Saturday, February 28, 2004
My 2004 Oscar predictions!!
Continuing my long-running tradition that started last year, it's time to post my Oscar predictions for 2004. First, however, let me confess that I'm just not into the Oscars this year as much as last year, for two reasons.
First, inexplicably, Salma Hayek was not nominated for her breathtaking performances in either Spy-Kids: 3D, or Once Upon a Time In Mexico. There is no justifiable explanation for this oversight. [Did you even see either of those films?--ed. Look, this is just a point of principle.] As a gesture of support, I feel obligated to post this picture of Ms. Hayek in protest:
Fight the power!!
Second, the truncated Oscar campaign season has taken a toll. When the Oscars were in late March, it permitted a less frenetic awards season. This year, BAM!! The Golden Globes, BAM!, the SAG awards, BAM!!, critics awards, BAM!!, the Oscars.
The logic behind this was to reduce the campaigning that goes on during awards season. Why, exactly, is this a bad thing? I say Hollywood needs more campaigning. It helps to build up excitement -- you know, like the off-season between the Red Sox and the Yankees.
So, without further ado, my predictions:
I agree with what David Edelstein and Lynda Obst say in Slate – LOTR has that mix of commercial epic and artistic achievement that’s tough for the Academy to ignore. The most serious competition, Lost in Translation, is the exact opposite, a purposefully small film. The Academy surprised me last year with some genuinely unconventional choices, but I’m playing it safe here.
Risking the wrath of LOTR devotees everywhere, let me say that while I liked the last one a great deal, the third film was the only one that seemed to drag. I thought it was going to end at least five times during the last half hour. Nemo, on the other hand, is equally beautiful to watch, but a more tightly constructed film.
It’s supposed to be between Penn and Bill Murray. The Academy still has a bias against comedians unless they go completely dramatic, and Murray was too funny in the role for voters to believe it to be that big of a stretch. Penn has been nominated several times before, and he’s due. Plus, Penn’s understated performance in 21 Grams will unconsciously bias Academy voters in favor of Penn.
I liked Murray’s performance in Lost in Translation, but not as much as I liked Penn’s in Mystic River, which ran the gamut in terms of emotion.
Theron has dominated the pre-Oscar awards, plus she suffered for her craft by putting on weight, shaving her eyebrows and wearing tons of unflattering makeup.
To be fair, I haven’t seen Monster, so the award might well be deserved. However, Watts’ performance as the grieving mother/junkie in 21 Grams blew me away. In a role that could have caused some actresses to overemote, Watts hit just the right note of dulled pain that the bereaved usually feel.
Best Supporting Actor:
I’ve noticed that Robbins’ performance tends to split critics between those who like to see GREAT ACTING! and those who believe that truly great acting should be so subtle that the viewer becomes absorbed into the story to the point where s/he doesn’t think, “Wow, Tim Robbins is great!” Academy voters tend to fall under the GREAT ACTING! school.
I thought Robbins was great in both senses -- as the movie went on, I thought less about Tim Robbins and more about his character, Davy. That said, there was one other performance this year that was better. Sarsgaard played Chuck Lane, the personally awkward editor who slowly ferrets out the deception of New Republic writer Stephen Glass. What’s great about the performance is that you can see Lane’s slow change from defending his reporter to suspecting the worst to believing the worst.
Best Supporting Actress:
Renee Zellweger will be this decade’s Joan Allen – always giving Oscar-caliber performances but never winning the Oscar. Plus, her not winning is the best way for the Academy to stick it to Harvey Weinstein.
Dorie was written for DeGeneres, but the character allowed her to display a range that wasn’t present in her previous work.
Jackson will win for the same reason that LOTR will win Best Picture.
On the basis of the whole trilogy, I’m inclined to want Jackson to win it as well. But Ray should be acknowledged for doing the near-impossible – telling a true story about a non-visual subject – magazine writing – and making it interesting while not distorting the facts.
POST-OSCAR UPDATE: Well, that was boring (except for the song by Will Ferrell and Jack Black). Laura at Apt. 11D has a pithy assessment of the show.
The déjà vu Democratic primary?
Tom Maguire draws an interesting parallel between the 2000 Democratic primary and the 2004 Democratic primary:
Of course, most of the candidates the media love -- John Anderson, Bruce Babbitt, Pete DuPont, John McCain -- get relegated to the dustbin of political history.
Why the political rhetoric about trade matters
There's a lot of rationalizations that are made during campaign seasons by the supporters of particular candidates. If someone gives a speech or takes a position that contradicts a supporter's beliefs, it's often rationalized that it's just a campaign tactic, and that once elected, the politician would never actually follow through.
This is often true -- look at Bill Clinton the candidate and Bill Clinton the president on matters related to trade, or Ronald Reagan tghe candidate versus Ronald Reagan the president on matters related to the Moral Majority.
However, this overlooks an important point, which is that the campaign rhetoric itself can badly degrade the political discourse on the topic in question. Politicians could be faced with "blowback" -- being compelled to carry out policies they disagree with because they've made rhetorical commitments that are costly to reverse. Another possibility is that the rhetoric reframes the debate entirely, making it impossible to mount a defense of an issue without seeming to be out of bounds.
Which is why Brad DeLong is dead-on when he writes:
Friday, February 27, 2004
Tyler Cowen is on a roll
Astute readers of danieldrezner.com may have detected a slight drop-off in posting productivity. This is due to a plethora of reasons, some of which will become clear in due course.
However, Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution has been producing a steady stream of fascinating posts. There's one on the surprisingly high rate of return for Senator's stock portfolios, one on the economics of corporate downsizing [What's that?--ed. That's what everyone was freaking out about ten years ago during the jobless recovery. Go back and replace the word "downsizing" with "outsourcing" and "India" with "Japan" and the debate would look awfully familiar], and a review of recent outsourcing articles.
Just three years ago, Kenneth Scheve and Matthew Slaughter argued in Globalization and the Perceptions of American Workers that public support for globalization was strongly and positively correlated with education and income. That finding still holds, but the increasing hostility to an open economy has flattened out the relationship considerably.
[Why did this story make your jaw drop? Surely you're not surprised that protectionist sentiments increase during an economic downturn?--ed. What's surprising is not the trend but the magnitude of the effect at the upper end of the income distribution. This could be one clue as to why John Edwards did so well with affluent voters in Wisconsin even though his protectionist rhetoric seemed tailored towards lower-income voters.]
Thursday, February 26, 2004
The day Andrew Sullivan wishes he was me
UPDATE: Here's the Chicago Maroon report on the event.
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
It's Greenspan week!!
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is a newsmaker -- whenever he opens his mouth, it makes the news (even if no one quite understands what he's saying). That said -- and I'll be willing to concede that this may be my imagination -- he seems to be opening his mouth quite a bit this week:
The more Greenspan clears his throat like this, the more the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is going to get nervous.
UPDATE: Hey, it wasn't just my imagination, according to the Chicago Tribune:
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Bush to gays: go f@$# yourselves -- and do it out of wedlock
I still don't think it will happen -- and just to be clear, I sure as hell don't think it should happen. [But the "voice of the people"?--ed. Yeah, I'm pretty sure the voice of the people would have supported a flag-burning amendment back in 1988, but that would have been an equally dumb-ass amendment. The Republic is still standing despite that non-action, by the way.]
A question -- is this a proposal that Bush genuinely believes in and is exploiting for political gain, or is this a proposal that Bush knows won't become law and is exploiting for political gain?
UPDATE: Good discussion!!
ANOTHER UPDATE: It goes without saying that Andrew Sullivan will be the place to go on this topic. This post makes an excellent point about the fact that the "full faith and credit" clause in the Constitution does not apply to marriage.
The controversial Sam Huntington
I was a post-doctoral fellow at Samuel Huntington's Olin Center for Strategic Studies at Harvard in 1996/97, when The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order first came out. Needless to say, it was a controversial book, and there was a lot of accusations made against Sam that were pretty much unfounded.
At the end of the year, Huntington presented his first draft of a paper arguing that Hispanic immigration into the United States is different from and more troubling than previous waves of immigration (which was an extension of his concluding chapter in Clash). At the end of the talk, all of the fellows looked at each other and agreed that once this was published, the brouhaha over Clash was going to look like a tea party.
Well, it's now published (or rather, part of it is published. All of it will be published in a book due out in May 2004 entitled, Who Are We: The Challenges to America's National Identity). Huntington's article, "The Hispanic Challenge" takes up a large part of the March-April issue of Foreign Policy. I could pick a paragraph at random and it will inflame a lot of people, but I'm betting these two will be quoted ad nauseum within the next month:
I disagreed with Huntington about his Clash thesis, and I think he's wrong now. I'll be posting much more about this later. For now, let's just say that Huntington's thesis has some serious empirical problems and a few theoretical ones left over from the Clash book.
However, I want to close with two final interrelated thoughts. First, it would be dangerous to dismiss Huntington as some paleocon or crank -- he's neither. Read this Robert Kaplan biography of Huntington from the December 2001 Atlantic Monthly (one of the few things Kaplan has ever written that I agree with) to get a sense of Huntington's career.
Second, most of the commentariat want Huntington to be wrong. That doesn't mean that he actually is wrong. Beware those who simply brand the argument as offensive and dismiss it out of hand -- Huntington is way too smart to be rejected without a sober evaluation of his thesis and evidence.
UPDATE: David Glenn has a Chronical of Higher Education story about Huntington's article.
Monday, February 23, 2004
A very important post about... swimsuits
Slate's Josh Levin posts an amusing statistical summary of Sports Illustrated's 40th anniversary swimsuit issue:
In honor of Ms. Varekova's preference towards those of the geeky persuasion, it seems only fitting to reciprocate in kind by displaying danieldrezner.com's strong preference for supermodels who like geeks:
[Why not a picture of Rose as well?--ed. He clearly needs no additional advertising whatsoever. Besides Varekova was on his show this past Friday.]
UPDATE: D'oh!! Mickey Kaus beat me by a full day on this. Advantage: Kaus!!
Life as a Westerner in Jakarta
Jay Drezner reports on what it's like to work in Jakarta:
Where are the new jobs?
Virginia Postrel's story in today's New York Times Sunday Magazine takes a close look at where new jobs are being created -- and whether they show up in the payroll survey:
I'd say more about this story, but Bob McGrew beat me to my own narrative.
One semi-provocative thought, however. Most of the job categories mentioned in Postrel's essay have something of a 'feminine' cast to them. The job sector with the biggest job losses -- manufacturing -- has a decidedly masculine cast. It's undoubtedly difficult for workers to transition from manufacturing to services. Could gender barriers make the current economic transformation even more difficult for displaced workers?
UPDATE: Brad DeLong thinks these undercounts are insignificant:
See also here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Postrel responds.
There's another follow-up post here that's worth reading in full.
Sunday, February 22, 2004
The war on terror and civil liberties
Ethan Bronner has an essay in today's New York Times Book Review on the numerous tomes alleging that the War on Terror combined with John Ashcroft ''are responsible for some of the most egregious civil liberties violations in the history of our nation'' according to one of these books. Bronner does a nice job of putting these issues into the proper perspective:
Read the whole thing.
Yet another reason to procrastinate
That whole universe-collapsing-upon-itself fear I have on occasion appears to be unfounded.
Saturday, February 21, 2004
Drezner to ABC: get better promo writers!
Anyone else see the oxymoron in this plug?
Will Nader raid the Deaniacs?
This is somewhat different from Nader's 2000 race, when he was the Green Party candidate. Running as an independent will likely make it harder for Nader to get registered on all 50 state ballots plus the District of Columbia, since he won't be able to rely on the Green Party infrastructure (don't laugh, it exists) to help him out.
That said, one wonders if Nader would attract disgruntled Deaniacs -- regardless of what Dean says.
UPDATE: For those on the right chuckling about this, scroll down the Politics1 blog, which suggests that former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore might run for President on the Constitution Party ticket.
ANOTHER UPDATE: OK, go ahead and chuckle -- Josh Chafetz says that Moore ain't running.
Friday, February 20, 2004
The Economist vs. the New York Fed on jobs
The cover of the Economist this week is on the outsourcing issue. Here's a link to their editorial. The key graf:
Here's the cover story. It's worth a read, but there is one off-kilter point. At one juncture, the story says:
What's weird is that the story provides a link to an August 2003 Federal Reserve Bank of New York Paper on why this economic recovery is different from other economic recoveries. Their conclusion:
How different is this recovery? Take a look at this chart:
Share of Total Employment in Industries Undergoing Cyclical Changes and in Industries Undergoing Structural Changes
As the NY Fed paper notes:
What explains the drop-off in the work force?
The puzzle about the current employment situation is that the unemployment rate has declined even though job creation has been sluggish. The reason this has taken place is that the number of people who consider themselves in the work force has declined. No one knows why this is the case.
Tyler Cowen summarizes a Wall Street Journal story from Tuesday offering possible explanations. Go check them out.
Whither Europe's influence?
Martin Woollacott says in today's Guardian that European Union's influence is waning in the rest of the world:
When he gets to the Middle East, here's his rationale:
Wollacott has half a point, in that those realpolitik-minded Arabs desperately want more multipolarity in the system. However, in the future, Europe's standoffishness on Iraq might cause their influence to wane among future leaders. Tom Friedman's column from yesterday makes this point. One highlight:
Thursday, February 19, 2004
A party flip-flop on trade?
I have no idea where Yglesias is getting his numbers, but let's assume they're accurate. [UPDATE: Matt reveals his source] I'm still not sure he's right. I'll leave the debate to commenters [You're slagging off on your own analysis--ed. Sorry, I'm crashing on a few projects and leaving soon to give a talk at Notre Dame.]
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Open Wisconsin thread
Given the Wisconsin primary results, two questions:
1) Does John Edwards have a chance to win?
2) Even if Edwards doesn't have a chance, will he force Kerry to adopt a more protectionist stance on trade? Say what you will about Kerry's rhetoric this campaign season -- his voting record indicates a strong predeliction in favor of an open economy. One of Edwards' few wedge issues is NAFTA. Will this force Kerry to adopt positions that he knows to be wrong?
Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Demographics and international relations
Most commentators do not mention the role of demography in international relations, in large part because the study of population can seem dry (I won't lie to you -- until a few years ago, if I saw a talk with the the word "demography" in the title, I was already bored) and because the effect of current demographic trends usually don't play themselves out for generations.
That said, Eberstadt instroduces some startling facts -- and the same one that caught Tyler's attention caught mine:
However, the startling fact in Eberstadt's article in the increasing gender imbalance in Chinese and Indian birth rates -- a function of "1) strong and enduring cultural preference for sons; 2) low or sub-replacement fertility; and 3) the advent of widespread technology for prenatal sex determination and gender-based abortion."
Eberstadt's conclusion is sobering:
Read the whole thing.
The lure of the dollar
On Friday, the Associated Press reported that the U.S. trade deficit hit an all-time high, both in terms of dollar value ($489.4 billion) and as a percentage of GDP.
To finance this deficit, the U.S. needs to run a capital account surplus roughly equal in amount. The trouble is, the dollar countinues to depreciate against other currencies, and Daniel Gross argues in Slate that there's little the U.S. government can do to halt the slide, despite the wishes of the G-7.
Combined, this appears to have stoked two mutually inconsistent concerns -- 1) Foreigners are purchasing too many American debts and assets; and 2) If the dollar continues to slide, foreigners won't want to buy our assets any more.
On the latter front, the fears seem to be overhyped, as the Financial Times reports:
As to the first concern -- foreigners purchasing too many dollar-denominated securities -- I'll leave that to the commenters. I'd say the best analogy to that situation is the conditions that would prompt a run on a bank.
Monday, February 16, 2004
Nothing to see here
Europe and outsourcing
How is Europe dealing with outsourcing? This article provides an interesting clue:
[Sure, that's what European firms are doing. But the European Union is cheesed off, right?--ed. Not according to this report:
UPDATE: This trend of European outsourcing to the United States is consistent with this editorial by Michael Walden from two weeks ago. The highlights:
A beacon of multilateralism
The Financial Times reports that the largest single economic entity in the world is shirking its international obligations and alienating the rest of the world -- again:
UPDATE: I see from the comments that I'm being chided for not joining the BBC in blaming the United States for this state of affairs.
Let me first stipulate that U.S. ag subsidies are an odious blight on our trade policy and should be eliminated as soon as possible.
Let me then stipulate that, as I've said before, "if the U.S. commits a venal sin with its agricultural subsidies, then the European Union, Japan, South Korea, and Scandinavia are committing mortal sins with theirs." Click here for further discussion on this topic.
And, just to make sure everyone has the same facts on this, let's reprint this Economist graph on ag subsidies:
Sunday, February 15, 2004
The New York Times tackles outsourcing
He also has an op-ed in today's Times as well. The good parts:
The most interesting part is Bhagwati's point that while many blame trade for job losses, it has far more to do with technological change:
For more on the technological driver behind the current creative destruction, Glenn Reynold's TCS column from last November is still salient.
The final outsourcing link of the day is the February 12th transcript from Lou Dobbs Tonight, during which Mr. Dobbs tangled with James K. Glassman on the subject. It was, to say the least, a yeasty conversation. [UPDATE: Dobbs' exchange with Bruce Bartlett is less yeasty but equally informative.]
Friday, February 13, 2004
The long knives of the Democrats
What I haven't discussed is what happens to those on the losing side of presidential campaigns. Franklin Foer's New Republic cover story on the rise and fall of the inside the Beltway Deaniacs covers this, and as someone acquainted with a lot of the principals, it makes for scary reading. Here's the relevant excerpt:
Read the entire piece to see how AFL-CIO and the Democratic Leadership Council are handling the Deaniacs in their midst.
[Wouldn't this happen with Republicans as well?--ed. You'd think so, except that many (though not all) of the neoconservatives believed to be currently running U.S. foreign policy supported John McCain over George W. Bush in 2000.]
In theory, trade is a Pareto-improving for an economy as a whole -- that is to say, through free trade, some people can be made better off without others being made worse off. Now, that doesn't necessarily work in practice, unless the losers from trade are compensated by the winners.
In other words, TAA is designed to facilitate workers let go due to trade pressures to find jobs in more competitive sectors.
Sounds great -- but it's not clear that, as currently written, outsourced workers would fit the criteria for inclusion. The criteria are:
Since a lot of offshore outsourcing takes place within a single firm, and it increases productivity, I doubt (2) would be met -- sales/output would increase and not decrease.
Here's my question to informed readers:
What's going on in Fallujah?
It would seem that hostility to the United States has not waned in Fallujah. The attack on General John Abizaid , the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, would seem to confirm this. This reporter's first-hand account of the attack contains this priceless passage:
However, the Chicago Tribune has another story on Fallujah today suggesting that the situation might not be as bleak as first thought:
Read the whole article.
UPDATE: The New York Times has more.
To post or not to post
First off -- Mark's facts are wrong. By the time I got around to posting on it, I'd seen blogposts from DailyKos, Atrios, Instapundit, and Andrew Sullivan, about the story. According to Jonah Goldberg, this allegation was first posted by a Wesley Clark blogger last week.
Mark is also incorrect is saying that the Drudge Report and the National Enquirer story about Kerry are talking about the same thing. See John Hawkins on this.
Second, I linked and quoted the DailyKos post at greater length, in large part because Kos' points on this were way more specific than Drudge's. He also confirmed that Wes Clark made statement about the Kerry situation to reporters. As I said before, what interests me is how the story got to Drudge. If it's from Clark, it would appear to fit in with this characterization of generals who fail at politics.
I'll close with Andrew Sullivan's point on this, because it's true:
UPDATE: Tim Noah has the full list of rationales -- mine are #3 and #8.
Thursday, February 12, 2004
To care or not to care
I mostly agree with Megan's first sentence, in that this sort of information would be unlikely to affect my vote. However, I will confess to being interested in a) how this story became a story, and; b) whether Kerry will be able to ride it out. My gut-level responses are a) Lehane and b) yes.
On Megan's socioligical question regarding fascination with interns, David Plotz penned a Slate essay during the Chandra Levy disappearance that's worth excerpting cause it's true:
UPDATE: Sorry about the technical errors in the first version of this post.
Hidden tech in rural Massachusetts
I've blogged before about how rural areas can sustain economic growth in the wake of factory shutdowns. Now, Virginia Postrel links to a fascinating Red Herring article about "hidden tech" -- self-employed techies migrating away from urban areas to places like the Pioneer Valley and the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts:
Postrel points out, "[T]his is yet another suggestion--admittedly anecdotal--that the economy may be shifting toward work that doesn't get counted in the jobs data."
Is this true? Elise Gould makes a powerful argument that the payroll survey is more reliable than the household survey on job creation (link via Brad DeLong). But on the self-employment question, she says:
Here's my question: what happens when economic times are improving, but payroll data about job creation remains sluggish? This could be an explanation.
A question to readers -- is hidden tech an important trend that captures job creation, or is it more of a "boutique" phenomenon?
Will the Kerry bubble pop?
As Josh Chafetz pointed out, an awful lot of centrist media pundity (Jonathan Chait, Will Saletan, Mickey Kaus, Noam Scheiber) predicted earlier this week that the Democratic primary this year resembles a speculative bubble -- a candidate retains their value only if everyone shares the same common conjecture that the candidate is "electable." According to this logic, Kerry is just as vulnerable to crashing and burning as Dean.
Which leads to Matt Drudge reporting today that a scandal is brewing over Kerry's relationship with a woman other than Theresa Heinz:
Now, to be blunt, the Drudge story is pretty incoherent except in saying that there's a brewing scandal involving a women and Wesley Clark said "intern." Editor & Publisher says:
The Scotsman has a straight news summary
Here's the DailyKos report:
I have absolutely no idea how this story will play itself out.
I do wonder if Mark Kleiman's admiration for Wes Clark's candidacy might have been misplaced. [Kos' suspicions focus on Chris Lehane, not Clark. And Drudge has an e-mail saying Lehane was shopping this around--ed. Regardless of how the story plays out, one thing is absolutely clear -- Clark was a willing mouthpiece.]
UPDATE: OK, now this gets really bizarre. From the Associated Press:
ANOTHER UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds acts as the focal point with lots of links, all of them suggesting Chris Lehane as the instigator.
Follow-up on the global Southern Strategy
A few months ago I wrote a TNR Online essay about large developing countries trying to form a coalition to counter the United States and the European Union. The Economist has more on Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's role in this. Key grafs:
I doubt the Economist intended to paint France as a developing country.
Follow-up on Carmen Electra
Last month I blogged about how Carmen Electra had won back her Internet domain name from Celebrity1000. Barring an appeal, this meant that the domain name had to be transferred to Miss Electra within ten days.
In an effort to sustain the high standards of investigative journalism of danieldrezner.com, I clicked on www.carmenelectra.com again yesterday, and the domain name has indeed been transferred. Carmen writes:
Apparently, there are a few pictures of her as well.
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
The marketplace of ideas in Iraq
The Chicago Tribune's Stephen Franklin reports on how life has changed for Baghdad's booksellers:
Lest you believe that theological texts are the only things selling, let's move on to this anecdote:
Mankiw speaks the truth on trade, and everyone goes postal
N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, testified before Congress yesterday to present the Economic Report of the President. Here's what he said about outsourcing:
Later on, he told reporters, "Outsourcing is just a new way of doing international trade. More things are tradable than were tradable in the past and that's a good thing."
As I've argued ad nauseum, Mankiw's correct on the economics. Alas, on the politics, it looks like he's stepped on a land mine. Here's the Washington Post lead:
Kerry's statement is a shame -- until now, he had been the most adult Democratic candidate when it came to foreign economic policy save Lieberman [Given the rest of the field, he could say this and still be the most adult candidate on this issue!--ed. Plus, he needed to get out in front on the issue.]. What's more worrisome is that Republicans are making similar noises:
More from the New York Times:
Actually, the Senator owes an apology to every consumer in America, but I'm not going to hold my breath in wait.
FINAL UPDATE: Virginia Postrel chips in with this point:
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
And that's the ballgame
Exit polls from the Tenessee and Virginia primaries, courtesy of Jack Shafer:
I'll let the post title speak for itself.
Monday, February 9, 2004
The Australia free trade pact
The United States and Australia have signed a free trade deal that virtually eliminates all tariffs on manufactured products between the two countries. And the bitching has just started --some justified, some not.
One of the more absurd objections comes from the Australian entertainment sector:
A more substantive objection is made by the Cato Institute's Aaron Lukas who points out that big sugar strikes again:
A sour aftertaste on what would otherwise be a sweet deal.
UPDATE: My brother blogs from Australia:
To be fair, he provides a link to the Australian government's official web page on the agreement.
John Lewis Gaddis on Bush
Read the whole thing. Later on in the piece, Walter Russell Mead makes a point that's worth repeating:
Does Al Gore read this blog?
Here's the thing that scares me -- there are parts of this speech where Gore is not only correct, but he's channeling this blog!!
Don't believe me? Here's what I wrote ten days ago:
Chris Sullentrop posted large chunks of the speech in this Slate story. Here's the relevant portion:
[You aren't the only blogger to make this point. Maybe he's reading the Decembrist instead--ed. Mark Schmitt spoke favorably about Nixon's policies -- I didn't, and neither is Gore.]
Al, if you're reading this, seriously, good point on Nixon, but I think you're overreaching on this pre-meditation thing. Check out those Paul O'Neill posts. Because Sullentrop's concluding graf is spot-on:
[You seem freaked out about this--ed. Remember that Seinfeld episode when Elaine says, "I've become George!!"? I don't ever want to say, "I've become Gore!"]
UPDATE: Darn my language!! Guaranteed, any time I cuss in my post it prompts a rash of swearing in the comments. I gotta learn to speak in hyphens more quickly.
Al Qaeda is losing in Iraq
The New York Times reports on a 17 page memo seized in Badhdad in mid-January that was allegedly written by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian Al Qaeda operative who the Bush administration argued was the main conduit between the terrorist network and Iraq.
This story makes me feel better about the security situation in Iraq than anything since Hussein's capture. Why? Because it's clear that the Al Qaeda-backed portion of the insurgency is running into serious difficulties:
Assuming that the memo is real (and the Times does a good job discussing its provenance; I particularly love the circumlocution used to indicate that this didn't come from the INC: it "did not pass through Iraqi groups that American intelligence officials have said in the past may have provided unreliable information." See the Washington Post story for more) then U.S. efforts at statebuilding have been more successful than media coverage would have suggested to date.
Iraq might not have proven to be as hospitable to American troops as was previously thought -- but it's not fertile soil for Al Qaeda either.
[But would the Shia strategy work?--ed. Unlikely -- even Juan Cole points out that "So far most Shiites have declined to take the bait." Now that the strategy has been made public, it will be that much more difficult to implement.]
FINAL UPDATE: Here's a link to the full text.
I'm omitting a ton of links in the post. Go check out the entire post at Electric Venom, which includes a hard look at the Democratic alternatives.
To believe or not to believe
That is the question after reading this Ha'aretz report:
My first thought is that I find it hard to believe. If Al Qaeda had these weapons for six years, there would have been at least an attempt to detonate one inside the United States.
Here's another thought -- maybe, "as the operational power of Al Qaeda appears diminished" according to the New York Times, this is a propaganda effort to rally support among regional terrorist groups?
Greg Djerejian has similar thoughts, but with more vivid phrasing.
Sunday, February 8, 2004
Now it's a depression
A few years ago, the Economist reworded an old aphorism:
Given the underlined passage, it probably won't generate many complaints, since the idea is to get greater coverage for less money.
Bush meets the press
I caught most of Bush's Meet the Press appearance, and was neither overwhelmed nor underwhelmed. Let's face it -- this is not his best format, and there were definitely a few moments when I winced. That said, it was a pretty competent performance. Glenn Reynolds has a reaction roundup, but I find it telling that both Josh Marshall and Brad DeLong grudgingly concede that Bush did OK. [UPDATE/CORRECTION: Brad doesn't think Bush did well as much as Russert did poorly; Josh, after seeing the whole thing, thinks "he and his advisors made a mistake scheduling this interview."
Two things struck me overall. First, the word that kept ringing in my ears was "context." Bush used it six times during the hour. I don't think that's an accident -- he's trying to frame his decision-making to the voters. His response to the "no WMD" question is twofold -- 1) We're better off without Saddam anyway; 2) In context, the intelligence looked solid and sensible. Whether this works remains to be seen.
Second, I found his response to Russert's last question, "Biggest issues in the upcoming campaign?" to be revealing:
First response was foreign policy. Despite the WMD imbroglio, that's still Bush's comparative strength compared to a Democratic challenger.
Which leads to an intriguing paradox. The more successful Bush's foreign policy is, the more secure Americans will feel, and the more the economy will become issue #1 -- which could put Bush at a disadvantage. The less successful Bush's foreign policy is, the less secure Americans will feel, and the more national security becomes issue #1 -- which could put Bush at an advantage.
Obviously, if the security situation collapses, Bush will lose. But the overall relationship between Bush's foreign policy and Bush's political standing is decidedly nonlinear.
UPDATE: David Adesnik has the best summary analysis I've seen.
Saturday, February 7, 2004
For Chicago readers only
The Chicago chapter of the Nathan Hale Foreign Policy Society -- devoted to discussing foreign policy topics in, "as bipartisan, idealistic, and nuanced fashion as possible," will be meeting a 7:00 PM Sunday evening at Cosi. The address is 116 S. Michigan Avenue. That's roughly across the street from the lovely Art Institute of Chicago. Make a day of it!!
This first meeting of the Chicago chapter will be led by Will Baude. The topic is Homeland Security:
Blogging for dollars
John Hawkins provides a run-down on possible ways that bloggers can make a buck off their blogs. There's an excellent discussion of all the possible revenue streams, but his first point is the most salient: "if your primary motivation is to make money, don't bother with blogging."
[Hey, you became Andrew Sullivan for a spell. You should be set!--ed. I've been less aggressive on this front than I could be -- mostly because the opportunity costs of caring outweigh the paltry amounts I suspect such efforts would generate. The Amazon click-throughs do generate enough money to pay for the site, however.]
Friday, February 6, 2004
Gorbachev, Bush, Kohl... Hasselhoff?
The BBC reports about a man who feels slighted by history:
Read the whole story to get Hasselhoff's side of the story.
Indeed, let us all hope that sometime soon, all of the former stars of Baywatch receive their proper due in museums.
[Thanks to alert reader S.P. for the tip.]
The EU turns further inward
There are inherent tensions in the phrase "liberal democracy." The liberal part implies the protection of individual rights. The democracy part implies that those areas of policy requiring collective decision making will reflect majoritarian preferences. The tension is over what spheres of social, political, and economuc life should be protected against democratic rule -- or, to turn it around, what constraints should be placed on individual freedoms for the good of the whole.
I bring this up because the European Union's trade commissioner is considering a wholesale rejection of the liberal part of this equation. According to the Financial Times:
The highlighted section reflects just how Eurocentric this report would be. If the EU chose to implement this policy, it probably would promote greater European integration (via trade diversion). It would also probably reduce European tensions over trade.
However, it would also succeed in reducing global economic integration -- as well as pissing off just every other country in the world. How the papers' authors believe that this step would actually boost integration and reduce tensions outside of Europe is beyond me.
Unless they think that Europe is the world.
UPDATE: Rich Kleinman offers a thoughtful rejoinder:
Rich makes a valid point, and in the abstract I agree that on trade matters, circumstances exist in which broad-based democratic values should trump individual liberties.
However, three things frost me about this story:
1) When one considers recent EU trade history -- it's hard not to believe that this policy would not do much more harm than good -- both to the European and global economy;
Thursday, February 5, 2004
Breaking Plame news
UPI's Richard Sale has breaking news on the Plame investigation:
A little further down in the story is this quote about the White House's reaction to the triggering event, Joseph Wilson's op-ed bebunking the Niger yellowcake claim:
Hat tip to Josh Marshall, who promises more soon.
UPDATE: Robert Tagorda has blogosphere reaction, as well as a link to a Newsweek story Hannah's prior involvement in Iraq intelligence.
If this pans out,* I tend to agree with Mark Kleiman:
Chris Lawrence has further thoughts on Cheney.
*One thing does trouble me: why haven't the other wire services -- AP, Reuters -- picked this story up? [UPDATE: Josh Marshall comments on this as well, suggesting the following:
ANOTHER UPDATE: This Asian Times piece has the rundown on Cheney's travails as of late. This graf stands out:
More on job growth
As I said in my last outsourcing post, anecdotes about large corporations laying off workers can crowd out information about smaller firms (traditionally defined as less than 500 employees) that are hiring more workers. Since two-thirds of all new jobs are created by small firms, the latter can more than compensate for the former.
As for employment:
Obviously, this optimism must be seriously tempered by the shedding of jobs among large firms. Still, one hopes that this is a harbinger of healthy job growth across the board.
UPDATE: Hey, Technorati is hiring!!
ANOTHER UPDATE: The employment numbers for January are out:
Not great, but a definite improvement over the 1,000 jobs created in December. Here's the AP report.
FINAL UPDATE: The Chicago Tribune has a story on the rise of self-employment. Most of it is quite informative, but see if you can spot the error that will drive Brad DeLong round the bend and post another "Why oh why can't we have a better press corps" post!!
The debate over the European Union, continued
Over the past six months Henry Farrell and I have had a friendly debate over how to define the European Union. It it a supranational organization transforming itself into a state -- as Henry argues? Or is it a garden-variety international organization that is managed by its most powerful member states -- as I have argued?
Henry's last post on this matter argued that what really mattered was the Euroopean Court of Justice:
Henry makes a valid point -- but if the ECJ acts strategically, it will be reluctant to issue rulings that powerful states would flout, weakening the ECJ's repitation.
Which brings me to this Financial Times story suggests that beyond the ECJ, compliance is tough to come by:
Wednesday, February 4, 2004
The war of anecdotes
One of the problems in the outsourcing debate is that those who defend the practice lose the war of anecdotes. [What about economic models and statistical evidence?--ed. Then the arguments in favor of outsourcing win hands down. You'd think those pieces of information would be more important for public policy debates, but that's not the way it works. Between econometric models showing that trade is good for the economy and tangible anecdotes of job losses due to import competition, most citizens go with the anecdotes.]
It is easy to point to large multinational corporations laying off American workers because of offshore outsourcing -- cue IBM. However, the jobs that are either saved or created from outsourcing seem less impressive. In the case of jobs created, it's because a healthy share of new hiring takes place among smaller firms, the anecdotes of job creation seem much less convincing -- even though there may be more examples of the latter than the former.
In the case of jobs saved, the difficulty is that such statements require counterfactual reasoning -- "If outsourcing had not occurred, then a greater number of jobs would have been lost." Counterfactuals are extremely difficult to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt.
So, in the debates over trade and unemplyment, protectionists have juicy media stories, while those who favor an open economy are often left sputtering.
Bruce Bartlett tries to address "anecdote gap" on offshoring with this anecdote:
FINAL UPDATE: I've posted more on job growth here.
I love the eighties... strikes back!
Looking for more information on whether Bush is Reagan redux on foreign policy?
On foreign economic policy, Virginia Postrel ably makes the case that the current outsourcing phenomenon is a replay of the fears of "Japan, Inc." from the eighties. The Morgan Stanley quote is courtesy of this joint effort by Stephen Roach and Richard Berner (link via Brad DeLong). Stephen Roach takes the opposite position on outsourcing.
Reagan's forced reversal on taxes is covered in this Bruce Bartlett essay from last October. For a blow-by-blow description of Reagan's fiscal policy, the obvious source is David Stockman's The Triumph of Politics.
The Mary Matalin quote is courtesy of Chris Sullentrop's Slate article on Bush's campaign reelection strategy.
On Reagan's policies towards the Soviet Union, an accessible primer is Strobe Talbott's The Master of the Game, which is simultaneously a biography of Paul Nitze and a discussion of Reagan's attitudes towards arms control. It's also worth a re-read to see how Richard Perle reacts to Reagan responding to Gorbachev. And to understand the strains that existed within NATO in the early eighties due to Reagan's perceived belligerency, I'll shamelessly recommend Chapter Three, pages 80-88 of The Sanctions Paradox, authored by yours truly. [Wouldn't George Shultz's Turmoil and Triumph work as well?--ed. Er, yes, but that book is much too long for your busy TNR Online reader.]
On whether it is possible to create a democracy in Iraq: I argued pre-invasion that there were reasons to be optimistic with regard to democratization. For a counterargument, see today's Los Angeles Times op-ed by George Downs and Bruce Bueno de Mesquita* (link via Kevin Drum). This post from a few weeks ago contains links to arguments by George Will, Ken Pollack, and Francis Fukuyama on the subject. Today's Chicago Tribune provides a story on the perils and promises of human rights in Iraq. To my knowledge, Michael Desch was first compared Iraq to Lebanon.
I say Bush is hoping to emulate Reagan; Jonathan Rauch says that Bush is actually emulating Reagan's childhood idol, FDR in a July 2003 essay from The National Journal.
I love the eighties!!
My latest TNR Online essay is up. It's a meditation on whether we're experiencing 1984 all over again. [You mean in that Orwellian doublespeak kind of way?--ed.] No, I mean in terms of the costs and benefits out our foreign policy.
Primary analysis continued
John Kerry is doing well, and the candidate deserves some credit. However, he's also benefiting from some unbelievable luck. Richard Gephardt, in his last moment on the national stage, drags Howard Dean down with him. Now it looks like Clark will do the same thing to Edwards.
Tuesday, February 3, 2004
You can listen in online by clicking here.
UPDATE: That was fun!! From now on I'm going to demand Internet access when I'm doing a radio show -- it makes me sound much more erudite! Tom Bevan of RealClearPolitics managed to pull that off without any help from the Web whatsoever.
Take these for what they're worth...
As Kos points out about exit polls: "the NH ones were totally off." However, the key is the Oklahoma number. If Edwards actually wins it, he knocks Clark out of the campaign and forces Kerry to -- at a minimum -- share the front page.
UPDATE: Campaign Desk is just a wee bit annoyed by the leaking of the numbers. While there is some evidence that early poll reporting has a marginal effect on turnout in general elections, I'm not sure if that still holds for these primaries:
1) Exit polls do not have the best track record as of late, so informed voters discount the information. Uninformed voters are unlikely to actively search for the information.
2) Primaries allocate delegates on a proportional basis provided the candidate reaches a minimum threshhold. So, even if a poll shows a candidate losing, the vote can still matter if it gets your preferred choice to place or show.
3) What's startling about these exit polls in particular is that Oklahoma looks like a nail-biter. Might that not boost turnout in that state?
The graduate school crisis
The Chicago Tribune runs a story today on the high dropout rate of graduate students pursuing Ph.D.s:
There are other academic bloggers who have and will comment on this, but I'm afraid that I'm (mostly) old school on this one. Hand-holding sounds great -- except that part of the job of being an academic is being enough of a self-desciplined self-starter that one can focus on research instead of distractions like... er.... blogs.
Plus, if the retention rate improves, it's not like there's a booming academic job market out there eager to hire -- as Bart Simpson recently pointed out.
So, if there's to be reforms to ensure a higher yield of graduate school entrants earning their Ph.D.s, there would also have to be a radical change in the culture of most academic departments. Faculty would have to tell their Ph.D.s that it's OK to get a job in the private sector. That won't happen soon -- for tenured faculty, a key measure of prestige is how well they place their students. The more students that get jobs at top-tier institutions, the better it looks.
However, for those political scientists contemplating what to do if academia is not for you, go read Ian Bremmer's Slate diary of a political scientist who's outside of academia. [Full disclosure: Ian was two years ahead of me in the Stanford poli sci program).
Monday, February 2, 2004
My Super Bowl post
Why? Because what mattered far more was that this year's Super Bowl was a GREAT FRIGGIN' GAME, that's why!!! Punch!! Counterpunch!! Great defense!! Explosive offense!! Clutch plays!! Five changes in the score in the last quarter!! Jake Delhomme getting his butt kicked in the first half and throwing three touchdown passes in the final quarter!! Adam Vinatieri missing two kicks in the first half and then drilling the game-winner!! [Allen Barra says the game sucked!--ed. Then Allen Barra is a very hard man to please. I take his point about the high number of penalties (though most of them were on special teams) but I'm intrigued that Barra thinks that the well-executed defense of the first and third quarters were boring but that the high-octane offense of the second and fourth quarters was an example of incompetent defenses as opoosed to the offenses making adjustments.]
I'm sure some astute sports commentator could observe why three of the best Super Bowls ever played took place in the last five years. Me, I'm just grateful as a sports fan.
One additional fact courtesy of Peter King that's worth mentioning:
Oh, and Beyoncé Knowles has a lovely singing voice.... as well as many other fine qualities:
How high up will this go?
The New York Times reports that the godfather of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program has spilled the beans:
UPDATE: Several commenters are assuming that I'm accepting the Pakistani investigation at face value, when in fact the Musharraf government knew about this all along. Actually, what I think is worthy of mention is that the government has finally admitted that there's a problem. Until two months ago they weren't even willing to do this.
Open Kerry thread
Given Kerry's populist message, this Washington Post story seems particularly troublesome:
UPDATE: Kevin Drum is mystified by Kerry's ability to escape mainstream media criticism: "It's unprecedented for a clear frontrunner to be treated so gingerly by practically everyone. Does Kerry have secret files on all these guys, or what?" Calpundit has dueling Time covers to underscore his point.
Speaking of Time, Joe Klein disagrees, believing that that the intense primary competition to date has sharpened the Democratic message:
Differentiating between outsourcing and offshoring
He also criticizes those on the right who complain about "offshoring" which is outsourcing done overseas:
Simmins is conflating libertarians and conservatives on this issue. The former are free market advocates and the latter are economic nationalists. Economic nationalists value social stability and relative gains more than maximizing either static or dynamic economic efficiency. With this set of preferences, it's not surprising to see this group of pundits ract bash offshoring.
Sunday, February 1, 2004
A record month
January was a good month for danieldrezner.com. According to Sitemeter, the blog attracted more than 200,000 unique visits last month.
Thanks to one and all for clicking!