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Friday, September 30, 2011

The Customer is Rarely Right

Having worked retail for five, going on six years, I'm more than a bit cynical about it. Okay, I'm extraordinarily cynical about it. Okay, I'm extraordinarily cynical about everything, but even more so about working retail. Anyway, after a nice long shift today I'm thoroughly convinced that the guy who propagated the phrase "The Customer is Always Right" has committed major crimes against humanity.

Why do I think this? Well, because customers have become a race of self-absorbed, self-entitled assholes. They believe that service clerks should sprinkle rose petals and roll out the red carpet for them (figuratively of course) and every other customer should be ignored so they can be helped first. It would be a tragedy if they had to put something back on the same shelf they put it up from. In short, they act like animals instead of people...spoiled animals at that.

Maybe its because I've worked retail so long, but if I don't want something I have picked up, I put it back where it belongs. If I knock down a stack of items, I put them back on the shelf. If something is more expensive than I think it should be, I don't bitch about it for a half hour. I do not have kids, but I would certainly not stand idly by while they screamed and ran up and down isles, knocked down or destroyed stuff, and acted like rabid dogs rather than children.

The very sad thing is that I don't think any of this is that extraordinary. When did this stuff stop being the norm? At what point did people knock stuff down and not think they should pick it up, or that a random shelf somewhere is not the place they should return random items to? The biggest one, though, is when did it become okay to treat cashiers and clerks like shit?

I'm not even talking about holidays, or black Friday (both of which are usually deplorable times that show the worst possible cases of these things). Today there was part of an end-cap with a foot of empty space. No less than ten times I removed a pile of random crap from that same section, and ten times it was filled up again with crap. Not to mention dozens of kids that were left without parents. One little girl rode a display bike around the racks for thirty minutes without a parent in sight. I'm very surprised that pedophiles don't "shop" for their marks at our store.

Thinking about it further, I hate seeing this stuff as a customer. It makes me think that people really are self-absorbed pricks. I would pay a little more to shop at a store where their policy was to ask people who acted in such disruptive ways to leave and do their shopping somewhere else. I think this sort of a store would attract a lot of customers...mainly because nobody thinks they are a bad customer. I doubt it would stay in business very long, just because the talking heads of mass media wouldn't approve of one person being denied what they think is their right to shop in any store...when will people realize that whatever they want isn't a God given, or even State given right? You have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If you are American, you have the rights to freedom of speech, assembly, to bear arms etc., but nowhere in there is a right to be a dick.

Just my thoughts
-VG

Monday, September 26, 2011

On Transmogrification

Blizzard has announced that they will be adding the option to "Transmogrify" your arms and equipment in World of Warcraft (source). Essentially, this will, with some restrictions, allow you to change the models of your equipment so that your helm of awesome ugliness +50 can look like the pretty noob hat +1. This is, I think, one of Blizzard's finest moves in the chess game that is the MMORPG market. Especially considering that there hasn't been an announcement by Bioware about being able to do this in SWTOR.

Transmogrification works like this: You take two items, one with the appearance you want and one with the stats you want. They have to be compatible in the following ways: Same item slot (shoulders, wrists, main hand, off hand, 2h, shield etc) and same armor type (cloth, leather, mail, plate) or weapon type (mace, sword, dagger etc). Now you can also use the appearance of a 1h item on either MH or OF slots, which is nice, but most "cool" things (like turning your epic mace into a fish, or using the "invisible" models on a couple items) are restricted. One very nice thing you can do is use the appearance of any ranged weapon on any other ranged weapon. Mad that your +1000 gun of uberness isn't as pretty as the NightElf Bow of Prettiness? Now you can swap models and keep the stats. There is also the restriction on item quality. Legendary, and common (white or grey) items cannot be transmogrified. This means no turning you mages robes into a wedding dress or tuxedo, nor have the Thunderfury model for your swords.

I'm very eager to see this, because my one big complaint about WoW is the ugliness of most armor, unless you have a set. Now you can take any of the nice looking armor sets (or even pieces that look decent together) and combine them. The net effect is not looking like you got dressed in the dark in a clown's closet. SWG did something similar to this with the "equip appearance" option. The downside to this whole thing? You have to have the item whose model you want to use. This means that anything with a "cool" model (regardless of stats) will be rising in price rapidly.

Will it be effective? It really depends on how cheap it is and how well it responds to lag. The problem with MMORPGs and unique items is that the data for items is stored in databases, usually on the player-side of the equation. That's great for items with the same stats no matter what one you look at (100 identical Shifts of Sameness need 1 item datapoint). However, if you have unique items, or semi-unique items, then you have to store them on the server-side, or at least some instructions on them on the server side. So everytime you come across someone with a transmogrified item, you have an additional server call per item.

That may not sound too bad, but I remember Star Wars Galaxies and their epic lag, especially when entering a decorated house and opening inventory. The client called the server about dozens if not hundreds of items, each with unique stats. Now SWG was not efficiently made, as it could have been designed to send the info on what models are needed and the locations of the items and then stealth loaded the underlying stats and unique item ID underneath once the visual aspects were loaded.

In terms of WoW; imagine going into Stormwind or Ironforge, especially to the auction house (and if you don't think every bank alt will have transmogrified gear just for lols, think again). You are surrounded by twenty characters or more, each having at least a handful of transmogrified items...that amounts to dozens of server calls for specific information. As long as it is handled properly, lag should be managed...but WoW has always had a lot of lag in it. The spot I'm worried about it is in Battlegrounds.

Speaking of battlegrounds; I sincerely hope that Blizzard doesn't allow the lvl 60 pvp armor to be transmogrified. Imagine everyone running around in the Grand Marshal armor set...it would get annoying very fast. I also imagine that Death Knights will keep their "reward" set from the starting area as it is very iconic in terms of DKs.

In all, this is a buff for RP, and a great idea. I just hope the implementation is good enough and there's no lag associated with it.
-VG

Saturday, September 24, 2011

On MMOs and Maintaining Interest

I've been thinking about things for a little while, and I've come to realize that over the last few years, I have progressively spent less and less time in each MMO as I've played. My initial foray into SWG lasted over a year, as did my first experience with WOW. After that, Aion lasted maybe a month, as did FFXI, COH, and many others I wasted a lot of money purchasing. Even when returning to MMOs I enjoyed and played for a long time (such as Eve) my playtime will be around 1-3 months. My brief return to Eve just now lasted two months; three technically but I haven't "played" in at least 30 days. I'm considering going back to WoW, but unless I give myself some objectives, I will not stick with that very long either. Maybe SWTOR will keep it longer, but given what I've read I do not think so (me negative about SWTOR? Never!)

The question I am left with is: Why? Is this an evolution of myself as a gamer (in having less time as I am older, married, and working?) or evolution of the games I've played (WoW, SWG, and Eve have all undergone major changes since i played them extensively). To be honest...I'm not fully sure. I find that some of the single player games i have that lack depth are becoming less and less interesting as time goes on. Could be that these games are older and I've played them a lot, or it could be that games are slowly loosing interest to me.

I think that it is a combination of things. First, games are simplifying, especially those mentioned. Second, I am becoming more demanding of quality in games as I get older, particularly with the amount of trash that is being developed and pushed out. Is this a trend, or just me? Well I will never know. I see a lot of people complaining about the over simplification of games like WoW, and especially SWG, and this leads me to believe that I am not alone and that there is a major reduction in quality for most MMOs that is causing a backlash against the genre. SWTOR might stem the tide of this downturn, but I am not confident one title (even a Bioware one) can do so.

Time will tell.
-VG

SWG Last Days and SWTOR's Opening

Looking at the release date and SWG's last day of server operation; I have noticed the correlation. SWG is closing on 12/15/11 and SWTOR will ship on 12/20/11...just enough time for people to miss an MMO, but not enough to drive them to another MMORPG. Given LucasArt's involvement in the SWG shut-down (despite the "official word" from SOE, I doubt that LA had anything in mind but a December shutdown when they were "renegotiating") it is just too convenient.

Oh well, that's your conspiracy theory for a while. Enjoy
-VG

Friday, September 23, 2011

On Paradox Interactive

I've become enthralled recently by a handful of games by Paradox Interactive; a gaming company that seems to specialize in hopelessly complex simulation style games. I haven't been "in" to simulation games since my early years of playing the various Sim ____ titles by Maxis; but I find these Paradox games to be very attractive. They satisfy that "what if" need in the back of my head.

For example; Hearts of Iron 3 is a WW2 simulation...so what if the US got involved in the war in 1940? What if Belgium joined the Axis? What if the USSR never agreed to the non-aggression pact and allied with Poland? This game lets you see all of those things; and is very fun. The problem comes in its complexity. You can (and should as the AI is mediocre) control every unit your nation owns...every plane, ship, and army unit...it is very difficult to do so efficiently. On top of this, you also manage trade, diplomacy, production, intelligence, politics, and research...not a small task.

Another good game is Europa Universalis 3; which is a similar idea, except it features the world from 1399-18-something. You can play as any faction in existence at the time, and it is remarkably fun. This is the sort of game that is utterly unpredictable at times; and that is the enjoyable part. It has its complexities as well; but in all is easier to play than HOI 3 (from my perspective) because you tend to have fewer armies involved in battles at once.

I have one big issue with Paradox, and that is that most of their games have massive glitches, bugs, or elements that are unbalanced and make enjoyable gameplay difficult soon after their release. It is best to wait to play their games until a handful of patches come out; or wait until their inevitable 2 or 3 expansions come out. HOI 3 has 3 expansions now, and EU 3 has about 5 or 6. Paradox tends to abandon updates for their previous versions of the game as well; so if you have HOI 3 vanilla, some of your issues will never be fixed, unless you buy the expansions. This is not very smart in my opinion; but I do not own a gaming company; so I have little room to talk.

In any rate; if you enjoy simulation and alternate history; Paradox games are worth a look. They run sales on steam every now and then (one just ended that was a good discount). Enjoy
-VG

Thursday, September 22, 2011

STWOR "On Rails" Space Combat

I don't think I've been more disappointed by an upcoming game feature as I am with SWTOR's space combat. It is what amounts to an "on rails" shooter; where your piloting ability (as a player) is limited to moving around a 2d screen while you are pulled through combat and can shoot.

I wouldn't be disappointed by this if it weren't for the robust (if graphically challenged) space component to Star Wars Galaxies. While a direct port wouldn't be legal or necessary, I would prefer to be able to dogfight in a 3d environment; customize my ship with components; and have a crafting profession dedicated to ships.

Now I am very biased towards space combat. TBH I wasted many hours playing SWG just for the space combat (one of the things that made me come back time and time again is that the space combat aspects weren't changed a whole lot). I also play battlefront II for the space combat sections, and Empire at War for the fleet combat. With SWG closing, there's a major gap in gaming for space combat, and it is a real shame SWTOR will not be filling this gap. X3 Terran Conflict is a close filler, but wont run on my system so I cannot comment on it.

What bothers me most about this space system for SWTOR is that it shows one more aspect of the game that is very obviously single-player. The game mechanics that have been shown are very strongly pointing towards a single-player mindset. You get companions; who buff your abilities in combat (allowing you to solo more things); you get a "crew" that can have crafting and gathering skills (so you don't even have to rely on other people for those things). The only multi-player parts that have been shown are the flashpoints; which require four or perhaps more players...these apparently can even have companions invited to them (not sure if that counts towards the number of players or not). For a game that was supposed to be a refuge for former SWG players; there is little here that I would want to play. I'd rather play a new iteration of KOTOR (perhaps the KOTOR that 2 was supposed to be if it had been fully developed).

SWG's strongest component ever was one that wasn't programmed. It was the community. It was the ability to log on and see fifty people crammed into a cantina...something that is majorly lost and does not look like it will be recovered. There is a huge audience that is waiting and will be dissatisfied with this newest offering...

I pray I am wrong
-VG

Buildings in Napoleon Total War

I've been playing a bit of Napoleon TW lately, and notice a little bit of a lack of information from the non-battle side of things. The army battles have the most impact in the actual campaign, but it is buildings and towns that allow you to build and reinforce (and upgrade) your armies. Therefore; knowing what buildings to use is very important. For this article, I will be using "town" to refer to the small; non-unit recruiting areas in a province that buildings can be built on and "city" to refer to the larger "capital" areas that are used to recruit units and capture the province.

Napoleon TW has introduced a change from Empire TW in that towns now come in three flavors. Instead of being able to build a manufactory, church, school, or entertainment building; you are given a choice of two buildings per town, and towns are classified as Intellectual, industry, or commercial (which determines which two buildings you have access to). This is in addition to the usual province improvements like ports, logging camps, mines, farms etc. Cities function similarly to those in Empire TW, but there are some changes. As towns have the largest changes, we will look at those first:

Intellectual Centers: These allow building of Colleges and Members Clubs. Colleges function much like the schools of Empire Total War; and research technology and spawn gentlement. Members Clubs are essentially the entertainment buildings of Napoleon; raising happiness and spawning spies. When choosing between these two buildings; you must balance the need for happiness with the need for technology. Also remember that technology buildings increase clamor for reform in the province they are in, which means a province with a low happiness would be better served by a Members Club.

Industrial Centers: These allow building of Manufacturies or Gunsmiths. Manufacturies act much like they do in Empire TW; adding a sum to the province's wealth, but also provide a reduction in cost to artillery recruitment in the territory they are built in (and given the power of Napoleonic Artillery, this is not a small bonus). The gunsmith reduces the cost of infantry by about the same amount as artillery cost is reduced by the Manufactury. It should be noted that while the manufactury seems like a no-brainer to build over the gunsmith; infantry is going to be recruited more often than artillery (as it is more likely to be destroyed and more common in armies). A gunsmith in a recruiting center can be worth many times more than a manufactury, even when the taxes are brought into play. Always remember that both of these buildings spread unhappiness among the lower classes.

Commercial Centers: These allow the building of Supply Posts and Markets. Supply posts are some of the most important buildings in the game; as they replenish your damaged units at a higher rate than the base province level. Markets, on the other hand, improve province wealth and wealth per turn. Depending on the speed of your advance, the usual strategy is to build supply posts in advance territories along your path of conquest, and replace them with markets as the front moves forward. Alternatively, you can ignore supply posts altogether, and rely on the natural replenishment rate (which in connected provinces that have sufficient building capacities is decent). Personally, I still build supply posts in the front lines, unless the battle is moving forward swiftly. I rarely build a lot of supply posts at once.

Now to discuss changes in the minor province buildings. These changes impact the mechanics of Napoleon Total War, and should be considered when deciding where to spend your gold:

Farms: Farms increase the replenishment rate of units in the province, as well as adding to the wealth of the province.

Stables: Reduce cost of cavalry units recruited in the province and increases province wealth.

Logging Camps: Reduces the cost of buildings in the province it is built in by 10/12/15% (very nice bonuses, and this is a building you should upgrade first). Also adds to province wealth, and reduces the cost of naval unit recruitment in the province.

Gold Mines: Adds to region wealth and also increases region wealth per turn.

Iron Mines: Adds to region wealth, but also reduces the cost of unit recruitment in the province it is built in.

Cities: Cities operate very similarly to Empire TW. They have a town center as well as several other building slots depending on their size. They can usually build walls as well. The extra slots can be used to build an infantry/cavalry recruitment building; an artillery recruitment building, and an entertainment building. I believe the admiralty returns as well, but as I rarely focus on the navy I am not 100% sure on that. These buildings function very similary to those in Empire TW; so look at their information scrolls for specific information.

That should give you a basic understanding of the bonuses involved in these buildings and should help you decide what is and is not worth building. Personally, I focus one or two provinces on recruitment (giving them the recruitment cost reduction buildings and building up their cities to build all kinds of units) and the rest on economics (building Manufacturies, markets, and the like). Your mileage may vary.
-VG

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Economics and Politics

This is another departure from our usual topic. If you have a problem with that, click that little back arrow at the top of your browser.

I'm uncertain if its because of my maturity at the time, or if the situation has really deteriorated, but I've been paying a lot closer attention to politics in the last ten years or so. The thing I have noticed time and time again is that it the United States is not run by the will of the people, but by the pocketbooks of the people. Politicians get elected solely by the merit of how much fundraising they have done to get their message out to as many people as possible. These funds once raised make a politician beholden to their backers. I don't think it should surprise anyone that Bush II repealed a lot of environmental regulations and was backed by heavy industry and resource exploitation companies.

I don't want people to assume that I am a Democrat because I've bashed Bush II; far from it. Obama isn't any better, but democratic causes and supporters tend ot have a less blatant impact on the environment (Goldman Sachs donated a lot to Obama for example...hmmmm). I have my own issues with Obama; mostly that he is a complete political tool when promising not to be. There is a distinct difference between "Campaign Obama" who we've seen emerge again recently, and "Concession Obama" who has been living in the White House for the last couple years. I'm getting off point here.

Since the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people; and there is no limit to their campaign contributions, I expect this trend to get worse. This combined with the fact that many politicians seem so against taxing corporations is leading us down a dangerous road. The main reason for not taxing corporations seems to be that they are job creators. This may be true, but CEOs are very poor job creators, even if corporations are good at it.

A friend of mine suggested something that I am finding makes more and more sense. Remove all regulations from corporations; all minimum wages; and drop the corporate tax rate to 0. Raise the income tax; especially among the wealthy; to a much higher rate than it is now (approaching 95%; they will be making more now anyway as they are most likely to be involved at upper levels of corporations). Then make the inheritance tax and gift taxes above a certain amount (think a million dollars maybe) 90-100%.

The net result of all of this is that most of the federal and state income will come from income tax and inheritance/gift taxes. Corporations, as the engines of job creation, will have unhindered resources to tax people. Any bonuses or incentives to upper management will be taxed to the point that it will be hard to justify (to get a bonus of 100k, you'd have to award yourself 2 million dollars). Even if this happens, that's just good news for the government. In reality, corporations will invest this in getting the best talent, improving the lives of their workers, becoming more efficient and improving their impact on the environment. The inheritance tax twofold. First, people should benefit from their parent's labor (up to a reasonable amount; hence the cap at 1 million dollars). Secondly, the fact that a parent is a good businessman, and makes a lot of money, has no bearing on whether their child would be a good businessman...so why should they control a large amount of money they didn't earn? A million dollars should be sufficient to get them started on a career of their own. This also prevents people from hoarding wealth, encouraging them to use it to fund projects of their choosing rather than leaving it to the government.

Kinda rambling now, so I'll stop. Needless to say, our current system leads to a great disparody of wealth; which is definately not fair (not that I'm complaining about that) but also leads to an unstable society. I'm sure the rich don't want the economy to get so bad that the poor riot en masse.

-VG

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Inherent Problem with MMORPGs

It seems that no matter the MMORPG, there are always complaints. They seem to be even more prevalent in MMORPGs than in most non-MMOs. The question that comes to mind is why? I can think of two good explanations.

The first, and most obvious, is that they have a longer life cycle than most non-MMORPGs. If a regular game is absolutely terrible, it may live on in infamy (like Duke Nukem Forever *shudder*) but most of the time, if you hate a game, or have problems with it, you trade it, or let it gather dust and move on. MMORPGs require more time investment, and that investment makes players more interested in their quality. If you think about it, a typical MMORPG costs about the same initially as a mainstream game, but the time investment is much greater. A mainstream game would be lauded as extensive if it contained nearly the amount of content hours that people plug into an MMO in the first month alone, and MMOs tend to develop over time, leading to even longer time investments (that and they are persistent worlds, so time investment means more). Because of this, players spend more time in the world, and notice more problems with it. In the Eve Online forum, someone referred to minor problems as one million papercuts...imagine what the major issues are...

The second explanation stems from the massively part of MMORPG. Mainstream games tend to play to a strength or two, attracting players from that sect and ignoring most others. Many games flop because they try to touch too many different genres, and MMORPGs cannot be an exception. Most MMORPGs try to appeal to as many people as possible. Because of this, they do not focus, but are thinly spread across the spectrum. An easy example of this is looking at PVP and PVE content. Some games, like Darkfall Online, have full PVP, while others, like WoW, focus primarily on PVE with PVP as a secondary layer underneath. IMHO, WoW doesn't do either PVE or PVP exceptionally well, which highlights the whole problem.

The difficulty is that these are systemic problems. An MMO focusing solely on one aspect of things to the exclusion of others will not have a large player base, and thus not be successful by most measures. Sad thing is, there's not a good way to fix this. This is why most people playing MMOs get tired of them after a period, and move on to the next one. If an MMO provided the best possible experience for them, they would not stop playing it. Many players are left having played all the available MMOs that appeal to them, tiring of them, and, given the lengthy development cycle of games, have nothing left to play. Hopefully someone smarter than me that works in game development will find a solution to this problem.
-VG

Star Wars Galaxies Closing

It took me a few days to mentally process the fullness of what it means for Star Wars Galaxies to close its servers at the end of this year. Of the major MMOs I have played or have payed attention to, it is the first to completely shut down (and I believe one of the first major titles to shut its servers and not go to a F2P model).

While SWG should pass on, as it has too many bad memories for vets and has major competition coming out soon, it is a landmark moment that it is shutting down. MMORPGs are supposed to represent people in an alternate mode. People had houses, guilds, equipment, tools...things they quested for or built themselves. They had an alternate personality in that universe. With the servers shutting down, these alternate personalities are going to be permanently gone.

While Star Wars Galaxies has dropped in population drastically, it sets a president that is dangerous for MMORPGs in the future. Imagine, for example, if World of Warcraft announced a shut-down six months from now, where everything would be deleted, and the game would cease to exist. For WoW, there would be riots (if half of the angry nerd/kid videos that exist are legitimate). Sony Online Entertainment made the decision that it was not profitable enough to renew their license and maintain the servers. What is to prevent Blizzard from making this same decision? The answer is nothing. Most MMOs that are experiencing their Twilight years are going Free to Play, maintaining a reduced number of servers by a cash shop. Personally, I do not see Blizzard doing this, but I have a bleak view of the gaming giant.

In any case, this shut-down has implications beyond SWG, but as long as your favorite MMO has a large active population, you have little to worry about. The one concern I have is space giant Eve Online, that has been steadily dropping in population because of poor management and their last few major updates (including an addition of a cash shop with appearance altering items that are largely not visible by people other than the player). It should hold on for a few years still, but many of the major players are leaving and it will soon be more difficult to find people to perform difficult high-level jobs. Things like trusted third parties and statistical analysis of market data are starting to fall by the wayside, opening up people to more scams and other undesirable parts of Eve. I will be watching these events as they unfold.
-VG

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 and Terrorism Rant

Fair warning; This is off topic for this blog, represents my personal feelings, and will offend at least some people. If you don't want to hear my opinion on matters pertaining to 9/11 and terrorism, click on another blog post or close the browser window.

You have been warned.

It is currently the tenth anniversary of 9/11/2001 and during the course of the last ten years we have been involved in two major wars for the purpose of reducing terrorism, as well as what could be deemed a police action in Libya (though that was not for the purpose of reducing terrorist risk). We have eliminated a number of leaders of the terrorist network Al-Qaeda, including Osama Bin Laden. The United States has not been subject to another successful terrorist attack of this scale on our home-front since, but European powers have been. Technically the goal of preventing terrorist attacks has been successful on our home front, as we have not been subject to another, and after nine years we succeeded in the assassination of Osama Bin Laden.

But was it worth it? In my opinion, no. Destroying a terrorist network is a fine goal; but invading two countries, and performing numerous secret operations in a third (Pakistan) without their government or people's consent does nothing to address the causality of terrorism. Terrorism occurs because people are attempting to fight our ideology, but lack the ability to fight us directly...mostly because we are a military powerhouse that uses that power on a whim. There is no such thing as a dirty trick in war, and terrorism is little different than a guerrilla war.

What can be done to prevent terrorism? A complete reform of the United States' policies and doctrines about intervention is needed. Is it necessary for us to have a navy larger than all other fleets combined? Do we even need aircraft carriers at all when we have bases around the world, and bombers that can hit any target from domestic bases? We have fallen into the trap of preparing for the last major war, or rather for a conventional war with the USSR (which no longer exists) or China. Conventional wars do not happen between nuclear powers; why are we wasting time, talent, and treasure on such a massive scale for a military that isn't going to be needed? It certainly did us no good on 9/11; the heroes of that day were ordinary civilians...firefighters, emergency responders, and the passengers on the aircraft. Our superior aircraft carrier taskgroups, fighter jets, and drones did nothing to help (and nobody in the military has enough guts to give the order or to follow through to shoot down a hijacked jetliner).

It is not the divine right or duty of the United States to involve itself in the squabbles of the rest of the world. Doing so will lead to our downfall. Complete isolation is not necessary, but we should not be getting involved in most of the squabbles. The United Nations exists for such disputes, and we do not need cowboy diplomacy. Does this mean we should never intervene? Of course not, we should intervene only as a contributor of troops (but not the majority of troops) to the United Nations and their missions.

How would this prevent terrorism? It is easy to recruit people to fight against a monstrosity that acts by itself on its own whims and can be seen trying to take over other countries for its own desires. It is harder to recruit people to fight against the actions of a governing body composed of member countries, often including those in the country you are recruiting from. Terrorists would then be more likely to act against their own governments than against the United States (in which case, it is their domestic issue and not ours).

What about domestic terrorists? Domestic terrorists are harder to handle, as represented by the DC snipers, the Fort Hood massacre, and many other examples of domestic terrorism. However, better economic conditions (from reduced spending on the military and a restructuring of our overall spending to eliminate the budget deficit and reduce the murderous amount of money we have borrowed) and better domestic policy would decrease the occurrences of this sort of terrorism. The level of violence in our political rhetoric is shameful...and would make our founding fathers regret making the United States a republic.

The net result of the war on terrorism is a reduction in our freedoms, and a reduction of our economic stability...two things that would make a terrorist organization happy. We cannot travel by air without going through the electronic equivalent of a strip search; and actually having to remove belts, shoes, change, keys. Don't even think about bringing a small amount of liquid on the plane with you, or you'll spend a year in Guantanamo (I'm exaggerating but only slightly). Is this worth being "safe" from terrorism? Have there been any reports to prove these drastic measures have saved us from another terrorist attack? of course not. The Underwear Bomber was able to smuggle bomb material onto a plane flying from Europe to the United States. The reductions in public freedom (I'm not going to even go into the Patriot Act) are only creating the thin veneer of safety, without giving any actual security to the American People.

How are we likely to be attacked now? In my opinion, attacks are more likely to come from a domestic source, even if funded by an international one. The current political ill ease we are suffering from creates the perfect conditions for domestic terrorism. I expect to see massive backlash based off of the next presidential election, especially if Obama wins re-election (not saying that Republicans are terrorists, but Obama seems to be a partisan-creating president by his mere presence). I expect to see government employees shot in these terrorist attacks, like the attack on Gabrielle Giffords. This seems to be the most likely target for our current domestic issues, with the military being a close second. Corporate targets are also likely, but Corporations are also less shocking targets than individuals, which reduces the likelihood.

In terms of international terrorism, planes have been show to be effective bombs. I'd imagine a civilian aircraft or corporate jet could be loaded with flammable materials or explosives and used as flying bombs, much the way they were on 9/11/2001 (though there was no evidence that there were bombs in those aircraft, but they were loaded with fuel). Another shocking day like that one would cripple confidence in the government, which would be a major blow against the United States. Random smaller acts of violence would also be effective, in making people afraid of even walking around the streets or using the major roads. Imagine a stretch of Highway being shut down, and everyone for two miles driving on it being killed by one terrorist attack...or bridges being damaged or destroyed...these things would be crippling to commerce...these are the things to defend against, but the defense must be done by reform as well as by police action.

We have created our own problems in terms of terrorism. We create those that wish to oppose us by our own actions. We are to blame for terrorism directed against us.

End Rant.
-VG