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DShomshak last won the day on October 11

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  1. DShomshak

    Whats YOUR Champions universe like?

    My first Champions setting incorporated a great many characters and concepts from the mystical side of the CU. No, wait. That's technically true, but the causality is backward from what it sounds. The mystical CU incorporates a great many characters and concepts from my first Champions campaign. I wrote The Ultimate Super-Mage way back when, based on about 20 years of mystic-heavy campaigns. Steve Long liked it enough to port a lot of it into the CU. My current campaign setting, the Millennium Universe, jettisons all of that. It's all homebrew, except for a few villains whose write-ups I ported in Steve Long does it very well and why reinvent the wheel. (Backgrounds are changed, though). I've always preferred the Marvel style, and my settings reflect that, with one important exception: I have never used "anti-mutant prejudice." My current setting is called the Millennium Universe (because supers start appearing, at least in public, in 2000). I posted a thread about it some time back. Oddly, when I Google it I only get a link to the second page, but it's all archived and available: Millennium Universe Overview - Page 2 - Champions - HERO Games Dean Shomshak
  2. DShomshak

    Institute for Human Advancement

    Or let’s try an opposite approach: Mutants are new and truly random. For one thing, that means most of them don’t come from the Western world, and most of them come from poor or modest backgrounds. Gravitar and Menton aren’t scions of old aristocracy; Gravitar comes from a village in Mali and Menton was born in a Mexico City slum. A third of all mutants are Chinese or Indian. Globally, mutants represent the Rise of the Rest. Power is no longer restricted to a few hegemonic states that use the rest of the world as the playing-field for their competition. Within countries, it means power is no longer limited to people from the right families or castes, the people with money or connections, who went to the right schools or came up through the company or the Party. And the gatekeepers of the old order are scared spitless. Some of them try to coopt the living weapons of mass destruction. Recruit them into the military or spy service, give them jobs in the company or the crime syndicate, whatever. Pay them well and hope they don’t try to take over. But a lot of the mutants won’t let themselves be bought off so easily. Even the heroes are laws unto themselves. That’s where IHA comes in. Its financial and political backers vow that random individuals will not become laws unto themselves. Governments and corporations will not negotiate as equals with Wal-Mart greeters and peasant farmers. This version of IHA might go after other supers who seem dangerous, but it concentrates on mutants precisely because their appeaance cannot be controlled. In ostensibly democratic countries, power elites cannot come out and say, “Serve or die.” IHA supplies the threat to supers who won’t be coopted, but it’s deniable. Heroes who delve into IHA's backing don't find it easy. While some of the money comes from direct donatins by bigoted believers, a lot of it comes from blandly named shell companies and foundations that don't have to disclose their own funding sources.. If the heroes can penetrate the black boxes, they find a remarkable collection of business leaders, sovereign wealth funds, PACs -- even crime bosses. The list might even include their own country's military, or a company that touts how it hires mutants and turns their powers to profitable use. Anyone else? Dean Shomshak
  3. DShomshak

    Institute for Human Advancement

    When adapting IHA to different campaigns, it may be useful also to the role of mutants. As mentioned, Marvel uses mutants as a metaphor for socially disfavored minorities. (I would debate the appropriateness of Marvel’s execution, but that’s not relevant here.) Or as LL mentions, mutants can represent the fear of hidden Otherness, especially in one’s own children. (From what I’ve seen of very early X-Men, I actually think this “atomic horror” aspect was more the original intended meaning.) But those are not the only possibilities, and what you choose can influence how you treat IHA – including the very important matter of who funds it. Maybe it’s my own prejudice, but I think that whatever their prejudices, people with big money tend to be rather calculating in the causes they support. Let’s start by looking at the big-name mutant villains of the CU. Three of them (Graviton, Holocaust, Menton) are white people from privileged backgrounds. Not exactly great stand-ins for oppressed minorities. (Okay, I’m guessing about Holocaust’s race. His 5e and 6e write-ups don’t say. Geoffrey Haganstone, son of a Pennsylvania senator and his socialite wife, is not provably white. But that seems most likely.) But they are excellent characters for a theme of “Born To Power.” In this treatment, mutants are not as new as people think. Past mutants used their powers to become rich and socially prominent, and their descendents inherited that social status as well as a chance of developing super-powers. The model for mutant villainy is less Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and more Hellfire Club: Many of the world’s mutants act covertly to protect and increase their wealth and power, as their ancestors have done for generations. (See also the classic Champions module, The Blood and Dr. McQuark. The Blood are exactly the sort of super-powered lineage I’m talking about, albeit of different origin.) The rate of superhuman mutation is greater now; increasing numbers of mutants appear outside the old families and knowing nothing about them. For the general public, the paradigm for “mutant” is the teen whose suddenly-activated mutant powers cause havoc. But some people know differently. And some of those people fund IHA. The backers of IHA are very rich, but they have seen some avenues of social power closed to them. They found there’s more than old money behind the business and political dynasties that balk them: Those dynasties have powers that these nouveau-riche entrepreneurs, financiers and politicians can never gain. And they hate it. IHA is their weapon against the mutant dynasties. Attacking some shmoe who used his pyrokinesis to rescue someone is only a means to an end. The battles against mutants who go public, whether hero or villain, are just practice for the real battle when the soldiers and Minuteman robots descend on the Hamptons, the artificial islands of Dubai, and other haunts of the super-rich and the hidden mutant aristocracy. There's one different spin on the IHA. Let's see some more. Dean Shomshak
  4. I oversimplified or overstated.. Here, I'll type in the paragraphs from page 26 of the article: On more general matters of judicial philosophy he was, for what it's worth, more forthcoming. When he interprets the constitution, Mr Kavanaugh told the judiciary committee, he considers himself bound by the document's "original public meaning, of course informed by history and tradition and precedent." This view, that the constitution has one meaning, the one it was originally taken as having by its readers, and that singular meaning is best found by close study of the text, is known as originalism. Scalia was for a long time its most prominent exponent on the court (its most ardent advocate now is Clarence Thomas). Partly because Scalia regularly and persuasively expounded on its merits it has gained much currency. This is particularly true on the right--Mr Thomas is the court's most conservative justice--but holds to some extent across the ideological spectrum. Justices pay far more heed to specific wordings today than they did in the Warren Court's heyday. As Elena Kagan once put it, "We're all textualists now." Associate justice, no peace However some, such as Eric Segall of Georgia State University the author of an upcoming book on originalism, worry that originalist language is often used by justices to uphold positions quite at odds with the philosophy's seemingly hand-off tenets. "Justices use the rhetoric of originalism to mask political judgement," Mr Segall says. Past proponents of originalism argued that courts should strike down laws only in cases of clear textual error. Today, argues Mr Segall, proponents of originalism want to "shrink the federal government and deregulate the economy, but there is no reasonable originalist argument for that kind of strong judicial interference with our political system." So, the article itself does not say originalism is a fraud; it quotes someone who seems to be saying that originalism is used fraudulently. I grant it's an important distinction. Other people who know more about these things than I do can perhaps supply examples. Dean Shomshak
  5. DShomshak

    Institute for Human Advancement

    Well, when one of my friends attended pharmacy school he had a roommate who said that black people were stupid, lazy, etc. This surprised my friend because his roommate came from Ethiopia and had the darkest skin he'd ever seen. He said, more or less, "Um?" The roommate explained that as an Ethiopian, he came from an ancient and glorious civilization and was, therefore, not black. Not black American black, anyway. A completely different race. Oookay... My friend thought it best to let the matter drop. Dean Shomshak
  6. DShomshak

    More space news!

    Speaking of astronomical paradoxes past... Some years back, Scientific American published a nifty article about why many astronomers initially rejected heliocentrism. It was more than just religious dogma: Whatever advantages the theory offered for describing the Solar System seemed outweighed, they thought, by the difficulties it created for describing the stars. I *think* this is a link; I couldn't follow it with my crappy slow connection. The Case against Copernicus - Scientific American Short version: Parallax Lost. Astronomers measured the angular size of the stars. It's very tiny, but nevertheless a measurable disk. (Easier once they had telescopes, of course.) OTOH, they could not measure a parallax. That gave them a minimum distance for the stars and, therefore, a minimum size for the stars. In a geocentric cosmos, there would only be a daily parallax -- a displacement of apparent position based on the rotation of the Earth. By that calculation, stars were about as big as the Sun. Heliocentrism added a second, yearly parallax. A much longer baseline meant that stars had to be much farther away for no parallax to be measured with the instruments available. Correspondingly, that meant stars had to be much bigger. In fact, every star had to be thousands of times bigger than the Sun! Astronomer George Airy resolved the paradox when he realized that when a very thin beam of light passes through a lens, it spreads a little. Doesn't matter whether it's the lens of the eye or the lens of a telescope. Thus, the paradox was based on a systematic error in measurement: The angular size of the stars was wrong. Eventually, telescopes and instruments got good enough to measure yearly parallax and the true distance to the stars was known, and therefore their true sizes. Paradox gone. I keep this history in mind when I read about dark energy, inflationary cosmology, and other "frontier" topics in astronomy. Even things we think are straightforward measurements might be wrong. Dean Shomshak
  7. In its coverage of the Kavanaugh fight, the Sep. 22, 2018 issue of The Economist included a brief history lesson on the Activist Court. In the first few decades of the 20C, the SCOTUS was very conservative, or at least very pro-business. Struck down minimum wage laws, hostile to unions. Changed fairly sharply after FDR attempted his court-packing scheme: FDR failed, but the Court started giving its stamp of acceptance to laws it formerly struck down, and reversing other precedents; the biggest perhaps being overturning of Jim Crow laws. Then the Court swung decisively left in the 1960s and 70s, with Rov. Wade as the high point of "liberal activism." A century later, it's swung back hard right, with what effects we can only guess. (The article also mentions that the "Originalist" claim is, not to put too fine a point on it, an utter fraud.) As the article and people here have mentioned, any attempt to curb the court's right-wing activism -- or retake control, accepting that it is as partisan as Congress -- carry rather horrible risks and consequences. So, what now? The article's author didn't know, and neither do I. At this point, the only curb I've heard is Chief Justice Roberts' institutionalism: I am told that his joining in some pro-Obamacare decisions indicates he doesn't want to put the Court in the middle of fights between branches of government or other cans of worms. Dean Shomshak
  8. All Things Considered interviewed a former FBI agent about ways the agency could investigate Blasey Ford's allegation. Here's what he suggested, as a start: -- Question Kavanaugh and the people who say, "I don't remember" under polygraph. Wasn't done. -- Drive Blasey Ford around Georgetown to see if any landmarks help her remember and narrow down where she thinks the assault happened. Wasn't done. -- Blasey Ford gave some information about the layout of the house. Check plans of houses in the area (I assume these are on record somewhere to make this possible). Find which houses, if any, past or present, match her information. AFAIK this wasn't done; at least, none of the senators have mentioned it. Add in the people who contacted the FBI saying they have relevant memories of Kavanaugh, Ramirez and Blasey Ford, but were ignored, and yeah, I think the investigation can fairly be called a sham. As far as what Kavanaugh's performance says about his judicial temperament, last I heard (ATC again), 2400 law school professors -- the people whose job it is to train future judges, among others -- signed a letter saying they found his rage and partisanship disqualifying. You or I might be enraged by such accusations, and show it. But you or I are not applying for a job that gives vast power, in a body whose legitimacy rests on being seen as nonpartisan. But he's in anyway. I will not refer to Kavanaugh as a rapist; he has not been tried and convicted, so that would be slanderous. But I will refer to him as "accused rapist Brett Kavanaugh," which is exact and literal truth. Dean Shomshak
  9. Last night's episode of the public radio program 1A gave a history of political polarization. The historian interviewed argues that this didn't just happen. Republican leaders deliberately stoked culture war grievance to win elections. Newt Gingrich proved it worked: Under his leadership, Republicans took the House for the first time in decades. Pat Buchanan worked out the playbook of saying that Dems weren't just people with different opinions but enemies of God out to destroy all that was patriotic and good. And it's worked for them. Sen. Lindsay Graham, following Obama's victory in 2008, joined many Republicans in saying they needed a new strategy because "We can't make angry white men fast enough." Mitch McConnel and Donald Trump have proved he was wrong and he's back with the program. Saying they fought monsters, the Republican leadership has become monsters, and taught their base to be the same. Now they are trapped in their own culture war. Dems, fighting back, have become monsters too. They aren't as bad, though, because they are less competent and organized. Still, this does not end well. I don't think anyone has any way left to back down. The demographics are moving inexorably against conservatives/Republicans... unless they lock in so many advantages that elections cease to matter. But geography works against Democrats as their base concentrates in big cities and culturally moves away from the rest of the population. The only hope I see is with the Municipals that the Fallowes' described in Our Towns. If they organized, they might have enough clout to bring the parties to heel and return government to practical tasks. Dean Shomshak
  10. DShomshak

    More space news!

    Yeah, the article tells how CERN makes antihydrogen. It's a pretty amazing process all by itself. The October, 2018 issue of Discover has an article about the Lucy mission to the Trojan asteroids, scheduled to launch in 2021. The article says we know very little about these two groups of asteroids. It's possible, though, that they may be a better sample of primordial planetesimals than the asteroids in the Main Belt. Lucy will crisscross the Solar System, with no less than three gravitational assists from Earth in its looping path, to visit both "camps" of asteroids (at Jupiter's L4 and L5) -- including the double asteroid of Patroclus and Menoetius, in 2033. The issue also has an amusing little article about "16 Times We Didn't Find ET," a history of SETI false alarms. Dean Shomshak
  11. An important point I forgot to mention. Thanks for covering it! Dean Shomshak
  12. Misspelled name: It's Haidt, not Haight. (Sorry, my computer freezes up when I try to use the Edit function.) Dean Shomshak
  13. Well, psychologist Jonathan Haight finds pretty major differences between libertarians and conservatives in his "Moral Foundations" research. See his book, The Righteous Mind, for details. They tend to vote along with Republican/conservatives more than Democrat/liberals, though. That may be more a function of the left having strong statist and anti-corporate streaks more than real sympathy between, say, Ayn Rand fans and Christian conservatives. A common enemy rather than real alliance. But I'm speculating there and won't argue if anyone says I'm wrong (on either count). Dean Shomshak
  14. I recommend listening to the Oct. 2, 2028 episode of the public radio program Fresh Air. The guest is Michael Lewis (Liar's Poker, The Big Short, Moneyball), talking about his latest book, The Fifth Risk. It's about what the Trump administration is doing to the boring Cabinet departments that people don't think about much, such as Commerce and Energy. Lewis has reported on this for a year now (the magazine Vanity Fair was mentioned). Now he pulls it together. Lewis' argument, in a nutshell, is that much of what government does is manage risks that no individual, company or lesser body could do much about. Many of them are long-term and diffuse, such as climate change or weather events, so many people don't even think of them. What government does to manage these risks therefore goes unnoticed. And now it's all in the hands of a man who never thought he needed to know how government works, appointing people who are equally ignorant or actively hostile -- when he appoints them at all. Lewis ends with an anecdote about a woman he met who wished for years that a tornado would come and just rip away this decrepit old barn on her property. It finally happened. But... "I didn't think it would also take the house." A lesson for all those people who want to get rid of the "deep state," when they don't even know what it does. Dean Shomshak
  15. DShomshak

    More space news!

    Heard on the radio today: First evidence of an exomoon. Estimated to be the size of Neptune, orbiting a planet the size of Jupiter. First clues sifted from Kepler data; more obtained from Hubble; but the astronomers say they need more Hubble observation time to be sure. Heard on the radio yesterday: A trans-Neptunian object dubbed "The Goblin" strengthens the case for a Ninth Planet that's deflecting TNOs into bizarre orbits. IIRC, the Goblin's orbital period is 40,000 years, and it never comes closer to the Sun than about twice Pluto's orbit. Sep. 22, 2018 issue of The Economist has an article on experiments to see if antimatter has negative gravity. That is, will it fall up instead of down? Most physicists are pretty sure it won't, but they need to find some way that antimatter is not the perfect opposite of normal matter. According to current theories, the Big Bang should have produced matter and antimatter equally, which should have annihilated each other just as quickly. The existence of the Universe represents a significant experimental error.\ that requires explanation. The technical challenges of testing the gravitational properties of antimatter are... extreme. Dean Shomshak