Monday, June 15, 2009

Week of 06/15/2009

How The Game Is Played
– by David Matthews 2

Developers of the “City of Heroes” multiplayer online role-playing game recently were taken back at the turn of events surrounding their revolutionary new feature, the Mission Architect. For the first time ever, the players themselves could create stories that other players could use, complete with custom characters and dialogue, and then rate and be rewarded on their creativity.

Unfortunately, much to their surprise, the developers found out that many players were using the MA engine to create super-easy challenges that would generate the maximum number of rewards in as short of a time as possible. Known by some as “Meow Missions” or “farming”, these players used the system in a way that the developers never intended them to be used.

Their response was quick and drastic. Dozens of the badges they created that to mark player progress would be removed, including recognitions for the best creations. Published missions would be monitored so known “meow missions” or “farming” missions would be blocked. They wouldn’t be able to “un-publish” their missions, so those limited publishing slots would be permanently blocked.

Their message to the “farming” designers was simple: “That’s not how the game is played!”

Unfortunately there are a lot of ways that “the game” is played… and it doesn’t matter what “game” it is.

For instance, the Motion Picture Academy Awards are supposed to represent the best and brightest that the studios can offer. Unfortunately that’s really not how “the game” is played. From day one, the Academy Awards were always meant to be handed out to films that needed the box office boost that would follow such recognition.

So what happens if you have an exceptional movie that is also a box office smash? That’s a genuine quagmire for the industry. By the “public” rules, the exceptional movie should be deserving of any and all awards it is nominated for. But according to the REAL rules, it’s supposed to stand aside for some sleeper movie that appeared in maybe four or five cities. That’s why the most popular movies really don’t do too well, with some noted exceptions such as the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “Star Wars: Episode IV”, and in the case of the late Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight”.

Colleges have long tried to make sense out of the Bowl Championship System for determining the Bowl Games. Colleges with qualified teams have always objected to how the BCS designated which team would play in what Bowl event against what other team, and it’s usually the same collection of schools getting it year after year, no matter how good the teams played. Even members of Congress have tried to step in and require some sense be made out of the seemingly senseless criteria.

But what they don’t tell people is that it has nothing at all to do with fairness or which teams are deserving of which Bowl game. It has little to do with worthiness and more to do with promoting the schools involved. In other words, it’s all just advertising for a private club and if your school isn’t in that club, then no matter how good your team is, your school probably won’t BE in it.

There are plenty of institutions that run on two separate sets of rules. Corporations do this with their executives. They have one set of rules for their executives, and another set for the rest of the employees. Banks have one set of rules for their “preferred clients” and another set of rules for the rest of their clients.

The important part about these “secret rules”, though, is that they must remain a secret. We can only GUESS what they are, and often that guess comes from careful observation of the actions of those involved and figuring out the motives behind them. Those that play by these rules have every reason in the world to make sure that they are as hidden as possible.

It should come as to no surprise, then, that government operates under two separate sets of rules as well. There are the rules that are on paper… things like the Constitution and law books and parliamentary rules of order… and then there are the rules that they don’t DARE publish that show you how things REALLY work in the halls of governments large and small.

Well guess what? It’s long since time to give them some Internet sunlight.

Now these are in no particular order, and of course there is no way to tell whether or not these are really happening, because like all of the other “secret rules” in life, they cannot really be confirmed even if they are true. But their actions seem to dictate that the following are listed as part of “how the game is played” when it comes to government.

The first action after winning an election is to work on the re-election. Sure the politicians will describe what they do as a “calling” or a “public service”, but really for the bulk of them it’s a lifetime pension program, and the first order of business for them is ALWAYS job security. This is one of the chief reasons why incumbents always have a massive campaign war chest, because they start right after the last election working on the next one.

“Resolving” a problem always requires passing NEW laws and regulations, not enforcing old ones. First, politicians will never really “resolve” a problem, especially if they can use that problem as part of their next campaign. When they do act, though, they need to push for NEW laws and new regulations so they can use that as part of their next campaign. They need to be able to gloat how they personally “solved” the problem by writing or co-sponsoring or supporting brand new laws and/or regulations. They can’t use a law or regulation that someone else came up with in years gone by because then the question will eventually turn to why it wasn’t used in the first place, and that would be an uncomfortable situation for them.

NEVER hold people accountable for their actions! This brings up an important difference between blame-assessing and accountability. Politicians are free to point fingers at anyone and everyone for the ills of society, and they are encouraged to so as often as possible to keep the focus away from THEIR OWN involvement, but they should never really hold people ACCOUNTABLE for their actions. This is especially true when it comes to those in government, regardless of which political party is involved. Accountability means punishment. A loss of a job, loss of that lifetime government pension, and possibly even prison. Holding someone in government accountable for their actions means that somewhere down the line, THEY might be held accountable for their own actions, and that is simply not acceptable.

Government is NEVER wrong! PERIOD! Church and state have one thing in common: they both operate under the presumption of absolute infallibility. They can never be wrong about ANYTHING. They can never ADMIT to being wrong about ANYTHING. They can admit that mistakes were made, but they can never EVER admit that government was WRONG.

By the way, this is the same principle that allows politicians to avoid being held accountable for anything they do. It’s an offshoot of “Divine Right”.

Government ABHORS change! This pretty much a truism, no matter what level of government you are talking about, no matter which political party is in power, the nature of government ABHORS any kind of significant change to how it conducts itself. You can campaign all you like about being a “maverick” or a “renegade” or on a platform of “change”, and aside from a few token measures and a couple of sacrificial lambs, the only thing that gets changed are the names of the players. “The Game” is still in play, no matter how many people you have that pledges to change it. EVERY politician in power right now is a statist, and if they’re not, then they either have almost no political power, or they will soon be out of office.

Seniority is everything! Seniority trumps competency in government. You can be a complete and inept imbecile, latching your name onto everything your special interest masters tell you to do, letting them write your policies and speeches, and even letting them tell you how to vote, and still end up with positions of power and leadership just by staying in office.

If you think about it, government is the ONE source of employment where competence and sound leadership skills are not needed for leadership. All you have to do is look at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and ask yourself how such an incompetent twit like her can become the second-in-line to the Presidency other than because she keeps on getting re-elected by her ne’er-do-well supporters.

In fact, that’s the one thing that party-jumpers like Arlin Specter insist upon. Never mind stances or voting records, just make sure their SENIORITY is respected!

Everything is subject to negotiation. Yes, diehard party loyalists will talk your ears off about principle and ethics and morality, but those in government will tell you that the true trademark of a politician is the art of the deal. Behind every threat of a filibuster, behind every secret hold, behind every public address to an empty legislative chamber, there is a negotiation just waiting to be made.

So let’s see… you have a nominee for a federal judge that you want confirmed that my constituents are screaming bloody murder over, but I’m willing to lift my secret hold on your nomination if you give me the right to veto two future nominees for any reason. You want your budget passed? I’ll lift the threat of a filibuster if you let me slip in an appropriations for my friend’s waterslide theme park.

Yes it makes the constituents mad, but don’t worry, that fades away when they realize that voting in someone of REAL principle will also mean they wouldn’t get all of the neat pork projects they love.

EVERYTHING is okay if you don’t get caught! Okay, so you’re a bible-thumping family-values minister with a wife, two kids, and the chairman of the state’s legislative finance committee. It’s okay to have five mistresses and the occasional Men’s Room encounter as long as it doesn’t hit the press. Publicly condemn illegal immigration but yet have an undocumented nanny teaching your kids Spanish? Oh, and you haven’t paid your taxes in five years? Who hasn’t done that, huh?

Politicians revel in hypocrisy. They have no qualms being hypocrites as long as those “not-so-deep secrets” aren’t a matter of public discussion. In fact, they love knowing those “not-so-deep secrets” of their fellow politicians because that gives them leverage. All they have to do is tell the finance committee chairman that you know about his nocturnal trips to the public park bathrooms and that you wouldn’t want your friends in the local newspaper to know about them, and you can pretty much get whatever pork spending you want. Power corrupts, and knowledge is power, and knowledge of corruption is a GREAT source of power.

This is especially applicable when it comes to the campaigns. Politicians know that just about ever dirty, sleazy, underhanded, disrespectful trick that can be used to either secure your votes or chase away the voters of your opponents is fair game as long as you don’t get caught using them. That’s where those political action committees come in.

“What? I never called your mother a whore! That came from a PAC that had nothing at all to do with me or my campaign! In fact I resent the implication that you would make that I would have anything to do with those 2am robo-calls and those mass-mailings accusing your daughter of being a slut. But if it means an extra twenty-point bump in the polls, well, hey, it’s not my fault you have a dysfunctional family.”

And finally, the biggest rule in knowing how the game of government is played…

Don’t get caught with your hand in the cookie jar! Let’s get brutally honest here… governments at all levels can condone pretty much about EVERYTHING under the sun that can be thought up and carried out by politicians. It can break businesses in two, destroy jobs, steal vast acres of property from people and hand them to their friends so they can get rich off the deal, and drive tens of thousands of people into bankruptcy and poverty and homelessness without so much as a second thought about it. It is a cesspool of corruption and evil and vice and it is not ashamed of it in the least.

And our court system, all the way up to the United States Supreme Court, has pretty much ALLOWED ALL OF IT to go on! The courts have said on more than one occasion that it is the government doing it and anything that the government does is perfectly fine, even if it is the worst kind of evil around. (Remember that rule about government NEVER being wrong?)

But there is a catch to it all, and the catch is that the politician himself cannot PERSONALLY profit from it. And this is where a lot of politicians… especially of late REPUBLICAN politicians… get caught up in it, because “the game” has allowed so much manipulation for various reasons, including and especially to make a boatload of money, that they start to wonder why they can’t get a piece of all that action.

Well, they can’t because it would shatter the illusion of impartiality. The magic of government is that it operates on the principle of carrying out “the will of the people”. That’s how they have been able to explain everything they do. They have always been able to say “it’s not OUR fault; this is what the people want!” Never mind that the only “people” that they are listening to are the special interest groups that helped pay for their campaigns.

But as soon as THEY start to prosper from it, or even just give the illusion that they are prospering from their actions, then that’s when the premise begins to fail. It stops becoming “the will of THE PEOPLE” and instead become “the will of THE POLITICIAN”.

That’s not to say that some of that isn’t happening or that some of these politicians are able to get away with it. Some of them do. But at some point it comes out, and the system itself has no tolerance for it. Quite simply, that’s not how “the game” is played.

Now there is a reason why I bring up all of these “secret rules”… and that is so that there is no pretense as to what is going on in the halls of governments large and small. If it seems like the politicians are doing nothing except spinning their wheels, it’s probably because it is not an illusion, they REALLY ARE doing nothing except spinning their wheels! If it seems like the politicians are screwing over their constituents and going back on their campaign promises, then in all likelihood THAT IS what they are really doing! There is nothing “seemingly” about what they really do when the press is not around to report it.

The government is a very powerful tool. It is an unchecked and uncontestable instrument of plunder for those with money and power. And the reason why they have been able to get fat and rich off of government is that they know how “the game” is played. In order to make it work for the people instead of screwing OVER the people, we have to understand how the game is played and have it play FOR US.

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