Sunday, August 31, 2003

A really subversive suggestion for APSA

The American Political Science Association is divided into organized sections. Most of these sections are based on research interests -- the various subfields of international relations, political theory, American politics, etc. According to this page on APSA's web site:

Organized Sections have become a vital part of the Association by sponsoring panels at the Annual Meeting, producing informative newsletters, and recognizing scholarly achievements of their members.

Now, one of the sections is called "New Political Science." According to the section's website:

The New Political Science Section of the American Political Science Association is organized by the Caucus for a New Political Science, an organization of political scientists united by the idea that Political Science as an academic discipline should be committed to advancing progressive political development.

I went to one of this section's APSA panels. Beyond the standard lefty refrains, most of the discourse was about how they felt marginalized within the power structure of the political science discipline.

This is a pretty amusing assertion. At least the progressives have their own organized section. Since one of APSA's chief function is to organize the annual conference, and since lefties can at least arrange their own panels, they can carve out a niche for themselves at the meeting. However, there is no organized section for conservative or libertarian scholars within APSA.*

I certainly don't begrudge the progressives for having their own section. And I honestly don't know if there would be enough of a critical mass within the discipline to create the political science equivalent of a Federalist Society. Such a section would certainly require people like John Lemon to come out of the closet, for example.

However, it seems to me that some professor -- I'm sorry, let me rephrase that -- some tenured professor might want to consider setting the wheels in motion for organizing such a section. [And what would you call it? Old Political Science?--ed. I'm perfectly happy to receive name suggestions below!!] If nothing else, such a move would help to nurture the persecution complex that pervades the New Political Scientists.

*To be fair, right-of-center "related organizations" such as the Eric Voegelin Society or the Claremont Institute do sponsor panels that take place at the APSA meetings. However, these do not have the same status as regular APSA sections, which include New Political Science.

posted by Dan at 06:58 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

(Over)heard and seen at American Political Science Association's annual meeting

Below are some of the snippets of conversation that caught my ear over the past four days. Note that all of them are not necessarily verbatim what I heard, but rather the best approximation of what I remember when I wrote them down.

Looking at the Brad DeLong post that inspired what follows, I've come to the sad conclusion that either economists are wittier than political scientists or that most of the interesting conversations took place out of earshot. Such is life:

  • From a panel discussant: "I was playing golf yesterday, and only psychologically left the golf course five minutes after this panel started. And let me just add how happy I am that APSA moved its starting time for the early morning panel from 8:45 AM to 8:00 AM."

  • "The profession has a lot of neomoralistic moralizing."

  • "My family is just thrilled that APSA is during Labor Day weekend."

  • From a paper presenter: "There's nothing worse you can be than a conspiracy theorist, even though there are so many conspiracies out there." The presenter then went on to imply that the myraid assassinations of prominent liberal figures during the 1960's was part of an organized campaign from the right.

  • "Oh, yeah, is a great procrastinator when you're a graduate student."

  • "The papers were all competent, and yet -- somehow -- evil."

  • "I need to finish quickly, since the governor signs all University of California diplomas, and I want to avoid a Schwarzenegger signature on my diploma."

  • "I'm back to writing something real. I was sick of working on ir-real stuff for the past few years."

  • "There's a rumor circulating that the perestroika crowd is distributing a 'most-wanted' deck of playing cards with the top rational choice scholars on them."

  • "99% of APSA's membership could write Paul Krugman's column: 'I loathe Bush.'; 'Bush is stupid.'; Yada, yada, yada."

  • "I fear that in this business we don't reward people who build data sets -- such as me."

  • I can't believe I missed Pedro Martinez vs. Andy Pettite for this panel."

  • "W. has been very good for business."

  • "I'm finishing this project on a combination of cognitive psychology, linguistics, cybernetics, and international relations theory.... it's weird, but good."
  • posted by Dan at 06:07 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (4)

    Saturday, August 30, 2003

    Everything old is not new again

    From today's New York Times news analysis on China's role in the North Korea talks:

    Beijing's decision to broker the nuclear talks reflects alarm in the top ranks of the Communist Party that the North Korean problem could spiral out of control, with both the North and the United States locked in polar positions. Experts said China had decided that it was uniquely positioned to make a difference because of longstanding ties with North Korea, a neighbor and onetime political and military ally, and its improving relationship with the Bush administration.

    Yet its assertiveness may also reflect a new sense of engagement with the world that offers some parallels to the emergence of the United States as a dominant power nearly a century ago, experts say.

    "China is starting to act like a big power, with interests it has to defend even outside its borders," said Yan Xuetong, a influential foreign policy expert at Qinghua University in Beijing. "I expect these talks to be remembered as an important milestone in history for that reason."

    This is a standard line among many Sinologists, pointing to China's growing economic and military power. And indeed, the article gives several examples of China's growing global influence -- oh, wait, I'm sorry, every single example cited in the article takes place on China's borders.

    By comparison, peruse Fareed Zakaria's excellent first book, From Wealth to Power, and you'll see that a hundred years ago the U.S. was projecting power far beyond its borders, including the deployment of U.S. forces on the Chinese mainland.

    My point here is not to denigrate China's rising power, but rather to put things in the proper perspective. As a regional actor in Asia, Beijing can not and should not be ignored. As a global actor, its profile remains relatively small, even compared with the Unitred States a century ago.

    posted by Dan at 04:49 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

    Friday, August 29, 2003

    Puncturing the conference vacuum

    One of the quirks of APSA is that even though everyone -- well, almost everyone -- attending the conference is interested in current events, during the four days the conference is in progress people exist in a black hole for news. Free copies of the New York Times are available for participants, but few attendees have the time to peruse the news in the same way.

    However, my blogger training permitted me to notice that the U.S. was cutting a deal on generic medicines in advance of the Cancun trade talks. While the deal hasn't been officially sealed yet, it looks like it will.

    In the short term, this is double good news. It will benefit those in developing countries and suffering from AIDS or other diseases. It's also a boon to the trade talks and a signal that the U.S. is committed to completing the Doha round on time.

    Make no mistake, however -- in the long term, there are potential costs. If pharmaceutical firms believe than any drug developed for a disease that is widespread in the developing world will have poor intellectual property rights protection, it will affect their research and development trajectories, and not in a good way.

    NGOs are bitching that the deal does not go far enough, as are African activists. That actually makes me feel better, in thinking that the deal will not gut property rights so much that it will blunt new drug research.

    posted by Dan at 08:25 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (2)

    Thursday, August 28, 2003

    Philadelphia freedom

    I'll be trying to follow my own conference tips (as well as the excellent set of suggestions posted in the comments) for the next few days at the American Political Science Association annual meeting in Philadelphia, PA. Only been here a day, and already I've become outraged by Pennslyvania's insane liquor laws.

    Blogging will be intermittent, although I will exert every effort to post a poli sci version of Brad Delong's "seen and heard" post from last December (definitely worth another read).

    Looking for something to read? Niall Ferguson is always worth perusing, and this article discusses the crucial distinctions (glossed over way too much in the academy) between empire and hegemony.

    Oh, and take a gander at Ari Melber's op-ed on the myth of the "Arab Street" from the Baltimore Sun a few days ago. Enjoy!!!

    posted by Dan at 11:09 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

    Tuesday, August 26, 2003

    Tips for conference rookies

    Yesterday I received the following e-mail request:

    [C]ould you please post some advice to poli sci students who are going for their first time to the APSA [American Political Science Association] Conference this week?

    We aim to please here at, so here are my Top Five Tips to Newcomers on Attending Conferences [Does this apply to non-poli sci conferences?--ed. My hunch is yes, but having never attended other ones, I won't swear to it]:

    5) Lower your expectations. If you're thinking that most of the papers you will hear presented will be of the same caliber as those you've read in class, you're in for big letdown.

    Most of the papers presented at a conference of this scale are either works in progress or first-drafts. Most of the people presenting these papers are early in their careers. Some of the papers will be really interesting; most of them won't. If you attend two panels that contain at least two interesting papers in each panel, you've had a good conference.

    Conferences such as APSA are much more bearable if you a) go with a friend; and b) bring or buy a book for the dull patches.

    4) Build your network. You will undoubtedly notice a few people going to all of the same panels as you attend. Strike up a conversation and find out. They'll probably be working on something similar but not identical to you.

    3) Stake out big-name panels early. If you see a panel loaded with prominent scholars, check and see what room it's in. If it's a small one, be sure to go early. Savor the fact that you'll be comfortable for the next 90 minutes while big names will have to crane their neck from the back to see what's going on.

    2) Carefully monitor fluid intake. Conferences are basically a vehicle to assume elevated amounts of coffee, water, and alcohol. Try to consume all three in moderation -- you don't want to be dashing to the bathroom at every break between panels, which is when all the good schmoozing takes place.

    And the most important piece of advice I can offer:

    1) Take your friggin' name tag off when you leave the hotel. Otherwise you look like such a geek.

    [Um... what about good papers or panels to attend?--ed. You mean besides my panel, which probably has the most number of bloggers? Jacob Levy has been kind enough to collect some interesting possibilities, although it really depends on your own interests.

    UPDATE: This post triggered a rash of responsesKieran Healy offers some excellent tips, while Invisible Adjunct and Apartment 11D offer some excellent predictions.

    posted by Dan at 08:41 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (8)

    Whither the Democratic establishment?

    Josh Marshall offers an explanation for why Wesley Clark would be a viable candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, even if he enters the race this late in the day:

    [B]y the normal laws of political gravitation, Dean's sustained surge should have forced a coalescence around one of the several more-centrist-minded establishment candidates -- Kerry, Gephardt, Edwards, Lieberman. With Dean catching fire, those who aren't comfortable with his candidacy should be getting behind one candidate in order to beat him. But that clearly has not happened.

    In some ways this is a more striking development than Dean's rise itself.

    Now, why hasn't that coalescence taken place? I think the answer is elementary. None of the current candidates has passed the audition for the job. Lieberman's campaign is generally believed to be moribund (and I like the guy). Edwards has gone absolutely nowhere. Gephardt has bet everything on getting the support of organized labor. But if he gets it, it'll basically be a mercy ... well, I don't want to be off-color. But, you know what I mean. Kerry is basically the establishment front-runner at the moment. But it's an extremely anemic frontrunnerdom. He's basically the front-runner by default because all the other potential frontrunners who haven't caught fire are doing even worse than he is.

    What this all tells me is that there is a vacuum with a lot of political forces pushing to fill it. And yet none of the current candidates has been capable of becoming the vehicle for those forces. I know these are some convoluted metaphors. But I trust my meaning is relatively clear.

    Now, there are all sorts of reasons why late-entering, draft-so-and-so type candidacies never end up winning. But the vacuum I've just described is one Clark could potentially fill. At least he could get in the game and give it his best shot.

    Marshall is probably correct in his assessment, but there is one other possibility -- the Democratic establishment is too fractured/decentralized to coalesce around anyone. The union kowtowing that Marshall mentions is but one example of this. Don't forget the wooing of public school teachers, trial lawyers, African-Americans, and environmentalists.

    The contrast with the Republicans is quite striking. While the Dems are busy trying to please key interest groups, the GOP is trying to augment their control over key interest groups, as this Washington Monthly story makes clear:

    If today's GOP leaders put as much energy into shaping K Street as their predecessors did into selecting judges and executive-branch nominees, it's because lobbying jobs have become the foundation of a powerful new force in Washington politics: a Republican political machine. Like the urban Democratic machines of yore, this one is built upon patronage, contracts, and one-party rule. But unlike legendary Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, who rewarded party functionaries with jobs in the municipal bureaucracy, the GOP is building its machine outside government, among Washington's thousands of trade associations and corporate offices, their tens of thousands of employees, and the hundreds of millions of dollars in political money at their disposal.

    At first blush, K Street might not seem like the best place to build a well-oiled political operation. For most of its existence, after all, the influence industry has usually been the primary obstacle to aggressive, ambitious policy-making in Washington. But over the last few years, Republicans have brought about a revolutionary change: They've begun to capture and, consequently, discipline K Street.... The corporate lobbyists who once ran the show, loyal only to the parochial interests of their employer, are being replaced by party activists who are loyal first and foremost to the GOP. Through them, Republican leaders can now marshal armies of lobbyists, lawyers, and public relations experts--not to mention enormous amounts of money--to meet the party's goals.

    I actually hope I'm wrong in this assessment and Marshall is right. As I've said before, I want two viable parties out there. And much of this is attributable to the contrast in party control over tthe executive and legislative branches. Consider this an alternate hypothesis.

    But let me close with a hypothetical question: if I'm wrong, then what explains Terry MacAuliffe's continuing reign as the Democratic Party chairman following the 2002 midterm elections?

    posted by Dan at 10:46 AM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (5)

    Monday, August 25, 2003

    Bias here, bias there, bias bias everywhere!!

    Back in January, Hugh Hewitt wrote about the East Coast bias that exists in the inculcation of new pundits. This week, is furiously debating whether there is an East Coast bias in sports coverage. Eric Neel and David Schoenfield say yes; Jeff Merron says no.

    As someone who's lived and worked in all four continental time zones, the only thing I have to add is that every region outside the East Coast feels aggrieved.

    The Left Coasters aren't taken seriously by the East Coast.

    Neither coast pays attention to the Midwest or the Rocky Mountain regions, unless they're changing planes at O'Hare or figuring out a way to ski in Aspen.

    And, of course, the only thing the residents in these regions have in common is their comfortable stereotypes about the South.

    OK, I'm exaggerating a bit. But for those who believe that regional affinities don't count in the United States, check out Peter Trubowitz's excellent book, Defining the National Interest: Conflict and Change in American Foreign Policy , which argues that different alignments of regional interests explain variations in U.S. foreign policy.

    posted by Dan at 10:05 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (2)

    Explaining Bush's thinking on Iraq

    Bush's approach to statebuilding in Iraq genuinely puzzles Kevin Drum :

    Bush's conduct toward Iraq continues to be something that I just shake my head over. He lost my support before the war because I eventually became convinced that he wasn't serious about postwar reconstruction. After the war, it became clear that my suspicions were well grounded and that virtually no serious postwar planning had been done. And now, his continuing refusal to admit that we need more troops in Iraq or to make any effort to rally the country behind the time and money it will take to do the job right is simply inexplicable.

    Obviously he realizes that failure in Iraq would be an enormous blow both to the U.S. and to the war on terrorism. And he — or his advisors, at any rate — must realize that we can't do it with the troops and funding we have in place now. There's just too much contrary evidence for him not to realize that.

    So what is he doing?

    I point Kevin to this Richard Brookshier profile on George W. Bush's decisionmaking style from the March 2003 Atlantic Monthly. Reading the artivle, it's clear that answer to Kevin's question gets to Bush's greatest strength as a leader -- and potentially his greatest weakness.

    On foreign policy issues, Bush will stick to policy positions even in the face of considerable public criticism. This served him very well in the Afghanistan war, when skeptics questioned the wisdom of attacking so soon after 9/11, and called for more boots on the ground when the initial bombing campaign seemed to produce meager results. The administration stayed the course on this, and was ultimately vindicated.

    The same thing is taking place in Iraq. The administration has clearly decided that the only way it will accept greater multilateral support in Iraq is on U.S. terms and not U.N. terms. Given the U.N.'s management of its own security, I don't blame them.

    As I've said before, I think the U.S. needs more troops in country. However, I could be wrong. The jury in the blogosphere is still out (see Adesnik vs. Yglesias). Bush has clearly decided that this is not necessary in the long term, and he'll take his lumps about it in the short term. If he's right -- and I hope he is right -- it will be a true demonstration of leadership.

    The problem is that the ability to stay the course in the face of public criticism can often morph into pig-headedness about refusing to recognize the error of one's ways. Bush has been right about a lot of the political gambles he has taken during his presidency -- pulling out of the the ABM treaty, the Afghan war, pushing for big tax cuts. A constant record of success makes it more difficult for somone to admit that they need to change course.


    UPDATE: Atrios and others seem to believe that I was suggesting that there was considerable opposition to attacking Afghanistan. As the section of this post that Atrios actually quoted should have made clear, and as one of his commenters points out, that was not my implication. My implication was that there was criticism regarding the timing (not waiting until Spring 2002) and tactics (using more conventional army forces) of the Afghan campaign. And there certainly was a point in early November 2001 when some started to criticize those decisions are ill-considered, inspiring Andrew Sullivan's Von Hoffman awards.

    Hope that clears thing up.

    posted by Dan at 10:17 AM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (2)

    University news

    Both the New York Times and the Washington Post have stories today on potent influences on the academy. The Times looks ar Harvard's president, Larry Summers. The Post looks at Microsoft.

    The New York Times Magazine quotes one of Summers' friends at Harvard saying, "There are a lot of people on other parts of the campus I've met who just despise him. The level of the intensity of their dislike for him is just shocking."

    Glenn Reynolds thinks this is because he's to the right of the "ideologically correct" academy. But this is less about ideology than power.

    As the article makes clear, Summers is doing two things that scare a significant chunk of the faculty. First, Summers is centralizing power within his office, taking a more personal role in tenure and hiring decisions. In any university this would prompt grumblings, because it means a loss of autonomy for departments and schools.

    Second, and much more important, Summers is taking a positivist approach to areas of thought that have historically been thought of as the humanities. The key grafs:

    [T]he intellectual revolution that Summers says he hopes to capture in the new curriculum is not limited to science itself. ''More and more areas of thought have become susceptible to progress,'' he said, ''susceptible to the posing of questions, the looking at the world and trying to find answers, the coming to views that represent closer approximations of the truth.'' Tools of measurement have become ubiquitous, as well as extraordinarily refined....

    The great universities have traditionally defined themselves as humanistic rather than scientific institutions. Summers's point is not so much that the balance should shift as that the distinctions between these modes of understanding have blurred, though clearly in a way that favors the analytic domains -- the soft has become harder, rather than the other way around.

    Most faculty members at Harvard worry much more about this hard-soft spectrum than they do about the left-right one.... It is quite possible that just as Charles W. Eliot came to be seen as the man who brought the range of modern knowledge into the traditional university, so Summers will be seen as the man who decisively moved those universities toward increasingly analytical, data-driven ways of knowing.

    Clearly, these preferences are starting to drive the tenured faculty around the bend:

    I met professors who so thoroughly loathe the new president that they refuse even to grant his intelligence, perhaps because doing so would confer upon him a virtue treasured at Harvard. Despite the protections of tenure, virtually all of Summers's critics were too afraid of him to be willing to be quoted by name.

    Those dumb enough not to recognize Summers' smarts are headed for a great fall (Bill Sjostrom points out just how savvy Summers must be). The next few years are going to be fun for those who write about Harvard.

    The Post story is about the rise of Microsoft's influence on college campuses, and the inevitable backlash this is causing on campus. An example of the latter:

    "[I worry] that in the face of budget shortfalls, universities will sacrifice their research autonomy, offering up curriculum and academic integrity to the highest bidder," said Mark Schaan, a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University who was part of a group of students at the University of Waterloo, the Canadian equivalent of MIT, who last year urged administrators to turn down Microsoft's donations.

    That's the rhetoric. Here's an example of Microsoft's role in funding campus research:

    Among those who say they have benefited from Microsoft's donations is Howard University associate professor Todd E. Shurn. Two years ago, he was struggling with how to best teach a multimedia class that would combine computer science, art and communications skills.

    Two of Shurn's former students, who had gone on to work at Microsoft and had come back to Washington on a recruiting visit, had an idea: Why not build the class around Windows Media Player? The class could create a new interface, or "skin," for the program. The professor was intrigued. He fiddled around with the technology for a few days and concluded it was worth testing. Microsoft provided $5,000, software and books and sent one of its technicians to help set up the computers the students would be using. The experiment was a success, Shurn said, so much so that he expanded the project the next year to include a contest open to the entire school. Microsoft, of course, provided the money for the awards.

    Boy, that is evil.

    I have no doubt some of my fellow academicians are dreading the rise of these kinds of influences. I say, bring them on.

    posted by Dan at 12:13 AM | Comments (22) | Trackbacks (3)

    Saturday, August 23, 2003

    Give yourselves a hand

    Due perhaps to my own personality quirks, I will confess to having had some trepidation about adding a comments feature to the blog. Will Baude and Jivha (and countless others) have speculated on the reasons why top-tier bloggers don't have them.

    As a non-top-tier blogger, I was basically worried that the comments would be too difficult to manage, overhelming the posts by going off topic, just being nasty, or as James Joyner notes, more disturbing behavior.

    I'm glad to say I was wrong. On the whole, the comments have been of exceptionally high quality. I've had to delete very few of them. And as Mickey Kaus) has pointed out about a recent post of mine: "The relatively high-quality comments... are also recommended."

    So, thanks to all of you for the value-added!!!

    posted by Dan at 02:25 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

    Friday, August 22, 2003

    Libertarian smackdown

    Radley Balko and Pejman Yousefzadeh have dueling articles in Tech Central Station over whether the Do Not Call registry -- about which I've posted here -- is consistent with the libertarian credo.

    Start off with Yousefzadeh's original TCS essay. Then move onto Balko's rejoinder essay. Then check out Pejman's response to Radley, and Radley's responses to his critics.

    If you checked my original post, you'll see I'm torn on this one. I'll post my thoughts after reading everything I just assigned.

    UPDATE: OK, I've read everything, including this Julian Sanchez post, and Yousefzadeh wins by KO. I'll explain why sometime this weekend. Hint: it has something to do with Ronald Coase.

    ANOTHER UPDATE: Well, this is what I get for procrastinating -- "pj"'s comment below summarizes what I was going to say in a more pithy way than I could have devised. The problem here is that because of the absence of well-defined property rights, the issue is a distributional one. Either the telemarketers are assigned the property right of being able to make automated calls, or the individual consumer is assigned the property right of blocking unwanted calls. I have no problem whatsoever with the consumer receiving this particular property right, particularly given the blackmail problems associated with allocating the property right to producers.

    Another fact, which neither Balko or Yousefzadeh mention, tips me in favor of the registry: unless one believes that consumers are irrational or have time-inconsistent preferences, the registry should be a Pareto-optimizing move. The consumers who don't want the service of unsolicited offers don't get it by signing up. The producers, are also provided valuable information. They are told which calls would be completely unproductive. Even if the cost of making the calls is minimal, it's still greater than zero -- ergo, a profit-maximizing producer should be glad to receive this information as a way to cut costs.

    Of course, this raises an interesting theoretical question: if the government merely informed the telemarketing industry who had signed up for the do-not-call registry, but provided no sanctions for making calls to those individuals, would the telemarketers still comply? I suspect not, because the telemarketers believe they could still extract a high-enough yield to warrant the costs. That action, however, suggests that these firms believe they could override an individual's prior choice -- and that bothers the hell out of me.

    In the end, any theory of libertarianism must place great confidence in the ability of individuals to make choices that will maximize their self-interest. Balko's argument regarding the nanny state violates that assumption for me.

    LAST UPDATE: A final hat tip to Balko for linking to all of the negative reaction he's got while still sticking to his guns.

    posted by Dan at 12:48 PM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (4)

    Thursday, August 21, 2003

    The grand opening

    Those of you prowling around the rest of have probably figured this out, but for the rest of you, I've added a few bells and whistles to the site. [You've added?--ed. Good point!! A big thank you to Robyn for all of her help in getting everything fixed up. My apologies for occasionally marring your beautiful design with some slapped-on code of my own.]

    In no particular order:

    1) On the right, you'll notice a book recommendation page, which contains some classic and recent books on international relations and political economy that are worth checking out.

    2) Also on the right, you will also notice a Book of the Month selection. For the rest of August, it's Meghan O'Sullivan's Shrewd Sanctions, which I've mentioned in the past. [What's the deal with the Amazon ad?--ed. Buy the book via my site, I get a small cut. Trying to make a profit on the blog?--ed. More like trying to recoup sunk costs.]

    3) The rest of the site is now up. This includes research and teaching pages for those interested in my day job, and a personal interests page for those who are yours truly. Highlights from the rest of the site include my academic cv*, my paper-writing advice, and a small photo of me skydiving.

    If you want to see anything else within reason, let me know and I'll see what I can do. Otherwise, enjoy!!

    *WARNING: Those of you more comfortable with the word "resume" will be flabbergasted at both its length and the extent of piddling stuff that's included on my cv. That's not me being vain; that's just the nature of academic resumes for those without tenure.

    posted by Dan at 11:03 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (2)

    Philosophy hijinks

    This year's World Congress of Philosophy ended a few days ago in Istanbul. According to Ioanna Kuçuradi, President of the Federation of Philosophical Societies:

    The main theme of the Congress will be Philosophy Facing World Problems. By selecting this theme we wish to put the accent on the need of philosophical, including ethical, knowledge in dealing with global problems at the outset of the new century.

    So how'd they do?

    Well, there's this story:

    At the fifth day of the 21st World Philosophy Congress, currently in Istanbul, philosophers from around the world heavily criticised the United States and shared their suggestions on what to do about the world's only superpower.

    After reminding the Congress that the U.S. Administration organised an operation in Iraq with the excuse of finding Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and then threatened North Korea with the same excuse, Australian philosopher Prof. Peter Singer asked if launching a preventive operation against countries having WMDs was a legitimate right. He then suggested that the U.S. also has WMDs and North Korea may have the same right to launch an operation against the U.S.

    Singer suggested that the United Nations' (UN) structure should be changed in order to counter U.S. hegemony. He proposed the abolishment of veto power and a change to a pluralist system. Asserting that the UN is not democratic, Singer said, "5 countries have the power of a veto and four of them share a Christian tradition. Not even one Muslim country has the power to veto."

    Despite such statements, the Congress has not endeared itself to local Islamic philosophers.

    And then there's this closing headline, "Philosophy Congress Ends in Chaos." (news links via Political Theory)

    Ah, if only some of the Crooked Timber folk had been in attendance to provide a firsthand report.

    posted by Dan at 01:28 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    About that flypaper hypothesis

    Mickey Kaus links to a lot of blogosphere and op-ed commentary touting the "flypaper" thesis of Austin Bay and David Warren. The thumbnail version of the argument (from Warren):

    While engaged in the very difficult business of building a democracy in Iraq -- the first democracy, should it succeed, in the entire history of the Arabs -- President Bush has also, quite consciously to my information, created a new playground for the enemy, away from Israel, and even farther away from the United States itself. By the very act of proving this lower ground, he drains terrorist resources from other swamps.

    Kaus observes:

    It seems only yesterday that the "flypaper" theory of U.S. strategy in Iraq was a tiny little meme-speck on the horizon.... Today, it's perilously close to Conventional Wisdom status

    The thing is, I don't buy it. In terms of the broader neocon vision of transforming the Middle East, Iraq needs to be an oasis of stability, not a grand opening for Terrorists 'R Us. [But what about Josh Marshall's theory that the neocons want greater instability as an excuse for greater U.S. intervention?--ed. If Marshall was correct, then the last thing the administration would want is for destabilizing elements to leave their home countries and go to Iraq. That would make it harder, not easier, to justify U.S. incursions elsewhere in the region.]

    There's also this little nugget of information contained within today's Los Angeles Times story regarding the U.S. decision to seek another U.N. Security Council resolution in Iraq:

    One possible compromise between the United States and other Security Council members would establish a separate contingent of UN forces that would report to a UN command structure and provide security for humanitarian missions and some reconstruction efforts. This might satisfy countries that want to help but don't want their soldiers under U.S. command.

    Washington also hopes the resolution will call on Iraq's neighbors, particularly Iran and Syria, to block the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq, according to diplomats in Washington. The influx of foreign forces has become a leading U.S. security concern. (emphasis added)

    If the flypaper hypothesis is correct, then why would the administration be so concerned about border protection?

    Maybe the LA Times sources are way off (nothing like this appeared in either the NYT or WaPo stories), but if they're right, then either the flypaper thesis is a load of bulls@#t, or the Bush administration underestimated how sticky the Iraq flypaper has turned out to be.

    posted by Dan at 11:44 AM | Comments (40) | Trackbacks (3)

    Wednesday, August 20, 2003

    Welcome to the blogroll

    I've added three new blogs to the roll. The first one was long overdue -- Tom Maguire's Just One Minute.

    The second is Eric Zorn's new j-blog for the Chicago Tribune, which has a great title, Breaking Views. This column provides Eric's raison d'etre for the blog. He writes mostly about Chicago issues, but occasionally looks into foreign affairs.

    The third is John Scalzi's new blog for AOL, entitled By the Way. [That name sounds familiar--ed. Scalzi also blogs here.] He now joins the very small ranks of people who earn a living by blogging. According to this page on John's personal web site, AOL fired him back in 1998; his new job must be some form of karmic payback.

    By the Way is part of the new "AOL Journals" campaign to enter the blogosphere in grand fashion -- click here and here for background. In John's first live post for AOL, he explains his ambassadorial role:

    My job is also to keep AOL Journalers connected with what's going on with AOL Journals, both on the technical side (the AOL Journals tool you use to post entries) and in the emerging community surrounding AOL Journals. And let's not forget the larger blogging and journaling community that already exists out there ("The Blogosphere," as it is generally known). We're now a part of that, too. So when you have questions, comments and observations about any of it, just let me know.

    Welcome aboard!!

    posted by Dan at 08:31 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    Your source for outsourcing

    Follwing up on some previous links on outsourcing, Brad DeLong has a long post on why outsourcing will not doom the U.S. economy. He's particularly trenchant on this point:

    Remember: few would be worried about "outsourcing" if the U.S. unemployment rate were still close to four percent, rather than at the above six percent level that it is. To the extent that a structural cure is being proposed for what is really a macroeconomic problem, do not expect it to end well. And remember: a network-design job artificially kept in Sacramento when it could be done more cheaply in Singapore produces extra income for a network engineer in Sacramento, but has costs as well: in a diminished capital inflow that reduces construction and the earnings of construction workers, in higher costs for businesses installing their networks that shows up in lower salaries they pay their workers, in lower earnings and stock prices for HP.

    That said, Glenn Reynolds is also correct in pointing out that precisely because of our current macroeconomic travails, this will be a campaign issue.

    Why? Not because outsourcing is new, but because it's going to affect an entirely new set of professions. As Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales (for more about them, click here) point out in Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists, (p. 282):

    For centuries, technology has created new products and new ways of making them that render workers and their skills redundant. While the dislocation stemming from technological change is not new, its pace has increased tremendously. Moreover, it is now affecting the professions that have not much changed their way of doing business over the centuries (emphasis added).

    That quote, by the way, provides the best counter to outsourcing anxiety. Opposing it perfectly akin to opposing technological progress. They're both Luddite.

    [That's easy for you to say. You're an academic facing minimal market pressures.--ed.] Not true. Rajan and Zingales use academia as one example of a profession newly affected by technology:

    Technology is also having a differential impact on within professions. Take our own, teaching in universities. Using new communication technologies, one gifted professor can teach students in many locations around the country. While technology will increase the demand for such superstar teachers, it will reduce the demand for the mediocre that may vanish completely. Teaching is a job that has been performed the same way for thousands of years, by people who have not feared becoming redundant even in the worst of economic depressions. This will change. While the new economy will increase the demand for education, it may not have room for all of us (p. 283).

    posted by Dan at 11:40 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

    Thoughts on the UN attack

    There's a lot of blogosphere speculation about the "who?" and the "why?" of the bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad -- see Matthew Yglesias, David Adesnik, Glenn Reynolds, Juan Cole, and -- in a heartbreaking post -- Salam Pax.

    As I've said before, such speculation often leads commentators to fit overly neat narratives into messy realities. However, this New York Times news analysis of the bombing, which has a paragraph that just startled me:

    No one claimed responsibility for the attack. But it seems clear that any improvement in the standard of living of Iraqis is viewed by opponents of the occupation as a victory for the United States and its efforts to create a stable, democratic Iraq.

    So the question is, what group is nihilistic enough to see victory in the mass immiseration of fellow Arabs and the destruction of international supportagencies?

    While the B'aathists are contemptible, while in power they were always clever enough to play the United Nations off the U.S. and Great Britain. This attack has the feel of someone incapable of making such distinctions yet willing to hit soft targets. In other words, an Al Qaeda subsidiary. So, my money's on Ansar al-Islam.

    UPDATE: William Dyer is less than pleased with the Times coverage of the bombing (link via InstaPundit).

    posted by Dan at 11:22 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (1)

    Mounting multilateral pressure on Pyongyang

    When the multilateral talks on North Korea were announced a few weeks ago, Russia's seat at the table raised a few eyebrows. Until that point, the U.S. insistence was on five-party talks -- the U.S., North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and China. Russia's inclusion -- and its historical ties to the DPRK -- caused some to wonder if this was some kind of effort to level the playing field for Pyongyang.

    Well, as Fred Kaplan and the New York Times indicated yesterday, that speculation was way off. According to the Times:

    Russia, traditionally an ally of North Korea, embarked today on a 10-day maritime exercise, partly in waters near North Korea, that will involve two traditional enemies of the North, Japan and South Korea. The exercise is the first time that warships from those three countries have conducted joint maneuvers.

    Also today, China and Japan announced that for the first time they would conduct mutual visits by warships. In addition, on Sept. 1, Shigeru Ishiba, chief of Japan's Defense Agency, is to travel to Shanghai and Beijing, the first visit by a Japanese defense minister in five years....

    North Korea, in response to this effort to isolate it ahead of the talks scheduled from Aug. 27 to 29 in Beijing, blasted the United States today, attacking Washington for leading 10 other nations in the Proliferation Security Initiative, an alliance devised to intercept North Korean ships suspected of carrying contraband....

    This Saturday, in the thin strip of Russian territory that was a rear staging area for Soviet military support for North Korea in the Korean War, border troops and civil defense officials are to conduct drills based on the premise that huge North Korean refugee flows could start as a result of a new war on the Korean peninsula or by the collapse of the government of Kim Jong Il....

    China, under the new leadership of Hu Jintao, asked North Korea earlier this year to renegotiate their half-century-old mutual defense treaty. North Korea reportedly replied that the timing was not good, with the United States pressuring North Korea over its nuclear program.

    Japan, another maritime neighbor of North Korea, is also growing increasingly wary.

    The Japanese Coast Guard has added two patrol cutters armed with 20- millimeter cannons on its west coast facing the Korean peninsula, and 26 officers have been added to customs offices in eight seaports frequented by North Korean freighters.

    Surrounded by increasingly hostile neighbors, Mr. Kim, North Korea's leader, increasingly acts like a hunted man. In the last six months, he has kept a low profile, never appearing publicly at an event that was scheduled and publicized ahead of time.

    Fred Kaplan explains the significance of Russia's actions in Slate. The key grafs:

    In previous multilateral negotiations—for that matter, throughout its half-century history—North Korea has played other, larger powers off one another, often quite shrewdly. A "shrimp among whales," a nation founded on guerrilla tactics at the height of the Cold War, North Korea sees this sort of manipulation as essential to survival.

    The importance of Russia's unprecedented involvement in this week's military exercises—the signal that it appears quite pointedly to be sending—is that Kim Jong-il will no longer, or at least not so easily, be able to play this game. At this negotiation, on this issue, Russia stands aligned with all the other foreign powers.

    Actually, rereading the Times story, Kaplan is understating things. Russia's participation in naval exercises is a powerful signal, but just as significant is the bulking up of Japan's forces and the cooling down of China's friendship with Pyongyang.

    Ironically, by the time the talks start, the countries in the multilateral coalition that will have the biggest policy differences will be the U.S. and South Korea. Jim Dunnigan manages, in a single paragraph, to neatly summarize why the U.S. and South Korea disagree so frequently on what to do with North Korea (link via InstaPundit):

    Why is there disagreement between the United States and South Korea over how to deal with the North? The main problem is that Americans fear that the north will quietly sell nuclear or chemical weapons to terrorist groups, and these weapons will end up being used in the United States. The north has used terrorist attacks against South Korea for decades, so we know what they are capable of. Thus American are anxious to do something about North Korean nuclear and chemical weapons. South Koreans are more afraid of the North Attacking the south directly, which they did once before in 1950. To deal with the terrorist threat, it seems reasonable to threaten the north. But to deal with the war threat, you have to use more conciliatory moves. South Korea and America both fear the north, but for different reasons, and each wants to apply a different, and somewhat incompatible, solution.


    posted by Dan at 01:06 AM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (1)

    Tuesday, August 19, 2003

    The blogosphere and the Guardian take on agricultural subsidies

    The Guardian has set up what it calls a "campaign blog" to Kick All Agricultural Subsidies, or KickAAS (link via OxBlog).

    This is from their first real post:

    Everyone gains. Abolition would save Western governments over $300 billion a year (equivalent to a cashback of over $200 for everyone) while giving a huge boost to agriculture in developing countries. Poor countries could sell products – like sugar, cereals and skimmed milk – they are much better suited to produce. At the moment they are being undercut even in their own domestic markets by subsidised Western produce. Sometimes trade is better than aid. And it costs nothing.

    The present system doesn't even do what it claims to do. According to the OECD less than half of the $300 billion handouts get through even to the most efficient farmers. Even farmers would gain from abolition – by kicking subsidies that have become a dependency habit.

    Abolishing agricultural subsidies is one of the very few campaigns that unites right, left and centre.

    Well, not everyone. I also have no doubt that either Pat Buchanan or Lori Wallach could come up with a reason to oppose this. Still, you get the idea.

    Go check out the site, which contains some useful links.

    Just as interesting as the battle to end agricultultural subsidies is the fact that the Guardian, in setting up the site, thinks that the blogosphere can affect political change. I've expressed my doubts on this score in the past, but I also hope I'm wrong in this case.

    We'll see if these kinds of campaign blogs are more interesting than the ones that Maureen Dowd ripped to shreds last week.


    UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias is pessimistic that anything of substance will be accomplished with this campaign, because of the limited reach of English-language blogs and the concentration of interests within the agricultural sector of the U.S.

    I share his sense of pessimism but not its depth. First, as KICKAAS itself observes, the key actors to influence are the United States and the European Union. The blogosphere's power in the U.S. is much debated, but it occasionally demonstrates some pull.

    As for the EU, I hear they speak some English on the continent. Indeed, given the elite nature of EU policymaking, a blog sponsored by a major media outlet might actually significant attention in the corridors of Brussels.

    As for the U.S., the concentration of interests is acute, but it's worth remembering that U.S. agriculture is not a monolithic bloc. In some sectors (sugar) the United States is not competitive; in others (wheat, I believe) it is. So, some of these concentrated interests stand to gain from liberalization in agriculture.

    So, to sum up: still generally pessimistic, but not as dour as Yglesias.

    posted by Dan at 04:55 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (1)

    Interesting company I keep at Amazon

    So I was clicking on to Amazon to see how my sanctions book was selling. Then I notice this part of the page:

    Customers who bought titles by Daniel W. Drezner also bought titles by these authors:

    Amartya Sen
    Joseph S. Nye Jr.
    Niall Ferguson
    Bob Woodward

    I have no explanation for this -- except for Nye's latest book, I don't think I've cited or discussed the other authors in either the blog or my research. I just thought it was good company to keep.

    posted by Dan at 12:50 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    Monday, August 18, 2003

    Current events economics on the web

    Some "current events" economics worth reading on the web:

    1) In Tech Central Station, fellow Chicagoan and blogger Lynne Kiesling has a concise essay on the state of play in electricity regulation and deregulation in the wake of last week's blackout.

    2) Via Tyler Cowen, two Washington Times essays -- one by Dan Griswold and one by Bruce Bartlett -- on why the U.S. does not need to fear outsourcing.

    3) Brad DeLong has an informative post on the extent to which the U.S. trade deficit is unsustainable. Well, it's informative in that DeLong is honest about what's known and unknown regarding the sustainability of the deficit.

    Go check them all out.

    posted by Dan at 02:17 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (1)

    Trouble brewing for the EU

    An awful lot of international relations scholarship is devoted to the European Union, in part because it doesn't look like any other actor in world politics. Is it simply an international organization run by the powerful member states (Germany, France, the U.K.) or is it a genuinely supranational authority with preferences and resources of its own? The IR community remains split on this issue (click here for the "EU is only an international organization" thesis, and here for the "EU is a supranational authority" argument).

    However, even die-hard realists had to acknowledge that, with the Euro and the establishment of the Maastricht criteria of fiscal and monetary constraints designed to keep Euro as a viable currency, something different was taking place in Europe. Parallels to antebellum America have been made repeatedly.

    I raise all of this because 2004 could provide a crucial test of the EU's internal cohesion, according to the Financial Times:

    The European Commission has warned Germany that it could face the imposition of radical restrictions on its domestic fiscal policymaking as early as the beginning of next year if it looks set to exceed the stability pact's deficit limit in 2004.

    "If Germany breaches the stability pact's 3 per cent ceiling next year, we will present Ecofin with a new recommendation. It is our duty", said Pedro Solbes, the European Unions's monetary affairs commissioner in an interview with FT Deutschland....

    Gerhard Schröder, German chancellor, hinted - in an interview with the FT last month - that a breach of the stability pact for a third year running in 2004 is not ruled out....

    If Germany breaches the pact in 2004, EU rules demand that Brussels impose the stability pact's highest political sanction: Ecofin, the council of EU finance ministers, would have the right to impose fiscally binding sanctions against Germany.

    Germany is not the only country to face this problem -- France also appears to be in violation of EU rules on this score.

    If the European Commission and EcoFin can actually manage to force Germany and France into austerity programs with the threat of fiscal sanctions, then the supranational argument wins the day. If not -- my strong suspicion -- it doesn't completely vitiate the supranational argument, but it comes damn close.


    posted by Dan at 12:01 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (3)

    Sunday, August 17, 2003

    "nerdy, inane and barely grammatical"

    The above quote is embedded in an Economist article on various efforts to make a profit in the blogosphere. The full paragraph:

    Web logs, known to their users as blogs, are web pages for self-anointed pundits—personal online journals, often updated throughout the day, full of raw, unedited opinions and links to other sites. Most are what one would expect from a new internet medium: nerdy, inane and barely grammatical, and intelligible only to teenage subcultures. But others are erudite and thoughtful—such as, a political commentary. Some are used in business—team members can keep abreast of progress on a project with blogs instead of messy trails of group e-mails. There are blogs for numerous online “communities”, including fat people, vegetarians, and Democratic presidential candidates. By some estimates, 750,000 people now blog, and the number is growing daily.

    I should make this my new tagline --, your best source for nerdy, inane and barely grammatical thoughts!!

    The article does contain some interesting suggestions on how blogs can generate earnings. One surprise -- no mention of the revenue stream that worked best for Sullivan, the tip jar.

    posted by Dan at 05:35 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    The real power of DVDs

    The New York Times has not one, not two, but three articles in its Sunday edition on the allure of DVDs. David Kirkpatrick has a front-page page story on who's purchasing DVDs (mostly men) and what they're buying (mostly action movies).

    In the Sunday Arts section, Elvis Mitchell discusses DVD's effect on watching films; Emily Nussbaum on its effect on television.

    Both the Sunday Arts articles are worth reading, but they focus more on the pleasure of seeing quality works of art with commentary tracks and behind-the-scenes interviews. Far more interesting is the effect of DVD technology on really bad pieces of pop culture ephemera.

    Every new film released on DVD now seems to require additional commentaries and interviews. It's fascinating to watch actors, actresses and directors providing high-minded reasons for why they decided to participate in some piece of schlock. In some cases, these efforts are far better acting jobs than what actually appears on the screen.

    For an example, rent the DVD to Kiss of the Dragon, a forgettable Jet Li martial arts flick. The DVD includes a priceless conversation in which Bridget Fonda -- a good actress who appeared in some fine films in the 1990s -- explaining with deep conviction why she was artistically attracted to the role of the junkie whore with a heart of gold. Now that was an Oscar-caliber performance.

    posted by Dan at 10:47 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

    Saturday, August 16, 2003

    What would Austin Powers say?

    The blogosphere has ridden the BBC pretty hard over the past six months -- myself included. Josh Chafetz does an excellent job of itemizing the myriad sins of the "Beeb" in this comprehensive Weekly Standard piece. The quick and brutal summary:

    It turns out that what a captive audience gets from a media megalith with a government-enforced subsidy is exactly what a beginning student of economics would predict: The BBC may be arrogant, but it's also incompetent, not to mention surly and evasive when criticized.

    Indeed. It's a sad day for Austin Powers and the members of Ming Tea.

    UPDATE: Josh responds to his myriad critics:

    posted by Dan at 02:01 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    Gonna be a fun race!!

    Looks like Mr. Schwarzenegger is going to have to articulate his issue positions if he wants to be elected governor. From the Washington Post:

    The California Field Poll found 25 percent of registered voters opted for Bustamante followed by 22 percent for Schwarzenegger.

    The other candidates trailed in single digits: State Sen. Tom McClintock took 9 percent; businessman Bill Simon won 8 percent; former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth received 5 percent; all three are Republicans. Independent and columnist Arianna Huffington got 4 percent, and Green Party candidate Peter Camejo received 2 percent.

    The seeming surge for Bustamante despite the avalanche of publicity surrounding Schwarzenegger surprised many....

    Bill Carrick, a top Democratic strategist, said given all the media attention devoted to Schwarzenegger, he thought the film star would still be out front, adding that perhaps Schwarzenegger's reluctance to state his views and his choices of advisers are sending mixed messages to voters. "After the initial entertainment of his announcement there's been a lot of concern whether he is a serious candidate and where he stands on the issues," Carrick said.

    That's good spin, but it's also true. Somehow I don't think Rob Lowe is going to be of much help on this one.

    Meanwhile, Alan K. Henderson is not thrilled with Warren Buffet's role in the Schwarzenegger campaign. Robert Tagorda thinks it's much ado about nothing.

    This poll is excellent news for Californians. Not because Bustamate would be a good governor or because Schwarzenegger wourld be a bad governor -- I have no idea. It's good because instead of A.S. walking away with the race, there will be a real competition, which is going to force both candidates into articulating their positions.

    [Hey, a Cali post and you didn't link to Mickey Kaus once?--ed. I doubt that will happen on a regular basis.]

    posted by Dan at 12:52 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (1)

    Friday, August 15, 2003

    A vexing question for our times

    Why is it that some celebrities under the age of eighteen can be universally acknowledged as sexy, whereas if that adjective is assigned to other underage but physically mature stars, people start leveling accusations of perversion and lechery? Why was it so shocking for Britney Spears to start flaunting her sexuality, but everyone instantly accepted Anna Kournikova as a sex object? Spears is about six months younger that Kournikova, but a Lexis-Nexis search reveals that Kournikova entered the pop culture zeitgeist as a calender-worthy subject when she was younger than Spears. [Maybe this is because Spears started her career as a Mouseketeer, and it's more difficult for Americans to accept former child stars in risqué stiuations?--ed. Yeah, that explains the careers of Alyssa Milano and Drew Barrymore real well.]

    I ask because of the Olsen Twins. They're on the cover of the Rolling Stone in September. Their ever-closer 18th birthday has prompted some, er, obsessive web sites as well.

    The actual story suggests the diverse reactions the Olsens generate:

    What's entertaining is to watch people's faces as the girls head to a favorite breakfast place, the annoyingly named but tasty Urth Caffe. They all do a triple take. What registers first is: Hmm, twins. Next: Pretty twins! And finally: Are they...?

    As the two enter the cafe, a pair of college-age guys give them the up-and-down. "God, they are hot," one breathes.

    "I'll take the one on the left, you take the other," says his pal. They stay rooted to the spot, of course. In the meantime, an eight-year-old girl, who has the stunned look of Wile E. Coyote after the anvil lands on his head, approaches for an autograph.

    "Of course!" they say in chorus. As they chat with their trembling admirer, the two do not even notice their older fans, who watch them, mouths slightly open, hands dangling at their sides.

    The wildly divergent reactions to the Olsens are on full display in the comments sections of posts by Matthew Yglesias , Atrios, and Tampa Tantrum -- though, to be fair, much of the vitriol is devoted to whether Rolling Stone is now officially lame (click here for more reaction). I fear that this issue could split the country.

    Before this happens, I hope the blogosphere, using its collective, distributed nodes of intelligence, can determine why it's OK to admire the shapeliness of some 18-year olds but not others.

    [You're a sick, sick man--ed. No, really, I'm just curious. After watching the video that accompanied the Rolling Stone story, I can honestly say the Olsen twins don't really bake my cake. On this issue, loyal blog readers should be fully aware of where my preferences lie -- and if those links aren't enough, click here, here, to see the kind of celebrities I admire in that way.

    And besides, I'm not the one advertising for groupies!!]

    UPDATE: The Onion provides some additional news and commentary on the Olsens.

    posted by Dan at 03:40 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (4)

    Chaos or cooperation? The world judges

    Following up on my previous post:

    The international press seems bound and determined to ignore the absence of disorderly conduct during the blackout. Take a look at this list of blackout headlines. Notice how prevalent the word "chaos" is in foreign coverage of the event? It's not just the BBC -- Sky News and Channel News Asia, , and the Financial Times as well.

    In fact, if you enter the relevant search terms into Google, you discover the dominance of that word in foreign coverage. When it appears in domestic coverage, it's used only for contrast, as in:

    "New Yorkers Take Chaos in Stride"

    "Cooperation prevailed over chaos on darkened city streets."


    UPDATE: Maybe the divide is confined to print media. James Lileks suggests that American television was equally eager for chaos:

    The Fox news guy was outside Penn Station, where thousands of people were - brace yourself - patiently waiting for electricity to return. He seemed a little annoyed that there wasn’t a brawl or a riot....

    I almost wondered if the reporters wanted this to be 9/11 lite, all the mass inconvenience with only half the panic. As far as I can tell, the big story was the outage, but the other story was "so, they dealt with it." You can't wonder if a TV producer was looking at the feeds, seeing the people just walking along, the cars waiting their turns, and the producer's thinking: God help me for this, but woudl someone please throw a brick? We're dyin' here. (emphasis in original)

    posted by Dan at 01:42 PM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (3)

    The perils of normal accidents

    I have no idea what caused the massive power blackout yesterday. Apparently, no one else knows either. My thoughts on it:

    1) Kudos to Glenn Reynolds for acting as a focal point for collecting information on the ground.

    2) I'm automatically leery of calls to "do something." It's not that I disagree with the urge; it's that during moments of crisis, rash decisions are too often made. Of course, it's also during moments of crisis that those with the necessary expertise should step forward and explain what they can do to help.

    3) Before anyone believes that there will be some magic bullet that will solve problems like this, run to your bookstore and buy Charles Perrow's Normal Accidents. Perrow's thesis is that systems with high degrees of complexity and tight coupling between interdependent subsystems will inevitably experience catastrophic failures. Bear this in mind when reading the Economist's closing paragraph on this incident:

    North America’s electricity systems are more closely interconnected than they were when the 1965 blackout struck. Most of the vast area between the Atlantic and the Rocky Mountains is now plugged together in one massive electricity grid, with thousands of generating plants pumping energy in and hundreds of millions of electricity users drawing it out: the grid has been called “the biggest machine in the world”. When it works, this hugely complex contraption is highly economic because, at any given moment, the demand for electricity can be matched with the cheapest set of power sources available at that time across the entire region. But when this monster machine malfunctions, as tens of millions of North Americans have just found out, the consequences can be spectacular.

    Chris Sullentrop makes a similar point in Slate -- but he has source links. [What if your readers are not interested in your social science recommendations at the moment?--ed. Go read this instead -- it unconsciously borrows from Perrow. Or, go read Kieran Healy's recommendations].

    4) The lack of criminal behavior, in contrast to previous blackouts, is noteworthy. I have no doubt that this will be partially attributed to the impact of 9/11, but don't dismiss the possibility of more systemic factors as well. David Greenberg has some thoughts on this as well.

    posted by Dan at 12:27 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (1)

    Thursday, August 14, 2003

    Interesting Liberal blogs

    Kevin Drum was kind enough to include me in his list of good conservative blogs. Scanning through the comments, I noticed the following:

    I'm curious: has anyone ever seen something like this on a Conservative blog? Eg, a list of Left sites that are liked by a conservative commentator?

    I actually wrote something along these lines back in June, but in response to popular demand, here's a more complete list of must-read blogs on the liberal side of the spectrum (in no particular order):

    1) Joshua Micah Marshall: A social democrat's social democrat. Regardless of partisanship, Marshall is a must-read because he's also a working reporter who generates new and interesting facts. The partisanship is actually a plus, because I know when I read him that I'm usually going to read the best way to frame a story from a liberal perspective. If I can actually think of a way to refute Marshall's thesis, then I'm feeling pretty confident about my argument. I'm still thinking about a response to this post, which was an indirect response to this post of mine from earlier this month.

    2) Brad DeLong: A Berkeley economist with policymaking experience, DeLong should always be your first choice on how economics is covered in the press and spun by the White House. His critique of Glenn Hubbard earlier this year was spot-on. He also writes wickedly funny posts about the social behavior of economists.

    3) Kevin Drum: As the Left Coast continues to suck up media attention, CalPundit will continue to provide indispensible coverage on all things California. Plus, well-sourced foreign affairs news and a lot of stuff about cats that, as a proud beagle owner, I refuse to read.

    4) Crooked Timber: The Volokh Conspiracy of the left. Manages to combine trenchant political analysis, cool dissections of pop culture, and accessible commentary about academic philosophy (though see here for a rebuttal). My faves among this group are Henry Farrell, a fellow international relations specialist, and Kieran Healy, a University of Arizona sociologist who writes hysterically funny reviews of mediocre movies.

    5) Matthew Yglesias: I like someone who quick on the blog, and Matthew usually manages to beat me to the punch on a topic we both find interesting, like he's done on this post on "heavy oil" (more from me later). He recognizes the inherent evil in agricultural subsidies. Plus, I love the fact that a Harvard-educated man still puts a picture of himself on his page that screams the photocaption, "Yglesias denied the charges as he was led away in police custody." [You should talk--ed.]

    All of these bloggers is that they are always provoke without being nasty, question their own side on a regular basis, and have good senses of humor.

    UPDATE: James Joyner provides his own, more complete list.

    posted by Dan at 12:37 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (5)

    John Deutch and M.I.T. flunk energy economics

    The former CIA director, along with Ernest Moniz, professor of physics at MIT and former Department of Energy official, open their op-ed in today's New York Times with the following two grafs:

    The world needs both more electricity and less pollution. The goals are not incompatible, but the solution will require better management of demand, smarter use of coal as well as renewable energy sources, and increased use of nuclear power.

    As Congress considers an energy bill when it returns from recess, it will be under pressure to expand or limit the use of nuclear power. The issue, however, is not simple. More nuclear power will be necessary — but more nuclear plants will be built only if more safeguards and incentives are put in place. The challenge is to make nuclear energy safer, cleaner and more economical.

    OK, sounds reasonable so far. Then I read the next three grafs:

    We built a model to compare the costs of producing electricity from new nuclear, coal and natural gas plants. The model focuses on economic cost, not regulated or subsidized cost. According to our study, the baseline cost of new nuclear power is 6.7 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to 4.2 cents for coal and natural gas (when the price of gas is $4.50 per thousand cubic feet). Plausible, but unproved, technology could reduce nuclear costs to those of coal and gas.

    However, if a cost is assigned to carbon emissions — either through a tax or some other way, as in a current Congressional proposal that would limit emissions but allow companies to buy and sell the right to discharge more pollutants — nuclear power could become an attractive economic option. For example, a $50 per ton carbon value, about the cost of capturing and separating the carbon dioxide product of coal and natural gas combustion, raises the cost of coal to 5.4 cents and natural gas to 4.8 cents.

    Even under these favorable circumstances, the regulatory uncertainty threatening the large-scale investment needed for a nuclear plant will require some government assistance. A production tax credit, similar to that extended to wind power, is a good idea. It would give private investors an incentive to complete a plant. If no plant is built and operated, no public money is spent. If the first plants are indeed built and operated competitively, more will follow and the possibility of reducing greenhouse gases increases. (emphasis added)

    So, in other words, even after one factors environmental externalities into the cost of energy production, coal and gas are still more efficient energy choices than nuclear power. Bear in mind that the op-ed suggests that this calculation does not include the cost of disposing nuclear waste, so in all likelihood the gap in efficiency is even greater.

    The conclusion I draw from this cost-benefit analysis is that compared to coal and gas, nuclear power is an inefficient substitute and should not be taken seriously. Deutch and Moniz argue that the government should just subsidize nuclear power and make vague allusions to reducing greenhouse gases. They ignore that their own analysis suggests nuclear power should be rejected in any comprehensive energy plan.

    This op-ed was borne from a cross-disciplinary MIT-sponsored study. Having just read the chapter on "Nuclear Power Economics," I'm even more skeptical of the boosterism for nuclear power. Here's an optimistic assessment on p. 41 of the report:

    These results suggest that with significant improvements in the costs of building, operating, and financing nuclear power plants, and continued excellent operating performance (85% capacity factor), nuclear power could be quite competitive with natural gas if gas prices turn out to be higher than what most analysts now appear to believe and would be only slightly more costly than coal within the range of assumptions identified.

    Let me rewrite this a bit:

    If all of our optimistic assumptions about nuclear power are true and all of our pessimistic conclusions about alternative energy sources are also true, nuclear power will still be less energy efficient than coal and barely on par with gas.

    I certainly could be missing something here, but I don't think so.

    MIT has one of the best economics departments in the country. How did they sign off on this?

    posted by Dan at 11:47 AM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

    Uncertain progress on agricultural subsidies

    I was going write a long post on the U.S.-E.U. deal on reducing agricultural subsidies, but Jacob Levy and Peter Gallagher beat me to the punch. They are both pessimistic. Gallagher writes:

    The 'deal' has few agreed details; it's mainly structural. But the structure is enough to show that what the two sides have in mind could easily turn out to be tailored protection for so-called sensitive products rather than the forthright reforms to world food markets that the 145 Members of WTO agreed to come up with two years ago. (emphasis in original)

    The Economist is also pessimistic, pointing out the lack of transparency in the agreement.

    I've been pessimistic about the lack of progress on this issue, so just to be contrary, let me sound one note of optimism: even the EU negotiator recognizes that more will have to be done:

    "It's not a question of take it or leave it, but you've got to start somewhere in these things,'' said Eric Mamer, an EU spokesman.

    "What the WTO asked the United States and the European Union to do was to come forward with a proposal, a sort of common vision of where things would be going,'' he said. "It's elements in which we agree ... (but) we're at the beginning of a process, not at the end.''....

    Mamer stressed the EU-U.S. agreement was ``clearly not'' a ``fixed deal,'' but a basis for future negotiations.

    The analysis in the Economist makes the same point:

    This pact is not so much a trade deal as it is a signal that the EU and the United States are not yet willing to give up on the Doha round. After the American farm bill last year, and the EU’s anaemic efforts to reform its common agricultural policy, the Doha round had looked set to fail. Don’t cancel your tickets to Cancún just yet, is the unstated but substantive message of this pact.


    posted by Dan at 10:57 AM | Trackbacks (0)

    I'm shocked, shocked at this difference in interpretation!!

    The New York Times, in a small sidebar on the California election, reports that President Bush is not taking the loss of media attention well:

    President Bush is used to being America's most important politician and the center of attention wherever he goes. So today, when a reporter told Mr. Bush that the California governor's race was "the biggest political story in the country," the president got cranky.

    "Oh, I think there's maybe other political stories," Mr. Bush said at his ranch here. "Isn't there, like, a presidential race coming up?" He added that calling the California race the biggest story "speaks volumes, if you know what I mean."

    The Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, has a slightly different interpretation of his comments:

    Even President Bush, who holds a vested interest in finding out which Democrat will win the nomination and ultimately challenge him, admitted Wednesday that he was more captivated by the California story, which he called "a fascinating bit of political drama."

    "Isn't there, like, a presidential race coming up?" Bush said, joking with reporters at his ranch in Texas. "Maybe that says something, you know, speaks volumes, if you know what I mean."

    This is a minor story, and maybe the Times reporters had their tongues in their cheeks. Still, the differences in the framing of the same quote are pretty revealing.

    UPDATE: Courtesy of Tom Maguire, here's the relevant section of the White House transcript:

    Q It's also the biggest political story in the country. Is it hard to go in there and say nothing about it?

    THE PRESIDENT: It is the biggest political story in the country? That's interesting. That says a lot. That speaks volumes.

    Q You don't agree?

    THE PRESIDENT: It's up to -- I don't get to decide the biggest political story. You decide the biggest political story. But I find it interesting that that is the biggest political story in the country, as you just said.

    Q You don't think it should be?

    THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I think there's maybe other political stories. Isn't there, like, a presidential race coming up? (Laughter.) Maybe that says something. It speaks volumes, if you know what I mean. But, yes, it's an interesting story, it really is. And I'm looking forward, like you are, to seeing the outcome of the interesting story.

    But, no, I'm going to go, I'm going to talk about -- now that you've asked, are you going on the trip?

    Q Yes, sir.

    THE PRESIDENT: Good. Well, you'll see me speak to Marines and their families, thanking them for their service to our country, reminding them that what's taking place in Iraq is essential to U.S. security. Then I'm going to go to a national park, talking about the fact that we believe parks ought to be revitalized, and talk about the initiatives that I've laid out to do that. And then, of course, I'll be doing a little spade work for the '04 campaign. (Laughter.) One of the most important political -- (laughter.)

    posted by Dan at 10:28 AM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (1)

    Wednesday, August 13, 2003

    Absurdity squared at the United Nations

    According to the Financial Times, the U.N. Human Rights Commission wants to expand its zone of operations:

    International companies could find their activities subject to investigation and censure by United Nations human rights officials under principles expected to be adopted on Wednesday in Geneva.

    The UN's draft Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations asserts that companies should be subject to the kind of enforcement procedures at the UN Commission for Human Rights previously applied only to nation states.

    Another FT story provides some additional background.

    I have every confidence that the human rights commission -- with a membership that includes the People's Republic of China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe will be fully equipped to handle corporate abuses.

    [Isn't your sarcasm misplaced? Surely some good must come of this?--ed.] On the contrary, my off-the-cuff instinct is that this proposal is an unmitigated disaster.

    First, it undercuts the pre-existing U.N. effort to improve worker conditions.

    Second, it distracts the (admittedly pretty useless) Human Rights Commission from the far-more-prevalent phenomenon of government abuses of human rights.

    Third, it opens the door for all kinds of U.N. mischief in regulating multinational corporations, when the demand for such regulation is vastly overstated and the supply of other international governmental organizations regulating MNC behavior is quite healthy. The draft statement includes the following point:

    new international human rights issues and concerns are continually emerging and that transnational corporations and other business enterprises often are related to these issues and concerns, such that further standard-setting and implementation are required at this time and in the future

    What's to stop the International Criminal Court from becoming involved?

    Finally, the draft convention seems perfectly designed to permit NGOs to file as many complaints as humanly possible in order to require multinationals to respond. The reporting requirements (see section H of the agreement) on corporations are not insignificant.

    Congratulations to the U.N. for devising an arrangement that will undercut its stated goals while simultaneously convincing more Americans that the U.N. is not a serious institution.

    What a colossal blunder.

    posted by Dan at 12:38 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (1)

    The immutable preferences of Maureen Dowd

    Maureen Dowd has discovered the blogosphere, and now believes it to be passé:

    The most telling sign that the Internet is no longer the cool American frontier? Blogs, which sprang up to sass the establishment, have been overrun by the establishment.

    In a lame attempt to be hip, pols are posting soggy, foggy, bloggy musings on the Internet. Inspired by Howard Dean's success in fund-raising and mobilizing on the Web, candidates are crowding into the blogosphere — spewing out canned meanderings in a genre invented by unstructured exhibitionists.

    For reactions, see Glenn Reynolds, Matthew Yglesias, Roger Simon, Chris Andersen, and Maria Farrell.

    My take:

    1) Dowd is completely right about the overall quality of politician/candidate blogs. And, as Josh Chafetz pointed out in his first Immutable Law on Maureen Dowd, this is precisely the sort of skewering that Dowd does best.

    2) Implying that this means the Internet is "over" is like saying because of infomercials, TV is "over", or that because of campaign books, the autobiography genre is "over".

    3) What's most significant about this essay is Dowd's revealed preferences about the world. What matters to her is not whether a phenomenon is important, but whether it's trendy. In the world of pop culture, this sort of distinction makes a kind of sense. In the world of politics or international relations, it doesn't.

    posted by Dan at 11:32 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

    Tuesday, August 12, 2003

    What made me laugh today

    Vis InstaPundit, I found this exchange on Adam Bonin's blog, Throwing Things, on how he was able to get press credentials to a Democratic Presidential Candidates Town Meeting in Philadelphia:

    Phone call with the SMWIA rep went something like:

    "So, you run a weblog?"


    "And it's called Throwing Things?"


    "A weblog . . . that's pretty marginal . . . but, okay, we'll let you in."

    OK, are there any other perks one gets from blogging? Free tote bags? Hotel soaps? Just curious.

    In all seriousness, this is one of the things I love about the early stages of presidential campaigns -- all candidates (even putative front-runners) are so desperate for voter and media interactions that they'll meet with just about anyone not wearing a swastika or hammer & sickle on their lapels.

    posted by Dan at 04:06 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

    Why this administration is losing me on Iraq

    The day after the fall of Baghdad, I posted:

    For Operation Iraqi Freedom to succeed, military victories must be followed up with humanitarian victories. It's not enough to defeat Saddam's regime, there needs to be tangible evidence that conditions are improving.

    Ten days later, I posted the following dilemma for the administration:

    Rumsfeld, and the rest of the Bush administration's foreign policy team, face a clear choice. It can outsource peacekeeping functions to the United Nations or close allies, at the cost of some constraints on foreign policy implementation. It can minimize the U.N. role and develop/train its own peacekeeping force. Or it can do neither and run into trouble down the road.

    What's becoming increasingly clear to me is that the administration has yet to solve this particular dilemma -- and that this will have disastrous implications for Iraq.

    As Martin Walker points out today (link via Josh Marshall):

    Quite apart from issues of Arab resentment, religion and the remaining bands of Saddam Hussein loyalists, there is one simple reason why the stabilization of Iraq is proving so frustratingly difficult. By comparison with other similar peacekeeping missions in recent years, the place is very seriously under-policed.

    Consider the Balkans. In proportion to their populations, three times as many troops were deployed in Kosovo as in Iraq, and in Bosnia twice as many. By Kosovo standards, there ought to be more than half a million troops in Iraq. But maintaining 180,000 British and American troops in Iraq is putting intense strain on the military manpower of both countries. There is no serious prospect of their deploying any more. Reinforcement will have to come from other countries -- and in far greater numbers than the 70 Ukrainian soldiers who flew in Sunday.

    That's the same message that comes from this RAND book I mentioned last week. Now, there are a few ways to deal with this problem. One is to go to the U.N. to get more allied support. Marshall elides over the fact that Walker does not think that's the greatest idea in the world, and Reuel Marc Gerecht provides some compelling reasons in the Weekly Standard why such a step would be problematic at best.

    So the U.N. option is problematic. The ad hoc approach is not generating the desired numbers (link courtesy of &c). That leaves two options: a) increase U.S. forces (which the administration seems bound and determined not to do); or b) create an Iraqi force that can assist the occupying authority.

    It looks like the administration is choosing option (b), which could work in the long run. In the short run, however, there's a Catch-22, as Michael Gordon points out:

    Coalition officials assert that they are beginning to get traction in their effort to build a new Iraq. The next few months, a coalition official said, are critical to the push to develop momentum and garner Iraqi support. But this is a nation-building effort that is distinctly different from the one the United States and its allies pursued in the Balkans.

    In Kosovo, for example, nation-building began after the war. In Iraq, the nation-building effort is being carried out in the middle of a guerrilla war. The effort to build a new Iraq has been actively opposed by paramilitary forces loyal to the Saddam Hussein regime, by foreign fighters, saboteurs, terrorists and to a lesser extent by ordinary Iraqis who have been offended by some of the hard-nosed American military tactics. (emphasis added)

    The paradox is that unless guerrilla activity is reduced, the provision of public goods will be difficult at best. However, the best way to reduce such activity is to provide more public goods.

    Unless the administration dispatches more resources -- including troops -- to Iraq, what happened in Basra earlier this week will happen again. The Washington Post explains:

    In interviews, residents of Iraq's second-largest city almost uniformly expressed anger and incredulity at the shortages of gasoline and electricity and the skyrocketing black-market prices that have accompanied them. British officials in Basra, openly frustrated themselves, questioned the priorities of the U.S.-led reconstruction. And many feared that remnants of Hussein's government or militant Shiite Muslim groups were prepared to capitalize on the disenchantment....

    [British spokesman Iain] Pickard acknowledged that there was "an understandable degree of frustration" and complained that British officials' priorities in Basra -- power, water and fuel -- are not shared to the same degree by U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad.

    "It seems so bureaucratic. It's so difficult to get things going," he said from a building that had been looted of everything but its windows before the British moved in. "We have not had a great deal of say. We don't feel we've been able to influence the reconstruction program."

    He pointed to a U.S.-funded project to renovate 200 schools in the region. While admirable, Pickard said, "painting schools isn't going to stop people from rioting."

    Paul Bremer thinks the coalition successes in Iraq are being underplayed, and he's probably right. No matter what those successes are, however, rising discontent in Baghdad and Basra are not a recipe for success. Until the administration renews its commitment to a free and stable Iraq, things will fall apart.

    posted by Dan at 02:39 PM | Comments (36) | Trackbacks (5)

    Who's the target of the warning shot?

    Today's Chicago Tribune has an interview with David Brooks, who's a University of Chicago alumnus. The interview is worth reading, but what intrigued me was this quote from the lead-in:

    Recently, Brooks was named to the stable of op-ed page writers for The New York Times, where in September he will begin writing a column twice a week. Gail Collins, editorial page editor of the Times, said Brooks will "bring all kinds of wonderful flavors" to the page.

    "We look for someone who can add something different, and someone who is likely to develop a strong and distinctive voice," added Collins. "I was not looking for somebody who would be shrill or who would put people off. He's an inclusive writer. He makes people want to read him. That's a rare gift." (emphasis added)

    Now, to whom could Collins be referring? Knowing the Times, it's probably the likes of Ann Coulter, or the writers who populate these op-ed pages.

    Or, could it perhaps be someone in Collins' own workplace? Someone who's... well... dipped into the well of shrillness, shall we say?

    [Probably not--ed. Killjoy.]

    posted by Dan at 11:20 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (2)

    Whiffing at Arnold Schwarzenegger

    I was waiting for someone to raise the Planet Hollywood debacle in discussing Schwarzenegger, and Daniel Gross finally got around to it in Slate. The key theme Gross wants you to remember:

    Republicans must hope Schwarzenegger's campaign is more durable than Planet Hollywood. The company raised $196 million in its IPO and plowed the proceeds into expansion. But its celebrity cachet dissipated once outlets opened in London's Gatwick Airport and Edmonton, Alberta. In October 1999 the chain, which peaked at 95 restaurants, filed for Chapter 11. Schwarzenegger severed his ties with the company in 2000. Planet Hollywood exited bankruptcy in 2000 but then earned membership in the Chapter 22 club by going bust again.

    So far, the recall campaign has been very much like a meal at Planet Hollywood. There's plenty of ruckus and shouting and fake smiles. A lot of celebrities are hanging around—for no apparent reason. The fare is insipid. And when the experience is over and the bill comes, nausea may follow.

    Having eaten once -- and only once -- at the restaurant, I'm certainly sympathetic to the idea that Schwarzenegger couldn't manage his way out of a paper bag, and this should count against him in his gubenatorial bid.

    However, by the time I got to the, conclusion, Gross' article actually convinced me this episode doesn't matter all that much. The reason is that Schwarzenegger wasn't as involved in the management of the restaurant chain:

    Planet Hollywood's capital was provided by [Keith] Barish and [Robert] Earl, and by the not-so-fabulous Singapore billionaire Ong Beng Seng. Schwarzenegger and fellow A-listers like Sylvester Stallone were regarded as "founding celebrities," but the only equity they provided was their Actors' Equity card. They made noisy public appearances on Planet Hollywood's behalf. In exchange, options representing 20 percent of the company's stock were set aside for "celebrity investors."

    In other words, Scharzenegger's role was to generate publicity for the restaurant, and even Gross acknowledges he accomplished this goal and then some.

    One can argue that Arnold should not have associated his name with overpriced hamburgers. However, one can't accuse him of poor business acumen (since he put none of his own money into the venture), which would have been a much more damaging fact to associate with Schwrzenegger.

    Let me close here by pointing out that, like Virginia Postrel, I don't really know whether Schwarzenegger would make a good governor. And, like Postrel, if he doesn't start talking policy, he'll lose me.

    However, Gross' story actually removes what I thought would be a chink in Arnold's armor.

    posted by Dan at 10:56 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

    Monday, August 11, 2003

    A good rant on subsidies

    Jacob Levy has a nice post on the multiple sins of agricultural subsidies in the U.S., Japan and Europe. An extract:

    When we talk about whether "globalization" and "global free trade" have helped or hurt the poorest people in the world, we're operating on a false premise-- that these phenomena have reached the products these people produce. Textiles, generally the first category of manufacturing any economy can productively reach, remain heavily protected in the industrial world, and have been specifically exempted from free-trade agreements and tariff-reduction deadlines up until now. But the situation is even worse with agriculture, where the rich-country policies not only eliminate the possibility of any export-driven growth by the poor but actually distort poor countries' internal agricultural markets. In other words, the subsidies and protections both discourage the most likely road to alleviating poverty in the future and encourage poverty in the present.

    Go read the whole thing.

    posted by Dan at 04:25 PM | Trackbacks (0)

    Why Kevin Phillips is wrong

    Kevin Drum links to this Kevin Phillips op-ed from the L.A. Times on how even if Howard Dean doesn't win, he could bring down George W. Bush with him. The key grafs:

    The gutsy Dean seems to be emerging as the "anti-Bush" of 2003-04 U.S. politics. He's pumping candor into a presidential race otherwise mired in Washington establishment-speak. This could be the key litmus test — for George W. Bush as well as Dean — because failing presidencies frequently attract such a nemesis, and the wounded incumbent often fails to survive.

    Three examples stand out. Independent Ross Perot became the "anti-Bush" who helped defeat the current president's father in 1992. Newt Gingrich, who became House speaker in 1995, was the "anti-Clinton" who temporarily wounded the incumbent in 1994. The most relevant example may be Eugene McCarthy, the tweedy, intellectual U.S. senator from Minnesota who became the "anti-LBJ" of 1968, forcing an earlier deceitful, cowboy- hatted Texas war president, Lyndon B. Johnson, into retirement.

    None of the three ever became president, but two of the three, Perot and McCarthy, raised issues and criticisms that helped defeat a president. Dean could follow suit.

    Looking at those cases again, I draw a different lesson -- a president is doomed when the attacks come from the base. In Phillips' "most relevant example" McCarthy attacked LBJ, a liberal Democrat, from the left.

    The Perot example is misleading -- far more damaging to Bush was Pat Buchanan's primary challenge, which weakened Bush enough to give Buchanan a coveted prime-time slot at the Republican National Convention, which wound up looking like a bad Leni Riefenstahl film.

    Gingrich's attacks on Clinton -- as I've said before -- actually sowed the seeds for Clinton's re-election in 1996. Gingrich overreached in believing that the 1995 government shutdown would help Republicans -- instead, Clinton looked like the responsible, sane choice.

    George W. Bush will probably not be attacked from the right in 2004 (though see this Matt Bai article in yesterday's NYT Magazine suggesting otherwise). Phillips acknowledges this, but thinks this is a weakness for Bush:

    The younger Bush's vulnerability for pandering to the religious right is a lot different — bigger, but tougher to nail — than his father's. In 1992, as the elder Bush's job approval and election prospects plummeted, he had to openly flatter the party's preachers, paying a price with suburban swing voters. President Bush hasn't had to do that since early 2000, when he needed Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and the Bob Jones University crowd to save his bacon against John McCain in the South Carolina GOP primary. What the younger Bush has done instead is to give the religious right so much patronage and critical policy influence — to say nothing of coded biblical references in key speeches — as to have built them into the system.

    The degree is little less than stunning. In late 2001, religious right leaders sampled by the press said Bush had replaced Robertson as the leader of the religious right, becoming the first president to hold both positions simultaneously. Next year's Democratic nominee could win if he or she is shrewd enough to force the president to spend the autumn of 2004 in the Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago suburbs defending his stance on creationism, his ties to flaky preachers and the faith healer he's appointed to an advisory board for the Food and Drug Administration.

    Is Phillips correct? It's possible, but bear in mind that he's basically echoing the Judis & Teixeira argument in The Emerging Democratic Majority, and not even Judis thinks this argument will hold in 2004!

    One other thing: all Bush would have to do is go to Philadelphia, since Bush lost all three of the states, and would only need to win one of them for a comfortable margin of victory. And, given the reasons for Rick Santorum's popularity in Pennsylvania, if I were Karl Rove that's the state I'd want to cherry-pick.

    Kevin Phillips has been right before. He came to prominence with the prescient The Emerging Republican Majority.

    Bear in mind, however, that his follow-up book, The Politics of Rich and Poor argued that the way to win the 1992 election was by pushing class issues. Bill Clinton won the election by sagely ignoring Phillips' advice. Not surprisingly, this book can be purchased at Amazon for a whopping thirteen cents.

    posted by Dan at 12:24 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

    So you want to run for governor..

    Mickey Kaus is covering just about every possible angle in the California recall election, but here's a question from reader E.J. that hasn't been answered directly:

    Can you help me to understand what possible motivation is there for the 95th percentile of candidates to be involved in this race when there is such a field of heavy-weights arrayed for battle?

    Even the likes of Bill Simon and Peter Ueberroth – what, outside of ego-massage, can these guys possibly get out of running in this race? Where is the practical pay-back considering the expense and their long-shot odds? Is it dues-paying for the future? Potential influence garnered from relative performance?

    OK, as a political scientist, I should be able to answer this question. And the answer is, there are multiple answers. In no particular order:

    1) The barriers to entry are low. In modern American politics, the barriers to becoming a candidate are daunting. There signatures to collect in order to get on the ballot, party primaries to win, money to raise, and a lengthy campaign season.

    Contrast this with the California recall election. Getting on the ballot required only some paperwork, "65 validated voters' signatures and a $3,500 check" according to USA Today. There are only sixty days to the election. There are no annoying party primaries. Why, it would be stupid not to run!!

    2) The barriers to winning are also low. Because of the plethora of candidates, many of which are trying to cater to the same voting demographics, it is highly unlikely that the winner will command a majority. True, at the moment, Schwarzenegger holds an early lead in opinion polls. If, however, his balloon were to burst, then the winner might only need 25% of the vote.

    3) Publicity. California founded the celebrity culture, and as publicity stunts go, running for governor is on the cheap and easy side of the spectrum. Running for governor is a way to get or keep one's name in the news.

    It works, too. When was the last time you thought about Gary Coleman? Think about this from Coleman's point of view -- what's the more dignified route to jumpstart a career, running for governor or celebrity boxing?

    4) Horse-trading. Because the threshhold for winning is lower, any candidate that attacts a loyal cadre of voters equivalent to a few percentage points in the polls might be willing to throw his/her support to a major candidate in return for something, be it policy or patronage. This is how it works in parliamentary democracies in which there is a low minimum level for winning a seat, i.e., Israel. Expect to see this in California around late September.

    Think about it -- two months of politicking in return for a plum job or a coveted policy shift? Not a bad rate of return in politics.

    5) You could win. Jesse Ventura was not considered a serious candidate when he ran. Howard Dean was mocked when he decided to launch his bid for the presidency. You never know when lightning strikes.

    posted by Dan at 11:55 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

    Sunday, August 10, 2003

    Book recommendations

    I've received a number of e-mails asking for book recommendations. In response, here are my picks, broken up into multiple categories.

    The categories are pretty straightforward, except perhaps "great but wrong." This section is devoted to books that I think are fundamentally incorrect in their conclusions, but are so cogent that the act of reading them forces one to think very, very hard about why they are wrong. As such, they are in many ways more intellectually enjoyable than books where you agree with the thesis.



    Layna Mosley, Global Capital and National Governments (2003). Everyone says that global financial markets impose a straightjacket on governments. Mosley actually asked traders in financial markets if this was true. Her conclusions will surprise you.

    Meghan O'Sullivan, Shrewd Sanctions (2003). A lot of political scientists talk about doing good case studies. O'Sullivan's sanctions cases are written with a degree of precision and care that would shame most politicial scientists. Her chapter on Iraq (which I have read) is the single-best account I've read of the case.

    Randall Stone, Lending Credibility (2002). Do nation-states run international organizations or are they run by them? Stone offers an answer to this question by looking at how the IMF lended money to the post-communist world.


    Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (1981). A highly underrated book that discusses the waxing and waning of hegemonic powers. Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers is good; Gilpin's book is better.

    Lloyd Gruber, Ruling the World (2000). A rejoinder to Ikenberry in arguing that there is more coercion involved in the crafting of global governance than initially meets the eye.

    John Ikenberry, After Victory (2000). An exploration of how the victors of great power wars try to shape a stable postwar order.

    Walter Russell Mead, Special Providence (2001). A history and typology of the heterogeneous foreign policy ideas that have held sway in the United States. An excellent guide for non-Americans currently baffled by U.S. foreign policy.

    John Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (2001). The clearest and boldest statement of realist thought made in several decades. Even if you think he's wrong, you have to respect the argument.

    Benjamin Most and Harvey Starr, Inquiry, Logic and International Relations (1989). A book that takes its methodology seriously. Criminally under-utilized by international relations scholars, which is a shame, because that's the target audience.

    Samantha Power, "A Problem from Hell" (2002). A searing indictment and explanation of American government inaction during episodes of genocide in the 20th century.

    Robert Strassler, ed., The Landmark Thucydides. The history of the Peloponnesian War as it was meant to be read. The maps and textual footnotes make the book much more accessible.


    Robert Gilpin, Global Political Economy (2001). The closest thing there is to a standard textbook in international political economy.

    Edward M. Graham, Fighting the Wrong Enemy (2000). Ostensibly a postmortem of the failed Multilateral Agreement on Investment, it's really a stunning indictment of the anti-globalization movement.

    Brink Lindsey, Against the Dead Hand (2002). A lucid and honest defense of pragmatic libertarianism in the global economy.

    Virginia Postrel, The Future and Its Enemies (1998). I almost feel guilty including this in the "Political Economy" section, since that makes it sound dry and dusty. At its core, however, the book is about sorting out the true reactionaries from the true revolutionaries in the world.

    Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales, Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists (2003). A robust defense of open capital markets combined with a political analysis of why open markets are sometimes closed. Rajan, by the way, is now the IMF's chief economist.

    David Vogel, Trading Up (1995). A collection of counterintuitive case studies on how globalization has affected social regulation. If the book I'm writing turns out as well as this one, I'll be feeling very good about myself.


    Joel Mokyr, The Lever of Riches (1990). The first part of Mokyr's opus provides an excellent narrative history of technological innovation and its effect on the global economy. The second part is a collection of essays on various puzzles raised in the first section.

    Kevin O'Rourke and Jeffrey Williamson, Globalization and History (1999). A data-rich investigation into the first era of globalization in the late 1800's. For history buffs only, but lots of fascinating info.

    Nathan Rosenberg and L.E. Bridzell, Jr., How the West Grew Rich (1986). Interesting and accessible economic history of western capitalism. When I was a graduate student, I was lucky enough to be one of Nate Rosenberg's research assistants. He's a smart, smart man.


    Richard Posner, Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline. An interesting if flawed effort to theorize and describe the role of intellectuals in the public sphere.

    Mark Lilla, The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics, and Tony Judt, Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals, 1944-1956. Both of these books are the perfect counter to Posner, in that they highlight the non-pecuniary motivations for intellectuals to engage the public.

    Benjamin Barber, The Truth of Power. A humorous and self-deprecating account of the Clinton effort to reach out to public intellectuals on the left. It doesn't spoil the book to say that the endeavor doesn't turn out very well.

    Nicholas Dawidoff, The Fly Swatter: How my Grandfather Made His Way in the World. A biography of the eminent economic historian Alexander Gerschenkron by his grandson. His life was just as interesting as his scholarship.

    Hans Morgenthau: An Intellectual Biography. What the title says -- an excellent weaving of Morgenthau's personal experiences during the interwar period, and how it affected his scholarship.


    Amy Chua, World on Fire (2002). Makes the provocative argument that globalization and democratization exacerbate ethnic tensions. She's extrapolating way too much from Southeast Asia, but read it for yourself to see.

    Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996). I've said in print why Huntington's argument is wrong -- but my first intellectual response to the 9/11 attacks was to take it off my bookshelf.

    Fareed Zakaria, The Future of Freedom (2003). I've said why I think it's incorrect here, here, and here. Judge for yourself.

    posted by Dan at 11:35 PM | Trackbacks (0)

    Friday, August 8, 2003

    Hugh Hewitt's intriguing idea

    I've taken Hugh Hewitt to task when he was wrong, so it's only fair to link to this brilliant suggestion:

    When do you suppose it will strike some producer at Fox or MSNBC that they ought to launch "Blogweek," hosted by James, Glenn, and Virginia and featuring three minute segments with 10 different bloggers talking about their blogs? Instantly a cable show would have an audience with the complete attention of the web and the opinion class.

    Try watching weekend cable. This show would dominate the weekend ratings as surely as Arnold did the news cycle this week.

    Would it actually work? Maybe, maybe not. The largest blogs currently average less than 100,000 hits a day, so I'm not sure how large a built-in audience exists for this sort of thing. Still, by news channel standards, it's a decent starting point.

    Plus, I wholeheartedly support any opportunity to see blue nail polish.

    And if it didn't work out? There would be waves of media coverage about how the Blogosphere has jumped the shark, which would be followed by snarky blog posts mocking the media meme.

    C'mon, MSNBC -- how could it be worse than Michael Savage?

    If the news channels don't work out, the backup plan should be to encourage VH1 to start a monthly Behind the Blog feature.

    posted by Dan at 06:19 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (3)

    Not a good sign for Ashcroft

    Lawyer-bloggers are teeing off on the Justice Department. Glenn Reynolds has the roundup, and David Bernstein -- new to the Volokh Conspiracy -- provides the harshest rhetorical joust:

    Let's see: little respect for state sovereignty (medical marijuana, same sex marriage, etc.), attempts to deny American citizens charged with terrorism-related offenses and arrested on U.S. soil access to federal courts, use and abuse of antiterrorism statutes for unrelated law enforcement purposes, and, as Instapundit reports, a nascent crackdown on that ever-present threat to American society, the pornography industry, in the middle of what is supposed to be a war on terrorism. Geez.

    The best defense of Ashcroft that I've heard is that he's no Janet Reno. I don't think that's a particularly ringing endorsement.

    posted by Dan at 02:31 PM | Trackbacks (0)

    Thoughts on the Iraqi resistance

    My all-time favorite Simpsons line comes at the end of an episode when Marge repeatedly tries to offer what the moral of the story was. At which point the following exchange takes place:

    Marge: Well... Then I guess the moral is the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
    Lisa: Perhaps there is no moral to this story.
    Homer: Exactly! Just a bunch of stuff that happened.

    I bring this up in the wake of recent attacks, bombings, and assorted mayhem in Baghdad. Military spokesman, pundits, journalists, and yes, bloggers, are trying to fashion a coherent narrative to events on the ground (e.g., "Islamic terrorism is on the rise")when there may not be one, for two reasons:

    1) There are disparate narratives across the country. One can acknowledge the chaos in Baghdad while still pointing out that market forces and first-hand accounts suggest that resistance is fading in other parts of the country.

    2) There are disparate actors involved in the violent resistance. It seems increasing clear that Mickey Kaus and Hassam Fattah are correct in pointing out that there exist multiple forms of organized and disorganized resistance. There are a couple of sources for attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq -- Baathists, foreign terrorists, radical Shiites, tribal chiefs, Al Qaeda infiltrators, etc. Juan Cole provides a list of possible suspects, including Ahmed Chalabi, which seems like a hell of a stretch to me.

    Another wrinkle in this mix is that areas like the Sunni Triangle -- in which U.S. forces exercise precarious control -- are more likely to experience violence. Stathis Kayvas' work on this subject is particularly illuminating. One summary of his research contains this point:

    violence is likely to be motivated more
    by petty everyday personal and local disputes than by grand impersonal hatreds; few people engage in acts of direct violence (e.g. killings) but many people engage in acts of indirect violence (e.g. denunciations); and people tend to willingly engage in indirectly violent behavior during civil wars because they tend to be strongly disinclined to engage in directly violent behavior in general.

    My point? A lot of stuff is happening, and I doubt any single narrative will be able to explain it.


    UPDATE: Josh Marshall has some similar thoughts on this issue.

    posted by Dan at 11:04 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

    Thursday, August 7, 2003

    Media Bias(?)

    Tim Noah links to a July 2003 Michael Tomasky paper put out by the Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center study to argue that the conservative media is more doctrinaire than the liberal media.

    From the paper's executive summary:

    This study of the partisan intensity of the nation's agenda-setting liberal and conservative editorial pages finds that while the pages are more or less equally partisan when it comes to supporting or opposing a given presidential administration's policy pronouncements, the conservative pages are more partisan-often far more partisan-with regard to the intensity with which they criticize the other side. Also, the paper finds, conservative editorial pages are far less willing to criticize a Republican administration than liberal pages are willing to take issue with a Democratic administration.

    The methodology used in the paper is pretty solid. It compares editorial responses for two liberal papers (the Washington Post and New York Times) and two conservative papers (the Wall Street Journal and Washington Times) on matched sets of issues -- the Zoe Baird and Linda Chavez nominations, for example. Noah rightly quibbles with labeling the Post as a liberal paper but concludes:

    Tomasky's findings hold up when you compare just the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The Times supported Clinton 37 percent of the time and opposed him 37 percent of the time. The Journal, meanwhile, supported Bush 75 percent of the time and opposed him 3 percent of the time. The Journal opposed Clinton 83 percent of the time while the Times opposed Bush 68 percent of the time. The Journal praised Clinton 5 percent of the time while the Times praised Bush 8 percent of the time.

    Tomasky is going to be the new executive editor for The American Prospect, so the right half of the blogosphere might be tempted to dismiss the study's findings. Some of them are probably not as generalizable as Tomasky thinks they are -- for example, Noah points out that editorial civility is likely to be a function of editorial page editor's personality rather than ideology. However, the final graf of Noah's piece has the ring of truth to it:

    When the Brock piece came out, Chatterbox (then writing a media column for U.S. News) interviewed the conservative commentator David Frum about its thesis. Frum basically agreed with it. "What happens with the liberal press is that there are loyalties to causes," he said. That's correct. In Tomasky's study, the Times editorial page supported Clinton on policy matters 52 percent of the time, a mere 7 percentage points less than the Journal supported Bush. But, Frum added, "[w]ith conservatives, I suspect there is much more of a loyalty to people."

    UPDATE: Let the debate commence!! Andrew Cline, Jim Miller, Jay Manifold, and PowerLineBlog all thake their whacks at the study. Their criticisms amount to:

    a) Tomasky's own rhetoric is biased and nasty;
    b) The sample size is too small;
    c) The ten "matched" cases are not really matched; and
    d) Tomasky is not on the cutting edge of rhetorical analysis.

    (a) is correct but irrelevant -- what matters are the comparison of cases, not Tomasky's presentation style. (b) makes little sense -- obviously, one would prefer as large an N as possible, but controlled comparison -- which is what Tomasky does here -- is perfectly appropriate. (c) is a judgment call. I looked at the cases, and they seem pretty comparable to me -- but I'm sympathetic to arguments that some of the cases are not parallel. I have no doubt (d) is correct, and it's probably the best critique, but it doesn't necessarily vitiate his results.

    posted by Dan at 03:14 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

    Good economic news

    Brad DeLong is on vacation, so I'll just step up and report the latest economic news:

    America's business productivity soared in the second quarter of 2003 and new claims for unemployment benefits dropped to a six-month low last week, a double dose of good news as the economy tries to get back to full throttle

    America's business productivity soared in the second quarter of 2003 and new claims for unemployment benefits dropped to a six-month low last week, a double dose of good news as the economy tries to get back to full throttle....

    Thursday's report showed that people who kept their jobs made gains. Workers' real hourly compensation rose at a 2.9 percent rate in the second quarter, the biggest increase since the third quarter of 2000, and up from a 0.2 percent growth rate in the first quarter.

    Companies' unit labor costs, meanwhile, fell at a rate of 2.1 percent in the second quarter, boding well for profit margins. That compared with a 2 percent rate of increase in the first quarter.

    Not bad.

    Of course, this news came out the same day as this Bob Herbert op-ed predicting economic catastrophe.

    posted by Dan at 12:38 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

    What gets my neighborhood excited

    The 15th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style -- published, of course by the University of Chicago Press -- will be released on August 15th. It's the first new edition since 1993.

    I have no doubt this will elicit groans from those under the age of 18. who over the next few years will be receiving this weighty tome as a bar/bat mitzvah, confirmation, or graduation gift. However, according to the Chicago Tribune, my neighborhood's reaction has been somewhat different:

    Even in this age of ubiquitous blogging and dress-down Fridays -- an age when rhetorical etiquette presumably is a quaintly touching anachronism, like a dance card at a cotillion -- the new version of the manual was eagerly awaited, said Jack Cella, general manager of the Seminary Co-Op bookstore in Hyde Park.

    "For the past few years, it seemed like every second or third person who came in here wanted to know when the new edition was coming out," he said. "It's been one of the most anticipated new books in years." (emphasis added)

    I will admit to some eagerness as well, if for no other reason than to see how they handle citations of electronic texts.

    For more on this, there's a nice Q&A tool from the press, and Gary Lutz has already written a critique of the new grammar section for Slate.

    posted by Dan at 11:18 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (2)

    Wednesday, August 6, 2003

    Jerry just picked the wrong race

    Jerry Springer has decided not to run for the U.S. Senate seat in Ohio currently held by George Voinovich. Here's his explanation, according to Bloomberg:

    "I fully recognize that as long as I am doing this show and don't have that separation, that message is not going to get through,'' Springer said. "What was becoming clear is that whatever I said always came back to me."

    Contrast this with Mickey Kaus' recent observation about the California gubenatorial recall ellection:

    The source of the recall's appeal appears to be similar to the source of a PowerBall lottery's appeal or American Idol's appeal: Anyone can play. .... Who needs the American Candidate reality show, which would bring the American Idol model to politics? This is a real American Candidate, and it's creating a powerful argument for lowering the filing requirements in all elections, so hundreds of citizens can run.

    Poor Jerry -- if only he was from a state that understood him.

    You know, October is a sweeps month... perhaps taking his show on a trip to Cali would be in the offing?

    Just trying to make mischief....

    UPDATE: Imagine the following guests for a Springer visit to California:

    Arnold Schwarzenegger
    Gary Coleman
    Larry Flynt
    Porn star Mary Carey [What, no links?--ed. Don't get your hopes up.]
    Georgy Russell

    Of course, Arianna Huffington and Michael Huffington would probably merit their own show.

    posted by Dan at 05:45 PM | Trackbacks (0)

    A dyspeptic Canadian

    David Martin really doesn't like Canadian conservatives. He says the following in today's Chicago Tribune:

    What began in the 1980s as an occasional Reagan-inspired polemic has grown into a panoply of Canadian-bred George Will wannabes. Media once filled with liberal and left-of-center columnists are now rife with young Canada bashers who would like nothing better than to turn us into the 51st state.

    These FOWs (friends of W) take every opportunity to belittle Canada and praise the American way. Socialized medicine--bad. Free enterprise--good. Multilateralism--bad. Unilateralism--good.

    Often children of privilege, Canada's print corps of self-styled compassionate conservatives bridles at the notion of cooperative federalism or government intervention. They belittle the very societal structures that gave them their privileged status and yearn for the more individualistic American society that will presumably yield them even greater riches.

    David Frum, Mark Steyn, David Warren, Danielle Crittenden, Andrew Coyne and Rondi Adamson. These are just some of the Republicans-in-waiting who haven't met an American institution they didn't like.....

    Take our young conservative commentators off our hands. They all want to be Americans anyway. So please, just let them. And if you'd like, we'd be happy to accept any of your old liberal commentators in return. Assuming you have any left, that is.

    This rant is pretty amusing, given the lack of influence conservatives have in Canada. The Conservative Party has never recovered from it's decimation following the U.S.-Canada free trade agreement. The Liberal Party has been ascendant in Canadian politics for the last decade.

    Apparently, that's not enough for Martin. Only when every Canadian writing anything about Canada is suitably liberal will this man rest.

    Go read the whole op-ed -- it manages to combine some unusual traits -- bitterness and silliness.

    posted by Dan at 03:01 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

    It would be prudent to know more

    Want to know the background to my latest TNR online essay?

    In many ways, this article is a follow-up to my March TNR online article about the likelihood of building a democratic regime in Iraq. The embryonic version of this article came from this post.

    Dennis Hastert provides a lovely example of pro-war supporters quoting Burke to advance their cause. UPDATE: Oliver Kamm informs me that this Burke quotation is an urban legend, i.e., Burke never uttered these words. This January 2002 essay by Martin Porter supports this assertion. [I wish you had found this out when writing the article -- it would have been a perfect opening--ed. No argument here.]

    Postwar, click here for an antiwar critic quoting Burke to critique the postwar administration of Iraq, and here for an example of Islamic activists using Burke in a similar way.

    Although I largely disagree with Fareed Zakaria's The Future of Freedom, it's still worth reading. I critiqued parts of Zakaria's argument here and here. Robert Kagan critiqued it with far more relish in his New Republic review (TNR subscribers only).

    Larry Diamond's arguments about the viability of democracy in the developing world can be read at your leisure in this Policy Review article. For those who want to see more of the raw data upon which Diamond bases his argument, click to this longer version of the paper.

    Here's the main RAND page for America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq -- the quote in the TNR article comes from this press release. While Paul Bremer keeps this book at his bedside table, Fred Kaplan argues in Slate that senior Bush administration officials were foolhardy to ignore the advice from its primary author, James Dobbins.

    On commentary calling for the U.S. to admit it overreached and therefore pull out of Iraq, see this Hubert Locke essay from the Seattle Times from last month, and this Edward Luttwak op-ed from yesterday's Los Angeles Times.

    Finally, for further reading on what Edmund Burke -- and other political theorists -- can teach us about the postwar administration of Iraq, go check out Stanley Kurtz's nuanced discussion of the topic in this Policy Review article, as well as a more embryonic version of the argument in City Journal. The greatest compliment I can pay to Kurtz's use of Burke is that it there was no way I could summarize it accurately in my TNR essay without going past my word limit.

    Final caveat: although I have no doubt that my critics will heartily agree with this assessment, let me still get it on the record -- I have not nor will I ever claim to be an expert on Edmund Burke.

    posted by Dan at 12:39 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (5)


    My latest TNR online article is up -- it addresses critics of democracy promotion in general and specifically with regard to Iraq. Go check it out.

    posted by Dan at 12:03 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Testing -- one, two... sibilance...

    Glenn Reynolds gets a new RX-8 -- I finally get my own web site. Such is the food chain of the blogosphere.

    So take a look around. Note that I've added a comments feature -- we'll see how that works out. Also note that the posts that have been moved from Blogger have duplicate titles and such -- I'll try to iron that problem out over the next week or so.

    In the meantime, enjoy!!

    posted by Dan at 11:00 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (2)

    Tuesday, August 5, 2003

    A critique of administration excesses

    Last month I linked to a defense of the administration's homeland security policies in response to criticism from civil libertarians. Now, lots of links to examples of administration overreaching in the name of homeland or national security.

    Virginia Postrel provides lots of links. Chief among them is Jacob Sullum's dissection of the executive branch's power grab with regard to the designation of "enemy combatants. The "good parts" version:

    The requirement that the executive branch detain people only as authorized by Congress is grounded in the Constitution as well as in statute. The separation of powers means the president is supposed to enforce the law, not write it.

    The Constitution specifically gives Congress, not the president, the authority to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, which allows citizens to challenge their detention. Even Congress may suspend that privilege only when public safety requires it because of rebellion or invasion....

    It might seem that the president's power grab, while alarming in principle, has not had much impact in practice, since so far only two citizens (that we know of) have been detained as enemy combatants. Yet the possibility of receiving that designation may already have made it impossible for anyone accused of terrorism to get a fair trial.

    The government says the "Lackawanna Six," a group of young men arrested in upstate New York last fall, constituted an Al Qaeda "sleeper cell." But the details reported in the press suggest they were half-hearted wannabes rather than committed jihadists. Although they went through training in Afghanistan in the spring of 2001, they never hurt anyone and apparently did not plan to do so.

    That does not make them innocent, but it suggests they did not deserve the sentences they received, which ranged from six-and-a-half to nine years. They decided that pleading guilty was preferable to risking indefinite confinement as enemy combatants. As one attorney told The Washington Post, "The defendants believed that if they didn't plead guilty, they'd end up in a black hole forever."

    That sort of threat, which has no legal or constitutional basis, makes a mockery of justice.

    Check out this Postrel post as well.

    Then, there's the administration's penchant for excessive secrecy on all national security matters. This was on display last week with the President Bush's refusal to declassify portions of a Congressional report on the 9/11 attacks. Glenn Reynolds, however, points to an even more obvious example of this kind of behavior, as reported in the New York Times:

    he Treasury Department said yesterday that it would decline to provide the Senate with a list of Saudi individuals and organizations the federal government has investigated for possibly financing Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

    The action was the second in two weeks to set the White House and Congress at odds about the Saudis and federal intelligence-gathering related to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

    Moreover, the move contradicted an assertion made on Thursday by a senior Treasury official, Richard Newcomb, who told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in a hearing on Saudi sponsorship of terrorism that the list was not classified and that his agency would turn it over to the Senate within 24 hours.

    Yesterday evening, with senators still awaiting the list, the Treasury Department advised the committee that it would soon send a letter declaring the information classified and thus unavailable to the public.

    "The information requested relates to ongoing U.S. government efforts to disrupt terrorist financing," Taylor Griffin, a department spokesman, said yesterday. "Public disclosure at this time would frustrate those efforts."

    To be fair, the administration line on this is that Newcomb -- head of the Office of Foreign Assets Control -- was wrong about what was classified and what was not.

    To be equally fair, Newcomb is a smart, plain-spoken career guy at Treasury -- not someone who would ordinarily misspeak. One wonders if the administration spin on this is related to other political developments at Treasury.

    posted by Dan at 01:44 PM | Trackbacks (0)

    Monday, August 4, 2003

    How left is the Academy?

    In reaction to this post and this post on the rarity of conservative academics, I've received a few e-mails rebutting the point. Here's a good example:

    Apparently, public policy schools, law schools, economics departments, medical schools, and political science departments are no longer in academia. My recollection is that there are respectable numbers of Republicans in these precincts.

    There are other departments, too, where Republicans (or those to their right!) still find their place in academia. Try the classics, or departments of European literature -- you'll almost certainly find folks who think in teems of blood and soil there. One such man I knew at Yale tended to play opera and mutter under his breath about the failure of the modern world to appreciate the achievements of Franco's Spain.

    All of which is to say: enough self-pity, please! The Republican party currently controls the White House, both houses of Congress, seven of nine Supreme Court appointments, and a majority of the governors' offices.... Seems like an odd time for him [Brooks] to complain about being marginalized.

    Two small points and one larger point in response.

    Small point #1: Trust me when I say that there are not a lot of Republicans in political science departments.

    Small point #2: With the exception of economics departments, I'd wager that this observation probably holds true for most departments within an arts and sciences faculty.

    Large point: The e-mail is still correct. Point taken.

    posted by Dan at 03:45 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (1)

    The trouble with animus

    Josh Marshall bats .500 in this post on Democratic animus towards the Bush administration. The key section:

    There are more and more articles being written about the intense animus toward president Bush among Democratic partisans....

    Here's what's weird about this, though: no one seems to mention how deeply this parallels the situation which prevailed through most of the 1990s between core Republicans and President Clinton. It wasn't simply that hardcore partisans then and now despised the president. But there was perhaps a third of the electorate that believed deeply in the president's illegitimacy (then Clinton, now Bush) and were driven further into that belief by the fact that they could not manage to get the rest of the electorate (say 60% or so) to see the man in the way they did. The difficulty of unmasking him became a sign of his political sins.

    This was certainly the case with Bill Clinton. And there are at least hints of that now with Bush. If anything the depth of the enmity against Clinton was far more in-grown and aggrieved. But the parallel is so strong, the dynamics so similar, that the fact that it's gone so little mentioned really points to a blindspot among the folks who think up these ideas in the Washington press corps and commentariat.

    Marshall is absolutely correct on the animus parallels. However, he whiffs in failing to mention the logical conclusion of this parallel -- that if the Democrats keep this up, they'll be out of power for the next five years.

    Clinton-hating did not serve the Republicans well. Yes, the GOP took both houses of Congress in 1994, but that more to do with the combination of low voter turnout, the Contract with America, and the Clinton administration's early missteps than efforts to make Clinton look illegitimate. In 1996 and 1998, the Republican encouragement of the anti-Clinton hysteria achieved less than zero in terms of electoral results.

    Say what you will about Bush's policies -- most of the public has a favorable view of him. A campaign dominated by over-the-top attacks on an incumbent president will likely alienate far more voters than it will attract.

    Marshall is correct to point out that the Dems are not the first party to get bent out of shape about the sitting president. He should also have pointed out that Republican critics are neverthelesds correct in saying that this is not a good thing for the Dems' electoral chances.

    UPDATE: A lot more on this throughout the blogosphere. Megan McArdle, James Joyner and Pejman Yousefzadeh agree with me. Kevin Drum laughs in my face.

    posted by Dan at 01:06 PM | Trackbacks (0)

    Reforming Iraqi higher education

    For those who believe in media conspiracies, it's interesting to note that over the weekend both the Washington Post (link via InstaPundit) and the New York Times had long articles on efforts to reform Iraq's universities.

    Both stories go over the myriad difficulties in this process -- primarily physical insecurity and infrastructure damage.

    The Post story does a nice job of suggesting that the phrase "multicultural Iraq" will not necessarily be an oxymoron. The key quote:

    On campus, though, the new atmosphere of debate and tolerance is already transforming Baghdad University into an oasis. Last week, students from various ethnic and religious groups -- once pitted against each other by Hussein -- chatted easily between exams. Some engaged in vigorous political arguments that would have been unthinkable only a few months ago.

    During one exam break, a group of political science students volunteered opinions that ranged from passionately pro-Hussein and anti-American to the extreme opposite. Shiite students shared once-banned CDs of religious sermons. Kurdish students, whose minority group was severely repressed by Hussein, said they felt safe and comfortable on campus for the first time.

    "There is a huge difference now, like between the earth and the sky," said Yaser Abdul Majid, 20, a chemistry student, as his classmates issued a chorus of complaints about the U.S. occupation, the crime problem and the dire lack of water and power in the capital. "The difference is that now, none of us will be killed for expressing our opinion."

    Meanwhile, the Times story has more detail on curricular reform, suggesting that U.S. authorities are making the right decision by delegating a healthy share of responsibility to the Iraqis:

    The next stage of reconstruction will be perhaps the trickier of tasks: depoliticizing the curriculum and reintroducing Iraqi students, scholars and scientists to the broader intellectual community through fellowships, exchanges and conferences. Professors were not able to leave Iraq without signed permission from the minister of higher education. So few did. And they have viewed education as a one-way street in which information is passed onto students, rather than encouraging critical, independent thought and analysis.

    The presidents of all the universities, including from Kurdistan in the north, have been meeting weekly. A committee of representatives from each institution has been set up to prepare a plan on addressing the curriculum. Dr. Erdmann hopes to recruit consultants from American organizations like the National Academy of Sciences, though curriculum decisions will be up to the Iraqis. Experts say that's smart policy.

    ''Everyone agrees on de-Baathification of the curriculum, but if the U.S. intervenes in how Iraqis view America and globalization and Iran, you're going to see a lot of rebelling,'' says Samer Shehata, an assistant professor of Arab politics at Georgetown University, who recently returned from Iraq. ''The whole Arab world is afraid the Americans are focusing on education and want to rewrite curriculums in all the Arab states. It's a threat to their culture and their identity, and they see it as heavy-handed and imperialistic. If we just leave the Iraqis to do it themselves, you'll see that anti-American sentiment won't be primary.''

    Frankly, the progress described in both articles is extraordinary. As someone who spent a year in Civic Education Project working to rebuild Ukraine's university system after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it sounds like the Iraqis have a much firmer commitment to reform.

    Full disclosure: I know Andrew Erdmann, the American administrator featured in both stories, from when we were fellows together at the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies. I take no responsiblility for Erdmann's decision to grow a moustache.

    posted by Dan at 10:27 AM | Trackbacks (0)

    Twenty Questions

    I answer them over at Crescat Sententia. Topics range from blogging to North Korea to Buffy to my mother. Go check it out.

    posted by Dan at 09:49 AM | Trackbacks (0)

    Friday, August 1, 2003

    The Ultimate Insult

    While guest-blogging, I came across this devastating criticism of two blogosphere heavyweights:

    Am I the only person who occasionally wanders over to Crooked Timber or the Volokh Conspiracy and feels like he just cracked open Derrida's latest book?

    Honestly, when I understand what these folks are talking about (which happens a majority of the time at both places, although more at Conspiracy than Timber), I really enjoy both sites, but occasionally, well, it feels like I'm not in the blogosphere anymore.

    Ouch. Of course, what will frost members of both group blogs is not the accusation that their posts are too abstruse -- it's being accused of postmodernism.

    posted by Dan at 02:49 PM | Trackbacks (0)

    Quote of the day

    From David Brooks' essay on the tendency to self-segregate in the latest Atlantic Monthly:

    What we are looking at here is human nature. People want to be around others who are roughly like themselves. That's called community. It probably would be psychologically difficult for most Brown professors to share an office with someone who was pro-life, a member of the National Rifle Association, or an evangelical Christian. It's likely that hiring committees would subtly -- even unconsciously -- screen out any such people they encountered. Republicans and evangelical Christians have sensed that they are not welcome at places like Brown, so they don't even consider working there. In fact, any registered Republican who contemplates a career in academia these days is both a hero and a fool. (emphasis added)

    I'm guessing that David will be telecommuting a lot at his new job.

    posted by Dan at 01:36 PM | Trackbacks (0)