"Just two months before the Macks bought their fancy carriage house in Manhattan, Christy and her pal Susan launched their investment initiative called Waterfall TALF. Neither seems to have any experience whatsoever in finance, beyond Susan’s penchant for dabbling in thoroughbred racehorses. But with an upfront investment of $15 million, they quickly received $220 million in cash from the Fed, most of which they used to purchase student loans and commercial mortgages. The loans were set up so that Christy and Susan would keep 100 percent of any gains on the deals, while the Fed and the Treasury (read: the taxpayer) would eat 90 percent of the losses. Given out as part of a bailout program ostensibly designed to help ordinary people by kick-starting consumer lending, the deals were a classic heads-I-win, tails-you-lose investment."
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.”—