Friday, July 03, 2015

1 reason that Dylan Matthews' list is a mistake

Years ago, I saw an episode of Sliders where the heroes traveled to an alternate universe in which Washington et. al. lost the revolutionary war. It was pretty stupid episode. (Looking through Wikipedia now, I'm pretty sure it was the fifth episode of season one, "The Prince of Wails"  It portrayed modern America as being subject to an oppressive dictatorship under an absolute monarch. I just kept thinking, "if the revolutionary war was lost, wouldn't this country just be like Canada?"

Except it wouldn't. Modern Canada has been influenced a lot by the success of the American experiment with constitutional republicanism. If the American Revolution had failed, Canada would be a very different place (exactly how is hard to say). Same with Britain. It has also been influenced tremendously by the political experience of this country. While I doubt it would be the fascist state portrayed in that Sliders episode, it might be less democratic than the modern UK.

Those reflections on that stupid episode was what I thought of when I read Dylan Matthews' list of "3 reasons the American Revolution was a mistake." Even if you believe that the British parliamentary system is better than the American system, I doubt that the British system would be the same if the American Revolution had not happened.

Counterfactuals are hard because influences go in all different directions. If the American south never left the British empire and thus there were a larger more economically influential constituency for slavery in Britain, would Britain have abolished slavery as soon as it did? If Britain held on to its more densely settled North American colonies south of the 45th parallel, would it have been as kind to Native Americans? I have no idea, and neither does Dylan Matthews.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Unionized chartered schools

There is a theory that the current charter school movement is driven by an effort to bust teachers' unions.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has agreed to take a case which (I expect, given the current composition of the Court) will render dues deduction illegal for public sector employees, which will be a major blow to public sector unions. If my prediction about the outcome of that case is correct, it will mean that private charter schools will be more receptive to unionization than traditional public schools. Considering the current drive to unionize chartered schools, the chartered school movement could end up being a life raft for the survival of teachers' unions.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015


This is pretty awesome. The GOP has already said that it will limit who gets to participate in the official debates, but with Trump polling this well, I don't see how they can keep him out. Which guarantees that the debates will be a complete clown show (they probably would be even without Trump, but Donald is such an outrageous camera hog having him in the debates will make it even better).


So is SiteMeter dead?

It has been acting wonky for the past week or so and right now the badge on the bottom right of this page is no longer loading. The web site is still there, but it hasn't been updated for a while. (The last post under the "news" section is from February 2009).

It's too bad. I check SiteMeter virtually every day, although it would also not be very surprising. Blogs have been in decline since, well, since about 2009. SiteMeter isn't just for blogs, but I think that's where they got most of their business. It was only a matter of time before someone over there thought it was no longer worth it.

At least StatCounter is still going strong. Plus Blogger has its own in-house stat monitoring system that didn't exist when I started this taco stand so I never got in the habit of looking at. Still, SiteMeter has been logging visits for this site longer than any of those other services.  If it goes, my hits from my first few years will disappear and I will have even less of an idea what the total number is.

Silver lining?

Honestly, the best possible result of this Saudi-led debacle would be if teaches the world that an air bombing campaign is not a good way to accomplish any political or military goals. For the past few years it has been the easy solution to many different problems. Except that it rarely solves anything and instead causes more problems.

I doubt if anyone will learn that lesson (and the Saudis have little incentive to admit their campaign is stupid and counter-productive. Especially considering that this is the baby of the Kingdom's shiny new King who is eager to prove himself), but here's hoping!

Midyear Resolution Report

For resolution A, I have received 13 letters/cards from 6 different people and responded to each.

For resolution B, I have read 5 of the 8 books that are subject to resolution B and completed three of the five trilogies. Specifically, I have read Plague Forge (thus completing the Dire Earth Cycle), The Year of the Flood  and MaddAddam (thus completing the MaddAddam trilogy), Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation (thus completing my reread of the original Foundation trilogy). In addition, I am about halfway through The Magician's Land, which is the 6th book I have resolved to read before year's end. Once I finish that one, I will have completed four of the five trilogies and all I will have left are the last two books in the Silo series.

Because I have met the four book threshold for resolution B, rule #3, my resolution book frequency will not increase in the second half of the year.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The GOP's problem

I have become increasingly sure that the Republican party's biggest weakness is the "don't retreat, reload" attitude it takes about everything. To be successful at anything you need to know how to choose your battles. When you lose one (which happens to everyone sometimes), there has to be an evaluation whether it is worth jumping back into the same fight to see if you can make it come out differently this time, or if you should instead find another issue that is more of a winner for you.

I see the Republicans' inability to choose their battles everywhere. The GOP lost the Obamacare battle when the health reform law originally passed. They lost again when the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality in 2012, and they lost again when the Supreme Court rejected the moops argument last week. And they lost each of the more than 50 times that the House has voted to repeal or defund the ACA but then failed to actually get that  bill signed into law. Clearly this is a battle they are not going to win. With each loss there have been commentators who claimed that this gives the Republicans the opportunity to finally move on from their fixation on the health care law. But they never do. Even in the wake of the last Supreme Court decision, it looks like the Republicans are hatching another crazy can't possibly work plan to take down the law.

It is not just health care. It is everything. Republicans still resist admitting that the Iraq War was a disaster. They won't acknowledge the causes of the 2008 financial crisis. Nothing that has happened with the economy or deficit (or even Kansas' stark example) has gotten the party as a whole to back away from its disastrous economic theories. If retreating from a decision is not an option, it is impossible for Republicans to ever learn from their mistakes. And so instead they just stay on course, loudly proclaiming they are right no matter what the evidence says, even as they sail into another catastrophe.

That's why I think Chris Christie announced his bid for the presidency today. The past year has made it abundantly clear that he will never be President. But he won't acknowledge that, he can't. That would be a retreat. So instead he will charge forward and ruin whatever is left of his already tattered legacy.

The tax return tradition survives

Another reason to be thankful that Romney lost the last presidential election is that if he had won while refusing to publicly release his tax returns, other presidential candidates would not do stuff like this anymore.

pro tip

If you want to suppress a pro-gay demonstration, don't use a water cannon. Or at least save the water for a cloudy day.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Moshe Ya'alon's defense of the blockade

It is hard to see how delivering medical supplies and solar panels to Gaza "de-legitimizes" Israel unless Israel's legitimacy rests upon the misery of the people of Gaza.

vote ochi

As Yglesias says Greece is screwed no matter what it does. Still, a no vote in the upcoming referendum would mean economic collapse with an eventual recovery under its own very-much-devalued new currency. A yes vote, on the other hand, would mean economic collapse through austerity for as far as the eye can see. The Greeks are facing economic armageddon either way, but at least the no vote has a silver lining.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

keeping up with a changing world

I guess they all feel they have to do this. But I wonder if they are really reading the winds correctly and/or if their advisors are telling them to follow an out of date script. New shit has come to light  (and that poll is already a year old. I bet the numbers are a bit higher now)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Wadda week

So I go away for a week and what happens? The confederate flag and other symbols of the confederacy fall decisively out of favor across the South; the Supremes decide that the Moops did not invade Spain after all and reject the last serious threat to the Affordable Care Act; and gay marriage becomes legal throughout the country.

I'm still in Florida until Sunday. What other amazing developments will happen in the next 36 hours?