Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Being Andrew Sullivan on New Year's Eve
Morning: The Blogger follies continue. I can't access Blogger's main page at home. I go to the office, and try again -- but nothing happens. I try accessing Oxblog and I get the classic "page cannot be displayed" link. Same with every other blogspot page.
Shrugging my shoulders, I knock on Jacob Levy's office and give him the Blogger lament. He tries to log on and succeeds without a hitch.
I eye him and his computer coldly. No one else is in today. Who would really miss Jacob? True, his office is not as messy as the story he linked to. It's not among the six messiest offices in the University of Chicago. But it's messy enough for him to be "lost."
I snap back to reality and try the machines in the student computer cluster. Sure enough, I'm able to log on without a hitch. I quickly cut and paste my two posts for the day.
Afternoon: After a few days of being Andrew Sullivan, I intuitively sense he'd drink a fair amount on New Year's Eve. I go purchase alcohol.
I have a strong hunch that Andrew Sullivan will have a late morning tomorrow as well.
Really, I'm not being lazy
I'm shocked to report this fact.
UPDATE: Something screwy is still going on, but I've found a way around the problem.
Being Andrew Sullivan -- day two
Early this morning: I’m chagrined to see this morning that although Blogger says everything is hunky dory with my posts, I can’t see them on the public website – which is what led to the post below.
Chagrined is too weak a word – I’m freaking out. If I break a glass in my house, I’m slightly annoyed. If I break a glass at someone else’s house, I’m mortified beyond belief [So, um, how often do you go on glass-breaking binges?—ed. Come closer and find out]. Andrew’s been generous enough to loan me a valuable piece of real estate on the web, and it appears as though I’m letting my dog piss all over his lawn.
A few e-mails and calls later, the source of the problem is identified – andrewsullivan.com is being upgraded to a new server, and the transition is proving to be a bit bumpy. The remote DNS servers around the web are taking their own sweet time to process the change in IP addresses. So, it’s not my fault (relief). It's not Blogger's fault either (surprise).
I see Josh Marshall taking Dean to task, and decide it’s worth posting. Dr. Dean is beginning to remind me of a scene from The West Wing when President Bartlett dealing with the fallout from concealing is case of remitting, relapsing multiple sclerosis. He admits to his press secretary that he never revealed his condition because he never thought he was going to win, so why bother? I've got to think there's a part of Dean that's shocked about being the front-runner.
I’ll admit to some reluctance about going after Dean too much, however. I’ve been hitting him pretty hard as of late, even though I defended the candidate over the summer. It’s not that I disagree with anything I’ve posted. It’s just that there are diminishing marginal returns to this kind of criticism, and I don’t want to sound like a broken record. Plus, Dean’s still got the nomination locked up – and if/when he wins, expect to see a passel of stories about how he’s acquired an invulnerability to media criticism.
11:00 AM: I get a bunch of e-mail in response to my political predictions post saying that a Yale economics professor, Ray Fair, had the 2000 race as close to even. I consider amending the post, but then I see that his 2004 model has George W. Bush winning 58.3% of the vote in November. That seems a tad high to me, even if Howard Dean is the nominee. I make a mental note to single Fair out if I'm wrong, though.
2:00 PM: One of the most useful articles in political science is a 1984 American Journal of Political Science essay by Mathew D. McCubbins and Thomas Schwartz entitled: "Congressional Oversight Overlooked: Police Patrols versus Fire Alarms," McCubbins and Schwartz's argument is that actors who seek information can gather it in two ways: actively seeking it through aggressive searches (police patrols) or trusting interested parties to get the information to you (fire alarms).
Going through the e-mail, there’s no question that big blogs attract a lot of fire alarms in the form of e-mail links. Does this make it easier for big blogs? Yes and no. There’s some good nuggets of information – the links to the Michigan and Conference Board projections for 2004 came from an e-mail. However, there’s a hell of a lot of chaff to go through as well.
On this post, I also link to the Easterbrook book, but I'll admit to wavering. I've been a big fan of Easterbrook's policy analysis in the past, particularly this TNR essay that's a key component of the new book. Last week, however, I made the mistake of linking to an Easterbrook post about the environment when it turned out he'd screwed up an important fact (he has yet to correct it). In this case, however, he appears to be standing on the shoulders of other researchers, so I go with it.
5:00 PM: Ashcroft recuses himself from the Plame investigation. Post on it or take son to bookstore? Survey says... bookstore!!
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Tech types -- any explanation?
UPDATE: OK, this is apparently a function of a change in servers. Thanks to all for responding -- especially Mark Petrovic.
Monday, December 29, 2003
Being Andrew Sullivan -- Day 1
Because these are going to pretty long (and potentially boring) posts, I'm using the extended entry feature:
Midnight: I log onto Andrew’s account to start posting (I'd written my introduction in advance). Immediately the imp within me starts whispering, “Hey, you could do anything you want. Change the background color to chartreuse! You're the king of the world! Go wild!!” It’s taken me multiple decades to get a grip on that part of my personality, and I successfully throttle down the urge.
After five months of getting comfortable with Movable Type, it’s back to my old Blogger software for the Daily Dish (cue acoustic guitar). I approach it warily, like an old girlfriend after a bad break-up. With apologies to Paul Simon:
Hello Blogger, my old friend
And the people bowed and prayed
Seriously, the one downside of MT I’ve noticed is that I don’t bother with quick-link posts – probably because, in the back of my mind, it seems ridiculous to create a new web page for a two sentence post. In terms of the linker/thinker divide, MT leads me to fewer of the former.
So I’m delighted to see Robert Tagorda’s clean post about Dean – because it makes a trenchant point and all I have to do is write one sentence. Post one down. [Why didn't you link to Pejmanesque as well?--ed. Because Tagorda had the contrasting quotes, and linked to Pejman already. I'm sure Yousefzadeh will take it in stride.]
Hmm… what else to write about? There’s the Iranian earthquake – except that there’s nothing to write about except some variation of “It’s horrible.” P.J. O’Rourke, in his introduction to my all-time favorite travel book, Holidays in Hell, pointed out that phenomena like earthquakes, floods, and mudslides are simply the opposite of tourist sightseeing – yes, very sad, but what else is there to say? In this case, even charity links won’t necessarily do much good, as Bam doesn’t appear to need any supplies – the damage has been done.
Bob Herbert’s column? Oh, it's so tempting – this is the sort of half-assed, squishy writing reminiscent of old-school NYT op-ed contributors (Rosenthal, Lewis, Rich) and worth ripping on a regular basis. Even if one accepts Herbert's premise (I don't), if he had done any research, he might have realized that there are some tangible proposals for what he wants done. But I’ve blogged about this too recently… don’t want to sound like a broken record.
I notice the LAT and WaPo stories, which dovetail each other nicely. However, I’m not entirely sure how to frame the post. Worry that the administration is screwing up? Intrigue at Brent Scowcroft’s preference to stick it out? I decide to sleep on it.
9:00 AM: I wake up and post on the LAT/WaPo stories, but frankly, I don’t think I quite nailed it. Occasionally this happens – too many ideas to mold into just a few paragraphs.
I click over to Slate’s Today’s Papers feature and see the mention of the NYT Halliburton story. Eric Umansky was harsh on the Times:
I’ve been making the argument that the Halliburton contracts are not evidence of either systemic corruption or specific corruption for some time, so it’s nice to see the Times come to the same conclusion. I post it.
10:00 AM: I log onto the Daily Dish’s AOL account to check mail. 150 new messages await me. Admittedly, 50 of them are offering me glimpses of Paris Hilton’s sex tape, but that’s still a lot in twelve hours. One of the e-mails mentions the AFA poll about gay marriage. I’ve only posted about this topic once on my site. But it’s a good, counterintuitive story, and I remember Eugene Volokh’s post from last Friday. Plus, I figure Daily Dish readers would go into withdrawal if the topic is not mentioned once. Up it goes.
10:30 AM. Let’s log on and see how things are going…. Wait, why can’t I access the Daily Dish? It’s down! Ahh!!!! I f@#$%ed up somehow!! In less than twelve hours, I’ve single-handedly destroyed Andrew Sullivan’s site!! DAMN YOU BLOGGER!!! DAMN YOU TO HELL!!!!
10:40 AM: After much gnashing of teeth and a little jiggering, Blogger starts working again. Respiration and cardiac activity return to normal.
Blogger sucks. I decide for the rest of the week to compose on my own blog and then cut and paste onto the Daily Dish.
11:30 AM: I go out for groceries with my son, who’s day care center is closed for the week. No one at the store goes, “Hey, that’s Dan Drezner!! He’s subbing for Sullivan this week!” I realize this is because:
a) These people have lives.
b) Since Richard Posner, Gary Becker, John Mearsheimer, Cass Sunstein, and Martha Nussbaum shop there too, I'm pretty small beer.
Sunday, December 28, 2003
And now for something completely different...
Does that mean no new content on this blog until 2004? Not exactly.
Inspired by Slate's Diary series, ESPN's "This is Sportscenter" documentary from the summer, and the stereotype of bloggers as "self-important," I'll be posting here on the behind-the-scenes thinking that go into guest-blogging. Why did I post on this topic but not that topic? What's it like to have the big megaphone? And other sorts of flotsam and jetsam that run through my brain when I'm blogging.
Think of it as if VH1 did a Behind the Blog episode -- it would be just like Behind the Music without the groupies, bimbos, boy toys, massive drug use, fisticuffs, arrests, and downward arc to the narrative (I hope).
In other words, more like C-SPAN's Booknotes.
Be warned -- musings like these can be scary to the naked eye.
But it's all worth it -- to the ten or so of you who care about such things.
Saturday, December 27, 2003
Protectionism never tasted so sour
The Chicago Tribune had another story this week on the outsourcing of American manufacturing jobs. The cause? American protectionism:
The good news -- if the Central American Free Trade Agreement is passed, manufacturers that rely on sugar as an input of production would no longer have the same need to relocate.
Friday, December 26, 2003
I feel trendy, oh so trendy...
yourDictionary doesn't seem too thrilled with its number two word: "Blog: Web logs have come of age and, regrettably, this lexical mutation with them."
When public figures say silly things
What do Howard Dean and Michael Jackson have in common? They both said something stupid today.
Here are Michael Jackson's views on sleeping with children, expressed to CBS:
Question for Michael Jackson: do you think this is the best PR strategy to be pursuing?
Then there's Howard Dean on Osama bin Laden in an interview with the Concord Monitor:
Logical question for Governor Dean -- how is your support for the decision to go to war in Afghanistan not tantamount to "pronouncing a sentence before guilt is found"? [So you want to string up bin Laden the moment we get our hands on him?--ed. No, no -- due process for everyone. But I can hear Karl Rove cackling with glee from this time zone. So this is going to hurt Dean in the nomination?--ed. No, it's going to help him -- click here for why.]
UPDATE: Dean released a clarifying statement on his official blog:
ANOTHER UPDATE: Pejman Yousefzadeh has more:
Plame blame update
Is the Iraqi resistance weakening?
One of the big questions in the wake of Saddam's capture is what effect it will have on the security situation in Iraq. Reports like these don't offer a world of comfort.
The Washington Post has a front-pager suggesting that the impact -- combined with a choking off of financial incentives -- could prove significant:
The caveat paragraphs should be read closely, however:
The Illinois gurus of faculty productivity
The Chicago Tribune reports that faculty working at Illinois state colleges and universities had better be productive this year:
A few thoughts on this:
1) I'm not sure if the fault lies with the Tribune's reporting or Kaplan's statements, but what's being debated here is not productivity -- which is the units of output generated divided by the units of inputs involved in the production process. What the Illinois Board of Higher Education appears to be concerned with is output (A slightly more charitable read is the board is simply holding inputs -- in the form of faculty salaries -- constant, and trying to figure out how to squeeze more output -- in the form of classes taught, etc.).
2) I wonder if Kaplan really understands the economics of higher education, and the role that research grants play in funding university budgets. From a state perspective, the benefits of research activity are not just the fruits of the research -- the benefits also come from the employment of research staff. Click here for a recent local story dealing with the relationship between research, teaching, and benefits to Illinois.
3) Reading some of Kaplan's quotes in the article, it's not clear if he knows anything about higher education -- or public relations:
As much as I like to poke fun at academic conferences, this last statement is idiotic. All professions have some form of continuing education so that they stay on top of their field. Conferences serve this function for most academic disciplines.
4) It's not easy working at a state university of college. The name itself is partially misleading, because it implies that the state shoulders most of the burden to pay for these institutions. In fact, according to this report, the percentage contribution of state taxes to the University of Illinois system's operating budget has declined from 46.6% in 1980 to an estimated 23.5% in 2004. Despite this fact, the state's control over the university system -- with its added layers of regulation and bureacucacy -- has not changed one iota.
Thursday, December 25, 2003
Christmas and capitalism in Eastern Europe
To end the Christmas day blogging on some good news:
The Chicago Tribune has a fascinating story on the extension of credit cards into Central and Eastern Europe -- just in time for holiday shopping! The interesting parts:
These countries are not only playing catch-up to Western Europe, however. In some areas of the protection of credit, they're innovating:
Developing... in a good way.
Merry Christmas to all!!
An interesting month for Pervez Musharraf
Buried in a Newsweek story about the prospects of capturing bin Laden was the following nugget of information about Al Qaeda's strategy vis-à-vis Pakistan:
It's far from certain if this analysis is correct. As previously noted, Musharraf's domestic political situation is not great. His latest deal with the Islamic opposition could either be interpreted as a sign of democratization, a concession to hard-line Islamists, or both.
However, the failed assassination attempt on Musharraf two weeks ago -- the same day Saddam was captured -- has not deterred the Pakistani leader's opponents:
Gonna be an interesting 2004 for Pakistani politics!! [Every year is an interesting year for Pakistani politics!--ed. Point taken]
UPDATE: Ahmed Rashid has a disturbing analysis of Musharraf's domestic position in the Daily Telegraph.
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Is Al Qaeda stuck in a rut?
Reuters reports a French Interior Ministry confirmation that, "national carrier Air France had canceled three U.S.-bound flights from Paris due to security concerns."
What's even more interesting in the story is the intelligence about Al Qaeda's grand strategy:
A few thoughts:
1) Oddly, it's reassuring to hear that Al Qaeda is sticking to its tried and true strategies rather than trying to invent new methods of causing mayhem. [Unless this is an Al Qaeda prank?--ed. Yes, that's been suggested.] The last paragraph shows that they are trying to innovate within a chosen strategy. However, this is more manageable to defend against than something completely different. This variant is also less deadly than the 9/11 attacks, as Captain Ed points out.
2) The Vegas gambit confirms something I wrote a year ago about Al Qaeda's strategy -- that their enemy is not just the United States, but the pursuit of happiness that is a vital component of the American -- nay, Western -- ethos. Here's what I said about the appropriate U.S. response:
For those inclined to blame the French for this, look at the NBC story again -- it looks like U.S. officials were leaking a day before any action was taken.
Good news and bad news on international support for Iraq
Bad news -- the Gulf states are not planning on forgiving either Iraq's debts or its reparation payments anytime soon, according to the Financial Times:
Howard Dean is so in the mainstream
For those who believe that Howard Dean is too far out of the political mainstream should consider this defense of him:
The source? "Howard Dean rejects Washington Post charge that he is “beyond the mainstream,” David Walsh and Barry Grey, World Socialist Web Site.
UPDATE: On a more serious note, Will Saletan seems to adopt a slightly schizophrenic position towards Dean in two separate Slate stories on Dean's latest speech. Saletan said the following last Thursday:
However, this week, Saletan says:
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Today's Washington Post has a pretty sympathetic profile of Paul Wolfowitz.
Two minor quibbles, however. First, it contains this statement:
UPDATE: Kaus now has chatter that contradicts his previously collected chatter:
Second quibble -- the story has the following criticism:
Shouldn't the Post have mentioned that Hoar is now on Howard Dean's list of foreign policy advisors?
And what, exactly, does Hoar mean by that last clause?
UPDATE: TNR's &c. has more Wolfowitz.
The bargaining strength of weak states, part II
While we're on the subject of coping with the weak leaders of key states, the latest issue of Foreign Affairs has an analysis by Michael Doran on the political struggle taking place within Saudi Arabia. The key part:
One must give the Saudis credit -- they make Pakistani politics look positively transparent.
The politics of the global warming debate
Gregg Easterbrook has a great post on the politics underlying the scientific debate over global warming:
Read the whole post -- and Easterbrook doesn't even mention all of the salient criticisms of the environmentalists.
UPDATE: A mea culpa partial retraction of the endorsement for Easterbrook's post -- he erred in his description of the politics underlying one of the two cases that form the basis of the post. See David Appell for more on this, as well as the discussion thread below. Thanks to multiple commenters below for the heads-up.
Another treatment can be found in the Technology Review article to which Easterbrook linked. Interesting quote:
FINAL UPDATE: The Economist has a story suggesting that non-industrial forms of human activity also affect global warming.
A roiling debate about income inequality, part LXVII
I've said my peace about income inequality in the United States and its social effects some time ago, and I have no wish to dredge up the topic again. However, the rest of the blogosphere is quite taken up with the topic. So let's link!!
Paul Krugman's latest essay in the Nation -- inspired by Aaron Bernstein's Business Week article "Waking Up From the American Dream," which Kevin Jones has reprinted on his blog -- makes the following assertion:
However, Mickey Kaus points out that in DeLong's comments section, James Suroweicki and Jim Glass have challenged some of the numbers behgind the NYT analysis. Kaus' response to Krugman:
Go read everything. Report back!!
Monday, December 22, 2003
How Al Jazeera covers the news
The headline according to CNN:
The Financial Times:
The Times of India:
I'm sure this is just a difference in translation.
The bargaining strength of weak leaders
Over the weekend, there was good news out of South Asia: In pursuit of peace with India, Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, is prepared to abandon his country's 50-year quest for a U.N.-mandated referendum on the future of the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir, according to an interview published Thursday.
Musharraf's conditional offer to put the referendum "aside" is the latest in a series of recent peace overtures between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, which have fought three wars -- two of them over Kashmir -- and nearly fought another one last year.
Last month, India and Pakistan agreed on a cease-fire in Kashmir, and the Indian prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is due here next month for a regional summit that Pakistani officials hope will pave the way for formal peace negotiations.
Now, any progress in stabilizing relations between two nuclear powers who have fought three wars over the past fivty years is a good thing. The fact that Pakistan has been the country to compromise appears to be even more promising.
Until we get to today's New York Times story on Pakistan and nuclear proliferation:
I'd love to say that the U.S. response should be to appply as much coercive pressure on Musharraf as possible -- but I can't.
Musharraf is probably the best the U.S. could hope for in a cooperative Pakistani leader. His grip on power is far from certain. Because he's so weak, he can resist Western pressure to punish Khan.
I'm happy to entertain suggestions of how to deal with this problem.
UPDATE: The Financial Times reports that Khan is now free to travel within Pakistan -- and the United States is OK with it:
Wesley Clark's grand strategy
Not surprisingly Bush bloggers are all over this seemingly idiotic statement.
But wait a minute. Maybe Sullivan is being unfair. Maybe the larger context reveals a more nuanced view of foreign policy than the quotation itself?
Not really. Here's the exchange in full:
In context, the statement reads marginally better, in that Clark wants a quid pro quo -- Europe's right of first refusal on U.S. security policy in return for U.S. right of first refusal for theirs.
However, the trade Clark proposes with Europe would be unbelievably one-sided.
First, on security matters, there is no Europe. There are the first stirrings of a common defense policy, but recent European Union flailings on closer integration suggest that those pledges should be taken with a grain of salt. The United States does not get a lot out of Wesley Clark's bargain.
Second, even if there was a Europe, its interest in non-European affairs does not rank particularly high. Europe is concerned primarily with the state of Europe -- matters like North Korea generate mild interest but few resources. Why, exactly, should the EU get a veto over U.S. policy in Northeast Asia?
On matters of the global political economy, Clark has a point -- 600 to 700 million people and half the world's GDP buys a fair amount of influence, and on economic matters, the EU is a rough equal to the US in terms of economic size.
Even on security matters, consultation with allies -- the intermediate step between simple unilateralism and what Clark proposes -- makes sense. Consultation buys a fair amount of goodwill, even when the parties disagree.
Right of first refusal on matters of national security? This is an asymmetric bargain -- which is diplomatese for saying it sucks eggs.
Is this how Clark meant to use the term? I don't know. The term is more commonly used in business contracts than in matters of international diplomacy. I've never heard the phrase "right of first refusal" used in matters of diplomacy -- though the concept is a familiar one in international relations. Interestingly, these kind of agreements -- usually referred to as ententes -- are considered less binding than what NATO is -- a collective security treaty.
But it's certainly possible Clark meant it in that way -- in which case I retract my previous critique, since he's not saying that Europe would have a veto over U.S. foreign policy, but rather that there should be greater consultation between the United States and its European allies, which is somewhat less controversial.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Eugene Volokh is also perplexed by Clark's phrasing.
FINAL UPDATE: Here's evidence that Clark can be clear about what he's saying in other televized venues.
Sunday, December 21, 2003
Why the Constitution will not ban gay marriage
The New York Times has a front-pager about American views on gay marriage. Here's how it opens:
Now, 55-40 is a healthy margin in electoral politics. Not, however, for constitutional amendments.
For a constitutional amendment to pass, you need the both houses of Congress to approve the measure by a two-thirds majority, and then have three-quarters of the state legislatures approve it within a specified time period. It's an extraordinarily difficult and cumbersome process, with lots of veto points to stymie progress. As the Times notes way down in its story:
Levinson is correct. If you look at the breakdown of the poll, support for a constitutional amendment is strong in the South, but falls below 50% in the West and is barely over 50% in the Northeast. Off the top of my head, here are the states I can't see passing this amendment:
For a constritutional amendment to be ratified, one of these states would have to approve it, as well as every other state in the union.
Another thing -- public opinion is fickle. Indeed, the attitudes about gay marriage have been extremely volatile over the past year, as the CBS story on the poll observes:
Other "controversial" issues have prompted similar fluctuations in public opinion. A June 1999 Gallup poll showed 63% support for a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning -- eight points higher than current support for an amendment to ban gay marriage. By 2002, according to this CBS poll, that figure had declined to 45%.
Finally, one other piece of data from the poll suggests that as time passes, this issue will lose support. Respondents under 30 years of age opposed the amendment 52% to 44%. Among those over 65, support for the amendment was overwhelming, 69% to 27%.
Unlike Social Security or Medicare, this public opinion divide is in all likelihood a reflection of the set of societal mores that were around during their formative years. Which means that over time, support for an amendment is likely to wane.
I don't doubt that this will be a political issue for the 2004 election, just like flag burning was an issue in 1988. I also don't doubt that as a constitutional amendment, this won't fly.
Friday, December 19, 2003
Libya decides to bandwagon
Agree or disagree with the Bush administration, this is great news:
Since Lockerbie, Ghadhafi has been pretty quiet on the whole terrorism/rogue state front. Over the past decade, he's repeatedly made noises about wanting better relations with the West. And he's probably such an idiosyncratic character that it would be tough to call him part of any trend.
Still, one has to wonder -- does this happen if the U.S. doesn't invade Iraq? [But the negotiations started nine months ago!--ed. And the war was just beginning at that precise moment.]
UPDATE: President Bush clearly thinks there's a link:
So does the New York Times in a truly humble editorial:
When is American culture not American?
Of course, it's not only American culture that scares the French government.
Jacob Levy provides more LOTR commentary for, "the loving nitpickery of the fan-- isn't that what the internet is for?"
UPDATE: This anecdote in Newsweek's cover story on Return of the King was pretty funny:
The freedom tower
I confess that I have not followed the debate over replacing the World Trade Towers in Manhattan. But, the proposed tower was unveiled today -- a curving, simple spire of 1,776 feet to be called the Freedom Tower. Here's how the proposed replacement will look:
My reaction is akin to how Montgomery Burns felt about Marge Simpson's portrait of him in "Brush With Greatness":
New trade deal
I've taken a fair number of potshots at the administration for its flirtations with protectionism. It would be churlish (my word of the day) not to congratulate them on negotiating a Central American Free Trade Agreement. According to the Financial Times:
If Lloyd Gruber's hypothesis in Ruling the World is true, you have to conclude that Costa Rica will accede to the agreement.
Ratification looks to be a fun fight.
Dean under fire
Howard Dean is catching all kinds of hell this week, in large part for a churlish line in his foreign policy speech that I didn't mention in my own critique: "the capture of Saddam has not made America safer."
Now Michael Kinsley goes after him as well:
Looks bad for Dean... or does it?
This is not the first time Dean has put his foot in his mouth and lived to tell the tale. None of the Dean's campaign's comparative advantages are really threatened by this latest blunder. It's already clear that DC Democrats loathe and fear Dean -- to his base, however, this is just feeding the beast.
If anything, the hope these criticisms offer to the rest of the Democratic field merely increases the likelihood that all of them will stay in the race, splintering the anyone-but-Dean vote and letting him win by plurality. That, plus some key endorsements, should erase this talk of third parties.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
Who's going to be on trial?
UPDATE: The New Republic is hosting a debate between Anne-Marie Slaughter and Ruth Wedgwood on the trial of Saddam (link via Josh Chafetz). These are two heavyweights in matters of international law, so go check it out.
Let's go to the mailbag!!
The following is an (edited) collection of the most... "out there" responses I've received, and will be updated as the day goes along:
Just to be clear, I'm not posting these because they upset me or provoke a need for sympathy. Mostly, I found them hysterical, in both senses of the word.
That said, let me close with a few polite and trenchant e-mails:
Questions about the DoD memo
Beyond the loonier e-mails I've received regarding the Slate essay, the criticism that crops up most frequently attacks what I said about the DoD memo regarding reconstruction contracts from last week. Basically, they have two points:
I wrote about the DoD memo at more length last week, but to expand a little:
1) When White House officials tell the New York Times that they were surprised by the timing and wording of the memo, you know there was a screw-up.
2) For those who feel these countries should not be rewarded for their behavior, I'm certainly sympathetic. A question, then: why are Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the list of countries that can receive contracts? Can a case be made that these countries were more cooperative than France, Germany or Russia prior to the war?
3) This also goes to the bargaining question as well. According to press reports, of the approximately $120 billion in Iraqi foreign debt, only $40 billion is owed to Paris Club members. The rest is owed primarily to the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia in particular. If the DoD memo is supposed to be an example of bare-knuckles bargaining, why wasn't Saudi Arabia -- which owns a much larger portion of the debt than any European country -- excluded from the approved countries as well?
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
The process critique
I have a new Slate essay on criticisms of the Bush administration's management of foreign policy. Go check it out.
[Hmmm... this sounds familiar--ed. Yes, this is a theme I've touched on a fair amount in the past few months -- click here for one example.]
Three caveats that don't appear in the actual Slate essay, but are worth mentioning. First, although the process critique is coming primarily from the right, they don't have a monopoly on the story -- Josh Marshall has been hammering this point home for some time now -- click here for an example.
Second, although I think the process critique is a powerful one, Democrats are unlikely to use this line of attack. Why? Process is boring. “Policy Coordination Needed” might not be as dull a headline as “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative,” but it’s close. In the primaries at least, the Democrats one would expect to adopt this approach – Joe Lieberman, John Kerry, John Edwards – haven’t gotten a ton of traction in the polls. Candidates and campaigns prefer a simple message to a complex one – and in choosing between attacking Bush’s foreign policy on substance or process, Democrats will opt for the former.
Third, it's possible that the administration is trying to fix this problem, which is why Bush 41 people seem to be sprouting up. First there's Bob Blackwill, whom I've talked about here. Now there's James Baker, who seems to be having some success in his European trip.
The future of neoconservatives
Marshall's take on Perle:
Greg Djerejian thinks Marshall might be overly sensitive on this point:
With all due respect to Greg, any academic worth their salt is used to raucous and rancorous debates.
Greg's post -- a nice substitute for the two-hour video -- argues that Perle's description of neoconservatism "felt very much like sober-headed foreign policy realism--rather than the oft-described messianic exportation of democracy doctrines (or some grossly deluded neo-Wilsonian style project)."
Second, I'm not sure how much neoconservatives think or want Perle to be their exemplar. I've expressed my reservations about Perle in the past, so I might be biased here.
UPDATE: Belgravia Dispatch responds (additional posts here and here) In response to the response, I probably should have said "academic" realists rather than pragmatic policy types -- though I'm pretty sure the Scowcroft camp was none too thrilled with the war either.
MNCs vs. IGOs
Robert Tagorda has a great post highlighting the contrasts in behavior between international governmental organizations (IGOs) and multinational corporations (MNCs) in parts of the globe that are vulnerable to terrorism. To put it in fight-or-flight terms -- the IGOs are more likely to vamoose when trouble comes around, while the MNCs are much more resilient in the face of terror attacks.
Check out this Christian Science Monitor story for more on corporate strategies in countries experiencing terrorism. Tagorda concludes his post:
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Iraq after Hussein
Adeed Dawisha, a native Iraqi who teaches political science at Miami
He also has a forthcoming article in the January 2004 Journal of Democracy on the prospects for a democratic Iraq. Read the whole article, but here are some highlights, both good and bad:
Go and give it a read. Dawisha is hardly Panglossian -- he just looks that way after you read Juan Cole for a while.
UPDATE: Dawisha is also quoted at length in this Peter Bronson column in the Cincinatti Enquirer. The highlight:
Where does the EU go from here?
What's the fallout from the collapse of the EU constitutional negotiations this weekend? Depends on who you ask. In terms of the constitution itself, the Economist thinks this can only be a good thing:
Unfortunately, some of the leading EU members have shorter tempers than Moravcsik would have liked, according to the Financial Times:
However, the FT also reports that these kind of tactics will have some blowback in Paris:
Monday, December 15, 2003
Grading Dean's speech
Howard Dean's major foreign policy speech is now available on his web site.
I'll get to the content in a second, but some free advice to the Dean people -- is this the picture you really want on the front page of your web site when talking about foreign policy?:
Howard Dean -- he'll be as tough as Warren Christopher!!
OK, the speech. Quick hits:
1) According to Dean:
Hey, that sounds familiar... oh yes, here it is:
2) Describing Dean as a pacifist would be a mistake:
3) The "big idea" is a global alliance against terror, "a commitment among law-abiding nations to work together in law enforcement, intelligence, and military operations." Iraq aside, there's actually been a fair amount of international cooperation on this front. What is Dean proposing that's different? I read through the speech and found nothing specific on this. Is Dean talking about a global NATO? A stronger IAEA? What, exactly?
4) Here's Dean on the connection between our foreign economic policies and national security:
Sounds like a great idea -- you know, a plan to expand economic opportunities in developing nations through greater access to U.S. markets. I'm sure Dean would support that. Oh, wait a minute....
Drezner's leading indicator gets results!!
I'll blog about the speech once it's delivered [UPDATE: here's the text]. For now, what's more interesting is who's advising Dean on the speech.
Back in February, I blogged the following about how to predict the eventual Democratic nominee:
And from Sunday's New York Times:
Be sure to read the WaPo piece for a priceless quote from Dean about France.
Caveat paragraph: Not everyone listed above is a foreign policy heavyweight. Tthere are other heavyweights -- Ken Pollack, Richard Holbrooke, Ron Asmus, Michael McFaul -- who have not committed to Dean. Furthermore, I have it on good authority that some of the people on Dean's list have consulted with other campaigns.
Still, this is a pretty powerful signal.
UPDATE: Dean's web site now has the list of advisors. Among the names that weren't mentioned above: Morton H. Halperin, Clyde Prestowitz, and Jeffrey Sachs.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
Congratulations to all those involved in the capture.
One last thought: in dealing with the insurgency within Iraq, it's much better that Saddam was captured in this fashion rather than killed. It goes to a point I made in March with regard to Al Qaeda:
Lee Harris makes a similar point:
Too bad they shaved his beard. Well, this anecdote makes him look cowardly as well.
UPDATE: Time is all over this story. Here's their cover story package -- with lots of detail about the capture. There is a follow-up report on the first day of interrogation. Some intriguing details:
Finally, President Bush gets the final words today, from his address to the nation:
Strike two for the EU
Three weeks after the collapse of the European Union's growth and stability pact, it looks like the proposed EU consitution is dead on arrival. From the Washington Post:
Blair's hit the nail on the head. Much of European integration has been based on the "bicycle theory" -- the idea that if integration does not keep moving forward, the whole project will topple over. This has led to the implementation of some less-than-ideal policies/governance structures on the logic that they were "too big to fail."
A reappraisal might be the best thing for the European Union, and its member states.
As for Chirac's proposal, it's tough to see how it could be applied towards the proposed constitution. The two-track EU works by dividing up issue areas. The constitution is about process. That's slightly more difficult to parse out.
Friday, December 12, 2003
What blogging hath wrought
No blogging today -- and it's the blog's fault. Follow this chain of events:
Back in May, I blogged about the Center for Global Development's Ranking the Rich, an effort to create, "an index that measures 21 developed countries on a plethora of policies that help or harm poor nations."
Which led to my first essay in Tech Central Station.
Which led to me getting asked to be on their Board of Advisors for future revisions to the index.
Which leads me to fly to DC and back to go to a board meeting today.
UPDATE: Back and exhausted -- just like Glenn Reynolds was yesterday.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Who's minding the foreign policy store?
Well, first, the reaction from the French, Russian, and German governments has been more overblown than a Matrix sequel. For example, France and the EU claim that the ruling may be inconsistent with WTO procurement rules. Given that the ruling is phrased to be consistent with the national security exemption, and given the understandable reluctance of the WTO to get involved, it would be safe to say that the Europeans are overreaching.
The Christian Science Monitor puts things in the proper perspective:
It's the last point that makes all of this so puzzling. If the administration did not need the assistance of these countries with regard to Iraq, then the finding would be gratuitous but harmless. However, why on God's green earth would implement this decision just when you're dispatching an envoy to ask these countries to forgive Iraqi debts? Yes, there's a bargain to be made here, but hint at it, discuss tactical issue linkage behind closed doors, use that diplomacy thing. Don't make your move on a web site in such crude form. From the New York Times (link via Josh Marshall, who has another interesting post here):
The lack of policy coordination is astonishing. Going back to the Christian Science Monitor editorial:
Alas, this is becoming a familiar refrain with this White House.
Catherine Mann on globalization and outsourcing
The Institute for International Economics' Catherine Mann has a great policy brief on the globalization of IT services. There's a lot of interesting info, but the discussion of employment effects is particularly interesting:
By all means, read the whole thing.
UPDATE: Cold Sping Shops has further thoughts.
Syllabi for next quarter
Sorry for being mute today -- I was finalizing my course syllabi for next year. The finishing touches always take longer than I think.
For those U of C undergraduates and graduates interested, here are the links (which can also be found on my teaching page):
Undergraduate: American Foreign Economic Policy (in Word format)
Graduate: Global Political Economy (in Word format)
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Jay Drezner has an interesting post on the norms of political civility in Australia versus the United States:
Of course, there are plenty of politicians in the U.S. willing to use strong language. However, Australian politics may have hit a new low recently thanks to third party leader Andrew Bartlett:
Click on this report to see the precise language Bartlett used in the altercation.
My chic strategy of providing links
Looking for more on the global southern strategy? Look no further!
Documentation: The Fischler quote comes from this story in the Guardian. The Goldman Sachs study mentioned in the piece is available online. Here's a link to the joint IMF-World Bank-WTO statement. For good measure here's a follow-up joint Bank-Fund statement post-Cancun.
Background: For more info on the old-school New International Economic Order, check out this entry in the Routledge Encyclopedia of International Political Economy. On the developed country response, the best source is Stephen D. Krasner's Structural Conflict, about which I've posted previously.
For more on the G22/G20+, there's this story. Another piece by the same journalist in the Asian Times provides further background on the emergent grouping.
I discussed developing country opposition to the "Singapore issues" in the WTO talks in a Tech Central Station column. For a mildly contrary take, Jeffrey Schott provides engaging analysis of the post-Cancun state of negotiations.
My latest TNR online essay is up -- as hinted at here, it's on the faultlines emerging between the developing and developed nations over global economic governance. Go check it out.
Footnotes to come soon.... and here they are.
Last thoughts on Dean and Gore
Josh Marshall thinks that Gore's endorsement of Dean could paradoxically help Clark, through the process of eliminating the other pretenders to the throne. If Kerry, Gephardt, Edwards, Lieberman et al drop out, it becomes a Dean/Clark horse race:
Josh probably knows a hell of a lot more about Democratic Party politics than I do, but the more I think about it, the more I don't buy it. Here's why:
1) Follow the money. The mainstream press is now obsessing over Dean's new campaign model. The latest issue of Time reports that Dean's coffers are bulging to the point where he's offering money to others:
Republican or Democrat, all politicians follow the funding. The more resources that Dean has to throw around for other campaigns, the less charged the opposition will be.
2) Pride matters for the rest of the field. The Gore endorsement managed to accomplish something that nothing else in the campaign had done to date -- make Howard Dean's challengers look as angry as Howard Dean (this also applies to Democratic-friendly media outlets -- Will Saletan, Exhibit A). This has more to do with Gore than Dean -- as Jeff Greenfield put it: "This to be candid with you is a problem Al Gore has had in the past in his relations with other politicians. There is a kind of reputation that he has earned over the years for not necessarily being the most graceful of diplomats in dealing with his fellow Democrats." If the debate wrap-up is any indication, the other contenders are not going to go down without a serious rhetorical fight.
The problem is, they're all angry, which means none of them are dropping out anytime soon. This complicates the scenario where everyone but Clark falls away. At best, I suspect that by the time South Carolina rolls around, only Kerry and Gephardt would drop out if they were clobbered in New Hampshire and Iowa, respectively. Edwards, Clark and Lieberman can easily split the Clinton wing of the party to the point where Dean skates through the Southern primaries.
3) Dean could win the general election. Forget polls comparing Bush to the Democratic challengers today. As I've argued elsewhere, Dean will prove to be more formidable than he seems now. William Kristol is right about this. I have it on good authority that the Bush team is equally aware of how close 2004 could be.
Once this meme filters through the mediasphere, the strongest political rationale for opposing a Dean nomination will be squelched. Implicit hints from Dean that he would pick a VP with either Southern or Western roots would probably accelerate this as well.
One other thing -- as TNR's &c. points out, Dean's wooing of Gore demonstrates something counterintuitive about his political skills:
Again, Marshall may very well be right. I kind of hope he's right, just because it would make for much more entertaining political theater. My hunch, though, is that at best Clark might pull a Jesse Jackson circa 1988 and win a big state after everyone thought Dean had it locked it up. But this would be a hiccup, not a horse race.
UPDATE: Ryan Lizza has an outstanding analysis of Dean's effect on the Democratic Party elite (link via Mickey Kaus) that anticipates much of what was said here and in my previous post on Dean/Gore. And it was written a month ago!
Tuesday, December 9, 2003
Boomshock has moved
Robert Tagorda finally had it with Blogger and has moved into much sleeker digs at his new home.
His latest post is a good take on how the media can twist official reports in a lot of different ways. In this case the report in UN predictions of population growth. Go check it out.
Islam, geography, and economic growth
Marcus Noland argues that, contrary to conventional wisdom, adherence to Islam does not lead to reduced economic fortunes:
Tyler Cowen disagrees:
Kieran Healy says this nut may never be cracked:
Kieran goes on to quote Ernest Gellner, a bigwig in the study of nationalism, who says:
Read all of the posts -- interesting debate. There's a bit of talking past each other -- Cowen is much more concerned with state structures in Muslim-majority countries, while Noland is concerned with effects on individuals as well.
What intrigues me is Gellner's comment. In international relations theory and economic history, a common argument for why Europe grew the way it did after 1500 is that geographic barriers permitted the proliferation of states and religious sects, decentralizing power enough to create a space for economic actors to operate free of state repression. One wonders if the curse of the Middle East is not its religion, but rather the absence of those geographic barriers.
UPDATE: Brad DeLong is similarly intrigued by this debate, and has the following thoughts on the subject:
Read the whole post.
ANOTHER UPDATE: This book may be of interest to readers of this post (Thanks to alert reader D.G. for the link)
The employment debate
Last week I blogged about the debate over productivity numbers. This week it's the employment numbers that are being questioned. Amity Shlaes makes a good case that the accepted statistics are overestimating the unemployment rate -- though, as she points out, this affects the productivity debate. The good parts version:
Combine Shlaes' analysis with Stephen Roach's analysis, and one has to conclude that the productivity numbers are probably exaggerated a bit.
Monday, December 8, 2003
Is this the ballgame?
The AP is reporting that Al Gore is going to endorse Howard Dean for President (link via Drudge):
1) If there was ever a sign that the Democratic establishment now sees Dean's nomination as inevitable, this is it.
2) Not to be too cynical, but what is Gore getting out of this? I'm not saying that he's selling out his principles by endorsing Dean -- it's just that I don't see the upside of making an endorsement at this point in time unless there's a backscratch in there somewhere.
3) This exposes the faultline between Gore and the Clintons, who fear Dean because he has a money stream independent of the Democratic Party establishment (run by Clintonite Terry MacAuliffe, remember). Tapped's Nick Confessore links to a Washington Post story that explains the political cleavage emerging for 2004:
Gore's endorsement would throw a significant monkey wrench into this Southern Strategy. [Wouldn't the Clintons be happy about this, since it increases the odds that Hillary will be able to run in 2008?--ed. Five years is a lifetime in politics -- and Dean's ascension means that the Clintons now have a formidable rival]
5) If, against all odds, someone else were to win the nomination, Al Gore would become the official unlucky charm of Democrats everywhere.
More reaction from Josh Marshall ("stunned") and Atrios ("laughing"), Mark Kleiman ("I'm banking on them [50,000 Clark supporters] rather than Gore") and Ramesh Ponnuru at NRO's the Corner ("No word yet from McGovern, Mondale, or Dukakis") James Joyner collects additional blogosphere reactions. Time has a roundup of mediasphere reaction. Nothing on Dean's official blog -- or this one either.
UPDATE: The Washington Post has reactions from other campaigns. It's not pretty:
LAST UPDATE: Another reason for Kerry to use strong language -- from today's Chicago Tribune:
TNR's &c. has the actual e-mail.
Kind of a sorta good news/bad news situation
Well, the "sorta" bad news is that my chances of winning a Weblog Award look pretty slim. On the other hand, polling fifth out of twenty ain't too shabby -- and I gotta feel for poor Pejman after reading this.
The "sorta" good news is that I have been awarded an honorary title by another blog...
It'll look great on the cv!!
The potential costs of re-regulation
Recently, Howard Dean called for sweeping re-regulation of significant portions of the American economy:
Given Dean's position, it's worth highlighting the benefits that deregulation have brought to the U.S. economy.
Brad DeLong links to an Economist article (subscription required) and a joint AEI-Brookings book by Alfred Kahn on the subject. The key paragraphs from the Economist story:
This domestic deregulation omits the equally important international deregulation that took place around the same time, as most commodity cartels fell apart. In the case of coffee, for example, the demise of the International Coffee Agreement lowered coffee prices from $1.50 per pound in the mid-eighties to $0.50 per pound in current dollars.
Question for Governor Dean -- how do your re-regulation proposals not amount to a disguised tax regime that raises barriers to market entry, thus empowering the very corporations you allegedly distrust?
An update on the Internet and the UN
Last week I red-flagged the upcoming World Summit on the Information Society and developing country efforts to have greater UN involvement (in the form of the International Telecommunications Union) in Internet governance. The United States, European Union, and Japan all opposed this move -- out of normative fears that it would enhance the ability of states to regulate content, and positive fears that such a switch would dilute their influence in ICANN.
Looks like the status quo will be preserved for the near-future -- meaning that ICANN still runs key parts of the Internet and states like China and Saudi Arabia can still regulate content to their heart's content. Here's the Reuters story on it. The Register has some good behind-the-scenes stuff:
The Washington Times suggests the clear faultlines when these issues re-emerge:
China, Brazil, South Africa. Hmmm... These countries also played a pivotal role in derailing world trade talks at Cancun three months ago.
In all the talk about transatlantic tensions -- in the blogosphere and the mediasphere -- methinks that analysts have overlooked a deeper division that may emerge in future negotiations on the global political economy: the developed and developing world.
More on this in a few days.
Sunday, December 7, 2003
When is it important to fact-check fiction?
Last year, Gregg Easterbrook mocked the New York Times for publishing a correction saying that it had made a few errors in recounting a plot point from the HBO series The Sopranos. Easterbrook noted:
Now, I take Easterbrook's point that this sort of corrections policy can border on the absurd, but consider, as a counterexample, Alex Kuczynski's essay in today's NYT on religious interpretations of the movie Groundhog Day. Here's Kuczynski's plot summary of the movie:
There are two errors in this plot summary. First, Bill Murray's character Phil Connors does not save the homeless man from freezing to death -- indeed, this section of the film shows that as the day repeats itself, the homeless man dies no matter how much Phil attempts to save him. Second, although it appears that Connors has successfully seduced the producer at the end of the film, the dialogue suggests that Phil restrained from any hanky-panky, acting like a perfect gentleman.
Nitpicky details? Perhaps, but in an article on how "the film has become a curious favorite of religious leaders of many faiths, who all see in Groundhog Day a reflection of their own spiritual messages," these facts are actually pretty crucial. One corrected, the movie suggests:
1) The limit's of man's power over life and death;
[You, who never misses an opportunity to ogle Salma Hayek, are preaching abstinence?--ed. No, but surely some of the religions discussed in the essay do proffer such advice. And there's a big difference between admiration from afar and acting on such admiration, buddy!]
It would be absurd for the Times to issue an apology to anyone for these errors. However, this is an example of how getting the facts wrong about fiction do alter the tenor of a particular argument.
John Kerry goes ballistic
What must be monumentally frustrating to Kerry (and Edwards, and Lieberman, etc.) is that he's pretty decent on substance -- earlier this year, I thought his foreign policy positions and rhetoric to be the best among the Democratic candidates. This is in contrast to Dean, who has been having difficulty with country names as of late.
That was then. This is now, and Kerry's in full pander mode. According to Eric Alterman:
Now let's click over to Kerry's interview in the December 2003 Rolling Stone (NOTE: Kerry said the following before hearing Spiegelman's advice). It would be safe to say that Kerry uses some very strong language to describe President Bush's policy towards Iraq:
When informed of the comment, Brookings Institution presidential scholar Stephen Hess told the New York Post, "It's so unnecessary. In a way it's a kind of pandering [by Kerry] to a group he sees as hip . . . I think John Kerry is going to regret saying this." (link via Glenn Reynolds).
Actually, there's another passage of the RS interview that I found to be much more revealing of the tenor of the Democratic primary:
The Democratic primary boils down to "representing that anger." And there's no way at this point that anyone will beat Dean at that game.
The thing is, no matter how you slice and dice the opinion polls, the "anger" is still confined to hard-core Democratic primary voters. And the more that the Democratic candidates appeal to it, the more they risk alienating the rest of the voting spectrum. As Alterman himself observes, "I represent a tiny sliver of the electorate that can’t even elect a mayor of New York City."
If Kerry's behavior is any indication, winning the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination will prove to be a Pyrrhic victory at best.
UPDATE: William Saletan, reporting for Slate from the Florida Democratic Party convention, thinks the Rolling Stone epithet is part of "The New Kerry":
Saturday, December 6, 2003
How about funding more HBO miniseries about outer space instead?
The International Herald-Tribune reports that the Bush administration has some ambitious ideas to revamp the space programme:
Sounds great -- exactly the kind of soaring vision that led to Neil Armstrong broadcasting from Tranquility Base.
However, I have some nagging questions:
NASA enthusiasts suggest that the cost of reconstituting a moon shot might be even greater than that. According to the IHT:
The other rationale is the human desire to explore -- which as a Star Trek geek I'll confess to having in spades. If this Washington Post story is true, then the Bush administration is fully cognizant of this attraction to the big idea -- in fact they're counting on it:
You know, follow-through is big, too. Trying to convert the Middle East into an area where democracy and capitalism is pretty damn ambitious as well. Hey, curing AIDS is pretty big, and the rewards much more tangible.
I'd like to see a mission to Mars. I'd just like to see a lot of other things happen first. In sum, I'm with Easterbrook on this one:
Friday, December 5, 2003
Your holiday book recommendations
New month -- time to update the book recommendations.
In response to the feedback on this post about Opus and Bloom County, the "general interest" book is The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book by Bill Watterson. Of all the Calvin and Hobbes collections to have, this is the best one, since Watterson comments on the strip itself as well as his campaign to have more autonomy in his Sunday cartoons, many of which are reprinted here. There were a lot of great comic strips in the late eighties/early nineties -- Bloom Country, Doonesbury, Dilbert, Foxtrot -- but Watterson's creation stands out. If it's true that much of culture is confined to one's generation, surely Calvin and Hobbes deserves to be an exception to that rule.
The "international relations" book is Christina Davis' Food Fights over Free Trade. Davis points out that contrary to the conventional wisdom, compared to 1950 there has been significant agricultural liberalization among the developed countries. The explanation? International institutions, specifically the GATT/WTO regime. Through the promulgation of hard law and the ability to link agricultural issues to liberalization in other sectors, the United States has been able to pry open protected markets in Japan and Europe. A brief description of the book:
Chinese, Brazilian, Indian, and South African trade negotiators would serve themselves well by reading this book in order to devise a strategy to restart Cancun.
A (modest) step up from the Grammys
I'd been informed that I was actually nominated for something, so I clicked over to check out the myriad categories.
One question -- logically, how is it possible for Virginia Postrel to be nominated for Best Overall Blog, but not for Best Female Authored Blog? [What business is it of yours?--ed. Check out thethis map! I'm just sticking up for my country.]
This is a great idea. Not!
Disturbing developments are afoot in Internet governance, according to the Washington Post:
A U.N. agency being put in charge of regulating the Internet. Who wants this? According to this site, the key backers are China, Syria, Egypt, Vietnam, and South Africa. This story provides some additional background. [UPDATE: Marc Scribner links to this Reuters story says that China and Cuba will be among the strongest supporters of transfering power to the ITU.]
This makes me feel much better about this initiative.
In this interview, Milton Mueller, a longtime and vocal ICANN critic, voices a fair amount of displeasure at the WSIS conference:
Still, maybe I'm being too harsh. Maybe a U.N.-centric system of governance can properly address concerns about the global digital divide. Oh, wait.
This kind of multilateralism I could do without.
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has more, and links to The Daily Summit, which plans to blog the WSIS. Henry Farrell provides some added detail in the history between the US, EU, and the International Telecommunications Union on this issue, about which I have some familiarity.
Thursday, December 4, 2003
How will this play in Pittsburgh?
The President does the right thing and lifts the steel tariffs:
UPDATE: For how it's playing in Pittsburgh, click here (Thanks to alert reader P.S.!).
The productivity debate
The good news, according to the New York Times:
The bad news, according to Stephen S. Roach writing in last Sunday's New York Times -- the way productivity is being measured leads to a likely overestimation of that figure:
A quick perusal of Roach's writings reveal him to have replaced Henry Kaufman as the Dr. Doom of the U.S. economy. That said, he's raising a fair point about measurement issues here.
UPDATE: On the other hand, Tyler Cowen has a post suggesting that productivity gains have been underestimated.
I'm back. I'm swamped.
Good to be back in Chicago. Not so good to have hundreds of e-mail piled up in one's inbox. While I'm sorting through these, two new blogs to check out. For those interested in Republicans like me, check out The Bully Pulpit. The e-mail sent to me claimed that the blog has, "the brains of a Volokh and the wit of a Drezner!" Reads at your own risk.
For lighter fare, among the interesting web sites I've found -- this history of the pregnancy test kit, wittily entitled The Thin Blue Line.
Tuesday, December 2, 2003
A first for me
On the flight to Philadelphia, I experienced a first -- I read an article in an "airline" magazine that I actually thought was interesting -- "Who Knows" by Bruce Anderson, in US Airways Attaché magazine. The essay is about the "transiense of generational knowledge." The opening paragraphs:
I don't agree with Anderson's conclusions, but it's still worth a look -- and how many times can you say that about an airline magazine?
Monday, December 1, 2003
On the road again
I'm giving a talk tomorrow at the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Political Science. Blogging may or may not occur between now and when I return on Wednesday evening.
The comparative advantage of loyal fans
The rise of salary caps, luxury taxes and the like in professional sports has forced even comparatively wealthy franchises to lure marquee players with different kinds of incentives. The first one to crop up was location. In basketball, for example, Orlando is considered a nice place to play because so many players have off-season homes nearby. In baseball, St. Louis is considered to be a great baseball town, leading to a lot of free agent signings for the Cardinals.
The trade of Curt Schilling from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Boston Red Sox could mark a new kind of lure -- passionate fans. A lot of reports suggest that one tipping factor in Schilling's decision to approve the trade was his late-night interaction with the Red Sox nation on a fan web site, the Sons of Sam Horn. According to mlb.com:
Of course, the fact that the Florida Marlins won the World Series this year with a pretty apathetic fan base suggests the possible limits to this trend. And God help Schilling if the Red Sox Nation ever turns on him. Still, it will be interesting to see if this is the beginning of a larger trend of players sounding out fans before deciding where to sign. [Hey, you could combine this trend with sabremetrics and argue that whichever group of fans embraces the right stats the quickest will have the best team!--ed. I'll leave that to David Pinto].
And, as a Sox fan, I'm much obliged to the Sons of Sam Horn!
UPDATE: In Slate, Seth Stevenson points out that Schilling's online habits also have a negative effect on sports reporters via disintermediation.
Your TV critic reports on The Reagans
So I was all set to go to bed last night, when I started flipping channels, and I stumbled across "The Reagans," the miniseries that was planned to air on CBS but was put on its sister network Showtime in response to activist pressure. Curious, I watched it.
Critical reviews have been mixed. The New York Times says that the movie "turned out to be milder and more balanced than both its critics and its supporters had suggested." The Salt Lake Tribune says it "truly is offensive, grotesque, unfair and ultimately trivial." The Los Angeles Times has the most trenchant observation:
My own take:
1) Is the film a biased look at Reagan? Hell, yes. Any movie on Reagan's presidency that devotes ten minutes to the Bitburg screw-up and a half-hour to the Iran-Contra affair but passes over the Challenger speech and deals with the waning of the Cold War with a 20 second scene is dealing from a stacked deck [What about the line about AIDS that was the source of much of the controversy?--ed. Ironically, that's not in the final version -- indeed, the final version of that scene is one of the more effective critiques of Reagan's policies in the movie, as it has Reagan remaining silent in responce to Nancy's entreaties, a deft symbol of Reagan's AIDS policy (though see Andrew Sullivan for a dissent on this point)].
2) Of course, even-handedness is an imperfect standard to judge biopics -- by that score, you'd probably have to ding every Kennedy movie ever made for being too hagiographic or too critical. Films can be both partisan and good drama (think Reds). The question is, does the move grip you?
The answer for this one is no. The Reagans is just shapeless. In part, this may be because it was based on Carl Sferazza Anthony's First Ladies, Volume II, which Amazon describes as containing "minibiographies" of the relevant women. That ain't a strong foundation for a three-hour movie.
Watching it, I was never certain if the focus was Reagan's political career, the relationship between Ron and Nancy, the entire Reagan family, or what. There was no narrative structure, no theme, no pacing. It boils down to a biased highlights clip. Of course, it was originally intended as a miniseries, and I haven't seen a good one since Shogun.
I do know this -- if I were Patti Davis, I'd put a pox on the filmmakers. I haven't seen such an unflattering, malignant portrayal of a presidential offspring since... well, I never saw it, but I bet the JFK Jr. biopic wasn't particularly nice to John John. By far, she gets the worst treatment in this biopic. So, in closing, I'll turn over the microphone to Davis herself, who had this to say in Time last month about the brouhaha: