Friday, November 28, 2003
Your weekend reading on what's going on in Iraq
In the past, I've occasionally offered posts on what's going on in Iraq. However, this time, George Packer blows away anything I could muster. If you have the time, go read Packer's vivid dissection of the current state of Iraq from last week's New Yorker (link via Matthew Yglesias). I'll admit to liking it because it reinforces three points I've made repeatedly over the past few months:
1) There is still no coherent narrative about the future of Iraq. The Packer story is filled with anecdotes both good and bad, frustrating and promising. One hopeful sign is that Packer's updates from his reportage done during the summer suggests that both material and institutional conditions are improving;
2) Bureaucratic politics made an absolute hash out of the pre-war planning for the postwar reconstruction of Iraq. One key section:
[Oh, sure why didn't you raise this before the war, when you supported military action?--ed. Even Packer says in the article that prior to the war, "The Administration was remarkably adept at muffling its own internal tensions."]
3) Drew Erdmann is a smart, smart man (click here for my last post that mentioned Erdmann). Having been in Iraq from April to August, and having endured a lot while he was over there, he agrees with me on the "no coherent narrative" line:
Good politics and a good thing to do
To address each of his points in turn:
1) My guess is that this did not cost a hell of a lot, in part because of the mission’s secrecy. Bush did not travel with his normal-sized retinue – according to this report, much of his Secret Service detail thought he was in Crawford, which meant they didn't travel with him to Baghdad. He did not travel with a normal-sized press contingent. The secrecy also meant that very few people were in on the loop, which prevented any large-scale activities. This trip was probably less expensive that a garden-variety stop in Chicago.
2) As hard as this may be for some on the left to accept, the president is the Commander-in-Chief. There are some events for which Bush will be viewed as the head of government rather than the leader of the Republican Party. Does Matt seriously believe that the troops in the mess hall were going to say, “Huh, there’s the President. Wait a minute, there’s Tom Daschle!! And Nancy Pelosi!! Awesome!!”
Does this mean that this wasn’t a good political move for the President? Of course not. However, despite some problematic policies as of late, it is possible for a presidential action to simultaneously be the right thing to do and the politically savvy thing to do. This was one of those occasions. Those who criticize the president for the latter are ignoring the former at their own peril.
3) I agree with Yglesias that the really important challenge for Bush and the administration is figuring out a long-range strategy for Iraq – and Matt should bear in mind that unless the long-term policy sorts itself out, this trip will backfire, much like that carrier landing.
However, that was true whether or not Bush went to Baghdad. It’s not clear to me whether the time invested into this trip was so distracting that the opportunity costs of lost long-term planning (which seems to have made new headway) are particularly high.
Furthermore, Yglesias may be underestimating the effect the visit had on troop morale in Iraq. The media reports indicate that Bush’s visit was warmly received by the men and women stationed in Iraq. Given the importance of morale in ensuring a constructive military occupation of Iraq and a transfer of power to Iraqis, I would think Yglesias would approve of such trips.
When tenured philosophers attack
Hmmm.... how to respond?
I could fire off a one-liner about how this sentence, alas, confirms my view that law and philosophy professors remain woefully behind in understanding the perils of inductive extrapolation from one empirical observation, but that would be unfair to Leiter as well as the rest of the law and philosophy crowd. It would also commit the same error in logic that Leiter commits in his post.
I’m sure that Leiter has published/posted items of value…. er, somewhere. Generalizing from that one sentence to conclude that Leiter's entire body of work is rubbish would be wrong. And it would be even more wrong to infer that Leiter’s statement is endemic of those who study the nexus between law and philosophy.
Rather, I will suggest that on this issue, Leiter is wrong on the facts and spectacularly wrong in his generalization. To be fair, however, Leiter's comparison was based on a brief comment. Click here to see my expanded thoughts on the Bush visit and a response to Yglesias.
Thursday, November 27, 2003
All blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy...... all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play makes Dan a dull boy....all blog and no play ma-----
[All right, that does it, you're taking a break for Thanksgiving! I am not going to be the Shelley Duvall character in this production!--ed. Yes.... yes, that may be for the best.]
A happy Thanksgiving to one and all!
UPDATE: Looks like American troops in Baghdad got an extra special Thanksgiving treat. Bravo for a class act.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's my reply to Brian Leiter's moronic hyperbole, and here's a more substantive response to Matthew Yglesias on the merits of the trip.
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
The conundrum of tenure and toddlers
Kieran Healy, Chris Bertam, and the Invisible Adjunct have posts up about this report in Academe on the effect of gender and children on career advancement: The key finding in the report:
As a man whose wife had an early baby, I guess I should like my chances for tenure. However, the implications of the report are indeed disturbing. Laura McK**** makes some interesting proposals. [Hey, is it any worse in academia than elsewhere?--ed. Good question. Anyone know if this gender effect also takes place among similar professions like law or medicine? What do you mean by "similar profession"?--ed. A trade that requires a great deal of training, after which there is an intense 5-7 year period of near-apprenticeship, and then a significant career advancement that vastly increases job security?]
Fundamental attribution error and Al Qaeda's strategy
As I've said recently, Al-Qaeda's current strategy of killing large numbers of Muslims makes little strategic sense. Stephen Den Beste recently offered up his explanation: "bin Laden's strategy was to get God, or Allah, involved in the war against the infidel." A slightly longer excerpt:
This is certainly a plausible theory. However, part of me is also convinced that this kind of analysis suffers from fundamental attribution error -- a tendency to overemphasize motivational factors and undeemphasize situational or environmental factors when explaining an actor's actions.
It's possible that Al Qaeda's strategy is based on a fundamental constraint -- it can't hit the bigger targets. Maybe Al Qaeda will strike on American soil in the future. However, would anyone have predicted that, more than two years after 9/11, there would be no additional attacks?
Even in Iraq -- and bear in mind that I'm not claiming that the insurgent attacks there are coordinated or managed by Al Qaeda -- there's been a shift in tactics:
Because the perception of the Al Qaeda's strength rests on its ability to wreak terror, better to attack somewhere than nowhere. Hence the bombings in Istanbul. And for those who believe that such attacks have a persuasive effect on Muslims, consider this report from the http://www.guardian.co.uk/turkey/story/0,12700,1092383,00.html: Radio 4 and the broadsheet comment pages reflected my pessimism. A bridge between east and west had been destroyed, said one. It was only a matter of time before the west pulled out entirely. I had heard all about the new draconian security measures: the truck now blocking the gate to the American-owned Robert College, where my brother-in-law teaches; the armed guards and sniffer dogs outside the malls, the banks, the supermarkets, and just about anything with a foreign-sounding name; the blockades around the building that was, until a few months ago, the US consulate, and has now become the temporary headquarters for the British. So I was expecting to find the streets empty and most of the city's 10 million residents cowering behind closed doors.
Indeed, there was a great hush in the arrivals lounge. For the first time ever, I did not have to queue for a visa. But once we had left the airport, it was hard to see any sign of a crisis. The streets were clogged with traffic and people shopping for the holiday that begins today. The shores of the Bosphorus were lined with fishermen and a procession of large, slow-moving families enjoying the unusually fine weather. The restaurants and cafes were doing a brisk business, and every few hundred metres there was a florist overflowing on to the pavement to meet the seasonal demand.
In my brother's neighbourhood, which was ankle deep in broken glass a week ago, the glaziers have been working so hard that there is a joke rumour going around that they were the masterminds behind the bomb. Now all but a few of the windows have been replaced, bar the ones on the mosque next door to the synagogue. The buildings across the street have lost their fronts and been condemned. But the lighting store next to them is open for business.
My brother says that the shopkeepers on the street were out with their brooms within minutes of the explosion. It was the residents who got the wounded to hospital. He saw no official presence for two hours.
They are very much in evidence now. Those with homes or businesses in the affected areas must leave their identity cards with the police manning the barricades. Anyone who stops to look at the damage can expect to be filmed by a man who may or may not be an innocent journalist. It is all very subtle, and very calm. The shopkeepers in the fish and flower markets near to where the entrance to the British consulate stood until last Thursday do not want to talk about the bomb any more. They would rather sell me a string of red peppers or talk me into a pair of wonky glasses and a monster mask. Like my friends, they see staying at home behind closed doors as a form of defeat. They are determined to get life back to normal as soon as possible, no matter what.
This was Istanbul's September 11. They thought they were safe from the war on terror because they thought all Muslims were brothers. Now they know otherwise, and are unified in their condemnation of the terrorists, who cannot be "true Muslims". The fact that the terrorists staged this attack in the last days of Ramadan has added to their outrage. But no one is in any doubt why the city has become a terrorist target.
Christopher Hitchens has some additional points on this subject (link via Andrew Sullivan).
I'm not claiming that my theory is more compelling than Den Beste's or anyone else's, for that matter. I'm just putting it out there for consideration.
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
All Things Considered on blogging
Last night NPR’s All Things Considered ran a story last night about how campaign blogs and “independent” blogs (their choice of words) will affect the 2004 election and politics more generally. Their abstract says:
You can listen to it here. Having already heard it, I have two thoughts:
Tomorrow morning on WBEZ’s Eight Forty-Eight program (which airs from 9:30 AM to 10:00 AM Chicago time), I will be commenting on blogs as a new media form. Blogs will be discussed, however.
The stability pact -- R.I.P., 2003
The Economist has the latest on the death of the European "stability and growth pact," which was made in order to harmonize the business cycles of European economies for the creation of the Euro (for my previous takes on this, click here and here). The good parts version:
Now, as has been pointed out in several places, the economic logic undergirding the stability and growth pact were not necessarily rational, so it's demise can be seen as a good thing. However, the combination of no fiscal rules and a unified monetary policy creates massive free rider problems, as the story goes on to observe:
Klaus is probably a bit of an outlier in terms of Eastern European opinion.
Still, it's gonna be fun to see him tangle with the EU.
UPDATE: Atrios makes some cogent points on this topic, and on the premature rumors of the death of Keynesian macroeconomics. His key point:
Monday, November 24, 2003
You know things are bad when this qualifies as good news
From the New York Times:
Will Medicare now cover my depression about domestic politics?
Last week, Matthew Yglesias wrote:
I'm not going to lie to you -- for me at least, Matthew's observations are spot-on. My automatic impulse is to skip any article with the words "Medicare," "Medicaid," or "prescription drug plan" in them.
So I'm struggling against all my natural instincts here in writing this post.
That said, the Medicare bill passed by the House this weekend -- and looks likely to obtain Senate approval before Thanksgiving -- bothers me for three reasons.
The first is that it doesn't appear to be a very good bill at all. The New Republic's &c. has been all over this -- click here and here. Conservatives aren't thrilled about it either. With regard to its fiscal effects, just let me reprint the Heritage Foundation's graph right here:
Second, the way in which the bill was passed bothers the hell out of me. Pejman Yousefzadeh -- in a must-read post -- draws a great parallel between what the Republican leadership did here and what Speaker Jim Wright did fifteen years ago to railroad a budget reconciliation bill through the House. As Pejman put it, "The worm has turned."
During the eighties, it was this kind of Democratic high-handedness that built up such an enourmous reservoir of ill will among Republican House members, which got vented after the 1994 takeover. If the House should switch anytime soon, the changeover will not be pretty.
Not that the Democrats have covered themselves in glory for their performance over Medicare this past week.
The third is that this spending bill is merely indicative of the larger budget-busting pathology currently infecting Wasdhington. Tyler Cowen highlights the extent of the current profligacy in Washington:
All of this comes from a Washington Post story that contains the following nugget of data:
Of course, Democrats are not exactly fighting this tooth and nail. And some of them can be bought on the cheap, as the Post observes:
[You put that in the post just to link to Hooters, didn't you?--ed. I'm just trying to sex up the issue! And let me add that I'm only interested in their magazine for the articles.]
Indeed, for a pragmatic libertarian, the political landscape out there is pretty depressing at the moment. Joe Klein makes my point for me:
Saturday, November 22, 2003
Right before Star Wars: The Phantom Menace came out, I remember overhearing a conversation between two guys who were two young to have seen the original Star Wars in theaters. The conversation was dripping with irony until it turned to the imminent arrival of The Phantom Menace, at which point one of them said in as earnest a tone as possible, "I just hope it doesn't suck."
I'm sure that guy has been embracing his inner core of bitterness ever since.
I raise this because of the combination of excitement and dread I'm feeling at the moment. Eight years after Outland and fourteen years after Bloom County, Berkeley Breathed is bringing back Opus!! Breathed will be penning a Sundays-only strip à la Outland. Here's what appears on Breathed's web site:
As someone who remembers breaking out in fits of hysterical laughter reading the first Bloom County compilation while sitting in my freshman physics class in high school, I'll confess to some nervousness here -- how can I be sure that what happened to George Lucas won't happen to Berkeley Breathed?
Fortunately, this Washington Post discussion with Breathed suggests he's still got game -- which is to say, he's still got the refined sense of whimsy that made Bloom County a must read when it was around. Some highlights:
Please, God, just be funny. That's all I ask.
P.S. For those wondering about Breathed's political orientation, he gave a pretty funny interview to The Onion in 2001, in which his political views were somewhat de-mystified:
Friday, November 21, 2003
The perils of creeping protectionism
The Bush administration succeeded in Miami in creating a "lite" version of the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Despite what the Los Angeles Times thinks, that's still better than nothing, and should be interpreted as a modest step towards liberalization.
However, the Economist highlights the latest protectionist move by the Bush administration:
The story also highlights a recent speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan (sponsored in part by the Economist). The entire speech is worth reading -- it's about how increased financial globalization has permitted greater flexibility for the U.S. to run a large current account deficit. However, it ends with a cautionary note:
Compared to Greenspan's usually tortured syntax, this amounts to a clear warning. Go back to the Economist story on why creeping protectionism could threaten the U.S. balance of payments:
UPDATE: Brad DeLong -- who also picked up on the Greenspan speech -- has some intriguing gossip about the bureaucratic politics behind the textiles decision.
Paul Blustein also has a good take on recent events in the Washington Post.
Why James Lileks is flat-out wrong
The relevant portions of Pax's letter first:
To which Lileks responds [WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE]:
Here's my reply to Lileks [WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE]:
UPDATE: Hmm.... this post seems to have generated a small amount of feedback while unintentionally intimidating Robert Tagorda.
In case my anger got the best of me in what's written above, a quick restatement: my basic problem with what Lileks wrote was the assumption that because Salam Pax had never taken up arms against Saddam (in contrast to U.S. armed forces), he was in no position to complain about the current state of affairs. My point was that Lileks elides some relevant recent history.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Anticipatory Retaliation has further thoughts on whether the U.S. was really to blame for what happened in the spring of 1991 -- though see James Joyner and Will Saletan on this point as well.
What is Al Qaeda's strategy?
Well, then, color me confused - how do these attacks do anything but strengthen this axis? Andrew Sullivan phrases it nicely:
What seems clear is that over the past year:
Of course, this assessment could change with one spectacular attack.
However, at the moment, Al Qaeda seems to be incapable of doing anything except kill large numbers of Muslims.
Thursday, November 20, 2003
The genius of American capitalism
The Economist runs a mostly upbeat assessment of the state of the American economy. The closing paragraph makes a powerful point:
Tom Friedman should know better
These are the first two paragraphs of Friedman's op-ed column for today:
No, Tom, but we're not exactly in mainstream Britain either. Livingstone's nickname is "Red Ken"; he was expelled by the Labour Party in 2000 (though it appears he will soon be reinstated). As for Harold Pinter, well, peruse his politics page and then try to distinguish his views from Noam Chomsky's.
Meanwhile, The same day the Guardian ran their letters to George, they also found some surprising poll results:
I understand why Friedman uses that opening -- to make the case for tweaking U.S. foreign policy. But using an overhyped start doesn't help Friedman's cause.
UPDATE: MSNBC has a plethora of man-on-the-street takes that are worth checking out.
Quote of the day
From Andrew Sullivan:
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Elites, conspiracies, and the tinfoil brigade
Embedded in Davies' post are a specific objection against BAP, and then a larger objection about elite institutions in general.
To deal with the BAP objection first. Having attended my first conference, I can reveal the following: the only policy position members of BAP would ever agree upon would be the full subsidization of hotel pubs/bars at conference venues. For me, the appeal of the conference was meeting a bunch of dynamic people who politely disagree with each other on matters of policy, philosophy, and culture. BAP issues no policy papers, publishes no books, and has no institutional voice in public discourse. It has no endowment fund. It holds an annual conference organized around a few big-think issues, and that's it. There's a vague sense among BAP participants that Anglo-American comity is a good thing, but everyone has that sense before becoming involved in the project. There is no conspiracy.
That said, BAP is also very secretive about its membership and activities. Its official web site is not exactly a font of information. This is probably the biggest explanation for the rise of conspiracy theories surrounding it. On this, I agree with Davies that BAP's lack of transparency means the organization probably brings some of this on itself (a point I failed to stress enough in my TNR article on conspiracies). However, these theories usually have no plausible evidence to back up their assertions either, and I see no reason to attach any a priori credence to them.
On the larger issue of elitist institutions, Davies' contention is that they contribute to a democratic deficit by encouraging "a political process in which it is impossible for the public at large to take part," and therefore, "the public debate on an issue is not necessarily the debate which matters." The only way iin which this holds is if the public debates that are part of the policymaking process are compromised by a prior debate in such private bodies.
Does this ever happen? I tend to doubt it. The composition of BAP is probably similar to the composition of most of these groups -- a thoroughly heterogeneous elite. The notion that these individuals will reach agreements based either on backroom favor-trading or Habermasian discourse because of membership in these associations does not seem terribly plausible. I say this as someone who's observed how these meetings operate. No doubt, they tend to promote more comity in public debates through prior association. They also creating weak ties among individuals -- which may contribute to career advancement.
However, that's a far cry from conspiracy theory.
Routine trade politics
Andrew Sullivan thinks the EU has hit a new low:
Now, I love a good EU-bashing as much as the next guy, but on this occasion I fear Sullivan is overreaching on two fronts.
First, the Guardian story makes it clear that the EU is not proposing anything at the moment. Rather, Stephen Byers -- a former trade and industry secretary in Tony Blair's government -- sent "a letter to Pascal Lamy, Europe's top trade negotiator," suggesting this tactic. So this is not emanating from the Eurocrats.
Second, even if this does become official policy, it's not new. Ever since the WTO came into existence, both the United States and European Union have carefully targeted WTO-approved punitive sanctions against key industries. The hope is that such sanctions mobilize the affected industry into lobbying the government to reverse its policy.
The U.S. does this all the time against the EU -- for instance, raising tariffs on Parma ham to get the Italian agricultural lobby to force the French agricultuiral lobby into backing down.
Sullivan says the proposed policy is Bush-hatred gone mad. However, the quoted section from Byers' letter to Lamy suggests good-old-fashioned bargaining:
Nothing extraordinary to see here, folks -- just your typical transatlantic trade spat. Move along.
Am I a paid lobbyist?
Nick Confessore's article in the December Washington Monthly (link via Brad DeLong) is a profile of James K. Glassman and his creation, Tech Central Station (TCS). One highlight:
Given that I've written a few pieces for Tech Central Station, my thoughts on this:
This is undoubtedly true, but only relevant if the journalist published the essay in a venue that was somehow deemed both nonpartisan and authoritative. TCS makes no bones about its origins and general policy preferences (though see this Josh Marshall post for one possible obfuscation). The DC types that are presumably the targets of influence are certainly aware of it. I'm willing to be persuaded that there's a possible harm here, but I don't see it at this point.
Monday, November 17, 2003
I won't be able to access the Internet again until I get home. While you're waiting for more high-quality DanielDrezner.com output, feel free to post a comment saying what you'd like to see me blog more about.
UPDATE: After a very pleasant but all-too-brief lunch with Josh Chafetz in London, I'm not back in Chicago. Regular blogging to commence soon.
Notes from Cardiff
I've briefly escaped from the clutches of my handlers at the British-American Project conference to provide the following observations:
I'll respond more seriously to Davies post that I'm not being serious enough about the potential threats BAP poses once I'm a) back in the USA; and b) not hung over.
[They got to you, didn't they? You had dinner with Jennifer Garner?--ed. No, but I have dined with a British journalist who bears more than a passing resemblance to Nell McAndrew, an investment consultant from Texas who bears more than a passing resemblance to Andie MacDowell, and an actress-turned-power broker who starred in Metropolitan. I can't complain.]
UPDATE: A hat tip to Will Baude for providing a reasonably accurate play-by-play of my Cambridge talk over at Crescat Sententia.
Thursday, November 13, 2003
A marriage made in protest
The marriage between French foreign policy and the anti-globalization movement was a marriage waiting to happen. From today's Financial Times:
My only surprise at reading this is that it took this long.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
I'm off to join another secret cabal
Blogging will be intermittent for the next week, as I'm travelling again. [Don't you have one of those fancy wifi laptops that lets you post at Starbucks?--ed. Alas, the big blogger money seems to escape me.]
This time, I'm off to the United Kingdom. First a brief lecture at the University Cambridge, followed by a four-day conference of the British-American Project (BAP), which is an organization that annually brings thirtysomethings from both sides of the Atlantic together to discuss issues of the day.
Or so they would have you believe. A quick Google search reveals that several conspiracy web sites allege sinister motivations behind this conference. For example, this site characterizes BAP as, "a small and extremely covert group." But wait, there's more:
For another good conspiracy-sounding descriptions of the BAP, click here.
Your intrepid blogger promises to infiltrate this suspicious-sounding organization and report the truth! [What if they offer you a "position of considerable fame or influence"?--ed. It would take a lot more than that to destroy my hard-earned reputation for intellectual integrity in the blogosphere!! What if they offer you a "position of considerable fame or influence" and a private candlelit dinner with Jennifer Garner?--ed. Yeah, that's about my price.]
Is Howard Dean too extreme to win?
Read the whole post (and this one too) -- he has additional arguments.
Of course, Marshall posted this before the slow-motion implosion of the Kerry Campaign. Which raises the one way in which Marshall could be proven correct -- if a number of the centrist Democrats drop out of the race in rapid fashion, it permits coordination around a challenger to Dean. Clearly, this was one of the rationales underlying Wesley Clark's entry into the race.
However, Bob Graham is the only one to drop out so far, and the others have more money in the bank. So, I guess I'm more sure of Dean than Marshall.
Kristoff, while never mentioning Dean by name, makes a similar argument about his supporters vis-à-vis the general election:
[Hey, you said this two months ago!!--ed. OK, so Drezner gets results from Kristoff... and I'm sure someone else posted on it earlier, getting results from Drezner. Sigh. I think I'm going to have to retire that catchphrase.]
How blogs affect politics
Pejman Yousefzadeh (who has lots o' good stuff on his blog) has a Tech Central Station essay on how blogs affect political debate. As a case study, he looks at Josh Chafetz's recent triumph at the Oxford Union. The highlights from Pej:
As someone with an interest in this topic, I must thank Pejman for adding to my reference list. His reward.... a footnote!! [That's a reward?--ed. For a U of C graduate, yes, it is.]
UPDATE: Robert Tagorda has further thoughts on this.
The battle over trade policy: it keeps going and going and going.....
In the wake of the WTO's ruling against the U.S. on steel tariffs, there are signs that the Bush administration might try to formally accede to the WTO while maintaining high levels of import protection. According to the Financial Times:
Alas, this is entirely consistent with my prediction of "hypocritical liberalization." This move would nevertheless increase the likelihood of triggering a trade war with the European Union. [C'mon, isn't that an exaggeration? The New York Times thinks everything Bush does will trigger a transatlantic row! OK, here's some more tangible evidence.]
In other depressing trade news, interest group pressure is mounting to renege on the planned end of Multi-Fibre Agreement on January 1, 2005. The Cato Institute's Dan Ikenson has more:
Will the administration do so? For my money -- and the New York Times -- it's a coin flip.
The depressing fact -- that's still better than any of the Democratic candidates for president.
UPDATE: Drezner gets results from Andrew Sullivan! He posts:
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
What happened while I was gone?
Back from Berkeley. I had to get into a cab to race to campus to teach a class. Just sitting down now and catching my breath for the first time.
So, a very belated thanks to David Brooks for citing my recent Slate essay in today's column. I first heard about it via my brother, for those who care [You mean Brooks didn't give you a heads-up?--ed. It's funny, people who've congratulated me on this are assuming I know Brooks. I'd like to, but as of now we've never communicated.]
For those New York Times op-ed readers expecting to find more on the subject here, go to this post, which was the genesis of the Slate article. Then click over to this post, which elaborates on a few points that got cut from the Slate essay, and deals with the inevitable statistical contretemps that such essays produce. Finally, click here for a further discussion of Halliburton and Bechtel -- there's some stuff there that Brooks did not mention in his able op-ed today that nevertheless bolsters his case. [You know that David Adesnik already did this for you--ed. D'oh! Advantage: Adesnik!]
UPDATE: Via Tom Maguire, I find this letter to the editor of the Washington Post from Bill Allison, the "managing editor [?] at the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, responding to the Steven Kelman op-ed. A similar statement has now been placed at the bottom of my Slate piece. Among the key tidbits:
If CPI's story is now that there needs to be more transparency in the bidding process, that's fine with me -- I say, here, here.
However, while I will flatly concede that they never use the words "clear quid pro quo," that's what they're implying. Stating that, "There is a stench of political favoritism and cronyism surrounding the contracting process in both Iraq and Afghanistan" sounds like a completely different kind of accusation from one of a lack of transparency. The first charge implies disorganization and inefficiency. The second charge implies malfeasance and, well, quid pro quo corruption. The first graf of the CPI report reads:
The link between campaign contributions and contracts was also the lead of all of the initial media coverage of the report. I'd say it was pretty damn clear that CPI was implying a quid pro quo.
Monday, November 10, 2003
I'm giving a talk today at the University of California at Berkeley. Talk amongst yourselves.
Here's a topic -- what do you do with Saudi Arabia?
Saturday, November 8, 2003
Drezner gets results from Brazil -- or does he?
My last TNR essay mentioned the standoff in Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) talks between the U.S. and Brazil from last month -- mostly due to Brazilian intransigence.
U.S. negotiators, aware of the standstill, "hastily arranged discussions with trade ministers from 16 of the 34 countries" in the FTAA yesterday and today, according to the Associated Press.
The results? According to Reuters, success!!:
But wait! A follow-up Associated Press report provides a different spin on the talks -- failure:
Who's right and who's wrong? Read both reports and judge for yourself. [No, no, no, that's why the people read your blog -- your interpretation of events!--ed. Huh, I thought it was because of all the Carla Gugino links. Hmmm, that's a new name--ed. Yeah, I'm getting hooked on Karen Sisco.
Seriously, I think I'll give the edge to Reuters, since the AP report seems to be based only on the comments of the "senior U.S. trade official." However, if you actually read both stories, what's astonishing is how they essentially report the identical set of facts but with completely different interpretive frames -- I mean, spin.]
Jay Drezner refutes the New York Times!
Last Sunday's New York Times ran an Ellyn Spragins column on how wealth inequities affect sibling relationships. Her conclusion -- it ain't good:
Jay read the story and has a lot of things to say about it. Here's the punchline:
All I can say is, indeed. [Does this mean you get Connie Neilsen?--ed. Oh, shut up.]
Must be a full moon, because I agree with Robert Reich
Alas, I could not find a copy of the report on Alliance Capital Management's web site (UPDATE: Ha! Found a cached version), but I did find a much longer Wall Street Journal story on it. Here's a bit more, with special reference to China:
Here's a bit more from the actual report:
Friday, November 7, 2003
It gets nastier inside the beltway
Republicans are justly outraged by the contents of a leaked Democratic memo from the Intelligence committee that outlines a strategy for exposing contradictions between intelligence reports and Bush's claims about Iraqi weapons programs.
Now, the Democrat inquiry mentioned in the Post is in and of itself a petty request. And if you read the rest of the story, it suggests that this may be only a temporary state of affairs.
However, I'm also a strong believer in checks and balances, and this move by the White House is... well... imperial. Worse, it encourages precisely the kind of misbehavior that the Dems displayed in the Intelligence Committee. [Maybe this is Rove's brilliant strategery -- drive the Democrats so crazy that they act rashly and stupidly!--ed. Possible, but still irresponsible. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- I don't like it when one party is rendered completely incapable of competent policy articulation.]
So this is why I'm a pig
Right around the time I was deciding whether to propose to my wife, a worry kept nagging at me -- I was still noticing other attractive women. In my mind's eye, this was a sign that maybe I would be tempted to stray, and thus not worthy enough to get married. Eventually, I decided that there was an important difference between harmless flirtations and unethical actions, so I popped the question. Best decision I've ever made.
Now, I discover that my flirtatious behavior, as well as my mild obsession with Salma Hayek, is not my fault. It's evolutionary biology, according to this Newsweek story, "Sex and Dung Beetles." The good parts:
You can read more about Johnson's research here.
If you think about it, you have to think that the producers of NBC's Average Joe are aware of these findings -- otherwise, the show would never work. Consider the following question: would a show called "Average Jane" ever work out?
The other big speech from yesterday
At a cocktail party recently, someone explained to me that when engaging in political argument, there's a big difference between Brits and Americans. Because the Brits have been trained to debate from an early age, they always sound more coherent and erudite when advancing their arguments. There's certainly a ring of truth to this for anyone who has ever compared Question Time in Parliament to American-style press conferences or debates.
With this in mind, a hearty congratulations to Oxblog's Josh Chafetz for agreeing at the last minute to participate in an Oxford Union against two anti-war MPs on the resolution, "This House believes that we are losing the Peace." Chafetz was arguing in the negative.
According to Steve Sachs, one of Chafetz's opponents, "described Josh's speech as the best prepared speech he had heard at the Union in 17 appearances there." Josh and two undergraduates won the argument.
Josh has now posted his speech in its entirety on his blog. I'm not going to excerpt it -- just go read the whole thing.
I'm still not convinced that there's a positive and coherent narrative coming out of Iraq, but it does remind me that there isn't a coherent negative narritive either.
Thursday, November 6, 2003
The revolution in campaign affairs
Noam Scheiber has a must-read in The New Republic on the state of the art in primary campaigning. It's ostensibly a profile of Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's campaign manager. It's really about how Trippi has exploited the Internet in revolutionary ways. The key part:
Decentralization leads to greater ownership, which in turn overcomes the collective action problems that plague all political campaigns.
Read the whole piece. The figures Scheiber throws around suggests that the polls in many states don't matter so much, because the raw number of Dean's supporters are astonishingly high relative to average primary turnouts [Anything about how this revolution in campaign affairs affects Dean's standing in the South?--ed. No, which offers a glimmer of hope to his opponents. But just a glimmer].
The thing is, as Scheiber notes, this revolution is confined to primaries, not general elections:
UPDATE: Jacob Levy has further thoughts.
Calpundit and Drezner get results from President Bush!
A lot of commenter to this post seemed irate that I agreed with Kevin Drum that President Bush hadn't articulated the case clearly enough for why the U.S. should be in Iraq regardless of the WMD question. Several mentioned the February AEI speech.
Now, I've linked to that speech in the past -- my point was that according to the Feiler Faster Thesis that I mentioned in my previous post, this point needs to be made and remade for it to sink in, and I didn't think the President had done this since the end of the war.
Which brings us to his speech today commemorating the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy. Read the whole thing, but here's the part I wanted to see:
UPDATE: Drezner also gets results from Kenneth Pollack, who properly frames the current stakes in Iraq in this comment on CNN:
The Feiler Faster Thesis on steroids
I've been a big fan of the Feiler Faster Thesis ever since Mickey Kaus introduced it into the lexicon three and a half years ago:
The reason I bring this up? The last few days, I've been seeing television ads for the DVD release of Terminator 3 -- Rise of the Machines. The movie was put into theaters just four months ago -- it was the big July 4th release.
Between then and now:
So, anyway, the DVD will be released next week.
Wednesday, November 5, 2003
More good economic news
Over the last two days, two good reports on the growth of both manufacturing and services from the Institute for Supply Management.
The Philadelphia Inquirer story on manufacturing:
The service sector, which has been the mainstay of the economy during the recent lean years, is heating up even more, according to the Financial Times:
Click here for ISM's own summary of the data.
Two cautionary notes. First, this data failed to impress the stock market. Second, the key question remains whether this boom in production translates into an increase in job creation. Again from the FT:
UPDATE: Josh Chafetz links to more good economic news.
Returning the favor
Blogosphere norms 1, legal wrangling 0
In the conclusion to the Atrios-Donald Luskin dust-up from last week, both Atrios and Donald Luskin have posted a joint statement on their blogs. The key thing is that Luskin has "retracting his demand letter."
Good for both of them. It's refreshing to see that informal norms of civility can surmount the urge to legalize disputes.
I only wish that Luskin had come to this conclusion earlier. In his puursuit of Krugman at all costs, he contributes to a situation that Eric Alterman's arguments in the Nation acquire a whiff of plausibility:
Now, Alterman conveniently omits the following facts:
However, because Alterman could point to Luskin as evidence for his broad swipe, he could safely ignore the more substantive critiques.
Alterman link via Andrew Sullivan, who points out at least one absurdity in the article.
Compare and contrast
I had not blogged about Deputy Undersectrtary of Defense for Intelligence [and Lieutenant General] Jerry Boykin's controversial remarks about Islam and the tepid administration response, mostly because I was distracted by Mahathir Mohammed's controversial remarks. [Ahem, some conservatives are arguing that the administration is turning on Boykin--ed. He's still got his position, and on the whole the response has been lacksadaisical despite the attention his remarks received in the Middle East].
In contrast, consider this example from Germany, as reported in the Chicago Tribune:
Now, both Boykin and Guenzel are perfectly entitled to hold the views they hold. However, I agree with Eugene Volokh and Phil Carter that someone holding a position of their rank could and should have been -- at a minimum -- reassigned for what he said, because it substantially interfered with the government's mission.
They seem to recognize that fact in Germany. I'm starting to wonder what one has to say in the Bush administration before disciplinary action is taken.
UPDATE: The comments below take up some religious questions about the theological origins of the God of monotheistic religions. Of course, now I discover that Yahweh and Allah have their own blogs. Go check them out. WARNING -- SENSE OF HUMOR REQUIRED.
Tuesday, November 4, 2003
Is Al Gore responsible for Halliburton?
I've received a lot of e-mail traffic from the Slate piece on whether there was systemic corruption in the awarding of official reconstruction contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Half of them raise the following point:* even if there's no systemic pattern of corruption, it is true that Halliburton and Bechtel received big, fat, cost-plus contracts of indefinite duration. Clearly, these firms are closely linked to this administration. Isn't this a specific example of corruption?
This is definitely a valid question. My answer here is a bit murkier, but I still say no. The best source on this beyond the CPI report is Dan Baum's June 22nd story, "Nation Builders for Hire," in the New York Times Magazine.
If you read that article and the CPI report, you discover three things:
1) Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) got the current contracts because of path dependence. Because KBR got contracts in the past, it increased the likelihood of getting them now. Consider this paragraph from Baum's story:
If you read the article in it's entirety, it's clear that comparative advantage for KBR is not necessarily cost-efficiency but speed. Baum concludes, "There is no question that companies like KBR are up to the job."
3) KBR's ability to win contracts they get emerged prior to the Bush administration taking office. Again from Baum:
So, the big jump in KBR's contracts takes place under the Clinton administration. By Clinton's second term, "one of every seven Pentagon dollars passed through KBR."
Why the dramatic increase under Clinton? Blame Al Gore. Well, not really, but sort of. According to this section of the CPI report:
Matthew Yglesias makes a similar point:
I agree completely with Yglesias that there should be a full debate about whether contracting has gone too far. I'd disagree with him, but it's a perfectly proper topic for discussion.
The corruption claim, however, is far weaker.
UPDATE: For a good discussion of these issues, see this transcript from last night's NewsHour. One point made by former Major General Patrick Kelly:
ANOTHER UPDATE: Jon Henke at QandO takes a look at Halliburton's 3rd quarter statement from this year, and notes the following sentence, "Total company revenue and operating income from Iraq-related work in the third quarter were $900 million and $34 million, respectively."
As Jon puts it:
*So, what are the other half of the e-mails like?--ed. They're mostly of the "you're a partisan hack" variety, a fact that should amuse my regular group of cantankerous readers.
Drezner gets results from Jonathan Rauch!
My first TNR Online essay back in February disputed the notion that the Bush administration was instinctively unilateralist. In Reason this week, Jonathan Rauch picks up this theme in "Bush Is No Cowboy," a critique of Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay's new book, America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. (link via Glenn Reynolds). The key grafs:
I completely agree that in terms of style, Bush's diplomacy has verged on God-awful. However, Rauch is correct on the substance.
Monday, November 3, 2003
Hey, it is a real story after all
This post is going after three audiences:
A) Loyal blog readers: My critique of the Center for Public Integrity's report has turned into this Slate article. Go check it out!!
B) New Slate readers: Stay for a while -- check out the site. There's a lot about politics and foreign policy, but there are also posts about porn, a list of quality book recommendations, posts that discuss the Hilton sisters, and adorable beagle pictures -- all the colors of the rainbow!! [You're shameless!--ed. Hey, I'm just working the room here!]
C) Those who want more about the CPI report: The following is tailored for those who are still skeptical about my argument. First, click over to my Friday post on the subject. Second, here are some additional rejoinders:
UPDATE: Those who care about the statistical methodologies involved should read these excellent comments by Ethan Ligon here, here, and here(Haynes Goddard has a post that makes a similar point). I respond here and here, to Ethan's satisfaction, I believe.
* For those who believe that the personal relationship between Sullivan and Haave reveal an obvious link, ask yourself the following question -- does this mean that the CIA dispatched Joseph Wilson to Niger merely because he was married to Valerie Plame, a NOC who worked on the nonproliferation division of the Central Intelligence Agency? [You saying there's something to that allegation?--ed. No, I think both of them are absurd.] Why is one allegation different than the other?
David Brooks depresses the hell out of me
As I said last week in my TNR Online essay, "these are not the best of times to be an advocate of economic globalization." Case in point: David Brooks' Saturday column on Richard Gephardt. The key section:
Pop quiz for Gephardt -- you said back in February:
How do you plan on reconciling your protectionist trade proposals with continuing "America's leadership role?"
[You do know he's not going to answer -- you know that Brooks' thesis is that politically, this message is selling in the primaries--ed. Hence my mood.]
Sunday, November 2, 2003
The November Books of the Month
The "general interest" book for this month is one of my favorite cookbooks -- Seductions of Rice, by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. It's a global cookbook, providing myriad rice recipes from a diverse set of cooking traditions. This includes Chinese stir-frys, Spanish paellas, Japanese sushi, Cuban soups, Indian thorans, Thai salads, Turkish pilafs, Italian risottos, Uzbek plovs, Senegalese yassas, and American gumbos. For those who like to cook new things, give it a read.
The international relations book has been selected in the wake of reading David Rieff's New York Times Magazine cover story on the failures in the pre-war planning for the post-war occupation of Iraq. As someone who's followed this closely, I'd say that Rieff's story is a decent summary of the facts as we currently know them, with the occasional touch of exaggeration.
So, the international relations book choice for November is Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis, by Graham Allison.* This is probably the one "political science" book that real-live foreign policy professionals ever claim to have read.
In the book, Allison outlines three possible models to explain U.S. and Soviet behavior during the crisis. Model I is the rational choice paradigm, which gets short shrift.
Model II is based on a theory of organizational process that argues large bureaucracies operate along standard operating procedures from which deviations are rare. This describes Rieff's point in the story about how the uniformed military services, with a long history of disdain for non-combat operations, failed to plan properly for the occupation phase.
Allison's Model III is bureaucratic politics, the "pulling and hauling" of policy among different bureaucracies with different agendas. Rieff's discussion of the internecine struggles between State and Defense show how bureaucratic politics can lead to the compartmentalization of information:
There is a bias in the field of international relations in favor of "systemic"-level theories, so the bureaucratic politics paradigm has made little progress since Allison first published Essence of Decision in 1971.** This is unfortunate, as Rieff's conclusion highlights how relevant this theory is for real-world politics:
*Allison's co-author on the second edition of this book is Philip Zelikow.
**Allison didn't help matters with his work following the publication of Essence of Decision. In later review articles he conflated his Model II and Model III, to the confusion of many. Then, in his second edition of the book, he and Zelikow abjectly failed to engage in the best critique of the first edition: Jonathan Bendor and Thomas Hammond, "Rethinking Allison's Models"
If you really want to see something else published recently about bureaucratic politics, click here.
Saturday, November 1, 2003
An interesting survey and a depressing fact
At the end of the survey, this page says:
Here's the chart:
Here's the depressing fact -- not a single political leader listed is in the same quadrant as me (the lower-right one).
Can anyone think of a head of state who would fit in that category?
* For those who care about my exact score: 4.38 on the "Economic Left/Right" axis, and -2.77 on the "Libertarian/Authoritarian" axis.
A very important post about.... porn
Joyner's absolutely right. I mean, after looking at Salma Hayek pics online, it starts to get boring, tedious, mundane.... which is why I'll switch to looking at Alex Kingston pics. And then Ashley Ju-- [we get the idea--ed.].
My point is not to suggest that Joyner's completely off-base -- despite what was just said, I have the same preferences regarding the sensory advantages of real women. However, my sneaking suspicion that some men prefer two-dimensional fantasy to three-dimensional reality. David Amsden makes a similar point in his recent New York Magazine cover story. An example that eerily echoes Wolf:
This is not a reason to adopt Andrea Dworkin-style attitudes towards porn, or even Katie Couric-style attitudes for that matter. However, perhaps Hugh Hefner was a bit off-target as well.
This is at the University of Chicago??!! Sara also highlights the fact that Protection From Pornography Week just ended.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Michelle argues below that bloggers are equally to blame for the dysfunctional dating scene. Heh. [Of course, she posted that comment at 11:00 PM on a Saturday night!--ed. Yes, and you read it at 11:15 on the same Saturday night. D'oh!!--ed.].
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has tons of links on the relationship between sex and blogs. Alan K. Henderson points out that those who love porn and those who despise it haved more in common than you would think. Via Lauren's Blog, I found this Cleveland Plain Dealer story about how women are also into Internet porn. This graf must be quoted in full:
[Three updates in less than twelve hours? You're a machine!--ed. Well, I must confess that I am endowed with what I am told is an extremely large.... appetite for information.]