Tuesday, September 30, 2003

The limits of political science

Y'know, I've got a Ph.D. in political science, and I've vigorously defended the use of statistical methodologies to understand political phenomena. I truly believe that its possible to create general models of human behavior to explain political events. But one must frankly acknowledge their limitations, so let me admit the one thing political science cannot and never will be able to explain -- the mind of Arianna Huffington:

With her campaign support mired in the low single digits, independent candidate Arianna Huffington announced Tuesday evening that she is pulling out of the California gubernatorial recall race and will work to defeat it.

"I'm pulling out and I'm going to concentrate every ounce of time and energy for the next week fighting to defeat the recall because I realize that that's the only way now to defeat [Republican gubernatorial candidate] Arnold Schwarzenegger," the 53-year-old writer and media commentator said on CNN's "Larry King Live."

"I was against the recall in principle. I've always believed this is not the way to run a democracy. But I also saw the opportunity provided to elect with a simple plurality an independent progressive governor."

Gray Davis, on the other hand, perfectly fits the axiom that the first thing politicians care about is getting elected:

Asked about her possible departure during a campaign appearance Tuesday, Davis said Huffington had brought "wisdom and clarity" to the recall race.

"I believe she's made a contribution to the dialogue that has begun over these last 70 to 75 days," he said. "If she does drop out and oppose the recall, clearly I would welcome her comments between now and the end of the campaign."

Must... resist.... urge... to.... snark!!! [Just link to Mickey Kaus--ed. Good idea!!]

posted by Dan at 10:17 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (1)

Drezner gets results from George W. Bush!!

Yesterday I wrote:

I am saying that the President could display a touch more of the outrage that his father hinted at four years ago. That, in itself, would send a powerful message to his staff.

Earlier today I wrote:

[W]hat I would like to see is a strong denunciation by President Bush about what took place... there's a big difference between assertions by intermediaries and a video feed of the President himself. The latter commands a lot more attention

From Fox News:

President Bush said Tuesday that he wanted to know who leaked a CIA employee's name to reporters, if in fact someone in his administration wrongly passed out the information.

“Leaks of classified information are bad things. We’ve got too much leaking in Washington,“ Bush said during a stop in Chicago. "I want to know who the leakers are.”

If a Justice Department investigation of the matter reveals that the leak was a violation of the law, the "person will be taken care of."

ABC News runs the quote as follows:

He said in Chicago that he had instructed his staff to cooperate with the investigation, and he also called for anyone outside the administration who had information about the matter to bring it forward.

"Leaks of classified information are bad things, and we've had too many lately in Washington," Bush said. "We've had leaks from the executive branch and leaks from the legislative branch. I want to know who the leakers are."

See, was that so hard? I would have phrased it a bit differently -- it still sounds a bit too clever to me. However, that statement -- plus a thorough Justice/FBI investigation -- are good if belated first steps for the administration to address this problem. [UPDATE: Josh Marshall appears not to be sated.]

Also check out Jack Shafer's Slate essay on the Plame game. Some highlights:

Novak's White House sources aren't the only potentially prosecutable leakers. The identity of an undercover operative such as Plame would not automatically be something in circulation at the White House. Somebody at the CIA would have had to tell the White House that Plame was Wilson's wife and that she was undercover. Any aggressive Justice dragnet is as likely to collect CIA employees as it is White House officials.

Besides, most Justice Department investigations of leakers go nowhere, even when Justice knows their identities. At his May 6, 1997, confirmation hearing, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet complained that the CIA files "crimes reports with the attorney general every week about leaks, and we're never successful in litigating one. And I think, you know, if we could just find one, I don't want to prosecute anybody; I want to fire somebody. That will send the right signal to people."....

Given that the White House knows who the leakers are, I would surmise that the administration will staunch the damage—and still the scandal—by strongly encouraging the leakers to offer themselves up for sacrifice out of duty to President Bush. If I were Bush, I'd avoid anything that could be construed as a coverup and start rehearsing my address to the nation about how a tiny precancerous lesion has been removed from the face of the presidency.

With his statement today, Bush is starting make the proper noises.

Definitely still developing....

UPDATE: Shafer has another Slate piece up that seems to take a harder line than the previously linked one. The highlights:

The Novak-Wilson-Plame story is so huge because 1) the leak appears (to some) to be a dirty trick designed to punish Wilson for going public on the July 6 New York Times op-ed page with his version of the Niger yellowcake uranium story; 2) it's against federal law ($50,000 in fines and 10 years in prison) for a government official who has access to classified information to disclose a covert agent's identity; 3) it indicates the extent to which the Bush administration will dissemble to sear its version of the war on terror on the public consciousness; and 4) we haven't had a good scandal joy ride in Washington since Monicagate....

[N]one of the reporters who talked to the White House sources filed the more newsworthy story: namely, that the normally leak-free administration was attempting to put Ambassador Wilson in an unflattering light by connecting his Niger mission in some nepotistic fashion to his wife's position as a CIA employee, and damage her cover in the process. Any of the reporters could have published a story about how an administration source was talking trash about Wilson without naming Valerie Plame or violating their confidentiality agreements. So, why didn't they? I can only assume that the reporters calculated that with confidential administration sources being so rare these days, they shouldn't do anything that would deter a future leak. So, they ignored the tip and declined to expose the leakers' skulduggery in hopes of getting a different—and perhaps less dicey—story leaked to them later.

The Novak-Wilson-Plame story illustrates in creepy fashion what happens when reporters, especially Washington reporters, become too beholden to their sources. They forget that they're supposed to answer to their readers, not their sources. And when they're obsessed with keeping their confidential sources happy, they end up missing the story.

posted by Dan at 05:34 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

Crescat Sententia has moved

Will Baude, Amanda Butler, and the rest of the gang have some fancy new digs -- there are gargoyles and props from Richard Posner!!

Go check it out.

posted by Dan at 11:02 AM | Trackbacks (0)

Still a lot of smoke, and Justice thinks there's a fire

The Associated Press reports that the Justice Department has started a full investigation of the Novak leak:

The Justice Department launched a full-blown criminal investigation into who leaked the name of a CIA officer, and President Bush directed his White House staff on Tuesday to cooperate fully.

The White House staff was notified of the investigation by e-mail after the Justice Department decided late Monday to move from a preliminary investigation into a full probe. It is rare that the department decides to conduct a full investigation of the alleged leak of classified information.

White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales told the staff: "You must preserve all materials that might in any way be related to the department's investigation." Presumably that would include telephone logs, e-mails, notes and other documents....

"The president has directed the White House to cooperate fully with this investigation," White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters. "The president wants to get to the bottom of this."

Senior staff members were told of the investigation at their morning staff meeting, and then Gonzales sent an e-mail to all the staff notifying them of the probe.

Even before the Justice Department investigation was announced, Democrats were calling for the appointment of a special counsel to insure impartiality. McClellan said the decision rests with the Justice Department.

The department notified the counsel's office about 8:30 p.m. Monday that it was launching an investigation but said the White House could wait until the next morning to notify staff and direct them to preserve relevant material, McClellan said. (emphasis added)

Here's a copy of the memo that Gonzales sent to the White House staff:

PLEASE READ: Important Message From Counsel's Office

We were informed last evening by the Department of Justice that it has opened an investigation into possible unauthorized disclosures concerning the identity of an undercover CIA employee. The department advised us that it will be sending a letter today instructing us to preserve all materials that might be relevant to its investigation. Its letter will provide more specific instructions on the materials in which it is interested, and we will communicate those instructions directly to you. In the meantime, you must preserve all materials that might in any way be related to the department's investigation. Any questions concerning this request should be directed to Associate Counsels Ted Ullyot or Raul Yanes in the counsel to the president's office. The president has directed full cooperation with this investigation. (emphasis added)

The end of the New York Times story also describes where things go from here:

As is standard, the Justice Department asked the C.I.A. to complete an 11-question report addressing issues like who had access to the classified information and what harm was caused to national security.

The C.I.A. gave the Justice Department its response several weeks ago, a government official said. Mr. Ashcroft decided over the last several days to move ahead with a preliminary inquiry, and the Justice Department notified the F.B.I. late Monday that the bureau would lead the investigation.

"We'll start with the C.I.A.," said an F.B.I. official. "They're the ones that held the information, so we'll go from there to find out who had access to it."

So far, the system appears to be working. As I've said previously, what I would like to see is a strong denunciation by President Bush about what took place. [But his press spokesman, national security advisor, and other subordinates have already said that the President would not tolerate this sort of behavior!--ed. There's a big difference between assertions by intermediaries and a video feed of the President himself. The latter commands a lot more attention -- see the Trent Lott affair. But the Washington Post says the following today:

A senior official quoted Bush as saying, "I want to get to the bottom of this," during a daily meeting yesterday morning with a few top aides, including Rove.

Surely that counts for something?--ed. Again, this is an anonymous leak -- not a formal statement]

For more, go read Tom Maguire. Oh, and check out this Post story explaining the relevant statute otherwise known as the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

UPDATE: Drezner gets results from ABC!! The Note has some powerful words in today's update:

In all our back-and-forth history(onics) about the Wilson matter yesterday, we inadvertently left out one really important notion, which we insert here now high up:

The press and the opposition party should NOT go around assuming that because someone MIGHT be guilty of something that they ARE guilty of something.

Karl Rove's name was out there yesterday, but there are bound to be others, and there is just no reason to rush to judgment (even in our current 24/7 media culture) just because someone hears a name, or even if someone hears that someone else has hired a criminal defense lawyer.

If you care even a whit about America having a civil national public discourse (during this time and forever), read every word of David Brooks' brilliant New York Times column, and thank Arthur for hiring him.

ABC is correct, which is why I said what I said yesterday about Rove, given my speculation on Sunday.

Let me repeat -- this is a serious allegation, and I want to see the President address it directly and publicly. [But we don't really know if Plame was an operative, and we don't really know whether Bush administration officials leaked the story in the way that the Post alleges.--ed.] Oh yes we do. Kevin Drum provides a solid rundown of the evidence. From CNN (link via alert reader B.M.):

In addition to Novak, as many as six other journalists may have been told the CIA operative's name, CNN's Ensor reported, citing sources. At least one of the journalists spoke to a Bush administration official who revealed the name, Ensor said, but it was unclear who had initiated the call....

Ensor reported that sources at the CIA said Plame is an employee of the operations side of the agency.

"This is a person who did run agents," Ensor said. "This is a person who was out there in the world collecting information." (emphasis added)

So, to quote James Woolsey from the CNN story:

This is a serious leak. You can endanger intelligence and people's lives by revealing the identities of CIA case officers, so it's a serious matter.

But we don't know who did what yet. The only connection to Rove in this incident came from an assertion by Joseph Wilson that he later retracted. It's worth noting that Mark Kleiman acknowledges my point on this as well (though he's suspicious of Rove due to prior bad acts).

posted by Dan at 10:45 AM | Comments (104) | Trackbacks (8)

Monday, September 29, 2003

The oxymoron of conservative academics?

I've had a couple of e-mail request to comment on the David Brooks piece from Saturday on how few conservatives there are in academia.

I really don't want to write anything new on this, but click here, here, and here and you'll have my general take on this problem. Oh, and Bruce Bartlett provides an excellent summary of the data on academic bias.

Well.... let me also agree completely with two of Jacob Levy's main points in his follow-up post on this topic. Point #1:

What we do is also: research. It's always been pretty clear to me that there are people who have the reputation of subordinating their research to an ideological mission, and doing bad research as a result. This is among the worst reputations one can have in academia; it's fatal. It is almost certainly easier for someone to the right of center to acquire that reputation than it is for someone to the left of center. In other words, one has to be more careful not to acquire it if one's ideology is out of the academic mainstream. But it's pretty easy not to acquire the reputation by not committing the act. If people want to write lobbying briefs, they should write lobbying briefs, not scholarly articles and books. Those who do write scholarly articles and books, I maintain, get them judged more-or-less fairly by their peers.

Point #2:

Academia is tough. Most applicants don't get into grad schools; many grad students don't finish; most PhDs don't get tenure-track jobs; most papers don't become articles; etc. It's easy to be on the disappointed end of one of those decisions and to chalk it up to a bias against some category to which one belongs, instead of to bad luck. But it's also self-destructive.

Good God, yes.

Also be sure to check out Virginia Postrel, David Adesnik, Henry Farrell -- and his commenters, particularly Timothy Burke.

UPDATE: I'm afraid you'll also need to check out Chris Lawrence, Invisible Adjunct, and Erin O'Connor. Erin makes a point about the humanities that's particularly sad:

The student who enters grad school intent on becoming a traditional humanist is the student who will be labelled as hopelessly unsophisticated by her peers and her professors. She will also be labelled a conservative by default: she may vote democratic; may be pro-choice, pro-affirmative action, and anti-gun; may possess a palpably bleeding heart; but if she refuses to "politicize" her academic work, if she refuses to embrace the belief that ultimately everything she reads and writes is a political act before it is anything else, if she resists the pressure to throw an earnest belief in an aesthetic tradition and a desire to address the transhistorical "human questions" out the window in favor of partisan theorizing and thesis-driven advocacy work, then she is by default a political undesirable, and will be described by fellow students and faculty as a conservative.

posted by Dan at 04:44 PM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (2)

Today's Plame roundup

Developments in the Plame story today:

1) Josh Marshall reprints the relevant section of the daily White House press briefing covering this. Scott McClellan flatly denies that Karl Rove leaked the story to Novak, and that the president knows that Rove didn't do it. This is how the Associated Press plays the story. If you read the transcript, however, there's some confusion as to how McClellan knows this. He intimates a conversation with Rove, but doesn't say he asked him directly:

QUESTION: But is the President getting his information from you? Or did the President and Karl Rove talk, and were there assurances given that Rove was not involved?

McCLELLAN: I've already provided those assurances to you publicly.

QUESTION: Yes, but I'm just wondering if there was a conversation between Karl Rove and the President, or if he just talked to you, and you're here at this --

McCLELLAN: He wasn't involved. The President knows he wasn't involved.

QUESTION: How does he know that?

McCLELLAN: The President knows.

2) Clifford May has a piece in NRO suggesting that Plame's status at the CIA was common knowledge in DC:

It's the top story in the Washington Post this morning as well as in many other media outlets. Who leaked the fact that the wife of Joseph C. Wilson IV worked for the CIA?

What also might be worth asking: "Who didn't know?"...

On July 14, Robert Novak wrote a column in the Post and other newspapers naming Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative.

That wasn't news to me. I had been told that — but not by anyone working in the White House. Rather, I learned it from someone who formerly worked in the government and he mentioned it in an offhanded manner, leading me to infer it was something that insiders were well aware of.

This does raise the prospect that perhaps the leak to Novak -- which at the time, was intended to impugn the CIA's morivation to send Wilson to Niger in the first place -- was unaware that s/he was "outing" Plame. This is, I believe, Tom Maguire's theory of events. As Jacob Levy points out, May conveniently skirts the fact that this is still a crime. However, the level of malice involved would be reduced somewhat.

[What about May's allegation that Wilson wasn't qualified to investigate the Niger claim and performed his task in a half-assed manner?--ed. Those are largely extraneous issues, but if you read Wilson's interview with Marshall, it seems clear that he did a pretty thorough job of looking into the matter -- he wasn't just "drinking sweet mint tea." Furthermore, even May acknowledged in July that, "Wilson's conclusion was probably correct."]

3) There is some evidence that Wilson might be overselling his side of the story. Howard Kurtz pointed something out today in his Media Notes column:

Wilson said yesterday that journalists for the three major broadcast networks told him they had been contacted by someone in the White House. He named only one, Andrea Mitchell, NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent, who interviewed Wilson and reported on July 22 that he said the administration was "leaking his wife's covert job at the CIA to reporters." Mitchell could not be reached for comment yesterday [UPDATE: according to Tom Maguire, Mitchell confirmed the story on Imus this morning -- D.D. ANOTHER UPDATE: MSNBC has the following important clarification: "NBC News said Monday evening that reports that Mitchell was one of the reporters who was called were not completely accurate. Mitchell was contacted in connection with the story, it said, but only after Novak revealed the woman’s name in his column in July." (emphasis added)]

NBC's Washington bureau chief, Tim Russert, and ABC's bureau chief, Robin Sproul, said yesterday they could not discuss any matter involving confidential sources. But John Roberts, a CBS White House correspondent, said that to his knowledge, no administration official had contacted anyone at the network about Wilson.

If anyone had called him, Roberts said, "I'd immediately have to wonder what the ulterior motive was. We'd probably end up doing a story about somebody breaching national security by leaking the name of a CIA operative."

Meanwhile, Wilson appears to be backing away from his accusation that Rove was the source of the leak. From the Associated Press again:

Wilson had said in a late August speech in Seattle that he suspected Rove, but on Monday he backtracked somewhat from that assertion.

"I did not mean at that time to imply that I thought that Karl Rove was the source or the authorizer, just that I thought that it came from the White House, and Karl Rove was the personification of the White House political operation," Wilson said in a telephone interview.

But then he added: "I have people, who I have confidence in, who have indicated to me that he (Rove), at a minimum, condoned it and certainly did nothing to put a stop to it for a week after it was out there.

"Among the phone calls I received were those that said `White House sources are saying that it's not about the 16 words, it's about Wilson and his wife.' And two people called me up and specifically mentioned Rove's name," he said.

4) Josh Marshall notes the subtle differences between the Monday Washington Post follow-up and the original Sunday WaPo story:

The descriptions of sources is now vaguer. Top White House officials have become White House officials. Senior administration officials are now administration officials. There are several possible explanations for the change.

It's also worth noting that the New York Times, playing catch-up, also uses the vague "Bush administration officials" to describe the leakers.

5) Robert Novak just said the following on Crossfire (reprinted by Matt Drudge):

Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this. In July I was interviewing a senior administration official on Ambassador Wilson's report when he told [me] the trip was inspired by his wife, a CIA employee working on weapons of mass destruction. Another senior official told me the same thing. As a professional journalist with 46 years experience in Washington I do not reveal confidential sources. When I called the CIA in July to confirm Mrs. Wilson's involvement in the mission for her husband -- he is a former Clinton administration official -- they asked me not to use her name, but never indicated it would endanger her or anybody else. According to a confidential source at the CIA, Mrs. Wilson was an analyst, not a spy, not a covert operator, and not in charge of undercover operatives.

All of these facts suggest to me that it's way too soon to assert with confidence that Karl Rove did anything untoward.

Don't get me wrong -- someone did something wrong, otherwise the CIA would not have requested an investigation from Justice. Furthermore, the MSNBC story contains the following grafs:

CIA lawyers followed up the notification this month by answering 11 questions from the Justice Department, affirming that the woman’s identity was classified, that whoever released it was not authorized to do so and that the news media would not have been able to guess her identity without the leak, the senior officials said.
The CIA response to the questions, which is itself classified, said there were grounds for a criminal investigation, the sources said.

The question is, who did it? Maybe it was a high-ranking White House official, maybe not. At this point, however, there's no evidence that Rove had anything to do with this.

There's still a lot of smoke at this point -- but I don't see a fire just yet.

Still developing....

posted by Dan at 03:26 PM | Comments (60) | Trackbacks (6)

Not exactly like father, like son

Leadership and conviction:

"Even though I'm a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors."

George H.W. Bush, remarks at the Dedication Ceremony for the George Bush Center for Intelligence, 26 April 1999.

Lack thereof:

"White House officials said they would turn over phone logs if the Justice Department asked them to. But the aides said Bush has no plans to ask his staff members whether they played a role in revealing the name of an undercover officer who is married to former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, one of the most visible critics of Bush's handling of intelligence about Iraq."

Mike Allen, "Bush Aides Say They'll Cooperate With Probe Into Intelligence Leak," Washington Post, 29 September 2003 (emphasis added)

Fair or unfair comparison? Too soon to tell.

In the story, when asked about the possibility of an internal White House investigation, White House press spokesman Scott McClellan said:

I'm not aware of any information that has come to our attention beyond the anonymous media sources to suggest there's anything to White House involvement.

That's the best spin to put on the story, because it's true -- with the exception of Novak himself, all of the sources for this story have been anonymous.

We'll see how long this holds up.

A final point -- I really, really, want this story to be wrong. I find the prospect that there are people in the White House capable of such actions to be distasteful. If the entire story turns out to be bogus, great. If not, then this is going to be a long and bumpy ride.


UPDATE: Josh Marshall links to an Esquire story highlighting how Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. differed in their approach to Karl Rove.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Pejman Yousefzadeh argues that it would be wrong to expect President Bush to take a more active role in the investigation:

[L]eaks aren't going to be stopped or be discovered merely by having the President call in suspected leakers, and interrogate them about whether or not they talked out of turn. If it was so easy to stop leaks, past Administrations would have tried that tactic a long time ago.

But as Dan well knows, life is not a Perry Mason movie. The culpable do not break down and confess their sins merely as the result of close questioning. And the Administration likely knows this, which is why they aren't going to waste time calling in the many aides who work at the White House in order to find out who has been leaking the story. So I'm not sure that Dan's excerpted quote is evidence of a lack of leadership and conviction on the part of the Administration. Rather, it is likely evidence of the monumental task that is before the Administration in finding out who--if anyone--might have leaked Valerie Plame's name to the media.

Pejman has a point about the futility of catching leakers (though Mark Kleiman disagrees). There is a difference, however, between your garden-variety leak and what took place in the Plame affair, which was a violation of federal law.

I'm not saying George W. Bush should be whipping out the magnifying glass as part of an investigation. I am saying that the President could display a touch more of the outrage that his father hinted at four years ago. That, in itself, would send a powerful message to his staff.

posted by Dan at 12:57 AM | Comments (51) | Trackbacks (10)

Sunday, September 28, 2003

What could cause me to switch parties

I don't normally blog on Sunday morning out of a combination of wanting to spend time with my family and general laziness. This Washington Post story, however, which folows up on an NBC story, has rousted me out of my torpor:

At CIA Director George J. Tenet's request, the Justice Department is looking into an allegation that administration officials leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer to a journalist, government sources said yesterday.

The operative's identity was published in July after her husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly challenged President Bush's claim that Iraq had tried to buy "yellowcake" uranium ore from Africa for possible use in nuclear weapons. Bush later backed away from the claim.

The intentional disclosure of a covert operative's identity is a violation of federal law.

The officer's name was disclosed on July 14 in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak, who said his sources were two senior administration officials.

Yesterday, a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife. Wilson had just revealed that the CIA had sent him to Niger last year to look into the uranium claim and that he had found no evidence to back up the charge. Wilson's account touched off a political fracas over Bush's use of intelligence as he made the case for attacking Iraq.

"Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge," the senior official said of the alleged leak. (emphasis added)

For more, see Kevin Drum, Mark Kleiman, Brad DeLong, Josh Marshall, Atrios, and Tom Maguire (who also provides a comprehensive chronology of what happened back in July -- check out this Slate piece as well). Also be sure to read Marshall's two-part interview with Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Kleiman reads the Post story the same way I do:

[T]he source for this story (a "senior Administration official" but not a "top White House official," which probably means either from the CIA or from the Justice Department, more likely the former) refused to identify the two leakers "for the record," which clearly implies that he did identify them off the record. Since the story mentions Joseph Wilson's use of Karl Rove's name, it would be natural for the reporter to have hinted that Rove was not in fact one of the guilty parties, had that been the case. But there is no such hint. Of all the people in the White House, Rove is probably the one Bush can least afford to lose, and the one who gives Bush the least deniability.

Tom Maguire thinks that

[T]hey [The White House] need to get a senior Admin official in front of a friendly Congressional Chairman, admit that it was an innocent mistake, take the pain, and exit.

That won't fly, for the simple reason that high-ranking members of the Bush administration apparently know that it wasn't an "innocent mistake." By telling the Post, it's clear that some cabinet officials are not going to let this die quickly.

To which I say, good. What was done here was thuggish, malevolent, illegal, and immoral. Whoever peddled this story to Novak and others, in outing Plame, violated the law and put the lives of Plame's overseas contacts at risk. Compared to this, all of Clinton's peccadilloes look like an mildly diverting scene from an Oscar Wilde production. If Rove or other high-ranking White House officials did what's alleged, then they've earned the wrath of God. Or, since God is probably busy, the media firestorm that will undoubtedly erupt.

Let me make this as plain as possible -- I was an unpaid advisor for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign, and I know and respect some high-ranking people in the administration. And none of that changes the following: if George W. Bush knew about or condoned this kind of White House activity, I wouldn't just vote against him in 2004 -- I'd want to see him impeached. Straight away.

UPDATE: More reaction from James Joyner, Glenn Reynolds, Josh Chafetz, N.Z. Bear, and Roger Simon. They all counsel patience, which is of course wise. My rant is predicated on the assumption that someone at Rove's level in the White House was responsible for the leak.

Having had a few more hours to mull this over, however, I'm even more upset than I was when I wrote my original post. The best-case scenario is that the Post's source is Tenet playing hardball in response to the original leak to Novak. Josh Marshall makes the logical case that Tenet was the source. Even if that is true, however, as this TNR profile on Tenet demonstrates, the man is a savvy bureaucratic actor. He wouldn't have taken the risk of talking to the Post unless he knew the facts of the episode -- and knew they would be damaging to the White House.

There are two reasons why this makes me so upset. The first one is spelled out above -- if true, operatives at the White House violated the law and threatened WMD intelligence assets just to stick it to someone. And those operatives should be strung up.

The second reason is more insidious. As Roger Simon put it in a follow-up comment to his post:

But doesn't it seem weird to you that someone would do something so patently illegal for so little gain? It's such a self-destructive act it doesn't make sense.

Roger is correct -- it does seem weird. If it is nevertheless true, however -- an important "if" -- then a Pandora's box gets opened by asking this question: if the White House was willing to commit an overtly illegal act in dealing with such a piddling matter, what lines have they crossed on not-so-piddling matters? In other words, if this turns out to be true, then suddenly do all of the crazy conspiracy theories acquire a thin veneer of surface plausibility?

If that happens, both the administration and the country will be mired in scandal politics until November 2004. The administration would deserve it -- the country would not.

posted by Dan at 11:02 AM | Comments (95) | Trackbacks (20)

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Krauthammer fisks Kennedy -- film at eleven!

In his latest Washington Post essay (link via Andrew Sullivan), Charles Krauthammer fisks Ted Kennedy's statement that with regard to Operation Iraqi Freedom:

This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud.

To which Krauthammer responds:

There are a host of criticisms one might level at Bush's decision to go to war -- that it was arrogant, miscalculated, disdainful of allies, lacking in foresight, perhaps even contrary to just-war principles. I happen not to agree with these criticisms. But they can be reasonably and honorably made. What cannot be reasonably and honorably charged, however, is that Bush went to war for political advantage....

A year ago Bush was riding high. He decided nonetheless to put at risk the great political advantage he had gained as a successful post-9/11 leader -- an advantage made obvious by the Republican gains in last year's elections -- to go after Saddam Hussein.

Politically, the war promised nothing but downside. There was no great popular pressure to go to war. Indeed, millions took to the streets to demonstrate against it, both at home and abroad. Bush launched the war nonetheless, in spite of the political jeopardy to which it exposed him, for the simple reason that he believed, as did Tony Blair, that it had to be done.

You can say he made a misjudgment. You can say he picked the wrong enemy. You can say almost anything about this war, but to say that he fought it for political advantage is absurd.

It's worth comparing Iraq to the Clinton administration's deecision to intervene in Bosnia in the summer of 1995.

If you read Richard Holbrooke, Samantha Power or David Halberstam, it's pretty clear that Clinton acted in Bosnia because he wanted to avoid the political fallout from either further massacres or having to rescue French and British peacekeepers, particularly during a presidential election year.

Now, there were risks to intervention as well, and it's to Clinton's credit that he took the appropriate action. However, at the time, I don't recall (correct me if I'm wrong) accusations that Clinton was acting in a political manner in his use of force, even though there was an element of this to his actions. And, as I pointed out before, the Republican leadership at the time supported Clinton's actions.

They didn't accuse him of waging the war to win the election.

P.S. If you check my aforementioned post, you'll see that Thomas Friedman made Krauthammer's point back in March with even greater force:

Anyone who thinks President Bush is doing this for political reasons is nuts. You could do this only if you really believed in it.

posted by Dan at 12:20 AM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, September 26, 2003

DanielDrezner.com gets results from Eric Zorn!!

In a previous post on j-blogs, I wrote:

I agree that it's a shame that Weintraub's blog is being muffled -- but I also think that this incident is endemic to the unstable nature of the j-blog phenomenon. [How do you know -- you're not a journalist!!--ed. Call it my "right now" take. But I may be wrong. Eric Zorn, I'm looking in your direction to correct me if I am] And I'm not sure that anything can be done about it.

In response, Eric has written an excellent blog post. You should read the whole thing, but Zorn provides a new and interesting analogy on how editors should think of j-blogs:

In reality, what needs to emerge here if the j-blog isn't going to die at birth, is an understanding on the part of editors and readers that, procedurally, a blog is much more like an appearance on a TV panel program or talk-radio show than it is a fully sanctioned, completely vetted declaration in cold type.

My fellow columnists and I frequently appear on radio and television and offer live (and in many cases broadcast on the internet), unedited statements under the color of our publications. Several Tribune staffers even have their own radio shows. We give speeches. We respond to e-mail and letters in writing. We give interviews to the New York Times.

And almost never is the substance and wording of such communication approved in advance by minders or editors....

The difference is that media consumers intuitively understand the difference between a published thought and one that's shouted at Bill O'Reilly. And they don't -- yet-- intuitively understand where a thought published on the web log fits into that spectrum.

Because we in the institutional media don't understand and can't agree on it yet.

The reason why l'affaire Bee seems so pivotal to so many in the blogging world is that the controversy is pushing us toward formalizing such understandings and agreements at a time when many of us -- me included and especially -- are still exploring and experimenting in this format.

And if we're too cautious in our conclusions, we risk losing a marvelous opportunity in what I remain convinced will be an increasingly important medium in the coming decades.

Really, I'm serious, read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 04:04 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

The Iraqi free trade zone

It appears that after a day of wavering, Iraq's Governing Council is now endorsing Iraqi Finance Minister Kamil Mubdir al-Gailani's plans for sweeping liberalization of the economy. This includes allowing 100% foreign ownership of Iraqi businesses in all economic sectors except oil. Among the proposals:

Six foreign banks will be permitted to take over local Iraqi banks completely in the next five years, al-Gailani said. Other foreign banks will be allowed to purchase 50 percent stakes in local banks.

This plan has drawn criticism from the usual quarters -- namely, Palestinians and the left -- as somehow generating a fire sale of Iraq for Western looters. Actually, the big winners here are the Iraqis themselves.

Since the fall of Saddam, Iraq has essentially functioned as a free trade zone. The benefits of this of this for Iraqis are readily apparent in the explosion of consumption over the past five months. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on this over the summer, and now USA Today follows up with a report indicating that the rise in cobsumption is also sourring entrepreneurial activity (link via Glenn Reynolds and Virginia Postrel). The key grafs:

Iraq's new finance minister, Kamil Mubdir al-Gailani, announced sweeping economic changes this week that will allow foreign ownership of companies in every industry except oil and other natural resources. The 25-member Iraqi Governing Council hopes that Iraq's 24 million people will be an attractive market and workforce for global businesses willing to invest in the country.

But merchants such as [Kurdish merchant Massoud] Mazouri already are cashing in. Television sets, refrigerators and boxes of satellite receivers are stacked 10 feet high on the sidewalks of Baghdad's shopping districts. Shoppers who have waited for years to be able to spend their hoarded dollars are out in force.

''When I started in late April, I was receiving one container of DiStar goods per month,'' Mazouri says. ''Now, I am getting five to six containers.'' Each container holds about 270 television sets or 3,800 satellite receiver units. He says he is grossing $20,000 a day. ''All the sales are done in cash.''

There was plenty of pent-up demand. Sanctions imposed by the United Nations after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 kept a lot of goods out of the country. Before that, an eight-year war with Iran drained the life from Iraq's economy. For nearly 20 years, there was little to buy. And during three decades of rule by Saddam's Baath Party, virtually all companies were state-owned or state-controlled. In 2001, Iraq's gross domestic product was $27.9 billion, compared with $47.6 billion in 1980.

Since the collapse of Saddam's regime, police Officer Gailan Wahoudi, 31, has bought a new television, a refrigerator and an air conditioner. ''It is a new freedom I never had before,'' he says.

The buying spree has been helped by the suspension of customs duties, import taxes, licensing fees and similar surcharges for most goods entering and leaving the country. The U.S.-led coalition's order on June 7 that suspended such charges has made Iraq a virtual free-trade zone at least until the end of the year. The coalition authorities had little choice: Iraq lost its ability to adequately control its borders when Saddam's government collapsed. Immigration and customs controls are only now being restored.

For consumers, the bottom line is lower prices.

Opening up investment to foreigners is crucial to preventing Iraq from reverting back to the statist nightmares that Egypt, Syria, Iran, et al are currently experiencing. Permitting foreign ownership of banks helps ensure that capital markets won't be repressed by the state as an act of political favortism. The policies being put forward to liberalize Iraq's economy are an excellent first step to installing the proper restraints on state intervention in the economy.

As a coda, I'm always amused by people who simultaneously supported the anti-globalization movement and condemned the sanctions against Iraq. In one case, the exchange of goods and services is evil -- in the other case, the exchange of goods and services is essential.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall links to a Guardian story suggesting that even with a small Iraqi state, there will still be favortism. And check out this Chicago Tribune story on the Iraqi entrepreneurial class.

posted by Dan at 11:43 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (2)

Thursday, September 25, 2003

An ode to lunch

The Chicago Weekly, an independent student paper that appears to have no online home, asked me to write a small essay for the returning students. So, reprinted here, is my ode to the leisurely lunch:

New York Times columnist David Brooks (U of C, class of 1983) has penned several essays in recent years arguing that the current generation of college students is unique in its preference for jam-packed schedules. Every minute of the day is accounted for with classes and extracurricular activities. As a professor, it would be the height of churlishness to complain about such industrious habits. However, as the school year starts, let me plead my case for the leisurely lunch.

I’ve actually held jobs outside of the academy, and the thing I found most dispiriting about them was the predilection for eating alone at one’s desk, the meal completed in under half an hour. To be sure, sometimes work makes that necessary. However, many people do this out of habit, or to give off the impression that they are such workaholics that they never have time for a real meal.

At an institution where great respect is conferred on those willing to study twenty hours a day, U of C students can fall into a similar trap of discarding lunch for more study time. To which I say, feh. No one is so busy that they can’t devote an hour to a social meal a few times a week.

Why bother with such an indulgence? Because it is not only an indulgence. Lunch at the U of C is an opportunity to share with others what you have been reading or discussing in class, and for your friends to reciprocate. If your fields of study are different, all the better. The cross-pollination of ideas is an important mechanism through which the humanities and the sciences make advances in knowledge. Lunching with one’s classmates can help the undergraduate develop a sense of perspective about their studies.

If this makes a long midday meal sound like an obligation, consider this reason: lingering at lunch permits the mind to relax as well as work. University study is not a wind sprint, it’s a multiyear intellectual marathon. The students who thrive are the ones smart enough to pace themselves. Letting one’s mind wander playfully at the noon hour is excellent preparation for the mental rigors that are sure to come in the post-meridian hours. The mind at play is often able to generate the counterintuitive ideas that would never occur otherwise. Nine out of ten of these ideas will turn out to be rubbish, but the ones that stick are special. Many a professor, myself included, will acknowledge that some of their most original ideas came not while staring at a computer monitor or at a blackboard, but while munching on a superior deli sandwich with friendly colleagues.

If none of these reasons tempt you, there’s always the obvious: with any leisurely lunch, dessert is sure to follow.

[Yeah, but do you practice what you preach?--ed. In fact, this very day I had an exquisite lunch at a lovely restaurant in the Loop with two esteemed colleagues, one of whom blogs at some conspiracy site. Though in this case, it was a last blast before classes start.]

One final thing -- the two other profs who contributed were Martha Nussbaum and James Heckman.

Bloggers are definitely moving up in the world.

posted by Dan at 05:21 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

No coherent narrative

A lot of bloggers have linked to it already, but in case you haven't seen it yet, USA Today ran a story earlier this week on media coverage of Iraq that confirms my "no single narrative" argument from last month.

Go check it out.

After that, click over to a sound bite from Terry Gross' interview with Salam Pax (link via Bargarz.

To quote David Brooks:

Nation-building is too grand a phrase for much of the work that is being done; it's neighborhood-building in all its granular specificity.


posted by Dan at 04:51 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (1)

Ladies and gentlemen, your counterweight to the United States

It is the belief of prominent Europeans -- and some Americans -- that the European Union will emerge as the primary rival to the United States in world politics. Of course, this requres that a) most of the member states have a common set of preferences; b) EU institutions acquire greater material capabilities; and c) EU official competently administer those resources.

I've stated my skepticism on point (a) recently. This Financial Times piece makes me really wonder about point (c):

Romano Prodi, European Commission president, on Thursday said he saw no reason to ask any commissioner to quit over the Eurostat affair, amid new evidence that financial irregularities continued long after he took office in 2000.

"On the basis of the facts I have outlined, after careful thought and in full awareness of the issues, I consider there is no reason to ask any Commissioner to assume the political responsibility and resign," Mr Prodi said in a speech to European Parliament leaders, who were questioning him over the affair.

Three reports into the financial scandal released on Wednesday night reveal a saga of fake contracts, secret slush funds and huge waste which went unchecked in the Commission for many years.

They tell how millions of euros disappeared into the secret accounts, ostensibly to fund additional statistical research. Large sums simply vanished while some money was used to fund staff perks.

This is the continuation of an ongoing scandal from the late 1990's. It's not the only scandal involving EU officials, however. Two years ago, Europol -- Europe's top police agency -- was raided by Dutch police after it was discovered that some officers had engaged in money laundering. When the leading anti-money laundering unit in Europe is busted for laundering money, you do begin to wonder about the competency of European officialdom.

No government is corruption-free. But if Eurocrats can't handle a €98 billion budget, what happens when their state capacity starts to expand?

posted by Dan at 12:03 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Why David Adesnik is really wrong

When I started reading David Adesnik's "jeremiad" against political science while he was guest-blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy, I started to cringe. Then I got mad.

David is a very smart guy, but there's a lot in this post that Adesnik either distorts or gets flat-out wrong. Chris Lawrence has already taken him to task -- though Laura of Apt. 11D sympathizes with Adesnik -- but there's so much that's wrong with his post that I'm going to have to indulge in a quasi-fisking here. Adesnik's post is in italics and indented:

The secret to success in America's political science departments is to invent statistics. If you can talk about regressions and r-squared and chi-squared and probit and logit, then you can persuade your colleagues that your work is as rigorous as that of a chemist, a physicist, or (at worst) an economist.

There's a very big difference between creating new data and using new statistical techniques to analyze old data. I strongly suspect Adesnik's source of irritation is the latter. The former is way too rare in the discipline, especially in international relations. Mostly that's because building new data sets takes a lot of time and the rewards in terms of professional advancement are not great, whereas relying on old data has no fixed costs.

This is one reason why Pape's article is worthy of note -- he actually collected new data, which leads to results that Adesnik himself admits are "surprising."

David mistakenly conflates creating new data with the use of fancy statistical techniques when they're not necessary. The latter can be a occupational hazard -- though I'd argue that the greater danger is the proliferation of sophisticated regression analysis software like STATA to people who don't have the faintest friggin' clue whether their econometric model corresponds to their theoretical model.

And unsurprisingly, in the rush to invent statistics, political scientists have made whatever assumptions they needed to justify their work. As historian John Gaddis has shown, political scientists actually have a very poor understanding of what science is. As a result, their work has suffered considerably.

Sigh. Of all the social sciences -- including economics -- I'll bet that political scientists actually spend the most time discussing what constitutes proper scientific work. This is partly due to insecurity, but it's also due to a refreshing humility about the difficulty of the enterprise. For good examples of this sort of debate, click here for one example, and here's another. And, for good measure, click here, here, and here. Note that some of these works disagree with each other -- and I certainly disagree with some of them. [So, has any good come from these books?--ed. Sometimes I think this has generated a healthy debate within the discipline, and other times I think it's just navel-gazing.]

While I haven't read Pape's APSR study, the points he makes in the NYT are pretty much nonsense. For example in support of the assertion that suicide attacks are not connected to religion, Pape points out that...

[quote here about the Tamil Tigers being responsible for the most suicide terrorist attacks--DD]

The [Tamil] Tigers' behavior only reinforces the belief that suicide bombing is a product of ideological extremism. But since you can't put a number on extremism, political scientists have hard time studying it. (Which is why there are historians and anthropologists.)

I have no doubt that historians can, through closely argued scholarship, identify which groups are extremist -- ex post. The key is to find descriptive characteristics that can be identified ex ante. Without ex ante markers to identify proper explanatory variables, theories degenerate into tautologies. Islamic affiliation is a descriptive category that can be identified ex ante, and Pape's discovery that it's not correlated with suicide attacks is a relevant and counterintuitive finding.

To be fair, Pape has some good points. As his study shows, democracies are the almost exclusive targets of suicide attacks, because liberal political systems are vulnerable to terror. Moreover, he is probably right that there is an element of rational calculation behind such attacks, since even extremists have an interest in success. Still, it is absolutely impossible to explain the tactics of Al Qaeda or Hamas without reference to their perverse ideologies.

This is a nice summary of Pape's value-added. On the "perverse ideologies" question, I don't think Pape would disagree. Without the ideology, it's impossible to delineate these groups' substantive preferences.

The real problem is that Pape, like so many political scientists, abandons all nuance in deriving policy programs from his work.

As I see it, the cause of this unsubtle approach is political scientists' obsession with statistics, a pursuit that dulls their sensitivity to the compexity of real-world political events. If numbers are your thing, you're going to have a hard time explaining why Israelis and Palestinians have spent five decades fighting over narrow tracts of land.

I agree with Adesnik that one can draw different conclusions from Pape's findings than he does -- and this is a weakness in the paper. However, to attribute this to Pape's obsession with statistics is amusing on a number of levels, many of which Chris Lawrence explained. Let's just say that Bob Pape would not be considered welcome at a meeting of the large-N brotherhood at APSA. Indeed, Pape fully supports the Perestroika movement that I've discussed previously.

So then, what is to be done? As you might of heard, many political science programs require training in statistics but not foreign languages. That trend has to be sharply reversed. Learning foreign languages promotes immersion in foreign cultures and ideas, which in turn make it hard to ignore the role of those cultures and ideas in the realm of politics. Given that politics is an art rather than a science, there is no substitute for getting inside the minds of those we study.

I'm perfectly happy to see more cultural immersion, but the notion that such training will automatically induce greater understanding is horses@&t. Witness the self-criticisms -- or rather, the lack thereof -- within the Middle Eastern Studies community in the wake of 9/11. These people are deeply immersed in the culture and language of the Arab peoples. Is Adesnik really suggesting that people like Edward Said can enlighten us about the region?

In conclusion, politics is an art and a science, a simple fact that many people within and without political science seem incapable of understanding.

And for Pete's sake, read the whole paper before penning a jeremiad like that.

UPDATE: Adesnik continues on his jeremiad in this post (though he's right on Moneyball). He gets it wrong again when he says:

The great flaw of modern political science is its desire to imitate microeconomists (and share in their prestige) by developing theorems that explain and predict the behavior of rational actors. Of course, that is exactly the wrong way to go about things. It is only when political scientists recognize that ideas and values are what drive politicians and voters that they will begin to produce something worthy of the name "science".

Chris Lawrence explains what's wrong with this statement.

ANOTHER UPDATE: David Adesnik responds in non-jeremiad fashion. See also Josh Chafetz.

posted by Dan at 12:48 AM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (4)

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

What Arnold hath wrought

I am willing to bet that in entire blogosphere -- hell, the entire mediasphere -- no one predicted this as an outcome of Schwarzenegger's gubernatorial campaign:

Martina Navratilova plans to get into public service after she stops serve-and-volleying in 2005.

Navratilova, who turns 47 next month, said Wednesday at the Sparkassen Cup tournament that she plans to play through the end of next season. Then, she wants to get involved with American politics, perhaps running for office.

"If Arnold Schwarzenegger can run for governor in California, then who knows? I have the muscles," said Navratilova, a Czech-born U.S. citizen who lives in Colorado. "I will be involved, especially the way things are going right now. The conservative party is too strong."

She ranks among the greatest tennis players ever, with a total of 58 Grand Slam titles: 18 in singles, 31 in doubles, and nine in mixed doubles.

Colorado, eh? Well, Navratilova vs. Owens could be an interesting race. It would be much more interesting, however, if the Republicans found a more formidable opponent.

posted by Dan at 06:04 PM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

The Sacramento Bee responds

At least one reader responded to my suggestion [You mean my suggestion--ed. It's all good] on how to respond to the Sacramento Bee's ombudsman Tony Marcano's distaste for letting Daniel Weintraub's blog go unedited -- they e-mailed Marcano.

To which the ombudsman replied:

My policy is to ignore readers who feel it necessary to resort to insults. There will be no further responses from this office to your e-mails.

I'm not going to reprint the reader's entire e-mail to the ombudsman, but the only thing in it that was remotely close to insulting was the final question: "When did the the Bee turn so gutless?"

Now I'll admit that I probably wouldn't have phrased it that harshly, but given that the ombudsman's job is to hear complaints, doesn't this response suggest someone too thin-skinned for the job?

Undeterred, our trusty reader pressed forward in his search for a response. He finally succeeded in getting a real reply from David Holwerk, who is Weintraub's editor. Here's his reply:

As the guy who edits Dan Weintraub's column and his blog items, I have to say I disagree with your contention that it is "crystal clear to all readers that Weintraub speaks for himself in his blog." My experience is that many readers regard the blog and all of our on-line content as an extension of The Bee.

My aim as Dan's editor is not to change his opinions or alter his viewpoints, but to make sure that his blog items are clearly written and adequately explained and do not engender reactions he does not intend. That is what editors do. If they do that well, they can actually make writers more effective. That's what I and other editors at The Bee try to do every day. You can judge for yourself to what degree we succeed.

This is a pretty decent response in my book. Good editors deal with good writers by improving the form of the writing so that the content is clear. I'm not a regular reader of Weintraub's blog, so only time will tell if this is what actually happens. As a statement of what an editor does, however, Holwerk's reply sounds like a promising start.

Of course, Mickey Kaus has his own thoughts on the matter:

Weintraub is a Bee editorial-page employee, not a news employee. Apparently the news side of the Bee has never liked his blog, for some obvious reasons--e.g. he's been beating the pants off them. His provocative anti-Bustamante comments were enough to trigger a newsroom-led bureaucratic Thermidor. (It was as if he was criticizing affirmative action!) Executive editor Rick Rodriguez says "folks on the staff brought" the issue to him after Weintraub's posting. They "wanted to know if it was edited," he says, though he adds he suspects they mainly wanted to "yell at some editors" about it. Rodriguez volunteers the ethnic makeup of the angry newsroom "folks": "Some were Latino, some Anglo, some black." The result was a review of Weintraub's status. "Our policy at the Bee is that everything's edited," Rodriguez declares.

Hmmmm.... given that the Bee's editorial staff also has created their own group blog, this may be a case of newsroom subcultures clashing.

Definitely click on the Kaus link, by the way. It's a long and information-rich post.

posted by Dan at 09:44 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (5)

A very special survey

As part of the paper I'm co-authoring on the power and politics of blogs, I am making a humble request to those who are employed as journalists, columnists, commentators, producers, or editors for newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations. Please take two minutes and send me an e-mail* (be sure to include the media outlet you work for as well as your job title) at ddrezner@hotmail.com with answers to the following five questions [Oh, sure, then you'll broadcast their answers to your friends!--ed. All responses will be treated as confidential unless you give me permission to do otherwise in your e-mail]:

1) How many blogs do you read a day?

2) Please name the three blogs you read most frequently. [What if they read less than three?--ed. Then just name the ones you do read.]

3) Why do you read the blogs you read? In other words, what makes those blogs worth checking out on a regular basis?

4) Have you ever read something on a blog that affected your decision-making on what to air/publish? If the answer is yes, can you give an example?

5) How much influence do you think blogs have on political discourse? A lot, a little, or none at all? Why?

Thank you!!

UPDATE: In the first 24 hours, I've already received 50 relevant responses. Many thanks to everyone who linked to the request, particularly Glenn Reynolds, Kevin Drum, Cory Doctorow, Howard Bashman, James Joyner, Josh Chafetz, Scripting News, and Jim Romenesko.

ANOTHER UPDATE: We're almost at the 100 mark!

If you fit the criteria and haven't responded yet, please do so!! Pretty please!!

*Do NOT post your answers in the comment box below. It's been disabled for this post -- because otherwise, your answers would be available for all the world to read!!

posted by Dan at 04:54 PM | Trackbacks (6)

A new blog project

Over the past year, I've been asked whether blogging can contribute to scholarship. While I've been positive about the effect of blogging on my academic writing style, I'm otherwise leery of mixing the two. Hell, last week I told the Chicago Tribune:

I would be reluctant to have blogging factored into tenure decisions. The whole idea of scholarship is to meditate on an idea, to test it critically and . . . to have your idea peer-reviewed. It's slow, but your ideas are tested in the most rigorous way possible. Blogs are often about spouting off what you're thinking without 10 minutes of reflection, and 30 minutes later you're sometimes wondering, `Did I really write that?'

I suspect my aversion to mixing the two is akin to the "worlds colliding" idea that was done to perfection on "The Pool Guy" episode from Seinfeld: I'm worried about whether Blogger Dan and Scholar Dan can co-exist in the same world.

To test out what happens when worlds collide, I've decided to co-author a scholarly paper on the power and politics of blogging with fellow political scientist and fellow blogger Henry Farrell from Crooked Timber. The idea will be to present this paper at the 2004 American Political Science Association annual meeting. Henry and I are hoping to chair a roundtable on blogging; some heavy-hitters in the blogosphere who shall remain nameless for the moment have already committed.

In the ensuing months, we'll make drafts of the paper available to the blogosphere and invite comments or criticisms. For this post, however, we're just looking for two things. The first is feedback on the definition of a blog. Our working definition -- partly inspired by the feedback from this post -- is as follows:

A weblog is defined here as a web page with minimal to no external editing, dedicated to on-line commentary, periodically updated and presented in reverse chronological order, with hyperlinks to other online sources.

Whaddaya think -- too vague? Too specific? Too wordy? Comments or suggestions for improvement are welcomed.

The second request is for links to working papers or journal articles on the political effects of blogs. I'm NOT talking about the articles that appear every six months like clockwork in the major dailies with headlines like "Americans Are Agog About Blogs!!" I'm talking about papers with more substance.

Here's our limited bibliography:

  • Rebecca Blood, The Weblog Handbook (New York: Perseus Publishing, 2002).

  • Rebecca Blood, “Weblogs: A History and Perspective,” in We’ve Got Blog: How Weblogs are Changing Our Culture (New York: Perseus Publishing, 2002).

  • Joel David Bloom, “The Blogosphere: How a Once-Humble Medium Came to Drive Media Discourse and Influence Public Policy and Elections.” Paper presented at the 2nd annual pre-APSA conference on Political Communication, Philadelphia, PA, August 2003.

  • Christine Carl, “Bloggers and Their Blogs: A Depiction of the Users and Usage of Weblogs on the World Wide Web,” M.A. thesis, Georgetown University, April 2003

  • Rebecca Mead, “You’ve Got Blog,” The New Yorker, 13 November 2000.

  • Clay Shirky, "Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality," Shirky.com, February 2003.

  • Clay Shirky, "Weblogs and the Mass Amateurization of Publishing," Shirky.com, October 2002.

  • Matt Welch, “Blogworld,” Columbia Journalism Review, September/October 2003.

    Jeffrey A. Henning, "The Blogging Iceberg," October 2003.

    Pejman Yousefzadeh, "The Rt. Honorable Blogger," Tech Central Station, November 12, 2003.

  • Any readers who know of any papers beyond those listed, please let me know about them.

    I look forward to your comments.

    UPDATE: Here's a web page replete with newpaper stories on blogs. Thanks to alert reader K.M. for the link!!

    posted by Dan at 03:27 PM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (7)

    Listen to the radio

    Interested in the connections between war and trade?

    From 12-1 PM Central time, I'll be on Odyssey, nationally syndicated radio show hosted by Gretchen Helfrich and produced by WBEZ, Chicago Public Radio.

    Tune in on your radio dial, or listen via the Internet by clicking here. FYI, there is a call-in segment towards the end of the hour.

    UPDATE: Well, that was easily the most enjoyable experience I've had doing a radio program. Good conversation, deep without getting too jargony or off-topic, nicely managed by Gretchen, and quality production. It helped, of course, that the other "expert" was Eugene Gholz. Eugene and I did not agree so much that we were always on the same page, but we did agree on enough Big Things to be in the same book.

    posted by Dan at 11:53 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Monday, September 22, 2003

    Your John Edwards moment

    Whatever the merits of Wesley Clark's decision to seek the Democratic nomination for President, Clark did succed in one area -- hogging the spotlight from John Edwards' formal announcement that he was also seeking the nomination. I don't care what Edwards says about this -- though no fault of the Edwards campaign, the timing sucked.

    We here at DanielDrezner.com don't think that's fair. [We don't? Does this mean we're endorsing Edwards?--ed. Absolutely not. However, I've admired some of the things he's done during the past year, and I do think the Dems are prematurely slighting his candidacy.] In response, we bring you this cornucopia of John Edwards information:

  • Edwards has now set up a weblog. Not bad looking, mostly written by staff and volunteers. However, here's Edwards' post on his official announccement.

  • Evidence that Edwards will carry out his promises -- back in the fall, he promised Jon Stewart that he would announce his candidacy on The Daily Show. Then he actually did it. Here's a link to the streaming video, which is pretty funny and demonstrates that Edwards is perfectly willing to poke fun at himself.

  • Slate has a treasure trove of John Edwards information. This Chris Sullentrop story seems to capture the strengths and weaknesses of Edwards as a candidate.
  • Enjoy!!

    posted by Dan at 06:16 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

    Why the Red Sox will win it all

    In the wake of my last Red Sox post, Tom Maguire has been teasing me about my baseball loyalties. So with the final week of the regular season upon us, this post -- a few thoughts and a bold prediction -- is just for him:

    1) Statistical indicators indicate that the Red Sox have a 97.4% chance of reaching the postseason. Woo-hoo!!

    2) A few weeks ago one of my commenters recommended Bill Simmons from ESPN's Page 2 as a sportswriter worth reading. After reading this column, I'll second that emotion. The highlights:

    Have there been some painful times for Red Sox fans? Absolutely. We lost seventh games in 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986. We also lost the most dramatic game of all time -- the playoff game in '78 against the Yanks, which deserves its own column some time. All things considered, Game Six of the '86 World Series was one of the most painful, agonizing defeats in the history of sports, maybe even the worst. And as I mentioned before, we're terrified that we may never see this team win a World Series, at least in our lifetime.

    But plenty of sports fans battle similar demons, don't they? What about Cubs fans closing in on the 100-year mark? What about Bills fans losing those four straight Super Bowls, including the horror of the Norwood Game? What about Browns fans losing their team, for God's sake? Who's more tortured than Maple Leaf fans? You think Astros fans have had tons of fun over the past four decades? You think the Bengals and Cavs have been laughing it up?

    For the most part, Sox fans have been pretty fortunate. Including me. Over the past three decades, I watched an inordinate amount of winning teams (more than any other franchise in baseball), as well as stars like Lynn, Fisk, Tiant, Rice, Yaz, Eckersley, Evans, Mo, Nomar and Manny. I was blessed with the chance to see Clemens and Pedro in their primes -- two of the best pitchers of the past 50 years. Dave Henderson's homer against the Angels remains one of the great sports moments of my life. Same with Pedro coming out of the bullpen and blanking Cleveland in the '99 playoffs (conspicuously missing from the documentary, of course). And for all its faults, Fenway (in the right seats) is still the best place in the country to watch baseball.

    Indeed. This is the attitude of a true Red Sox fan. As opposed to this sort of behavior.

    3) Just to jinx the team as they try to clinch a playoff spot this week, here's my explanation for why this team will win the World Series this year: they're better prepated prepared for overcoming temporary disasters than any other team in baseball.

    According to Tom Tippett, in all of Major League Baseball, the Red Sox have endured the greatest number of defeats this year in situations where they should have won (by generating more total bases than the other team). He concludes: "Boston hasn't taken full advantage of its opportunities this year." I'd be even harsher -- factor Tippett's criteria in with Sox' second-worst bullpen in the American League, and one can only conclude that the Red Sox lead the league in "heartbreaking losses."

    However, it's worth quoting Tippett more extensively:

    After they blew the August 20th game against Oakland, I thought the Red Sox were done. Time after time, they had been able to bounce back from tough losses, and they've earned a lot of praise for being a resilient team. But you can only dig a hole and climb out of it so often, and I thought they may have used up their quota.

    To their credit, they won the series finale against Oakland, swept the Mariners at home, and took two of three from New York in Yankee Stadium the next weekend. During the toughest part of the schedule, they played their best baseball of the season.

    The key to the Red Sox success this year is that they have refused to allow heartbreaking losses to affect their overall equilibrium. It would obviously be better if they had no such losses. The key, however, is that such reversals don't cause the team to go into a tailspin.

    This is why the Red Sox will win the whole shebang -- playoff baseball is all about heartbreakingly close games. The team that wins the playoff series is the one that can live with temporary disappointment and then come back the next day and play better baseball.

    The obvious example is the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks. Despite two dramatically blown saves by Byung-Hyung Kim in Yankee Stadium, a manager that had no touch in terms of pitching changes, and a powerful symbolism that suggested the Yankees should win in the wake of 9/11, Arizona gutted out the series and won in it in seven games.

    Most teams that enter the postseason are used to success and unaccustomed to staggering reverses. The 2003 Red Sox, on the other hand, are veterans of this sort of emotional workout.

    Of course, they also have Kim as their closer.

    [If you're wrong, you're setting yourself up for a world of hurt--ed. Yeah, but if I'm right, this post will ring throughout the ages... or at least make up for my disastrous political predictions.]

    posted by Dan at 03:31 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (2)

    The unstable equilibrium of j-blogs

    The Sacramento Bee has decided to "edit" Daniel Weintraub's blog. According to their ombudsman:

    Weintraub wrote that Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante "certainly owed his elevation to the job of Assembly speaker to his ethnic background and to the support he received from fellow Latinos. If his name had been Charles Bustmont rather than Cruz Bustamante, he would have finished his legislative career as an anonymous back-bencher."

    Further, he alleged, "it's indisputably true that the Legislature's Latino Caucus advocates policies that are destructive to their own people and to greater California, in the name of ethnic unity." The caucus protested in a letter to Bee Publisher Janis Besler Heaphy.

    Make what you will of Weintraub's statement, and of the caucus' protests. No matter what I or anyone else thinks, he has every right to analyze the political scene and reach those conclusions. But no newspaper should publish an analysis without an editor's review. That doesn't necessarily mean that Weintraub's blog should have been reworded, but an editor should at least have had the opportunity to question his conclusions.

    Since these incidents came to light, The Bee has instituted some reforms. Weintraub's blog now goes to the editorial page editor or his deputy before it's posted on sacbee.com. Editors will not be allowed to write items for the Web without another editor's review.

    This has prompted much gnashing of teeth across the blogosphere. The usual suspects -- Mickey Kaus, Glenn Reynolds, and Robert Tagorda -- are all over it. Kaus does the best job of identifying the problem with the Bee's "reform":

    So now readers of Weintraub's blog are not getting his unfiltered, up-to-the-moment thoughts. They're getting the thoughts that are approved by an editor--an editor who is now well aware of how sensitive the Bee is to complaints from powerful constituencies. ... Or some powerful constituencies, at least.... The whole point of blogging is that you get someone's take right now, when it can make a difference. What if Weintraub has a good idea at 7:30 P.M. and the editors have gone home? By the time they come back in the next day to "review" his idea, history may have moved on--the idea will be stale, even if it might have actually made a difference if it had been posted in time.... As long as nobody's libeled, why not publish analyses without an editor's review?

    That's a lovely sentiment, but my strong suspicion is that newspaper editors will be congenitally incapable of following through on it. Editors, like many managers, tend towards risk-averse behavior. Editing a blog lowers the probability of stepping into an unwanted controversy, while allowing a journalist to roam unfettered in the blogosphere has little upside.

    I agree that it's a shame that Weintraub's blog is being muffled -- but I also think that this incident is endemic to the unstable nature of the j-blog phenomenon. [How do you know -- you're not a journalist!!--ed. Call it my "right now" take. But I may be wrong. Eric Zorn, I'm looking in your direction to correct me if I am] And I'm not sure that anything can be done about it.

    [What if bloggers and their readers e-mailed the Bee's ombudsman to point out that controversy swings both ways?--ed. What a subversive thought!! And you, an editor no less!!]

    UPDATE: Well, it does appear as if bloggers have the power to get sportswriters fired at the Sacramento Bee (link via David Pinto).

    posted by Dan at 11:32 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (3)

    Jacques Chirac flunks international relations theory

    Today is the beginning of comprehensive exams for some graduate students in my department at the University of Chicago. To those students -- good luck, and stop wasting time reading this drivel!!

    I thought about the exams after reading the New York Times' exclusive interview with Jacques Chirac (see also the accompanying news story). For Chriac, I could provide a set of customized questions after reading the interview. Three samples:

  • In your interview with the Times, you said:

    So in our opinion that’s what will calm things down and get us back on the road to stability in Iraq. How can this be done? Right now, we must show the way, that is, the transfer of sovereignty. This should be done through discussions at the U.N., which will take responsibility for transferring sovereignty.... Now, what is Iraq? It is its currently existing bodies, that is, the Council of Ministers and the current Governing Council. Yes, because they do exist. Once that decision is made, we must then proceed concretely with its implementation, that is to say the transfer of responsibility, which will take a little time.

    In what way will the transfer of de jure sovereignty without de facto responsibility accelerate statebuilding in Iraq? Is sovereignty without responsibility merely an example of organized hypocrisy, or is there normative content to this concept?

  • Another excerpt from your interview:

    I think that the world is gradually moving towards major blocs, but I think that among these blocs, there are at least two such blocs - Europe and the U.S - that should show solidarity for each other, vis à vis the others, which have a different culture. This is because these two have the same overall culture, the same values and the same overall interests. So even if we are irritated by this or that, it can only be superficial, and the fact is we do share the same values, and as the world changes, it will be even more important tomorrow than today that there should be a strong degree of solidarity between Europe and the United States. Hence the importance I attach to trans-Atlantic ties.

    Please reconcile your theory of emerging blocs with the statement that the U.S. and Europe share the same values and interests.

  • A final excerpt from the interview:

    Q: Was it a mistake to overthrow Saddam?

    A: No, absolutely not. I did not approve of the way he was overthrown. I felt it could have happened in another way.

    Q: Without a war?

    A: I think he could have been overthrown without a war. I think that political pressure would have led to Saddam’s disappearance.

    Given the history of uprisings against Saddam Hussein prior to 2003, please identify a theory -- any theory -- of world politics that would be consistent with your prediction.

  • Alas, I fear Chirac would not pass the exam. His international relations worldview is about as clear as.... as.... Salma Hayek has been on what she wants in a man. [Where the hell did that come from?--ed. If you read Salma's comments, you'll see that it's an apt analogy!!]

    UPDATE: Kevin Drum and Robert Tagorda have more on the policy implications of Chirac's interview. And Spartacus points out that Salma Hayek majored in international relations while at university!!

    posted by Dan at 10:53 AM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (5)

    The William Jennings Bryan of Israel

    The New York Times reports on a gala 80th birthday party for Shimon Peres, the grand old man of Israel's Labor Party. Some highlights:

    Bill Clinton serenaded him. Mikhail S. Gorbachev saluted him. And the comedian Jerry Seinfeld, in a video greeting from his home, suggested that Mr. Peres extend his peacemaking horizons beyond the Middle East, to include "the Far East, and here, in East Hampton."

    The elder statesman of Israeli politics and the country's leading dove, Mr. Peres has a world-class set of friends. From Austria to Angola, they flew in to join several thousand Israelis for the birthday event....

    Tonight's slickly produced program resembled a show-business awards ceremony. Video testimonials came from Henry A. Kissinger, Barbra Streisand and Woody Allen.

    Presentations included children singing peace songs, parodies of Mr. Peres and tearful testimonials from terror victims.

    Mr. Clinton, who is wildly popular among many Israelis, received a standing ovation whenever he was introduced. He reviewed Mr. Peres's lengthy résumé, which includes two stints as prime minister, and almost every senior cabinet post. Mr. Peres was the architect of Israel's nuclear program in the 1950's, and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his role in the first Israeli-Palestinian peace deal a year earlier.

    It is, perhaps, indecorous to point out a man's flaws on his 80th birthday. [If you were a high-falutin' op-ed columnist, maybe. You're just a blogger--ed. Well, that does make me feel better.] Peres' legacy in Israeli history will probably not be as sparkling as his birthday party suggests.

    Although Peres has been Prime Minister twice, he may be the most incompetent politician in Israel's short history. How incompetent? Peres, when leading the Labor Party into a general election, never won an electoral victory over the Likud party. The closest he came was in the mid-1980's when, despite the previous Likud government contributing to hyperinflation, Peres was only able to get Labor to win enough seats to enter a power-sharing deal with Likud. In the mid-1990s, despite a Nobel Peace Prize and a martyred leader in Rabin, Peres lost to Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Peres may be respected worldwide, but in Israel he's the William Jennings Bryan of politics. Bryan was a three-time Democratic nominee for President and a three-time loser in the general election. Bryan may have achieved the ultimate Pyrrhic victory when he successfully prosecuted the Scopes monkey trial but lost the larger public debate on evolution.

    I hope I'm wrong, but I fear that the Oslo accords will be Peres' monkey trial. Perhaps the most telling sentence in the NYT article, and the one that regretfully consigns Peres to a minor place in the annals of history: "No prominent Palestinian or Arab figures were present, though Mr. Peres has many longstanding relationships in the Arab world."

    posted by Dan at 10:15 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Friday, September 19, 2003

    The great white whale of income inequality

    My last Krugman post managed to generate a vigorous debate in the comments section while simultaneously confusing Donald Luskin. So it's worth focusing more closely on one of the points where Krugman's current analysis goes off the track -- his Ahab-like obsession with income inequality.

    One of Krugman's biggest complaints about the trajectory of the American economy is the rise in income inequality. This rise was particularly acute during the Clinton era, and a constant refrain of his writing is that Bush's tax cuts will merely accelerate this trend, leading to more social frictions.

    There are three big ways in which Krugman is wrong -- his emphasis on inequality in the first place, his failure to distinguish between the different causes for inequality, and his assumptions about the political effects of rising inequality.

    1) Inequality is the wrong variable. I wrote a longish post over the summer about why the fears about income inequality are way overblown. To sum up -- a focus on inequality overlooks the high degree of income mobility in the United States, as well as the absolute improvements over time in the lives of the poorest Americans. For another refresher on this, go check out Todd Bass' more recent analysis on this point (link via Instapundit).

    2) The sources of inequality matter. Take Krugman's concerns at face value. Are there moral reasons to oppose this rise in inequality? Anyone not completely blinded by ideology would at least acknowledge there are valid arguments against increasing inequality. However, a key question is the causes behind inequality. If the reason is increased social stratification due to the advantages accrued by inherited wealth, then I'm pretty sympathetic, since such stratification stifles growth. If the reason is increased opportunities for gain via entrepreneurial activity, then I'm pretty unsympathetic, because entrepreneurial activity promotes growth.

    In Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists (p. 92), Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales make an important point about the changing origins of American wealth:

    One statistic best sums up the changes that have taken place: in 1929, 70 percent of the income of the top .01 percent of income earners in the United States came from holding of capital -- income such as dividends, interest, and rents. The rich were truly the idle rich. In 1998, wages and entrepreneurial income made up 80 percent of the income of the top .01 percent of income earners in the United States, and only 20 percent came from capital. Seen another way, in the 1890s the richest 10 percent of the population worked fewer hours than the poorest 10 percent. Today, the reverse is true. The idle rich have become the working rich!

    Instead of an aristocracy of the merely rich, we are moving to an aristocracy of the capable and the rich.

    Americans will not begrudge the rich getting richer if it's by dint of effort. [Krugman would respond by pointing to the astronomical rise in CEO pay--ed. No doubt, there are examples of malfeasance in matters of corporate governance. Suggesting a systemic problem, however, is a bit of an exaggeration, given the increase in asset prices of U.S. firms over the past twenty years. It's telling that Rajan and Zingales, who are sensitive to the issue of income distribution, are far more afraid of overreegulation in response to Enron-like episodes than underregulation]

    For more on this, go read Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez's NBER paper, "Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-1998" (updated in 2000).

    3) Rising inequality does not lead to a breakdown in social cohesion. This is Krugman's core concern -- that inequality will lead to political and social instability. To repeat what he told Kevin Drum:

    Is this the same country that we had in 1970? I think we have a much more polarized political system, a much more polarized social climate.

    Krugman's reference to 1970 is interesting, since income inequality was much lower in 1970, the peak of the Great Society programs.

    Despite the reduced level of inequality, society was more polarized back then. Anyone who believes that the country currently has a more socially polarizing climate now than in 1970 is, well, either lying or lost their grip on reality. Does Krugman really think that the debates about Iraq or affirmative action today even approximate the division and discord that Vietnam, Kent State or school busing generated thirty years ago?

    Economic inequality has a far less significant effect on social instability relative to other factors -- the rate of absolute poverty, the method of raising armed forces, and the rate of economic growth and labor productivity. Krugman needs to worry about it less.

    posted by Dan at 11:48 PM | Comments (42) | Trackbacks (4)

    Rural responses to lost manufacturing

    Last month I talked about how the outsourcing phenomenon was affecting rural communities in particular, and how this would affect the 2004 election. What I did not talk about was how rural communities could respond to the secular decline in manufacturing jobs.

    Last Sunday the Hartford Courant ran a story about how a rural area near and dear to my heart -- the northwest corner of massachusetts -- has dealt and is dealing with this phenomenon. The answer appears to be mass infusions of contemprary art:

    Cities across the country that lost heavy manufacturing are discovering the arts as a tool for revival. In Connecticut, Hartford and Norwich, among others, have promoted artist housing; New Haven sponsors a major international arts festival. But few cities have made as big or as bold a bet on the arts as North Adams.

    The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, or MASS MoCA, opened four years ago in a complex of two dozen 19th-century factory buildings - not dissimilar to Hartford's Coltsville - that occupy almost a third of the small city's downtown.

    Part of the sell was that it would breathe life into the other two-thirds and drive local economic development. It's still early. Progress has come in fits and starts and is still fragile. But, yes, the signs are good....

    Arts tourism by itself isn't the ultimate goal. The hope is that it will attract "knowledge industries" to replace some of the jobs that went elsewhere.

    And they've gotten a couple of these. Storey Publishing LLC, a division of Workman Publishing Co., and Kleiser-Walczak Construction Co., which specializes in computer-generated animation and visual effects, are both tenants in the MASS MoCA complex....

    Artists are small business operators, and Rudd figures each new mill building that's renovated for artists brings about $1 million into the local economy. "If a few more buildings are done," he said, "it will make this a very interesting town.

    Read the whole thing -- and thanks to Official Blogmom Esther Drezner for the link.

    From this story, it's possible to carry Virginia Postrel's argument in The Substance of Style farther than she may intend for it to travel. It's already been argued that the cities that have the cultural endowments to attract a "creative class" do the best in terms of economic vitality. It's logical to believe that this could apply to rural communities as well. In the 21st century, aesthetics will play as crucial a role in determining national, regional or local competitiveness as proximity to raw materials played in the 19th century.

    posted by Dan at 06:02 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    A contrarian article on the WTO

    My latest Tech Central Station piece is up, and is probably my most cantankerous to date. It's a warning shot about the future of the World Trade Organization. I'm not optimistic.

    For further WTO news, it doesn't get more succinct than the latest Economist cover:


    (link via Megan McArdle)

    posted by Dan at 01:04 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

    Thursday, September 18, 2003

    Why read me when you can hear me on the radio?

    From 9:00 - 11:00 PM this evening, I'm going to be on Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg on WGN radio 720. The topic? "Professorial bloggers". Fellow scholar-bloggers Erin O'Connor and Mark Shapiro will also be on.

    If you're not in Chicago, or online, you can listen in by clicking here. The 10-11 hour will be call-in.

    UPDATE: Media convergences are breaking out all over!! First Kieran Healy, after reading this post, listens in on the program and calls in from Canberra, Australia (see his comments below). Then, while the program is still on the air, I'm able to post my own reply comment (see below again).

    Second, the Chicago Tribune today has a story on academic blogging, focusing on the Eric Rasumsen controversy. Yours truly is quoted, along with Eugene Volokh and Glenn Reynolds.

    As for the show itself, I'll post a link to the archived audio if it goes up. My wrap up thoughts:

  • Especially when compared with my nasal twang, Erin O'Connor has quite the mellifluous voice.

  • I wasn't expecting to talk for the first part of the show about "things that annoy me about the academy." Still an interesting discussion, however.

  • The show producer told me afterwards that the callers broke down into two categories: those saying, "I just tuned in. What the hell is a blog?" and those saying, "Can I promote my blog on the air?"

  • Milt Rosenberg is now hooked on blogging. He has a page called Milt's File that functions as a quasi-blog on the WGN site, but inspired by this post, he went out and set up a real blog. Go check it out.
  • posted by Dan at 08:38 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

    Missing the Wesley Clark boat

    I've had no time to write anything substantial about Wesley Clark's decision to run for president. Ryan Booth has done an excellent job collecting reactions here and here. He did miss one important take -- Josh Marshall's mixed assessment of Clark's post-announcement performance on CNN.

    One random thought I do have -- there was a lot of noise during Operation Iraqi Freedom about whether Clark was doing a good job as a military analyst for CNN. Some of the criticism of his criticism was absurd, but there is one line of argument that would not be absurd. (Caveat: my recall of the substance of Clark's critique is not perfect, so I'll be happy to be corrected in the comments section.) I'm pretty sure Clark argued that the U.S. had not deployed enough troops to decisively win the war. In retrospect, this was flat-out wrong.

    Before critics get bent all out of shape, let me be perfectly clear what Clark got wrong. It is true that the administration has delpoyed too few troops for the occupation of Iraq. That's different from what I'm saying Clark screwed up in his analysis. He thought the U.S. did not have enough troops to defeat the Iraqi military while still being able to maintain logistical supply chains and control over captured territory. On this point, I'm pretty sure Clark was wrong.

    Given that security matters are his strong suit, isn't this a big vulnerability if he gets nominated? In part, this depends on what Iraq looks like a year from now. If it's still a mess, then it won't matter. But if things have improved significantly, then Bush can look at Clark and say, "We both screwed up. You were wrong on how to fight the war, and my administration was wrong in it's initial postwar planning."

    Just a thought.

    UPDATE: David Adesnik, Matthew Yglesias and Glenn Reynolds weigh in on Clark as well.

    For more on Clark, go check out this Joshua Green profile in The Atlantic Monthly. There's a priceless anecdote:

    When we returned from CNN, an aide stood waiting beside a rental car to ferry us to another appointment. Clark, who still runs his life as though he were conducting a military campaign, grabbed the keys, nodded for the aide and me to climb in, and shot out into rush-hour traffic. The aide took a halfhearted stab at briefing his boss while Clark—slouched low, cell phone cradled to ear—tore across Independence Avenue in view of the White House, weaving in and out of lanes. As we approached the Old Executive Office Building, Clark, seeing nowhere to park, glanced at his watch and then at me. "Listen, I'm late," he said. "Do you have plans?" I shook my head. Without another word he pulled over, tossed me the keys, and disappeared into the building, his aide scrambling to keep up. I found a parking space. A few hours later Clark called to get the keys.

    Link via Milt Rosenberg.

    posted by Dan at 03:21 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

    The Ninth Circuit's petulance

    There's lots to read out there about the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to delay the California recall election. Bruce Ackerman's New York Times op-ed from yesterday, and Robert Hochman's Chicago Tribune op-ed today both offer legal explanations for why the 9th Circuit ruling is such a bad decision.

    However, the most honest thing I've read on this is Dahlia Lithwick's analysis in Slate of the motivations behind the decision. The key grafs:

    The real problem with all this analysis is that the high court expressly disallowed this kind of application of Bush v. Gore as precedent. With its now-famous disclaimer, "our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities," the court explicitly limited the reach of the equal protection application to the 2000 election. The Supreme Court, seeking to wade into a political catfight yet indemnify itself from ever having to do so again, insisted that their holding was good for one ride only.

    The problem was that it was only a one-way ride—in favor of George W. Bush, and a lot of enraged liberals have spent the intervening years grinding their teeth over the unfairness of it all. We couldn't riot, we couldn't hunger strike. And there was no opportunity for payback; no opportunity to really stick it to the Supremes for rigging the election and using bad law to do it. Until now.

    There's really only one way to read the panel's decision from Monday. It's a sauce-for-the-gander exercise in payback. Pure and simple. The panel not only refused to accept the Supremes' admonition that the nation would not be fooled again; it refused even to address it. Applying Bush v. Gore again and again in the unanimous opinion, the judges told the high court that it has no power to declare a case a one-ride ticket and defied the court to step in again to tell them otherwise....

    You can't read the 9th Circuit panel's decision without recognizing that it is neither brilliant nor subtle. The court did not need to halt the whole election to achieve electoral fairness. It could have enjoined punch cards, demanded all paper ballots, recommended more polling places, or punted back to the California secretary of state to suggest something other than the existing disparate systems. But the court went so much farther. They shocked the whole country by halting the entire recall. Why? Reading the opinion, it's hard to escape the fact that the court seems to take pleasure in applying the broad and indefensible legal principle laid out in Bush v. Gore even more broadly and indefensibly. This wasn't just a liberal panel trying to prop up an embattled Democrat. The 9th Circuit isn't necessarily political, even where it's ideological. No, the more likely explanation for the panel's decision is that the court, which has been ridiculed, reversed, and unanimously shot down by the Supremes at rates that exceed (although not by much) any other court of appeals, just wanted this one sweet shot at revenge. This time, said the panel, it's personal.


    UPDATE: Drezner gets results from Robert Hochman, who e-mails this addendum to his Tribune op-ed:

    Dahlia's principal point was exactly what I was trying to capture (in an exceedingly tight way) when I said that the 9th Cir. was offering a poor reading of Bush v. Gore to "stick it to Republicans for the supposed evils of Bush v. Gore."

    I, too, think that the Supreme Court made a terrible mistake, one with far reaching consequences, in deciding to base its Bush v. Gore decision on the Equal Protection Clause. The Article II rationale, adopted by the concurrence, would have been better. And the reason, in my view, has everything to do with the core point of my piece: it's a bad idea to have judges interfering in election procedures, either during a campaign or while the votes are being counted. That could have been the theme of an Article II decision. The Florida Supreme Court adopted vote counting procedures out of whole cloth, casting aside established state election procedures. Article II prohibits this only in the context of a Presidential election. But the broader point could have been praised and used as a reason for reading Article II that way.

    And had the Supreme Court taken this route, it would have made less sense to accuse the Justices of having "interfered" in the election. Rather, the whole point would have been a higher court (the US Supreme Court) preventing a lower court (the Florida Supreme Court) from interfering in an election. The Court would have been accused of interfering anyway, but those of us who think that what the Florida Supreme Court did was an abomination would have been given stronger ground to defend the US Supreme Court.


    posted by Dan at 11:53 AM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (3)

    The transatlantic trend of full disclosure

    I was all geared up to post something about President Bush's statement that the U.S. had no evidence Saddam Hussein was linked to 9/11. Bush's statement -- and others by Don Rumsfeld and Condi Rice -- was made to rebut Vice President Cheney's Meet the Press comments hinting at such a link.

    Then David Adesnik beats me to the point:

    I have to admit, it's surprising to see Bush discipline Cheney in this sort of way. It means either that Cheney recognized he was wrong and wanted Bush to clarify the matter, or Bush recognized the threat to his credibility that Cheney's remarks presented.

    I suspect it was the latter. Which is good, because you want to see the President fully in control of his own Cabinet and his own Administration (emphasis added).

    Advantage: Adesnik!! This reinforces a point I made earlier this month about the need for more active White House management of the policy process.

    Also, kudos to Josh Marshall for effectively fisking Cheney on this point a few hours after his TV appearance.

    And, while we're on the subject of full disclosure, it seems Andrew Gilligan and his bosses at the BBC have finally apologized -- albeit under cross-examination -- for Gilligan's shabby journalism. Kudos to Andrew Sullivan for staying the course on this issue.

    posted by Dan at 10:46 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Wednesday, September 17, 2003

    More blogging advice

    In the wake of the advice I gave to new bloggers last week, several others have posted some valuable advice that's worth clicking on:

    1) Electric Venom offers her top ten lessons after six months of blogging. Numbers nine, six, and five seem particularly relevant, but her #1 lesson is the most important:

    If it's not fun, don't do it. But if you enjoy it, if it really adds something to your life, then don't let anyone's opinions or personal issues or downright nastiness stop you from pursuing it. Just blog.

    By the way, after reading some self-descriptions by Electric Venom, let me just say I'm reeeaaalllyyy glad she doesn't think I'm stupid.

    2) Wizbang offers some advice on how to get an Instalanche. He makes a very important point on Glenn Reynolds' role in the blogosphere:

    Contrary to what you may have been led to believe InstaPundit actually links to more new bloggers than any of the other major sites.

    One other comment if you read his post: Kevin is probably the first person alive to believe I have "a cool last name." [UPDATE: Amish Tech Support offers a different route to attract Glenn's attention. And Instapundit gives his own take]

    3) John Scalzi offers some thoughts about the enterprise -- which is a professional gig for him -- after five years of blogging (link via Matthew Yglesias). Two comments of his stood out in particular:

  • Paid bloggers are a vanishingly small percentage of the entire blogging population, and will almost certainly continue to be so. I would suspect at this point in time, there may be 100 to 200 people around the world who take home significant pay from blogging ("significant" being defined as "you can actually pay bills with it"). There are probably a million people who blog. Even if the number of paid bloggers expands tenfold in the next year (and why not?), that's still a 1000-to-1 ratio of amateur to paid.

  • The number of "big" bloggers has expanded, and the diversity of the "big" bloggers is fabulous. But if you rented a convention hall for all the bloggers who get more than 5,000 unique visitors a day, you'd have a big, empty convention hall and a small clot of guys near the punch bowl, talking about the Dean campaign and shuffling their feet.
  • Heh.

    posted by Dan at 09:36 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (2)

    Academic freedom and blogs

    Earlier this month, Indiana University professor Eric Rasmusen got into some hot water with with his blog. He wrote a post asserting that homosexuals should not be put in positions of moral leadership over children because, "I think they are attracted to people under age 18 more than heterosexual males are..."

    Needless to say, this prompted some hostile reactions, which trickled up to Rasmusen's dean in the business school. There was then a discussion between Rasmusen and his dean about whether the blog should be moved off IU's server. Rasmusen volunteered to move it himself, and did so until his dean informed him that the blog did not violate policy, at which point Rasmusen moved back. During this brouhaha, there was some debate in the blogosphere about the relative merits of online academic freedom. But with the dean's decision, things were dying down.

    Today, however, IU Chancellor Sharon Brehm upped the ante by arguing that the university needs to revisit it's policy of supporting blogs. Press reports are here and here. Rasmusen reprints the entirety of Brehm's comments (and his response) on his blog. Here's an excerpt of the chancellor's comments:

    The postings on this website have created the difficult challenge of affirming the right to speak, even when we deplore the speech itself. As hard as this is, it is the only way to maintain our liberty. It's easy to defend freedom of speech when we agree with or don't care about the speech itself. Only when the speech offends us, do we realize the strength and courage of those who wrote the first amendment and all those after them who have affirmed and upheld it.

    In exercising my freedom to speak against Professor Rasmusen's statements, I also provide the opportunity for others to agree or disagree with my views.

    There is, however, another more general issue that President Daleke [President of the Bloomington Faculty Council] and I have discussed at some length. We agree that it would be useful to ask the UFC [University Faculty Council] to review the current policies, practices, guidelines, costs, and benefits of "Mypage," the UITS service for personal Web pages. It seems to us that, as a community of scholars and students, it is crucial to think through the role of these personal web pages in our communal and intellectual life.

    I'd like to close with a quote that I found while working on this statement for this meeting: "But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error." John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859.

    My thoughts on this are pretty simple:

    If Brehm really read what she said -- and what Mill said -- then there is no need for a review. The "role of these personal web pages in our communal and intellectual life" is to promote the free and full expression of ideas by professors and students alike. As Mill himself would point out, the cure for promulgated ideas that are believed to be offensive or wrong is more speech, not less.

    Brehm exercised that right and encouraged others to do the same -- in, among other formats, on blogs. What need there is for a review beyond that is truly beyond me.

    [Wait, wait, you forgot the ritual denunciation of Rasmusen's views on homosexuality.--ed. That's completely irrelevant to this question. As an aside, however, it's worth highlighting a fact that Louis Menand pointed out in The Metaphysical Club. One of the triggering events for the emergence of academic freedom was when a Stanford University professor was fired for making a speech that contradicted co-founder Jane Stanford's views on the matter. The professor made a eugenicist argument against Asian immigration.]

    posted by Dan at 03:09 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (4)

    Food and the blogosphere

    Eugene Volokh has multiple culinary posts.

    Josh Chafetz rhapsodizes about smoked salmon.

    And Gregg Easterbrook has some excellent suggestions for new Ben & Jerry's flavors.

    My only contribution -- add sliced cucumbers to Josh's recipe. Trust me, it's good.

    UPDATE: Continuing on the theme of food and the blogosphere, I was fortunate enough to share a lovely but off-the-record lunch with Virginia Postrel and Jacob Levy today. Virginia is in Chicago on her book tour. From lunch, I can aver that she's even more delightful in person than on television, and she definitely knows a thing or two about style.

    [Hey, you and Glenn Reynolds had Postrel moments on the same day.--ed. Yes, but mine was in person and included lunch. Advantage: Drezner!!]

    posted by Dan at 01:03 PM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (5)

    Must-read for the day

    Jacob Levy's latest TNR Online piece takes a serious look at the "lucky duckies" argument and the liberal snark that's followed. His point:

    The Journal has provided an irresistible target: Republicans proposing to raise taxes, not cut them! On poor people! For purposes of naked partisan gain!

    As you might expect, most of the commentary surrounding this idea has treated it as uniquely appalling and indefensible. But the truth is that it's a line of argument that is very familiar, especially among communitarian and social democratic elements on the left. True, it's almost always morally dubious. But sometimes it also happens to be unavoidable. (emphasis in original).

    What's brilliant about this piece is that Levy points out that the argument that the tax burden should be shared broadly is of a piece with arguments that the left is far more comfortable advancing -- reviving the draft, opposing school vouchers, and keeping Social Security as a universal benefit.

    Read the whole thing.

    UPDATE: Still interested in the topic? Go read Russell Arben Fox's critique of Levy's hostility to communitarianism as well. And Kevin Drum provides a more specific critique of the tax question.

    posted by Dan at 12:59 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

    Tuesday, September 16, 2003

    They report, Roger Simon decides

    Roger L. Simon compares what John Burns of the New York Times and Christiane Amanpour of CNN had to say about media coverage of Iraq before and during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The results aren't pretty for Amanpour.

    It's worth pointing out specifically how Burns contradicts Amanpour. USA Today quotes the CNN reporter saying the following on Tina Brown's CNBC show:

    I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. I'm sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did.

    Amanpour is correct -- CNN was muzzled during its war coverage. However, you have to take a look at what Burns says to discover who did the muzzling:

    [T]he TV networks were still filing from the information ministry because they were not allowed to file from anywhere else. Which is why CNN got expelled. They refused to go on filing from there; they used a videophone to file their stories on the first heavy night of bombing on March 21. They were caught with a videophone and they were expelled by dawn.

    Well, at least they can agree that CNN was muzzled during the war.

    posted by Dan at 06:22 PM | Comments (35) | Trackbacks (2)

    The logic of suicide terrorism

    The tired refrain against academic political science is that the discipline is so consumed with abstract theoretical debates that it fails to study "real world" problems. [I thought the standard refrain was that too many political scientists lean to the left--ed. That's a different refrain -- click here if that's what you care about.] Therefore, it's important to highlight those research programs that contradict this meme.

    Which brings me to my colleague, Robert Pape. The American Political Science Review just published Pape's essay, "The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism" as the lead article in its August 2003 issue.

    I'd describe the topic as pretty important, and Pape has some interesting and provocative things to say about it. Here's the abstract:

    Suicide terrorism is rising around the world, but the most common explanations do not help us understand why. Religious fanaticism does not explain why the world leader in suicide terrorism is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a group that adheres to a Marxist/Leninist ideology, while existing psychological explanations have been contradicted by the widening range of socio-economic backgrounds of suicide terrorists. To advance our understanding of this growing phenomenon, this study collects the universe of suicide terrorist attacks worldwide from 1980 to 2001, 188 in all. In contrast to the existing explanations, this study shows that suicide terrorism follows a strategic logic, one specifically designed to coerce modern liberal democracies to make significant territorial concessions. Moreover, over the past two decades, suicide terrorism has been rising largely because terrorists have learned that it pays. Suicide terrorists sought to compel American and French military forces to abandon Lebanon in 1983, Israeli forces to leave Lebanon in 1985, Israeli forces to quit the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in 1994 and 1995, the Sri Lankan government to create an independent Tamil state from 1990 on, and the Turkish government to grant autonomy to the Kurds in the late 1990s. In all but the case of Turkey, the terrorist political cause made more gains after the resort to suicide operations than it had before. Thus, Western democracies should pursue policies that teach terrorists that the lesson of the 1980s and 1990s no longer holds, policies which in practice may have more to do with improving homeland security than with offensive military action.

    To download a .pdf version of the paper, click here.

    It's worth noting that Pape's findings do not lead to clear-cut policy solutions. For example, Adam Wolfson, while bestowing heaps of praise on Pape's essay in NRO, concludes:

    The main reason suicide terrorism is growing is that terrorists have learned that it works. Even more troubling, the encouraging lessons that terrorists have learned from the experience of the 1980s and 1990s are not, for the most part, products of wild-eyed interpretations or wishful thinking. They are, rather, quite reasonable assessments of the outcomes of suicide -terrorist campaigns during this period.

    So how should democracies respond to this new scourge? Pape argues in favor of beefing up homeland security. Good advice. But much more than that can and should be done.

    We need to see suicide terrorism for what it is; we need to demystify it. Suicide terrorists are not some other breed of men, unsusceptible to the usual tools of statecraft. As Thomas Hobbes once said of human cruelty: "That any man should take pleasure in other men's great harm, without other end of his own, I do not conceive it possible." The terrorists have their ends. Deny these — make sure that suicide terrorism does not pay — and it will surely lose much of its luster.

    This is one logical conclusion to draw. However, Pape comes to a very different conclusion, as the final two paragraphs of his paper suggest:

    [I]f Al Qaeda proves able to continue suicide attacks against the American homeland, the United States should emphasize improving its domestic security. In the short term, the United States should adopt stronger border controls to make it more difficult for suicide attackers to enter the United States. In the long term, the United States should work toward energy independence and, thus, reduce the need for American troops in the Persian Gulf countries where their presence has helped recruit suicide terrorists to attack America. These measures will not provide a perfect solution, but they may make it far more difficult for Al Qaeda to continue attacks in the United States, especially spectacular attacks that require elaborate coordination.

    Perhaps most important, the close association between foreign military occupations and the growth of suicide terrorist movements in the occupied regions should give pause to those who favor solutions that involve conquering countries in order to transform their political systems. Conquering countries may disrupt terrorist operations in the short term, but it is important to recognize that occupation of more countries may well increase the number of terrorists coming at us.

    Whether Pape is correct in the conclusions he draws from his evidence is an open question. Pape's seminal contribution to this critical discussion, however, is not.

    posted by Dan at 05:36 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (4)

    A welcome replenishment of New England optimism

    I'm a Boston Red Sox fan -- been so since I started paying attention to baseball. I don't talk about it too much on the blog because, well, I'm a bit ashamed about it. Some of my fellow Red Sox fans have been driven so mad by the team's failures over the years that they've surrendered to the dark side of the force and will run down the team after every minor kerfuffle.

    Now, as a Red Sox fan who lives in Chicago, I know about the pain of not winning a World Series for 263 seasons. I watched Bucky f@#%ing Dent hit his home run in 1978; I watched the Mets come back in 1986. I understand the source of the sourness. But I can't condone it.

    So it's cheering to read this Boston Globe essay about a new generation of Sox fans:

    Hope springs eternal, unless you're burdened with the tormented identity of a Red Sox fan, in which case hope is tempered by history, and you expect to stumble upon a banana peel rather than a pot of gold when you reach the end of the rainbow.

    But what about those too young to have been scarred by the heartbreaks of the past? Those for whom Bill Buckner, Bob Gibson, and Bucky Dent are just names in the record books rather than raw reminders of a summer's worth of dreams turned to ashes. As the team enters the final 13 games of the season in a typically nail-biting battle for a postseason berth, are the younger citizens of Red Sox Nation as doom-ridden as their elders? Or can they face the autumn without preparing, down deep, for a Fall?

    The answer comes back confidently from 20-year-old Jon Liro in a phrase that sweeps away eons of near misses, might-have-beens, and outright suffering by Sox fans at the hands of a certain team 200 miles to the south. "I kind of tend not to look back," says Liro, a Babson College student from Longmeadow. "I know the history is out there -- a lot of Yankees fans like to bring it up -- but when the Red Sox bring their bats, they may be the best team in the Major Leagues." Ah, youth! Welcome to the generation gap, Red Sox style. Let the baby boomers and senior citizens fret about 85 years of postseason failure; let them bemoan the weekend losses that, heading into last night's game against Tampa Bay, had cut the Sox' lead in the wild-card race to half a game over Seattle. For the apple-cheeked cohort that had not yet come of age when the Sox last reached the World Series in 1986 and who are convinced that this team is special, there is much less reason or room for doubt.

    At present, the Red Sox have a decent chance to make the playoffs. Some among the baseball cognoscenti are boldly predicting they'll win it all this year. If that happens (or if either Chicago team wins) I'd be delighted [By "delighted," do you mean naked, drunk and screaming your head off?--ed. Er, yeah, something like that.]

    But the rise of New England sports optimists -- those don't bad-mouth the team after they lose two in a row -- that makes me want to wear my Red Sox hat with pride.

    posted by Dan at 02:49 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (6)

    Paul Krugman opens up

    Kevin Drum has posted a must-read interview with Paul Krugman on his blog. As someone who's tangled with Krugman in the past, I was entranced by the interview's mix of defensible economic critiques and wild-eyed political paranoia (and a hat tip to Drum for doing a great interview).

    Here are some of the choice quotes:

  • From the introduction to Krugman's new book, The Great Unraveling: "There's a pattern...within the Bush administration....which should suggest that the administration itself has radical goals. But in each case the administration has reassured moderates by pretending otherwise — by offering rationales for its policy that don't seem all that radical. And in each case moderates have followed a strategy of appeasement....this is hard for journalists to deal with: they don't want to sound like crazy conspiracy theorists. But there's nothing crazy about ferreting out the real goals of the right wing; on the contrary, it's unrealistic to pretend that there isn't a sort of conspiracy here, albeit one whose organization and goals are pretty much out in the open."

  • Krugman on the book: "The central theme is, we're being lied to by our leaders, and I just felt I really needed to put that very strongly in context."

  • Krugman on his political transformation: "During the 2000 campaign I was inspired to get radicalized. You know, this was not your ordinary average slightly misleading campaign, this was something off the scale, but most people just wouldn't go at it. And that's when I started saying that if Bush said the Earth was flat, the resulting article would say 'Shape of the Earth: Views Differ.' And then after September 11th it was really impossible, because people wanted to believe good things that just weren't true."

  • Krugman on America's social cohesion: "Is this the same country that we had in 1970? I think we have a much more polarized political system, a much more polarized social climate. We certainly aren't the country of Franklin Roosevelt, and we're probably not the country of Richard Nixon either, so I think we have to take seriously the possibility that things won't work out this time."

  • Krugman on his blog preferences: "I'm on the web, I read Josh Marshall regularly, and Atrios regularly, and I read you occasionally, once every couple of days so I know what's going on."
  • Go read the whole thing. [Won't your conservative readers be too pissed off to bother?--ed. Then they would be falling into the same trap that Krugman's last quote suggests, which is reading only one half of the blogosphere. However, for those who are right of center, open up a new page and look at this Charles Krauthammer essay on Bush-hating and then read Krugman.

    UPDATE: Krugman is giving a lot of interviews to promote his news book. Here's a link to his chat with Buzzflash. One excerpt:

    [A] good part of the media are essentially part of the machine. If you work for any Murdoch publication or network, or if you work for the Rev. Moon's empire, you're really not a journalist in the way that we used to think. You're basically just part of a propaganda machine. And that's a pretty large segment of the media.

    And here's Donald Luskin's critique of Krugman's Sunday New York Times Magazine essay (though also check out Brad DeLong on Luskin).

    posted by Dan at 11:38 AM | Comments (101) | Trackbacks (8)

    David Brooks goes for the meritocracy's jugular

    On Saturday, David Brooks' NYT op-ed discussed what's been lost with the decline of noblesse oblige and the WASPocracy:

    Unlike today's top schools, which are often factories for producing Résumé Gods, the WASP prep schools were built to take the sons of privilege and toughen them into paragons of manly virtue. Rich boys were sent away from their families and shoved into a harsh environment that put tremendous emphasis on athletic competition, social competition and character building.

    As Peter W. Cookson Jr. and Caroline Hodges Persell write in "Preparing for Power: America's Elite Boarding Schools," students in traditional schools "had to be made tough, loyal to each other, and ready to take command without self-doubt. Boarding schools were not founded to produce Hamlets, but Dukes of Wellington who could stand above the carnage with a clear head and an unflinching will to win."

    As anyone who has read George Orwell knows, this had ruinous effects on some boys, but those who thrived, as John F. Kennedy did, believed that life was a knightly quest to perform service and achieve greatness, through virility, courage, self-discipline and toughness.

    The Protestant Establishment is dead, and nobody wants it back. But that culture, which George Bush and Howard Dean were born into, did have a formula for producing leaders. Our culture, which is freer and fairer, does not.

    Needless to say, this poke at the meritocracy has prompted some vigorous reactions in the blogosphere, particularly from David Adesnik, Greg Djerejian, Innocents Abroad, and Adesnik yet again.

    As someone who's generation is roughly between Brooks and these bloggers, let me chip in my two cents:

  • If you read Bobos in Paradise -- and you really should -- it's quite clear that Brooks believes that on the whole the rise of the meritocracy is a good thing. So don't take this section of his article as a generic statement saying that things were better in the previous era.

  • I laughed out loud at Brooks' assertion that the private schools of yore were such harsh environments that they built character and greatness. Has Brooks ever visited an inner-city public high school? Even a garden-variety suburban public school? Surviving those environments takes a healthy dollop of the qualities Brooks admires. All high schools are harsh environments -- they just manifest harshness in different ways.

  • I think Brooks had an interesting point -- one that Belgravia Dispatch picked up on -- but Brooks expressed it awkwardly. The key difference between the WASP generation and the meritocratic generation is that a necessary condition now for joining the leadership caste is ambition. For a prior generation, being born into a brahman family was all one needed to get noticed. Thankfully, that no longer holds. However, Brooks' point is that ambition crowds out other cultivated qualities, such as chivalry.
  • That's a seriously debatable point. But it is an interesting debate.

    posted by Dan at 11:14 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    Monday, September 15, 2003

    Is this good or bad for democracy?

    One of the themes that Democrats have used over the summer is the idea that Republicans are subverting democracy through non-electroal means. As the meme goes, first it was the 2000 election. Then it was the redistricting efforts in Colorado and Texas (an instance in which I tend to agree with the Dems). Now it's the Californa recall.

    So, the news that a Federal Court of Appeals has postponed the recall election because of disparities in voting technology across counties will probably provide some comfort to the Dems. However, an interesting question arises: is the use of undemocratic means to block a recall election really a good thing? From a partisan's view, the answer is yes. From the perspective of democratic theory, I'm genuinely unsure.

    I close with a dare to the many lawyer-bloggers out there: Devise a theory of judicial intervention that argues that either this Court of Appeals intervention or the U.S. Supreme Court intervention in the Florida recount was appropriate, but the other is not. I think it's possible, but I'm not a lawyer.

    posted by Dan at 03:04 PM | Comments (42) | Trackbacks (1)

    Good economic news

    Many readers are probably in a glum mood this morning, what with the world trade talks at a seeming impasse. I'll get to those talks over the next week, but in the meanwhile here's some good economic news.

    Loyal readers of this blog are probably aware that I hold great respect for intellectual output of the Institute for International Economics. So it's worth pointing out that they're optimistic about the global economy:

    Many forecasters had already been expecting the United States to recover strongly. [former International Monetary Fund chief economist Michael] Mussa echoes that judgment, projecting US growth at better than 4 percent through at least mid-2004 with a strong possibility of considerably better results for a quarter or two, and [former Council of Economic Advisers chairman Martin Neil] Baily expects the rapid growth to start creating substantial numbers of new US jobs in the fourth quarter of this year. However, there have been previously widespread expectations that only China would join the United States in experiencing robust expansion over this period.

    The Institute team now believes that, to the contrary, most other components of the world economy will share in the rapid expansion (see table 1). This includes Japan and most of Europe, both of which had until recently been viewed as lagging significantly. Germany is viewed as the only major exception. Hence the strong recovery now appears likely to be globalized.

    In addition, positive interaction between the pickups in the different regions can be expected. For example, faster-than-expected growth in Europe and Japan, along with the modest decline in the exchange rate of the dollar over the past 18 months, may at least arrest the steady deterioration in the US trade balance that has deducted an average of 0.75 percentage points annually from US growth in five of the last six years. Stabilization of the external imbalance is thus an important factor in the positive outlook for the United States.

    Moreover, strong growth throughout the world adds to the likelihood of implementation of policy reforms that will help sustain that growth and enhance economic prospects for the longer run. For example, the crucial German reforms proposed by Chancellor Schroeder and Japan's efforts to strengthen its banking system are more likely to be pursued successfully in a hospitable economic climate. Their implementation will then enhance both those countries' own performance and, since they are the world's second and third largest national economies, the global outlook as well. (emphasis in original)


    posted by Dan at 12:01 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (2)

    The New York Times editorial page never ceases to amuse

    Yesterday the New York Times editorial on Iraq was about the failed Security Council negotiations over a new resolution. It being the Times, it was quite critical of the Bush administration:

    After a summer of worsening news from Iraq, it is time to rethink America's postwar strategy...

    Mr. Bush has so far failed to explain satisfactorily how he plans to secure Iraq without a crippling, indefinite American military commitment; speedily achieve Iraqi self-government; and share the burden of rebuilding Iraq's industries and society so the United States can leave on its own terms. And his maneuvering room may soon shrink, since the Democratic challengers are desperate to break out of the herd on Iraq. If Mr. Bush does not demonstrate a clear and convincing strategy soon, he may face political pressure to bring home American troops under conditions that would be embarrassing for America and perilous for the Middle East. Of all the possible scenarios, the most important one to avoid is a poll-driven scramble to bring the troops home that suffers the same lack of preparation the administration showed at the end of major combat.

    OK, so far I'm almost in half-agreement with the editorial. Then we come to the next graf:

    Moving forward will require new thinking from an administration that has shown little inclination to learn from its mistakes. The United States needs help from its allies in Europe, but those countries are unlikely to provide it unless Mr. Bush abandons his "my way or the highway" approach. Simply saying it's time to pay up, as Mr. Bush did last Sunday, does not begin to address the concerns of economically stressed allies who felt trampled before the war. The lingering strains were evident on Friday in Geneva, where Secretary of State Colin Powell quickly rejected France's proposal for an unrealistically rapid buildup to Iraqi elections in the spring. (emphasis added)

    Now, I'm a touch confused here. The editorial admits that the French were being unreasonable and ridiculous in their position on Iraq -- according to this VOA report, France wanted to turn over power to an Iraqi government next month. So why, exactly, is the Times is upset that Powell "quickly rejected" that proposal?

    My guess: "lingering strains" between the Bush administration and the New York Times editorial page.

    Let's hope time will heal these wounds.

    For more on Iraq, check out OxBlog and this excellent backgrounder from the Economist. The latter points out that the Iraqis are slowly taking on more governing tasks:

    The $20 billion allocation has also paved the way for America to transfer Iraq's budget to Iraqis. At present, Iraqi ministers complain bitterly about their American shadows; they felt left out in the cold by the 2003 budget, which was drawn up by the American administrator, Paul Bremer. The oil minister, for instance, said he had no idea how much was to be spent on rehabilitating the oilfields, and was told to seek finance on a case-by-case basis.

    But Iraqi ministers have themselves helped to draw up the 2004 budget. For the first time in seven years, Iraqis will spend their own oil wealth. Few, under these circumstances, would relish handing responsibility back to the UN.

    Iraqis will have a $13 billion budget in 2004, most of it from oil revenues, and all but $1 billion will be assigned for running costs, most of them salaries. The capital budget, the $20 billion, will be managed by Mr Bremer, with most of it going to the rebuilding and reform of Iraq's infrastructure. Of this, $6.6 billion will go to electricity, $2 billion to rehabilitate the oilfields, and much of the rest for public works.

    posted by Dan at 11:17 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Friday, September 12, 2003

    The merits of intellectual property rights

    Eugene Volokh has a great post on why intellectual property is not so different from tangible property. One key point:

    The theory of intellectual property is... that giving people the right to exclude others from new works or inventions will give people an incentive to invest effort in creating and inventing. We would have less legal freedom of action -- you'll be more limited in what you can do in your own office or garage -- but we'd have more wealth, because there'll be a lot more works and inventions, albeit ones that it may cost you money to use.

    What Eugene failed to mention is what makes the conferral of intellectual property rights so difficult: the credible commitment problem.

    Before a concept comes into existence, the incentive created by intellectual property rights is very strong. After a concept is invented, critics are correct in saying that society would be better off if those rights were revoked. Hence the need for a credible commitment, in the form of legal protections, to assure innovators that their intellectual efforts will yield tangible rewards.

    Dynamically, society is better off protecting such rights, because that helps to ensure a constant stream of innovation. However, in times of crisis, when the future is heavily discounted, it's very tempting to revoke this commitment.

    UPDATE: Larry Solum responds to Volokh, and Volokh returns the favor.

    posted by Dan at 03:56 PM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (1)

    Advice to new bloggers

    Given my one-year anniversary, I thought I'd offer a few bits of advice on how to succeed in the blogosphere beyond what I wrote here and here:

    1) Unsure about starting a blog? What do you have to lose? It takes ten minutes and zero dollars to set up a blog on Blogger. [UPDATE: Blogger just announced that they are adding most of their Blogger Pro features into their regular Blogger program, so now you get even more for nothing.] The real question is, why not start a blog? At worst, you'll run out of things to say in two weeks and delete it. Trust me, if my brother can blog, anyone can.

    2) If you decide you like blogging, then switch to Moveable Type: Boy, have I been converted. I didn't know what I was missing until I made the switch. Comparing MT to any version of Blogger is like comparing any BMW to a Saturn. Yes, the latter is a fine car (I own one), but the former is much more fun. [What about Typepad?--ed. Never used it, so I can't comment. However, Tom Maguire just switched over, so it must have some virtues.]

    3) Think quality over quantity. Yes, some bloggers have the ability to post in triple figures per day at a consistently high level. You, like me, are probably not one of those people. In baseball terms, you don't have to swing at every pitch -- wait for an issue or idea that's right over the plate.

    4) You can still edit your text once it's posted. Blog enthusiasts repeatedly emphasize that the blogosphere's comparative advantage is the lack of editors. That's true as far as it goes, but that doesn't mean that once you've posted something it's sacrosanct. In the hour after I initially post something, I will often revise it, to clean up typos, correct my grammar, add relevant links, and bulk up my arguments with more detailed arguments or supporting facts (within reason). Yes, there are no outside editors in the blogosphere, but the best bloggers have well-honed internal editing systems -- and they use them on a regular basis.

    5) Write about religion. Or better yet, Harry Potter and religion. Forget Britney Spears -- it's religious controversy that sells. Well, that plus Harry Potter; I have a healthy new respect for the legions of online Harry Potter fans that came swarming to my site after the leading Harry Potter blog, The Leaky Cauldron, linked to my post on the subject.

    posted by Dan at 12:47 PM | Comments (32) | Trackbacks (16)

    A belated blogiversary to myself

    A year ago this week, I started this blog. If I could discover a way to travel back in time and tell myself that this blog would:

  • Attract more than 400,000 unique visits and 500,000 page views in the first year alone;

  • Lead to regular writing gigs with The New Republic and Tech Central Station.;

  • Garner press attention from the Chronicle of Higher Education, Washington Post, Rocky Mountain News, MSNBC.com, and the Hotline;

  • Play a microscopically small role in forcing out Trent Lott as Senate Majority Leader.

  • Get e-mails from Democratic presidential candidates (no, I'm not going to name names, because I politely declined) asking me to guest blog on their sites;

  • Slowly transform my wife's attitude about this activity from "What's a blog?" to "You're spending an awful lot of time online." to "Wow, this blog thing is working out pretty well for you!";
  • Well, I'd be rich, because I'd have invented a friggin' time machine!!

    But I also wouldn't have believed me. It's been a kick-ass year.

    On to year two!!

    UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan always sends the nicest presents -- tons of hits and a great blurb!

    And let me reciprocate David Adesnik's kind words by pointing out it's his blogiversary as well. David is a blogger of the first rank.

    I should also point out that Jacob Levy's one-year blogiversary just took place as well -- he started three days before I did. Huzzah!!

    posted by Dan at 12:20 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (5)

    Thursday, September 11, 2003

    California polling and California spinning

    Despite Mickey Kaus' latest Schwarzenegger scoop, it looks like the Teutonic Terminator has succeeded in phase one of his campaign -- with Peter Ueberroth's withdrawal, Schwarzenegger is now the only viable Republican challenger [What about Tom Mclintock?--ed. According to Daniel Weintraub, he's irrelevant].

    Now comes the latest poll from Knowledge Networks:

    The new poll of 528 likely and registered voters was conducted August 29th to September 8th and shows Californians favoring the recall of the Governor by 62% to 38% (with a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percentage points). Evidencing a strong split along party lines, 91% of Republicans — compared to 42% of Democrats — favor recalling the Governor.

    Among the replacement candidates, the survey found that Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger has a commanding lead over his main rival, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, by a margin of 40% to 28%. Only 3% of Republicans indicated that they will vote for Bustamante; but 19% of Democrats said they would vote for Schwarzenegger....

    The Stanford/Knowledge Networks survey is the first to ask voters to choose from the same list of 135 candidates that they will see on election day. Previous polls have restricted voters' choices to the top candidates and have allowed respondents to select "undecided" or similar options.

    Click here for the full results. There is one jaw-dropping statistic that is not mentioned in the press release: among Hispanic voters, Bustamante only beats Schwarzenegger 40% to 37%. Since this is well within the poll's margin of error, so Bustamante and Schwarzenegger are in a statistical dead heat for the Hispanic vote. This would be consistent with the Field poll data as well.

    Many bloggers, myself included, believed that unless Schawrzenegger started getting specific on policy proposals, he'd wither on the vine. However, since Cruz Bustamante has decided to match Schwarzenegger's vagueness, that pressure has yet to kick in.

    One last point about this poll. The only reason I know about it (and apparently beat Kaus, Robert Tagorda and Daniel Weintraub to posting about it) was because someone at the White House Writers Group e-mailed the press release to me. [Does that mean the White House is getting involved?--ed. No, WHWG is a private consulting firm unaffiliated with the government. Do they have a political slant?--ed. The group was founded by Reagan-Bush speechwriters, and perusing the staff bios it's safe to say they lean to the right. By posting about this, aren't you, like, their willing slave?--ed. This is worthy of blogging because of the caliber of the people who ran the survey, and the fact that their survey method mirrors the actual voting process. That's the spin in the two media stories I found on the poll, both of which are less than two hours old]

    Two lessons to draw. The first is that the White House Writers Group is smart enough to know how to get favorable information out there -- distribute it to members of the blogosphere!! Second, the Schwarzenegger canpaign may be short on specifics, but they're long on quality consultants.

    UPDATE: Eugene Volokh got the same e-mail.

    posted by Dan at 04:04 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (3)

    Two years later

    I was in Heathrow airport waiting to board a plane home when I heard about the attacks. Unlike U.S. airports, Heathrow does not have TV monitors broadcasting news every 100 yards. The only reason I found out was that I called my wife to let her know I was going to be on a different plane than I'd said. She said, "Thank God you're OK!!" and then told me what happened. By that point both of the towers had fallen and the Pentagon had been hit.

    Hearing those facts described over the phone was just bizarre. Seeing the endless replays on television in another country was equally bizarre, though the British were as kind as could be while I was marooned there.

    Until 9/11, it was safe to say that my generation had no moment of shared experience equivalent to the Kennedy assassination. I wish I could say that was still the case.

    That's all I can muster on the personal significance of 9/11 -- Jeff Jarvis and James Likeks do this better than I.

    posted by Dan at 11:16 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    Wednesday, September 10, 2003

    Drezner gets results from A World Connected!!

    Yesterday, Jacob Levy posted the following:

    I'm proud to note that of the 30 finalists in the Institute for Humane Studies' "A World Connected" globalization essay contest, six are from the University of Chicago. I know one of them by face and name, but haven't ever (IIRC) taught or talked at length with any of them. As far as I can tell no other institution has more than one finalist.

    I am happy to claim partial credit for this bonanza of U of C finalists -- three of the six students were also in my spring class, Globalization and Its Discontents.

    At the last minute -- at the suggestion of a student -- I changed the first assignment to mirror the essay contest question.

    In seeing who among my students made the cut, I'm pleased to note the following:

  • The students who made the cut received A grades for their papers. Always ood to see a high degree of intercoder reliability.

  • The Institute for Humane Studies sponsors A World Connected, and a quick perusal of the site makes it clear that it's quite pro-globalization. However, I know for a fact that at least one of my students that made the top 30 wrote an (excellent) essay that was critical of economic globalization. So kudos to the panel of judges for their analytical rigor and intellectual honesty.

  • Should any of my students win any money, I certainly won't expect a big kickback [He was kidding!!--ed. Right... that's what I was doing.]
  • posted by Dan at 04:29 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (1)

    Conan O'Brien's 10th anniversary

    This weekend NBC will air the 10th anniversary celebration of Late Night with Conan O'Brien. In those ten years, I've gone from someone who would watch the show on occasion to someone who desperately needs to be asleep by the time he's on.

    That said, he's still a funny guy. For those fellow readers who need their sleep, go read Conan's commencement speech to the Havard Class of 2000 -- it's pretty damn funny. Here's part of his closing:

    So, that's what I wish for all of you: the bad as well as the good. Fall down, make a mess, break something occasionally. And remember that the story is never over. If it's all right, I'd like to read a little something from just this year: "Somehow, Conan O'Brien has transformed himself into the brightest star in the Late Night firmament. His comedy is the gold standard and Conan himself is not only the quickest and most inventive wit of his generation, but quite possible the greatest host ever."

    Ladies and Gentlemen, Class of 2000, I wrote that this morning, as proof that, when all else fails, there's always delusion.

    Read the whole thing.

    posted by Dan at 12:03 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (2)

    Harry Potter and the Threat of Lashkar-e-Taiba

    The title to this post is not the name of J.K. Rowling's sixth book in the Harry Potter series -- though it's not bad.

    Lashkar-e-Taiba is an Islamic fundamentalist group based in Pakistan responsible for multiple terrorist attacks against India over the past ten years. Technically, Lashkar-e-Taiba was banned by the Pakistani government following the 9/11 attacks, so the group is now called Jama'at ud-Da'wa Pakistan. Only the name has been changed, however.

    What does this have to do with Harry Potter? DanielDrezner.com's trusted South Asia expert alertly informed him of the cover of the August 2003 issue of Zerb-e-Taiba (roughly translated, clash/clang/strike), Lashkar-e-Taiba's flagship publication.

    Now, if you look at the upper-left hand corner of the cover, you'll see an image of a Harry Potter book. Why? Apparently, the magazine has an article arguing that the Harry Potter series is really part of a missionary plot to spread Christianity to the Islamic parts of the world (sorry, no translation).

    The irony is extremely rich, since a slice of Christian fundamentalists -- particularly some (but not all) individuals affiliated with Focus on the Family -- have been arguing for the past five years that Harry Potter must be the work of the devil because it promotes worship of the occult. Think I'm exaggerating? Click here. For a rebuttal, click here.

    Now, while some in the blogosphere are less than enamored with the Harry Potter series, even these curmudgeons would allow that the series has caused a lot of children to become more voracious readers, which is all to the good. Saying that Harry Potter influences religious preferences would be like saying Frasier -- or Woody Allen, for that matter -- encourages people to enter psychoanalysis.

    Why do these books cause such heart palpitations among religious fundamentalists of all stripes? Wading into some hazardous waters -- let me add here that most devout people do not fall into the trap I'm about to describe -- here's my theory:

    If there's anything that scares religious orthodoxy, it's decentralized enthusiasm for something new. What devotees of Lashkar-e-Taiba or James Dobson share is an unquenched desire for order. Now, anyone who thinks of themselves as religious recognize this impulse, and one should never underestimate the power of faith to provide comfort in times of uncertainty. However, fundamentalist groups have an exaggerated fear of uncertainty, and any phenomenon beyond their control represents a threat to their world. Harry Potter may be harmless, but the books are beyond their control. They inject new and unwanted ideas into the heads of young children. God forbid that Muslim girls should read about a strong female character like Hermione Granger, or that young Christian children read stories that suggest not all authority figues are omniscient or pure of heart.

    Worse than any of these specifics, of course, is the central strength of the Harry Potter series -- the sheer inventiveness of Rowling's imagination. Reading the books teaches children that fantasies are fun, that it's a worthwhile endeavor to explore one's own imagination. This is the first step down the road towards independent thought -- the bane of all religious extremists.

    Turning back to Pakistan, the good news is that most Pakistanis are either ignoring or decrying this attack on Harry Potter. In fact, if this press release is any guide, Pakistani readers are far more upset about the Hollywood bastardization of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. So maybe my pessimism about the state of that country is exaggerated.

    UPDATE: As Patrick Belton points out, it's not only religious fundamentalists that have a problem with magic.

    posted by Dan at 10:03 AM | Comments (50) | Trackbacks (1)

    David Brooks starts his NYT gig

    David Brooks' inaugural New York Times op-ed column confirms for me that he'll be a good fit for that page.

    Brooks' essay starts off with a spot-on critique of the administration:

    The Bush administration has the most infuriating way of changing its mind. The leading Bushies almost never admit serious mistakes. They never acknowledge that they are listening to their critics. They never even admit they are shifting course. They don these facial expressions suggesting calm omniscience while down below their legs are doing the fox trot in six different directions.

    Sunday night's presidential speech was a perfect example. The policy ideas Bush sketched out represent such a striking series of policy shifts they amount to a virtual relaunching of the efforts to rebuild Iraq. Yet the president unveiled them as if they were stately extensions of the policies that commenced on Sept. 11, 2001.

    At this point in the essay, loyal Times readers are nodding their heads, basking in the warm glow of Bushwacking.

    However, by the end of the piece, Brooks is in a different place than the start would have suggested:

    Still, as Bush makes these pivots, I'm reminded of the way Ronald Reagan made his amazing policy shifts at the end of the cold war, some of which outraged liberals (Reykjavik) and some of which outraged conservatives (the arms control treaties with Mikhail Gorbachev). Presidents tend to be ruthless opportunists, no matter how ideological they appear. Even as he announced his strategy on Sunday night, Bush left open the possibility that he might be compelled to shift again and send in more U.S. troops if circumstances warrant.

    The essential news is that Bush will do whatever it takes to prevail, and senior members of his administration are capable of looking honestly at their mistakes. You will just never be able to get any of them to admit publicly they've ever made any.

    So, even while deftly skewering the administration's PR on its policy, Brooks manages to point out Bush's virtues.

    Is he right? I hope so -- even if it renders two of my previous posts --here and here -- wrong.


    UPDATE: &c. has more on the Brooks essay (link via Josh Cherniss, who's more skeptical about Brooks than I)

    posted by Dan at 12:30 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    Tuesday, September 9, 2003

    Links for the day

    Will Saletan and Andrew Sullivan are having a debate on Bush's Sunday speech and whether Operation Iraqi Freedom is integral to the war on terror. As loyal readers are aware, I'm mostly on Saletan's side here, but not completely.

    Tacitus has a post on South Korea's quasi-delusional behavior vis-à-vis North Korea -- something I wrote about here (link via InstaPundit).

    The Chicago Tribune has a good front-pager on U.S. efforts to build a modern highway between Kabul and Kandahar. According to the story, the effort has already reduced the travelling time between the two cities from two days to ten hours. When it's finished, the time will be shaved to six hours.

    Oh, and everyone at OxBlog seems to have stopped moving around and started posting again. Always worth a read.

    posted by Dan at 11:39 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

    The media and asymmetrical warfare

    Glenn Reynolds has a post and links to the media's role in asymmetrical warfare -- namely, how a necesary condition for a victory by guerillas over syanding armies is that the media interprets tactical losses as strategic victories:

    In Somalia, the Somalis took over 30 casualties for every American killed or wounded. That was done through the use of superior American training, firepower (on the ground, and in helicopters overhead) and situational awareness (helicopters and more radios.) The battle in Mogadishu is only considered an American defeat because the American government considered 18 dead G.I.’s a defeat, even if over 500 Somali fighters died as well. At the time, the Somalis considered themselves defeated, and feared the return of the Army Rangers the next day to finish off the Somali militia that was terrorizing Mogadishu. The media declared the battle an American defeat, and that’s how it became known. Asymmetric warfare includes having the media in your corner, for that can easily turn a military defeat into a media victory.

    That makes Donald Rumsfeld's comments yesterday about media criticism a bit more understandable:

    Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Monday that terrorists may be gaining encouragement by some Americans' criticism of the Bush administration's actions in Iraq.

    "We know for a fact ... that terrorists studied Somalia and they studied instances where the United States was dealt a blow and tucked in and persuaded themselves they could, in fact, cause us to acquiesce in whatever it is they wanted us to do," Rumsfeld told reporters as he flew back to Washington after a four-day tour of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Even if Rumsfeld has a point, he's overreaching -- it's not the place of the Secretary of Defense to insinuate that the media is providing aid and comfort to the enemy.

    posted by Dan at 11:37 AM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

    The state of play in world trade

    My latest Tech Central Station column is up -- it's on the increased prominence of developing countries in the latest round of world trade talks, and what this means for the United States. There are lots of links, too. Go check it out.

    And after that, go check out the Cato Institute's online globalization debate. It's between Cato and the Institute for Humane studies on the "pro" side, and the Nation and The America Prospect on the "anti" side. There's also also an ongoing email debate for the course of the WTO talks between Johan Norberg and Bob Kuttner.

    posted by Dan at 10:13 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Monday, September 8, 2003

    Gregg Easterbrook has been absorbed

    Less than a week after I praised Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column on ESPN.com, he goes and sets up a proper blog hosted by The New Republic.

    Go check it out -- he's asking for name suggestions. Be warned: there will probably be few postings on cheerbabes.

    Who will be the next big thinker to become one with the Blogosphere? Post your guesses below.

    UPDATE: I realize I didn't provide my own guess. Well, after seeing this picture of Easterbrook posing with the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders from last night's football game...


    There can be only one name -- Philly Cheesesteak.

    posted by Dan at 04:46 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

    Too bad

    Warren Zevon is dead. He was much loved in the blogosphere. Myself, I will always be grateful to him for composing this song.

    posted by Dan at 03:43 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    Some minor housekeeping

    A few minor changes:

    1) For the eight of you that care, I've finally downloaded some pictures of the boy and the beagle. You can access all of them here.

    2) It's come to my attention that after a while, accessing my TNR Online essays on TNR's web site requires a subscription. Now, while subscribing to The New Republic is an excellent decision and should be encouraged, this is a bit unfair. So, I've posted all of them on the website -- which means the links to the right will take you there.

    3) I've updated the book recommendations page to include a section on intellectual history [Boy, you really now how hip up the site!!--ed. Oh, shut up].

    posted by Dan at 03:37 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Sunday, September 7, 2003

    The substance of style in cable news

    Given all the brouhaha over the past year about the relative merits of Fox News vs. CNN, I made sure to tape Virginia Postrel's appearance on Tony Snow's Fox News Live Weekend so I could compare it to her CNN appearance. Comparing and contrasting the two were highly revealing.

    Why? Because the Fox segment was just flat-out better on the aesthetics. Postrel was in Fox's DC studio. Virginia looked much better in this appearance, probably because she wasn't trying to sound pithy while suffocating in a remote studio the size broom closet. Furthermore, in contrast to the CNN teasers, the Fox teasers seemed more on point with the thesis of The Substance of Style.

    Does Fox's rightward tilt explain this? Not likely -- in fact, during the segment Tony Snow seemed to imply that libertarians were geeks with little social life.

    Part of it may have been due to the fact that Tony Snow is higher on the news food chain than the nondescript morning anchor that interviewed Virginia on CNN. Part of it also is that I simply loathe the dearth of hard news content on morning shows, and the CNN interviewer made no effort to go beyond the discussion of toilet brushes.

    In contrast, Snow made a concerted effort to link Virginia's take on aesthetics to larger trends like cultural globalization and political thought, which I find more interesting.

    Still, having unconsciously abstained from watching cable news since the Iraq war, it was interesting to see the differences. Part of the reason Fox is doing better than CNN is that their sense of style is more focused. But part of it is also due to the symbiosis between their style and the substance.

    UPDATE: Chris Lawrence also provides a first-hand account.

    posted by Dan at 05:45 PM | Trackbacks (1)

    The art of criticism

    One of the amusing aspects of being a professor is watching the evolution of graduate students.

    During their first two years -- immersed in coursework -- they become excellent critics. As they sharpen their analytical skills, the students excel at exposing the flaws of every article or book put in front of them. By the end of their coursework, they are thoroughly unimpressed with the cutting edge of the literature.

    Of course, that's usually the point at which they have to start drafting their own work. At which point they discover that the enterprise of developing original ideas is a wee bit trickier than it appears to the critical eye. And suddenly, the stuff that they had savaged six months earlier doesn't look so bad.

    The good students, after getting the wind knocked out of them, develop the proper equipoise between respect for the good but imperfect work that's out there and disdain for the hackwork that, to be blunt, pervades most of the social sciences.

    Clive James reminded me of all this in his amusing essay in the Sunday New York Times op-ed page on the merits of snarky literary reviews. His conclusion:

    When you say a man writes badly, you are trying to hurt him. When you say it in words better than his, you have succeeded. It would be better to admit this fact, and admit that all adverse reviews are snarks to some degree, than to indulge the sentimental wish that malice might be debarred from the literary world. The literary world is where it belongs. When Dr. Johnson longed for his enemy to publish a book, it was because he wasn't allowed to hit him with an ax. Civilization tames human passions, but it can't eliminate them. Hunt the snark and you will find it everywhere.

    Indeed. What James is saying about fiction applies with equal force to nonfiction.

    [Er, isn't it contradictory to praise an essay that praises the art of not praising bad writers?--ed. Not if the essay is well-written. I'd be happy to savage bad editors, though. Never mind!!--ed.]

    posted by Dan at 10:50 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (5)

    Who benefits from outsourcing? Who could benefit from outsourcing?

    The Washington Post had an article two days ago on why this employment decline is different from all others. The answer is that many of the jobs that have disappeared aren't coming back. The reason? Outsourcing:

    Most past recessions have been followed by a rapid recovery of jobs, as companies that laid off workers during the downturn brought them back when business picked up. But a growing body of evidence suggests that this recession and recovery are different. Large industrial companies with such cyclical employment policies account for just 21 percent of the workforce, down from 49 percent in the early 1980s, according to the Fed study.

    Now, even as the economy has slowly expanded over the past 20 months, businesses have stepped up automation, sent jobs overseas and produced more while employing fewer people.

    Mickey Kaus -- who links to the story -- gives one spin on this phenomenon:

    This is a continuation of a long term trend, with one new wrinkle. This time white collar jobs "brain" jobs are going overseas (e.g. to India) along with blue-collar jobs.

    And that's Mickey's optimistic interpretation of events!!

    Sounds bleak. Until you read these couple of grafs in the WaPo story:

    A new study by the McKinsey Global Institute, the think tank of the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., suggests why [outsourced jobs won't return]. When a firm ships a $60-an-hour software job to a $6-an-hour code writer in India, the most obvious benefit goes to the Indian. But, the McKinsey study reports, the U.S. economy receives at least two-thirds of the benefit from offshore outsourcing, compared with the third gained by the lower-wage countries receiving the jobs.

    American firms and consumers enjoy reduced costs. Larger profits can be reinvested in more innovative businesses at home. New and expanding subcontractors abroad create new markets for U.S. products. And, at least theoretically, displaced U.S. workers will find new jobs in more dynamic industries.

    If you go to McKinsey Global Institute's (MGI) summary of its own report, you run into this startling graf:

    Of the $1.45 - $1.47 of value MGI estimates is created globally from every dollar spend a domestic company chooses to divert abroad, the U.S. captures $1.12 - $1.14 while the receiving country captures on average 33 cents. In other words, the U.S. captures 78 percent of the total value.

    Click here to download the actual report (you'll have to register). It's not blind to the unemployment question. In fact, the report makes an intriguing proposal to cushion the blow:

    [B]ecause the perceived risk of unemployment is higher than the actuarial risk, and because the pain of employment is greater than the economic cost of it, the situation lends itself well to highly targeted insurance products. Specifically, as part of a severance package, and for a small percent of the savings from offshoring, companies could purchase insurance for their displaced workers that would cover their loss in wages for the time a worker is unemployed. To avoid the "moral hazard of such insurance... the insurance program could cover occupational groups and not individuals, covering only the median period taken by an occupational group to be reemployed.

    This proposal would convert the static gains from outsourcing into a Pareto-improving move -- i.e., someone can be made better off without anyone being made worse off. Not eveyone understands this concept, but it's an important one in making policy decisions.

    Dynamically, the gains from outsourcing will benefit all Americans. There will be a lag between the increase in the corporate rate of return, the concomitant increase in investment, and an uptick in the domestic economy.

    But it will happen.

    posted by Dan at 09:36 AM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (8)

    What do you do with a country like Pakistan?

    In anticipation of President Bush's progress report on Iraq and the war on terror tonight, here's a conundrum to consider:

    Weak states are the incubator of terrorists. Pakistan is a weak, dusfunctional state that lacks a coherent sense of national identity. Its leader may be perceived as both strong and pro-Western, but that's only in comparison to the rest of the Pakistani elite, for whom the sectarian comes before the national.

    The outcome from a weak Pakistani government is a perfect haven for Taliban remnants to harrass U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Ahmed Rashid makes this point in an article for YaleGlobal. Some highlights:

    The war on terror has done little to address the issue of Pashtun desire for political autonomy. The Taliban's dramatic offensive in Afghanistan during the past few weeks has been fuelled by recruits, arms, money, and logistical support from Pakistan's two provinces of North West Frontier (NWFP) and Baluchistan, where Pashtun tribesmen and Islamic parties are sympathetic to the Taliban. Pakistan's Pashtuns find common ethnic and political cause with the Taliban, who are also largely Pashtun. Pashtuns on both sides of the border are bitterly opposed to the presence of US forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    The sense of Pashtun brotherhood is even stronger in Pakistan's seven Federal Administered Tribal Agencies (FATA), which run north to south forming a 1,200-kilometer wedge between Afghanistan and the settled areas of NWFP. FATA are nominally under the control of Pakistan, but the tribes have been semi-autonomous since the British Raj. They have always carried arms and sold arms to everyone in the region, from Tamil Tigers and Kashmiri militants to the Taliban. These days the bazaars in FATA are filled with Taliban – both Afghan and Pakistani – looking to stock up before going into Afghanistan. ''The Taliban are clean, honest, believe in Islam, and will rout the Americans,'' says Shakirullah, a Mohmand shopkeeper. ''Anyone fighting the Americans is our friend,'' he adds.

    The Mohmands are just one of dozens of major tribes that straddle the border, but their views are similar to most tribal Pashtuns. Isolated from mainstream Pakistan and the media, misinformation is rampant. After dozens of interviews it is apparent that most Mohmands refuse to accept that Al' Qaeda carried out the attacks of September 11, believing instead that they were perpetrated by ''the CIA and Jews.'' Most Mohmands also believe that the Americans and, in particular, President George Bush, hate the Pashtuns.

    Read the whole article. To be fair to the U.S. and Pakistani governments, they're not blind to the problem. They have taken actions to try and reverse the flow of arms and men across the border.

    But as the article also makes clear, they haven't done enough.

    [Thanks to alert DanielDrezner.com reader A.A. for the tip.]

    posted by Dan at 09:02 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    Friday, September 5, 2003

    Chris Bertram overreaches

    Crooked Timber's Chris Bertram thinks InstaPundit is slanting his posts.

    Glenn linked to a Guardian article on agricultural subsidies with the header, "WHY DOES THE EUROPEAN UNION hate the world's poor so much?" Chris observes:

    [A] more thorough reading of the same article would have led him to this paragraph:

    Washington and Brussels have tabled a joint proposal on agriculture that would involve far smaller cuts in protectionism than developing countries want. The proposal has been countered by a blueprint from leading developing countries that would involve far more aggressive reductions.

    A joint proposal then? So it isn’t just those cheese-eating surrender-monkeys after all.

    Brad DeLong provides a similar interpretation.

    Lord knows I've been hard on the Bush administration's protectionist leanings as of late, but Chris and Brad are making a bogus allegation with this post.

    The Guardian story that Glenn linked to focused entirely on some belligerent quotes from European officials, including this one from Franz Fischler that manages to top anything Donald Rumsfeld has said:

    Franz Fischler, the EU agriculture commissioner, said Brussels would strongly defend its farmers.

    He said many recent attacks on the EU's much maligned common agricultural policy (CAP) were"intellectually dishonest" PR stunts....

    "If I look at the recent extreme proposal co-sponsored by Brazil, China, India and others, I cannot help [getting] the impression that they are circling in a different orbit," Mr Fischler [told] reporters.

    "If they want to do business, they should come back to mother earth. If they choose to continue their space odyssey they will not get the stars, they will not get the moon, they will end up with empty hands."

    As for the agreement that Chris and the Guardian reference, the reason that it stinks is not the U.S., which has pressed for further liberalization in agriculture. The culprit is the E.U., which has been dragged kicking and screaming into making only minimal concessions. You can blame the U.S. for not bargaining better with the Europeans (or the Japanese) on the issue of agricultural subsidies, but that's it.

    I've got no love for U.S. agricultural subsidies, but what's driving the potyential impasse at Cancun is not the Bush administration, but the European Union's intransigence -- a point the Guardian's blog emphasizes.

    Glenn's framing of the story was correct -- Chris's (and Brad's) wasn't.

    NOTE: I've updated this post since Chris Bertram's comment below in order to respond to his points.

    posted by Dan at 08:26 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    DanielDrezner.com's new motto

    Robert Tagorda highlights Matt Welch's essay on blogs in the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review. I found this graf from Robert's post pretty funny:

    I can only add that professional writers should consider regularly tapping academic blogs as useful resources. I remember, for instance, that the Las Vegas Review-Journal cited Eugene Volokh's posts on the Nevada Supreme Court. Perhaps other papers can turn to the likes of Brad DeLong, Juan Cole, Kieran Healy, Mark Kleiman, and Dan Drezner for their expert opinion (the last one, it seems, can even give paparazzi a pointer or two about Hollywood sex goddesses!). To be sure, academic blogs make up just part of the blogosphere. But for journalists, these blogs probably belong among the 10% that "aren't crap."

    Yes, I should put this somewhere on my cv:


  • Belongs among the 10% of blogs that 'aren't crap.'
  • Better than the paparazzi as a guide to Hollywood sex goddesses!!

  • posted by Dan at 04:00 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (1)

    Rumblings of discontent from the right

    I've given the Bush administration a rough ride this week on its trade policy and its Iraq policy. Some may think I'm going wobbly and abandoning my idiosyncratic melange of conservative and libertarian principles.

    Actually, surfing the blogosphere, I'd say it's the Bush administration that has gone wobbly. In the past week, the White House has shown itself to be enthusiastic about protectionism, profligate in its domestic spending, and passive in it's foreign policy management. What's conservative about this?

    Think I'm exaggerationg? Go read Andrew Sullivan, Jacob Levy, Glenn Reynolds, Kim du Toit, the Spoons Experience, and yet more Andrew Sullivan. We're hardly monolithic in our politics, but there is a common denominator -- free markets, limited domestic government, robust foreign policy -- that this administration has left unsated.

    Let me be as plain as possible -- the ideologies of conservatism and libertarianism cannot be reduced to unwavering support for tax cuts. Very few people on the right share Britney Spears' position on supporting the President.

    The chairman of the Republican National Committee disagrees, believing that the Democratic alternatives are so bad that real conservatives have no other choice (that's du Toit's view as well).

    This position is certainly consistent with the median voter theorem on how to win elections -- and, as I observed recently, the Dems are currently experiencing technical difficulties in finding an exciting centrist alternative. However, since the median voter theorem assumes 100% voter turnout, the Bush team may be overestimating the enthusiasm of those on the right to go and vote for the least offensive alternative in November 2004.

    I'm not giving up on the administration -- Bush has an uncanny ability to demonstrate his leadership qualities when the chips are down. However, I'm not going to be rejecting the Democratic lever -- or pulling no lever at all -- anytime soon.

    posted by Dan at 11:08 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (3)

    Karl Rove's dream voter


    Britney Spears has waded into the deep areas of kissing Madonna and the war with Iraq in an interview with Crossfire's Tucker Carlson. Let me just reprint this Yahoo! Launch story in full:

    In a truly bizarre interview pairing, pop princess Britney Spears sat down for an interview Wednesday (September 3) with CNN's conservative political pundit Tucker Carlson. Wearing what appeared to be a blonde wig with red streaks, and chomping on a piece of gum, Spears answered questions ranging from her now-infamous kiss with Madonna, to her view of the war in Iraq.

    The youthful-looking Carlson, wearing his trademark bow-tie, asked Spears about the kiss with Madonna onstage last week during MTV's Music Video Awards show. Spears said, "I didn't know it was going to be that long and everything," explaining that during rehearsal Madonna had told her they'd just play it by ear during the performance. She also said that she'd never kissed a woman before, and wouldn't again--unless it's Madonna.

    Carlson then steered the interview to politics, asking Spears if she'd supported the war in Iraq. Spears answered, "Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that." She declared that she trusts President Bush, but when asked about the president's political future, Spears told Carlson that she doesn't know if he'll get re-elected. (emphasis added)

    Now, I've supported the president on multiple policy fronts, but doesn't this seem a bit too.... er.... bubblegum as a form of political participation? I mean, compared to her advanced work in semiconductor physics, this is a bit of a letdown in intellectual quality.

    Still, if I'm Karl Rove, I'm arranging a photo-op ASAP.

    posted by Dan at 09:09 AM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (2)

    Drezner gets results from the Center for Global Development!!

    Four months ago I wrote a Tech Central Station article that criticized an effort by the Center for Global Development to create "an index that measures 21 developed countries on a plethora of policies that help or harm poor nations." I said that Ranking the Rich was biased against the United States.

    What's the Center for Global Development's response to this (constructive) criticism? A nice letter thanking me for my essay, and a request to join their Board of Advisors for their updating/revising of the index. Now that's a classy move!!

    [Maybe it's a co-opting move--ed. Well, duh, but it does require them to take my suggestions seriously. You've co-opted me!--ed.]

    posted by Dan at 09:05 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    Thursday, September 4, 2003

    Now this is managing

    A perfect follow-up to today's post on Bush's management of the Iraq situation comes in the form of this New York Times story on the job Major General David H. Petraeus is doing commanding the 101st Airborne in Northern Iraq. [Petraeus, Petraeus... that name sounds familiar--ed. I've blogged about him before.] A few nuggest from the story suggest the kind of management skills necessary to get results:

    A five-day trip through the 101st Division's large area of operation showed that American military, not the civilian-led occupation authority based in Baghdad, are the driving force in the region's political and economic reconstruction.

    The ethnic makeup of the north — a diverse blend of Arabs, Kurds, Turkoman and tribes — is less hostile to the American presence than the troublesome Sunni triangle around Baghdad, although it has the potential for ethnic strife. But that only partly explains the military's relative success here.

    Other elements are the early deployment of a potent American force large enough to establish control, the quick establishment of new civil institutions, run by Iraqis, and a selective use of raids to capture hostile groups or individuals while minimizing the disruption to local civilians.

    Another factor has been an American commander who approached so-called nation-building as a central military mission and who was prepared to act while the civilian authority in Baghdad was still getting organized.

    An Army general who holds an advanced degree in international relations from Princeton, General Petraeus was steeped in nation-building before he arrived in Iraq. He served as the assistant chief of staff for operations for SFOR, the international peacekeeping force in Bosnia. His division is also well suited for its mission. Unlike an armored unit, it has lot of infantry soldiers — nearly 7,000 — to conduct foot patrols and stay in touch with the local population. It also has 250 helicopters to travel across northern Iraq.

    "We walk, and walking has a quality of its own," the general says. "We're like cops on the beat."....

    The 101st has also established an employment office for former Iraqi military officers, found grain silos for local farmers and trained the local police.

    In some cases, like the creation of an internal Iraqi security force, the 101st developed policies that Mr. Bremer's authority only recently embraced.

    "If there is a vacuum in the guidance from Baghdad or from Washington, Petraeus will study the situation and take action," said Gordon Rudd, the historian for the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, the civilian authority in Iraq before Mr. Bremer's appointment....

    The 101st Division's sense of mission is swiftly apparent at General Petraeus's command center inside a Mosul palace.

    "We are in a race to win over the people," reads a sign. "What have you and your element done today to contribute to victory?"

    Obviously, the art of management at Bush's level is slightly different than at Petraeus' level. Still, the general's clear definition of the mission and willingness to take action should resonate in the White House.

    posted by Dan at 04:49 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (1)

    Playing with the big boys over at the Hotline

    Politics junkies know that the source for good inside-the-Beltway info is the Hotline, put out by the National Journal group. Today's Hotline has a review of campaign blogs from Mickey Kaus, Joshua Michah Marshall, and yours truly. Here's the link -- I'll just post the choicest quotes about each of the individual campaign blogs:

  • Dennis Kucinich: "Anyone who liked this blog probably also believes that Gigli is the feel-good hit of the summer."

  • John Kerry: "Overall, a little dull." [That's the best you can do?--ed. That's the most exciting thing I could find -- kind of a metaphor, really].

  • Howard Dean: "The form of the blog is awesome, and the constant stream of posts impressed me.... [but] at times it was like reading the transcript to a PBS pledge drive."

  • Bob Graham: "There were posts on it... that looked like they were written by a real blogger, with links to news stories and the Graham campaign's take on them. Then there were posts that seem a bit random -- just like a real blog!!"
  • Go check out the whole thing. Not surprisingly, Kaus and Marshall make excellent points.

    UPDATE: For Hotline readers clicking over here to check out DanielDrezner.com, click here and here to see my take on the foreign policy positions of the major Democratic contenders.

    posted by Dan at 02:33 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    There's micromanaging and then there's not managing at all

    When I was providing some extremely minor campaign advice for Bush during the 2000 election, a lot of my fellow academics would tease me about Bush being dumber than Gore. My automatic counter was to ask them which person they felt more confident in as a manager of the exective branch. There was Bush, who seemed to have mastered the fine balance between delegation and hands-on controlwhile governor of Texas. Then there was Gore, a decent, flawed man cursed with a legislator's mentality, who never met an issue he couldn't micro-manage to death. Even my most ardent liberal friends usually shut up when I brought this up (and, post-election, I had many off-the-record discussions with disgruntled Gore staffers confirming that management was Gore's Achilles heel).

    I raise this point in the wake of this Washington Post behind-the-scenes piece on the Bush administration's decision to go back to the United Nations for another Iraq resolution in the hopes of coaxing more non-American troops into the country (link via Josh Marshall). High up in the article there's an astonishing couple of paragraphs:

    On Tuesday, President Bush's first day back in the West Wing after a month at his ranch, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell walked into the Oval Office to present something close to a fait accompli.

    In what was billed as a routine session, Powell told Bush that they had to go to the United Nations with a resolution seeking a U.N.-sanctioned military force in Iraq -- something the administration had resisted for nearly five months. Powell, whose department had long favored such an action, informed the commander in chief that the military brass supported the State Department's position despite resistance by the Pentagon's civilian leadership. Bush and his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, whose office had been slow to embrace the U.N. resolution, quickly agreed, according to administration officials who described the episode.

    Thus was a long and high-stakes bureaucratic struggle resolved, with the combined clout of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the State Department persuading a reluctant White House that the administration's Iraq occupation policy, devised by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, simply was not working....

    For an administration that prides itself on centralized, top-down control, the decision to change course in Iraq was uncharacteristically loose and decentralized. As described by officials in the White House, State Department and Pentagon, the White House was the last to sign on to the new approach devised by the soldiers and the diplomats. "The [Pentagon] civilians had been saying we didn't need any more troops, and the military brass had backed them," a senior administration official said. "Powell's a smart guy, and he knew that as soon as he had the brass behind him, that is very tough to ignore." (emphasis added)

    I've expressed my doubts about the international option, but I've also made clear that I think it's a better choice than sticking with the status quo.

    That's besides the point. What bothers me about this story is that the White House -- on the most important foreign policy issue of the day, and potentially the biggest campaign issue for 2004 -- was essentially a passive actor in this story. The President seemed perfectly comfortable to let Powell and Rumsfeld play bureaucratic politics with each other ad infinitum. Only when Powell and the Joint Chiefs were able to break the logjam did the policy shift -- for more on this see this Marshall post as well. [Isn't the Post story just another example of Powell puffery?--ed. The sourcing of the article -- lots of DOD people -- suggests that this version of events isn't the result of Powell spinning the story].

    Micro-managing an issue is one way for a President to screw up policy, but too much of a hands-off approach can be just as debilitating. This summer, the White House has veered too much in that direction.

    President Bush: hope you had a nice vacation at the ranch. Now get off your butt, take charge, manage the problem, and see your vision of a transformed Middle East through to its logical conclusion. Or, as Andrew Sullivan puts it:

    C'mon, Dubya. Follow-through; follow-through. Some of us are worried not because we want you to fail, but because we want you to succeed.

    As they say in Texas -- yep.

    UPDATE: Powell and the Joint Chiefs are officially denying the Post's version of events. Methinks they doth protest too much.

    posted by Dan at 11:47 AM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (3)

    Wednesday, September 3, 2003

    A few good rants -- on ESPN.com

    One of the perks of having my own blog is that I can post about pretty much anything. I try to keep the ratio around 50% on world politics, 25% on domestic politics, 15% on academia, 9% on popular culture, and 1% on Salma Hayek (as opposed to Friedrich von Hayek).

    Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column on ESPN.com is about 50% on football, 25% on humorous asides about current events, 20% on "megababes" (his word) and 5% on serious rants.

    Unless, like me, you like football there's a chance you would miss some of the good rants. So as a public service to the blogosphere, let me put Easterbrook's rant from his column two weeks ago about Toronto mayor Mel Lastman's comments following the Northeast blackout:

    In the hours after the blackout, Toronto's mayor Mel Lastman declared that the problem must have started in America but, "Have you ever seen the United States take blame for anything?" Mel, we've taken the blame for more awful errors than anyone can count -- the bomb that hit the Chinese embassy in Belgrade and the destruction of the Iranian Airbus among many others. Just a few months ago, in a case that every Canadian except, apparently, the mayor of Toronto knows, America took the blame for the four noble Canadian soldiers whom United States forces killed with friendly fire in Afghanistan. America accepts lots of blame because we are out defending the free world: and equally important, defending the notion of freedom. Year after year, liberal democracy spreads and tyranny continues its retreat, because year after year the United States surrenders blood and treasure in this vital fight. Canada sleeps well, with very small defense expenditures and thus more money to spend on itself, because the United States stands guard.

    Canada's recent track record at taking the blame? In 1993, a Canadian commando unit in Somalia tortured a civilian to death. The Canadian military and the Ottawa federal government denied responsibility, then engaged in a three-year cover-up. Here is a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation summary of the cover-up and investigation, plus CBC's lament that "The government's decision to cut the inquiry short left many questions unanswered." So people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, eh? Regardless of whether the power is on in the glass house.

    Indeed. Here's another excellent rant on an issue I failed to blog about out of sheer laziness, the Ten Commandments flap in Alabama. This is what Easterbrook has to say about Alabama Chief Justice (and unofficial chief jackass) Roy Moore:

    Moore further said that the First Amendment precept, "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion," does not apply to him because "I am not Congress." Drag this incompetent lunatic out of the court quickly, please. Anyone with entry-level knowledge of Constitutional law knows that the 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, was intended to extend the Bill of Rights to state governments; that a 1937 Supreme Court decision specifically declared that the First Amendment binds state officials like Judge Moore.

    As a church-going Christian... I find it deeply embarrassing when Christianity is associated, in the public eye, with hucksters like Moore. I find it embarrassing, too, when Christians supporting Moore's hunk of stone suggest that a big object in a public square is what matters, rather than the power of God's message itself. Anyone who needs to look at a big object in order to believe, doesn't really believe.

    Indeed again.

    UPDATE: This Jay Drezner post reminds me why I like football so much.

    posted by Dan at 03:00 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (0)

    Protecting myself with some useful links

    This TNR essay was really an organic outgrowth from multiple blog posts over the last month. Click here to read about the recent breakthrough in trade talks over the pharmaceuticals issue. I have penned a number of posts on the outsourcing issue as of late, each chock full of useful links. Click here, here, here, and here for more.

    The sources for the official quotes are the National Security Strategy of the United States and this ABC News story on President Bush's Labor Day speech. The quote from Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales' Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists is from page 282 of their book. Oh, and for a look at how far the dollar has fallen against the euro in recent years, check out this graph.

    Still confused on the merits of free trade for national security? Check out Brink Lindsey's thoughtful analysis, "The Trade Front: Combating Terrorism with Open Markets."

    Still confused on the merits of free trade for the American economy? Beyond the Ragan and Zingales book, the best source is Douglas Irwin, a professor of economics at Dartmouth. He's written two excellent and accessible books on the merits of free trade and open economic exchange for the United States. The first one, Against the Tide, examines the myriad intellectual arguments advanced in favor of protectionism and, to be blunt, why they all suck eggs. The more recent one, Free Trade Under Fire, directly rebuts the argument that free trade hurts the United States. As for the "crisis" in manufacturing, Arnold Kling has a Tech Central Station article debunking much of the hysteria (link via Ben Muse).

    If, after reading these, you're looking for evidence rebutting the claim that free trade benefits the economy, the best source is probably Alan Tonelson's The Race to the Bottom. His theory is wrong, and his data slightly cooked, but it's a much better than, say, Pat Buchanan's tired rant.

    Oh, and political scientists may notice that what I label "hypocritical liberalization" bears more than a passing resemblance to John Gerard Ruggie's notion of "embedded liberalism" to describe the economic order from 1945-1973. Here's a link to Ruggie's thoughts on whether embedded liberalism can survive in an era of economic globalization.

    posted by Dan at 11:27 AM | Trackbacks (0)

    I live to bash protectionists

    My latest TNR essay is up -- it's an analysis of whether the Bush administration will become more protectionist in the run-up to the 2004 election. Alas, I fear the answer is yes.

    Go check it out.

    posted by Dan at 11:08 AM | Trackbacks (0)

    Correcting some public opinion misperceptions

    Lawrence Kaplan has an excellent New Republic essay on public tolerance for casualties during war (subscription required). Elites generally assume that the public is unwilling to tolerate combat deaths -- here's an example from the Economist a few weeks ago:

    America has changed since September 11th. The new mood allows for more nationalism, more assertiveness, less patience with allies, a greater readiness to go it alone. But there is no appetite to spend a lifetime in a sweaty country in the service of a noble cause. The memories of Vietnam, where every effort to withdraw or hand over to the locals seemed to lead to further entanglement, have not departed.

    Kaplan's essay is essentially a literature review demonstrating plainly that this assumption is a crock of bull@#$t. The key grafs:

    The public has long been less fearful of casualties than America's political and military elites assume--and, for that matter, less fearful than the elites themselves....

    Specifically, polls demonstrate that Americans will sustain battle deaths if they think the United States will emerge from a conflict triumphant, if they believe the stakes justify casualties, and if the president makes a case for suffering them. Each of these measures has important implications for the operation in Iraq. "The public is defeat-phobic, not casualty-phobic," Christopher Gelpi and Peter Feaver conclude in their forthcoming book, Choosing Your Battles: American Civil-Military Relations and the Use of Force
    , which culls a mountain of data to prove the point.

    Another excellent and recent source of data on this point is Steven Kull and I.M. Destler's Misreading the Public: The Myth of a New Isolationism.

    A perusal of these books also reveals another interesting fact -- the American public is far more enthusiastic about multilateralism than some experts
    believe. Beyond the Kull and Destler book, go check out this paper by Benjamin Page and Dukhong Kim for more on American support for international cooperation.

    posted by Dan at 11:04 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    High point

    Yesterday the blog received the greatest number of unique visits and page views to date -- over 7,500 unique visits and over 9,500 page views.

    Thanks to everyone for clicking!!

    posted by Dan at 10:49 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Tuesday, September 2, 2003

    Half-day guest

    For the rest of today I'll be guest-blogging over at the Volokh Conspiracy. I'll be back tomorrow.

    posted by Dan at 02:21 PM | Trackbacks (0)

    Yes, Virginia, there is a $400 toilet brush

    I delayed going into the office by an hour so I could watch Virginia Postrel on CNN this morning, discussing her new book, The Substance of Style (Amazon rank #199 and climbing!!). The piece included Postrel displaying myriad styles of toilet brushes.

    Three thoughts:

    1) Her Aruba Blue nail polish matched her blouse perfectly. What better way to demonstrate the utility of aesthetics?

    2) No mention of her blog? Too bad.

    3) In the teasers for the piece, the anchor kept using the term "image" instead of "style", which carried a more negative connotation. It always annoys me when network producers tease with a slant that contradicts the substance of the piece. In other words, unlike Postrel, CNN's style fails to match its substance.

    Anyways, congratulations to Virginia!!

    UPDATE: For more on the search for cutting-edge aesthetics, go check out Virginia's home page for The Substance of Style, as well as this Time cover story.

    ANOTHER UPDATE: CNN now has a transcript of the piece on its web site -- and here's Virginia's own take on the experience.

    posted by Dan at 11:05 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (1)

    Monday, September 1, 2003

    Not a good sign for free markets

    Alas, Glenn Reynolds' prediction about the politicization of outsourcing seems to be coming true. Even though the election is more than a year away, President Bush seems fully prepared to pander to protectionist sentiments. From ABC News:

    President Bush announced Monday he is creating a high-level government post to nurture the manufacturing sector, which is bleeding jobs in states crucial to his re-election.

    On a rain-soaked Labor Day trip to a factory training center, Bush said he had directed Commerce Secretary Don Evans to establish an assistant position to focus "on the needs of manufacturers." Keeping factory jobs is critical to a broader economic recovery, the president said, his outdoor venue ringed by cranes, backhoes and bulldozers.

    Bush said the nation has lost "thousands of jobs in manufacturing." In fact, the losses have soared into the millions: Of the 2.7 million jobs the U.S. economy has lost since the recession began in early 2001, 2.4 million were in manufacturing. The downturn has eliminated more than one in 10 of the nation's factory jobs.

    The president attributed the erosion to productivity gains and to jobs flowing to cheaper labor markets overseas. He suggested that jobs moving to foreign shores was his primary reason for creating the new manufacturing czar.

    "One way to make sure that the manufacturing sector does well is to send a message overseas, (to) say, look, we expect there to be a fair playing field when it comes to trade," Bush said.

    "See, we in America believe we can compete with anybody, just so long as the rules are fair, and we intend to keep the rules fair," Bush said, his audience of workers and supporters cheering. (emphasis added)

    Let's be clear -- creating an assistant to the Commerce Secretary will have zero effect on manufacturing jobs. Stimulating domestic economic growth is the best way to affect this sector of the economy. The creation of such a position is pure politics. So maybe the protectionist sentiment is pure rhetoric.

    What worries me is that the politics of this phenomenon suggests that Bush will be unable to ignore demands for greater barriers to foreign trade and investment. To understand why, go read this Chicago Tribune story on the effect of globalization on rural labor. The key grafs:

    For decades, growth-minded rural towns have vied to attract manufacturers by offering tax breaks and other incentives. The expansion strategy is based on what economists call the "multiplier effect": When a new employer comes to town, the influx of new payroll money creates jobs throughout the local economy, as workers begin buying new homes, cars, and other goods and services.

    Now, with manufacturers closing U.S. plants and switching production to cheap-labor sites in Mexico and China, the multiplier is working in reverse. The attribute that has long made manufacturing so attractive to communities--its ability to spark an outsize number of new jobs--is magnifying the economic disruption caused by manufacturer pullouts.

    Rural communities' strategy of seeking growth through manufacturing "is colliding full force with a globalizing economy," said Mark Drabenstott, an economist with the Center for the Study of Rural America at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

    Bush, in order to win, desperately needs rural voters. He cannot and will not ignore this constituency. Which means more protectionist rhetoric and more protectionist policies to come.

    [But don't these articles also highlight real economic pain?--ed. Yes, but these article are also emblematic of the "lump of labor" fallacies that I discussed last fall. Blocking either investment or trade flows will do nothing but act as a massively inefficient subsidy for manufacturers. It's a disastrous policy. So what policies would you propose?--ed. You mean besides letting the market sort itself out? Based on this article, introduce subsidies for plastic surgery (link via Virginia Postrel)].

    posted by Dan at 10:32 PM | Comments (35) | Trackbacks (3)

    September's book of the month

    It's rare for the realm of international studies to be captured with any degree of subtlety in the realm of fiction. Which is why I'm currently enjoying Ann Patchett's Bel Canto so much. It's a fictionalized account of the 1997 New Year's takeover of the Japanese Embassy in Peru by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.

    One amusing passage from the perspective of Gen, a translator being held hostage:

    As far as Gen could tell, there were only two hostages who were not fabulously wealthy and powerful: himself and the priest, and they were the only two made to work.

    [Isn't this an old book for a new selection?--ed. My blog, my picks. Plus, you would be amazed at how many people in international relations rarely read any fiction outside of John Le Carré. The only reason I found out about Bel Canto was my wife's book club.]

    posted by Dan at 02:15 PM | Trackbacks (0)

    A labor-saving suggestion on Labor Day

    On a day of leisure, Jay Drezner suggests a policy step that would save everyone a lot of time:

    I hate pennies (and hate is a strong word - my mother always told me that).

    Pennies are a completely useless coin, not able to be used in vending machines, toll roads and perhaps not least importantly, Las Vegas coin counters. Not only that, but think about this - according to CNN / Money magazine, a penny costs around 0.89 of a cent to make. While they argue that the US Mint then ends up making money on the penny, I don't quite buy it.

    Read the whole post. Lots of arcane links, too.

    posted by Dan at 02:00 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

    The state of the 2004 campaign

    No doubt, the campaign staff from the non-Dean candidates in the field have probably had a lousy summer, what with the governor from Vermont sucking up all of the media attention. Right now, the Kerry staffers in New Hampshire have the greatest cause to feel blue about Dean's surge. To some, it might seem like the campaign is already over.

    However, the CBS poll that was released yesterday might offer some comfort to them:

    Two-thirds of voters — including two-thirds of Democrats — were unable to name any of the Democratic candidates for president, said the CBS News poll out Sunday.

    Joe Lieberman, Dick Gephardt and Howard Dean topped the field in the poll, with relatively low numbers that suggest the race remains wide open.

    Lieberman, Gephardt and Dean were the only three in double digits in support from registered Democrats. Lieberman, a Connecticut senator, had the backing of 14 percent; Gephardt, a Missouri congressman, was backed by 11 percent; and Dean, former governor of Vermont was at 10 percent. Other candidates were in single digits.

    John Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, was at 5 percent after being in double digits in national polls most of the year. Kerry will try to spark his campaign this week with the formal announcement of his candidacy.

    Al Sharpton had 5 percent; Bob Graham, a senator from Florida was at 4 percent; John Edwards, a senator from North Carolina, had 2 percent; Carol Moseley Braun was at 2 percent; and Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio congressman, had 0 percent.

    Voters may not know much about the candidates because few are paying attention. Just 15 percent of registered voters say they are paying a lot of attention to the 2004 Presidential campaign. More Democratic voters (19 percent) than Republicans (13 percent) are paying a lot of attention. This lack of attention is not unusual; at about the same point in 1999, just 13 percent of voters were paying a lot of attention to Campaign 2000.

    So cheer up, Kucinich voters -- your candidate may have the charisma of a stale waffle and the economic proposals of a recycled Benito Mussolini, but in terms of poll numbers, there's nowhere else to go but up!!

    posted by Dan at 10:09 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (2)

    A trip inside my sleep-deprived head

    NOTE: the following is a re-creation of what was going on inside my brain my first night in Philadelphia at 2:00 AM and I couldn't sleep because I never sleep the first night in a hotel room because the pillows are just too damn big:

    Zzzzz..... stupid fat pillows.... nuts, I missed Queer Eye for the Straight Guy on Tuesday.... didn't Glenn blog about possible variations on that show.... oh, yeah, Sorority Eye for the Straight Guy.... what kind of a name is Mad Pony for a blog anyway? I need a better name for mine.... maybe Drezner -- The Blog... no, that sucks....

    Everyone's trying to spoof the Queer part of the show title.... Hey, wait, what about Jewish Eye for the Straight Goy!!! Five Jewish mothers take a goy and make him husband material for the surplus of single Jewish women out there..... now what would the skills of the Tribe's Fab Five be?.... ah, yes, here's the cast:

  • Sonja -- the fashion expert. "Why are you buying clothes retail at Lord & Taylor? Marshall's is having a sale right now, and I know the men's wear guy, he'll knock off another 10%."

  • Marsha -- the cooking expert. "You're too skinny for my Naomi, I can see that right away. Sit down and eat my brisket for the next two hours. Then we'll get rid of all the mayonnaise in the house."

  • Shirley -- the career expert. "OK, here are the medical school applications. Yes, you're a lawyer, that's nice, but not as nice as a doctor. Maybe a dentist."

  • Frieda -- the budget expert. "Why do you have the air conditioning on right now? Do you realize how much money that's costing you? A good fan is much cheaper, sonny."

  • Rose -- the culture/language expert. "Repeat after me -- 'chutzpah.' No, no, I want to see saliva spraying out of your mouth when you say it. You're driving me completely meshuggenah!!"
  • sigh... too bad Saturday Night Live doesn't accept unsolicited scripts.....

    Hmmm... Salma Hayek is hot, but ever since Kristin Davis' character on Sex and the City converted to Judaism, I've started to wonder how she'd look in that dream I have with the hot tub and the---- end of re-creation.

    [The hot tub and the what? You were just getting to the good part!!-ed. I'm editing. Oh, yes, good idea, that--ed.]

    posted by Dan at 01:24 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)