standing room only kind of situation. What we were greeted with was something that was closer to a roving evangelical revival tent; neatly arranged folding chairs with letters and numbers stenciled precisely on the back, a rope barricade separating the front row from the stage by a good twenty feet. There were would be no unruly behavior at this show, by god.

I hadn't noticed the pre-ordained seating notations on our tickets up until that point, so we took our seats near the far back on the left side, a distinctly deflated slant to our posture. We were still close enough to catch a glimpse of RM's stylishly feathered hair, but certainly not close enough to distinguish any actual expressions on his face.

He and his band came out on stage to a sold out and well-seated, well-behaved crowd. There was enthusiastic applause and a few people stood and cheered. They quickly seated themselves again when they realized that this wasn't going to be that kind of show.

Or so we thought.

Mr. Marx stepped up to the microphone with classic rock star enthusiasm. But the words that came out of his mouth were like nothing I expected and to this day, remains one of the most rock and roll things I've ever been witness to. He said something to the effect of (and I'm pretty sure I remember this almost word for word), "Hey! Good to be here. When I came out for sound check and I saw all the seating, I spoke to the management and said that I usually do the kind of show where people are on their feet and dancing. They said something about safety and regulations. But you know what? They're not up here with a microphone. I am. And I say, there's a whole lot of you and only a few guys down in front of me here. I bet that if you all get up and move forward and come through that rope, they'll get out of the way."

The security at the front of the stage did a double take. The crowd stood and cheered and moved forward like a human wave. The security got out of the way. The chairs were discarded, tipped over and forgotten. The rope was pulled down. The crowd pressed right up against that stage for the next hour to sing along to their favorite songs and rock and roll lived on for another day.

I haven't listened to Richard Marx in years. Really, decades. A few years ago, I came across his Twitter and I clicked 'follow'. I couldn't tell you why. Maybe it was a sense of nostalgia, maybe it was that I was curious to see what someone like him would tweet about. He seemed smart, funny, self-aware. He seemed like a good guy. Life moved on.

Where this story ends is today. As I write this, I just got home from making an unplanned stop at a fast food restaurant. There were extenuating circumstances and I had to eat in the dining area. I'm sitting there having my chicken sandwich and through the PA I hear a voice. I didn't think about it, not for one second. There was no questioning. I just immediately knew, "That's Richard Marx." I didn't recognize the song, so I brought out my smart phone and called up Shazam. The song was "Nothing Left Behind Us," from his 2008 album, Paid Vacation.

I'm not here to tell you that I thought, "Oh my god, I love this. What have I been missing all of these years?", because that's not what went through my mind. My musical tastes have moved on in the years since that show and I'll probably not go back. 

But I smiled. I felt good. Because his voice somehow tapped into some deep part of my brain, my 18 year old psyche that was still there. It wasn't conscious at all, I was just automatically transported back to that great memory of getting out of my seat and saying, "Yeah, screw these seats!"

I'm glad Mr. Marx is still making music, still doing what he loves. And I'm glad that 18 year old me is still in there.