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:
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.
(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:
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:
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.
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.
Thursday, August 28, 2003
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!!!
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Tips for conference rookies
Yesterday I received the following e-mail request:
We aim to please here at DanielDrezner.com, 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.
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:
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:
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?
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, ESPN.com 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.
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.
Explaining Bush's thinking on Iraq
Bush's approach to statebuilding in Iraq genuinely puzzles Kevin Drum :
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.
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:
Clearly, these preferences are starting to drive the tenured faculty around the bend:
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:
That's the rhetoric. Here's an example of Microsoft's role in funding campus research:
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.
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!!!
Friday, August 22, 2003
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.
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.
Thursday, August 21, 2003
The grand opening
Those of you prowling around the rest of DanielDrezner.com 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:
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.
So how'd they do?
Well, there's this story:
Despite such statements, the Congress has not endeared itself to local Islamic philosophers.
Ah, if only some of the Crooked Timber folk had been in attendance to provide a firsthand report.
About that flypaper hypothesis
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:
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.
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:
Your source for outsourcing
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):
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:
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:
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).
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:
Fred Kaplan explains the significance of Russia's actions in Slate. The key grafs:
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):
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
The blogosphere and the Guardian take on agricultural subsidies
This is from their first real post:
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.
Interesting company I keep at Amazon
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.
Monday, August 18, 2003
Current events economics on the web
Some "current events" economics worth reading on the web:
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.
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:
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.
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:
I should make this my new tagline -- danieldrezner.com, 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.
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).
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.
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:
Indeed. It's a sad day for Austin Powers and the members of Ming Tea.
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:
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.
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.]
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.]
The actual story suggests the diverse reactions the Olsens generate:
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!!]
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:
UPDATE: Maybe the divide is confined to print media. James Lileks suggests that American television was equally eager for chaos:
The perils of normal accidents
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:
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.
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 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.
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:
OK, sounds reasonable so far. Then I read the next three grafs:
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:
Let me rewrite this a bit:
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?
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 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:
The analysis in the Economist makes the same point:
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:
The Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, has a slightly different interpretation of his comments:
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.
Wednesday, August 13, 2003
Absurdity squared at the United Nations
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:
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.
The immutable preferences of Maureen Dowd
Maureen Dowd has discovered the blogosphere, and now believes it to be passé:
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
What made me laugh today
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.
Why this administration is losing me on Iraq
The day after the fall of Baghdad, I posted:
Ten days later, I posted the following dilemma for the administration:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
[Probably not--ed. Killjoy.]
Whiffing at Arnold Schwarzenegger
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:
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.
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:
Go read the whole thing.
Why Kevin Phillips is wrong
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:
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.
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.
Sunday, August 10, 2003
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.
Friday, August 8, 2003
Hugh Hewitt's intriguing idea
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.
Not a good sign for Ashcroft
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.
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:
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:
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.
Thursday, August 7, 2003
From the paper's executive summary:
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 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:
a) Tomasky's own rhetoric is biased and nasty;
(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.
Good economic news
Of course, this news came out the same day as this Bob Herbert op-ed predicting economic catastrophe.
What gets my neighborhood excited
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:
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.
Wednesday, August 6, 2003
Jerry just picked the wrong race
Contrast this with Mickey Kaus' recent observation about the California gubenatorial recall ellection:
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:
A dyspeptic Canadian
David Martin really doesn't like Canadian conservatives. He says the following in today's Chicago Tribune:
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.
It would be prudent to know more
Want to know the background to my latest TNR online essay?
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.]
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.
TAKING ON BURKE
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.
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!!
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.
Check out this Postrel post as well.
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.
Monday, August 4, 2003
How left is the Academy?
Two small points and one larger point in response.
The trouble with animus
Josh Marshall bats .500 in this post on Democratic animus towards the Bush administration. The key section:
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.
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.
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:
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.
I answer them over at Crescat Sententia. Topics range from blogging to North Korea to Buffy to my mother. Go check it out.
Friday, August 1, 2003
The Ultimate Insult
While guest-blogging, I came across this devastating criticism of two blogosphere heavyweights:
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.
Quote of the day
From David Brooks' essay on the tendency to self-segregate in the latest Atlantic Monthly:
I'm guessing that David will be telecommuting a lot at his new job.