kent_allard_jr: (creativity)
The latest version of the politics game, Breakdown, is being put up on Google Docs for public viewing. I've only put up the rules and the "generic" 4-player scenario, but other components will be posted as I finish them. (Note that the region diagram in the 4-player scenario is off; I'll have to fix this by replacing the table with a GIF.)

This version of Breakdown was partially inspired by Avalon Hill's old game Squad Leader. Not by the rules -- Heaven help us -- but by its customizability. I liked how it used historical "scenarios," which were interesting to read. I think it'd be cool to say, "tonight we're going to play Chile in the early 70s" and see how it turns out. It's also a way to invite hobbyists to write their own scenarios, introduce their own rules variants and so forth. If the game caught on -- by some miracle -- it could bring back some of the old wargaming culture, but focused on simulating politics rather than warfare.

As always, I'd love an opportunity to playtest the game, or to hear criticisms or recommendations of one sort or another.
kent_allard_jr: (morans)
I'm in Massachusetts for Thanksgiving -- the turkey was lovely, thank you -- and I returned to the book I've left at my parent's house. One was Essays in Persuasion by John Maynard Keynes. He wrote one essay in mid-1929, under a Conservative government, and his characterizations of Conservative "philosophy" resembles those of the deficit hawks today:
"You must not hasten with roads or housing, because this will use up opportunities for employment which we may need in later years."

"You must not try to employ everyone, because that will cause inflation."

"You must not do anything, because this will only mean you can't do something else."

"Safety first! The policy of maintaining [millions of] unemployed has now been pursued for years without disaster. Why risk a change?"

"We will not promise more than we can perform. We, therefore, promise nothing."
He added: "This is what we are being fed with. They are slogans of depression and decay -- the timidities and obstructions and stupidities of a sinking administrative vitality." Sounds familiar.
kent_allard_jr: (morans)
Jonathan Chaits quotes a memo from the Democratic Strategist, which lists all the arguments folks are going to make about the election and tells us not to bother making them again, because we've heard them a thousand times before. This is particularly true for the Centrist vs. Leftist debates. Did the Democrats lose because they were too left-wing? Or because they didn't energize the base? I think the DCs are right that no one's about to change their minds.

There's one perspective they left out, however, which was expressed by Matthew Yglesias when he said, "The Point of Winning Elections is to Pass Laws." The whole point of electing Democrats is to get progressive legislation passed. Folks who say the Democrats shouldn't be liberals, because it will cost them elections, are implicitly treating politics as a racket, a jobs program for their buddies. From the standpoint of the voters that's the worst kind of attitude you can have.
kent_allard_jr: (morans)
I'm not a huge Keith Olbermann fan. I find his "Special Comments" too shrill (even for me!), his Edward R. Murrow schtick pretentious, his interviews unenlightening. Nevertheless I like this clip. It gives us a good idea of the breathtaking insanity of the Tea Party and its enablers. I'm sure some of his quotes are taken out of context -- hell, for this country's sake, I hope they are -- but the overall effect of the batshit nuttiness is galvanizing.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I'm sure most people reading this blog are going to vote and have made up their minds one way or another. Those of you who haven't -- yes, you, motherfucker! in the sweatervest! -- please wake up and smell the coconuts.
kent_allard_jr: (morans)
According to David Weigel, "The liberal NPR commentator -- former NPR commentator, as of yesterday -- has instantly become a sort of icon for conservatives angry about media bias."

I don't think Williams deserved to be fired, but then again, I felt the same way about Helen Thomas, and at least the Williams case brings us closer to a consistent standard; no reason to fire someone for anti-Jewish remarks and not for anti-Muslim ones. Conservatives, apparently, don't mind the double standard -- Jews are now "good" while Muslims are "bad," just anti-black racism is frowned upon while anti-Hispanic rhetoric is welcomed and encouraged -- and while I think it's stupid, I can somewhat understand it.

To call the Williams firing a case of "bias," though, is goddamn incoherent. It suggests that "bias" is nothing but "expressing a view that conservatives don't like." I guess conservatives have stopped thinking about the words coming out of their mouths, and just throw out slogans reflexively like a pack of drooling dogs, so if they say "media" they have to add the word "bias" to it. Cue Orwell and his English language essay for details.
kent_allard_jr: (morans)
Via Jonathan Chait, our new overlords on climate science:
“This so-called climate science is just ridiculous,” said Kelly Khuri, founder of the Clark County Tea Party Patriots. “I think it’s all cyclical.”

“Carbon regulation, cap and trade, it’s all just a money-control avenue,” Ms. Khuri added. “Some people say I’m extreme, but they said the John Birch Society was extreme, too.”
It's going to be a long two years.
kent_allard_jr: (morans)
According to Harry Brighthouse in Crooked Timber, much of the Rhee/Klein manifesto is "a lightly coded version of a call to get rid of the teacher’s unions." I'm not a public school teacher, and I haven't been following the ins-and-outs of the school reform debate as much as I should have. I'd like to make a few observations, however.
  • It's worth noting that blessedly union-free schools of the South are (like so many things in that region) the worst in the nation. Correlation isn't causation, of course, but when the correlation is the opposite of what you'd infer from the union-bashers, well...
  • Benefits such as job security are alternatives to higher pay, a way to recruit higher-quality candidates without giving them more money. The school-reformers, to their credit, want to give teachers higher pay in exchange for less job security. I don't think this is a credible promise, though, if they have to destroy the teacher's unions to make it. Bust the unions and it will be easier to cut their pay with every budget shortfall.
  • CT commenters point out that teacher union hostility to merit pay comes from a distrust of school administrators; they don't think the average school principal is a good judge of teaching ability. Everything I've heard, from actual public school teachers, suggests that this distrust is well-founded. You could do an end-run around administrators, and judge teacher performance purely on test scores, but that comes with its own problems.
Something about school reform brings out the Rambo in people and what I've read about Rhee suggests that she's appealing to that primal need. Maybe she and her compatriots can fix our schools by busting the unions, but I doubt it.

Update: Out of curiosity, I checked my first point by comparing the average ACT scores in Right-to-Work states versus the rest of the country. The average ACT score in RTW states was 20.9; in the rest of the country, 22.0. As statistical analysis goes it's incredibly crude, but I think it's suggestive nonetheless.


Oct. 11th, 2010 06:58 pm
kent_allard_jr: (morans)
I only realized it was Columbus Day when I ventured to the mailbox this afternoon. Now I understand why I'm hearing so much about the holiday. May I say, for the record, that I'd be happy to replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day. Columbus is an odd icon, after all, a lousy geographer who happened to stumble upon the Americas and who spent the rest of his life denying his own accomplishment. He was America's First Sucker. He only keep the holiday because Italian Americans make it a big deal.

I'd like to raise my pet peeve against the anti-Columbus brigade, though: Could we stop putting scare quotes around his "discovery" of America? Yes, yes, the Indians (and the Inuit, and the Norse) found the continents before he did. No one has ever disputed that. Nevertheless, from his standpoint, it was a discovery, just as you or I might discover buried treasure in our backyards or discover the great taste of RC Cola. You don't have to be the first!
kent_allard_jr: (morans)
Ta-Nehisi Coates posted this chart from the Third Way foundation:

I think the notion of a "taxpayers receipt" is a great idea; we'd have a much saner politics in this country if the public understood where tax dollars were spent. I made a suggestion in comments:

Y'know, direct democracy gets a bad rap -- deservedly so -- but we'd have a saner fiscal policy in this country if we asked folks to mail these back, crossing out the items they didn't want to pay for, and then dropped programs that were crossed out my a majority of taxpayers. I'm sure the public would make lousy choices, but at least they'd be grounded in reality, and politicians wouldn't give us nonsense like the "Pledge to America" anymore.
People responded with horror -- you can't mention "direct democracy" without folks going "California!!!! Nooooooooooooo" -- but I stand by it. Not all forms of direct democracy are equal, and I would never say America should adopt a California-style referendum system.

Nevertheless, I don't think representative government works properly with a badly misinformed electorate; all that happens is that the public elects folks who promise to fulfill their fairy tales. Today, when the average American thinks Foreign Aid takes up 40% of federal expenditures, we get nonsense like the last 30 years of Republican budgets, promising to slash taxes and balance the budget without cutting any program of substance.

With my proposal, the public would be forced to acknowledge reality. Want to cut spending? Here's where the budget goes; tell me when you've deleted $1,000 you think we should save; enjoy! In the end, I think direct democracy with an informed electorate works better than a representative government without one, so a democratic process that forces the public to be informed would be superior to what we have today.
kent_allard_jr: (morans)
I highly recommend Kevin Drum's take on the "Tea Party". Nickel version: These movements pop up every time a Democrat is in the White House. The main difference between the Tea Parties and older movements such as the John Birch Society and the Liberty League is that the Teabaggers have taken over the Republican Party, while the older movements were held at arm's length. Folks who called JFK a Communist were laughed off the stage; today they say the same nonsense about Obama and everyone takes them seriously.

Personally, I thought I'd become more moderate as I got older. They say it's the common pattern, be a radical in your youth and a cranky conservative in your twilight years. Sadly the reverse has happened. I was surrounded by hippies in college and sneered at P.C. excess. I gave serious thought to voting for George Bush I, and I shrugged at the prospect of his son's Presidency. Today, though, I see the conservative movement as a paranoid hate cult, a real threat to the survival of the Republic, and the Republican Party seems unable or unwilling to stop its descent into madness. The conservative media bubble has cut its followers off from almost all inconvenient facts, giving it a political edge while making the GOP utterly incapable of governing. Its a deadly combination that could well doom the safety and prosperity of the United States.

Update: Also see Matt Taibbi's latest, and the most recent piece of demagoguery for Newt Gingrich: "I don’t remember any time in American history where we had such a threat to our basic way of life: A genuinely radical, secular socialist machine ramming things through with no regard for American values or the beliefs of the American people." JFK as a Communist all over again...


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