At a time most employees can barely remember their last substantial raise, median CEO pay jumped 27% in 2010 as the executives’ compensation started working its way back to prerecession levels, a USA TODAY analysis of data from GovernanceMetrics International found. Workers in private industry, meanwhile, saw their compensation grow just 2.1% in the 12 months ended December 2010, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It would be nice if reporters would recognize that the Tea Partiers are just the same tribal 27percenter social conservative Republicans that we’ve always had with us. They don’t give a shit about “fiscal issues,” and they never did. They might care about tax rates, but they still want their Medicare. They care that their perceived tribe is not in charge, and are animated by the fact that they imagine some other tribe is getting all of the goodies, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with “fiscal issues” as we generally understand them. They think their money is going to the “other” because the KenyanMuslimSocialist is in charge.
I haven’t talked much about Dragon Age II since I got it except to note that I am playing it a lot, and that’s because I really felt like I needed to finish the game before rendering verdicts on it. But now I have, so here goes.
This game was incredibly disappointing, not because it was bad, but because it felt like it had so much potential that was just never realized, mostly due to things that felt like either developer laziness or trying to cater to a less-sophisticated mass market instead of true RPG fans.
Let’s start with what I did like. I judged the combat system harshly in the demo, but it really worked out well. It’s fast, slick, and fun, bringing the thrills of hack-n-slash games like God of War to a crowd that’s not into memorizing long combo button sequences. I played through as a high-damage fighter; I’m not sure it would be as much fun as a defense-oriented fighter or a mage, although a rogue would probably be great fun. The leveling system was also much improved, giving you several very distinct sets of basic ability sets and more advanced flavor sets to chose from, few of which had to be developed in any particular order. I personally liked the crafting system, wherein you just found resources for various crafting merchants, who then permanently had them in supply, instead of spending character development points on crafting talents and filling up your inventory with ingredients yourself. The adoption of a Mass Effect style dialogue wheel worked well, and I really liked the addition of a mood indicator to show how your choice would be delivered; it mostly eliminated the “wait, that’s not what I meant to say!” problems that have plagued many RPGs in the past. Most of the conversation chains were deeper than Mass Effect 2’s as well, which I really appreciated. And of course, your party of companions was very well written, with mostly-interesting sidequests and great dialogue.
Now. Everything else.
Talk about laziness on the developer’s part. I could buy into the idea of staying in one city for most of the game and being involved in its events and politics, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to recycle all your locations. 75% of the game took place in the same dungeons; they didn’t even change the lighting or random object placement in order to break it up. There was a “Mine”, a couple “Caves”, a “Warehouse” or two, and a “Dwarven Ruin”; except for a couple special story dungeons, that was it. It was truly just pathetic. The same thing can be said of all of the random encounters; with little or no explanation, groups of thugs would randomly ambush you at night. This was especially frustrating, as they often had very interesting names, like “Follower of She”, but there was never any followup as to who they were or why they were after you. And it didn’t scale with level at all. At level 5, you would be attacked by thugs. At level 20, you were just attacked by more powerful thugs. It was incredibly generic. Given the setting, there really was ample opportunity to turn random encounters into something significant, but it was just never taken. Also, forget any kind of tactics; there’s no use trying to position your mages behind a chokepoint your fighter could control when enemies will randomly spawn behind them.
The city was full of people, 95% of whom you couldn’t even have a basic interaction with. Not even “click them to hear them say something” or “short random conversation”.
Inexplicably, you couldn’t equip armor on your companions. You could choose weapons and trinkets, but they stayed with default armor the entire time (you could purchase upgrades that had no effect on how they looked; romancing one of them would give them a new outfit). Seeing as how all the items you found or got as quest rewards were either for fighters, rogues, or mages, it basically made 2/3 of the loot you picked up worthless… and the item resale values in the game were truly pathetic. All this because the developers didn’t want to have to render how armor would look on all the companions.
The quests felt entirely MMO; there were even yellow arrows hovering over people and items telling you what you needed to interact with. Pretty much every quest involved opening your map to see where in the same place you’d visited a dozen times before your objective had been placed this time, running there, doing something, and then running back to “turn in”. Now, the quests did for the most part develop the story here and there, but what you began to realize as you progressed is that you were mostly being presented with the illusion of choice; you mostly got to choose different ways of saying the same thing. About the only choice you really got to make was whether you would support the mages or the templars, and even that led to a railroaded final battle where you fought all the same fights regardless. Unlike the Mass Effect games, it really didn’t feel like your choices mattered for anything more than how your companions would react. And react they did, which would lead to more interesting dialogue here and there. But really, that’s icing on a pretty sad cake.
The game also felt a lot less gritty. There was either less blood, or over-the-top gore. While the action-y feel did have its fun moments, it ultimately broke immersion and left you feeling like you were playing a video game, rather than fighting an epic battle.
Overall verdict: great mechanics and a lot of potential that wasn’t realized delivered an enjoyable game that’s frustrating because it could’ve been so much more. I feel like Bioware has really been slipping since their deal with EA, and the culture of quick and easy genericness over richness and depth is becoming more and more evident in their games. I just hope they don’t fuck up Mass Effect 3 like they did this.
The Obama campaign was only three years ago, but it had strong opinions on this sort of thing. “To lead the world, we must lead by example,” Candidate Obama said in October of 2007. “We must be willing to acknowledge our failings, not just trumpet our victories. And when I’m President, we’ll reject torture - without exception or equivocation.” But now we find there is both exception and equivocation — and the administration is purging those within its ranks who publicly say it should be otherwise. This is a moment in which both those who serve in the administration and those who support it need to ask whether the Obama administration is keeping sight of its values now that it holds power. The tradeoff between security and moral purity is always more difficult for a president than a candidate, but as we saw in the Bush administration, the pendulum can swing too far towards security, in a way that does little to make us safer and erodes who we are. Crowley’s firing is a sign that that may be happening to the Obama administration.
I am so disgusted with Obama, I don’t even know where to begin. I keep reading these stories that he’s trying to win back the younger voters he’s lost since 2008, and that he’s telling big democratic donors that his reelection isn’t going to be as easy as some people seem to think it will be.
Well, golly gee gosh, Mister President, I’m not as smart as you are, but if your entire campaign is about changing things after 8 disastrous years, and you explicitly outline how you’re going to correct the civil rights abuses of the Bush administration, maybe the folks who worked their asses off to get you elected are going to be a little unhappy and disillusioned when you do pretty much the opposite.
Here’s how you get younger voters and the Democratic base back, Mister President: start acting like being the person you told them they were voting for.
“I love writing but hate starting. The page is awfully white and it says, “You may have fooled some of the people some of the time but those days are over, giftless. I’m not your agent and I’m not your mommy, I’m a white piece of paper, you wanna dance with me?” and I really, really don’t.”—
With Big Oil raking in record profits, House Democrats offered a Motion to Recommit to the House Republican short-term spending bill this afternoon making a responsible cut to the budget: putting an end to taxpayer-funded subsidies to large oil companies. Repealing these subsidies would save taxpayers tens of billions over the next decade and even ex-Shell CEO John Hofmeister agrees saying “with high oil prices, such subsidies are not necessary.”
Rep. William Keating (D-MA) offered the motion on the House floor saying “let’s stop sending taxpayers’ money to the most profitable companies in the world.”
…Republicans voted unanimously against the motion, defeating it by a vote of 176-249.
It is fundamentally wrong that the GOP pigfuckers in Congress keep pulling shit like this for the ultra-wealthy .001% of Americans and the corporations that control our government.
Normal, hardworking people are suffering every day, and being asked told to “share the sacrifice” to help “put America back on track,” while the motherfuckers who have been robbing us blind for decades are rewarded like this and never held accountable for the havoc they wrought on the entire fucking planet.
Fuck Republicans, fuck Big Oil, and fuck the goddamn worthless Democrats, supposed “party of the working man” who had majorities for two fucking years and did nothing about this.
This just makes me sick. It is time for a revolution.
There’s a word in the very first line of the Constitution of the United States that describes the instrument through which freedom is held. It’s a term for people acting in concert to secure their liberty and hold those rights against any opponent. That word is union.
From its founding, the story of this nation has been the story of union. It is the story of two centuries spent in building up the ability of ordinary citizens to treat with wealthy, powerful, politically connected entities. That story contains instances of tragedy. Thousands died in the struggle, many thousands more suffered poverty or were outcast from communities. But the story of union also contains far-reaching triumphs. Every paid vacation, every weekend, every overtime dollar, every protection from arbitrary dismissal and unfair treatment, everything that makes your working life tolerable, came because people stood together in union at risk to their own livelihoods and often their own lives. Some of those laws exist only because workers stood in union when not only corporations but their own government attacked them not just with guns, but with bombers. They paid the price. You reap the benefits.
When we talk about “the greatest generation” that brought the nation through World War II and built America into a post-war powerhouse, we’re speaking of a population where nearly a third of workers were union members. It’s no coincidence that the peak period of growth and progress coincides with the peak period of union membership. When people act in union, there’s nothing they can’t accomplish. When people cannot join in union, when everyone must face the powerful alone, all rights are nothing more than words.
Whether in a union of states and nations or a union of workers and citizens, only by working in concert can rights be wrested from oppressors and held against despots. That’s why tyrants quake at the sound of union. That’s why the right to act in union is the ability that the downtrodden most desire and authorities first attack. Union is the measure of freedom.
The outlawing of independent unions is the clearest and most consistent marker of despotism around the world. When Gaddafi seized control of Libya in 1969, his first speech proclaimed the end of labor unions. No sooner had he secured control of Cuba than Fidel Castro banned the ability of unions to strike or to bargain over salary and benefits, saying such demands were detrimental to “the national economy.” In Colombia today, right-wing militias work together with corporations to keep down costs and demands for decent working conditions in the most effective way they know-they execute union leaders.
There’s a good reason why governments and corporations alike show trepidation when people are able to organize. Union is effective. For all the pretty speeches and all the ham-handed threats, the signal that the Iron Curtain was finally rising didn’t come in Berlin or Washington, D.C., it came in the shipyards of Gdańsk, when men dared to wave the flag of an independent union. Want to determine where governments are actually concerned about the rights of their people? You only have to look at how free people are to organize for a cause. Without that, no other rights matter. With it, all other rights will follow.
The First Amendment to the Constitution enshrines a number of freedoms including religion, speech and the press, but this amendment should not be read as a random list of disconnected items. Everything in it directly depends on the liberties held out in the closing words: the ability of the people to peacefully assemble and to petition for redress. When the Constitution extends the right of assembly, it’s not just giving us the right to gather together for no purpose. What’s protected is the right to join together in common cause, and to seek as a group to move institutions that would not respond to individuals acting alone.
The American dream-the dream that an average citizen can enjoy a decent life, raise a family, and hope for the future-was created in union, sustained by union, and is dependent on union. That dream stands on a knife edge. Already the forces that oppose union have torn away the hopes of many Americans. As union membership has fallen, decent pensions have disappeared. As union membership has fallen, health care costs have increased. As union membership has fallen, pay for workers has stagnated. As union membership has fallen corporate profits-and executive pay-have soared. The decline of union is the birthplace of inequity.
At this moment, the same forces that have ripped union away from most workers are acting against those few who still share the ability to speak with a collective voice. They want to wreck this last bastion, burn it down, stomp it, bury it, extinguish it forever, so that they can sleep safe knowing their power will not be challenged. They want to erase the work of two centuries, turn the American dream into a subject for nostalgia, and make the Bill of Rights into a sheet of paper.
That is what’s on the line in Wisconsin.
Nothing has changed since the time that first line of the Constitution was written. Union is not just a means to oppose tyranny, it is the only means.
I stole this from some guy I’m not even friends with on Facebook.
Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised. All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer’s medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too. He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry. In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.
Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for the laws to stop industries from polluting our air. He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.
Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe’s employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he’ll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn’t think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.
It’s noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FDIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression. Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime. Joe is home from work.
He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards. He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers’ Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans. The house didn’t have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification.
He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to.
Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn’t mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: “We don’t need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I’m a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have.”