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:

In the summer of 2002, when the Administration began leaning toward an invasion of Iraq, [director of policy planning at the State Department Richard N.] Haass asked [Drew] Erdmann to analyze twentieth-century postwar reconstructions. In fifteen single-spaced classified pages—epic length for a State Department memo—Erdmann applied the ideas in his dissertation to a series of case studies from the two world wars through more recent conflicts such as Bosnia and Kosovo. One of Erdmann’s fundamental conclusions was that long-term success depended on international support. In the short run, he explained to me one evening, “the foundation of everything is security,” which partly depended on having sufficient numbers of troops. “You don’t have to look too far to see that isn’t the case here. And I don’t fault the people who are here. There’s no way any fault should be put on the kids in the 3rd I.D. or the brigade commanders. The question is, why weren’t more people put in? That was the concern of my project—were we prepared to do what it took in the postwar phase?”

Last fall, Secretary of State Colin Powell circulated Erdmann’s memo to Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and the national-security adviser, Condoleezza Rice. “Maybe it wasn’t read,” Erdmann said.

Erdmann’s view that rebuilding Iraq would require a significant, sustained effort was echoed by the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Throughout 2002, sixteen groups of Iraqi exiles, coördinated by a bureau official named Thomas S. Warrick, researched potential problems in postwar Iraq, from the electricity grid to the justice system. The thousands of pages that emerged from this effort, which became known as the Future of Iraq Project, presented a sobering view of the country’s physical and human infrastructure—and suggested the need for a long-term, expensive commitment.

The Pentagon also spent time developing a postwar scenario, but, because of Rumsfeld’s battle with Powell over foreign policy, it didn’t coördinate its ideas with the State Department. The planning was directed, in an atmosphere of near-total secrecy, by Douglas J. Feith, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy, and William Luti, his deputy. According to a Defense Department official, Feith’s team pointedly excluded Pentagon officials with experience in postwar reconstructions. The fear, the official said, was that such people would offer pessimistic scenarios, which would challenge Rumsfeld’s aversion to using troops as peacekeepers; if leaked, these scenarios might dampen public enthusiasm for the war. “You got the impression in this exercise that we didn’t harness the best and brightest minds in a concerted effort,” Thomas E. White, the Secretary of the Army during this period, told me. “With the Department of Defense the first issue was ‘We’ve got to control this thing’—so everyone else was suspect.” White was fired in April. Feith’s team, he said, “had the mind-set that this would be a relatively straightforward, manageable task, because this would be a war of liberation and therefore the reconstruction would be short-lived.” (emphasis added)

[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:

In our last conversation in Washington, Drew Erdmann said that it made no sense to claim any certainty about how Iraq will emerge from this ordeal. “I’m very cautious about dealing with anyone talking about Iraq who’s absolutely sure one way or the other,” he said.


posted by Dan at 11:53 PM | Comments (41) | Trackbacks (4)

Good politics and a good thing to do

Matthew Yglesias takes exception to Bush’s visit to Baghdad here and here. His objections can be boiled down to three points:

  • How much “this little poll-driven PR stunt cost the taxpayers”;
  • Democrats weren’t invited;
  • “what the troops need is not a visit from the commander-in-chief, but a commander-in-chief who knows what he's doing. Similarly, the president doesn't need to spend a couple of hours with the soldiers, he needs to figure out what the hell is going on in Iraq and what he's going to do about it.”
  • 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.

    UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias responds. Robert Tagorda has some thoughts worth perusing as well.

    posted by Dan at 11:38 AM | Comments (52) | Trackbacks (6)

    When tenured philosophers attack

    Brian Leiter, in comparing my two-sentence comment on Bush’s trip to Baghdad with Matthew Yglesias’ posts on the subject, comments:

    This, alas, confirms my general view about the relative intellectual merits of philosophy and political science: a BA in philosophy apparently puts you well ahead of a PhD in political science.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 11:30 AM | Comments (34) | Trackbacks (7)

    Thursday, November 27, 2003

    Here's Johnny!!!

    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.

    posted by Dan at 07:50 AM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (5)

    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:

    Our findings illustrate, not surprisingly, that babies do matter—they matter a great deal. And what also matters is the timing of babies. There is a consistent and large gap in achieving tenure between women who have early babies and men who have early babies, and this gap is surprisingly uniform across the disciplines and across types of institutions. While there are some differences among the sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities, and there are some differences between large research universities and small liberal arts colleges, the "baby gap" is robust and consistent. By our definition, an "early baby" is one who joins the household prior to five years after his or her parent completes the Ph.D. For most academics, this represents the time of early career development: graduate school and assistant professor or postdoctoral years. These are years of high demands and high job insecurity.

    In the sciences and engineering, among those working in academia, men who have early babies are strikingly more successful in earning tenure than women who have early babies.... there is an overall 24 percent gap between men's and women's rates of having achieved tenure twelve to fourteen years after receiving the Ph.D. This comparative finding focuses on that relatively small group of women who receive Ph.D.'s in the sciences. The gap would be even larger if we simply compared all men in science with all women in science, since men Ph.D.'s greatly outnumber women Ph.D.'s. The same phenomenon exists in the humanities and social sciences, where the gap in tenure achievement between men and women who have early babies is close to 20 percent. Surprisingly, having early babies seems to help men; men who have early babies achieve tenure at slightly higher rates than people who do not have early babies.

    The effects of having late babies, those who join the household more than five years after the Ph.D. is earned, are far less dramatic. Overall, women with late babies and women without children demonstrate about the same rate of achieving tenure, a rate higher than women with early babies. Presumably, women who have babies later in their career life have already achieved job security. They are also more likely to have only one child.

    Overall, women who attain tenure across the disciplines are unlikely to have children in the household. Twelve to fourteen years out from the Ph.D., 62 percent of tenured women in the humanities and social sciences and 50 percent of those in the sciences do not have children in the household. By contrast, only 39 percent of tenured men in social sciences and humanities and 30 percent of those in the sciences do not have children in the household 12 to 14 years out from the Ph.D.

    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?]

    posted by Dan at 08:31 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (1)

    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 not a war which they expect to win with guns or explosives. It is a spiritual struggle. The word "jihad" is sometimes claimed to have two meanings: one of holy crusade against the infidel, but another representing a struggle within to achieve moral purity and faith.

    Those are not separate meanings to the zealots. They are the same thing; they're inextricably linked. If they triumph internally, and achieve purity of faith, they will win the holy crusade against the infidel, because God will aid them and there is no limit to God's power. Not even America's wizard weapons can defeat God. And they can only become pure internally if they are also dedicated to holy crusade.

    And that's why al Qaeda's plans seem idiotic to rationalists like Donald and me. bin Laden could not create and follow the kind of plan which we'd think was essential. If bin Laden's plan had been based entirely on temporal power and cogent strategy and real resources, and if such a plan did not rely on miracles, it would have demonstrated lack of faith. If there were no place in the plan for God, it would prove that bin Laden didn't truly believe God would help.

    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:

    Guerrillas thought loyal to ousted dictator Saddam Hussein are shifting away from attacks against American troops in favor of killing and terrorizing Iraqi civilians who cooperate with the US-led coalition occupying the country, the chief of US Central Command said yesterday.

    General John Abizaid said that the aggressive American anti-insurgency campaign underway in Baghdad and in the "Sunni Triangle" region to the north and west has resulted in a sharp decline in attacks on US soldiers, although the soldiers from four Army divisions are still very much under the gun.

    "The offensive actions [by US troops] have driven down the attacks against coalition forces," he said in a Baghdad news conference. "Unfortunately, we have found attacks against Iraq civilians have increased."

    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,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.


    posted by Dan at 10:14 AM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

    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:

    Online web logs are a resource for political junkies of every political bent. Candidates blog, their campaigns blog, volunteers blog, and countless observers blog, too. It remains to be seen how the political blogs will influence the campaign process.

    You can listen to it here. Having already heard it, I have two thoughts:

  • Never have I heard a voice drip with more condescension than when the NPR announcer provides the lead-in with the opening sentence, “John Kerry has a blog.” As part of a transcript, the line reads as neutral as the color beige. On air, the tone of voice says, “let’s see how bemused I can sound about this phenomenon that may be important in the future but as of now is still insignificant enough to be mocked.” [Maybe he was being condescending about Kerry and not blogs!—ed. Hmmm…. That could be a possibility, with poll numbers like this.]

  • I like Josh Marshall’s point (about 3:20 into the piece) about “choice audiences.” That’ll have to go into the blog paper.
  • 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.

    posted by Dan at 09:39 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

    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:

    Never has a straitjacket seemed so loose-fitting. The euro area’s “stability and growth pact” was supposed to stop irresponsible member states running excessive budget deficits, defined as 3% of GDP or more. Chief among the restraints was the threat of large fines if member governments breached the 3% limit for three years in a row. For some time now, no one has seriously believed those restraints would hold. In the early hours of Tuesday November 25th, the euro’s fiscal straitjacket finally came apart at the seams.

    The pact’s fate was sealed in a meeting of the euro area’s 12 finance ministers. They chewed over the sorry fiscal record of the euro’s two largest members, France and Germany. Both governments ran deficits of more than 3% of GDP last year and will do so again this year. Both expect to breach the limit for the third time in 2004 (see chart). Earlier this year the European Commission, which polices the pact, agreed to give both countries an extra year, until 2005, to bring their deficits back into line. But it also instructed them to revisit their budget plans for 2004 and make extra cuts. France was asked to cut its underlying, cyclically adjusted deficit by a full 1% of GDP, Germany by 0.8%. Both resisted.

    Under the pact’s rules, the commission’s prescriptions have no force until formally endorsed in a vote by the euro area’s finance ministers, known as the “eurogroup”. And the votes were simply not there. Instead, the eurogroup agreed on a set of proposals of its own. France will cut its structural deficit by 0.8% of GDP next year, Germany by 0.6%. In 2005, both will bring their deficits below 3%. Nothing will enforce or guarantee this agreement except France and Germany’s word.

    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:

    They worry that governments are more likely to run deficits in a monetary union: governments can enjoy the full stimulus of a fiscal expansion, while the unwelcome side-effects (higher inflation or interest rates) are divvied up among all the members. Similar concerns are voiced by smaller members: if the Austrian government borrows too much, its impact on euro-area interest rates is negligible; but if France, Germany or Italy overborrow, borrowing costs rise for everyone.

    Meanwhile, some of the European Union's incoming members are not sanguine about the current state of the EU (link via Josh Cohen):

    Czech President Vaclav Klaus said Europeans are living in a "dream world" of welfare and long vacations and have yet to realize "they are not moving toward some sort of nirvana."

    The Czech Republic is a candidate for European Union membership, but Mr. Klaus, who was elected president in February, made clear in an interview his distaste for the organization.

    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:

    The truth is the S&G Pact does need to go, though the proximate cause of its death shouldn't have been this kind of "crisis," but rather a sober reassessment.

    posted by Dan at 01:16 PM | Comments (30) | Trackbacks (2)

    Monday, November 24, 2003

    You know things are bad when this qualifies as good news

    From the New York Times:

    Military officials retracted a report today that two American soldiers had been slashed in their throats in an attack Sunday in the northern city of Mosul.

    A military official here, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the two soldiers had died of gunshot wounds to the head and that their bodies had been pulled by Iraqis from their car and robbed of their personal belongings.

    The military official said that contrary to some reports, the men had not been beaten by rocks or mutilated in any way.

    This is sure to disappoint Nicholas De Genova, but I'm not sure how uplifting it will really be for everyone else.

    posted by Dan at 06:23 PM | Comments (33) | Trackbacks (1)

    Will Medicare now cover my depression about domestic politics?

    Last week, Matthew Yglesias wrote:

    I greatly sympathize with people who are disinclined to write about Medicare, since it's an incredibly boring issue. On the other hand, it's also a very important one, and so it's unfortunate that, as it happens, none of the leading lights of the blogosphere right care to lend us their thoughts on it.

    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:

    We all know about the $33 billion for the energy bill, or the $400 billion for the Medicare bill. It is less well-known that Congress is moving to increase veterans' benefits by $22 billion. Or how about peanut subsidies jumping from zero (1998) to $1.5 billion? Dairy subsidies from $318 million (1998) to $2.45 billion? The Agricultural Marketing Service is up from $726 million (1998) to $1.43 billion. The Amtrak budget has doubled to over $1 billion. And so on, and so on, and so on.

    All of this comes from a Washington Post story that contains the following nugget of data:

    Even conservatives who support tax cuts have begun to note the imbalance. Government spending now totals $20,000 per household, a level not seen since World War II, said Brian Reidl, a federal budget analyst with the Heritage Foundation. Meanwhile, taxes total $17,000 per household.

    "Conservatives are so afraid of losing their majority status right now that they feel a need to . . . pass the other side's legislation to prove how moderate they are," Reidl said. "But they're showing an astonishing willingness to spend now and dump all the cost in our children's laps, and an amazing unwillingness to reconcile the size of government with the amount of taxes needed to fund it." (emphasis added).

    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:

    The energy bill that passed the House -- but stalled in the Senate -- contains $23.5 billion in tax breaks, most of them for oil and gas producers and nearly triple the total in President Bush's original proposal. The support of farm-state Democrats was secured by a major expansion of subsidies for ethanol, a corn-based fuel additive. Balking lawmakers from the Midwest and Appalachia were offered provisions to benefit the producers of high-sulfur coal and a last-minute $2 billion addition to help older coal-burning plants comply with the Clean Air Act.

    In a nod to Louisiana's two Democratic senators, the bill would even provide financing assistance for a mall in Shreveport that is to house, among other things, a Hooters restaurant.

    [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:

    This was an awful week for the Democrats, who are likely to lose— politically—on all fronts. And it was a shameful week—substantively—for the Bush Administration....

    The week's events illuminate a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans on domestic policy. The Democrats are boxed into complicated and unpopular positions because they tend to stand on principle—although the principles involved are often antiquated, peripheral and, arguably, foolish. The Republicans, by contrast, have abandoned traditional conservativism to gain political advantage (with the elderly, for instance) or to pay off their stable of corporate-welfare recipients. The Medicare bill contains large gifts to pharmaceutical manufacturers; the energy bill is a $23.5 billion bequest to traditional-energy producers, with additional billions worth of free-range pork tossed in. "This is classic machine politics, the sort of thing we used to do," said a prominent Democrat. Hence the Wall Street Journal's opposition to both bills.


    posted by Dan at 11:45 AM | Comments (50) | Trackbacks (16)

    Saturday, November 22, 2003

    Opus lives!

    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:

    On November 23rd, after an absence of almost ten years, Opus returns to the nation's Sunday comic pages.

    We can't, at this time, go into detail as to what he's been doing during his mysterious missing decade, although Opus is deeply embarrassed about the rumors, especially the one naming him as the catalyst behind the unfortunate break-up of J Lo and Ben. It will all become clear soon.

    For more, check out this MSNBC interview with Opus himself, and Breathed's e-mail interview with Salon this past week.

    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:

    I'm not the same knucklehead I was in 1989. I'm an all new knucklehead. A knucklehead with small children -- which, you know, is the worst kind. Look what happened to Dave Barry. Opus will be at once, new and the same. Like each of us as we glide down the different hallways of time in the labyrinth of our lives. It's incredible just how poetic one can be when there isn't time to edit it out....

    Washington, D.C. What do you think of today's political comics such as "The Boondocks"?

    Berkeley Breathed: Aaron McGruder cites me as a major influence, which is always flattering of course. He's a terrific talent and his graphics sing... but I wonder, sometimes, if he misses a delicate lesson from Bloom County... one that I learned after painful missteps with... uh, outspokenness. Let's just say that if a comic strip tree falls hard in the forest and no [one] hears it because they're wincing... does the Pope, then, you know, poop in the woods. Okay, the metaphor collapsed but you get my meaning....

    Harrisburg, Pa.: Children read the news section; adults read the comics.
    Opus has to appeal to adults, at least initially. Most 10-year-olds had diminished reading skills when Opus last appeared. How do you intend to reach out to the young and get their minds off of reading for current events classes?

    Berkeley Breathed: Nudity. It works for Hollywood.

    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:

    O: Is the liberal stance of the early strips indicative of your own personal politics?

    BB: Liberal, shmiberal. That should be a new word. Shmiberal: one who is assumed liberal, just because he's a professional whiner in the newspaper. If you'll read the subtext for many of those old strips, you'll find the heart of an old-fashioned Libertarian. And I'd be a Libertarian, if they weren't all a bunch of tax-dodging professional whiners.

    posted by Dan at 02:43 PM | Comments (42) | Trackbacks (7)

    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:

    On November 18th, Grant Aldonas, under-secretary at the Department of Commerce, announced new import quotas on Chinese dressing gowns, knitwear and bras, capping their growth next year to just 7.5%. Mr Aldonas invoked a clause in China’s treaty of accession to the World Trade Organisation, which allows America to constrain import surges that threaten to disrupt domestic markets. The bra-buying public, benefiting from cheap Chinese imports, may not have noticed any market disruption. But America’s textile firms, suffering from plant closures and job losses, would disagree. Now, the Commerce Department has shown that it is willing to use every device at its disposal to ward off the menace of cheap dressing gowns....

    The quotas announced on Tuesday were in themselves only a small creep forward for protectionism. They cover only a few products, although the limits they impose will pinch tightly: China’s exports of cotton bras to America, for example, grew by nearly 32% in the first nine months of this year, according to the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition. The symbolism of this protectionist gesture is probably of more consequence. It shows that America is willing to shield its textile workers from foreign competition even after the mesh of quotas that currently trammel the global textile industry is undone next year. This prospect alone is enough to weigh on the plans, expectations and share prices of Asia’s light manufacturers. The gesture is also weighing on fraught Sino-American trade relations. The day after the quotas were announced, China cancelled a trade mission to the United States to buy American cotton, wheat and soyabeans. It also seized the occasion to announce that it is considering retaliatory measures against America’s illegal steel tariffs.

    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:

    Should globalization be allowed to proceed and thereby create an ever more flexible international financial system, history suggests that current imbalances will be defused with little disruption. And if other currencies, such as the euro, emerge to share the dollar's role as a global reserve currency, that process, too, is likely to be benign.

    I say this with one major caveat. Some clouds of emerging protectionism have become increasingly visible on today's horizon. Over the years, protected interests have often endeavored to stop in its tracks the process of unsettling economic change. Pitted against the powerful forces of market competition, virtually all such efforts have failed. The costs of any new such protectionist initiatives, in the context of wide current account imbalances, could significantly erode the flexibility of the global economy. Consequently, it is imperative that creeping protectionism be thwarted and reversed. (emphasis added)

    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:

    Chinese exports of textiles may be surging. But of greater significance to America's deficit are signs that European exports of capital may be starting to ebb. According to figures released on November 18th, foreigners poured just $4.2 billion (net) into American stocks, bonds and notes in September compared with over $50 billion the month before. America has not seen such a sharp turnaround in capital flows since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. The volte-face was most striking among European investors. Over the first eight months of this year, according to Morgan Stanley, Europeans made net purchases of American assets averaging around $28 billion per month. In September, they stopped buying and started selling, offloading a net $403m.


    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.

    posted by Dan at 10:51 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (4)

    Why James Lileks is flat-out wrong

    James Lileks takes issue with Salam Pax's letter to President Bush in the Guardian (link via Glenn Reynolds, who agrees with Lileks).

    The relevant portions of Pax's letter first:

    Dear George,

    I hate to wake you up from that dream you are having, the one in which you are a superhero bringing democracy and freedom to underdeveloped, oppressed countries. But you really need to check things out in one of the countries you have recently bombed to freedom. Georgie, I am kind of worried that things are going a bit bad in Iraq and you don't seem to care that much. You might want it to appear as if things are going well and sign Iraq off as a job well done, but I am afraid this is not the case.

    Listen, habibi, it is not over yet. Let me explain this in simple terms. You have spilled a glass full of tomato juice on an already dirty carpet and now you have to clean up the whole room. Not all of the mess is your fault but you volunteered to clean it up. I bet if someone had explained it to you like that you would have been less hasty going on our Rambo-in-Baghdad trip.

    To tell you the truth, I am glad that someone is doing the cleaning up, and thank you for getting rid of that scary guy with the hideous moustache that we had for president. But I have to say that the advertisements you were dropping from your B52s before the bombs fell promised a much more efficient and speedy service. We are a bit disappointed. So would you please, pretty please, with sugar on top, get your act together and stop telling people you have Iraq all figured out when you are giving us the trial-and-error approach?

    To which Lileks responds [WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE]:

    Hey, Salam? Fuck you. I know you're the famous giggly blogger who gave us all a riveting view of the inner circle before the war, and thus know more about the situation than I do. Granted. But there's a picture on the front page of my local paper today: third Minnesotan killed in Iraq. He died doing what you never had the stones to do: pick up a rifle and face the Ba'athists. You owe him.

    Let me explain this in simple terms, habibi. You would have spent the rest of your life under Ba'athist rule. You might have gotten some nice architectural commissions to do a house for someone whose aroma was temporarily acceptable to the Tikriti mob. You might have worked your international connections, made it back to Vienna, lived a comfy exile's life. What's certain is that none of your pals would ever have gotten rid of that scary guy without the hideous moustache (as if his greatest sin was somehow a fashion faux pas) and the Saddam regime would have prospered into the next generation precisely because of people like you.

    Here's my reply to Lileks [WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE]:

    Hey, James? Fuck you. I know you're the talented writer-blogger whose dyspeptic rants make Dennis Miller look like a washed-up sports broadcaster. In this case, however, you're absolutely correct on one thing -- you know a hell of a lot less about this subject than Salam Pax.

    You're absolutely right -- Salam and his buddies would never have taken up arms to overthrow Saddam. Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that back in 1991, when President Bush encouraged ordinary Iraqis to overthrow Saddam, the results weren't so good.

    Bush's call worked perfectly. Seventeen out of eighteen provinces were in open revolt. Hussein was at his weakest. And what did the United States do after our call was answered by the Iraqi common man? Did we help in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 1991? Nope. We looked the other way while Hussein violated the no-fly zones to put down the Shi'ites, Marsh Arabs, Kurds, etc. We did it for realpolitik reasons, many of which the current Bush administration, to its credit, seems ready to reject. But we, the United States, did it. Why, on God's green earth, would anyone ever choose to rise up after that Mongolian cluster-fuck of U.S. foreign policy?

    Let me explain this in simple terms, habibi. This was a debt that had to be repaid. Yeah, they owe us for getting rid of Saddam. But we owed them for going back on our word in 1991. As a result, Iraqis languished under Hussein's rule an extra twelve years. That don't buy a whole lot of sympathy.

    Three Minnestoans dead? I'm sorry. It's a tragedy. I'm betting, however, that to the ordinary Iraqi, the death of three Americans doesn't even compare to the loss of life that's taken place over the past twelve years in Iraq, be it through war, repression, or sanctions. So get a grip, suck it up, and allow an eloquent, reasonably brave Iraqi the opportunity to vent some snark from time to time. He's earned it.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 12:29 PM | Comments (313) | Trackbacks (19)

    What is Al Qaeda's strategy?

    The bombings in Istanbul are being cited as evidence of Al Qaeda's growing strength, and as part of an innovative geopolitical strategy:

    The attacks appeared aimed at disrupting the pro-Western secular axis many people in the Middle East believe the United States and Britain are trying to drive through the region with Iraq war. Such an axis would create a swath of territory friendly to the West from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf.

    Well, then, color me confused - how do these attacks do anything but strengthen this axis? Andrew Sullivan phrases it nicely:

    What exactly is the strategy behind going after Turkey and Saudi Arabia? We know the motivation - they despise Turkey's secular form of government and they loathe Saudi Arabia's connections to the West. But doesn't this strike you as spectacularly dumb from a strategic point of view? They have only helped make the West's case to the Saudis - that they cannot ignore this threat and certainly cannot buy it off. They may well alienate Turkey's Muslim population. And by murdering Brits, they have hopelessly undercut the anti-Western demonstrations in London.... Perhaps al Qaeda is now so disorganized that it is practically incapable of any intelligent strategy. Either way, these terrible murders are indicators of something worth noting: the enemy may be falling apart. This may make it more dangerous in the short term. But it bodes well for eventual victory.

    What seems clear is that over the past year:

    1) There have been no terrorist attacks on Western soil (i.e., the European Union and the Western Hemisphere).

    2) There has been an increase in violent attacks in the Middle East.

    3) Many of these attacks seem designed at Western ex-pats (or Jews) living in the region.

    4) These bombings have been plagued by faulty intelligence and unbelievably high collateral damage.

    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.


    posted by Dan at 11:25 AM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (1)

    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:

    The key to the recovery is the persistence of America's extraordinary dynamism. Labour and capital are quickly recycled and recombined with ever-improving materials, energy and information technologies to advance growth. Politicians, the press and America's corporate footsoldiers naturally tend to celebrate only the expansionary, risk-taking part of the business cycle. And even America's battered bosses seem to find the restructuring phase miserable work. But the real genius of American capitalism may not be its celebrated appetite for risk, but the brutal and uncompromising way in which it deals with the inevitable failures that follow. Despite the obvious signs of an economic upswing, much of American business is still concerned with cleaning up yesterday's mess. Yet with the clean-up well under way, some firms are already dusting down growth strategies once again, and at least a few businessmen are daring to show signs of spontaneous optimism.


    posted by Dan at 01:16 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (1)

    Tom Friedman should know better

    These are the first two paragraphs of Friedman's op-ed column for today:

    So I step off the plane in London and the British customs guy sees on my form that I'm a journalist and asks, "Is it true there are more police to protect your president in London than there are in Baghdad?" Then I pick up The Independent to read in the taxi and I see that London's left-wing mayor, Ken Livingstone, has denounced President Bush as "the greatest threat to life on this planet that we've most probably ever seen." Then I check out The Guardian, which carried open letters to the president, one of which is from the famous playwright Harold Pinter, who says: "Dear President Bush, I'm sure you'll be having a nice little tea party with your fellow war criminal, Tony Blair. Please wash the cucumber sandwiches down with a glass of blood."

    No, Dorothy, we're definitely not in Kansas anymore.

    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:

    The survey shows that public opinion in Britain is overwhelmingly pro-American with 62% of voters believing that the US is "generally speaking a force for good, not evil, in the world". It explodes the conventional political wisdom at Westminster that Mr Bush's visit will prove damaging to Tony Blair. Only 15% of British voters agree with the idea that America is the "evil empire" in the world....

    The ICM poll also uncovers a surge in pro-war sentiment in the past two months as suicide bombers have stepped up their attacks on western targets and troops in Iraq. Opposition to the war has slumped by 12 points since September to only 41% of all voters. At the same time those who believe the war was justified has jumped 9 points to 47% of voters.

    This swing in the mood of British voters is echoed in the poll's finding that two-thirds of voters believe British and American troops should not pull out of Iraq now but instead stay until the situation is "more stable".

    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.

    posted by Dan at 01:13 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (1)

    Quote of the day

    From Andrew Sullivan:

    So we have to pick between a budget-busting, free-spending, entitlement-expanding Republican and a Democrat opposed to many critical aspects of a free and dynamic economy. We're stuck between a reckless liberal and a regulatory liberal. It's the 1970s all over again - and too depressing for words.


    posted by Dan at 10:38 AM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (2)

    Wednesday, November 19, 2003

    Elites, conspiracies, and the tinfoil brigade

    In response to this post that mocked conspiracy theories regarding the British-American Project (see here as well), Daniel Davies posted a defense of such theories:

    [T]here are legitimate critiques to be made of the way that the BAP and the various groups associated with it (Chatham House, the Council on Foreign Relations, and indeed yes, the Bilderberg Group) go about their business.

    The issue is that of the “democratic deficit”. The ideal of a democracy is (arguably) to allow as much and as equal opportunity as possible for any citizen to participate in the political process. This ideal is always going to be beset by compromises for all manner of reasons (not least, the need for someone to actually go out and work for a living), but a not inconsiderable obstacle to widespread participation is that the political class inevitably ends up becoming something of a clique. If the people in charge of industry, government, education, media and the military all know each other (and they do), then there is a lot of scope for them to trade off favours between each other, and to have their discussions and debates in private. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this, and it does not necessarily lead to corruption or even inefficiency - that’s where the conspiracy theorists go wrong. But it is, by definition, a political process in which it is impossible for the public at large to take part. It also means that the public debate on an issue is not necessarily the debate which matters, to the detriment both of the quality of policy decisions and general trust in institutions.

    It’s a genuine problem of governance in a democracy, and laughing at it doesn’t make it go away....

    I simply don’t like the idea of important isssues being decided... out of sight of the public, in an unaccountable institution. And the British American Project is an institution dedicated to making it worse. It’s an organisation that throws promising young people together (the full title was “British American Project For The Successor Generation”), encourages them to keep in touch, prints a private newsletter detailing their career achievements, and generally promotes networking among them. It’s in many ways the political elite’s equivalent of my old business school alumni network, except that the business world doesn’t claim to be part of the democratic process.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 06:45 PM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (0)

    Routine trade politics

    Andrew Sullivan thinks the EU has hit a new low:

    According to the Guardian, there's now a proposed plan to use EU punitive tariffs against industries in key marginal states in the next election - in order to help the Democrats. I find the Bush administration's steel tariffs to be noxious and wrong; but the idea that foreign governments would attempt to micro-manage retaliation for partisan politics in another country is a new low. Or at least a sign that Bush-hatred has now reached previously sensible European politicians.

    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:

    It is clear that steel tariffs were introduced for short-term political advantage to deliver on a promise made by George Bush during the last presidential election campaign in order to gain votes in key swing states like West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan where the steel industry is a major employer.

    "The EU should now indicate that if President Bush fails to comply with the WTO ruling, then it will impose tariffs targeted at the major sectors of employment in politically sensitive swing states.

    Nothing extraordinary to see here, folks -- just your typical transatlantic trade spat. Move along.

    posted by Dan at 06:07 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

    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:

    In style and substance, TCS's content is an intellectual descendent of the rapid-response policy briefs pioneered by conservative think tanks during the 1980s, and as influential: The site's articles and contributors have been cited hundreds of times in the mainstream media and reprinted on op-ed pages across the country. TCS brings all of this off with a relatively small staff, drawing on the brainpower of established think tanks rather than housing and paying its own fellows and scholars, and publishing their arguments in its own "magazine" rather than hawking sound-bites to print reporters and columnists. "We can get the word out much more quickly [than a traditional think tank]," says Glassman, "and it's a lot less expensive not having a lot of bricks and mortar."

    If TCS combines all the strengths of a modern advocacy think tank with the reach and accessibility of a successful political magazine, it has succeeded largely by rejecting the conventions that traditionally govern journalism and policy scholarship. Traditional think tanks are organized under the 501(c)(3) section of the tax code and must disclose many details of how they are financed, being--at least in theory--expected to justify their non-profit status with work in the public interest. Even think tanks of an acknowledged ideological bent seek to insulate the work of their scholars and fellows from the specific policy priorities of the businesses or foundations that provide their funding. Likewise, traditional newspapers and magazines, whether for-profit or not, keep a wall between their editorial and business sides; even at magazines of opinion, the political views of writers are presumed to be offered in good faith, uninfluenced by advertisers.

    Unlike traditional think tanks, Tech Central Station is organized as a limited liability corporation--that is, a for-profit business. As an LLC, there is little Tech Central Station must publicly disclose about itself save for the names and addresses of its owners, and there is no presumption, legal or otherwise, that it exists to serve the public interest. Likewise, rather than traditional advertisers, TCS has what it calls "sponsors," which are thanked prominently in a section one click away from the front page of the site. (AT&T, ExxonMobil, and Microsoft were early supporters; General Motors, Intel, McDonalds, NASDAQ, National Semiconductor, and Qualcomm, as well as the drug industry trade association, PhRMA, joined during the past year.)

    Given that I've written a few pieces for Tech Central Station, my thoughts on this:

  • One surprise for me, given that Confessore contributes to Tapped, is that he failed to mention Tech Central Station's willingness to recruit its ccontributors from the blogosphere. Flipping through the authors, I saw a fair number of bloggers that are TCS contributors -- Radley Balko, Joe Katzman, Lynne Kiesling, Arnold Kling, Megan McArdle, Charles Murtaugh, Virginia Postrel, Glenn Reynolds, Rand Simberg, Eugene Volokh, and Matthew Yglesias. I'd like to think that explains part of Tech Central Station's success.

  • For the record -- and contrary to Confessore's assertion in his story -- I've never been told by anyone at Tech Central Station to alter the substantive content of my essays to reflect advertiser positions (though, like Matthew Yglesias, I've only really dealt with Nick Schulz, who is never mentioned in the story). Indeed, this TCS essay of mine takes a position on intellectual property rights that directly contradicts some of PhRMA's agenda. Now, obviously, my own predilections on many issues are in keeping with TCS libertarian outlook. On the other hand, that's why I don't think about submitting queries to The Nation. For me, the TCS disclaimer that, "the opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of the writers and not necessarily those of any corporation or other organization" holds. This is the experience of Glenn Reynolds and Megan McArdle as well. [Yeah, but aren't you tempted to change your views to earn hefty fees from publishing in TCS?--ed. Well, no. And even if I was, they pay, but it's hardly big money]

  • Given my experience, the basis of Confessore's objections -- and those of Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber -- are a bit unclear to me. Near the end of the piece, Confessore says:

    [I]t's only human nature to put more trust in the arguments of seemingly independent observers than those of paid agents of an interested party. And that's why a journalist willing to launder the arguments of corporations and trade groups would be so valuable. A given argument, coming from such a journalist, would have more impact than precisely the same case articulated by a corporate lobbyist.

    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.

  • As Confessore himself points out, TCS "runs smartly-written think pieces." That may be part of the reason its essays travel so well in the mediasphere -- the caliber of TCS ideas, as opposed to the source of TCS funding.
  • posted by Dan at 04:11 PM | Comments (26) | Trackbacks (9)

    Monday, November 17, 2003

    Suggestion box

    I won't be able to access the Internet again until I get home. While you're waiting for more high-quality 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.

    posted by Dan at 06:41 AM | Comments (59) | Trackbacks (0)

    Notes from Cardiff

    I've briefly escaped from the clutches of my handlers at the British-American Project conference to provide the following observations:

  • Never, ever drink more than one glass of Cypriot brandy and expect to be fresh as a daisy the next morning.

  • The Welsh service sector? Let me politely suggest that it needs a bit of polish. [Aren't you being overly harsh?--ed. It took five tries for the hotel staff to get my key card to function. At one restaurant we went to, more than an hour passed between ordering and receiving our main courses. Small-N, but telling]

  • While the conservative movement in the United States has shed much of its upper crust WASP image, this has yet to take place in the U.K. As near as I can tell, once someone declares themselves to be a Tory here, they are required to have a double-breasted blue blazer surgically attached to their skin.

  • There's a lot of hostility to Tony Blair in the U.K. right now over Iraq. There's a lot of hostility to him among the U.K. conference attendees as well. I suspect that in a few years time many moderate Brits will long for him the same way many moderate Dems are now wishing they could nominate Bill Clinton for a third term.

  • Daniel Davies suggests that there are conspiracy-like elements to the British-American Project. I would reply that there is a BAP conspiracy -- to destroy your liver.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 06:04 AM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

    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:

    The second European Social Forum opened yesterday in Paris, welcoming 50,000 people drawn from more than 1,200 organisations seeking to exchange ideas and find common ground to counter globalisation and the perceived dangers of the free market in Europe.

    The three-day session of plenary meetings, seminars and workshops spread over four locations will test the strength and diversity of the anti-globalisation movement as it seeks to build on its first forum in Florence last year and the success of the original gathering at Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2001.

    The main agenda will discuss propositions for an alternative "anti-liberal" development model for the European Union that is also more citizen-friendly. But attention will also focus on ways to challenge US "unilateralism".

    The forum is being hosted and largely sponsored by Paris city hall, along with three of the capital's satellite cities. On President Jacques Chirac's instructions €500,000 of the €3.7m ($4.3m, £2.6m) organisational budget is coming from the French foreign ministry and the prime minister's office.

    My only surprise at reading this is that it took this long.

    posted by Dan at 05:53 PM | Comments (63) | Trackbacks (3)

    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:

    The aim of these men [who founded the BAP] was to set up a group of rising elites, indoctrinate them with what was basically Bilderberg propaganda, and then pick the cream of them to become major players in the Bilderberg movement....

    Nearly every BAP member during the eighties and early nineties is now in a position of considerable fame or influence, and a large proportion of these are inclined to support the kind of aims that Bilderberg strives for. In essence, BAP was an ingenious method of indoctrinating next generation elites.

    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.]

    posted by Dan at 05:46 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (2)

    Is Howard Dean too extreme to win?

    Both Josh Marshall and Nicholas Kristoff go after Howard Dean's chances of victory in both the primary and the general election. Marshall disputes the argument that Dean has locked up the nomination:

    Okay, have to say it. I’m still not convinced. Everyone I know seems to think that Howard Dean is close to having the Democratic nomination all wrapped up. AFSCME’s apparent endorsement, for instance, seems premised almost entirely on the perception that Dean’s going to be the winner.

    But I just don’t see it.

    I’m not saying there’s another candidate who I’d say is more likely to win. I just think Dean’s strength is overstated....

    I continue to think that Dean’s style of candidacy only has a real purchase on a portion of the Democratic primary electorate. And I think he has most of those people already. Yes, this is a standard criticism of Dean: he’s the candidate of the Starbucks crowd (not that that’s a criticism: I write about half of my posts from the neighborhood Starbucks) and so forth. And the endorsements of SEIU and AFSCME are supposed to change that --- giving his candidacy a broader demographic sweep.

    But I remain unconvinced. I’m not sure Dean can break out of the very energized and mobilized constituency he already has. And that’s what strong showings out of Iowa and New Hampshire are supposed to accomplish.

    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:

    Liberals have now become as intemperate as conservatives, and the result — everybody shouting at everybody else — corrodes the body politic and is counterproductive for Democrats themselves. My guess is that if the Democrats stay angry, then they'll offend Southern white guys, with or without pickups and flags, and lose again....

    The left should have learned from Newt Gingrich that rage impedes understanding — and turns off voters. That's why President Bush was careful in 2000, unlike many in his party, to project amiability and optimism.

    Core Democratic voters are becoming so angry that some are hoping for bad economic figures and bad Iraq news just to hurt President Bush. At this rate, Democrats risk turning themselves into an American version of the old British Labor Party under Michael Foot, which reliably blasted the Tory government and reliably lost elections.

    [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.]

    posted by Dan at 03:16 PM | Comments (39) | Trackbacks (2)

    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:

    What Chafetz's success shows is the ability of Blogosphere to be used as an instrument to rebut fallacious and inaccurate arguments in all sorts of public forums. With search engines built into many blogs, it is easy for people to look up information on a topic of interest, and then reference that information when desired. The Blogosphere can be -- and increasingly is -- a tool of rapid response that can churn out counterarguments to assertions made by journalists, politicians, and other public figures. Although blogging began as being a tool through which people could publicly express themselves on issues of importance to them, it has evolved into being a virtual war room -- and thus has established itself as a formidable presence in any public debate....

    It's no surprise to see that Josh Chafetz was praised for his speech and that he was considered an outstandingly well-prepared advocate for his side. But even those with natural talent benefit from help, and Chafetz had the considerable advantage of being able to use the information accumulated in the Blogosphere to back up and advance his arguments. In doing so, he demonstrated anew the fact that blogs can be a potent and effective tool in rebutting clichés and pabulum -- in stark contrast to the days before blogs hit the big time, when conventional wisdom often went unchallenged and was routinely recycled by a media unchallenged by the decentralization and alternative viewpoints that have been brought to the public discourse thanks to blogging.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 10:24 AM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (4)

    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:

    The US is considering a radical change to its laws on unfair trade that would severely penalise importers even if Washington bows to the World Trade Organisation's demands that it remove tariffs on foreign steel.

    The complex methodological change would sharply raise the duties on steel imports that are also subject to separate anti-dumping tariffs.

    The Commerce department, under pressure from the steel industry as well as lumber producers - who would also benefit significantly - gave notice in September that it is considering the change.

    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:

    [T]he U.S. textile lobby has launched a rearguard campaign to preserve and expand import barriers. Recently, a coalition of textile producers filed petitions seeking new restrictions on certain Chinese exports. Talk of filing new trade remedy cases has become more pronounced. And the specter of job losses in the U.S. textile industry is once again being used to vilify trade.

    The reality, however, is that American textile workers have had decades to adjust their expectations and seek new skills. Textile communities, and their leaders, have had ample opportunity to prepare for transition to employment in new industries.

    Meanwhile, the enormous costs of textile protectionism have been borne disproportionately by America's lower-income families, who spend a higher proportion of their earnings on clothing. Textile protectionism has also deprived poor countries of export opportunities-precisely the kind of opportunities the Bush administration identifies as vital for promoting economic stability and security. Considering its burgeoning propensity to use trade policy to advance foreign policy and national security objectives, the administration should clearly articulate its support for freer trade in textiles and apparel by denying the industry's rearguard efforts.

    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:

    Not even the White House can defend this attack on free trade in anything but the crudest political terms. The EU and the WTO are absolutely right to demand a reversal. If Bush sticks to his protectionist guns, he really should be pummeled by real economic conservatives.


    ANOTHER UPDATE: For a nice background primer on the steel case, you could do far worse than the Institute for International Economics site. Here's a link to the latest backgrounder.

    posted by Dan at 12:47 AM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (5)

    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:

    While we did not argue that there is a quid pro quo relationship between contributions and contracts, the public has a right to know who is trying to influence the government....

    No one has a clear picture of what's going on with the awarding of contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some in the government have admitted as much. "Now the whole contracting procedure is confusing," John Shaw, deputy undersecretary of defense for international security, told a London conference in mid-October, when he announced a new office under the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq that is supposed to bring order to the process. "This new procedure we hope is going to bring greater accountability and transparency."

    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:

    More than 70 American companies and individuals have won up to $8 billion in contracts for work in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two years, according to a new study by the Center for Public Integrity. Those companies donated more money to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush—a little over $500,000—than to any other politician over the last dozen years, the Center found.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 04:09 PM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)

    Monday, November 10, 2003

    Gone speakin'

    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?

    posted by Dan at 12:06 PM | Comments (44) | Trackbacks (0)

    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!!:

    The United States and Brazil have compromised on a set of ideas for creating the world's largest free trade zone in the Western Hemisphere, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said on Saturday.

    "I think we now have a good basis for a successful meeting in Miami," Amorim told reporters, referring to a gathering in two weeks of 34 regional trade ministers that is supposed to propel negotiations on the proposed Free Trade Areas of the Americas agreement to conclusion by 2005.

    Amorim said he and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick presented top trade officials from 14 other Western Hemisphere countries on Saturday with a joint set of ideas for moving negotiations forward after the Florida meeting....

    A senior U.S. trade official, speaking on the condition that he not be identified, said negotiators still faced a major challenge to make the Nov. 17-21 meeting a success.

    "But I feel certainly better about it today than I did two days ago because I think we got some useful insight in the meeting," the official said.

    But wait! A follow-up Associated Press report provides a different spin on the talks -- failure:

    The Bush administration reported no breakthroughs Saturday in informal discussions aimed at trying to resolve deep differences between the United States and Brazil over the scope of a hemisphere-wide free trade agreement.

    U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and trade ministers from 15 other nations wrapped up two days of talks in the Washington area on the creation of the Free Trade Area of the Americas. The FTAA, which would span the Western Hemisphere and cover 34 countries, is a key economic goal of the Bush administration....

    At the conclusion of Saturday's talks, a senior U.S. trade official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, did not report any areas where the differences between the United States and Brazil had been narrowed.

    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.]

    posted by Dan at 10:28 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    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:

    Because you come from the same gene pool and are raised in the same way, it's much tougher to find a convincing, palatable excuse for why your brother owns his own company, a vacation house and four fancy sports cars - and you don't. Is it because he's blond? Taller? Or is he smarter and better?

    "Siblings are about as similar to you as you can get,'' said Margaret Clark, a psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. "So when you compare, and you come out behind, it can be painful."...

    Usually it's a less wealthy sibling who chooses to distance himself or herself from a rich sister or brother - or to drop the relationship altogether.

    "If you seal off that relationship you don't have to think about the comparison and what it means to your self-esteem," Dr. Tesser said. One way to do that is to slur a rich sibling in a way that lends you superiority: "The money really changed him," for example, or "She sacrificed her family life to be successful."

    In my family, this last point is amusing, given that Jay Drezner -- my brother -- makes far more money than I do, but was also the one who decided to go live in Australia for a few years.

    Jay read the story and has a lot of things to say about it. Here's the punchline:

    [A]sk yourself the following question. Do you think my brother is jealous of me for the money that I make or am I jealous of my brother for the lifestyle he leads? I suspect (being only one of the parties involved) that the answer to both would be a hesitant "No." In the career path that he has chosen my brother has been a success. If posed with the option to reverse history and choose my life instead, I believe he would reject it. Similarly, I would not choose the path than Dan has taken. I believe that the reason for this is, while I'm sure I would like more free time and Dan wouldn't refuse a higher salary, we both made our career and life choices aware of what those choices meant. Eventually, my priorities may change, but given what most people think of my profession, I feel it is appropriate to quote John Milton (Al Pacino's character from The Devil's Advocate), "Free will, it is a bitch."

    All I can say is, indeed. [Does this mean you get Connie Neilsen?--ed. Oh, shut up.]

    posted by Dan at 03:21 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

    Must be a full moon, because I agree with Robert Reich

    Mickey Kaus links to this Robert Reich commentary that took my breath away because it was both blunt and correct. The key parts:

    America has been losing manufacturing jobs to China, Latin America and the rest of the developing world. Right? Well, not quite. It turns out that manufacturing jobs have been disappearing all over the world. Economists at Alliance Capital Management in New York took a close look at employment trends in 20 large economies recently, and found that since 1995 more than 22 million factory jobs have disppeared.

    In fact, the United States has not even been the biggest loser. Between 1995 and 2002, we lost about 11 percent of our manufacturing jobs. But over the same period, the Japanese lost 16 percent of theirs. And get this: Many developing nations are losing factory jobs. During those same years, Brazil suffered a 20 percent decline.

    Here’s the real surprise. China saw a 15 percent drop. China, which is fast becoming the manufacturing capital of the world, has been losing millions of factory jobs.

    What’s going on? In two words: Higher productivity.

    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:

    Joseph Carson, director of global economic research at Alliance, says the reasons for the declines are similar across the globe: Gains in technology and competitive pressure have forced factories to become more efficient, allowing them to boost output with far fewer workers. Indeed, even as manufacturing employment declined, says Mr. Carson, global industrial output rose more than 30%....

    The job losses in the U.S. have become a hot-button political issue in Washington. Some U.S. manufacturers and labor unions complain that American manufacturing jobs are fleeing to low-cost Asian countries, like China, which is keeping its currency cheap to make exports inexpensive. While there's no doubt some U.S. jobs are moving to China, India and some other low-cost countries abroad, Mr. Carson says that isn't the entire story.

    "The argument that politicians are throwing out there is that we are losing jobs and nobody else is, and that is wrong," says Mr. Carson. "What I found is that the loss of manufacturing jobs that we have seen in the U.S. is not unique. It is part of a global trend that began many years ago."

    Here's a bit more from the actual report:

    One of our more interesting findings is that, taken on its own, China's job losses are double the average of the remaining 17 countries for the same seven-year period. Manufacturing employment in the 17 largest economies other than China fell a little more than 7%, from 96 million in 1995 to 89 million in 2002. In contrast, China's fell a whopping 15% in the period, from 98 million in 1995 to 83 million in 2002.

    Notwithstanding the continuous influx of foreign investment and new employment, China has been unable to escape the drive toward productivity enhancement and the resultant downsizing of the manufacturing workforce. In 2002 alone, although nearly 2 million factory jobs were created, China's manufacturing employment level for the year was below 1998 and far below 1995.

    Global competition has forced domestic firms to relocate offshore in order to remain competitive. But in a recent survey of domestic corrugated box makers, 40% indicated that the relocation of domestic manufacturing plants to overseas locations has caused a reduction in revenues in this cycle. (emphasis in original)


    posted by Dan at 12:40 AM | Comments (33) | Trackbacks (9)

    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.

    However, Josh Marshall raises the point that the Bush administration is taking unprecedented steps to withhold information from Democrats on other issues. From the Washington Post:

    The Bush White House, irritated by pesky questions from congressional Democrats about how the administration is using taxpayer money, has developed an efficient solution: It will not entertain any more questions from opposition lawmakers.

    The decision -- one that Democrats and scholars said is highly unusual -- was announced in an e-mail sent Wednesday to the staff of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. House committee Democrats had just asked for information about how much the White House spent making and installing the "Mission Accomplished" banner for President Bush's May 1 speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.

    The director of the White House Office of Administration, Timothy A. Campen, sent an e-mail titled "congressional questions" to majority and minority staff on the House and Senate Appropriations panels. Expressing "the need to add a bit of structure to the Q&A process," he wrote: "Given the increase in the number and types of requests we are beginning to receive from the House and Senate, and in deference to the various committee chairmen and our desire to better coordinate these requests, I am asking that all requests for information and materials be coordinated through the committee chairmen and be put in writing from the committee."

    He said this would limit "duplicate requests" and help answer questions "in a timely fashion."

    It would also do another thing: prevent Democrats from getting questions answered without the blessing of the GOP committee chairmen.

    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.]

    posted by Dan at 10:03 PM | Comments (40) | Trackbacks (1)

    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:

    On his Las Cruces, New Mexico, campus, [New Mexico State University psychology professor Victor] Johnston designed a computer-graphics video that illustrates the spectrum of human beauty, starting with the “hypermasculinized” face (think Schwarzenegger) and morphing gradually to the other extreme, the “hyperfeminized” face (think Kidman). Johnston has shown the video to thousands of test subjects, both men and women, and asked them to choose at which point along the spectrum they find their ideal face. Men, it turns out, unanimously pick as most attractive the face with the most feminine features, which corresponds to a woman with the most accentuated “hormonal markers.” These are facial characteristics developed during puberty from the release of estrogen, which causes the lips to swell, the jaw to narrow and the eyes to widen. These features indicate fertility, and because they’re biologically programmed, they’re common to all cultures.

    Women perceive beauty in a more nuanced way. They aren’t always attracted to the hypermasculinized, bushy-eyebrowed, wide-jawed caveman type, flush with testosterone. Their choice of a mate is informed by evolutionary complexities involving not only potential fertility and health but perceived ability to protect the female’s offspring through wealth and power.

    More evidence that men are hamstrung by their biology comes from psychologist Devendra Singh of the University of Texas at Austin. In a study of the female form throughout history, Singh confirmed last year that the most important feature of the female body, from the ancient Egyptians to the streetwalkers on Sunset Boulevard, has been the hip-to-waist ratio.

    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?

    posted by Dan at 02:38 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (1)

    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.

    posted by Dan at 10:50 AM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (0)

    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:

    Trippi is racking up a hard count most campaign operatives could only dream of--and without having to make a single phone call, knock on a single door, or send a single piece of direct mail. Every time the suits have heard about the Internet changing politics over the last ten years, their eyes have glazed over. And for good reason. Up until Howard Dean and Joe Trippi came along, the only thing I.T. had done was marginally lower the cost of doing the same things they'd always done. And it wasn't even clear it did that. But Trippi is doing something radically different.... the Dean supporters are doing the hard work of organizing for him, which means the cost per body is falling like mad. Come to think of it, the campaign is even making money in the process....

    Trippi gets a perfect test of this proposition in late June, right in the middle of the $7.6 million push. Dean goes on NBC's "Meet the Press" and, according to just about every pundit in Washington, falls flat on his face. But the average Dean supporter doesn't quite see it that way. He sees the same candor and forthrightness that won him over in the first place. And, truth be told, he thinks Tim Russert is a bit of an asshole-- constantly trying to trap Dean in contradictions and hypocrisies. Furthermore, he's annoyed at how dismissive the media is when it comes to a campaign that, after all, he partly owns. Pretty soon, he's writing e-mails and ponying up more cash, trying to send a message to the people who would tread on his investment.

    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:

    The bad news if you happen to be a Democratic partisan intent on beating George W. Bush is that there's no obvious way to organize yourself to a general-election victory. Unlike the primary, where the goal is to win over one or two million hard- core partisans, winning a general election requires something on the order of 50 million votes--many from the vast political center. Take the most successful Internet operation in history, raise it an order of magnitude, and still you don't come anywhere near the number of votes you need.

    And that's under ordinary circumstances. The problem grows considerably worse when you consider that your opponent is a president who plans to raise some $200 million and who has spent four years courting his own conservative base. The combination of the two means Bush is likely to have both the money and the political latitude to woo the millions of swing voters he needs to cement his reelection.


    UPDATE: Jacob Levy has further thoughts.

    posted by Dan at 05:29 PM | Comments (31) | Trackbacks (1)

    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:

    Securing democracy in Iraq is the work of many hands. American and coalition forces are sacrificing for the peace of Iraq and for the security of free nations. Aid workers from many countries are facing danger to help the Iraqi people.

    The National Endowment for Democracy is promoting women's rights and training Iraqi journalists and teaching the skills of political participation.

    Iraqis themselves, police and border guards and local officials, are joining in the work and they are sharing in the sacrifice.

    This is a massive and difficult undertaking. It is worth our effort. It is worth our sacrifice, because we know the stakes: The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world and increase dangers to the American people and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region.

    Iraqi democracy will succeed, and that success will send forth the news from Damascus to Tehran that freedom can be the future of every nation.

    The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.

    Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe, because in the long run stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.

    As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment and violence ready for export.

    And with the spread of weapons that can bring catastrophic harm to our country and to our friends, it would be reckless to accept the status quo.

    Therefore the United States has adopted a new policy: a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before and it will yield the same results.


    UPDATE: Drezner also gets results from Kenneth Pollack, who properly frames the current stakes in Iraq in this comment on CNN:

    KAGAN: You can't have this conversation without talking about Iraq and what's taking place in Iraq over the last year. The focus on it, it has not gone exactly like this administration had hoped it would. And many people believe this is the make-or-break country and operation in terms of whether this spread of democracy will go throughout the Middle East.

    POLLACK: I think there's no question about that, Daryn. And the president hinted at it in his speech. I would have liked to have seen him put this more front and center. Whether you wanted to go into Iraq or not, whether you thought it was right or not, the simple fact of the matter is, that the entire region, the entire Middle East is now watching to see what unfolds in Iraq.

    For the longest time, they basically had two options. They had the autocracy offered by their government and they had the Islamic republics offered by the Islamic fundamentalists. And here comes the United States and says, "We've got another idea. We've got another way of doing things, and that's democratization."

    The U.S. is trying to do that now in Iraq. We're doing it with 130,000 troops and 100 billion of our own dollars. The rest of the region is watching to see if it succeeds. And if it succeeds, there is the chance that others will start to accept and start to move in that direction. If it fails, every Arab is going to look at it and say, the Americans tried, they tried with $100 billion, and 13,000 troops, and if it can't work in Iraq, there's on way it can work here. (emphasis added)

    posted by Dan at 04:30 PM | Comments (48) | Trackbacks (1)

    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:

    In short, political trends that used to last for weeks now last for hours. It's like watching the 1984 campaign on fast forward, except that the calendar still drags on into early June, meaning there's room for plot twists we could only dream of in 1984. To be commensurate with the speeded-up news cycle, the calendar would probably have to be compressed even more.

    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:

    1) Speculation started about what Schwarzenegger would do is the recall succeeded.

    2) The petition drive for the recall succeeded.

    3) Speculation mounted that Schawrzenegger would not run in favor of Richard Riordian.

    4) Scharzenegger defied the conventional wisdom and announced his candidacy.

    5) The number of candidates increases to three figures.

    6) Schawrzenegger seems to stumble.

    7) A Ninth Circuit panel tries to delay the recall.

    8) The en banc Ninth Circuit unanimously overrules the panel decision.

    9) The whole Arianna Huffington experiment ended.

    10) Debates were held.

    11) Davis is perceived to have some momentum while Bustamante flames out.

    12) The Los Angeles Times springs it's October non-surprise.

    13) Davis is recalled and Schwarzenegger is elected.

    So, anyway, the DVD will be released next week.

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

    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 nation's manufacturing sector registered its highest level of activity in nearly four years in October, according to an industry report, suggesting that the solid economic growth of the third quarter is continuing in the fourth.

    In another positive sign, construction spending in September posted its best month on record, with spending by private builders also hitting a new high, the government said.

    "The U.S. economy has solid momentum" carrying on into the October-to-December quarter, said Sherry Cooper, chief economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns.

    The Institute for Supply Management reported yesterday that its manufacturing index rose to 57 last month from 53.7 in September.

    It was the fourth consecutive monthly gain and pushed the index to its highest level since January 2000, when it last registered 57. The October reading was well above the 55.5 that analysts had expected.

    An index reading above 50 indicates expansion; one below 50 indicates that manufacturing activity is contracting. From March through June, the index was below 50.

    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:

    The ISM's index of non-manufacturing businesses, intended to act as a precursor of official data, rose from 63.3 in September to 64.7 - well above the 50 level intended to separate expansion from contraction. This was the fifth month in a row that the index had been above 60.

    Economists were particularly encouraged by the survey of companies' staffing levels, which raised hopes of a robust increase in official non-farm payroll data, released on Friday.

    The employment component of the report rose to 52.9, from 49.1 the previous month. This was the strongest employment reading since November 2000 and suggests that companies may finally be willing to hire additional staff in response to stronger growth.

    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:

    Ethan Harris, chief US economist at Lehman Brothers, said the ISM employment index had a poor correlation with the official figures.

    Mark Zandi, chief economist at, said that employment growth would continue to be slowed by the relocation of jobs abroad by US companies and by tax incentives to invest rather than hire. "It may be over a year before we start to see really strong jobs growth," he said


    UPDATE: Josh Chafetz links to more good economic news.

    posted by Dan at 04:42 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

    Returning the favor

    Kevin Drum saves a post by linking to me, so let me return the favor -- he's dead-on in this post:

    Although bloggers and the political media have been talking for a while about the allegedly real reasons we're in Iraq — drain the swamp, war of civilizations, reduce pressure on Israel's flank, the domino theory of bringing democracy to the Middle East, etc. etc. — it's true that George Bush has not once put his name to any of this stuff, has he?....

    Why doesn't Bush tell us why it's important to stay in Iraq? I mean really tell us. Not just in negative terms ("we won't be scared away") but in positive terms of what his goal is. What does he really, truly want to accomplish?

    And why are his conservative supporters letting him get away with staying silent? Surely they must know that America's willingness to expend hundreds of lives and billions of dollars depends on believing that our goal is worth it. The longer that Bush avoids talking about it, the more likely it is that public support will decline and the cherished goals of the national greatness conservatives will go up in smoke.


    posted by Dan at 03:50 PM | Comments (53) | Trackbacks (2)

    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:

    Conservatives, and some not so conservatives, are testing out a new thesis in their effort to shut out ideas that make them uncomfortable: Any attempt to analyze the origins of a distasteful phenomenon is tantamount to endorsing it. Whether the problem is global terrorism or anti-Semitism, the message is the same. "It's bad. It must be condemned. That's all we need to know."

    Now, Alterman conveniently omits the following facts:

  • Many on the right (ahem, cough) critiqued Krugman's piece on substantive grounds;

  • Many on the right -- including contributors to NRO's The Corner -- attacked Luskin for going too far.
  • 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.

    posted by Dan at 03:34 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

    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:

    The German Defense Ministry fired a respected army general Tuesday for praising a conservative politician under criminal investigation for remarks that were widely regarded as anti-Semitic.

    Defense Minister Peter Struck dismissed Brig. Gen. Reinhard Guenzel over a letter the general allegedly sent last month to Christian Democrat lawmaker Martin Hohmann, who in a recent speech compared Jews in the 1917 Russian revolution to Nazis. The remarks ignited a political uproar as this nation once again confronted its Nazi past and debated questions over how sensitive today's Germans should be in criticizing Jews.

    In his letter, Guenzel thanked Hohmann for "an extraordinary speech with the courage to say the truth which has become rare in our country." He added: "You can be sure that you exactly express the feelings of a majority of our people. I hope you don't let yourself be shaken by the accusations mainly from the left-wing camp."

    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.

    posted by Dan at 10:26 AM | Comments (50) | Trackbacks (2)

    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:

    The Army says KBR got the Iraqi oil-field contract without having to compete for it because, according to the Army's classified contingency plan for repairing Iraq's infrastructure, KBR was the only company with the skills, resources and security clearances to do the job on short notice. Who wrote the Army's contingency plan? KBR. It was in a position to do so because it holds another contract that is poorly understood yet in many ways more important, and potentially bigger, than the one to repair the oil fields: the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, or Logcap, which essentially turns KBR into a kind of for-profit Ministry of Public Works for the Army. Under Logcap, which KBR won in open bidding in 2001, KBR is on call to the Army for 10 years to do a lot of the things most people think soldiers do for themselves -- from fixing trucks to warehousing ammunition, from delivering mail to cleaning up hazardous waste. K.P. is history; KBR civilians now peel potatoes, and serve them, at many installations. KBR does the laundry. It fixes the pipes and cleans the sewers, generates the power and repairs the wiring. It built some of the bases used in the Iraq war. (emphasis added)

    2) The people who work at Kellogg, Brown & Root are pretty good at their job. One example from Baum:

    Proponents of contracting make the point that as the the overall size of the military shrinks, the ''tooth'' needs to increase relative to the ''tail,'' or, as one analyst put it, ''You want the 82nd Airborne training to kill people and blow things up, not cleaning latrines or trimming hedges.'' They also argue it's cheaper to hire contractors to do short-term work rather than have the military maintain full-time capabilities it needs only briefly.

    A good example is Camp Arifjan, a U.S. Army base about 90 minutes southwest of Kuwait City. Six months ago, this was nothing but a small collection of buildings that was supposed to be a training base. On Oct. 11 -- the day Congress gave President Bush authority to wage war on Iraq -- someone in the Pentagon picked up a phone and told KBR it had nine weeks to turn Arifjan into a full-blown Army base for 7,000 people. The job went to Robert (Butch) Gatlin, a wizened 59-year-old Tennessean who served 32 years in the Army Corps of Engineers before coming to perform the same work, at much greater pay, for KBR.

    ''When we got here, there was no power or water,'' Gatlin said as we stepped from the air-conditioned trailer that is KBR's Arifjan headquarters into the blinding desert sun. Within about 72 hours of the Pentagon's call, Gatlin had a handful of KBR specialists -- electricians, carpenters, plumbers -- on planes headed here. Most of the rest were hired locally. ''I had a thousand people working here in 24 hours,'' he said. ''The Army can't do that.''

    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:

    In 1992 the Defense Department, under Dick Cheney, hired Brown & Root to write a classified report detailing how private companies could help the military logistically in the world's hot spots. Not long after, the Pentagon awarded the first five-year Logcap -- to Brown & Root. Then Bill Clinton won the election, and Cheney, in 1995, became C.E.O. of Halliburton, Brown & Root's parent company. A lot of Halliburton's business depends on foreign customers getting loans from U.S. banks, which are in turn guaranteed by the government's trade-promoting Export-Import Bank. In the five years before Cheney took the helm, the Ex-Im Bank guaranteed $100 million in loans so foreign customers could buy Halliburton's services; during Cheney's five years as C.E.O., that figure jumped to $1.5 billion.

    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:

    At one time, federal agencies constructed buildings, built machines and cleaned offices themselves, or found another agency to do it. Today, the U.S. government spends some $200 billion a year buying everything from information technology services to pencils to advanced weapons systems from the private sector.

    The Defense Department alone accounts for 75 percent of that spending. Following a series of scandals in the 1980s, where the Pentagon was revealed to have paid outrageous sums for commercially available products, Congress decided to overhaul government procurement. The result was the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994, which simplified the maze of procurement regulations to make it easier for federal agencies to buy products from the private sector.

    The new law dovetailed with former Vice President Al Gore's "Reinventing Government" initiative, which aimed to trim the federal workforce, and matched the realities of the Pentagon's shrinking budget. As a result, where the federal workforce has shrunk, the contractor workforce has grown.

    Matthew Yglesias makes a similar point:

    By and large, the Bush administration is following the law and using all the procedures the law lays out. The trouble is that the laws are bad. We've privatized significant portions of government operations in areas where there is no need for doing so. In principle, privatization might lead to competition and cost savings for the taxpayer. In practice, in many of these areas there is no competition -- Halliburton and Bechtel are essentially monopoly suppliers in the fields where they've won contracts. When you outsource services to private monopolies, all you're setting yourself up for is the busting of some public sector unions and some price-gouging at the hands of monopolist corporations. (emphasis added)

    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:

    In the case of one of the companies that was cited by Mr. Lewis, which is Kellogg Brown and Root, they, they, the Army and the Corps of Engineers exercised an existing contract with the Army that I might point out was consummated during the Clinton administration. It was not consummated in this administration. And they took that existing contract and then they realized that Kellogg, Brown and Root had the necessary skills, they were in the MidEast, and they could immediately go into Iraq and help restore the oil service industry, which is why they were selected. But they were not given a special contract. They already had that contract.

    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:

    Yep, a profit margin of less than 4%. Good times are here again.

    Look, I've no doubt that there is a degree of "politics" involved in the decision-making process. That's true for every industry. I've also no doubt that there is a lot of waste. It is, after all, government.

    But the allegations that this is a "pay off" for friends and supporters is simply unsupported.

    ANOTHER UPDATE: David Adesnik links to this Washington Post op-ed by Steven Kelman, who served from 1993 to 1997 as administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. The key bits:

    One would be hard-pressed to discover anyone with a working knowledge of how federal contracts are awarded -- whether a career civil servant working on procurement or an independent academic expert -- who doesn't regard these allegations as being somewhere between highly improbable and utterly absurd.

    The premise of the accusations is completely contrary to the way government contracting works, both in theory and in practice. Most contract award decisions are made by career civil servants, with no involvement by political appointees or elected officials. In some agencies, the "source selection official" (final decision-maker) on large contracts may be a political appointee, but such decisions are preceded by such a torrent of evaluation and other backup material prepared by career civil servants that it would be difficult to change a decision from the one indicated by the career employees' evaluation.

    Having served as a senior procurement policymaker in the Clinton administration, I found these charges (for which no direct evidence has been provided) implausible....

    The whiff of scandal manufactured around contracting for Iraq obviously has been part of the political battle against the administration's policies there (by the way, I count myself as rather unsympathetic to these policies). But this political campaign has created extensive collateral damage. It undermines public trust in public institutions, for reasons that have no basis in fact. It insults the career civil servants who run our procurement system.

    Perhaps most tragically, it could cause mismanagement of the procurement system. Over the past decade we have tried to make procurement more oriented toward delivering mission results for agencies and taxpayers, rather than focusing on compliance with detailed bureaucratic process requirements. The charges of Iraq cronyism encourage the system to revert to wasting time, energy and people on redundant, unnecessary rules to document the nonexistence of a nonproblem.

    If Iraqi contracting fails, it will be because of poorly structured contracts or lack of good contract management -- not because of cronyism in the awarding process.


    *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.

    posted by Dan at 04:36 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (8)

    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:

    Obviously much of the world opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but to speak of America as isolated or Bush as unilateralist seems an exaggeration, to be charitable. The administration tried hard to get the Security Council to put teeth in its own resolutions against Saddam Hussein. It went to the council not once but twice, when unilateralists said the right number of times was zero. It received support from dozens of countries, including some European biggies (Britain, Spain, Italy, Poland). It sought and obtained the Security Council's blessing for the occupation. It received $13 billion in reconstruction pledges from many countries. It is getting help from 24,000 foreign troops in Iraq, most of them British and Polish, but with support from more than 30 countries. (More than 50 foreign soldiers have died in Iraq.)

    And on other fronts? The administration is insisting on a multilateral approach to North Korea—not grudgingly, as NPR's Shuster would have it, but in the teeth of allies' reluctance to get involved. It is trying to mobilize the United Nations on Iran. It has set up a multilateral Proliferation Security Initiative to interdict weapons, with France and Germany among the eight European participants. It recently won a multilateral agreement with 20 Asian and Pacific countries to curb the trade in shoulder-fired missiles.

    Bush is not going it alone. He is setting his agenda and then looking for support, rather than the other way around. That is what presidents and countries typically do.

    I completely agree that in terms of style, Bush's diplomacy has verged on God-awful. However, Rauch is correct on the substance.

    posted by Dan at 11:23 AM | Comments (34) | Trackbacks (0)

    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:

    Q: The CPI report did not just argue that campaign contributions determined the awarding of reconstruction contracts. It also implied that insider connections determined who got the contracts.

    A: "Implied" is the key word. Windfalls of War has little evidence to back up this assertion. For that, the CPI authors would have to provide a case of a firm being awarded a contract not on the grounds of merit but due to its political connections or campaign contributions. Such a case is not provided.

    For example, a subsection of the report, "A Family Connection," looks at the circumstances surrounding the awarding of an Iraq contract to Sullivan Haave Associates, a “a one-man shop run by a government consultant named Terry Sullivan.” Sullivan’s wife is Carol Haave, who has been deputy assistant secretary of defense for security and information operations for the past two years. The clear implication is that Haave wrangled the contract for Sullivan.

    However, the report provides not one scintilla of evidence to prove this charge beyond the husband-wife relationship.* Both Haave and Sullivan deny the allegation to CPI. Furthermore, the report acknowledges that Sullivan Haave Associates received two contracts worth $178,000 from the Department of Defense in the two years before Haave took office. This suggests, at a minimum, that Sullivan must have been competent enough to win Pentagon bids from a Democratic administration, even without his wife in office.

    Q: In the Slate piece, you point out that the bivariate correlation between campaign contributions and contract size is pretty much nonexistent. Surely, however, once you take into account other explanatory factors, campaign contributions might be more significant?

    A: Excellent point -- the distinction between bivariate and multivariate tests.

    As a backup, I ran a mulivariate OLS regression with contract size as the dependent variable and the two independent variables provided in the CPI report -- campaign contributions and past contract awards. This variable should act as a good control, since it explicitly measures past success at wrangling contracts from the government and implicitly acts as a proxy for company size [Why would that matter?--ed. One would expect larger firms to win larger contracts in part because they have the administrative capacity to manage them].

    The results? Unchanged. [NOTE: the rest of this graf is for stats geeks only.] Campaign contributions take a positive but statistically insignificant coefficient. More importantly, an F-test cannot reject the null hypothesis that the regression is insignificant. The r-squared of .0643 highlights the insignificance of campaign contributions as an explanatory variable.

    Q: Is there anything in the CPI report that's worth taking seriously?

    A: Ironically, the part of the report that suggests disorganization in the procurement process is far more convincing. The reconstruction bids for Afghanistan and Iraq have been scattered among three agencies: from DoD, State, and USAID. The report notes, "Based on the findings, it did not appear that any one government agency knew the total number of contractors or what they were doing." This anecdote provides an excellent example:

    According to information provided by USAID under a Freedom of Information request, Chemonics was contracted to work in Afghanistan for just over $600 million. That total would rank Chemonics third among all U.S. contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, behind only Halliburton and Bechtel. However, the company disputed that total when contacted, at first insisting it had three contracts with USAID worth just $133.9 million, then changing its figures a day later to say that one multiyear contract it had originally put at nearly $1.2 million actually had a potential worth of $35 million for work in Afghanistan and several other countries.

    Getting clarification of the numbers from USAID was difficult. "I don’t know where the FOIA office got that information," said one USAID press officer. Chemonics refused to release copies of its contracts, and a Center FOIA request for the contracts is pending. After several queries, the FOIA office told the Center that the contract it had listed as being worth $600 million was actually worth between $599,000 and $1.2 million, which was still inconsistent with the numbers Chemonics provided.

    "We don't dispute it," Chemonics spokesperson Denise Felix told the Center when asked about the USAID number. "It is not accurate for us."

    [Why is this ironic?--ed. Because the primary thrust of Windfalls of War is that the process is riddled with malfeasance rather than disorganization. The notion that there was a conscious effort to reward Bush cronies with lucrative government contracts would require a lot more centralized coordination than the CPI report uncovers.]

    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?

    posted by Dan at 02:42 PM | Comments (34) | Trackbacks (5)

    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:

    [T]he issue that Gephardt is most passionate about, which gets the heads bobbing most vociferously, is trade. At the climax of his speech, Gephardt describes his visits to factory towns in Mexico and China, where he saw factory workers living in shipping boxes with raw sewage running through the streets.

    He describes his meeting with Bill Clinton at which he told the president he would not support Nafta unless there were international standards built in. He ridicules his Democratic opponents for their primary-season conversions on the issue. Sure, they are against free-trade pacts now, he points out, "but I was there when the jobs were on the line!"

    Heads are bobbing all around.

    The fact is, he's won. For three decades the Democrats have been split on trade, but you'd never know it from this campaign. Just as the Democratic field is chasing Howard Dean on Iraq, it is chasing Dick Gephardt on trade — and repudiating Clinton. It is impossible to imagine the next Democratic presidential candidate pushing free-trade deals the way the last one did....

    [H]e's made his trade position politically palatable. He used to project himself as an economic nationalist — as the protector of American jobs against those low-wage foreigners. Now he presents himself as a global liberal, insisting on international environmental and worker standards before trade deals are signed. The policy results are the same — more trade barriers — but now it sounds more humane.

    Pop quiz for Gephardt -- you said back in February:

    At many points in the last half century, our nation has faced a choice between taking a global leadership role or reverting to the illusory security of isolation, as we did after World War I. To our great benefit, our leaders have repeatedly committed themselves to the first path through their keen understanding of America’s long-term interests, their constant recognition that the United States must be engaged in world events, and their sustained efforts to draw other nations to our cause and the values that guide it.

    I am determined to further this tradition of committed leadership and have pursued such a course in international affairs throughout my career.

    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.]

    posted by Dan at 11:17 AM | Comments (62) | Trackbacks (4)

    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.

    [UPDATE: Josh Chafetz has fun with ellipses. I think he's been reading too much of The Boondocks as of late.]

    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.

    Securing Iraq militarily after victory on the battlefield was, in the Pentagon's parlance, Phase IV of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Phases I through III were the various stages of the invasion itself; Phase IV involved so-called stability and support operations -- in other words, the postwar. The military itself, six months into the occupation, is willing to acknowledge -- at least to itself -- that it did not plan sufficiently for Phase IV. In its secret report ''Operation Iraqi Freedom: Strategic Lessons Learned,'' a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Times in August, the Department of Defense concedes that ''late formation of Department of Defense [Phase IV] organizations limited time available for the development of detailed plans and pre-deployment coordination...."

    Without a plan, without meticulous rehearsal and without orders or, at the very least, guidance from higher up the chain of command, the military is all but paralyzed. And in those crucial first postwar days in Baghdad, American forces (and not only those in the Third Infantry Division) behaved that way, as all around them Baghdad was ransacked and most of the categories of infrastructure named in the report were destroyed or seriously damaged....

    It is hardly a secret that within the Army, peacekeeping duty is not the road to career advancement. Civil-affairs officers are not the Army's ''high-fliers."

    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:

    Although [Iraqi-American lawyer Feisal] Istrabadi is an admirer of [Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz, he says that the rivalry between State and Defense was so intense that the Future of Iraq Project became anathema to the Pentagon simply because it was a State Department project. ''At the Defense Department,'' he recalls, ''we were seen as part of 'them.''' Istrabadi was so disturbed by the fight between Defense and State that on June 1, 2002, he says, he took the matter up personally with [Undersecretary of Defense for Policy] Douglas Feith. ''I sat with Feith,'' he recalls, ''and said, 'You've got to decide what your policy is.'''

    The Future of Iraq Project did draw up detailed reports, which were eventually released to Congress last month and made available to reporters for The New York Times. The 13 volumes, according to The Times, warned that ''the period immediately after regime change might offer . . . criminals the opportunity to engage in acts of killing, plunder and looting.''

    But the Defense Department, which came to oversee postwar planning, would pay little heed to the work of the Future of Iraq Project. Gen. Jay Garner, the retired Army officer who was later given the job of leading the reconstruction of Iraq, says he was instructed by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld to ignore the Future of Iraq Project.

    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:

    Call it liberation or occupation, a dominating American presence in Iraq was probably destined to be more difficult, and more costly in money and in blood, than administration officials claimed in the months leading up to the war. But it need not have been this difficult. Had the military been as meticulous in planning its strategy and tactics for the postwar as it was in planning its actions on the battlefield, the looting of Baghdad, with all its disastrous material and institutional and psychological consequences, might have been stopped before it got out of control. Had the collective knowledge embedded in the Future of Iraq Project been seized upon, rather than repudiated by, the Pentagon after it gained effective control of the war and postwar planning a few months before the war began, a genuine collaboration between the American authorities and Iraqis, both within the country and from the exiles, might have evolved.

    *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"
    American Political Science Review 86:2 (June 1992): 301-322.

    If you really want to see something else published recently about bureaucratic politics, click here.

    posted by Dan at 08:30 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (1)

    Saturday, November 1, 2003

    An interesting survey and a depressing fact

    Via Chris Betram, I found this political compass survey page. Taking the survey, I was shocked, shocked to discover that I'm a economic and social libertarian!!*

    At the end of the survey, this page says:

    A diverse professional team has assessed the words and actions of globally known figures to give you an idea of how they relate to each other on the political compass.

    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.

    posted by Dan at 03:16 PM | Comments (32) | Trackbacks (3)

    A very important post about.... porn

    For your weekend reading, I refer you to James Joyner, who takes Naomi Wolf to task for making the following assertion about pornography:

    The onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as “porn-worthy.” Far from having to fend off porn-crazed young men, young women are worrying that as mere flesh and blood, they can scarcely get, let alone hold, their attention.

    Garry Trudeau has been making a similar point this week in Doonesbury. To which Joyner responds:

    Watching beautiful movie stars with silicon-enhanced breasts romping around naked is interesting. For a while. And then it becomes, while not exactly boring, at least mundane. Seeing a good looking but famous woman nude in a movie or on a computer screen is, for those of us past adolescence, interesting in the way that the Blog Chicks Pix is: it's a curiousity. And, frankly, "More, more, you big stud!" isn't exactly the height of stimulation.

    Real women, unlike those on a screen, are, to use a techological term, interactive. They have personalities. Plus, they're, well, corporeal. They're warm. They smell good. They taste good. They laugh at your jokes. And that's not to mention emotional attachment, the ability to share our lives, have babies, and all those other reasons why heterosexual men are drawn to women. Until fantasy gains those qualities, real women have no competition.

    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:

    Over beers recently, a 26-year-old businessman friend shocked me by casually remarking, “Dude, all of my friends are so obsessed with Internet porn that they can’t sleep with their girlfriends unless they act like porn stars.” A 20-year-old college student who bartends at a popular Soho lounge describes how an I-porn-filled adolescence shaped his perceptions of sex. “Looking at Internet porn was pretty much my sex education,” he says. “I mean, in school, it was just, ‘Here’s a gigantic wooden dildo, and now we’re putting a condom on it,’ whereas on the Internet, you had it all. I remember the first time I had sex, my first thought as it was happening was, Oh, this is pornography. It was a kind of out-of-body experience. I was really uncomfortable with sex for a while.” (emphasis on original)

    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.

    Speaking of Hef, in Slate, Laura Kipnis has an interesting cultural appraisal of Playboy on its 50th anniversary and why no one's reading it for the articles anymore. Go check it out.

    UPDATE: Sara Butler has some thoughts on the subject at Crescat Sententia here and here. She also wrote a Chicago Maroon story that provides way too much information about campus social practices:

    Whether you participated in one yourself, or merely gossiped about it after the fact, welcome to this sexually-liberated campus. No-strings-attached physical encounters have replaced dating, and women in particular have been encouraged to take charge of their own sexuality, which usually means behaving like our worst stereotypes of the promiscuous male.

    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:

    The editors of Today's Christian Woman, an evangelical magazine, had heard anecdotes of churchgoing women getting hooked on pornography, so they conducted a survey asking readers of their online newsletter if they had intentionally visited porn sites. Thirty-four percent said they had.

    [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.]

    posted by Dan at 12:05 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (2)