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Off Roading : The Tea Party

May 1, 2010 1 comment

I figured I’ve written one post about video game stuff, I should probably write a post about politics. And what better thing to write about than the current political movement du jour, the Tea Party. For anyone not familiar with the movement (and unless you don’t follow any news at all, how could you not be?) it’s a group of people who feel that the government is overreaching their bounds, invading personal life and spending way too much money.


The REAL tea party

As I explained in my first post, I’m fairly liberal, so it should be of no surprise that I don’t agree with their views. However, I’m not going to take what seems to be the common anti-tea party stance, dismissing their views because they are “stupid” and calling them Tea baggers. For any democratic society to work people need to be able to express their views, and all members need to be able to accept other views, whether the agree or disagree, and be able to debate them openly without fear of being insulted. The debate of the role of government in our lives is a very important one to have, and this brings me to my first problem with the Tea Party, they aren’t open to debate.

The Tea Partiers don’t want to debate the role of government. They don’t want an exchange of ideas, and are not willing to compromise. Granted, there are people like this in every party, but the Tea Party seems to be solely made up of these people. They think their way is the right way, and that it should be the only way.  Unfortunately for them, that’s not how democracy works. A recent poll shows that 18% of all people consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement. While that’s a staggering number for such a recently formed movement, it’s still well less than a majority of people. So in accusing the Democrats of going against the wishes of the majority of the population, they are being incredibly hypocritical, as them mandating that their way be the one adopted is the exact same thing.


Doesn’t really LOOK like the ‘majority’

This is actually more of a problem for Republicans than it is for Democrats. The most recent New York Times survey stated that only 54% of the Tea party movement considers themselves Republican, with 36% being independents and only 5% being Democrats. However, 73% said they are somewhat or very conservative, and 20% are moderates. I’m willing to guess that probably 85% to 90% of the members of the tea party are most likely to vote Republican. This poses a HUGE problem for anyone running for a Republican seat, due to the absolutist nature of the Tea Party members. If we accept that these numbers are true (and I have many issues with opinion polls, but more on that in another post), then that’s about 17% of the total pool of voters, and votes that are almost guaranteed for a Republican. These are also people who are much more likely to show up at the polls, as they are actively involved in a political movement.

Even if we take the number of people who consider themselves Republican at face value, that’s about 10% of the entire country. That’s a bout a third of registered Republicans (there are about 55 million registered Republicans, or about a third of the voting population). This is a significant portion of the republican base. However, should a candidate try and negotiate with the party in power, the Democrats, they will be ostracized from the Tea Partiers, who will stay home, or will run either a third party candidate or a primary challenger, forcing the moderate Republican to run as an independent, effectively splitting the vote and ruining the chance of a republican getting elected, as we saw in the special election for New York’s 23rd district with Doug Hoffman, and with what just happened in the Florida Senate race with Crist becoming an Independent. However, if the Republican candidate sticks to the Tea party line, they risk losing any independents and more moderate republicans, and 25% of the vote isn’t enough to win anything.


He worked out really well didn’t he? (Doug Hofman for those who are curious)

My second major problem with the movement is the rhetoric they use and the actions they take. Most people have heard about the racial and bigoted slurs hurled at congressmen as they went to vote on the health care bill, and the violent, offensive, and racist signs that many of them carry have been well documented. This may be attributed to a fringe element, but when you have one of the de facto leaders of the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, saying that progressivism is a “cancer” that needs to be “cut out” of America, how can you have an open debate with them? Glenn Beck is basically calling for a significant percent of our population to be removed from society (one could argue that using the term “cut out”, and Sarah Palin using the term “reload” could actually be inciting violence against these people). The say anyone who disagrees with them “un-American” and a “communist”. To be fair, I also hate it when liberals refer to members of the party as “Tea Baggers.” It’s an insult, and it’s stooping to their level of discourse. If you are upset by their insults, insulting them back isn’t a good way to try and change the tone of the debate. But the Tea Party movement has a very hostile undertone to it, and this came out after the passage of the Health Care bill, in which one Congressman’s brother’s gas line was cut, and many Congress Men and Women had their office windows shattered, apparently at the encouragement of a Tea Party leader and blogger.


Yeah, this is a totally reasonable protest sign to carry around. Not racist at all…

My final major problem with the Tea Party movement is either the ignorance of the movement or dishonesty of the movement. Their number one talking point is that they are taxed too much. Well, according to The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities the middle class tax rate for 2009 was at or near a historic low. Another common argument thrown around is that Obama has tripled the national debt since he’s been in office. First off, saying he “tripled the national debt” makes it sound like he has tripled the entire amount of money our country owes. That isn’t what happened. His budget deficit for 2010 was three times the amount that the one Bush made for 2009 was. However, when you look at the numbers, he didn’t add three times as much to the entire debt our nation owes. This was because Bush never included the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in his budget. He just left them off. In actuality, Bush increased the total National Debt by right just under a trillion dollars in 2008, and Obama increased it by about 1.2 trillion dollars. Doesn’t look all that different to me. The “tripling the national debt” comes from a projection of the debt in 10 years, based on this budget. Going back to the year 2000, the CBO estimated we would have over a 4 trillion dollar surplus by 2010. That was pretty accurate, wasn’t it? I’m not even going to get into the paranoid fears that Obama is “taking our freedoms” or the nonsense about “death panels”. Show me one credible threat to your freedom that happened under the Obama administration. Just one, never mind one that was worse than anything the Bush administration did with their warrant-less wiretaps and most of the Patriot Act, when the Tea Partiers didn’t seem to care quite as much about their freedoms.

I’m all for having an honest and open debate about how our government should work to best serve the needs of it’s people. I have a few friends who mostly vote Republican, and we have excellent discussions on the various aspects of politics and governing. But in any debate, I expect the other person to use facts and logic, not lies and misleading statements, and I expect to be treated with respect, which the Tea Party does not give me, so I have none to give to them.

-Dr. Floppy PhD

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Categories: Off-Roading, Wetzel

Off Roading – Video Game Art

I belong to what is quite possibly the best gamer community on the internet, the Joystiq Podcast Appreciation Group, or JPAG. It’s a Facebook group of like minded people who share an enjoyment of gaming and the Joystiq Podcast. I mention this because recently a member of the JPAG, Justin Russo, made some minimalist style posters for a few video games. You can see them all here. We all loved them on the JPAG, and they were reblogged by Kotaku and a few other websites.

After enough hounding he eventually decided to try and do a print run of them, so he set up a page at kickstarter.com, where he could set prices and once enough money had been gathered, he would be able to print them. He was halfway to his goal of a little over $4000 by the end of the first day, and thanks to a post on Joystiq.com, he easily hit his goal by the end of the second day. As it stands now, he’s at a little over 10,000 dollars which, at about $25 a poster, is nothing to sneeze at. I’m going to talk about the two posters of the original three I purchased, and why I feel that they are so amazing.

First off, who played Bioshock that didn’t absolutely love it? It was a revolutionary game, in that it really tried to tackle some subjects that had never really been talked about before. The creators tried to have the story actually mean something, which is unfortunately still lacking in video games today. Most video game stories don’t try to go beyond the “whoa cool!” aspect, and while that works for plenty of games, Bioshock tried to go deeper. I’m not going to go into the story too much, that’s probably for another post, but it focused on the philosophy Ayn Rand kind of pioneered, objectivism. The writers treated their audience as adults, and trusted that they could understand these concepts. It really is a mature game, in that it deals with a mature topic that really requires some thought to be put into it. This combined with the amazing world of Rapture, an environment that just felt so real and different from anything that had come before it, made it a truly special game.

This print works for me on two levels. The first is that a game that was filled with so much detail and so much personality is boiled down to a few specific shapes and lines yet is still instantly recognizable is amazing to me. If you played Bioshock, you would instantly recognize the Big Daddy, which is probably one of the first things that everyone thinks of when they play Bioshock. It’s an incredible talent that Justin has shown with all of these posters, being able to take complex models and breaking them down into something simple, yet easily recognizable.

The second level is the quote. “We all make our choices, but in the end our choices make us.” is such a perfect line to sum up what the game is trying to say. I can’t really go into it too much without spoiling the story, but trust me, it works. One of the great things the game does is not only comment on the philosophy of objectivism, but also makes you reflect on video games as a whole. What are my goals and why am I doing these things? There’s also a few choices in the game, and especially in Bioshock 2, that really do determine what happens to you and everyone else in the end. The quote along with the artwork really just make this piece all around great.

Anyone who’s played video games at all will probably realize that this is Mario. Mario started out in the 8 bit era, so it’s very easy to make a recognizable minimalist image of him. He’s incredibly important in the history of video games, Super Mario Brothers on the NES is one of the first video games most people of my generation played, and he’s had a major top selling game in almost every generation of consoles and handhelds, and he was one of the first video game characters that became well known outside of the gaming culture.

But what makes this poster special is the quote Justin chose for it. He stated in an interview with the kickstarter.com blog that he had a hard time coming up with a quote for Mario, as he doesn’t really talk much in any of his games. He eventually settled on “Here we go…..” as it’s a pretty iconic thing Mario says, and seemed to fit the theme of the posters well. While he might not have intended for it to go much deeper, it really says something more to me about the very nature of Mario games, and video games in general. I apologize in advance if this post ends up sounding a little like a pretentious art critic.

Anyone who played Mario 64 for the N64 will recognize the quote. It’s what Mario says whenever he starts a new level. The quote it’s self isn’t that deep or meaningful, it’s that he ended it with ellipses rather than just a single period. This fits very well with the theme of his other posters, which while not downright depressing, all have a bit of a negative spin on them. The Nathan Drake one is about all the bad shit that just seems to happen to him, the Bioshock quote is kind of a downer in conjunction with some of the story elements, and the Solid Snake one isn’t super uplifting either. So to take a quote from a character that is usually super positive and with a slight change make it sound somewhat negative is a very interesting choice, and seems to me like it speaks to the futility of Mario games.

Lets face it, all core Mario games are pretty much about the same thing. Bowser kidnapped Princess Peach, and Mario has to go save her. It’s been like this through what, at least seven games? The guy has to be getting tired of doing the same thing over and over. It’s got to be tough to get motivated to save someone knowing they are only going to have to be saved again in a few years. It seems like he’s saying, “Why bother saving her if it’s just going to happen again?”

This is a problem that doesn’t just effect Mario games either. Mass Effect 2 came out this past January to much critical acclaim, and while I loved the game there was this nagging problem. In the first game, Shepard was right about the problem, the people in charge didn’t believe him, so he had to save the day himself. So how come now they don’t believe him again? Again he had to put together a team and go save the day himself. He’ll probably have to do the same thing in the third game. It all feels a bit futile in the end. And this problem isn’t just found in video games, it effects other mediums too, like television. Take for example the show 24. How many times can you save the entire country in 24 hours before it just becomes routine? How many times can you stop these plots before just saying “Well, I seem to be the only one who really cares about this stuff so fuck it, I’m done.”?

Any poster that can make me think this hard about some of the things I enjoy most is a genius piece of art, and deserves to be framed and hung on the wall of my home. If anyone else feels the same way, you can buy either of these or one a Nathan Drake of Uncharted 1 or 2 here. And you should, because if he sells enough, he can make the next round of posters and I can get the sweet Assassins Creed 2 poster.

– Dr. Floppy PhD

Categories: Off-Roading, Wetzel

Off-Roading: This is just the beginning

April 8, 2010 5 comments

Welcome to Off-Roading, the (hopefully) weekly post on Medicore Motoring that has nothing to do with cars. Get it? It’s a column on a car blog that’s not about cars, so Off-Roading? Like off topic? Well I thought it was clever at least. Don’t get me wrong, I like cars, I’m just not as into them as these other guys and I don’t upgrade or do a ton of work on my car, which is a Scion xD by the way. Instead of cars, this column will focus on mainly the stuff that I do really care about and get into, namely Videogames, Gadgets, and Politics. I have very strong opinions, and will be expressing them frequently, so  I feel I should explain my views on each of these subjects up front to let you know if this might be something you are interested in reading. 

Videogames 
My experience with videogames goes back to playing on the Apple II personal computer my grandmother had, and with an Atari my uncle had. I can’t remember any of the game names anymore for the life of me, but starting at that early age I was hooked. We soon got our own computer, and I started playing games like Reader Rabbit and the other Learning Company games, eventually graduating to games like Commander Keen, Duke Nukem (the original side scrolling one) and Wolfenstien 3d. I’m not going to go through my complete history, but I just thought I’d give you an idea of where I started. 

Yeah, that Duke Nukem. 

(Yeah, that Duke Nukem.) 

As you may have guessed, I’m mainly a PC player, though I do also own an Xbox 360,  a DS Lite, and a Wii, which I think I’ve played about twice. Since I don’t own a ps3, my console gaming posts are going to be pretty 360 focused, but that doesn’t mean I’m a total Microsoft fanboy. As a student, my funds are pretty limited, and I just couldn’t afford the PS3 when it came out, so I got a 360, and now spend most of my gaming budget on games for that and the PC. 

Gadgets 
I’m going to come right out and say it, I’m an Apple hater. I hate their business practices, I hate the pass that they seem to get for releasing substandard products just because they “look nice” and are “so easy to use”. Itunes is a piece of crap software, iPods lack basic features every other mp3 player has and has generally had shitty sound quality comparatively. Mac computers are overpriced for what you get, and the locked down iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad system is a travesty and is something that should be discouraged, not encouraged by buying into it. From all accounts Steve Jobs is an arrogant asshole, and their marketing is negative, juvenile, and just plain wrong (really? PCs are for spreadsheets while Macs are for “fun stuff”? Games certainly seem to be fun to me, and the PC has them while Macs don’t.) 

 

(Self explanatory…no?) 

Now, I know it’s not great to constantly rant about things, so I’ll mostly stick to stuff I have and find interesting, because who wants to read negativity all the time? My current load out is my PC, basically made by Newegg (where I get all my parts); an HP laptop (I know HP doesn’t make the best stuff, but I really couldn’t beat the price for the amount of power I got); a Droid, currently rooted, running Ultimate Droid 9.0 rom Oced to 1 ghz, a Zune HD 32 (with the zune pass), and a 1st gen Kindle. So yeah, I basically like all gadgets, so hopefully it’ll be interesting to other gadget nerds. 

Politics
I know the videogames and gadgets kind of go hand in hand, but where do politics fit into it? Well they really don’t, other than the fact that I have very strong feelings for all of these, and it’s my column, so deal with it. Again, as a little intro, I’m a registered independent, and like to think of myself as one, but in all actuality, I’m pretty much a Democrat. I don’t agree with everything they say and do, but I mostly agree with their views. My biggest problems with the Democrats is that it feels like they don’t have a strong central leader, and don’t have a solid strategy. Republicans, on the other hand, you have to admire for picking a strategy, and sticking to it, and effectively using the media and psychology to basically trick everyone into thinking that after a little over a year they have transformed back into the party of small government. As despicable as I find their tactics, it is kind of amazing to see how well they are working. 

 

(Who decided on the Elephant and the Donkey? I say we change them to the Tiger and the Dragon. Might get more people to vote.) 

I happen to live in Massachusetts (Just a few towns away from Mister Rich), so you’ll probably see some stuff about politics there too. I’ll try and preface those posts, as I know most people reading this blog  probably doesn’t care too much about what I write on a normal basis, and will care less about state politics. 

I think I’ve rambled enough for my first post, I hope you’ll enjoy these breaks from car posts and will stick around to read them even though it’s not exactly what you came here for. Or, if it is, feel free to totally ignore the rest of the site, because Steve still likes seeing the page views in the site metrics anyway. 

-Dr Floppy PhD

Categories: Off-Roading, Wetzel