Friday, January 30, 2004

Up for grabs

A week ago, Roger L. Simon wrote the following:

For me one of the hallmarks of a good weblog is the honesty of the blogger--or at least the decent attempt at honesty because no one can be honest all the time, as Molière has shown us. So in keeping with that limited principal, I am going to open my ballot on here, revealing my votes in the Presidential election and primary and how they change (if they do). I call upon all bloggers--Democratic, Republican and 'Metropolitical'--to do the same to the extent they can (although the 'Metros' should be most interesting because they are the true 'swing' voters).

Well, one way to find out who I'm going to support is this Presidential Match site. According to their survey, my top three candidates were Bush, Lieberman... and Al Sharpton!! So I'm not placing a whole lot of faith in that site.

Here's my position -- I'm genuinely unsure of who I'm going to vote for. More and more, Bush reminds me of Nixon. He's not afraid to make the bold move in foreign policy. On domestic policy, Bush seems like he'll say or do anything, so long as it advances his short-term political advantage. If Karl Rove thought imposing wage and price controls would win Pennsylvania and Michigan for Bush, you'd see an Executive Order within 24 hours. Andrew Sullivan and others have delivered this harangue, so I won't repeat it.

If -- a big if -- the Democrats put forward a credible alternative, then I could very well pull the donkey lever.

posted by Dan at 11:53 AM | Comments (91) | Trackbacks (9)

The Trippi post-mortems

We had really geared up for what we thought was going to be a front runner's campaign. It's not going to be a front-runner's campaign. It's going to be a long war of attrition. What we need is decision making that's centralized. (emphasis added)

That's Howard Dean quoted in the New York Times story on Joe Trippi's resignation. The piece also observes that Dean only has enough cash on hand for another week of campaigning.

For more on the Trippi angle, go see Noam Scheiber's exercise in self-criticism.

Three thoughts on that quote:

1) If you're John Kerry you're feeling very, very happy right now. Kerry has co-opted a lot of Dean's message without Dean's baggage, leaving the Good Doctor little to do but sound like he's declaring war on the Democratic Party. The best thing for Kerry is to have Dean continue to make statements like this.

2) If you're John Kerry you're feeling slightly ambivalent about the long haul. On the one hand, as Scheiber puts it:

[T]he perfect stormers probably scared off a significant number of Iowans, who took one look at their nose-rings and their died hair and decided that they had nothing to talk about.

On the other hand, Kerry will need those voters in battleground states come November, especially if the South doesn't matter. Will Deaniacs retreat from the system as if their candidate flames out? Or will they go and vote for Kerry?

3) The Feiler Faster Thesis strikes again!! In the span of a month, Howard Dean has gone from looking like William Jennings Bryan to..... Harold Stassen. [So he's gone from looking like a three-time loser to an eight-time loser!--ed.]

posted by Dan at 10:35 AM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (1)

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Who wants caffeine?

Think you consume caffiene? See Brad DeLong.

Unimpressed? Then go read Jacob Levy's post on his caffeine consumption.

Neither of them, however, comes close to approaching the caffeine consumption of Paul Erdos. As he once said, "A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems."

UPDATE: James Joyner has more, including this very funny comment.

Relative to these people, I have a very mild habit. I didn't really drink coffee until I was in graduate school (Itried as an undergraduate, felt like my stomach lining was being ripped to shreds, and stopped soon afterwards). Even then, my gateway drug was the Starbucks mocha.

However, what got me to one cup a day was neither graduate school nor my job -- it was parenting.

posted by Dan at 02:54 PM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (2)

The political economy of outsourcing

[UPDATE TO MSNBC READERS: If you're interested in all of my outsourcing posts, click here]

Virginia Postrel has two posts up today on the political economy of outsourcing.

The first post appears to reflect the limited power of

As a faithful reader of Dan Drezner's blog, I knew about Catherine Mann's important policy paper on the future of info-tech outsourcing (.pdf download here) almost as soon as it came out. I somehow assumed everyone else did too, equating blog awareness with widespread media coverage. Then I met Mann... and I also learned that Dan's blog and the New York Sun pretty much accounted for all the press attention the paper had gotten.

So I devoted my latest NYT column to Mann's work.

Two thoughts: first, to be fair, Bruce Bartlett also picked up on the Mann study. Second, Virginia, you're one of the people that helps translates blog awareness to wider media coverage. Counterintuitive ideas don't travel without your help!!

Postrel's column expands upon the Mann study I discussed here. Some good parts:

Compared with the end of 1999, which was still a good time for programmers, December 2003 data show a 14 percent increase in business and financial occupations, a 6 percent increase in computer and mathematical jobs, and a 2 percent drop in architecture and engineering jobs. New programming jobs may be springing up in India, but they aren't canceling out job growth in the United States....

These projections aren't much comfort, of course, to unemployed programmers. While their skills may be in demand, Dr. Mann explains, those jobs may be in new industries - a hospital, for instance, rather than at I.B.M. - and therefore be harder to find. Or programmers may need new training to move into systems integration jobs.

Read all of it.

Later in the post, Postrel criticizes Glenn Reynolds for hyping the outsourcing meme. Glenn responds here. [UPDATE: Virginia responds to the response.]

Meanwhile, Virginia's other post follows up on Paul Craig Roberts. Outsourcing opponents have embraced him as one of their own since he co-authored an op-ed with New York Senator Chuck Schumer in the New York Times last month.

Eugene Volokh gets to the root causes of Roberts' protectionist rhetoric. It's not a pretty picture.

That said, it would be equally unfair to assume that everyone who agrees with Roberts about outsourcing shares the same root causes. Thirty years ago, Roberts was a supply-side nutball. He's just morphed into a protectionist nutball. [UPDATE: Tyler Cowen defends some of Roberts' earlier work.]

posted by Dan at 11:28 AM | Comments (36) | Trackbacks (2)

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Damn that Jack Balkin!!

Jack Balkin celebrated his blogiversary by writing not one, but two great posts about whether the blogosphere is an example of what Cass Sunstein called "cyberbalkanization" in the tendency for those engaged in political debate to ignore other points of view. I've heard some bloggers refer to this as "cocooning."

Balkin argues that the case of blogs falsifies this hypothesis:

[M]ost bloggers who write about political subjects cannot avoid addressing (and, more importantly, linking to) arguments made by people with different views. The reason is that much of the blogosphere is devoted to criticizing what other people have to say. It's hard to argue with what the folks at National Review Online or Salon are saying unless you go read their articles, and, in writing a post about them, you will almost always either quote or link to the article, or both. Ditto for people who criticize Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, or Kos, or Atrios. If you don't like what Glenn said about Iraq, you quote a bit of his posting, link to it, and then make fun of him. These links are the most important way that people travel on the Web from one view to its opposite. (And linking also produces a good check on criticism because you can actually go and read what the person being criticized has said.)....

Nevertheless, one might object, this argument is premised on the idea that the blogosphere has customs of linking that encourage give and take. What is to guarantee that these customs will continue? Obviously bloggers could give up their customs, and stop linking to each other. But I doubt this will happen; the customs make sense given the way the technology works. And worrying about whether people will or won't continue to link absent a government regulatory apparatus that encourages linking completely misses the point about how Internet speech works: The fact that these customs developed says a lot about the health and vibrancy and pluralism of the public sphere in cyberspace.

In his second post on the topic, Balkin then goes on to effectively critique the Sunday New York Times article on cyberbalkanization that I linked to here.

Balkin's posts are so good that Henry Farrell and I will have to cite him in our own blog paper -- as we're making many of the same arguments.

posted by Dan at 03:47 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (4)

Dramatic developments in Pakistan?

The Chicago Tribune breaks a big story about U.S. plans for a military offensive inside Pakistan:

The Bush administration, deeply concerned about recent assassination attempts against Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and a resurgence of Taliban forces in neighboring Afghanistan, is preparing a U.S. military offensive that would reach inside Pakistan with the goal of destroying Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, military sources said.

U.S. Central Command is assembling a team of military intelligence officers that would be posted in Pakistan ahead of the operation, according to sources familiar with details of the plan and internal military communications. The sources spoke on the condition they not be identified.

As now envisioned, the offensive would involve Special Operations forces, Army Rangers and Army ground troops, sources said. A Navy aircraft carrier would be deployed in the Arabian Sea.

Referred to in internal Pentagon messages as the "spring offensive," the operation would be driven by certain undisclosed events in Pakistan and across the region, sources said. A source familiar with details of the plan said this is "not like a contingency plan for North Korea, something that sits on a shelf. This planning is like planning for Iraq. They want this plan to be executable, now."

The Defense Department declined to comment on the planned offensive or its details.

Such an operation almost certainly would demand the cooperation of Musharraf, who previously has allowed only a small number of U.S. Special Operations forces to work alongside Pakistani troops in the semi-autonomous tribal areas. A military source in Washington said last week, "We are told we're going into Pakistan with Musharraf's help."

Here's the follow-up from the Associated Press.

Just last week at Davos, Musharraf appeared to reject this strategy:

He vehemently rejected a suggestion that Pakistan invite a large U.S. force in to patrol the Pakistani side of the border.

"No, sir, that is not a possibility at all,'' said Musharraf. "It's a very sensitive issue.''

Pakistan has a large, experienced army and has no need of foreign forces on Pakistani territory, he said.

"We have a very strong, effective, quick-reaction force who take action whenever we spot any al-Qaida elements,'' Musharraf said.

"Everyone is very satisfied with whatever we've done. On our side, Pakistan operates. On the Afghan side, it is ISAF and U.S. forces which are operating.''

"There is total cooperation of the two sides, and things are functioning very well operationally. There is no need of change now.''

Other reports confirm this statement, with Musharraf saying Al Qaeda was "ineffective" and "on the run."

I'd offer some cogent analysis at this point, but I'm torn between two diametrically opposed viewpoints:

1) It's about friggin' time. If the biggest cluster of high-level Al Qaeda operatives are in the mountains of Pakistan, that's where U.S. forces should be.

2) Musharraf clearly feels more secure in his domestic situation than the Western media feels about Musharraf's domestic situation.

If this weren't enough for Musharraf, he's also going to face a backlash regarding the nuclear investigation. The Washington Post reports:

Pakistani investigators have concluded that two senior nuclear scientists used a network of middlemen operating a black market to supply nuclear weapons technology to Iran and Libya, according to three senior Pakistani intelligence officials....

The officials said the findings arose from an investigation being conducted by the Pakistani military's Inter-Services Intelligence agency. The probe, which officials say is nearing completion, was begun after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) presented Pakistani officials late last year with evidence that Pakistani technology appeared to have played a role in the clandestine nuclear weapons programs of both Iran and Libya.

As a result of the probe, Khan has been confined to his house in an elite neighborhood in Islamabad, one of the officials said, and Farooq has been in detention since late November. Telephone calls to Khan's home seeking comment went unanswered on Tuesday....

Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, acknowledged last week that some of Pakistan's nuclear scientists appeared to have sold their expertise abroad. Musharraf and other officials have said the scientists acted without authorization and have vowed to take action against those involved. That, however, could provoke a political backlash in Pakistan, where many people regard Khan and his colleagues as national heroes.

Meanwhile, this report suggests that the Pakistani government is split on what to do about this. Here's the closing graf:

Analysts, however, believe Washington will apply more pressure than what the regime in Islamabad can endure. Musharraf, they say, had been the most trusted US ally in the Muslim world since 9/11. Compelling Musharraf to do more on the nuclear issue, diplomats believe, will enhance domestic unrest against Musharraf, which might destabilize his regime. “And the US does not want this to happen - at least for the time being,” a western diplomat said requesting anonymity.

If I was CNN, I'd be locking in South Asia experts pronto.

UPDATE: The comments here and on other interesting blogs question the motivation behind the story -- did someone leak it as an act of sabotaging the planned operation?

There is another possibility -- that the leak was a conscious choice designed to flush bin Laden out of hiding. Some suggested last month that the heightened terror alert was an example of Al Qaeda trying to pulse out U.S. intelligence. This could be an attempt by the U.S. government to mirror that strategy.

The one thing that mitigates against this line of thinking is that it would have made more sense to leak such a story to the Washington Post or New York Times. The Tribune is an odd place to plant this [Which makes it more credible as an unintentional intentional leak?--ed. This is the kind of hypothesis that makes me reach for the aspirin]

ANOTHER UPDATE: Darren Kaplan has more context and background.

posted by Dan at 10:22 AM | Comments (70) | Trackbacks (19)

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

New Hampshire thread

Well, I did get the 1-2 correct -- that said, I was more wrong than right in my New Hampshire predictions, so I have no right to discuss the results.

Talk amongst yourselves, however. I'll open with the following: did Dean and Clark do well enough to have a viable chance of winning the nomination?

UPDATE: OK, I posted an additional comment at Instapundit. That's right, InstaPundit.

LAST UPDATE: Jacob Levy in junkie mode; Josh Marshall in detached analysis mode.

posted by Dan at 10:13 PM | Comments (30) | Trackbacks (1)

Not letting up on outsourcing

Two new stories on the web today about the outsourcing phenomenon, about which I've blogged here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and ... er, here. [Why don't you just create a new category for these posts?--ed. Hey, good idea!]

The Washington Post has an editorial blasting the Democrats for demagoguing the outsourcing issue (link via David Adesnik). The last paragraph:

It's true that the shift of service jobs to countries such as India, like other trade-related dislocation, adds to the temporary pain of structural unemployment. But, as Mr. Greenspan says, new jobs will be created. If a U.S. firm shifts employment abroad, the savings flow back to the United States in the form of lower prices for consumers and higher dividends for shareholders; the consumers and shareholders will direct their new spending power at things that create employment. Meanwhile, the fall in prices will allow the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates lower, boosting the job-creation engine. At its meeting today and tomorrow, the Fed is almost certain to keep short-term interest rates at a rock-bottom 1 percent because forces such as "offshoring" are keeping inflation in check despite a rebounding economy. Offshoring, like trade, creates winners and losers, which is why open trade should be accompanied by social safety nets. But the winners will outnumber the losers, because the adjustment creates new efficiencies. Each worker can produce more, meaning that he or she can be paid more. Do the Democrats really mean to oppose that?

Meanwhile, Wired has an in-depth cover story (and a few sidebars) on the outsourcing phenomenon (thanks to axiom for the link). One the one hand, the main piece by Daniel Pink gets at the core of current frustrations:

A century ago, 40 percent of Americans worked on farms. Today, the farm sector employs about 3 percent of our workforce. But our agriculture economy still outproduces all but two countries. Fifty years ago, most of the US labor force worked in factories. Today, only about 14 percent is in manufacturing. But we've still got the largest manufacturing economy in the world - worth about $1.9 trillion in 2002. We've seen this movie before - and it's always had a happy ending. The only difference this time is that the protagonists are forging pixels instead of steel. And accountants, financial analysts, and other number crunchers, prepare for your close-up. Your jobs are next. After all, to export sneakers or sweatshirts, companies need an intercontinental supply chain. To export software or spreadsheets, somebody just needs to hit Return.

What makes this latest upheaval so disorienting for Americans is its speed. Agriculture jobs provided decent livelihoods for at least 80 years before the rules changed and working in the factory became the norm. Those industrial jobs endured for some 40 years before the twin pressures of cheap competition overseas and labor-saving automation at home rewrote the rules again. IT jobs - the kind of high-skill knowledge work that was supposed to be our future - are facing the same sort of realignment after only 20 years or so. The upheaval is occurring not across generations, but within individual careers. The rules are being rewritten while people are still playing the game. And that seems unjust.

On the other hand, Chris Anderson makes the most trenchant point:

For US workers, the path beyond services seems uncertain. But again, history provides a guide. Thirty years ago, another form of outsourcing hit the US service sector: the computer. That led to a swarm of soulless processing machines, promoted by management consultants and embraced by profit-obsessed executives gobbling jobs in a push for efficiency. If today's cry of the displaced is "They sent my job to India!" yesterday's was "I was replaced by a computer!"

Then, as now, the potential for disruption seemed infinite. Data crunching was just the start. Soon electronic brains would replace most of the accounting department, the typing pool, and the switchboard. After that, the thinking went, the modern corporation would apply the same technology to middle management, business analysis, and, ultimately, decisionmaking. If your job was emptying an inbox and filling an outbox, you were begging for someone to draw the I/O analogy - and act on it. Indeed, computer terminology is littered with traces of what were formerly jobs: printers, monitors, file managers; even computers themselves used to be people, not machines.

Computers have, of course, reshaped the workplace. But they have also proved remarkably effective at creating jobs. Bookkeepers of old, adding columns in ledgers, are today's financial analysts, wielding Excel and PowerPoint in boardroom strategy sessions. Secretaries have morphed into executive assistants, more aides-de-camp than stenographers. Typesetters have become designers. True, in many cases different people filled the new jobs, leaving millions painfully displaced, but over time the net effect was positive - for workers and employers alike.

At the same time, we learned the limits of computers - especially their inability to replace us - and our fear of a silicon invasion diminished.

Comment away.

posted by Dan at 04:38 PM | Comments (121) | Trackbacks (4)

Quote of the day

From Ryan Lizza's campaign journal at TNR:

If Dean's events sometimes look like the bar scene from Star Wars, Edwards's traveling show has the feel of an Abercrombie and Fitch fashion shoot.

If you click over to the Abercrombie & Fitch site, you start to understand the whole "growing male crush" phenomenon with regard to Edwards.

posted by Dan at 02:02 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, January 26, 2004

Dissecting the outsourcing hypothesis

Clay Risen takes a hard look at outsourcing fears in The New Republic and finds them overblown:

While offshoring is definitely an economic trend, there is no statistical evidence pointing to the massive employment drain activists call the "coring out" of America's best jobs. In fact, recent studies show that the opposite is true: While offshoring may displace some workers in the short term, in the medium and long terms it represents a net benefit for both domestic businesses and their workers. In fact, the greatest threat from outsourcing is that its opponents will use it to force a new wave of protectionism.

The frenzy over offshoring got going in late 2002, when Forrester Research released a startling study showing that 3.3 million white-collar jobs would move overseas by 2015. Then, in July of last year, the research firm Gartner trotted out its own study saying that as many as 5 percent of all information technology (I.T.) jobs could move abroad between mid-2003 and the end of 2004. And a 2003 report from Deloitte Research said that the top 100 financial-services firms plan to move $356 billion in operations and two million jobs overseas in the next five years.

But those numbers aren't as scary as they sound. For one thing, while offshore outsourcing is definitely occurring, it's difficult to say just how large a trend it is at present. The Forrester research is based primarily on surveys of business leaders who are merely speculating about future offshoring decisions they might make: "There is no objective data to prove all these jobs are going overseas," says Michaela Platzer of the AeA (formerly the American Electronics Association). "There's just a lot of anecdotal evidence." Some point to the jobless recovery as evidence of offshoring's impact, but the lack of jobs is just as likely the result of booming productivity and the economy's (until recently) anemic pace. "I think people are confusing the business cycle with long-term trends," says Daniel Griswold, an economist at the Cato Institute. "People are looking for someone to blame. They say, 'Aha, it's because our jobs are moving to India.' If you look at the late 1990s, though, all these globalizing phenomena were going on." In other words, it wasn't that offshoring practices changed; it was that the economy slowed.

Risen doesn't even mention the Catherine Mann study, which provides some hard data to back up Risen's conterarguments.

Another story suggests that reports of the outsourcing of call centers has also been greatly exaggerated.

posted by Dan at 05:57 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (3)

My final thoughts on New Hampshire

John Ellis reports that the media covering the NH primary is at sea:

It's clear that the national political press corps is flummoxed by New Hampshire. They have no idea what's going on, although they all agree that Kerry will win. Novak has been reduced to quoting "an elderly couple" in his hotel lobby. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal both seem whipsawed by all the tracking polls.

I'm feeling energized by the fact that I was right about Iowa, so I'm taking advantage of the Mediasphere's confusion to make bold, half-assed predictions for tomorrow!! [As bold as Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, who has actual percentages?--ed. Not that bold!!]

Clearly, the tracking polls are going to be of little help. Compare the ARG with the Zogby and you start to appreciate the concept of "standard error" in a whole new way (a point Mark Kleiman made in the past week).

So, I'm basing my prediction on one ironclad historical fact -- Granite State voters like to mindf#&k the pollsters and the pundits. Sometimes they'll do this for the sheer fun of it -- remember, Pat Buchanan won the state in 1996.

So, pooling that fact in with the assorted polls and reportage, here are my predictions:

1) Kerry
2) Dean
3) Edwards
4) Lieberman
5) Clark.

I'm not so bold as to be able to predict a Dean victory. But let's face it, the scream effect has worn off, for the same reason that the cops tried for the Rodney King beating received a not guilty verdict -- watch the video repeatedly, and the visceral effect starts to wear off. As ABC's The Note notes: "Many of his supporters here are angry at the media and the process and are fighting back (unlike in Iowa, where they seemed more angry at Dean)."

As for Kerry, I'm going with Jacob Levy and Mickey Kaus that Kerry wears out his welcome over time.

Finally, as John Ellis (again) points out, the national media want to bury Dean in New Hampshire. The best way for the Granite State to stop that is for Dean to play the Clinton angle post-primary. So I'm saying Dean will finish within five points of Kerry -- I'm just not sure of which side of him he'll finish. [Your readers want something more specific--ed. Fine -- Kerry by 3%]

The other steady drumbeat coming out of N.H. is that Wes Clark's campaign couldn't organize a proper bake sale. Democrats are suspicious of him. Republican- leaning independents are more likely to vote for Lieberman than Clark; Democrat-leaning independents are more likely to vote for Edwards than Clark. The debate performance didn't help. So, I'm saying he finishes fifth. [But wait, doesn't going with the media flow this time violate your rule about New Hampshire voters?--ed. Above all else, New Hampshire voters expect to be wined and dined. Clark's organization looks like its not capable of performing even that function.]

I was only partly right about the media spin after Iowa, but here goes anyway -- they help Edwards again. A revitalized Dean is going to go after Kerry with a vengeance, and Kerry's anti-Shermanesque motto -- "I will lose the South" -- will cause Kerry's upticks in the polls to melt away in the South. If Edwards makes a credible showing in New Hampshire, he'll be able to attract sufficient strength in the South to stay in the race for a while.

Of course, this is all predicated on Dean pulling close enough to Kerry to make things interesting, and Edwards beating Clark. I could very easily be wrong, in which case the current Senator from Massachusetts will start to resemble a former Senator of Massachusetts. If I'm right, however, then the Kerry balloon could pop, and the current Senator from Massachusetts will start to resemble... a former Senator from Massachusetts.

posted by Dan at 01:23 PM | Comments (22) | Trackbacks (5)

John Kerry, political idiot

Jake Tapper reports for ABC that John Kerry said he doesn't need the South:

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., is discounting notions that any Democratic candidate would have to appeal to Southern voters in order to win the presidency, calling such thinking a "mistake" during a speech at Dartmouth College.

Kerry's remarks Saturday were so starkly antithetical to how many southern Democrats feel their party should campaign for the presidency, that a former South Carolina state Democratic chairman told ABCNEWS that Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C., who endorsed Kerry last week, perhaps "ought to reconsider his endorsement."

During a town hall meeting on the Dartmouth campus, Kerry noted that former Vice President Al Gore would be president if he'd won any number of other non-Southern states in 2000, including New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Ohio.

"Everybody always makes the mistake of looking South," Kerry said, in response to a question about winning the region. "Al Gore proved he could have been president of the United States without winning one Southern state, including his own."

"I think the fight is all over this country," Kerry said. "Forget about those red and blue states. We're going to change that now, and we're going to go out there and change the face of America."

Simple question: what the hell was John Kerry thinking?

Let's acknowledge at the outset that Kerry is correct on the facts. If Gore had won just one more state, he would have become president.

Politically, however, this is just stupid. As I've argued previously, the best way for Kerry to knock Edwards and Clark out of the race is to win South Carolina. How is this statement going to help that? Even if Kerry gets the nomination, this regional "f#$k you" is going to haunt him regardless of how many mea culpas the Kerry campaign churns out.

There's a more substantive point, however -- does anyone want a president elected without support across regional boundaries? This applies to Bush as well as the Dems. You want a president to be able to say they command support in the Northeast, South, Midwest and West.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan asks:

The cultural divide between the South and the rest of the country is getting pretty yawning. Isn't it equally true that the Republicans have given up on most of the Northeast?

Gotta disagree on both counts. On the former, read Daniel Urman's first-person account of going door-to-door in New Hampshire. As for the Republicans and New England, the Republicans hold five out of the twelve possible Senate seats and five out of the six governors seats. Bush won New Hampshire in 2000. It's Democrat-friendly territory, no doubt, but the Republicans still need to do well there.

UPDATE: Tom Maguire reinforces Tapper's point that Kerry has said this before.

posted by Dan at 11:12 AM | Comments (58) | Trackbacks (5)

When populism can work

One of the things that struck me the night of the Iowa caucuses was that all of the Democratic candidates were using the same kind of populist themes of "special interests vs. your interests" that worked so well poorly for Al Gore in 2000. And George W. Bush is always at the center of those special interests.

I've defended the administration from the more outlandish set of charges. However, stories like the one in today's Chicago Tribune on Boeing's fueling tanker follies are going to hit home this fall. The deal would have let the Pentagon lease airplanes from Boeing to bolster its own refeuling fleet. By leasing rather than buying, the Defense Department was reducing costs in the short run but vastly increasing them in the long run. Boeing got its way, however:

Mitch Daniels, then President Bush's budget director and now the Republican candidate for Indiana governor, thought the tanker deal violated government accounting rules.

"The central problem was that the tankers were not on [the] Defense Department's wish list until somebody [at Boeing] came up with this idea," an administration source said.

Faced with Daniels' objections, Boeing did what only a handful of American businesses can do: It went over Daniels' head and straight to Bush. Through a series of meetings among the president and his staff and key members of Congress--including House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.)--Boeing applied enough pressure at the top to push its contract through in May.

Today, however, those hardball tactics have backfired. The lobbying campaign is the subject of criminal, congressional and Pentagon investigations....

Inside the White House budget office, the political pressure applied by Boeing was keenly felt.

"What made this thing to so very difficult was that it had enormous political overtones," said one budget office veteran involved in the issue. "I'm talking about Boeing mustering up every congressman who had five employees in his district and beating on everyone in sight."

If you read the whole thing, you'll see that Democratic as well as Republican congressmen lobbied vigorously for the deal, so this ain't just the executive branch and it ain't just Republicans. And, to be fair, the system worked eventually, with the contract being withdrawn.

Still, this is the kind of story that makes the populism angle work. And it's going to hurt the majority party way more than the minority party.

Populism always scares me because it's joined at the hip to trade protectionism. If the economy continues to struggle with job creation, however, I fear it will be a more potent tactic than in 2000.

posted by Dan at 10:54 AM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Laura Kipnis on marriage

The occasionally droll Laura Kipinis -- author of Against Love: A Polemic -- puts on her serious hat for today's New York Times op-ed on the state of marriage. The highlights:

More and more people — heterosexuals, that is — don't want to get or stay married these days, no matter their income level. Yes, cohabitation is particularly prevalent in less economically stable groups, including the women counted as unmarried mothers. But only 56 percent of all adults are married, compared with 75 percent 30 years ago. The proportion of traditional married-couple-with-children American households has dropped to 26 percent of all households, from 45 percent in the early 1970's. The demographics say Americans are voting no on marriage.

The fact is that marriage is a social institution in transition, whether conservatives like it or not. This is not simply a matter of individual malfeasance; in fact, it may not be individual at all. The rise of the new economy has gutted all sorts of traditional values and ties, including traditions like the family wage, job security and economic safety nets. Women have been propelled into the work force in huge numbers, and not necessarily for personal fulfillment: with middle-class wages stagnant from the early 70's to the mid-90's, it now takes (at least) two incomes to support the traditional household.

But as the political theorist Francis Fukuyama has pointed out, the changing nature of capitalism since the 1960's also required a different kind of work force; it was postindustrialism, perhaps even more than feminism, that transformed gender roles, contributing to what he calls the "great disruption" of the present. The increasing economic self-sufficiency of women has certainly been a factor in declining marriage rates: there's nothing like a checking account to decrease someone's willingness to be pushed into marriage or stay in a bad one. And interestingly, welfare reform has played the same role for lower-income groups: studies have shown a steep decline in marriages among women in welfare-to-work programs, for many of the same reasons.

So how about a little more honesty and fewer platitudes on the marriage question.

Honesty would be good. Kipnis knows a lot more about this subject than I do, but some of her facts seem shaded.

For example, Fukuyama did posit in The Great Disruption that the post-industrial society had a deleterious effect on marital status. However, he also argued that the effect was temporary and reversible: "Social order, once disrupted, tends to get remade again." Fukuyama argued that the institution of marriage was rebounding -- not that there was an inexorable erosion of the institution.

This jibes with data suggesting a modest turnaround in marriage rates starting in the mid-1990's. John Leo noted back in 2001 that:

The liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed 1995 to 2000 data and concluded that the move away from marriage "really seems to have come to a halt," in the words of Wendell Primus, a poverty expert at the center. The proportion of children under 18 living with a single mother declined by 8 percent in five years, according to a report written by Primus and Allen Dupree. Working with an early copy of the report, Jonathan Peterson of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "some of the newest evidence suggests that the tidal flow away from two-parent families peaked years ago and may even be starting to change course."

Mickey Kaus also commented on this phenomenon at the time.

Finally, as to whether marriage is worth defending, go read this excellent summary of University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite's research on the benefits of marriage. It explodes more than a few myths on the subject:

While pundits, politicians, and moralists weigh the pros and cons of gay marriage, Linda Waite is still focused on traditional American couples, countering messages from the “antimarriage” culture and championing marriage’s benefits: specifically, that marriage itself is good for your physical and mental health, good for your financial stability, good for your sex life, good for your kids—good for almost every aspect of what many Americans consider a happy life....

[M]arried men, rather than trading their libidos for lawn mowers, have more sex than single men. And married women are less depressed than single women, contrary to feminist sociologist Jessie Bernard’s explosive 1972 book arguing that wives were more phobic, depressed, dependent, and passive—findings that have shaped cultural conceptions ever since. More recently Waite has shown that divorce does not make unhappily married people any happier. In a study released in July 2002 she and five colleagues analyzed data from the University of Wisconsin’s National Survey of Family and Households. When the adults who said they were unhappily married in the late 1980s were interviewed again five years later, those who had divorced were on average still unhappy or even less happy, while those who stayed in their marriages on average had moved past the bad times and were at a happier stage. After controlling for race, age, gender, and income, Waite’s group found that divorce usually did not reduce symptoms of depression, raise self esteem, or increase a sense of mastery over one’s life.

UPDATE: More venting by Laura at at Apt. 11D.

posted by Dan at 10:33 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

Give me the Drysdale!

I see I've been nominated for "Best Non-Liberal Blog" for the 2003 Koufax Awards.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't tell you good readers to vote for me [Yes, you would!--ed.] but in the interest of marital balance I'm going to ask this time. Erika writes one pithy post and gets a Bloggie nomination!! My lovely wife has been lording it over me ever since, unimpressed with the meager success I've had with prior awards.

So, even the score and vote for me!! [Is this a reason or a rant?--ed. There's a reason you don't get nominated for anything]

posted by Dan at 03:42 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

The blogging of the President

Christopher Lydon will be hosting a radio show on NPR tonight from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM (Eastern Time) entitled "The Blogging of the President." Of course, there's an associated blog. Here are links to multiple posts about tonight's show -- which has an impressive line-up of commentators from both the blogosphere (Andrew Sullivan, Jeff Jarvis, Atrios, Joshua Micah Marshall) and the mediasphere (Gary Hart, Kevin Phillips, Richard Reeves).

To listen in online, go to Minnesota Public Radio's home page.

For background reading, check out this AP story on blogs and campaigns from earlier this week, and today's essay about political "cyberbalkanization" from the New York Times.

UPDATE: A few thoughts having just listened to the broadcast:

1) Christopher Lyudon is just a font of adjectives. My favorite for describing the blogosphere was "yeasty."

2) Great (paraphrased) exchange between Jeff Jarvis and Frank Rich:

JARVIS: Frank, I'd like to see you have a blog.

RICH: I can't -- I want to have a life!!

3) Jeff Jarvis also had the best line of the evening: "Bloggers don't replace reporters; bloggers replace editors."

4) Where the hell were Gary Hart and Kevin Phillips? [UPDATE: According to this post, "We can't get through to Gary Hart's number." I have that problem too.]

5) Atrios and Sullivan had a yeasty exchange towards the end. Andrew made the point that he was willing to criticize his own side of the political spectrum, whereas Atrios would not do the same on the left. Atrios replied that simply wasn't true, and it was clear Andrew had not read his blog. Sullivan asked Atrios to cite an episode when he had criticized someone on the left. Atrios paused and said, "Well, I can't think of think of one right now."

6) Scrappleface posted the following headline to a Blogging of the President real-time entry: "Public Radio Show Talks about People Who Write About What's Written About People Who Do Little Else But Talk."

7) A final substantive critique of the show -- Neither Lydon nor any of his guests made the crucial distinction between campaign blogs and independent political blogs. The former might be more prone than the latter to the cocooning phenomenon discussed on the show.

FINAL UPDATE: On a related subject, Billmon privides an exhaustive report on a Davos Economic Forum panel on the relationship between the blogosphere and the mediasphere.

posted by Dan at 01:08 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (1)

The dynamics of the Democratic race

Josh Marshall -- who's giving his readers their money's worth in New Hampshire -- introduces a complicating factor to the race after Tuesday:

[T]he two candidates with the most wind at their back -- Kerry and Edwards -- are also the ones who have the fewest resources in place to contest the primaries which will come rapidly, week after week, after next Tuesday.

Dean, of course, has spent the last couple months using all those Internet dollars to build up organizations and infrastructure in states across the country. And Clark, though to a lesser extent, has done the same.

Here's the thing -- I'm not sure how much organization matters. The Internet has made it very easy for candidates to translate monentum into contributions and volunteers (though not top-shelf organizers). Organization matters for get-out-the-vote efforts -- but this time around, the horse-race dynamic is boosting turnout anyway.

Once the race reaches the multi-state primaries phase, what matters more than organization are free media and paid media. The former goes to the candidates with momentum (though the Dean obsession this week could prove me wrong on that one). The latter goes to the candidates with money, which helps Dean and Clark. However, if both Kerry and Edwards do well in the Granite State (and Jonathan Cohn argues that Edwards will do much better than expected in New Hampshire) then the margin of that advantage will shrink dramatically as new money rushes to both of those candidates.

UPDATE: Via DailyKos, The ARG polls in three February 3rd primary states (Arizona, South Carolina, and Oklahoma) highlight the fluidity of the race, but they also support my argument. Dean, for all his vaunted organization, is running no higher than fourth in all three states, and is only polling in double-digits in Arizona. Clark's numbers are relatively strong -- but if he doesn't do well in New Hampshire I can see that support fading. Meanwhile, Kerry is leading in the Arizona poll and second in South Carolina. Edwards is leading in South Carolina and second in Oklahoma.

posted by Dan at 12:55 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (2)

Hunting spam

I've written previously that my preference for dealing with annoyances like e-mail spam has been through technological rather than regulatory recourses. It's not that I necessarily think legal options are wrong; they're just not my first choice.

We've been through this regarding phone solicitations, in which the regulatory outcome seemed to win. Intriguingly, the battle for Internet spam might be a case of technological solutions mattering more than regulatory ones.

The New York Times reports that increasingly sophisticated filtering software is eroding the "quality" of spam:

Measured in bits and bytes, the sheer volume of spam may not have diminished. But advanced filtering software, which learns to recognize the mercurial traits of junk e-mail, is having an effect. The spammers' messages are becoming harder and harder to decipher. Sense is inevitably degenerating into nonsense, like a pileup of random mutations in an endangered species gasping its last breaths.

Earlier this month, when Internet experts met in Cambridge, Mass., for the 2004 Spam Conference (available as a Web broadcast at, they showed just how far the science of spam fighting has come. For all the recent talk of suing spammers and compiling a national do-not-spam list, most speakers were putting their hopes in technological, not legal solutions. The federal government's new junk e-mail law, the Can Spam Act, barely rated a mention....

Many experts believe that solving the spam problem will require a combination of [legal and technological] approaches. But laws take forever to pass and amend. Technological fixes like sender authentication and electronic stamps would also take time to carry out, but filtering is already here - and it is reducing the spammers' messages to feeble signals swamped by a roar of alphanumeric noise.

Meanwhile Bill Gates is now weighing in on the issue:

Microsoft chief Bill Gates has vowed to make spam emails obsolete in two years’ time, sources confirmed tonight.

Mr Gates admitted spamming, which usually relates to pornography, pyramid schemes or financial scams, was innovative.

But, he revealed that Microsoft was investigating three solutions to rid in-boxes from the clutter of unsolicited bulk emails....

Filters could be used to sift real mail from spam but would not be the “magic solution” as spammers used random words in subject headers and replaced text with pictures to go undetected.

“Human challenges”, forcing the sender to solve a puzzle or the computer sending the email to do a simple computation, would be easy for a machine sending a few emails, but expensive and difficult when dealing with lots of spam.

posted by Dan at 12:16 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, January 23, 2004

The need for intelligence reform

David Kay, the chief U.S. arms hunter in Iraq, has resigned, saying in a Reuters interview (link via Calpundit) that, "I think we have found probably 85 percent of what we're going to find." As to the question of large-scale WMD stockpiles, Kay said:

I don't think they existed.

I think there were stockpiles at the end of the first Gulf War and those were a combination of U.N. inspectors and unilateral Iraqi action got rid of them. I think the best evidence is that they did not resume large-scale production, and that's what we're really talking about, is large stockpiles, not the small. Large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in the period after '95.

In the battles over intelligence about Iraq's WMD capabilities, it seems clear that the professionals were closer to the truth on Iraq's actual capabilities than the Bush team. However, it's also worth noting that even the professionals overestimated Iraq's WMD capabilities -- which is one reason why the Clinton foreign policy team has been relatively muted in its criticisms of the Bush team on this issue.

The blogging over this Washington Post article from early this week on not finding WMD has been about whether the story stacked the deck against the Bush team. However, since the intelligence community was also off the mark, the key point is that the U.S. was going to be wrong about Iraq no matter what. The important point in the Post story is the bipartisan consensus that intelligence errors -- regardless of the cause -- can damage America's reputation:

The inability to find suspected weapons "has to make it more difficult on some future occasion if the United States argues the intelligence warrants something controversial, like a preventive attack," said [Richard] Haass, a Republican who was head of policy planning for Secretary of State Colin L. Powell when the war started. "The result is we've made the bar higher for ourselves and we have to expect greater skepticism in the future."

James Steinberg, a deputy national security adviser in the Clinton administration who believed there were legitimate concerns about Iraq's weapons programs, said the failure of the prewar claims to match the postwar reality "add to the general sense of criticism about the U.S., that we will do anything, say anything" to prevail.

Indeed, whenever Powell grants interviews to foreign news organizations, he is often hit with a question about the search for weapons of mass destruction. Last Friday, a British TV reporter asked whether in retirement he would "admit that you had concerns about invading Iraq," and a Dutch reporter asked whether he ever had doubts about the Iraq policy....

"I think there are [diplomatic] consequences as a result of the president asking these questions [about Iraq's weapons holdings] and the answer being no" weapons, said Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, who believes the ouster of Hussein justified the war. "The intelligence could have been better."

Some might conclude that this is merely a case of the Bush team distorting reliable intel. However, other revelations this week suggest that the intelligence community can be wrong about important matters without any help whatsoever from the Bush team.

Consider Jack Pritchard's New York Times op-ed on how what's happening in North Korea is at variance with intelligence estimates:

In December 2002 North Korea was suspected of having one or two nuclear weapons that it had acquired before agreeing in 1994 to freeze its known nuclear program and to allow it to be monitored.

More than a year later, North Korea may have quadrupled its arsenal of nuclear weapons. During the intervening period, the Bush administration has relied on intelligence that dismissed North Korean claims that it restarted its nuclear program at Yongbyon with the express purpose of reprocessing previously sealed and monitored spent fuel to extract plutonium to make a "nuclear deterrent."

Now there are about 8,000 spent fuel rods missing — evidence that work on such a deterrent may have begun. It is just the most recent failure in a string of serious North Korea-related intelligence failures.

When North Korea claimed in 1998 to have launched a three-stage rocket to put a communications satellite into orbit, American intelligence initially denied the rocket had this capacity — and then, days later, confirmed the North Korean claim. That same year United States intelligence insisted that Pyongyang had embarked on a secret underground project to duplicate its frozen nuclear weapons program. Eight months later, an American inspection team visited the underground site to find that American intelligence was dead wrong. Then there was the intelligence in the summer of 2002 that indicated the North Korean regime was on the brink of collapse. That reporting was later recalled as faulty — but not before the damage was done.

Kevin O'Connell and Robert Tomes argue in the most recent issue of Policy Review about the implications of faulty intelligence (link via Patrick Belton):

The anticipated intelligence reform debate cannot be limited to getting domestic and national intelligence agencies merely to share information or post data others can access. Anyone who regards this as the core issue has mistaken the tree for the forest. An overhaul of how intelligence and information are created, gathered, and shared throughout the national security enterprise is needed. Although recent discussions have focused on domestic information sharing, this issue also concerns relationships with allies and security partners that are historically dependent on American intelligence to supplement their more austere intelligence activities. When American information and knowledge entities fail internally to correlate and act upon collected or reported data, the negative effects cascade through information networks both inside and outside the Untied States. This has the potential to negatively influence those who share with us, jeopardizing a relatively small but nonetheless critical source of information our human sources are often unable to ferret out.

Let me be clear -- I haven't the faintest idea how these problems can be fixed. I trust my loyal readers can come up with a few thoughts of their own.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum voices a similar concern from the opposite side of the political fence:

I think the administration did believe there was WMD in Iraq before the war. What's more, the CIA and MI6 thought the same thing and the yawning silence from both Republicans and Democrats about how our intelligence services could have been so wildly off the mark is a scandal of the first order. Is anyone serious about this stuff?

posted by Dan at 05:17 PM | Comments (49) | Trackbacks (3)

The Plame Game goes to the grand jury

Via Tom Maguire, I see that the Valerie Plame investigation is moving forward. Here's Time on the latest:

Sources with knowledge of the case tell TIME that behind closed doors at the E. Barrett Prettyman federal courthouse, nearby the Capitol, a grand jury began hearing testimony Wednesday in the investigation of who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to columnist Robert Novak and other journalists....

Grand juries aren't always used in criminal probes, but they are the preferred way to go in cases with potential political fallout, if only to lend credibility to the result. One conclusion to be drawn from this latest step, said one lawyer familiar with the case, is that investigators clearly have a sense of how the case is shaping up. "They clearly have a sense of what's going on and can ask intelligent questions" to bring the grand jury up to speed. A grand jury is not a trial jury, but is used as an investigative tool and to decide whether to bring indictments in a case....

[T]rue to form, the Bush administration continues to be extremely tight-lipped about the investigation -- even internally. "No one knows what the hell is going on," says someone who could be a witness, "because the administration people are all terrified and the lawyers aren't sharing anything with each other either."

Maguire's take:

[A]s long as Rove is not tagged, the WH spin will be, we let the professional investigators handle it, and the process worked. Which, by pleasant coincidence, seems to be the truth. (emphasis added)

I'm of two minds on this. On the one hand, the convening of a grand jury suggests that demands for a Congressional investigation are probably premature and overblown. On the other hand -- and I might be reading too much into one anonymous quote -- the White House is worried about something.

posted by Dan at 03:27 PM | Comments (41) | Trackbacks (1)

Further thoughts on soft power

My last post on "soft power" generated quite a debate, in part over terminology, so it's worth following up a bit. Three points:

1) Here's a link to one definition. Unfortunately, it's a bit vague, and as a result people tend to define soft power the same way that Potter Stewart defined pornography -- "I know it when I see it." Here's my quick and dirty distinction between hard and soft power:

Hard power is having the capabilities to get others to do what you want them to do. Soft power is having the capabilities to get others to want what you want.

2) For states,* hard power is a crucial component of soft power over the long term. The Soviet Union had soft power when their economy seemed to be growing at a fantastic rate and their military technology seemed on par with the United States. The debate over "Asian values" occurred at the peak of East Asia's economic growth, and has since subsided. It's tough to make an argument about the strangth of values without pointing to the material rewards produced by adhering to such values.

3) As long as the American economy and culture remain vibrant, U.S. soft power will exert a powerful pull regardless of the foreign policies of the moment. Consider this Chicago Tribune story on Vietnam's attitudes towards the United States:

Thirty-six years after the Tet offensive that helped break U.S. resolve in the Vietnam War, young Vietnamese have put the bitter struggle in the past and embraced an America they see as a source of hope....

The Vietnam War killed more than 3 million Vietnamese, yet it does not evoke strong passions here, let alone hatred for an enemy who inflicted so much death and suffering.

Instead, many Vietnamese yearn to travel to the U.S., and they see it much the way Americans like their country to be seen: as a shining example of freedom, opportunity and wealth.

"My friends who have gone to the U.S. are very lucky," said Huynh Hoa, 26. "If my daughter [7 months old] can go there one day, maybe I would miss her, but it would be very lucky for her."

More than half the nation's population is younger than 20. For them, the war is not even a memory but a collection of artifacts and photographs confined to the War Remnants Museum.

Their parents and grandparents rarely speak to them of those times, said Xi, 53, who would not give a family name, citing fear of the communist government.

"There is no time for that," she said. "We work hard every day, for money for our families. . . . What happened then is not important now."

"I love America," Xi said. "I always think American people are the best."

* Intriguingly, for non-violent, non-state actors, the reverse can be true -- the soft power of persuasion can be converted into the hard power of bigger budgets.

posted by Dan at 11:01 AM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (1)

Open debate thread

Feel free to debate the debate here -- click here for the full transcript. Useful blogging on the subject from Kevin Drum and Robert Tagorda. I was watching intermittently while giving Sam a bath, so I can't claim my focus was 100%. With that caveat, my impressions:

1) I agree with James Joyner -- the best line of the night came from Al Sharpton:

I wanted to say to Governor Dean, don't be hard on yourself about hooting and hollering. If I had spent the money you did and got 18 percent, I'd still be in Iowa hooting and hollering.

2) Wesley Clark's response on Michael Moore seemed particularly lame:

I think Michael Moore has the right to say whatever he feels about this. I don't know whether this is supported by the facts or not. I've never looked at it. I've seen this charge bandied about a lot. But to me it wasn't material.

Clark is correct about Moore being able to say what he wants. However, for Clark not to have a comment on Moore's comment seems like a complete cop-out. [Mark Kleiman disagrees, but I'm not sure if his two posts on this can be reconciled. Last week he admitted that Clark's non-response to Moore's accusation concerned him:

Moore was simply wrong to use the word "deserter." Clark, who surely knows that better than I do, should have corrected Moore's very bad mistake when asked about it. Having failed to do so, he should do so now.

Post-debate, he backtracks on Clark's response:

As to Clark, his answer tonight seemed to me quite sensible: Moore is at liberty to say what he likes, and Clark doesn't have to agree with him or disagree with him.]

3) More generally, I found Clark pretty weak and defensive -- I suspect his support is going to start dropping. The big question about New Hampshire should be, where are Dean and Clark supporters going to go? Are they all going to go to Kerry, or do they propel Edwards as well?

4) John Edwards' articulation of his "no" vote on the $89 billion appropriation for Iraq was coherent and compelling. His response to the Islam question was a bit wobbly. His response to the Defense of Marriage Act question was sound on substance but really wobbly on process -- by which I mean that he got his facts wrong.

4) John Kerry looked like he had lost ten pounds since his Iowa victory.

Go and discuss!!

UPDATE: Matthew Stinson has a great description of Dennis Kucinich's performance:

Kucinich and his charts. What’s there to say about that? Those scientists who decided to gene-splice Ross Perot and Noam Chomsky must be really proud of themselves right now.

posted by Dan at 10:24 AM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (3)

Thursday, January 22, 2004

New Hampshire update

My prediction that John Edwards would get the biggest media bump because reporters like him better than the other candidates hasn't been completely borne out. A quick Google search reveals that Kerry got more play out of Iowa than Edwards. John Ellis thinks that the Rule of Two means New Hampshire is getting played in the media as Dean vs. Kerry, leaving Edwards out of the media spotlight.

As for the content of the spin, Franklin Foer admits to a "growing male crush" on Edwards, but Josh Marshall compares him to Chinese food -- great when you consume it, but then you're hungry an hour later. The Boston Globe might not love Kerry, but at this point he's the bigger story than Edwards.

But what about the polls? The ARG tracking poll shows Kerry getting a much bigger boost than Edwards in New Hampshire. Same with Zogby. However, two other polls suggest Edwards is gaining more steam. The Boston Herald poll does show Edwards reaching double-digits -- and only five points behind Wesley Clark. Rasmussen has Edwards with 15%, and in the past two days passing both Clark AND Dean for second place.

For Kerry, a resounding victory in New Hampshire unquestionably builds momentum for February 3rd. At this point, he's the only candidate who could have the race locked up by that date. Winning New Hampshire and South Carolina (the latter is a huge if and dependent only on a wave of momentum coming from a New Hampshire victory) would deal a mortal blow to both Dean and Edwards.

However, if Edwards manages to beat Clark in New Hampshire, he kills Wesley Clark's campaign. How could Clark possible argue that he's electable if he finished behind Edwards despite the fact that he ignored Iowa? A stronger-than-expected showing for Edwards in New Hampshire -- over 20% and better than Clark or Dean -- means Kerry can't win South Carolina -- and the race moves onto more Edwards-friendly terrain.

One other fact suggests that Edwards is still a potent threat -- Matt Drudge is going after him.


UPDATE: James Joyner has thoughts on the race, and the value of tracking polls.

ANOTHER UPDATE: As for Dean, David Tell has this killer anecdote from an Edwards speech:

"I'm sure you all saw a lot of the speeches that were given after the Iowa caucuses . . . ," Edwards began.

But before he could finish the thought, a voice in the crowd said "Ohhhh, yeah" in that tone of voice a man uses at the office watercooler during discussions about the latest celebrity-weirdo embarrassment. And just like that, in a flash, 200-some-odd Democratic loyalists filled the Portsmouth V.F.W. post with unrestrained laughter. Nobody even had to mention his name. John Edwards' mere allusion to "the speeches that were given after the Iowa caucuses" called Howard Dean--unflatteringly--to mind.

When they begin to laugh at you automatically, you're dead.

posted by Dan at 02:40 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (3)

Jack Shafer scares me

I think it's safe to say that Jack Shafer doesn't like the Atlantic Monthly's "State of the Union" package, produced "in partnership with the New America Foundation":

This 33,000-word barge grinds bottom for 40 pages, unimpeded by wit, verve, originality, or any of the other attributes we associate with successful political rhetoric or good magazine journalism. If you can imagine a dozen 750-word New York Times op-ed pieces, each bloated by a factor of three or four or five, suffused with the earnestness of a parson, and constructed with the flattest language available, then you've still not comprehended the pomposity of this special section.

However, Shafer does praise the essay by Francis Fukuyama on nation-building (which I discussed here):

Fukuyama, meanwhile, does that Fukuyama thing, explaining the need for a "standing U.S. government office to manage nation-building." I don't agree with Fukuyama, but at least his piece doesn't read like a monologue by a second-rate professor who has just set his pipe down to share a few giant thoughts. (emphasis added)

All right, which one of you gave Shafer my URL? [Not me! I know you don't smoke--ed.]

Seriously, Shafer's real adversary is the New America Foundation:

Ted Halstead, New America's founder and one of the contributors, loves to talk about how his foundation's message is "beyond left and right," when his organization rarely ventures beyond the sort of ideas you'd encounter driving the New Deal/Great Society Freeway. This is not to say that New America has wasted its money subsidizing the journalism of such stars as Kate Boo, Margaret Talbot, and Peter Bergen and bright young things Jonathan Chait and Brendan Koerner. But Halstead's "beyond left and right" slogan is a fund-raising shuck, and any claim that his State of the Union package teems with unorthodox and viable policy solutions should be investigated for fraud. (If the fraud unit opens a file on Halstead, it should subpoena his fellow State of the Unioner George W. Bush, too.)

Shafer's on the mark about New America [You're just annoyed because they, like so many other foundations, are not giving you a grant--ed.]

posted by Dan at 12:44 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The persistence of U.S. soft power

One concern voiced about the style of the Bush administration's foreign policy was that it would erode America's "soft power" -- the attraction of American goods, services, and culture to the rest of the world.

The Financial Times reports on a study to test this hypothesis. The results are mixed. The good news:

Consumers around the world put aside any ill-feeling about US foreign policy when they choose their fast food, soft drinks and sports shoes, a Harvard Business School study has found.

The survey of 1,800 consumers in 12 countries including Egypt, Turkey and Indonesia found that, despite expectations of a consumer backlash against US brands, most people still choose brands such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's.

About 88 per cent of people, a consistent figure across most of the countries surveyed, selected well-known global brands rather than local alternatives when asked which products they would like to buy. There was a rump of 12 per cent who did not want to buy such brands, associating them with the US and globalisation....

[G]lobal brands, including Nike, were favoured by consumers in developing countries because they represented a guarantee of quality in markets where basic standards were not always guaranteed. Coca-Cola, for example, was seen as being a brand that used clean water in preparing its soft drinks.

The bad news is that these results might speak more to the adaptability of U.S. corporations than indications of U.S. soft power:

Prof Quelch said the study, carried out by Research International last year, just before and during the Iraq war, also found that consumers felt that buying global brands showed that they were connected to global society. They did not regard big US brands as identifying them with America itself.

Companies such as Coca-Cola had already been moving towards greater sensitivity to local markets before September 11 2001. The backlash against globalisation had made them adapt their image, moving away from overt American values. "They managed to inoculate themselves before the war on terror," Prof Quelch said.

However it's worth noting that one source of American soft power is the adaptability/openness of our cutlure and our actors. So, in the long run, this is still good news.

posted by Dan at 03:03 PM | Comments (38) | Trackbacks (1)

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


Here's the text of the speech.

I can't match James Joyner, Glenn Reynolds, Patrick Belton, or Stephen Green on real-time State of the Union blogging. Plus, I've been historically bad at reading these speeches. I used to be bored silly by Clinton's SOTUs, but he always got a public opinion bump from them.

My quick assessment was similar to Joyner: "a fairly boring speech." Compared to Bush's last two SOTU speeches, however -- the 2001 Axis of Evil speech and the 2002 "sixteen little words" speech -- a little boring might be good. And after seeing the Democratic response, it's easy to see why neither Nancy Pelosi nor Tom Daschle threw their hat into the ring to run for president. Hell, Howard "YEEEEEEEEEAAAAH" Dean looked better.

I thought the one effective line was about the Patriot Act:

Key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year.


The terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule.

Beyond that, there was a brazenness to when Bush said:

We're seeking all the facts. Already, the Kay report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations.

As Andrew Sullivan pointed out in an interview:

I don't think we can over-look the failure of the US to find tangible stockpiles of WMDs. It's a big embarrassment, and a big dent in the pre-emption doctrine. It doesn't change my view of the war, but it does shift my position on pre-emption. If our intelligence is that bad, then it seems to me hard to base potential wars upon it.

Oh, and one last thing -- what the hell are steroids in professional sports doing in the friggin' State of the Union?

posted by Dan at 11:29 PM | Comments (41) | Trackbacks (4)

Vote early, vote often

Thanks to all who nominated my lovely wife's essay, "My Life as a Blog Widow" for the Best Article or Essay About Weblogs category. She thinks it's way cool.

[Why can't she speak for herself?--ed. She's afraid of the expectations game. One post, one Bloggie nomination -- that's a tough ratio to maintain.]

Go vote for her -- you have until 10:00 PM EST on Saturday, January 31!

posted by Dan at 02:58 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

For those who would disparage the U.N., part II...

Beyond helping Carmen Electra, the United Nations does have one commodity that is valuable to the United States right now -- legitimacy. Like it or not, the rest of the world confers a status to the United Nations such that their imprimatur on a course of action resonates with publics and governments.

Fareed Zakaria argues today that exercising power without legitimacy is costly and difficult:

On one side is history's most awesome superpower, victorious in war, ruling Iraq with nearly 150,000 troops and funding its reconstruction to the tune of $20 billion this year. On the other side is an aging cleric with no formal authority, no troops and little money, who is unwilling to even speak in public. Yet last June, when Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani made it known that he didn't like the U.S. proposal to transfer power to Iraqis, the plan collapsed. And last week, when Sistani announced that he is still unhappy with the new U.S. proposal, L. Paul Bremer rushed to Washington for consultations. What does this man have that the United States doesn't?

Legitimacy. Sistani is regarded by Iraqi Shiites as the most learned cleric in the country. He is also seen as having been uncorrupted by Saddam Hussein's reign. "During the Iran-Iraq war, Sistani managed to demonstrate that he could be controlled neither by Saddam nor by his fellow ayatollahs in Iran, which has given him enormous credibility," says Yitzhak Nakash, the leading authority on Iraqi Shiites....

The tragedy is that while Sistani's fears are understandable, Washington's phased transition makes great sense. It allows for time to build institutions, form political parties and reform the agencies of government. An immediate transfer would ensure that the political contest will overwhelm all this institutional reform. But Washington lacks the basic tool it needs to negotiate with the locals: legitimacy. (This is something well understood by anyone who has studied the lessons of Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor.) Belatedly it recognizes that the United Nations can arbitrate political problems without being accused of being a colonizer.

Zakaria's thesis finds support from the Financial Times:

Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General is to consider sending a team to examine whether direct elections were a feasible way of choosing a provisional Iraqi government by the end of June, or to look for possible alternatives....

Abdel Aziz Hakim, an official in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) who is believed to reflect Ayatollah Sistani's views, said: "There should be a real participation of the people through elections in choosing this council."

But "if this is not possible we should search for alternatives; after we establish the principle of referring the matter to the people". He suggested any conclusions by a UN team "would be respected" by Ayatollah Sistani. (emphasis added)


posted by Dan at 11:24 AM | Comments (32) | Trackbacks (3)

Monday, January 19, 2004


The Des Moines Register has actual numbers on the caucus (link via Atrios) -- and as I'm writing this, Kerry and Edwards are having big nights; Dean and Gephardt, not so much. The fact that Kerry and Edwards are doing so well in Des Moines -- the most liberal part of the state -- suggests that these results are going to hold.

A few quick thoughts:

1) Hey, I was right!! [About as often as a stopped watch!--ed. That's pretty much my read, too.] At least about the finish. We'll see if I'm right about the press reaction.

2) The nets seem puzzled by the fact that -- according to the entrance polls -- roughly 75% opposed the war in Iraq but are not supporting Dean, the clearest anti-war candidate.

This doesn't puzzle me as much. I suspect most Democrats don't want to refight the fight over the war -- it's happened. The question for them -- for all of us -- is where to go from here, given that we're in Iraq.

3) Howard Dean is not going away anytime soon -- he's still got the money and the national organization. I'm sure the press is thrilled by this fact.

4) I never thought I would say this -- but I feel sorry for Richard Gephardt.

UPDATE: A few more thoughts given that the initial results held:

5) To paraphrase an old Jewish aphorism, is this good for the blogs? Regardless of one's political stripe, the blogosphere embraced Dean's Internet campaign as a kindred spirit, emblematic of the same phenomenon that propelled blogs into prominence. I'm asking in a half-serious way what Scrappleface is asking in a completely humorous way.

[You could spin this the other way -- what killed Dean/Gephardt was the chase for establishment endorsements and union endorsements--ed. Well, I certainly like that interpretation better -- whether it's true or not I'll leave to the commenters.]

6) Having just seen Kerry, Edwards, and Dean's speeches, my respect for Edwards' political skills is growing. In many ways all three of them touched on the same themes -- the economy, health care, people vs. the powerful, etc. However, Edwards' emphasis was on lifting people up without tearing anyone down -- in this way, Edwards is the anti-Krugman candidate. Meanwhile, Dean and Kerry still sounded negative (Dean -- who seemed to have taken too many uppers -- was bashing other Democrats; Kerry -- far more sober -- was bashing Bush).

LAST UPDATE: Will Saletan has more worth thinking about.

posted by Dan at 09:14 PM | Comments (28) | Trackbacks (8)

Laugh with or at Janeane Garofalo?

Janeane Garofalo is hilarious. I'm just not sure she's being hilarious on purpose.

From Howard Dean's official blog:

Janeane Garofalo, wearing a red Perfect Storm hat, a Stand up for Choice Sticker, a Generation Dean sticker, a pink shirt with FREE SPEECH she made herself with a magic marker (and a pen stuck in her pink shirt), a TEXAS DEMOCRAT pin, and on her backback a Dissent protects Democracy pin, Give ‘em Hell Howard pin, and I won’t Cross the Line pin asked me to type this for her....

Link via Hugh Hewitt.

UPDATE: OK, some of the commenters -- perchance they are Deaniacs and it's not a great night for them? -- are taking this in the wrong spirit. What I thought was so funny was how many pins/hats/symbols she was wearing. [Flair. The word you're looking for is flair!!--ed.]

Nothing against Janeane -- I still like her from The Larry Sanders Show.

posted by Dan at 06:17 PM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (0)

While I've been focused on the campaign...

Patrick Belton has actually been paying attention to what's going on in the Middle East. Two great link-filled posts here and here.

posted by Dan at 02:59 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

This is pure genius

Despite my prediction of Kerry and Edwards going one/two in Iowa, I confess to being in absolute awe of this Dean campaign tactic, as reported in the Chicago Tribune:

While five Democratic presidential hopefuls sprinted across Iowa in a final act of courtship Sunday, the substantive discussions of the 2004 campaign gave way to more practical concerns in this too-close-to-call race: persuading voters to devote at least two hours of their Monday evening to politics.

The Howard Dean campaign even offered free baby-sitting....

With the race suddenly tightening, Dean's supporters tried to eliminate any excuse for Iowans not to turn out Monday evening for the town-hall style meetings where voters discuss aloud their preferences. His backers aren't just telling people where their caucus site is or offering them a ride. They're ready to baby-sit.

Deborah Chubb, 41, of Michigan City, Ind., is one of hundreds of Dean admirers pouring into Iowa to knock on doors and urge support for the former Vermont governor. She also runs a child-care agency.

One of the biggest questions about the Iowa race is whether Dean's vaunted Internet organizing will yield real support. But at the very least it managed to identify Chubb as executive director of a group that educates day-care providers--the perfect person to watch the children of Dean supporters so they can caucus for the candidate. (emphasis added)

Genius. Pure genius.

It almost makes me wish that I lived in Iowa... and that I was a Democrat.


[Maybe parents like you will simply take the free babysitting and then vote for Kerry or Edwards!--ed. Most parents I know are pretty loath to annoy their babysitter. But these are out-of-town babysitters. There's no shadow of the future!--ed. Hmmm... there would still be parental guilt -- a force far more powerful than the blogosphere.]

posted by Dan at 11:04 AM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (3)

Sunday, January 18, 2004

A milestone contest

Today this blog received its one millionth unique visit. Thanks to all for coming!! And thanks to Moveable Type -- if you look at this traffic graph, it's clear that the switch to has paid off in more hits.

In celebration, I am having a naming contest. I've noticed that whenever I do a media interview on blogging, they find it awkward to say that the name of this site is "Daniel W. Drezner." They'll say something like, "Daniel Drezner blogs at.... er.... the web site of his own name." I think it's time for the blog to get its own name

So what should I call it? The Daily Drezner? Drezner's Daily Dose? Drezfiles? Chez Drez? [How about something that doesn't involve your name?--ed. That's good too! How about "The Loony Hack"?] Suggest away!!

UPDATE: I might just have to name it, "Sissy Willis makes me laugh"

posted by Dan at 02:18 PM | Comments (77) | Trackbacks (5)

My final thoughts on Iowa

The latest Des Moines Register poll has the following results: Kerry, 26%; Edwards, 23%; Dean, 20%; Gephardt, 18%.

The latest Zogby tracking poll: Kerry, 24%; Dean, 23%; Gephardt, 19%; Edwards, 18%.

So what's going to happen tomorrow night? Roger L. Simon dared me to make a prediction. I've had really bad luck at making predictions -- so with that said, here goes:

The short prediction: Kerry wins in Iowa, but Edwards gets the biggest boost.

The long prediction: The media story is that polls don't matter because of the way the caucus structure is organized. What really matters is turnout and organization. This hurts Edwards, who is presumed to have the weakest infrastructure, and helps Dean, who's decentralized organization awed everyone a few months ago.

What's striking to me is that Kerry and Edwards are surging, and that they also have the lowest unfavorable ratings. In part this is because Dean and Gephardt are still bashing each other (As I'm typing this, I'm watching Gephardt on Meet the Press, and he's still bashing Dean).

The polls both show Kerry ahead and trending in the right direction -- though Tom Schaller makes some excellent arguments at DailyKos for why the poll numbers might be underestimating Dean's strength. As for ground strength, Michael Crowley makes the case that Kerry's operation on the ground is pretty strong.

The media seem to feel that Edwards will suffer because his organization on the ground is weaker than the other three candidates, so he'll get fewer delegates and lose the perceptions contest.

However, because the race is so close, interest and turnout should be extremely high. This brings in people who are outside of any campaign's organizational apparatus, who are likely to be more moderate, and who will react to the candidate that seems to be the most likeable -- which I'm thinking will help Edwards.

The Boston Globe thinks this will matter a great deal in second rounds of the caucus:

Inside the Iowa caucuses tomorrow night, John Edwards may end up attracting a disproportionate share of those voters who are forced to pick a second choice under the quirky election rules, political specialists and likely caucusgoers said....

The lack of negative associations could help mitigate the deficit in organizational support Edwards has in some precincts, said James McCormick, chairman of the political science department at Iowa State University. McCormick said because second-choice voters will not think of Edwards as the enemy of their first choice, they might instead focus on his image as an optimistic alternative who could win in the South.

"He ultimately comes across as a moderate among angry, hollering other candidates," McCormick said. "He's a fresh face, which also gives him an advantage."

Now, what's actually pretty interesting about that article is that beyond the expert quote, there's no evidence to support the article's thesis. Indeed, this is really the key section:

Under caucus rules, voters in each precinct first stand in a group for their candidate of choice. But any candidate who does not reach 15 percent in a given precinct is deemed "not viable," and his supporters will then pick another.

The four candidates leading in polls are expected to be viable in urban precincts, so only supporters of minor candidates, such as Dennis J. Kucinich, will be in play.

Because support for each candidate is not evenly distributed, some of the major candidates may not reach 15 percent in the many small rural precincts, where as few as a dozen voters may turn out. In those smaller precincts, supporters for Edwards hope his positive campaign and rural upbringing could help him dominate in the second-choice voting, because he will not be associated with attacks on those voters' initial choice. (emphasis added)

Why run a story on such weak foundations? It's one example of why I think Edwards will be the big winner coming out of Iowa -- he fits in best with the media's professional and personal proclivities.

Professionally, the media wants close races and new faces. An Edwards surge provides both.

Personally, reporters don't appear to really like Dean or Kerry all that much. In contrast, they do seem to like Edwards (see this Time dispatch for an example). I heard Brit Hume say on Fox News Sunday that "John Edwards is engaging, likeable, appealing." Brit Hume doesn't like anything, for God's sake. If any of the Democrats has the Clintonian charisma, it's Edwards.

If Kerry wins, he's going to get a bump, no doubt -- and New Hampshire becomes an interesting question. But if Edwards performs better than either Gephardt or Dean at the caucus, reporters are going to lock in on him as the story of the week. Whether he can sustain it is an entirely different question.

My apologies to Kerry and Edwards for sealing their doom.

UPDATE: Much obliged to Michele Catalano at The Command Post for posting this as an op-ed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmmm... the New York Times has actual evidence that Edwards might pick up second-round caucus votes:

Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio said today that he and Senator Edwards had reached an agreement specifying that if neither reached the 15 percent viability threshold for delegates, the supporters of both would unite behind the candidate with greater support.

"John and I are friends," Mr. Kucinich said. "He and I have complementary constituencies. I'm going to do well in college towns and urban areas. He is going to do well in rural areas. Rather than leave it up to chance, we're letting our supporters know to support the other guy."

This ain't a misquote -- Kucinich posted this quote on his blog. Tactically, I understand this. Strategically, I'm not sure how much any viable Democrat would want to be associated with Kucinich.

posted by Dan at 11:01 AM | Comments (30) | Trackbacks (4)

Saturday, January 17, 2004

For those who would disparage the United Nations...

Over the past year decade five decades, the United Nations has taken a lot of hits -- and some of it is deserved. However, one must remember that the United Nations is not a single entity, but a plethora of semi-autonomous organizations. Some of these organizations have major accomplishments under their belts, such as polio eradication.

And then there's the more recent good it's done for Carmen Electra:


[What, the UN helped with her eyeliner?--ed.] Not exactly -- the Associated Press explains:

Former "Baywatch" star Carmen Electra has won control of the Internet name in a ruling by a United Nations panel, a U.N. spokeswoman said Thursday.

An arbitrator for the World Intellectual Property Organization ordered the transfer of the domain name to the American actress, who had complained that it was being used in bad faith to divert Internet traffic to a commercial site, Celebrity1000, said WIPO spokeswoman Samar Shamoon.

The ruling upheld Electra's complaint against the company that registered the name — Network Operations Center of High Prairie, Canada....

The U.N. arbitration system, which started in 1999, allows those who think they have the right to a domain to get it back without having to fight a costly legal battle or paying large sums of money.

You can read the complete text of the arbitration ruling here.

I, for one, applaud this multilateral initiative.

[Er, I just checked out, and it's still going to Celebrity1000!--ed. OK, so enforcement hasn't been the U.N.'s strong suit. More seriously, I'd expect Electra's legal team to ensure that the decision will be implemented. A year ago, Pamela Anderson won a similar decision and her domain name now goes to her site. I trust that Carmen Electra's official site will be moving very soon. You did a lot of research for this post--ed. Just trying to be as thorough as the grant-hogging Columbia School of Journalism!!]]

UPDATE: According to this story, "If there is no court appeal, domain names must be transferred 10 days after a ruling."

posted by Dan at 02:10 PM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (1)

Andrew Sullivan server update

I've received numerous e-mails asking me if, as a former guest-blogger, I can access Andrew Sullivan's site. I just tried, got something that said, " (sic) click". I clicked with some apprehension, but was able to access the site with no difficulties -- his last post was a response to Josh Marshall's defense of Clark.

According to Andrew -- via Glenn Reynolds -- this is a server problem. I experienced similar difficulties when I was doing the guest stint earlier this month, so I can certainly empathize. Andrew, you're welcome to guest-post here while the problem is being fixed!! [Big man!--ed. Hey, it's the least I could do.]

UPDATE: The Daily Dish is back online -- with an apology from Sullivan.

[On a separate matter, that's the second post in a row in which you've mention this Clark business without addressing it head-on. What gives?--ed. I haven't read enough to comment with confidence. From what I have read, it seems clear that Drudge ginned up a Clark quote through an improper use of ellipses. Does that mean Clark can't be criticized on foreign policy?--ed. Hell, no -- I argued two weeks ago that compared to Howard Dean he was getting a free ride on this issue. Steve Sachs has more on this.]

posted by Dan at 11:35 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, January 16, 2004

Who wants a grant? Me!! ME!!

The Columbia Journalism Review has set up a new blog,, to cover the press covering the 2004 campaign. Here's something from the the introductory post:

In 2004, the Web makes it possible to analyze and criticize press coverage in real time, so that suggestions for improved coverage might actually be heeded, and incorporated into campaign coverage, while the campaign is still under way.

Thanks to generous funding from foundations -- mainly the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Revson Foundation, and the Open Society Institute -- we have set up a campaign press criticism "war room" here at the Journalism School, with the beginnings of a full-time professional staff of seven that will monitor as much of the campaign coverage as possible, and write about it here.

Wait a minute -- there are grants to be had for doing this??!! Why the hell didn't anyone tell me? The Columbia School of Journalism can just waltz in, rake in the cash, and set up some fantsy-pants blog? [Well, they do have reputation and experience, and they seem to be all over this Drudge/Clark business--ed. Yeah, so were Robert Tagorda and Mark Kleiman, and they were grant-free! Give me them plus James Joyner, Jeff Jarvis, Josh Marshall, and Noam Scheiber (who's read on Gephardt's chances seems dead-on to me), and I'll kick their a--- I think it's time for your nap--ed.]

posted by Dan at 08:41 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (2)

Can Iraq become a democracy?

I've argued repeatedly that Iraq is not fated to be an authoritarian state. Your weekend reading debates this topic at length.

In the "No" corner is George F. Will, who's meandering essay in City Journal can be boiled down to the following highlights:

Most of the political calamities through which the world has staggered since 1919 have resulted from the distinctively modern belief that things—including nations and human nature—are much more plastic, much more malleable, than they actually are. It is the belief that nations are like Tinkertoys: they can be taken apart and rearranged at will. It is the belief that human beings are soft clay that can be shaped by the hands of political artists….

It is counted realism in Washington now to say that creating a new Iraqi regime may require perhaps two years. One wonders: Does Washington remember that it took a generation, and the United States Army, to bring about, in effect, regime change—a change of institutions and mores—in the American South? Will a Middle Eastern nation prove more plastic to our touch than Mississippi was? Will two years suffice for America—as Woodrow Wilson said of the Latin American republics—to teach Iraq to elect good men? We are, it seems, fated to learn again the limits of the Wilsonian project.

There are those who say: “Differences be damned! America has a duty to accomplish that project.” They should remember an elemental principle of moral reasoning: there can be no duty to do what cannot be done.

What is to be done in Iraq? As Robert Frost said, the best way out is always through. We are there. We dare not leave having replaced a savage state with a failed state—a vacuum into which evil forces will flow. Our aim should be the rule of law, a quickened pulse of civil society, some system of political representation. Then, let us vow not to take on such reconstructions often.

In the Atlantic Monthly, Francis Fukuyama recognizes the same problems as Will but argues that there is no other option:

The fact is that the chief threats to us and to world order come today from weak, collapsed, or failed states. Weak or absent government institutions in developing countries form the thread linking terrorism, refugees, AIDS, and global poverty. Before 9/11 the United States felt it could safely ignore chaos in a far-off place like Afghanistan; but the intersection of religious terrorism and weapons of mass destruction has meant that formerly peripheral areas are now of central concern....

Donald Rumsfeld has articulated a strategy of nation-building "lite," involving a rapid transition to local control and a tough-love policy that leaves locals to find their own way toward good government and democracy. This is a dubious approach, at least if one cares about the final outcome. The new Iraqi government will be administratively weak and not regarded by its citizens as fully legitimate. It will be plagued by corruption and mismanagement, and riven by internal disagreements—witness the fight between the Iraqi Governing Council's Shia and non-Shia members over how to draft a new constitution. Nation-building requires a lot more than training police and military forces to take over from the United States: unless such forces are embedded in a strong framework of political parties, a judiciary, a civilian administration, and a rule of law, they will become mere pawns in the internal struggle for power. Nation-building "lite" risks being used as an intellectual justification for getting out, regardless of the mess we leave behind.

A standing U.S. government office to manage nation-building will be a hard sell politically, because we are still unreconciled to the idea that we are in the nation-building business for the long haul. However, international relations is no longer just a game played between great powers but one in which what happens inside smaller countries can have a huge effect on the rest of the world. Our "empire" may be a transitional one grounded in democracy and human rights, but our interests dictate that we learn how better to teach other people to govern themselves.

Now, for a first-hand account, check out Ken Pollack's assessment of the situation on the ground in Iraq. The executive summary:

The situation in Iraq is extremely complex. In some areas, American and Coalition efforts have helped Iraqis to make real progress toward transforming their economy, polity, and society. What's more, many basic factors in the country augur well for real progress if the pace of reconstruction is maintained. By the same token, there are also numerous negative developments in the country, many the result of mistaken American policies.

David Adesnik provides extended commentary as well.

That's your weekend reading. Enjoy!!

posted by Dan at 05:07 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

The Democratic candidates' foreign policy gurus

As a politics junkie, I love what's going on in Iowa. Four candidates with roughly the same level of support the wekend before the caucus? That's awesome, baby!! How long has it been since this many candidates had a legitimate shot at winning Iowa this late in the day?

Another leading indicator indicates that it's a close race. I argued a year ago that the Democratic candidate that attracted the heavyweight foreign policy advisors would be the putative nominee. Last month, Dean unveiled his list of advisors, and they seemed like a formidable group.

However, thanks to Foreign Policy, we now know the major candidates' roster of foreign policy advisors. Go check it out for yourselves. A few surprises:

  • John Kerry has a lot of foreign policy advisors. The story observes that many of them, "are regional experts who meet weekly in what one Kerry advisor calls 'a mini or shadow NSC [National Security Council].'"

  • The only advisor Wesley Clark has who isn't advising another campaign is Jaime Rubin.

  • It's disturbing that there is only one foreign economic policy advisor in the entire list -- and George Soros does not make me feel more sanguine towards Richard Gephardt. This is doubly odd because the strength of the Clinton foreign policy team was its international economics team. Where's Robert Rubin? Larry Summers? Mickey Kantor? Charlene Barshefsky? Lael Brainard?

  • If you care about democracy promotion, John Edwards really is your man -- Larry Diamond is one of his advisors.

  • Sandy Berger is advising four campaigns? That foreign policy whore!!

  • Although Clark and Kerry are minor outliers, the overall distribution of advisors is pretty even. As a leading indicator, it suggests the race is still up for grabs.
  • Developing.....

    posted by Dan at 10:37 AM | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (0)

    Thursday, January 15, 2004

    Kudos and embarrassment for Josh Marshall

    I get asked on a regular basis what my senior colleagues think about the blog. The truth is, I try not to mention it -- because I don't know if all of them either know about or understand the concept of a blog. Oh sure it's the trendy thing, but academics, particularly those ensconced in the University of Chicago, delight in ignoring trends and fads -- or at least pretending to ignore them.

    If people are familiar with blogs, then it's easy to discuss mine -- in the blogosphere I can hold my own. However, if someone is not familiar with the blog concept, then it's like trying to explain the virtues of first class air travel to someone who's never heard of or seen an airplane.

    Which is why the following anecdote is so damn funny. To put it into context -- The Week magazine held its first annual Opinion Awards, which included a Blogger of the Year. For descriptions of the awards -- held at Harold Evans and Tina Brown's apartment, no less -- go see Jeff Jarvis or Editor & Publisher.

    The Blogger of the Year -- chosen by Jarvis, Glenn Reynolds, and Daniel Radosh -- was Joshua Micah Marshall (to whom congratulations are most certainly in order).

    Now comes the funny anecdote, from Marshall himself:

    Early on I noticed that one of the folks there was Arthur Schlesinger, Jr....

    Schlesinger is a rather big deal to me. So toward the end of the whole event, after most folks had left, I saw Schlesinger and two women standing off to one side. And I thought, this is my chance. How can I let it go by?

    So I walked over to where the three were talking and planted myself there like a schoolboy and waited.

    And I waited, and waited a bit more until they, a touch awkwardly, turned their attention to me. When they did, I introduced myself and told him what a great admirer I was of his and what an honor it was to meet him and so forth. When I did this I explained that in addition to my semi-reputable work as a blogger I was also a trained historian with a Ph.D. in American history and the works....

    To be polite Schlesinger’s wife asked me to explain to them just what a blog is. And though I get this question pretty often, it turns out to be a rather challenging one if the people you’re trying to explain it to don’t necessarily have a lot of clear web reference points to make sense of what you’re saying.

    I ended up telling them that it was something like political commentary structured like a personal journal with occasional reporting mixed in.

    Now, as I was explaining and watching the looks on everyone’s faces it was incrementally becoming clear to me that this was playing rather like saying that something was like a washing machine structured like a rhinoceros with the occasional sandwich thrown in. And, as Schlesinger himself had said rather little through all this, it was also dawning on me that being one of the four guests of honor at this little event was providing no guarantee against making a bit of a fool of myself....

    Read the rest of Josh's post for the denouement -- it doesn't end too badly for him.

    posted by Dan at 09:44 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (2)

    Good news and bad news on Brazilian fingerprinting

    The bad news: Some Americans aren't reacting too well to the Brazilian plan of photographing and fingerprinting then. According to the Associated Press:


    An American Airlines pilot was fined nearly $17,000 [That's in Australian dollars -- in USD, it's $13,000 -- hat tip to David M. Rosenberg for the correction!--DD] on accusations he made an obscene gesture when being photographed at the airport as part of entry requirements for US citizens, officials said.

    Brazil imposed the new rules that Americans be fingerprinted and photographed at entry points in response the similar rules in the United States for citizens of Brazil and other countries whose citizens need visas to enter.

    The pilot, Dale Robin Hersh, lifted his middle finger while undergoing the new security process at Sao Paulo's Guarulhos International Airport, said federal prosecutor Matheus Baraldi Magnani.

    Police accused the pilot of showing contempt to authorities, a crime in Brazil, and escorted him to a nearby federal courthouse for possible formal charges.

    Thanks to Mike Derham for the photo link.

    The good news -- The Brazilians are ingenious at soothing these potentially ugly Americans:


    The AP photo caption reads:

    Warm welcome: Samba dancers greet a tourist and his son as they arrive at the Rio de Janeiro Galeao airport yesterday. The samba reception is part of a city campaign against a federal judge ruling that all US citizens be fingerprinted and photographed at the country's entry points.

    More seriously, the Volokh Conspiracy has been blogging this story more seriously.

    Less seriously -- readers, given the myriad kinds of amusements available in the world, which other countries should follow the Brazilian template?

    posted by Dan at 04:12 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

    Wednesday, January 14, 2004

    White House intimidation.... or Paul O'Neill's nature?

    Josh Marshall suggests -- with tongue partially in cheek -- that Paul O'Neill's backtracking must be due to Karl Rove's bullying, echoing the John DiIulio experience of last year.

    Paul O'Neill being intimidated by Karl Rove? That dog won't hunt.

    Unlike John DiIulio, Paul O'Neill is too senior to desire another cabinet-level position, and has what is referred to in DC lexicon as "f**k-you money" -- i.e., O'Neill doesn't have to play nice in oreder to guarantee a future revenue stream. Plus, as the original Time story points out, O'Neill refused to go along with Cheney's direct suggestion that he say he resigned:

    Cheney called. "Paul, the President has decided to make some changes in the economic team. And you're part of the change," he told O'Neill. The bloodless way he was cut loose by his old chum shocked O'Neill, Suskind writes, but what came after was even more shocking. Cheney asked him to announce that it was O'Neill's decision to leave Washington to return to private life. O'Neill refused, saying "I'm too old to begin telling lies now."

    Paul O'Neill is old, rich, secure in himself, and previously refused a direct request from Dick Cheney. A year later, what could Karl Rove possibly do that would intimidate him? [Compromising pictures of O'Neill with Jillian Barberie?--ed. Hell, that would have helped him!]

    Instead of intimidation, let's consider another possibility, one based on O'Neill's track record as Treasury Secretary. When I was working there, the following would happen like clockwork every two weeks:

    a) O'Neill say something that he thought meant X, when in fact it could be interpreted as either X or Y -- and Y is either controversial or wrong;
    b) The financial press would seize on the statement as suggestive of Y;
    c) O'Neill would have to issue a clarifying statement that he really meant X and not Y

    The same thing is going on here. O'Neill said on the Today Show:

    People are trying to say that I said the president was planning war in Iraq early in the administration. Actually there was a continuation of work that had been going on in the Clinton administration with the notion that there needed to be a regime change in Iraq.

    In this case, O'Neill's predeliction for foot-in-mouth disease is compounded by the fact that much of what O'Neill said comes indirectly through Ron Suskind's book.

    Finally, it's worth noting that the many of the usual suspects aren't biting on this non-story. Spencer Ackerman, who's co-authored a lot of TNR's more damaging assessments of the Bush team's invade-at-all-costs mentality, is quite clear that the O'Neill charge is bogus:

    Contrary to much of the hype surrounding it ( headlined its story on the book, "O'Neill: Bush planned Iraq invasion before 9/11") it doesn't really answer the question of whether Bush was planning war from day one or just regime change by other means.

    At the first meeting of Bush's National Security Council--held January 30, 2001--Condoleezza Rice set the tone by announcing that "Iraq is destabilizing the region." Bush clearly favored some kind of action against Saddam Hussein, but the shape of the action appeared to be undetermined at this point. O'Neill's notes quote Bush ordering Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs Chairman Hugh Shelton to "examine our military options," including "how it might look" to use U.S. troops in support of an insurrection. Yet, at the same meeting, he also ordered Secretary of State Colin Powell to plan a new sanctions regime--a course of action that administration hawks believed would inhibit, rather than engender, Saddam's downfall. It appears that Bush was indicating his preference for a more aggressive approach than the Clinton administration took against Saddam, but that he was still casting about for options as to what that might entail....

    [I]t appears from O'Neill's notes that Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was the only high-level official who was advocating "sending in U.S. troops to support and defend [an Iraqi opposition] insurgency." Clearly Bush's desire to have Rumsfeld and Shelton review military options for Iraq created a new policy menu, but O'Neill never indicates Bush's actual preference among these options--and certainly not so early in the administration....

    [I]t is a valuable addition to the historical record to know that the president was determined to topple Saddam long before September 11. But that's not the same thing as a president who had already decided to go to war. Ironically, a book written to condemn the administration's lack of straight talk on the Iraq issue has produced even less straight talk itself.

    [But what about Brad DeLong's claim that what Bush said yesterday contradicted your earlier post?--ed.] Hmmm.... Brad quotes Bush as follows:

    The stated policy of my administration toward Saddam Hussein was very clear -- like the previous administration, we were for regime change.

    A touch, a touch, I do confe-- oh, wait a minute, let's put that quote in context, shall we?:

    "The stated policy of my administration toward Saddam Hussein was very clear -- like the previous administration, we were for regime change," Bush told a joint news conference in Monterrey, Mexico, with Mexican President Vicente Fox. "And in the initial stages of the administration, as you might remember, we were dealing with (enforcing a no-fly zone over Iraq) and so we were fashioning policy along those lines."

    Bush said al-Qaida's surprise Sept. 11 attacks on the United States put him on a hair trigger to take pre-emptive action against Iraq rather than await evidence of a new threat to Americans.

    "September the 11th made me realize that America was no longer protected by oceans and we had to take threats very seriously no matter where they may be materializing," Bush said.

    Let's also go to this January 2003 statement from Bush:

    Actually, prior to September 11, we were discussing smart sanctions. We were trying to fashion a sanction regime that would make it more likely to be able to contain somebody like Saddam Hussein. After September 11, the doctrine of containment just doesn’t hold any water.

    I said two things in my previous O'Neill post -- that Bush had given Colin Powell the lead on Iraq prior to 9/11, and that he changed his mind after that date. Nothing Bush said contradicts that. [But Brad also links to this ABC report saying Bush wanted a review of military policy options!--ed.] A review of options -- particularly in the first months of an administration -- is nothing new. But there's a big difference between evaluating policy options and acting on them. The key question, as Ackerman notes, is whether the administration moved forward on these options. The evidence says no. Until 9/11, Powell had the lead on Iraq and Rumsfeld seemed close to leaving the administration (though not because of Iraq).

    Sure, Bush wanted to get rid of Hussein, but so did Clinton and all of Congress. The question was, what was Bush prepared to do to change the regime? And there is no evidence to support the charge that prior to 9/11, Bush was planning to invade Iraq.

    posted by Dan at 04:21 PM | Comments (156) | Trackbacks (8)

    Which candidate said what on foreign policy?

    The good people at the Council on Foreign Relations has set up a 2004 campaign website on Foreign Policy in the Presidential Election. There are collections of each candidates' major foreign policy addresses, plus issue briefs. Also a useful campaign calendar.

    It's pretty thorough. Go check it out.

    UPDATE: Hmmm.... my original title for this post had the word "shopping" in the titles -- which seemed to attract spam like Salma Hayek attracts hits. I guess I'm going to have to stop doing that [Linking to Salma Hayek? Gasp!!--ed. No, use the word "shopping" in post titles.]

    posted by Dan at 03:52 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Another John Edwards moment

    It's John Edwards day at the Chicago Tribune. There's a lengthy bio of him in one section (including his high school graduation photo). On the front page, the paper reports Edwards may have the "Big Mo" in Iowa:

    Since stepping into her first caucus in 1964, Jane Hogan has sized up her share of Democratic presidential hopefuls as they have trooped through Iowa. And those years of experience, she said, have taught her to sense a key ingredient in a healthy campaign.

    So when Hogan arrived at Fairmeadows Village community center here Tuesday morning, she wanted to do more than merely catch a glimpse of her favorite candidate, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. She wanted to gauge his momentum....

    Hogan, a 69-year-old retired teacher and librarian, surveyed the crowd that was tightly packed into two levels of the community center. After the senator delivered his speech, she said she was sufficiently impressed by the energy, the message and the prospects of his presidential campaign.

    To this political enthusiast, Edwards passed the momentum test.

    "He's the one who is building," said Hogan, who only days ago dropped her monthslong indecision and picked Edwards as her candidate. "There are a lot of undecided people in Iowa. Now is the time to be growing."

    Yeah, it's an anecdote -- but there may be something to it. See the Baltimore Sun and the Raleigh News-Observer (the latter admittedly has a local-boy-makes-good flavor). A triggering factor behind these reports was the Des Moines Register's endorsement of Edwards this Sunday, which undoubtedly raised his profile (he's picked up other endorsements as well).

    But what about substance? Check out Edwards' proposal to promote democracy in the Middle East. As someone who's sympathetic to this policy, I was impressed with the level of detail -- particularly in contrast to some other Democratic candidates.

    This is not only true about foreign policy. As Michelle Cottle pointed out in her case for Edwards in The New Republic:

    [U]nlike most high-promising pols, Edwards also explains how he intends to pay for his proposals, listing a range of cost-saving and income-generating measures that include opening more government procurement to competitive bidding, reducing subsidies for major oil and agricultural concerns, shrinking non-security-related federal agencies over the next decade, and repealing specific elements of the Bush tax cuts. It's true that some of Edwards's cost-saving plans may be difficult to achieve--is he really going to abolish the Office of Thrift Supervision and reduce other federal agencies by 10 percent per year for ten years?--but the specificity with which he lays them out allows one to judge them on the merits. Contrast this with the vague platitudes offered by his rivals. As The Washington Post recently complained of Howard Dean's big domestic policy rollout, "[Dean] includes access to affordable health care and child care, help with college tuition, a new retirement savings program and other worthy ideas. But beyond asserting that `we must be responsible stewards, not profligate spenders,' Mr. Dean offers few details about how he would achieve these ambitious goals--and tackle a deficit set to exceed $500 billion this year."

    I wrote back in September that Democrats might be slighting Edwards' campaign. We'll see if that's still true after Iowa.

    UPDATE: This comment on Edwards' integrity -- by a Bush supporter, no less -- is worth reading.

    posted by Dan at 10:24 AM | Comments (73) | Trackbacks (9)

    Tuesday, January 13, 2004

    The European front in the War on Terror

    The Guardian's Sunday Observer had an extremely disturbing story two days ago on the renaissance of Muslim terrorist cells across the continent. The highlights:

    An investigation by The Observer has revealed the extent of the new networks that Islamic militants have been able to build in Europe since 11 September - despite the massive effort against them. The militants' operations go far beyond the few individuals' activities that sparked massive security alerts over Christmas and the new year. Interviews with senior counter-intelligence officials, secret recordings of conversations between militants and classified intelligence briefings have shown that militants have been able to reconstitute, and even enlarge, their operations in Europe in the past two years....

    · Britain is still playing a central logistical role for the militants, with extremists, including the alleged mastermind of last year's bombings in Morocco, and a leader of an al-Qaeda cell, regularly using the UK as a place to hide. Other radical activists are using Britain for fundraising, massive credit card fraud, the manufacture of false documents and planning. Recruitment is also continuing. In one bugged conversation, a senior militant describes London as 'the nerve centre' and says that his group has 'Albanians, Swiss [and] British' recruits. He needs people who are 'intelligent and highly educated', he says and implies that the UK can, and does, supply them.

    · Islamic terror cells are spreading eastwards into Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and the Czech Republic for the first time, prompting fears of a new battleground in countries with weak authorities, powerful criminal gangs and endemic corruption in the years to come.

    · Austria has become a central communications hub for Muslim extremists; France has become a key recruiting ground for fighters in Chechnya; and German groups, who often have extensive international links, are developing contacts with Balkan mafia gangs to acquire weapons.

    The investigation has also revealed that, despite moves by the government there to crack down, Saudi Arabia remains the key source of funds for al-Qaeda and related militant groups.

    Investigators stress that most of the European cells are autonomous, coming together on an ad hoc basis to complete specific tasks. To describe them as 'al-Qaeda' is simplistic. Instead, sources say, the man most of these new Islamic terror networks look to for direction is Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian Islamic militant who some analysts believe was behind the recent Istanbul suicide bombings against British targets and synagogues. Though he follows a similar agenda to Osama bin Laden, the 37-year-old Zarqawi has always maintained his independence from the Saudi-born fugitive. Last week, his developing stature in global Islamic militancy was reinforced when he issued his first-ever public statement, an audiotape calling on God to 'kill the Arab and the foreign tyrants, one after another'.

    Zarqawi is believed to be in Iran or Iraq.

    This matches what the London Times (subscription required) reported earlier this month:

    London's key role as a command and control centre for Al-Qaeda's European network since the September 11 terrorist attacks is revealed in leaked police transcripts.

    The documents, which form part a court case in Milan, detail bugged discussions between Al-Qaeda members on how to recruit and train new contingents of terrorists in Europe.

    The papers, translated and released by a branch of the American State Department, are the result of an 18-month investigation into Al-Qaeda's overhaul of its European arm in the wake of September 11....

    The court documents, part of the trial of seven Al-Qaeda suspects, reveal that after September 11 the network began to train a new army of suicide units, codenamed Force 9. Investigators say more than 200 terrorists were recruited.

    The man said to be the strategic brain behind the European network is Abu Musab Zarqawi, an Al-Qaeda leader who is believed to be based in Iran and is thought to have masterminded the suicide attacks in Turkey in November.

    According to one bugged conversation, the new recruits were mostly north Africans but also included middle-class Europeans. Some were described as "highly cultured foreigners" -non-Arabs.

    Developing... in a very disturbing way.

    posted by Dan at 04:36 PM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (2)

    Just how liberal are the Democrats?

    In the wake of the Iowa Brown and Black debate, Andrew Sullivan despairs about the Democratic shift to the left on race and in general:

    There wasn't a nano-second in which any candidate said anything to suggest that minorities can do anything to benefit themselves without more government help, more money and more white condescension. The crowd lapped it up. Joe Lieberman couldn't even bring himself to oppose reparations. Not affirmative action. Reparations! You've come a long way, Joe. Long gone is the Clintonian art of giving a damn about race without resorting to paleo notions that all whites are at fault and all blacks are victims. In that kind of context, it's no accident that Al Sharpton becomes the moral arbiter.... One thing we have learned from this campaign is that the Clinton policy make-over of the Democrats now has only one standard-bearer: his wife. For the rest, it's that '70s Show, with post-industrial populism thrown in. (emphasis added)

    Mickey Kaus has an interesting rejoinder to Sullivan on racial issues:

    To some extent, Clinton's welfare reform--and the (not unrelated!) slow-but-perceptible improvement in inner-city crime and the black family structure have had the perverse effect of freeing Democrats to be paleoliberals on race again....

    But something is missing when you compare this year's humiliating panderfest with previous humiliating panderfests: There's no more talk of sinking vast sums of money into Model Cities and UDAGs and CDBGs and all the other sinkholes and mayoral slush funds of the Democratic antipoverty apparatus. Even relatively non-left Democrats like Carter and Dukakis eagerly embraced such programs, but they don't get defended anymore. (emphases in original)

    On Sullivan's general point, I'd also dissent somewhat. Undoubtedly, on some issues, the party has lurched leftwards. This is certainly true on trade matters, and it's true about race to some extent.

    On the other hand, compared to 2000, the Democrats have shifted to the right on national security issues -- just not as quickly or as far as Bush. The Dems certainly haven't abandoned the Clintonian emphasis on balanced budgets. They've also moved to the right on gun control, as the Chicago Tribune observes:

    All of the leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination say they oppose new federal initiatives to license gun owners or to require the registration of handguns — the principal gun-control measures Al Gore and Bill Bradley offered when they were running for the nomination in 2000.

    I care about foreign economic policy a lot, which is why I harp on it. But I'm not sure if the general claim can be made that the Democratic party has shifted to the left.

    I have no doubt Democrats will weigh in on this matter themselves.

    posted by Dan at 02:19 PM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (0)

    Could Bush win New York?

    I doubt even diehard Republicans would answer this question with a "Yes." Today, however, I saw this Associated Press story:

    Howard Dean has moved out to at least a 2-1 lead in New York over his chief rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, while President Bush's popularity has rebounded in the heavily Democratic state, a statewide poll reported Tuesday....

    [T]he new poll also found that Republican Bush appears to be a viable option for New York voters in a state where Democrats have a 5-3 enrollment advantage over Republicans. Among all registered New York voters sampled, 34 percent said they would definitely vote for the incumbent president in this year's election while 36 percent said they would definitely vote against him. Thirty percent were undecided.

    A September poll from the Poughkeepsie, N.Y.-based institute had found 32 percent of voters planned to vote for Bush and 48 percent planned to vote against him.

    The improvement for Bush's standing in New York was also evident in his job approval rating _ 52 percent in the new poll and 44 percent in the September poll.

    Part of this might be due to a greater (thought hardly overwhelming) willingness for Jews to vote for Bush. Over at Volokh, David Bernstein has an interesting post on the subject.

    It's still a long way to November, though.

    UPDATE: Stephen Green has more on the New York question here and here.

    Meanwhile a Chicago Tribune poll shows a similar trend for Bush in Illinois -- particularly if Dean is the opponent. The usual caveat (it's still damn early) applies.

    posted by Dan at 10:47 AM | Comments (42) | Trackbacks (3)

    Monday, January 12, 2004

    Thoughts on Paul O'Neill

    Paul O'Neill has decided to open up about the inner workings of the Bush administration. He's the primary source for a new Ron Suskind book, The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill. O'Neill is also granting interviews galore -- see both 60 Minutes and Time. Some not-so-random thoughts:

    1) Ron Suskind strikes again!! Despite the Bush administration's best efforts to keep White House leaks to a minimum (well, except if they involve CIA operatives) he has the ability to get Bush officials to open up on the record.

    2) Paul O'Neill is a smart guy, but do bear in mind that he was a pretty lousy Treasury secretary when he was in charge. The day he left, I wrote the following:

    O'Neill fundamental strengths were his intelligence and his willingness to say what he though even if it roiled markets and politicians. His fatal flaw was that he knew he was intelligent, and therefore never considered the possibility that he could be wrong. Also, saying what you think is not the most useful skill for a job that requires a fair amount of tact. Since O'Neill had no political ambitions, his incentive to correct these flaws were nil. Therefore, he never learned on this job.

    Brad DeLong concurred that "O'Neill seems never to have tried to learn what his job was." The Time story observed, "Rarely had a person who spoke so freely been embedded so high in an Administration that valued frank public remarks so little." Later on in the story, even O'Neill thinks that O'Neill goes too far:

    Describing top-level meetings, O'Neill tells Suskind that during the course of his two years the President was "like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people."

    In his interview with TIME, O'Neill winces a little at that quote. He's worried it's too stark and now allows that it may just be Bush's style to keep his advisers always guessing.

    My point is not to claim that all of O'Neill's criticisms can be dismissed in a single stroke. He's clearly a smart person, and no doubt some of his criticisms have the ring of truth. My point is to remind people that O'Neill brings some baggage that he brings to the table -- and that even smart people can let that baggage overwhelm them.

    3) Both O'Neill and Suskind engage in some slightly revisionist history on Iraq. Here's the 60 Minutes transcript on this point:

    [W]hat happened at President Bush's very first National Security Council meeting is one of O'Neill's most startling revelations.

    “From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” says O’Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11....

    He got briefing materials under this cover sheet. “There are memos. One of them marked, secret, says, ‘Plan for post-Saddam Iraq,’" adds Suskind, who says that they discussed an occupation of Iraq in January and February of 2001.

    Based on his interviews with O'Neill and several other officials at the meetings, Suskind writes that the planning envisioned peacekeeping troops, war crimes tribunals, and even divvying up Iraq's oil wealth.

    He obtained one Pentagon document, dated March 5, 2001, and entitled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield contracts," which includes a map of potential areas for exploration.

    “It talks about contractors around the world from, you know, 30-40 countries. And which ones have what intentions,” says Suskind. “On oil in Iraq.”

    During the campaign, candidate Bush had criticized the Clinton-Gore Administration for being too interventionist: "If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I'm going to prevent that."

    “The thing that's most surprising, I think, is how emphatically, from the very first, the administration had said ‘X’ during the campaign, but from the first day was often doing ‘Y,’” says Suskind. “Not just saying ‘Y,’ but actively moving toward the opposite of what they had said during the election.”

    Suskind's revelations sound sexy, but they're pretty overblown. As Glenn Reynolds has pointed out, a lot of what O'Neill talks about and what Suskind cites had been under discussion in the Clinton administration. In early 2001, "peacekeeping troops, war crimes tribunals, and even divvying up Iraq's oil wealth" were not merely under discussion by neocons that might have wanted to invade Iraq, but by policy wonks across the board. At the time, the Washington consensus about the Iraq policy at the time was that the status quo was an untenable situation. A lot of meetings were being held about ways to rejigger U.S. policy. FULL DISCLOSURE -- as a sanctions expert, I participated in one such bipartisan meeting chaired by Richard Haass in the early days of the transition.

    Most important, this narrative overlooks the fact that prior to September 11th, the State Department had the lead on Iraq policy -- and they wanted to lift a lot of the sanctions. Don't believe me? Check out Lawrence Kaplan's attack on Colin Powell and Richard Haass (then-director of Policy Planning) in March 2001 in The New Republic (subscription is required). Kaplan preferred a more hawkish approach, so he took Powell to task. Here's the good part:

    Powell didn't dream up this policy disaster on his own. Though the notion of scaling back sanctions against Iraq has been floating around the State Department for some time, much of the credit for dusting it off belongs to Richard Haass, a Powell ally from the first Bush administration whom the secretary of state has installed as his director of policy planning with the rank of ambassador. Haass, who's made a name for himself over the years championing carrots rather than sticks in America's dealings with Iraq, Iran, Libya, and pretty much everyone else. (Israel being the occasional exception), has become Powell's Middle East guru. And in recent weeks he's been peddling to administration officials recommendations gleaned from a policy paper titled, aptly enough, "Iraq: Time for a Modified Approach." Written last month by Meghan O'Sullivan, who worked for Haass at the Brookings Institution, the brief for softening the sanctions regime neatly anticipates almost every utterance Powell has made recently about Iraq--from his insistence that loosening the embargo will dispel Arab anger to the old canard that "there is linkage to the situation between the Israelis and Palestinians." Bush, of course, inherited Haass from his father's Middle East team. And, with him, he's inheriting its worst inclinations.

    Haass's return to Middle East policy-making, coupled with the sanctions episode, has thrown administration hawks into a funk.

    It's worth reading the whole thing, if for no other reason to see Kaplan accuse Haass -- who was a dove on Iraq -- of being in the pocket of the oil companies!!

    The larger point is that Haass and Powell had the upper hand on Iraq policy -- until September 11th. [UPDATE: Ted Barlow over at Crooked Timber has a Bush quote that captures this point perfectly]. Clearly, after 9/11, Bush changed his mind. But to claim that George W. Bush planned to invade Iraq from day one of his administration is utter horses&$t.

    4) This paragraph from Time made me reflect on my own qualms with the Bush policy process:

    So, what does O'Neill reveal? According to the book, ideology and electoral politics so dominated the domestic-policy process during his tenure that it was often impossible to have a rational exchange of ideas. The incurious President was so opaque on some important issues that top Cabinet officials were left guessing his mind even after face-to-face meetings. Cheney is portrayed as an unstoppable force, unbowed by inconvenient facts as he drives Administration policy toward his goals.

    O'Neill's statements dovetail with the TNR cover story by John Judis and Spencer Ackerman from six weeks ago (sorry, subscription required again) -- this section in particular:

    Cheney's ideology hardly made a dent in the first Bush White House. But, in the second, George W. Bush tasked him with a robust foreign policy portfolio....

    The Office of the Vice President (OVP) was more than a consolation prize. Cheney gave his national security staff far greater responsibilities than had traditionally been accorded the vice president's team. His regional specialists wouldn't be involved only in issues relevant to the vice president--they would participate fully in the policymaking process and attend almost every interagency meeting. When Cheney first created this new structure, some Bushies openly described the operation as a "shadow" NSC. For those in the NSC itself, it often seemed like the "shadow" had more power than the real deal. One former Bush official says, "In this case, it's often the vice president's office that's driving the policy, leading the debate, leading the arguments, instead of just hanging back and recognizing that the vice president is not supposed to be driving the policy."

    I'm beginning to wonder how much Cheney's activism -- which Bush enabled -- has thrown the NSC process completely off-kilter.

    UPDATE: I'm not sure I explained that last point completely. This has nothing to do with the policy positions Cheney has taken on Iraq or anything else. Rather, the difficulty is that even cabinet-level officials can be reluctant in disagreeing with him because he's the vice-president. This leads to a stunted policy debate, which ill-serves both the President and the country. Brad DeLong's excerpt from the Wall Street Journal on the cabinet-level meeting on steel tariffs provide another case where Cheney seemed to choke off opposition to his position.

    ANOTHER UPDATE: Bruce Bartlett has more.

    FINAL UPDATE: A lot of the commentors have asked me about O'Neill's comments regarding both fiscal policy and the White House obsession with the political.

    Andrew Sullivan, after a funny line ("This White House is all about politics. Yes, and banks are full of money.") makes much of the same points I would on this front.

    NO, REALLY, THIS IS THE FINAL UPDATE -- I SWEAR: O'Neill walks back the Iraq allegations completely in this Reuters story:

    He described the reaction to Suskind's book as a "red meat frenzy" and said people should read his comments in context, particularly about the Iraq war.

    "People are trying to say that I said the president was planning war in Iraq early in the administration. Actually there was a continuation of work that had been going on in the Clinton administration with the notion that there needed to be a regime change in Iraq."

    What surprised him, said O'Neill, was how much priority was given to Iraq by the president....

    Asked about his comment that during Cabinet meetings Bush was like "a blind man in a room full of deaf people," O'Neill said he regretted some of the language he used to describe his former boss.

    "If I could take it back, I would take it back. It has become the controversial centerpiece."

    Pressed whether he would vote for Bush in the November presidential election, O'Neill said he probably would, but he said the American people needed to demand more of their leaders. (emphasis added)

    posted by Dan at 10:54 AM | Comments (65) | Trackbacks (8)

    Depressing news story of the day

    The Chicago Tribune reports that the Democratic candidates are falling all over themselves in Iowa to blame NAFTA for all of the state's economic woes. The highlights:

    Trade has emerged as a potent political issue in Iowa in the final days before the state's Jan. 19 caucuses start the process of determining a Democratic presidential nominee....

    All of the Democratic contenders' stump speeches call for at least modifying NAFTA and trade agreements with China, and some go so far as to talk about ending NAFTA and withdrawing the U.S. from the World Trade Organization [To be fair, I'm pretty sure Kucinich is the only one proposing anything in this last sentence--DD.]....

    Indeed, Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, who unlike his rivals battled NAFTA in Congress, told a crowd of union organizers and activists in Des Moines recently that Maytag was planning more Iowa layoffs and job shifts to foreign operations. The company has made no such announcement.

    "You don't have to stir people on trade," said Donald Kaniewski, legislative and political director of the Laborers' International Union of North America.

    "I represent a union that is not largely trade-sensitive, but the reaction of our members isn't just that they've bought into the whole labor thing on trade," Kaniewski said. "Our folks feel it in the places where plants have shut down. They see it in their lives and they understand it. Trade is an easy political sell, the easiest sell there is."

    Bruce Babcock, a professor of economics and director of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University in Ames, said NAFTA and other agreements "probably sped" the natural consolidation of farming operations while opening new export markets for products.

    On the manufacturing side, Babcock said complaints of job losses caused by NAFTA are "somewhat overblown," adding that a shift in jobs would have come about anyway because of globalization.

    Babcock said Democrat and Republican rhetoric on trade is "just so far from reality." Democrats, he said, are moving so far toward a protectionist posture that President Bush can make marginal steps toward managed trade and still look like a free trader. (emphases added)

    Unfortunately, that last sentence is dead-on.

    posted by Dan at 10:23 AM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (1)

    Saturday, January 10, 2004

    The joys of movie criticism

    Louis Menand has a thoroughly odd essay in The New Yorker about movie criticism and the year-end ritual of top-ten lists. He does make a resonant point about the thinking that frequently goes behind such lists:

    [B]est-ness isn’t the only factor that goes into the making of an annual ten-best list. After all, what does every critic who makes a ten-best list secretly wish? That his or her list will be the best ten-best list. The list itself has to be fun, interesting, good....

    Uniqueness is the desideratum here. A critic does not want to see his or her “surprise” item turning up as the “surprise” on another critic’s list. Conversely, in an “alternative” or highbrow publication the movie list needs one blockbuster—one film the critic liked despite the fact that everyone else liked it. The chief thing is to run an item or two against the grain of the readership.

    However, Menand also seems way too willing to relinquish his own formidable critical faculties in order to accept those of the movie critic:

    The fact of the matter is basic and ineluctable: we need these lists. The year would not be complete without them. The year would not make sense without them....

    Above all, a good top-ten list should convey authority. Not quite Olympian authority, maybe; readers should be able to argue with it, to dissent a bit at the margins. But, ideally, the list should suggest a finality of judgment: life is short; your time is precious; spend it on these....

    Pluralism and democracy are fine things, but they have no place in the evaluation and consumption of pop culture, especially today, when, all around us, the sea is rising. The critic is the dolphin who can take us over the waves.

    As someone who loves movies, this judgment strikes me as downright bizarre. Part of the joy of seeing films is the discussions that the good ones and even the flawed ones generate among one's circle of friends and associates (last week, I had to defend Mystic River against a charge by two left-wing colleagues that the movie was really a veiled endorsement of American imperialism). True, most of them don't generate the kind of obsessive interaction that cult television shows can generate. However, an important part of the moviegoing experience comes in the talking after the watching.

    Menand also fails to acknowledge that critics themselves are fallible creatures, vulnerable to their own forms of peer pressure and changes of mind. Which is why I heartily recommend Slate's online debate (which started last Monday) among David Edelstein, J. Hoberman, Manohla Dargis, Sarah Kerr, and A.O. Scott about the year in movies. Ostensibly it's about the best movies of the year, but for the layman it's also a welcome peek into what it's like to be a movie critic -- a job that many Americans, no doubt, would take in a heartbeat (except for Roger Simon).

    Wednesday's entries were particularly interesting -- an entry by Dargis was particularly revealing on this front, in response to a claim by Sarah Kerr that Mystic River was overrated:

    What people may not know is that a surprising number of film critics are friends or at least friendly; some, of course, are sworn enemies, but a number are engaged in regular discussion. The only reason that this is worth sharing is that it helps explain, if only a little, how criticism works in this country. (I'm fond of showing people what's behind the curtain.) There are all sorts of pressures, many unspoken and unacknowledged, that come with being a movie critic. There are agendas, ideologies, career factors, grudges, et cetera, at work....

    I loved Eastwood's movie when I saw it at Cannes and wept copious tears (while sitting next to the N.Y. Times boyz, let me add gratuitously), but when the reviews and the gush started to pour forth, I just winced. What movie—even a movie as fine and as occasionally powerful as Mystic River—could live up to that hype? I understood when my non-critic friends started complaining, "Well, it wasn't that great."

    Exercise your own critical faculties and go check it out [Couldn't they exercise their critical faculties by deciding that you're full of it, and not check it out?--ed. Well, yes, but that would just be... wrong somehow]

    UPDATE: Some readers object to the vaguely leftish politics of the Movie Club participants. If that sort of thing truly puts you off, go read Julia Magnet's essay in the latest City Journal about the films of Whit Stillman.

    posted by Dan at 02:55 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

    January and February's book recommendations

    I've been a bit tardy in updating the book recommendations -- still recovering from being Andrew Sullivan. So these recommendations will cover the next two months.

    The international relations book for the next six weeks is Kenneth Dam's The Rules of the Global Game: A New Look at U.S. International Economic Policymaking. It's one of the primary textbooks for my U.S. Foreign Economic Policy class.

    From an academic perspective, the book is a somewhat unusual recommendation -- there's not a lot of original theory or new models explaining either the global economy or U.S. economic policy. However, Dam's comparative advantage is formidable. First, his policy experience (OMB staffer under Nixon; Deputy Secretary of State under George Schultz; Deputy Secretary of the Treasury under Paul O'Neill) dwarfs that of any academic currently writing on the subject. Second, Dam's academic experience at the University of Chicago makes him singularly suited to translate the arcana of policy into an accessible format. Go check it out.

    The general interest book is Robert Fogel's The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism. This choice is partially inspired by a series of blog entries that Brad DeLong, Mark Kleiman, and Tom Spencer posted at the end of last month about living "through both the Fourth Great Awakening and the Second Gilded Age," as Mark put it. As I read this, I was ruminating about something Kevin Drum posted last month after hosting a blog dinner party:

    Most lefty bloggers are actually pretty moderate liberals: me, Josh Marshall, Atrios, Matt Yglesias, Jeralyn Merritt, Brad DeLong, etc. (Atrios is a hardnosed partisan, but his politics are actually fairly centrist liberal. Surprise!) Most righty bloggers are actually libertarians, not conservatives.

    I think Kevin's assessment is correct. What's missing from that political spectrum is anyone who would actually participate in any kind of religious activity that could be linked to a Great Awakening -- the evangelical community in particular. I wouldn't say that the leading lights of the blogosphere are exactly hostile to the devoutly religious. There might, however, be a gulf of understanding that needs to be bridged. The Fourth Great Awakening -- written by a Nobel prize-winning economic historian -- seems like a good start, in discussing the role that religious awakenings have played in American history.

    Fogel's book is an interesting mix of economic and social history, with a partial explanation for the occurrence of religious revivals. It's also something that's been on my "need to read" list for some time. Click here for a precis of Fogel's argument, and here for his whiggish predictions for the future.

    posted by Dan at 10:36 AM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

    Friday, January 9, 2004

    A small request

    Via Josh Chafetz, I see that the 2004 Weblog Awards are accepting nominations.

    Now, my small request is not to ask you to nominate this blog for any awards. But, I see that one of the categories is "Best article or essay about weblogs."

    For that category, I humbly request you submit Erika Drezner's "My Life as a Blog Widow." Judging from some of the reaction it has received, I think it's touched a deeper chord than many of the press articles on the phenomenon.

    Here endeth the request.

    posted by Dan at 03:15 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    A hard sell

    So the Bush administration is planning on going back to the moon, and then to Mars. When this was floated as a trial balloon last month, I wrote the following:

    Given the fact that the current administration is racking up domestic spending obligations faster than Britney Spears racks up magazine covers, there is the minor question of cost....

    The economic [rationale] rests on the innovations that would result from such a program. However, there are other, more cost-effective ways to do this instead going to Mars -- hell, just doubling government funds for basic research would probably achieve greater gains at lower costs....

    I'd like to see a mission to Mars. I'd just like to see a lot of other things happen first.

    Reading the Washington Post's description of the decision-making process, I'm even less sanguine:

    The sources said Bush aides also view the initiative as a huge jobs program, and one that will stimulate business in the many parts of the country where space and military contractors are located.

    "This is a boon for business and a boon for Texas," one official said, referring to the state where Bush was governor and the location of the Johnson Space Center, which is the home of mission control and the nerve center for human space flight.

    The decision was controversial within the White House, with some aides arguing that it would make more sense to focus immediately on Mars, since humans have already landed on the moon and a Mars mission would build cleanly on the success of Spirit, the U.S. rover that landed safely on Mars last weekend. Bush himself settled the divisions, according to the sources, working from options that had been narrowed down by his senior adviser, Karl Rove.

    One presidential adviser, who asked not to be identified, said, after discussing the initiative with administration officials, that the idea is "crazy" and mocked it as the "mission to Pluto."

    "It costs a lot of money and we don't have money," the official said. "This is destructive of any sort of budget restraint." The official added that the initiative makes any rhetoric by Bush about fiscal restraint "look like a feint."

    The fact that Rove -- and not Andy Card -- presented the policy options makes my blood run cold. [You saying that good policies are irreconcilable with good politics?--ed. No -- I'm saying that this is not a fiscally sane policy and appears to be ginned up entirely for political purposes]

    UPDATE: Rand Simberg has more (link via Instapundit).

    ANOTHER UPDATE: Gregg Easterbrook makes an amusing point about cost:

    Spirit, the rover that just landed there, weighs half a ton. Spirit cost $410 million to build and place on Mars--and it's about the size of a refrigerator, and does not come back. Mars-mission proponents want to send something to the Red Planet the size of an office building, and bring it back.

    posted by Dan at 11:03 AM | Comments (56) | Trackbacks (12)

    Thursday, January 8, 2004

    If Jerry Seinfeld was a dedicated blogger....

    Is it just me, or have a lot of online news sites started parsing their stories into more than one page? It used to be just the New York Times, but now the Washington Post is doing it too.

    Is this a sign of prestige? Am I, as a reader, supposed to be wowed by the fact I get to click a couple more times to look at the whole story? Is this going to make me think, "Wow, it took five clicks to read the whole story. That's quality journalism."

    posted by Dan at 03:33 PM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (0)

    Now this is bad economics

    The opportunity cost of debating Brad DeLong over the operationalization of data sets is that truly stupid popular economic writing can slide by unscathed. Like the Senior Senator from New York, Chuck Schumer, who on Tuesday co-authored a New York Times op-ed that said the following:

    The case for free trade is based on the British economist David Ricardo's principle of "comparative advantage" — the idea that each nation should specialize in what it does best and trade with others for other needs. If each country focused on its comparative advantage, productivity would be highest and every nation would share part of a bigger global economic pie.

    However, when Ricardo said that free trade would produce shared gains for all nations, he assumed that the resources used to produce goods — what he called the "factors of production" — would not be easily moved over international borders. Comparative advantage is undermined if the factors of production can relocate to wherever they are most productive: in today's case, to a relatively few countries with abundant cheap labor. In this situation, there are no longer shared gains — some countries win and others lose.

    What's wrong with this statement? Let's go to Noam Scheiber at TNR's &c.:

    so-called factor immobility is NOT, in fact, one of the assumptions underlying the theoretical case for trade--at least not the way Schumer and Roberts seem to think it is. To see this, let's back up for a second. At its broadest level, the point of free trade is to expand the size of the global economic pie by eliminating production inefficiencies, which arise when one country tries to produce everything itself using only the "endowments" of capital and labor (i.e., machines and workers) it has within its borders. Now, there are two ways you can eliminate these inefficiencies: When it's not so easy to move machines and workers across borders, countries can specialize in the goods they produce most efficiently, which they then trade with one another. (We'll be more precise about what we mean by "most efficiently" in a second.) When it is easy to move machines and workers across borders, you don't have to specialize (at least not by country) and trade, because every country already has access to the most efficient machines and workers.

    Put differently, you can either trade machines and workers (which is basically what you're doing when you're outsourcing), or you can trade the goods these machines and workers make. But, as a theoretical proposition, the two scenarios are EXACTLY THE SAME: They both maximize productive efficiency. Indeed, one of the great accomplishments of international trade theory, post David Ricardo, was to prove mathematically that trade in goods accomplishes the exact same thing, efficiency-wise, as trade in machines and workers.

    David Adesnik has more on this as well, including links on the future of employment in the computer sector. [UPDATE: DeLong comments as well].

    ANOTHER UPDATE: Michael Kinsley dissects the op-ed in Slate. Among the highlights:

    Schumer and Roberts cling to the free-trade label and endorse the general principle while claiming it no longer applies because "the factors of production can relocate to wherever they are most productive." In fact, that makes the theory even more compelling. If the factors of production become more productive, the whole world becomes richer. If there is some explanation of how a society can get richer by denying itself the fruits of this process (and most likely curtailing the whole process itself, as others misguidedly retaliate), Schumer and Roberts do not offer or even hint at it....

    But the real difference between traditional trade in heavy earth-bound objects and 21st-century trade in weightless electronic blips, or in sheer brainpower, is that the losers in new-style trade are more likely to be people that U.S. senators and fancy economic consultants actually know. These are people with advanced degrees and high incomes. Their incomes will likely be above average for our economy even if they are driven down by competition from poorer economies. Under these circumstances, denying the benefits of free trade to the whole nation—and denying opportunity to the rising middle class in developing countries—in order to protect the incomes of a relative few seems harder to justify, not easier, than it was back in the days when our biggest fear was Japanese cars.

    This last point is one I have made before. The first point is spot-on. Going back to the op-ed, here are the sinister forces that, according to Schumer and Roberts, undercut the free-trade position:

    [There has been] a seismic shift in the world economy brought on by three major developments. First, new political stability is allowing capital and technology to flow far more freely around the world. Second, strong educational systems are producing tens of millions of intelligent, motivated workers in the developing world, particularly in India and China, who are as capable as the most highly educated workers in the developed world but available to work at a tiny fraction of the cost. Last, inexpensive, high-bandwidth communications make it feasible for large work forces to be located and effectively managed anywhere.

    More political stability. Better education. Lower communication costs.

    Yeah, I can see how this devastates the free trade position.

    [What about Joe Stigltz's gloomy op-ed on NAFTA on the same day? Aren't you going to pick on him?--ed. Well, according to Mark Kleiman, I'm supposed to tread carefully on the domain of other experts. But, I will point out that even Stiglitz acknowledges that Mexico's growth in GDP per capita since NAFTA's ratification is "better than in much of the rest of Latin America". Stiglitz also overlooks the political benefits of NAFTA in democratizing Mexican politics and improving the rule of law south of the border.]

    posted by Dan at 03:01 PM | Comments (30) | Trackbacks (1)

    Wednesday, January 7, 2004

    Howard Dean -- Democratic insider

    The narrative about the Democratic primary over the past month has been that Dean represents an insurgency that threatens established Democratic party elites. In this post I said, "It's already clear that DC Democrats loathe and fear Dean."

    This AP story suggests some revisionism may be in order:

    Self-styled outsider Howard Dean holds the first lead in the chase for delegates for the Democratic presidential nomination, and he can thank party insiders for the early advantage, according to an Associated Press survey.

    The former Vermont governor holds endorsements or pledges of support from 86 Democratic "superdelegates" elected officials and other Democratic leaders who will help nominate a candidate at this summer's convention.

    Rival Dick Gephardt, the former House Democratic leader who has served as Missouri congressman for 28 years, has the backing of 58 superdelegates. Four-term Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts has the support of 53....

    In the survey, 598 of the 725 superdelegates listed by the Democratic National Committee were contacted. Of those, only 270 had endorsed a candidate. Another 328 said they were uncommitted or declined to answer, while 127 could not be reached.

    Superdelegates are spread out across the country, so this does not necessarily reflect an absence of DC animus. At a minimum, however, it suggests that the Democratic establishment in the rest of the country feels sympatico with Dr. Dean.


    UPDATE: It's a good day for Wesley Clark as well.

    posted by Dan at 05:05 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (0)

    Let the people read the links

    Looking for more on today's TNR Online article?

    I'll break these links down into theory vs. empirics:

    Theory: The Thomas Schelling quote comes from his pathbreaking book, The Strategy of Conflict, chapter two (p. 22). Robert Putnam extended Schelling's analysis in an article for the Summer 1988 issue of International Organization entitled "Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: the Logic of Two-level Games." It's reprinted in a 1993 book devoted to the article, Double-Edged Diplomacy, edited by Peter Evans, Harold Jacobson, and Putnam.

    A good book on what happens when revolutionary/radical groups seize power is Stephen M. Walt's Revolution and War.

    Empirics: I've blogged recently about both Pakistan (click here as well) and Saudi Arabia. On Pakistan in particular, here's the latest story on their role in nuclear proliferation, and today's good news about warming relations in South Asia. Pakistan's role in nuclear proliferation. On Saudi Arabia, Michael Doran's analysis of Saudi internal politics can be found online at Foreign Affairs.

    Max Boot ripped the Bush administration for coddling both states in this Los Angeles Times op-ed.

    The Samantha Power quote came from her review of Noam Chomsky's book in the New York Times Book Review:

    As for Iran, NRO has a nice story on popular attidues towards the regime -- and towards the United States -- in the aftermath of the Bam earthquake. One section:

    Though the European aid workers are treated with respect, they also receive a great deal of aloofness. The arrival of a U.S. colonel and his aides in Hercules C130 military transport planes, however, proved to be a raging success. Iranians had gathered in the Kerman airport to greet them with arms full of flowers, shouting, "AMRIKAAYEE...KHOSH AMADEE" (American, you're welcome). Iranians hugged them and hung on to them as if their "saviors" had come. Departing Americans were met with pleas from the crowd, begging them to stay. One of the American aid workers involved said that she was shocked and deeply moved to receive such a reception.

    Khatami and Khamenei's visits to Bam, however, lasted no more than a scant hour each. Though they were surrounded by "walls" of bodyguards, they could not be shielded from harangues and insults hurled at them. "It is your fault this happened to us," one woman cried. "You knew that this could happen and you liars never warned us." The hatred for the regime reached a fever pitch as it became clear that, in fact, all the information about the seismic activities and dangers of the region had been made available to the clerics for years, and they had simply ignored it.

    Finally, in response to James Joyner's request to flesh out "a policy of aggressively supporting democratization," I'm talking about a menu of choices that include linking security assistannce, intelligence-sharing, foreign aid, and market access to improvements in human rights and democracy-building.

    posted by Dan at 03:53 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (1)

    Let the people vote

    My latest TNR Online essay is up. It's an argument for encouraging democratization in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, despite the strong anti-American elements in both countries. Go check it out.

    Footnotes and documentation to follow this afternoon.

    posted by Dan at 10:09 AM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (1)

    Tuesday, January 6, 2004

    Hiss. Hiss, I say.

    Brad DeLong is pissed off:

    Daniel Drezner screams and leaps, fangs bared, for Paul Krugman's jugular. However, he trips over a tree root and falls off a cliff....

    Misrepresent somebody [Krugman] as saying something they did not say. Attack them for it. And then accuse them of "distortions." Way to go, Dan: you're now at the loony hack level. You ought to at least try to be better than that.

    What could prompt Brad to say this?

    It all starts with this post I wrote last week while subbing at the Daily Dish. The relevant portion:

    CORRECTING KRUGMAN: In his Tuesday column, Paul Krugman made the following aside:

    [H]ow weak is the labor market? The measured unemployment rate of 5.9 percent isn't that high by historical standards, but there's something funny about that number. An unusually large number of people have given up looking for work, so they are no longer counted as unemployed, and many of those who say they have jobs seem to be only marginally employed. Such measures as the length of time it takes laid-off workers to get new jobs continue to indicate the worst job market in 20 years. (emphasis added)

    Krugman's assertion here is that the number of discouraged workers ("those who have given up looking for work") plus the number of part-time workers who wish they were full-time ("only marginally employed") are unusually high by historical standards.

    I then linked to Don Luskin and Bureau of Labor Statistics data suggesting that the numbers of discouraged workers and those who work part-time for economic reasons are not unusually high.

    Brad's beef is with my operationalization of what Krugman said:

    There are, of course, two big problems with Drezner's "argument." When Krugman writes "an unusually large number of people have given up looking for work" he is tracking the flow of people who used to be employed into out-of-the-labor force status, and is referring to a much larger category of people who have dropped out of the labor force over the past three years than just the Bureau of Labor Statistics's "Discouraged Workers" category. When Krugman writes "many of those who say they have jobs seem to be only marginally employed" he is referring to a large group that has nothing at all to do with those who are working part-time for economic reasons. He is referring to those who tell the BLS household survey interviewers that they are working but for whom there is no corresponding employer telling the BLS payroll survey that they have somebody working for them

    Does Krugman say that those who have "given up looking for work" are in the BLS "discouraged worker" category? No. Does Krugman say the words "discouraged workers" at all? No. Does Krugman say that those "marginally attached" are in the BLS "part-time for economic reasons" category? No. Does Krugman say the words "part-time for economic reasons" at all? No.

    It is true that anybody who has been watching the labor market over the past three years--and seen the remarkably large fall in employment coupled with the remarkably small rise in the unemployment rate--will know that what Paul Krugman wrote was completely correct: this recession looks small as measured by the rise in unemployment, but it looks large as measured by the fall in employment as a share of the population or the duration of unemployment. Anybody who has been watching will know that Daniel Drezner's fangs-bared attack is fake and loony.

    Brad then presents data showing that by his operationalization of Krugman's words, the employment situation looks recession-like.

    How to respond?

    One way is to point out that Brad doesn't directly address the point of the post -- that Krugman's claim that this job market is unusually bad is an exaggeration. Brad's data suggests that the percentage of people not working has dropped by a fair amount since 2000 -- but it's still higher than Bush I recession levels, and way higher than Reagan recession levels. Part of this may be due to greater female participation in the work force -- and part of it may be due to the economy being in better shape than it was in 1990 or 1984. Similarly, the discrepancy between the household survey and the payroll survey -- which Brad displays in this post -- is still less now than it was in 1990. As to what explains fluctuations in this number, even DeLong confesses puzzlement.

    My primary concern in the Krugman post was the word "unusual" and "the worst job market in 20 years." I wasn't saying that the employment situation was rosy -- merely that it was not as bad as Krugman asserted. The measures I used confirmed this.

    Another response is to use DeLong's logic right back at him. Does Krugman say that those who have "given up looking for work" are "people who have dropped out of the labor force over the past three years"? No. Does Krugman say the words "over the past three years" at all? No. Does Krugman say that those "marginally attached" are in the category of "those who tell the BLS household survey interviewers that they are working but for whom there is no corresponding employer telling the BLS payroll survey that they have somebody working for them"? No. Does Krugman say the words "payroll survey" at all? No.

    So which operationalization is correct? This depends on whether you're talking about Krugman's intent versus what Krugman has written on the page. If you go by intent, it's far more likely that DeLong knows what Krugman meant than myself. DeLong has a Ph.D. in economics -- I possess a measly M.A. DeLong is pretty tight with Krugman -- I'm not. Maybe they had an exchage where Krugman said, "Yes Brad, when I say 'marginally attached,' I'm talking about those who tell the BLS household survey interviewers that they are working but for whom there is no corresponding employer telling the BLS payroll survey that they have somebody working for them."

    However, I couldn't read Krugman's mind when I wrote what I wrote. All I could do was read what he wrote. This is a danger with popular writing on economics -- plain language can be interpreted in a number of different ways. I think the operationalizations I used are valid and straightforward -- but Brad's are certainly plausible. So are Arnold Kling's, for that matter.

    A final point about Brad's language -- the "screams and leaps, fangs bared" deal. This implies that I engaged in massive rhetorical overkill in my post on Krugman.

    In the original post, there were no exclamation points. No ALL CAPITAL LETTER statements. No adjectives to describe Krugman. I didn't impugn his motives. Unlike Luskin, I didn't say Krugman lied -- I said I thought he was wrong, without ascribing intent. When Brad e-mailed me to say that there was another way to interpret Krugman's paragraph, I linked to his points (as soon as Blogger would permit) in an update to the original post (by the way, the term "quasi-response" was not meant to say that Brad's posts were weak, but rather that he never linked to my original post, so it wasn't a direct response. In retrospect, "indirect" might have been the better word choice).

    If this is what Brad means by "screams and leaps, fangs bared," he's way more thin-skinned than I had previously thought.

    UPDATE: DeLong responds, as does Mark Kleiman. Both Kleiman (directly) and DeLong (sarcastically) say my rhetoric was inflammatory. As Kleiman puts it:

    The point that Drezner misses is that he (more politely than Luskin) accused Krugman of either incompetence or dishonesty in a matter within Krugman's professional competence. "Krugman is either wrong or has a different definition of 'unusual' than the rest of the English-speaking world. Distortions such as this ..."

    Not only are such charges unlikely to be correct, they are, if believed, extraordinarily damaging. That's two good reasons for making them only hesitantly and retracting them quickly when they turn out to have been incorrect.

    You know what, I'll meet them halfway -- instead of "distortion," which does hint at intent, perhaps I should have used "error."

    posted by Dan at 05:43 PM | Comments (50) | Trackbacks (12)

    Good retail news

    Before the end of the year there was a lot of murmuring about the holiday shopping season being subpar. Just to pick a name out of a hat, Paul Krugman wrote a week ago:

    It was a merry Christmas for Sharper Image and Neiman Marcus, which reported big sales increases over last year's holiday season. It was considerably less cheery at Wal-Mart and other low-priced chains. We don't know the final sales figures yet, but it's clear that high-end stores did very well, while stores catering to middle- and low-income families achieved only modest gains.

    Based on these reports, you may be tempted to speculate that the economic recovery is an exclusive party, and most people weren't invited. You'd be right.

    Well, the data are coming in, and things look pretty good across the board. From today's Chicago Tribune:

    The world's biggest retail trade group expects the 2003 holiday season to be the most robust since 1999, and better yet, the fun may not be over.

    The National Retail Federation believes holiday revenue will rise 5.7 percent from the year-ago period, the fastest growth in four years, and feels the industry can sustain its momentum in 2004 as the economy continues to perk up.

    Read the whole thing -- there's promising news about employment in the retail sector as well.

    And here's the National Retail Foundation's (NRF) press release on the topic, which has the following quote:

    “This has clearly been a much stronger holiday season than last year,” said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. “Consumers have not only shown that they are ready to spend, but it appears they are spreading their spending more equally among diverse retail segments. This is a great sign for the industry.” (emphasis added)

    Slightly off-topic, the NRF also reports robust online sales:

    More than half (59%) of retailers reported revenue growth for the 2003 online holiday season of 25 percent or higher. Almost a third (30%) reported revenue increases of 50 percent or more.

    Online shopping was also a positive experience for consumers during the 2003 eHoliday, with 89 percent of shoppers somewhat or very satisfied with their online buying experience, up from 84 percent last year.

    UPDATE: The New York Times has more mixed news:

    Store sales for last month, measured against the same stores open in December 2002, rose 3.7 percent, according to the Bloomberg composite same-store sales index. Last year, called one of the worst in decades by analysts, holiday sales rose 2.2 percent.

    While the numbers released yesterday were better than last year's, they were less than the double-digit turnaround retailers had hoped for in September, before three major snowstorms hit the Northeast, and buyers told pollsters there was no must-have toy or item of clothing.

    At the same time, this was the most interesting phenomenon in the story:

    All told, the discount stores that strived for the high-end seemed to do well. Costco, the discounter that offers some high-end branded goods at a discount, rose 8 percent in December, while Target, which some analysts say has lost a lot of its chic image, rose 4 percent.

    posted by Dan at 10:19 AM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (1)

    Monday, January 5, 2004

    A very important post about... Britney Spears


    I'm sorry, I just haven't been able to focus today because of Britney Spears' marriage/annulment. What could explain this sort of tabloid celebrity behavior by such a... celebrity?

    I think it was that Christina Aguilera. According to the Associated Press:

    [Spears] relates a story about seeing Aguilera, her former friend and fellow Mouseketeer, for the first time in two years: "She comes up to me in a club in front of all these people and tries to put her tongue down my throat!

    "I say, 'It's good to see you,' and she goes, 'Well, you're not being real with me.' I was like, 'Well, Christina, what's your definition of real? Going up to girls and kissing them after you haven't seen them for two years?'

    That and a liplock from Madonna? You can witness the bad morals spreading from mouth to mouth!

    More seriously, Entertainment Weekly (subscription required) had a great November cover story -- that's the cover above -- that chronicled the beginning of Mariah Carey-like behavior. One section:

    [E]ver since her breakup last year with first love Justin Timberlake (who later cast a Britney look-alike in a none-too-flattering role for his ''Cry Me a River'' video), and that much-publicized but never-materialized yearlong hiatus she promised to take, there have been plenty of highly visible symptoms. Like her tear earlier this year through virtually half the nightclubs in New York (where she couldn't even light up a cigarette without tabloids making a huge fuss). Those rumors of a fling with the balding 32-year-old Limp Bizkit singer Fred Durst were pretty shocking too. (Durst went on ''Howard Stern'' and gallantly described Spears' pubic region to millions of listeners.) Add to all that the legitimate anxiety over her musical staying power.

    And throw in all the other stresses and strains of being the world's most scrutinized 21-year-old pop star -- the grueling video shoots, the countless interviews, the big-dollar endorsements, the endless grind of disrobing for magazine covers, not to mention the hurtful backlash from conservative Brit-haters like Kendel Ehrlich, the governor of Maryland's wife, who announced her desire to ''shoot'' Spears (while speaking at a domestic-violence conference, of all places) -- and it's easy to see why the poor girl got the flu.

    ''She probably needs to get laid,'' Spears says, rolling her eyes, when asked about that trigger-happy governor's wife. ''These parents, they think I'm a role model for their kids, that their kids look at me as some sort of idol. But it's the parents' job to make sure their kids don't turn out that shallow. It's the parents who should be teaching their kids how to behave. That's not my responsibility. I'm not responsible for your kid.''

    Even more seriously, Andrew Sullivan notes:

    [C]an you not see how something like Britney Spears' insta-marriage in Las Vegas might infuriate long-committed gay couples who, even now, don't have a shred of the rights Ms Spears enjoyed for a few days? It is one thing for people to declare their commitment to traditional marriage - i.e. procreative, life-long, heterosexual. It is another thing when that ideal has almost no relationship to civil marriage as it now exists for straights; and when it is nevertheless used to deny gay people access to the institution. Over the holidays, I found myself watching all those VH1 list shows, and happened across the top ten or twenty (I forget which) shortest Hollywood marriages in history. Ha ha ha. We live a world in which Britney Spears just engaged in something "sacred" (in the president's words), where instant and joke hetero marriages and divorces are a subject of titillation, and where a decades-long monogamous lesbian marriage is a threat to civilization as we know it. Please.

    I wonder if Britney is still Karl Rove's dream voter.

    UPDATE: Scrappleface has more. And since Instapundit says this is "the only Britney Spears wedding post you need to read," I'll also link to the Smoking Gun, which has Spears' annulment papers.

    posted by Dan at 05:47 PM | Comments (62) | Trackbacks (9)

    Drudge gets results from

    Matt Drudge writes about another ad at -- as part of their contect for the best 30-second attack ad against Bush -- that compares Bush to Hitler. The key part:

    GRAPHIC: Hitler With Hand Raised
    BACKGROUND: Sig Heil! Sig Heil!

    GRAPHIC: President Bush With Hand Raised At Inauguration
    BACKGROUND: Sig Heil! Sig Heil!

    This was (NOT: SEE CORRECTION) one of's fifteen finalists for the ad competition.

    Or was it? If you now go to MoveOn's page of commercial finalists, you will note that the ad in question appears to have been yanked. It should have the url:

    But the sequence of ads skips from id=01 to id=03.

    Damn!! I thought I had my first Godwin award nominee!!

    Well, at this rate, I seriously doubt that the Nazi analogy well will run dry in 2004.

    CORRECTION: has released a statement saying that the Hitler ad was never a finalist:

    None of these was our ad, nor did their appearance constitute endorsement or sponsorship by Voter Fund. They will not appear on TV. We do not support the sentiment expressed in the two Hitler submissions. They were voted down by our members and the public, who reviewed the ads and submitted nearly 3 million critiques in the process of choosing the 15 finalist entries.

    We agree that the two ads in question were in poor taste and deeply regret that they slipped through our screening process. In the future, if we publish or broadcast raw material, we will create a more effective filtering system.

    My apologies for the error.

    UPDATE: Ralph Peters is definitely a nominee:

    I can predict with certainty that Dean's Internet Gestapo will pounce on this column, twisting the facts and vilifying the writer, just as they do when anyone challenges Howard the Coward.

    Free speech, you see, is only for the left.

    Dean wants to muzzle his Democratic competitors, too. He believes the Democratic National Committee should shut them up. His followers try to intimidate other presidential aspirants by surrounding the cars delivering them to their rallies and chanting to drown out their speech. Of course, Dean denies any foreknowledge or blame.

    These are the techniques employed by Hitler's Brownshirts. Had Goebbels enjoyed access to the internet, he would have used the same swarm tactics as Dean's Flannelshirts.

    posted by Dan at 12:45 PM | Comments (49) | Trackbacks (10)

    What's the difference?

    Howard Dean caught a lot of flak last month for saying he didn't particularly care where Osama bin Laden was tried.

    I raise this again because of something Wesley Clark said in James Traub's New York Times Magazine cover story on the Democrats and foreign policy (which, by the way, seemed to me to be a decent piece that was completely scrambled by Saddam's capture):

    When I asked Clark how he would have behaved differently from Bush in the aftermath of 9/11 -- we were sitting on the tarmac at LaGuardia Airport beside his campaign plane -- he said, ''You could have gone to the United Nations, and you could have asked for an international criminal tribunal on Osama bin Laden,'' thus formally declaring bin Laden a war criminal. ''You could then have gone to NATO and said: 'O.K., we want NATO for this phase. We want you to handle not only military, we want you to handle cutting of fund flow, we want you to handle harmonizing laws.''' NATO had, in fact, declared the terrorist attack a breach of the common defense pact, but the Bush administration had brushed it aside. Clark said that he would have made Afghanistan a Kosovo-style war. (emphasis added)

    Dean said he didn't care where bin Laden was tried. In his comment, Clark seems to care a great deal -- he wants/wanted bin Laden tried in an international tribunal.

    I have no polling data to back this up, but my gut instinct is that a majority of Americans would want to see Osama tried in the U.S. So here's my question -- why isn't Clark catching the same hell as Dean?

    Possible answers:

    1) What really attracted criticism of Dean was the equivocation about bin Laden's guilt;

    2) Dean's the frontrunner, ergo he gets more flak;

    3) Dean's statement fits the dominant narrative of him being a foreign policy neophyte, while Clark's statement does not fit the dominant narrative of him being a foreign policy professional -- therefore, the latter quote gets overlooked.

    4) Whatever you think of Clark's answer, it's clear that he cares about the question, and thinks the answer has important foreign policy implications. Dean thought the question to be unimportant.

    5) It's early in the news cycle.

    posted by Dan at 01:25 AM | Comments (44) | Trackbacks (1)

    Sunday, January 4, 2004

    How to make professors rebel

    A while back, in commenting on the prevalence of fictional academics bedding their students, I wrote:

    There is no fighting it; if a fictional character is a white male professor, nine times out of ten he’s sleeping with the co-ed.

    Why is this? Probably because, in the absence of illicit sex, our jobs appear to be intensely boring to the outside world.

    Sleeping with students is not just for fictional treatments anymore -- it's also a trope for amusing nonfiction discussions.

    Laura Kipnis has a droll Slate essay on how colleges are dealing with professor-student relationships. My favorite part is when the profs rebel at a sensitivity training:

    I signed up for a university sexual-harassment workshop. (Also two e-mail communiqués from the dean advised that nonattendance would be noted.) And what an education I received—though probably not the intended one.

    Things kicked off with a "Sexual Harassment Pretest," administered by David, an earnest mid-50ish psychologist, and Beth, an earnest young woman with a masters in social work. It consisted of unanswerable true-false questions like: "If I make sexual comments to someone and that person doesn't ask me to stop, then I guess that my behavior is probably welcome." Everyone seemed grimly determined to play along—probably hoping to get out by cocktail hour—until we were handed a printed list of "guidelines." No. 1: "Do not make unwanted sexual advances."

    Someone demanded querulously from the back, "But how do you know they're unwanted until you try?" (OK, it was me.) David seemed oddly flummoxed by the question, and began anxiously jangling the change in his pants pocket. "Do you really want me to answer that?" he asked.

    Another person said helpfully, "What about smoldering glances?" Everyone laughed. A theater professor guiltily admitted to complimenting a student on her hairstyle that very afternoon (one of the "Do Nots" on the pretest)—but wondered whether as a gay male, not to have complimented her would be grounds for offense. He started mimicking the female student, tossing her mane around in a "notice my hair" manner. People shouted suggestions for other pretest scenarios for him to perform. Rebellion was in the air. Someone who studies street gangs whispered to me, "They've lost control of the room." David was jangling his change so frantically you had to strain to hear what anyone was saying.

    My attention glued to David's pocket, I recalled a long-forgotten pop psychology guide to body language that identified change-jangling as an unconscious masturbation substitute.

    Note to self -- do not jangle change when lecturing.

    For more on professor-student relationships, see Glenn Reynolds and Amanda Butler. My opinion on the general mattter most closely mirrors Beth Plocharczyk's. [So what about your opinion specific to you?--ed. My opinion is that I'm happily married to an exceptionally witty and attractive woman -- and she can operate pruning shears. Good answer!--ed.]

    posted by Dan at 10:46 PM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (1)

    Being Andrew Sullivan's wife

    Bet you never thought you'd see that post title!

    This special guest post is by my lovely wife Erika, who has been tremendously supportive of my blogging efforts this week -- which means that it's payback time:

    MY LIFE AS A BLOG WIDOW -- by Erika Drezner

    It’s not that I’m anti-blog or anything…

    Dan’s blog has been something of a test. I can’t remember him being so consistently distracted since he was writing his dissertation. We were newly dating then, I would catch him sort of staring off in the distance when we were talking and I’d say, “you’re thinking about the dissertation again, aren’t you?” Now it is not so much the thinking as the doing.

    For example, the scene in our house on an average day: Our son is yelling for something, dinner is on the stove – which, to be fair, Dan likely cooked – the dog is throwing up on the carpet. I look for my husband as some sort of help and he is tethered to the computer. I am thoroughly convinced that he will blog through the birth of any future children. I think I may have to ask Andrew Sullivan to coach me through my next delivery.

    And it would serve him right. As I have said, being married to one blogger has been difficult enough. Not only does my husband spend time working on this thing, but people actually read it – no surprise to you, dear reader, but a hell of a shock to me. I’ll listen to what Dan’s saying maybe half the time – on a good day.

    And I’m surprised by the audience members: a friend’s dad, my closest friend from college, our neighbors. The blog recently came up at the condo board meeting! Don’t these people own televisions?

    Now in our small community of academics and students, most of whom are liberal, everyone knows what Dan thinks. “Drezner is a Republican, Drezner worked for W., Drezner is a Halliburton apologist…” I constantly get dirty looks on the street. As a liberal, I know that many liberals think that Republicans are people who eat babies and kick puppies. For the record, I have never seen Dan do either, and I have watched carefully.

    If all that wasn’t enough, Mr. Andrew Sullivan decides he needs a vacation. We all know that Andrew Sullivan is an important guy. He’s a senior editor at The New Republic. TNR is a very important publication. All you have to do is see the movie Shattered Glass during which the audience is assured, at least twice, “The New Republic is the in-flight magazine of Air Force One!” So naturally it is a pretty big deal to guest blog for Andrew Sullivan. Who would say no?

    And truth be told, Dan has some journalistic tendencies. He started writing for the Hartford Courant as a high schooler. His work was very popular with anyone who interacted with my mother-in-law on a regular basis. She actually carried his clippings around in her purse and showed them to everyone. If you don’t believe me, you need just ask any of the veteran cashiers at the Crown Kosher Supermarket in West Hartford. (By the way, the Crown does an excellent white fish salad, if you’re ever in West Hartford.)

    Well, if you read the blog, you know what has happened. It’s been a tough week.

    Andrew Sullivan, if you're reading this, some flowers would be nice.

    NOTE: the comments on this post do not reflect the opinions of the blog's proprietor.

    posted by Dan at 04:58 PM | Comments (27) | Trackbacks (5)

    Saturday, January 3, 2004

    Being Andrew Sullivan on the weekend

    I'm feeling about as articulate as this guest-blogger, so no Behind the Blog entry for today.

    This weekend, however, there will be an extra-special guest post.


    posted by Dan at 11:56 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Friday, January 2, 2004

    Being Andrew Sullivan -- day four

    Sometime in the morning: Sisu e-mails me this:



    Midday: Is double-blogging exhausting? I've received several e-mail queries on this, and my last post might have hinted that the stress of it was getting to me.

    Today disproves that hypothesis. What was stressing me out were the myriad technical problems. Blogger worked without a hitch, and I feel fine. I'm not in hyper-blog mode, so I focus mostly on foreign policy-related matters.

    The ag subsidies and multilateralism posts are easy to compose because they touch on familiar themes in my writings. On the multilateral post, I hesitate on whether to link to my old TNR essay. It was written nearly a year ago, and it holds up pretty well, but then there's this sentence:

    This [European] kind of multilateralism does have some use in world politics--just not when dealing with a dictator working overtime to develop weapons of mass destruction.

    In light of stories like this one, prose like that makes me wince a little.

    This is one of the downsides of writing a lot -- the overwhelming amount of stuff I'm going to get wrong.

    1:00 PM: I've been spending a lot of time on-line in the past few months, and with the New Year I wonder if I should resolve to cut back. Then I see a link to the "Are You A Blogaholic?" quiz. Taking it, I get 60 out of 100, which is more than fifteen points above the mean. Nevertheless, I get this message:

    You are a dedicated weblogger. You post frequently because you enjoy weblogging a lot, yet you still manage to have a social life. You're the best kind of weblogger. Way to go!

    I start to wonder if this quiz is the functional equivalent an online "Are you an Alcoholic?" quiz -- hosted by Jose Cuervo.

    11:00 PM: Despite several hours of concentrated effort, I can think of no valid reason to mention Salma Hayek on the Daily Dish.

    posted by Dan at 12:35 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (5)