Had to steal this game review checklist

Posted for my own future use. Stolen from a Skyrim review. (copy/paste checked and unchecked boxes PRN)


===[ ❤ Audience: ]===
☑ Kids
☑ Everyone
☑ Casual players
☑ Pro players
☑ Aliens
☑ Apache Helicopters
☑ Pervs

===[ ☼ Graphics: ]===
☐ Potato
☐ Really bad
☐ Bad
☐ OK
☐ Good
☑ Beautiful
☑ Masterpiece –> 4k mods

===[ $ Price/quality: ]===
☐ Full price
☑ Wait for sale
☐ Average
☑ Refund,
☐ Don’t buy it, it is free for pete`s sake

===[ ☣ Requirments: ]===
☐ 90′ PC
☐ Minimum
☐ Medium
☑ Fast
☑ High end
☑ NASA computer, 4k everything, even the insects on the dirt

===[ ☼ Difficulty: ]===
☐ You just need 2 arms
☐ Ez
☑ Easy to learn / Hard to master
☑ Hard (first few hours)
☐ Dark Souls

===[ ۞ Game time/length ]===
☐ Really short ( 0 – 2 hours)
☐ Short ( 2 – 8 hours)
☐ Few hours ( 8 – 12 hours)
☐ Long ( 12+ hours)
☑ Endless, so many things to do that even after a 1000 hours you are not even close to 100%

===[ ♬ Story] ===
☐ It doesn’t have
☑ Still better than Twilight
☐ Average
☑ Good
☐ Fantastic

===[ § Bugs ]===
☑ Game itself is one big BUG
☐ Bugs destroying the game
☑ Lot of bugs
☐ Few Bugs
☐ You can use them for speedrun
☐ Nothing

===[ ✦ Others: ]===
Multiplayer: No
Singleplayer: Yes

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How the weak go from #NeverTrump to the #TrumpTrain

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A great number of formerly principled conservatives jumped on the Trump Train after he secured the nomination. The reasons are usually quite venal: an urge to be on the winning side; because they hate liberals more; because FoxNews or their website’s financial backers demanded it; or simply because they were never “principled” to begin with.

You see, with someone like Sean Hannity, at least he never fudged his principles or who he is. He could quite correctly argue he has not changed himself one iota to fit into the new Trumpian landscape; rather, the mountain has come to Mohammed. Same with other conservatives who were born deplorable, like Dinesh D’Souza and John Cardillo. Kurt Schlichter’s 2018 Twitter timeline is not measurably different from his 2011 timeline. These guys may be evil, but at least it’s a principled evil.

against trumpBut senior editors of NeverTrump-until-it-became-unfashionable sites like the Federalist and National Review? This is how Cheeto Jesus permanently transformed conservatism: Not through Hannity or Schlichter, but by converting weak-willed mainstreamers like Mollie Hemingway, Ben Domenech and, as we see today, Rich Lowry.

Lowry, whose magazine was once responsible for the famous (or infamous) “Against Trump” issue, has, like many of the issue’s contributors, been leaning #MAGA for months. But it took until today, the end of March, 2018, to formally and utterly surrender. And, in the process, call his remaining NeverTrump colleagues at NR literally delusional.

cover_overlay_20180205-1“…the coterie of [Trump] critics on the right — loosely referred to as Never Trump — often sound like they are in denial… Yet we shouldn’t buy into the fantasy either that Trump is going to disappear into thin air, or that Trumpism can be blithely dismissed so the party can return to what some Never Trumpers believe constituted the status quo ante… The hold that Trump has on the GOP has a lot to do with his mesmerizing circus act, but it’s more than that. He’s been loyal to his coalition on judges, social-conservative causes and gun rights.”

That’s the brunt of his arguments. 1) Dear Leader won, so get over it, and 2) But Gorsuch.

Lowry also dresses up his piece with a sudden and convenient embrace of populism, arguing that even Reagan thumped some rabble-rousing lines to win elections. But more than that: Lowry argues that Flatulent Fannybanger is closer to the conservative heart than his own magazine. Or as he put it: “But make no mistake: On immigration and China trade, Trump is closer to the national Republican consensus than his conservative detractors.”

I wonder what the proudly elitist William F. Buckley Jr. would have thought of this statement from one of his successors.

Now what Lowry clearly does not want to engage with is the fact that the horror and disgust liberals like Chris Hayes, centrists like Jake Tapper or little old me, or conservatives like the oh-so-delusional David French possess has little to do with the psychopathic manchild’s politics. I mean, sure, there’s the usual liberal partisan idiots who treat President Mugabe-For-Idiots exactly the same as they do Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and George W. Bush, who have exhausted their supply of hyperbole so long ago that they have absolutely nothing new with which to come at Corn Chowder Face; but that’s not who we’re talking about. And Lowry conveniently ignores Captain ADHD blowing up the deficit with a reckless, spendthrift omnibus that he opposed literally hours before he supported it. There’s also the mindlessly cruel actions against Muslim immigrants and transgender troops, which all appear tied up in the courts for the time being. But politics really has little to do with it.

For one thing, he doesn’t even have much in the way of politics. The only things that are constant are his loving tariffs (which were opposed by NR up until it was no longer popular to do so) and his opposition to the estate tax, which is purely of personal interest to him. From guns to the tax bill, he would suddenly go squish until advisers reoriented him. He’s kind of a cuck even on his signature issue, immigration, waffling and wavering depending on whom he was last talking to five minutes ago.

The vast majority of his successes, from the conservative point of view, happened not because of Bronze Baboon but in spite of him. The tax bill was put together entirely by congressional Republicans; Gorsuch was from a list of judges submitted to him. One of those auto-signing pens could have been sworn in as POTUS and have been just as effective. The main policy “win” we can attribute to POTUS personally is the tariff and trade-war thing; I suspect this won’t be a “win” most Republicans, who were pro-free-trade until ordered not to be, will be bragging about by 2020.

But either way, and I don’t know how many times this has to be said: it has little to do with the Dissembler in Chief’s politics and everything to do with his moral character. Doesn’t anyone care about that anymore?

The serial adultery that he remains proud of. The sexual assault that he also remains proud of. The irrationality, the impulsivity right next to the nuclear football. His utter contempt for the rule of law and the system. His rage against federal law enforcement for the temerity of thinking that presidents and their top lieutenants are not above the law. The imperialist tendencies, the deep respect for dictators like Putin and Erdogan, and contempt of state or local law that make Obama and Bush 43 look deferential by comparison. His incompetent blundering in Syria that predictably led to the doom of our allies, the Kurds. His blatant corruption and his diplomacy purely in the service of his own, or Jared Kushner’s, properties. His acolyte Devin Nunes converting the House Intelligence Committee into a body dedicated not against foreign enemies, but against people of the opposing party. The lies, one after another, sometimes contradicting another lie, never having any reason to believe lying is wrong. And, yes, the tweets. Tweets that turn both him and the country into the laughingstock of the world.

Also, there’s the epic turnover within the chaotic White House, which Lowry briefly touched on; Lowry’s only problem with this is how unseemly it is to fire someone over Twitter.

Which has been the complete sum of Brave Brave Sir Lowry’s criticism of the Buddha of Bullshit since the inauguration: “Oh, he just could be a bit more polite on Twitter, that’s all.” As if this timid, submissive stance would cause Mike Cernovich to stop calling Lowry a cuckservative.

Now, I understand the intense pushback from the always-apoplectic base against anyone who would dare question their God-Emperor. They’re constantly calling for Shep Smith’s ouster from FoxNews for his remainingly stubbornly honest about President Combover’s administration, as FoxNews viewers are more intolerant of dissent than your average Oberlin gender studies major; their abuse and literal death threats have led even a right-winger named Joe Walsh to sleep next to his shotgun — purely because he took the FBI’s side against Caligula’s inquisition. Siding with the FBI used to be a no-brainer position for the party of law and order, up until High Ayatollah Fatass issued his fatwa declaring them haram.

In that setting, it takes both courage and a strong moral compass to remain defiant against Lord von Clownstick and his fanatical swams of deplorables. Conservatives such as Rick Wilson, Tom Nichols, and Amanda Carpenter have the strength of character to be up to the task despite the intense blowback. Lowry, however, represents the more typical turn of the typical commoner when faced with adversity, with narrow and petty little interests and goals unrelated to the grand stage of American history, a stage that Lowry’s magazine was founded entirely to help preserve.

Because to fervently support Trump almost by definition means you couldn’t care less about the Constitution. A lot of #MAGA types swear they’re defending the Constitution, but their speech and their actions prove that they do not want a federal democracy; they want a strongman who has absolute power. It has been observed prior to 2015 that Trump is a poor man’s idea of a rich man. In that vein: Trump is also a weak man’s idea of a strong leader.

And Lowry is just a product of human nature. Heroes in human history almost by definition have been a tiny minority; most people prefer to be passively blown around by the winds of history, than stand against them and risk breaking apart. Easier is the life of the leaf than the tree. Think of any evil regime, past or present; they are able to take hold because the people’s natural instinct is to either salute or else lay low when the Legions of Doom come marching through the village, instead of to proudly defy them.

Moral character is pretty much set upon adulthood. Lowry is who he is. I wouldn’t have cared if he were just some random like me. But the former editorial head of the conservative establishment’s flagship publication? Come to think of it, why was he elevated to such lofty heights to begin with? (Current editor Charles Cooke still occasionally snarks at the Sundowner-in-Chief, without offering up serious criticism. I suspect he too will yield when the 2020 cycle begins.)

I honestly feel this is a critical juncture in American history, one in which the very continuation of the Republic is threatened. These existential crises have hit almost like clockwork every eighty years. We survived the challenges of 1776, 1861, and 1941, and came out stronger each time. The beast again reared its head in 2016, and like the second crisis, it is one almost entirely of our own making. It takes Americans of great courage, fortitude and wisdom to shepherd the rest of the people through these seasons; with the few such great people on hand today actively getting shouted down by the mobs of either the left or the right, followers like Rich Lowry instead acquiesce to the people utterly committed to this nation’s destruction, or transformation into something lawless and unrecognizable, most likely via Article V convention. (There are no shortage of liberal Lowrys also ready to follow charlatans like Farrakhan to the country’s dismemberment, if called upon.)

And to be sure, there were Americans, both leaders and followers, working against our interests in the previous crises as well. But what we have now are deep paucity of leaders working for our interests. The theme of the Last Jedi was letting the old institutions of good die, even the Jedi order, hoping for new ones to eventually emerge from the darkness and barbarity later. It’s a theme perfectly suited for our times, and is one increasingly ascribed to by both right and left.

I just wish that the country forged by Washington, preserved by Lincoln and defended by FDR and Eisenhower would at least go down fighting.

Case Records of the Urgent Care 13: The Two-Minute Heart Attack

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sick man suffering from heart attackA 50-year old Hispanic patient came in last week complaining of daily chest pain for 2 weeks. The pain was described as being on the left, radiating to his left arm and back; however, it only lasted roughly two minutes per episode. It usually hit in the morning. The patient reported no known triggers for this pain; it was not hitting during exercise, going up stairs, lifting heavy objects. In fact, he said he would get up and walk around until the pain subsided. He had no known cardiac history of hypertension, coronary artery disease, or anything else.

There was no trauma. It was not associated with palpitations, shortness of breath, anxiety. The patient took no medications. He was a smoker, but denied drug or alcohol use. In the clinic when I saw him, the patient reported no pain or any other symptoms at that moment. His vital signs were all normal. He was not overweight. Exam, including cardiac and pulses, were normal. An EKG showed a normal sinus rhythm with no abnormalities.

I never saw this patient again, so you tell me…

WHAT WAS THE MOST LIKELY DIAGNOSIS? 

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The turn of Kevin Williamson

Twitter has been raging lately about — well, ok, to be more specific: some of Twitter’s raging these days has been about National Review writer Kevin Williamson, recently elevated to the lofty pages of The Atlantic. Liberals predictably came out in force against this hiring of a right-wing firebrand to a left-of-center publication, as they do with their periodic paroxysms re: NY Times conservatives like Bret Stephens. And conservatives, of course, rose to his defense, both within NR and without.

This really touched a nerve for me because Williamson was for many years my go-to writer on the right. Rare was the day when I didn’t check NRO at least once to see if a Williamson article had shown up. His technical skill with turning a sentence is unmatched by virtually any political writer of either side, as even his detractors are forced to agree. And back when I considered myself a liberal, he usually presented arguments in such a way that forced me to consider both the conservative position and my own. Is capitalism really what my Trotskyite undergrad U.S. history prof said it was? Is the plight of your average poor person really entirely the fault of The System or The Man? I’ve written about Williamson or his pieces probably more than any other conservative writer in these oh-so-glamorous pages, precisely because his work is so interesting.

Sure, he engaged in trolling. His infamous column bashing Laverne Cox seemed to me more inflammatory and mean-spirited than it needed to be to get the point across. On the other hand, he (or his editors) could claim it was precisely as inflammatory as it needed to be to generate clicks. Hey, these are the rules of punditry in the age of social media, they could argue — publish, and more importantly, SEO, or perish. Williamson is hardly the first to intentionally rattle a few cages in order to garner a trending topic or two. Also, his ill-advised tweet that he wanted to see women who had abortions hanged had more than a little air of the hyperbole to it — but on the other hand, nobody would have talked about him if he hadn’t said that, right? An Oscar Wilde quote does spring to mind.

And Williamson seemed invulnerable to some of the more nefarious forces fundamentally reshaping conservatism over the last two years. Yes, I’m talking about the yuge you-know-who, and his total and complete domination of the conservative worldview, its major political party, most of its major websites, its TV network; everything. From day one, Williamson was against that “witless ape,” sensing before practically anyone else the mortal threat Trump presented against the conservatism of Goldwater and Buckley. And he was right: Even Williamson’s one-time editor, Rich Lowry, mastermind of NR’s “Against Trump” issue, eventually found it necessary to prostitute himself and WFB’s magazine to the men of #MAGA. Although Williamson shared the NR masthead with a couple of other NeverTrump dead-enders, Jonah Goldberg and David French, it was clear the money behind the magazine knew which way the winds were blowing, and that Williamson’s days in good standing with the magazine were numbered.

With that background, it made perfect sense for Williamson to enthusiastically accept the offer to write for a mainstream publication. I should have been celebrating such a talented, Trump-skeptic righty to reach such an influential and important editorial position, warts and all. And I would have, except for one insurmountable, irreconcilable column, one that goes against and in fact renders utterly irrelevant everything else mentioned so far, one that revealed Williamson’s shtick to be just that, an act, a charade, a dancing-bear routine from the ground up, not just shaped on the edges here and there to step up a few notches in Facebook’s algorithms but built entirely of nothing but sawdust.

This column celebrating Mark Levin — Mark Levin — as a great conservative thinker.

For conservatives, think of a liberal who you mostly disagree with, but one that you nevertheless respect. A liberal that, wrong as he or she may be on abortion and taxes and so forth, writes her arguments so effectively that you really have to consider her point of view. More importantly, she really has you convinced she’s arguing from good faith, as opposed to all those flag-burning, SJW, caucasian-hating lefty crazies you see on social media all the damn time.

Now imagine that as you’re visiting your favorite liberal’s site one morning over coffee, you read her column celebrating the life and works of Louis Farrakhan, or Bill Ayers. With nary a hint of criticism.

That’s how I felt about Williamson after that piece. There is no reconciling what used to seem like his honest observations, with his propping up one of the most insidious, the most negative, the most cynical, the most dastardly voices in all of American politics today, of either side. There is no reconciling this with his much-ballyhooed public feud with Sean Hannity, not when the only material difference between Levin and Hannity is roughly twenty IQ points.

Because just like Hannity, Levin is intentionally and deliberately tearing this country apart. He is daily telling his viewers, not about the goodness of Republican values or the purity of a pro-life stance, but how much they must hate, and yes I mean *HATE*, the other side. Obama, Hillary, Schumer, sure. But not just them. Levin wants you to hate THEM — the amorphous “them,” which clearly means the regular people of blue states or Democratic voters, even your liberal friends and neighbors — just as much as Mao wanted his people to hate bourgeois counter-revolutionaries, and this is not an exaggeration. Just like Hannity, Mark Levin’s work is nothing but almost entirely negative, hostile, and dedicated to pitting American against American. And just like Hannity, Levin includes only the most gossamer of conservative trappings to justify his program of unalloyed rage.

Also not an exaggeration: his vision of literally tearing apart the country. Mark Levin’s end-goal — that is to say, America’s end — is the the Article V Convention, where men such as Levin will succeed where Jefferson Davis and Bill Ayers and Vladmir Putin and countless other enemies of the United States of America failed, and sunder the 50 states apart. And they will do it legally.

Levin does this just for the ratings, one may argue. Sure, that’s part of it. But he’s not somehow making this up. Nobody could put on this kind of act for many decades and not mean it. Mark Levin is Mike Cernovich, he’s Chuck C. Johnson, he’s Seb Gorka, he’s Roger Stone, and the only difference is that Levin’s been doing their schtick for decades before any of the above clawed their ways into wider public knowledge from the septic tank known as “2016.”

Williamson does not laud Levin, and then turn around and slam Hannity, out of any kind of moral, philosophical, or even honest motive. He’s just obviously pals with Levin. And in turn, his little spat with Hannity must certainly have been fueled only by some kind of personal animus or incident, not privy to us, perhaps from some long-ago party or green-room incident, but which has absolutely nothing to do with the grave immorality of Hannity’s, or Levin’s message. Hell, I made an earlier comparison to Cernovich, but at least the latter still clings to pretensions of trying to help the country.

I tried reconciling Williamson’s deep respect for such a malignant anti-American with what I had thought of him. But it was impossible on its face. It was game-breaking. That column was incompatible with Kevin Williamson being a beneficial, or even honest, writer.

He is different than other impolite, Trump-skeptic right-wingers such as Erick Erickson and Ben Shapiro in that there is no doubt that the latter two believe what they say. Even if, especially in case of Shapiro, they dress it up with trappings fit for a modern audience. Hate him and his politics all you want, but Shapiro’s intellectual honesty earned him more anti-Semitic backlash from Trump supporters than anyone else on Twitter; and Erickson’s refusal to kneel before Zod got his ass fired from FoxNews. All three of these guys are equally offensive to liberals, but only one holds up Mark Levin as some kind of hero.

There is no going back from Williamson’s propping up of one of the most odious, most despicable men of talk radio as some kind of leading intellectual. That column is a smoking gun. It is a pee tape. It is a failed drug test right before the Olympics. It is automatically disqualifying, and not a word Williamson ever writes again can be seen as anything but a conspiracy against his readers again.

Case Records of the Urgent Care 12: Just Another Headache

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Hey, it’s been a couple years since I’ve done this sort of thing. Let’s get back to it.

black-woman-with-headache-600x300A 32 y/o African-American female presented with a headache x3 days. The pain was described as being the worst around and behind the eyes. Pt said she preferred to sit in the dark. Regular Motrin provided temporary relief. Pt said she thought it might be a sinus infection. She denied any fevers, stuffy nose, trouble breathing, runny nose, postnasal drip, cough. The pain is not changed by looking up or down. Pt describes the pain as being “funny.” She denied any past medical history of migraines. Her history does include asthma, and “swollen optic nerves” found a couple years ago on routine eye exam. Pt says she saw a neuro-opthalmologist for the latter; scans of her head and a spinal tap were reportedly normal and no other interventions were performed. Pt has not had this kind of headache before.

Vitals were normal, besides pt being overweight. Her lungs were clear. She had no particular tenderness on her face or forehead. Her neck was non-stiff. Her cranial nerves showed no obvious problems. No muscle weakness or numbness were present.

WHAT IS THE MOST LIKELY DIAGNOSIS?

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The penalties for infidelity in MAGAland seem… slightly different for women. Even single women.

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In late 2016, during the tail end of the campaign and during the beginning of the transition, Trump advisers Jason Miller (married) and A.J. Delgado (single) carried out an affair. The relationship fell apart after Delgado got pregnant, and chose to keep the baby. You can read more about the story here.

The total blowback that Miller got was feeling compelled to pass on a Trump White House gig due to the affair. (Considering what we know about our president, he probably didn’t even have to do that.) Today, Miller maintains a high-paying lobbyist gig as well as earning compensation as a Trump surrogate on CNN. In addition, he reportedly still has input with the administration. And Delgado? Well, here is what she tweeted today:

delgado

Considered a rising star in Washington until the news of the affair broke, Delgado quickly lost her job, and all her cable-news gigs. She lives with her mother, an unemployed (and, in that world, unemployable) single mom considering literally selling her el-cheapo car to pay the bills. She remains fanatically faithful to Trump, but the affection is completely one-sided. Delgado to this day regularly gets taunted by angry Trumpkins about the affair, far more than Miller does (the few people coming at him on Twitter seem to be liberals).

In the #MAGA world, women like Delgado are hussies, sluts and whores. Men like Miller, though? It’s like with POTUS himself: boys will be boys. Evangelical leaders all point out they don’t expect their leaders in Washington to be choir boys.

The above merely presented without comment.

Oh, and on a completely unrelated note, for some reason, conservative men in Washington complain about not being able to get laid. Those biased libtards, amirite?

 

Waiting for the next Jessica Jones season and…

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The Netflix Marvel universe has been a mixed bag, to put it mildly.

Luke Cage best represents the highs and lows of the shows so far: a stellar first half, paired with a regrettable second half. A big reason why: the intricate villain of the first several episodes, Cottonmouth, with complex and relateable motivations, was sacked in favor of a typical, one-dimensional, “Rargh kill them all” villain named Diamondback for the second half. So it went: those Netflix/Marvel seasons with great villains (Daredevil season 1; Jessica Jones season 1; The Punisher; half of Luke Cage) really fired on all cylinders, while the rest suffered from faceless, completely boring villains… usually The Hand, a bland and featureless society of ninjas whose only role in life seems to be following the law of The Conservation of Ninjitsu.

JJBut even the best Netflix season so far — Jessica Jones 1 — hit outside its weight class only because it pressed hard on a real life nerve. More than any Netflix/Marvel or MCU baddie to date, the villain was not some random gangster, abstract horror or fantasy Hitler-wannabe; rather, he was something all too real for so many of us who watched, something straight out of our own pasts… or for some, our present. Few will have their lives dominated by some analogue of Kingpin or Hela; but Kilgrave? You better believe he was triggering something awful for a lot of us. Comics, like sci-fi, can take a real phenomenon and dial it up to 11 with magic or technology to really illustrate the impact — think Ender’s Game with war, or X-Men with racism. Bigotry suddenly becomes a lot easier to comprehend when it’s directed against mutants who can control metal or shoot eyebeams.

And what Jessica Jones did with the very real issue of the abusive romantic parter… well, let’s just say that giving the villain literal psychic powers might help one understand abusers who have figurative powers over one’s mind. Powers that are no less 100% domineering than JJ’s evil version of Professor X. That season even gave us non-powered abusers to really hammer the message down, such as Trisch’s emotionally abusive and controlling mother.

But by striking this nerve early and often, the show let us ignore some of the glaring defects. Such as the regrettable decision to make Kilgrave’s power not a psychic ability at all, but some sort of nonsense about a virus that seems to work instantly and, by the show’s end, also can be transmitted by radio waves. Or the awkward and plodding pacing, most noticeable in the middle episodes.

Point being, some people gave the show a free pass on its shortcomings due to how important it was on a meta level, in addressing our own deep wounds that happened long before Krysten Ritter first put on the leather jacket. When you’re still reeling from how much the Tenth Doctor resembles your ex, you’re more likely to not notice the whole psychic-virus nonsense. This helped immeasurably with Marvel’s second-most-important character with the initials JJ. But the downside: had I not gone through ridiculous abuse of my own, I might not have taken with the show at all. Emotional stunts might get you through one season, but it’s not enough to get you through, say, seven.

Also, Netflix’s stable of writers have had trouble with JJ so far, especially with the Defenders. I remember someone on Twitter asking point-blank: “So what is Jessica Jones’ powerset, anyway?” The Defenders often had her relegated as just another fighter when her original series went out of its way to show that, other than her superhuman strength, she had no real knack for fighting and repeatedly got owned by normal humans.

The only JJ event from The Defenders that stuck out was when she stopped a falling elevator with her strength alone, to the shock of her teammates, and exactly duplicating what Spidey pulled in his latest movie. This means she has strength at least as high as the web-slinger’s, who himself is no slouch in the Marvel universe. Which, in turn, would make her by far the most powerful of the Defenders. The underlying assumption is that her psychological issues and alcoholism prevents her from reaching anything near her true potention

So anyway, I’m not expecting much with the new season about to launch in mere minutes. But unless it finds another emotional nerve to wire into — and remember, almost no other superhero franchise can pull this off — I’m keeping my hopes muted at best…

I, for one, will welcome our robot overlords

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skynet-terminatorjpgThe most vital natural resource by mid-century will not be oil, nor rare metals or minerals, nor even data. It will be potable water. And the most vital question will be: whom can we trust to manage our water?

And forget for the moment the recent water crises in advanced regions such as California and Cape Town. The third world has been struggling with water shortages for decades. “Don’t drink the water” was the tourist’s warning in the 20th century; these days, it may as well be “Good luck finding the water.”

Buzzfeed has a representative story today, about Mexican women who have organized their own system of water trucks in an attempt to patch over their government’s manifest failures in water delivery. Instead of more long-term solutions, Mexican officials have only stuck to the short-term solution of digging deeper and deeper wells to access water, with diminishing returns and escalating geologic instability. Either way, impoverished citizens’ access to drinking water continues to wilt with each passing year. The women featured in the article struggle bravely, but water trucks are simply an inefficient and limited workaround for failing infrastructure such as pipes and reservoirs, aggravated by uncaring and corrupt public employees.

The basic problem with Mexican government officials is the same one as the taxpayer-funded employees of New York’s subway system, or the worst of Chicago’s schools, or your local DMV: They simply don’t care. They don’t care about their official duties, they don’t care about their constituents, they don’t care about anything but their own pay and benefits and to hell with the rest of you. After all, facing zero accountability from the voters or, as long as they play ball, from elected officials, why should they care?

Unsurprisingly, the black market kicks in where the government has failed. Bandits hijack these free water trucks, selling the contents to the highest bidder instead. And as with California in recent memory, rich people have no problem organizing their own private water deliveries. There’s long been two options for delivering goods and services, and when the government cannot or will not do it, the free market then takes over, whether legal or not, and the result is predictable: Those with money may avail themselves at expense of those who have none.

The left and right both champion one solution or the other — socialism vs. capitalism — with all the zeal of Calvinists arguing with Counter-Reformationists. But the fundamental deficiencies of each system can’t be papered over, or answered with glib Bernie Sanders vs. Ted Cruz debates, or handwaved away by faith that “your side” will magically solve everything and the other side is full of baby-killing fake-news liberals or evil gun-toting reactionaries. Government will always be hobbled by the problem of uncaring and/or corrupt public employees; private capitalism will always comfort the comfortable and enrich the rich, and while the latter system is fair when it comes to Maseratis or McMansions, it’s kind of unacceptable when it comes to basic necessities of life, for all but the most stone-hearted Randian libertarians.

So what to do for water shortages, whether in Mexico City or San Diego? Keep putting faith in government officials whose one answer is “give us more money lol” and who only seem to benefit the people with the right connections? Or with private merchants, of whatever legality, who ask the same thing and also only benefit the right people, in this case the rich? Either way, the poor, and increasingly the middle class, must suffer and then suffer some more, right? What to do with the problem of both kinds of players only being out for themselves?

Enter the artificial intelligence decider. Continue reading

Cases that make it tough to oppose the death penalty

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“SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A former middle-school football coach convicted of abducting and killing a 10-year-old Missouri girl has been sentenced to death.”

How can anyone oppose the death penalty after reading a lede like that?

Merely warehousing a vicious subhuman like this until the end of his natural life, at taxpayer expense, surely must not be the worst punishment we can inflict?

And it does make it tough to justify opposing the death penalty. After all, I would not mind one bit if I read this monster got stabbed in the gut by another inmate tomorrow. And that’d be a rather more painful way to go than being put to sleep like an old dog. Why would I want to protect him from the state’s ultimate punishment?

Because that’s why. Because it’s death meted out by the *state*.

(The state of Missouri, in this case. While it’s not Texas, it’s still no slouch at giving convicts the needle.) (Surprisingly, while Texas is still the grim reaper’s best friend for total killings, it is not the leader per capita.)

corporal-punishment-and-capital-punishment-cartoon

(I’m not sure why Eric Trump is the newscaster but let’s run with it anyway)

Why object to *state* killings? Part of it is the specter of mistakes, of executed people getting cleared posthumously. Part is the natural bias of the judicial system stacked against poor people and people of color. But mostly because of the simple fact that it’s the state that’s doing the killing.

The moral taint of it begins with the executioners, to the technicians who prepared the inmate for his death, to the guards, to the warden, to the state legislators who pay their salaries and let this happen, to the governor who didn’t spare his life, and ultimately, to the voters.

And do we really want such a power afforded to state agents that already may deprive us of our property without any due process; wiretap us; execute us without a conviction or without even losing their jobs; and which continues to slide ever further toward lawlessness, gangsterism and thuggery, where the value of an ordinary human life continues to plummet but the value of a politically-connected oligarch continues to soar?

It’s increasingly clear that limiting the scope of government is, while very unfashionable these days, also the only way to protect rights, both from a liberal standpoint (this, abortion, sex workers’ rights, the right to not get shot for the crime of walking down the street while black) and from the usual conservative-libertarian point of view (guns, religion.) Even if that means a few horrible examples of human excrement wind up living a few more years than we otherwise would have desired.

Decline of the Washington sex scandal

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It is Sunday afternoon, preferably before the end of the cold war. The local NFL team’s game has just wrapped up its televised run, whether it was yourself or your spouse watching, and the children are out playing in the neighborhood, or perhaps on the Nintendo. You put your feet up on the sofa, settle your glasses on your nose, and open up the New York Post. A homemade Philly cheesesteak sandwich, or a burger from the backyard grill, and driven home, as it were, by a glass of wine, or a can or three of some appropriately thin and tasteless mass-produced American beer, have put you in the right mood. The sofa cushions are soft underneath you, the air hums with the sounds of distant lawn mowers. In these blissful circumstances, what is it that you want to read about?

donna-rice-gary-hart-ap-promoNaturally, about a sex scandal. But what kind of sex scandal? If one examines the sex scandals which have given the greatest amount of pleasure to the American public, one finds a fairly strong family resemblance running through the greater number of them. Our golden age of sex scandals, mostly of the Washington variety, seems to have been between 1963, after which the usual code of silence regarding presidential misbehavior was lifted for good, and the early-mid 2000s. And the sex scandals which have stood the test of time are the following: Wilbur Mills and and the Silver Slipper; Wayne Hays; Gary Hart; Bill Clinton’s more benign trysts, including Monica; Eliot Spitzer; and Mark Sanford of Appalachian Trail fame. The latter’s eventual rehabilitation from his scandal, however, broke the precedent that a politician’s career must forever lay in tatters after his mistress, or mistresses, are exposed, thus ending the sex scandal’s golden age. (Conservatives may argue that Clinton broke this first; however, the fact that he was impeached at all, followed many years later by his wife’s defeat at the polls, suggest House Clinton was indeed irrevocably crippled by the scandal and by Ken Starr.)

Of the above-mentioned six cases, countless articles, books, TV episodes, and documentaries have been produced. It is difficult to believe that any recent American sex scandal will be remembered so long and so intimately — certainly not as fondly, as the prevalent kind of sex scandal has been changing. The most infamous scandal of recent years was the Anthony Weiner saga. Before returning to this pitiful and sordid case, which is only interesting from a sociological and perhaps a legal point of view, let me try to define what it is that the readers of tabloids and gossip sites mean when they say fretfully that ‘you never seem to get a good sex scandal nowadays’.

In considering the six cases I listed above, one can start by considering the motives. Sex was present for all of them, of course — but so was a sense of power, and perhaps decadence. In none of these cases were the perpetrators out to harm someone directly, although they were of course too self-centered or short-sighted to consider the unintended harm caused to the wives, the mistresses, and themselves. In more than half the cases, the desire was to secure a permanent mistress or concubine, perhaps because the politician viewed her as a natural reward for his station in life. Other cases involved a more immature, almost college-level fling; but in any event, the benefit gained by the politician almost certainly was not worth the work put into the failed efforts at secrecy, let alone the cost to his career and home life after the exposure. And in every case there was some dramatic coincidence or detail that no novelist would dare to make up, such as Gary Hart posing for a photograph with his mistress on his lap while wearing a shirt that said “Monkey Business Crew” after literally daring the press to find evidence on him, or Wilbur Mills attempting to outright purchase the strip club in which his paramour plied her trade, or a noted prosecutor of sex workers becoming known as “Client 9” of a sex worker.

With all this in mind one can construct what would be, from a New York Post reader’s point of view, the ‘perfect’ sex scandal, although none of the above are exactly perfect. The perpetrator must be a politician, as Americans hold inexplicable expectations of their public officials that they do not for, say, their business moguls. And, he must be a politician of a certain level of influence — a mere state senator or even U.S. House backbencher being insufficient to arouse our interest. He must be married, naturally, and also boast a policy background to invoke hypocrisy with his actions in some way, whether it be a “family values” stance or Spitzer’s aforementioned war on prostitution. He should go astray through cherishing a guilty passion for his intern or perhaps a sex worker, and should gleefully and with total abandon embrace his infidelity. And — this is key, as we shall soon see — his nefarious desires must also receive the enthusiastic consent of the mistress. At some point in the affair, the politician and mistress must share a trust and bond, perhaps even love, against the great danger that could, and eventually would, tear their relationship asunder.

Having decided on infidelity, the politician should plan it all with the utmost cunning, and only slip up over some tiny unforeseeable detail. In the last analysis, he shall decide on infidelity as less damaging to his career than a messy and very public divorce, as even today divorces remain astonishingly rare among top office-holders as opposed to, say, investment bankers, let alone the more influential men of Hollywood. With this kind of background, a sex scandal can have dramatic and even tragic qualities which make it memorable and excite pity for all three primary parties: wronged wife, perpetrator, and mistress.

Now compare this to the Anthony Weiner scandals. There were no depth of feelings to them. The background was not the yielding to the temptations of women other than his wife, but a bored, psychopathic congressman imagining himself as being 20 years his own junior, trolling Twitter for girls the way you or I would browse Tinder. There existed no feelings of trust or emotional connection between Weiner and his various online flirts. One gets the feeling the motivation was not illicit love, or even lust, but Weiner’s desire to show just how tough and powerful he was behind his actions. He acted with the utmost callousness not only of his targets and of Huma Abedin, but even of himself, leaving as he did a vast online trail of recorded dirt.

In this, Weiner presaged all the sorry, one-sided scandals exposed by the #MeToo wave, from John Conyers to Trent Franks to Blake Farenthold, let alone all the Harvey Weinsteins of the private sector. None of the husband-mistress emotional bond so essential for the golden-age Washington sex scandal is ever present for these, giving way instead to a gross, sweaty desperation of men never able to accept their own blunt unattractiveness to young people of their desired gender.

Also, passing mention must be made of the David Petraeus / Paula Broadwell situation. It indeed briefly thrilled Washington in a way most sorely missed, with such delectable details as the mistress’ jealously of other women; the fact that she herself was married, yet clearly more infatuated with her lover than with her husband; and the presence of a shirtless FBI agent, showing up for murky reasons. Yes, it resembled many aspects of a golden-age sex scandal, save one: even more than Mark Sanford, the straying husband survived with his legacy mostly intact, and without even Sanford’s period of repentance before he again sought public office. Yes, he had to resign as CIA head, but Petraeus was instead almost immediately given a sinecure position with a private boutique firm, his financial security and position in society thus secured for life.

But in any event, it is difficult to believe that the Anthony Weiner will be so long remembered as the old, grand Washington sex scandals, products of a stable society where the all-prevailing hypocrisy did at least ensure that crimes as serious as infidelity should have strong emotions behind them.

(in honor, of course, of the Old Master.)