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Saturday, 09 March 2024 16:17

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Sortilege

Elective Democracy increasingly displays all its weaknesses in the face of pressure and finance from powerful interest groups and propaganda from powerful media. It encourages the formation and dominance of political parties and it spawns career politicians more intent upon re-election than good governance.

The classical Athenian Greeks rejected it for precisely such reasons.

About half of the world holds elections this year. In many cases such elections simply enable de-facto dictatorships to shuffle their cronies and weed out dissent. Yet in countries with supposedly free elections, the choice of candidates usually remains effectively determined by non-representative cliques, factions, political parties, and the media.

Thus, we now face the unedifying prospect of national elections in the UK and USA in which most voters would probably tick a ‘Neither of the Above’ box if it existed but will otherwise vote only to deny power to whoever they consider the worst alternative.

The vulnerability of Elective Democracy to abuse by self-interested cliques and oligarchs and career politicians led the classical Athenian Greeks to choose Sortition Democracy instead.

In an ideal Sortition system, representatives become selected at random by some sort of lottery to form a government. They serve for a fixed period as a public duty and cannot seek re-selection. Such a system would create parliaments that proportionally reflected all adult age groups, social classes, ethnicities, and genders within a society.

Such parliaments would ideally debate openly but vote by secret ballot. At a stroke this would break the stranglehold of political parties and eliminate most forms of corruption and lobbying by self-interested pressure groups. We could pay the members of a Sortition Parliament well to turn up for debates and votes and have an independent judiciary to eliminate any last vestiges of corruption. Sortition selected representatives would have no other motivation in debate or in voting than their own consciences and the long term benefits to society.

A Sortition Parliament could have half of its members replaced every few years so that it does not have to restart with completely inexperienced members after a complete sortition. It could call upon any number of experts to advise it and it would have a civil service to do so as well.

A Sortition Parliament would of course contain a small percentage of liars, idiots, self-deluded narcissists, criminals, and psychopaths, but far less than the current elective system throws up.

We should not give power to those who seek it.

We could perhaps trial the Sortition system in the UK by replacing the House of Lords with a randomly selected second chamber that has absolute power of veto over the first. It would act as a Citizen’s Jury that acts as a check and balance to the flaws and abuses that become increasingly apparent in  elective systems.

Religiophobia.

There seems zero evidence that any religion has ever caused a net improvement in human behaviour. Every bit of charity and compassion promoted by any religion seems more than cancelled by the oppression it has self-righteously enforced.

In our theoretically secular societies, it seems perfectly acceptable to loathe political philosophies like fascism or communism which have very grim and ghastly track records, yet rather bizarrely it becomes increasingly taboo to discriminate between religious philosophies, no matter how bad their recent track records.

So now we have the peculiar spectacle of secular British politicians trying to make capital (and votes) out of accusing each other of phobias against religious philosophies that neither side has any genuine sympathy with.

Richard Dawkins famously described Roman Catholicism as the world’s second worst religion. Should we hate all religions equally or do some seem currently more despicable than others? Surely the more patriarchal, misogynistic, authoritarian, anti-democratic, intolerant, anti-liberal humanistic, and anti-rational ones deserve all the derision, criticism, and discrimination we can heap upon them.

This is Chaos. The Draft Manuscript has Landed!

The publisher has received all the written contributions to the Chaos Anthology and responded with a resounding Huzzah! There will now follow a period of editorial work to arrange it all in suitable form and sort out the illustrations, footnotes, and citations, hopefully it will appear sometime later this year.

Contributors include Ronald Hutton, Peter J Carroll, Jaq D Hawkins, Jozef Karika, Julian Vayne, Jacob Sipes, Aidan Watcher, Ivy Corvus, Dave Lee, Lionel Snell, Mariana Pinzon, Carl Abrahamson, Sinobu Kurono, and Sanhre Daffowt.

FSW8 ‘Magic’.

I have always had a fascination with designing and building board games. Analysing and trying to model historical, real world, and fantasy scenarios seems a productive way of stimulating strategic, tactical, imaginative, critical, and counter-factual thinking.

What rules do the actions of a system imply? What systems will emerge from a set of rules?

People keep asking me why I don’t write novels as well as books on magic and physics. Well, I tend to read, and I would naturally write, plot driven novels of ideas rather than character and drama driven stories. So boardgames have become my novels of ideas, my ‘what-if’ stories, and they also allow for endless experimentation with alternative rules and multiple possible endings.

For years I have experimented with modelling magic in a boardgame. It seems that any game system of ‘magic on its own’ can only lead to some kind of quest scenario where you use magic just to gain more magical ability, either cooperatively or competitively. In most game systems, magic or psi works as a ‘rule breaker’ in the sense that it acts as a combat modifier or a mobility modifier or that it distorts the probability of what would normally happen in some other way.

That seems reasonable enough because in the modern view, Magic - whether in enchantment or divination, consists of the art and science of modifying probabilities. (In divination it modifies the probability of guessing the right answer.)

The latest add-on to Frontier Space Warfare, the Psi Weapon Tournament Rules reflects this view. Factions may invest in various Psi facilities and wand like markers denote their presence on the board. Most act as production, combat, or mobility modifiers, but one has a function perhaps unique in game systems.

The power of Prescience allows a vessel or a flotilla of vessels to launch an attack in which, if it fails, the player can cancel it completely and restore the situation before the attack, but at the cost of the loss of the Psi weapon used. It may seem odd to call this Prescience, but this effectively models prescience because it gives a player the ability to explore what would happen if they did something, and then of either going for it or of avoiding doing it.

Herewith the Aquarian faction with a complete set of all 8 Psi weapons. The ones which have a non-local effect remain on the Aquarian homeworld, the expeditionary flotilla on one of its smaller systems carries the local effect combat and mobility modifying Psi weapons.

The Psi weapon tournament rules appear in the FSW8 rules appear in the games section and below.

 Psychopath’s Chess

With his attempted conquest of Ukraine bogged down into an attritional stalemate and a contest of endurance with the West, Vladimir Putin must surely have dreamed of opening up a second front to distract the attention, resolve, money, and resources of the West.

Putin has cultivated an alliance with the Iranian government, based on little more than the dictatorial and pariah status of both regimes. Iran sponsors, trains, and arms both Gazan Hamas and the Yemeni Houthis. It seems unlikely that either would have gone to war without Iranian approval, and most likely that they both went to war on Iranian instructions.

Putin likes sending messages by dramatic and violent means. Hamas launched its attack on 7th October, Putin’s birthday. He probably considers it a very worthwhile pawn sacrifice.

Amphibia

Climate change continues to confuse the wildlife, we have had an unseasonable period of exceptional rainfall, frosts, and warm days; some plants have flowered alarmingly early. During the unsettled weather of the last weeks, frogs and newts have appeared only fleetingly in the pond at Chateaux Chaos and then disappeared again. Nevertheless, we have healthy looking clumps of both frogspawn and toad spawn. Let us hope that the ferocious dragonfly larvae do not scoff the lot when they emerge, as they did last year.

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