Senator Inhofe is wrong: earmarks do increase spending.
Via Tyler Cowen.
So there’s a new missile defense program coming together. That’s good. But then Obama has go to and do it all wrong.
I finished Dead Rising 2 today. I still hold to my earlier review, but I would like to give prospective buyers a little bit more information.
First, the story does pick up quite a bit on Day Two. It’s still not terribly deep, particularly compared to games like InFamous or Red Dead Redemption, but hey, it’s better than a fork in the eye.
Second, the ending you get has absolutely nothing to do with how many survivors you save or psychopaths you kill. The only purpose for doing either is for the PP and to build up levels (I finished on 33), which are worthwhile, but other than that your bonuses aren’t always worth it. I fail to see how anybody could actually save everybody and kill every psycho in one game.
Third, the city is bigger than I thought, but this is actually problematic — it’s false size, since a lot of it is very similar. There is little to distinguish the mall type areas or the casino type areas apart from name and general layout. It’s not like GTA — apart from the main story, survivors, and psychos, there’s not much to do. Strip poker is kind of fun, but you don’t see much (and don’t get to play against any of the really good looking chicks).
Fourth, the first three quarters of the game are much better than the last quarter — your freedom is severely restricted (which is fine) and the super zombies are a HUGE pain in the ass.
It’s still a remarkably well designed game, but there’s less replay value than I thought. The loading screens still cause havoc with the experience and make it far less entertaining, particularly when you’re skipping through cutscenes you’ve already seen. I do want to let future gamers know of the power of painkillers — nigh indestructibility for sixty real time seconds. They aren’t to make — two of any kind of alcohol (beer + beer, for example) in a blender. The blenders are kind of out of the way, but worth the trip — I recommend carrying two at all times.
Here’s my ideal loadout (assuming eight slots):
Two food items (OJ, steak, lobster, the all powerful coffee creamer — but not coffee, all of which heal four bars)
Two knife gloves
Ranged weapon (shotgun, frequency disruptor [late game], or Bomb-bow [bow + dynamite)
Crowd control (light saber, defiler, spiked bat).
If you have more slots, carry the magazine that increases food (not sure where it’s at — I think the BBQ joint in the Yucatan Casino), a second crowd control weapon, and perhaps another ranged weapon or food item.
Enjoy! If you’re stuck or have questions, feel free to drop me a line in the comments.
Paco has an image of a Newsweek cover that has Obama as a left-wing Shiva. He rightfully makes fun of the “it’s too much even for The Smartest Man Who Ever Lived, so America has really become ungovernable,” but I believe that there is a marked portion of truth in the statement. Not that Obama is The Smartest Man Who Ever lived, or even that America is, as such, “ungovernable,” but the federal government is where GE was 40 years ago.
I’ve written before about how the federal government is like a late-industrial conglomerate. Companies would reduce risk by expanding into unrelated industries, so you could smooth out bad years in one field by hopefully having a good year in a different field. The problem here is that the executives lost the ability to put all of the pieces together. You had people who were pretty good in their own fields, but there weren’t any people who could put it all together. When the dog food, light bulb, cash register, air conditioning, and brake pedal division chiefs of SuperBigCo got together, they all argued that they needed more funding, and there wasn’t anybody at the top who could make correct, valid decisions on what to do. As a result, instead of having five separately-funded, independent companies that could all succeed, and far from having spread out your risk, you were actually tethering lots of companies together, so that if you make a mistake in one, you take the whole thing down. This is why companies which were highly horizontally integrated went out of vogue and into bankruptcy.
The federal government is in this boat. A modern President is not necessarily supposed to be an expert on everything under federal purview, but is supposed to be able to balance the needs of all of the different divisions under his control. The thing is, I seriously doubt Obama even knows the names of all of the departments, sub-departments, and sections under which he has authority, much less what they all do and how they are all supposed to operate. There is absolutely no way that any man could handle everything associated with being a modern President, and that is yet another reason why we see government failure. Unlike markets, there is no governmental competition and no knowledge aggregation mechanism which allows dispersed individuals to act in a way harmonious with the actions of others. Instead, the model of government is command and control, so it all depends upon the top knowing enough. But the top governmental officers don’t know nearly enough to control things effectively.
There is only one way to make America “governable” again, and it doesn’t involve culling ideologies or political parties. It involves scaling down the federal government. Let’s start by getting rid of 2/3 of governmental responsibilities, regulatory bodies, departments, and pieces of legislation. 2/3 is a number I pulled out of a hat, but it’s probably a good starting point. That way, the President and the remainder of his cabinet can focus more effectively on the remainder of the government, thereby being able to make better decisions. As it stands now, there is simply too much going on for any man.
So Joe Biden gets a bailout because his campaign was so poorly-run that he was still in the hole. Good thing this guy’s watching ARRA spending like a hawk. A hawk!
This is why the US Army equips all of its soldiers with nail clippers: we need to have an edge over terrorists who have manicure sets. And heaven help us if we ever fight the Swiss: they have nail clippers _and_ scissors in the same device!
TSA is full of uneducated idiots who failed at getting real jobs, so they watched a 2-hour presentation on how to grope little kids and were given badges which don’t even whirl when you blow on them. Your average agent’s domain expertise in real security is effectively zero, so they instead follow stupid rules taken to extremes.
I was reading this article from 411 Games on the original X-Box. The first thing that leapt into my memory was how hideously atrocious the original controller was. If you have three or more hands, it might be great, but for those of us with a mere two, it was the worst single controller in history. Second worst is probably the N64 controller, particularly the placement of the analog stick. I should be able to use the sticks without moving my hand.
Here, in my opinion, are the top five. I’m excluding motion controls because I’ve never really used them.
5. Atari 2600 Joystick
The paddles were cool too, but the joystick is one of the most simple controllers ever devised with a button. The problem was they were very fragile (VERY fragile) and I never quite understood why Atari used the rubberized material instead of the simple arcade metal rod + ball. Very elegant, and you played hundreds of games with just one button. How could we ever do that today?
4. Nintendo Light Gun
Probably tied with the paddle for simplest controller — it’s really just a button in a cool shape with a laser. Really easy to use, but the biggest problem was a lack of quality games — can anybody name five games that used it without looking them up? I’ve got three: Duck Hunt, Hogan’s Alley, and Operation: Wolf.
3. Sega Genesis Controller
Probably the sleekest controller I’ve ever used, this is really the first controller that felt right in my hands. While I didn’t ever own a Genesis, a neighbor did and I’ve also played some Genesis with other people. It’s a bit bulkier than I like, particularly if you had to use all three buttons, since you might have to move your hand. The buttons were huge, though, and that it made it easier to know which button you were hitting without memorizing them.
2. The SNES Controller
Another system I never owned, but one I played A LOT. Also, my first PC Gamepad was based on this design. The button cluster was a great idea and helped eliminate the problems with the Genesis controller. Very easy to use without moving your hands. The best in pre-analog stick controller technology, not too bulky, and very responsive.
1. Sony Playstation 2 Controller
There could have easily been a three way tie, since all three Sony controllers use the same basic design. The first PS controller had no analog sticks, and that’s a big evolution in gaming. Although I love the PS 3, I think Sixaxis is the stupidest idea in history — I have yet to play a single game where it’s a good idea. It’s not nearly sensitive enough, and it’s almost spoiled motion controls for me. The PS button (to turn on the playstation) and the completely wireless controller are nice touches too, but I have to give the wired PS 2 Controller the leg up. It’s ergonomically brilliant, everything is easy to reach, and it’s extremely durable (I know this because I only broke two PS 2 controllers and probably should have broken many more). The rumble feature, not present in the PS controller, is another innovation, since the rumble pack on the N64 was separate and did not include all games.
That’s my list! Any other thoughts or comments can go below.
Paul Ryan is pretty impressive. He and Alice Rivlin have announced a plan for Medicare and Medicaid reform.
Not even a week ago, I had a semi-wish list of what I would like to see done with regard to entitlement reform. This included turning Medicaid and Medicare into voucher-based block grants and getting rid of the Medicaid reimbursement system. This plan does both of these things for people under the age of 55. The fact that this is going to be discussed as a realistic plan is great—it’s not a perfect plan, but this and the Simpson-Bowles report are showing that (some) politicians are getting serious about entitlement reform and reducing the size of government.
Loyal readers know I’m a big fan of the Colbert Report (and to a lesser extent, the Daily Show). Yesterday, Jon Stewart had two authors on his show, discussing the Wall Street financial crisis and how it happened:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Exclusive – Bethany McLean & Joe Nocera Extended Interview|
[Click where it says "Exclusive" to bring up the video.]
The most interesting thing I took away from the interview was how Stewart kept lashing out at the lack of regulation of the financial system, particularly credit default swaps, and blamed the legality of these mechanisms for the crash.
Now, despite having little economics training apart from rooming with Kevin for two years and a handful of undergraduate and graduate courses, I’m not satisfied with that explanation. There will always be loopholes in laws, as long as they remain relatively complex and humans remain humans. While exploiting loopholes in the law may be ethically wrong, nothing will actually stop people from doing it unless they’re punished. I’m not ripping on Stewart for being mad about how Wall Street manipulated the laws; I’m mad too. However, I’m even angrier that there were virtually no consequences.
Fixing laws by making more laws just creates the potential for more loopholes. The more specific a law is, the easier it is to enforce, but it also creates the potential for more exploitation. In other words, more regulation won’t prevent another financial meltdown; it might even make the next one easier.
Here’s the best solution, although we can’t do it now: punish the crap out of the offenders. Peter Feaver’s book, Armed Servants, creates a model of civil-military relations that tries to answer the question: What variables primarily affect whether or not civilians and the military get along? He comes up with three: intrusive or passive monitoring, the cost of said monitoring, and the likelihood of punishment. I won’t get into the details — the book is excellent and worth a read — but you may see where I’m going here.
Let’s apply this general model to the financial system. More regulation implies more intrusive monitoring. Intrusive monitoring, in almost all cases, is more expensive than passive monitoring, i.e. letting Wall Street police itself, trusting in their professional ethics to do the right thing. Now, passive monitoring is considered ideal for civil-military relations because, particularly in the United States, there is a considerable amount of time spent training officers in professional ethics and making them cognizant of their responsibilities. It’s cheaper by far in the long run, and it works for our military, because even when there are ethics violations, the military takes care of it in-house.
I don’t know whether or not financial professionals receive comprehensive ethics training. Harvard Business School does require an ethics course for an MBA, which is an important step. It’s not sufficient, but it’s a good start. The only way to truly let business communities regulate themselves would be to have mandatory ethics courses for even seasoned businessmen, particularly since ethics regulations do change all the time. Creating an appropriate culture will probably take a very long time, so we’ll probably have to go with intrusive monitoring for the short term.
However, given the costs of careful watching over business transactions to ensure they are ethical, if there is little or no punishment, you’re burning money, and you’re better off letting the business community police itself; it’s much cheaper, and the end result (nothing) is exactly the same. The solution to our problem, then, if it’s still legal, is to punish the living shit out of those responsible.
We’ve lost one method already; letting the banks or businesses fail. This would have been the ultimate signal that unethical business practices are unacceptable — you lose your business. The next best option is to investigate those responsible, freezing their assets while doing so. We can do this for RICO cases; why not in obvious fraud cases? Cripple the businesses. Arrest and incarcerate those responsible. We probably can’t execute them, so let’s put them in jail.
Is this solution realistic? Probably not. I think too much time has passed, and we’ve already essentially rewarded their behavior by bailing them out. Now, we can still (probably; I’m not a lawyer) prosecute them for fraud, and we definitely should try that. Boycotting those responsible is a reasonable step as well. But the best long term solution is to build the business community in such a way as to make contemporary business culture willing to police itself. Make ethics laws simpler and clearer, not more confusing. Increase the punishments for fraud, including mandatory jail time in a maximum-security prison. No more minimum-security country clubs. These people essentially brought down our financial system; they’ve done more damage to more people than any other single person currently in prison. Slaps on the wrists won’t work. Fines won’t work. Hell, I’d love to decapitate them and put their heads on pikes; since we can’t do that, just put them in prison. Maybe we should just divest them of their assets and let them free; maybe trying to find a job in this climate will remind them of what they’ve done.
Dear WWE (possibly Vince McMahon or Triple H):
I have been a devoted fan for many years, since the days my sister and I argued about Hulk Hogan (big Rowdy Roddy Piper fan). I left your product, mostly because of my first PC and my NES, until the Attitude Era, where I illogically rooted for Kane, despite the fact that he never won the championship when I was a fan and everyone else liked the Rock and Stone Cold. It made things interesting. Also liked the Undertaker.
Anywho, since about my senior year of undergraduate or so, I’ve religiously watched every show you put on the air. RAW, Smackdown, ECW, and NXT. You’re doing better than TNA, but that’s not that impressive, since you have a massive head start and more money than every person in TNA combined, probably.
You still need a lot of help. I’m not saying go back to the Attitude Era — you don’t have the characters or the audience for it. You’re obviously choosing to pander to younger children in the hopes of selling ridiculous volumes of merchandise, and it seems to work for you, so kudos. But you need to make some changes.
1. Smackdown is probably in the best shape right now. Your main event team, Edge, Kane, the Undertaker [when healthy], Big Show, Rey Mysterio, Alberto del Rio, and Jack Swagger are all great wrestlers and/or great characters. You’ve got a solid undercard (what I will call the Intercontinental Title division), and the better commentary team. I can’t really offer much criticism, apart from more Jack Swagger and the Soaring Eagle. However, your biggest crime right now is killing Kaval. Kaval, formerly known as Senshi or Low Ki, was the winner of NXT Season 2. He has not won a match since winning. Now, losing streak gimmicks sometimes work, but usually they don’t (ask MVP). I get that you want people to be excited when he wins, but right now, unless they watched NXT, he looks like an amazingly talented jobber-to-the-stars to the fans. If this is all you wanted, great, but he has the potential to be an outstanding mid-carder, if not higher. I think you’re killing him.
2. NXT Season 1 and 2 were great. Season 3 is a trainwreck. I’m not saying that because the wrestlers are Divas, because lord knows you more of them to have even a semblance of a women’s division. I’m saying that because none of them can wrestle except Naomi and possibly AJ. The characters are fine, don’t get me wrong, and most of them are hot, but every match they have makes me want to puke. Seriously. One of the most popular characters, Kaitlyn, is greener than grass, spray painted green. Also, the grass has been genetically engineered to maximum the greenosity. AJ works as a high-flyer, something the women’s division really doesn’t have right now, and Naomi is an amazing athlete, but look at the crop from seasons 1 and 2 of NXT. Yeah.
3. RAW has been more uneven. The Nexus is almost a blueprint for a great stable (except for David Otunga): an outstanding leader (Wade Barrett) leading the losers from NXT season 1 and 2 (most of them, anyway). As of now, they only hold one belt, the Tag Team Championships, but with the potential for more, another important part of a great stable. They’re getting over collectively when none of them (except for Barrett, Justin Gabriel, Mike McGillicudy, and Husky Harris) would have gotten over by themselves, and even then only Barrett really strikes me as main-event material, at least for now.
The problem with Nexus is that it’s too leader-oriented. It’s clear that the group is designed to protect and get Barrett over, which is fine, but a) I don’t think he needs the help and b) nobody else is sticking out, apart from Otunga. Otunga, who is trying to create a leadership struggle, is quite possibly the worst wrestler currently on the roster. Now, he has potential, has a solid look, and can cut a middling promo, plus he comes with an automatic gimmick (the whole A-list thing — he’s actually married to Jennifer Hudson). But he can’t execute anything but punches cleanly, his finisher makes my eyes bleed (a really sloppy spinebuster — I think), and he’s lost some of his charisma since being part of NXT. I think he’s toned down his character, which is bad, since it’s the only reason I liked him in the first place. Heath Slater is a complete black hole with virtually no potential.
4. Staying with RAW, still too much continuity in the main event. Too much Cena and Randy Orton, specifically. I like both wrestlers (Orton more), but while WWE has built new heels quite well (like Barrett and Sheamus), faces have been much worse. Out of NXT Season 1 and 2, we currently have three faces: Daniel Bryan, Kaval, and Darren Young. Bryan is awesome, a stud, and will probably be in the main event sooner rather than later. Kaval is equally awesome, but is currently at the back of the line. Darren Young does the occasional match but wasn’t much to write home about even when he was part of Nexus. It looks like they’re pushing John Morrison, which works, but the rest of the faces on RAW are just really lackluster. R-Truth is flashy, but I think he’ll turn heel before too long. Evan Bourne is injured. Mark Henry is a mid-carder again. That’s pretty much it. There are more main event heels (the Miz, Barrett, Sheamus, CM Punk [when healthy]) than faces, and none of the heels are likely to turn. Maybe DH Smith goes main event face (possible), Bryan gets promoted (likely), or there’s another trade (doubtful).
5. The biggest problem? The tag team division. As of now, WWE has exactly three tag teams: Gabriel and Heath Slater (the champs), Vladimir Kozlov and Santino Marella, and the Usos. Kozlov has little personality and is amazingly sloppy in the ring, given his background in martial arts. His finisher is almost as bad as Otunga’s, since it’s the same damn finisher, but executed less poorly. He is a great striker, something that Otunga hasn’t totally mastered, and at least tries to be innovative. Santino is absolutely hilarious, and is getting better as a wrestler, and more importantly, seems to mesh well with Kozlov. The Usos are reasonable wrestlers, but have little personality (like the Hart Dynasty, but with less in-ring skill and personality). This is the extent of the entire division.
Tag teams serve two purposes. First, they help ease mid-card clutter, which RAW particularly has in spades. It can give two wrestlers, not good enough on their own or still green, a chance to develop and shine. Second, they provide instant storylines when they break up. It’s rare that both do well (Edge and Christian, Miz and Morrison are recent exceptions), but in the short term, it makes for great matches. Tag teams can occasionally be the focal point of a show, but generally aren’t. They can move merchandise (ask the Hardyz), but these are secondary to the larger points. A weak tag team division essentially kills these opportunities.
How to fix RAW (and Smackdown to a much lesser extent)?
1. Eliminate some of the mid-card clutter. Form another three tag teams or so (say R-Truth and Ezekiel Jackson, keep the Hart Dynasty together [going back in time to prevent the breakup, of course], Evan Bourne and Mark Henry). Either fire Otunga or bury him in a tag team himself, maybe a three man group of Truth, Jackson, and Otunga, a new Nation of Domination.
2. Let’s let the best women wrestlers do the wrestling and keep the rest around as valets. I’m referring to Gail Kim, Melina, Beth Phoenix, Natalya, Tamina, and Michelle McCool. Kelly Kelly and Layla are passable, and Layla is getting better, but the rest should be limited to tag matches with a better wrestler or just valets. Alicia Fox and Eve botch a lot of moves and the Bellas should just stick to being twins. Maryse is hot, but her finisher is her best move and it’s sub par. Naomi and AJ would also be good additions to the division.
3. RAW needs one more face main eventer. It’ll probably be HHH, which would be pointless, since he’s done it too much already. It should either be Daniel Bryan or CM Punk (maybe both). Punk’s heel gimmick is growing stale, since he’s been injured a lot and the Straight Edge Society fell apart. If you keep Punk heel, let him wrestle in the main event, like he should be. Morrison is a worthwhile candidate in the short term, but he doesn’t get enough mic time and his finisher looks really flashy — and ineffective, when it even works.
4. Smackdown is great, but it’s even more cluttered than RAW. The problem is that a lot of the clutter is really good and it’s hard to justify getting rid of them. Why not take some of the undercard from RAW and Smackdown, a couple of the marginal main eventers, and make Superstars into a permanent, stable roster? I’m essentially saying, yes, bring back ECW but don’t call it that. Move one of the secondary titles to that show or create a new one (TV Title, anyone?). The alternative is firing great wrestlers who have a really cluttered main event on Smackdown.
6. This brings me to the unpleasant subject of Michael Cole and/or the anonymous GM. Cole’s heel commentator character is actually amazingly entertaining. The problem is it doesn’t work with Jerry Lawler. Hearing Jerry and JR commentate for Swagger vs. Bryan was an awesome experience, and Lawler seemed more animated than he has in months. I think Cole + Lawler just doesn’t work any more. Heel commentators need somebody to stand up to them from time to time, like Gorilla Monsoon did with Jesse “The Body” Ventura or Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. That’s not the case with Lawler. He might make a snide jab or two, but that’s it. Grisham and Striker work on Smackdown because they’re both reasonable people — Striker slightly heelish and Grisham slightly facish. But Cole is over-the-top and Lawler just wants to make wise cracks, which doesn’t work in a two man booth. JR is actually a great choice to pair with Cole, with JR doing the play-by-play and Cole as the commentator. But they either need to get rid of Cole or Jerry on RAW.
Regarding the anonymous GM, let’s reveal him already. The problem with not having a human GM is that there’s no interaction (Edge’s awesome encounter with the computer notwithstanding). It was a great gimmick, but it’s gone on too long.
That’s what I would do, anyway. With two two hour shows, you should ideally have six main eventers, ten secondary title contenders, six tag teams, and a handful of women on each show. Here’s my blueprint (post-Nexus breakup):
Main event (F=face, H=heel, C=champion)
Orton (F), Cena (F), Punk (F), Barrett (H-C), Sheamus (H), The Miz (H)
Bryan (F-C), Morrison (F), Golddust (F), Evan Bourne (F), Justin Gabriel (F), Mark Henry (H), Alex Riley (H), R-Truth (Tweener), David Otunga (H), Ezekiel Jackson (H)
Usos (H), Santino and Kozlov (F), Nation 2.0 [Truth, Jackson, Otunga, and Henry) (H), Hart Dynasty (F), Evan Bourne and Justin Gabriel (F), McGillicudy and Harris (H)
Natalya (F-C), Gail Kim (F), Melina (H), Tamina (H)
Kane (H-C), Big Show (F), Edge (F), Undertaker (F), Jack Swagger (H), Alberto Del Rio (H)
MVP (F-C), Dolph Ziggler (H), Dashing Cody Rhodes (H), Drew McIntyre (H), Kaval (F), Rey Mysterio (F), Tyler Reks (H), Christian (F), Kofi Kingston (F), Vance Archer (H)
Edge and Christian (F – C), Kofi & Mysterio (F), Reks & Archer (H), Rhodes, Ziggler, & Masters (Heavenly Bodies 2.0) (H), Dudebusters (F), Finlay & McIntyre (H)
Michelle McCool (H), Layla (H), Kelly Kelly (F), Beth Phoenix (F)
A few notes:
I’m defining tag team a little more loosely in some instances, like Kofi & Mysterio, in which these would just be the most likely pairings. I don’t necessarily see all twelve teams competing regularly, but they would be booked as consistent threats. I have two multi-person teams, but only one actual stable, the Nation of Domination 2.0. I think Truth is going to be a heel, eventually, but a tweener short term. He keeps inserting himself into the title picture, trying to stir the pot.
For the women, only the champ goes to more than one show; the others stay put.
I have some title changes here, but only one of them is wishful thinking, since Christian is still hurt and I don’t know if they’d reunite or not. I genuinely see Natalya, Barrett, and MVP all capturing titles in the near future.
Superstars is still interbrand, but I think I would make the tag teams a big part of it.