Wednesday, March 31, 2004

A foursquare problem

My latest New Republic Online column is up. It's on the hidden constraints that either Bush or Kerry will face in their foreign policies after the November election.

Political scientists in the crowd might notice a hidden 2X2 diagram that didn't make the final piece, but was implicit in how I set up the article. For those of you who aren't political scientists -- poli sci types love a good 2X2.

Go check it out!! [Where's the footnote link? Where's the damn footnote link?!!--ed. For this essay, there's not a lot to link to, except for Kerry's foreign policy page and the February 27th speech that was the source of the quotes in the essay. Oh, and a previous TNR online essay I wrote about Edmund Burke and democratic nation-bulding.]

UPDATE: My apologies to readers that the TNR Online essay is subscriber only. While a TNR subscription makes a charming gift, I was not aware this was going to happen with my essays.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Drezner gets results from TNR!! Non-subscribers can access the whole article by clicking here.

posted by Dan at 11:52 AM | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (4)

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Outsourcing creates American jobs

Treasury Secretary John Snow apparently sparked some controversy in a Monday interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer. Why? Snow said what Greg Mankiw said last month -- that the outsourcing of U.S. jobs "is part of trade ... and there can't be any doubt about the fact that trade makes the economy stronger."

Hillary Clinton wasted no time in bashing Snow, saying: "I don't know what reality the Bush administration is living in, but it's certainly not the reality I represent, from one end of New York to the other."

Funny thing, though -- Snow appears to be right, according to this CNN report:

The outsourcing of prized information technology jobs overseas has created tens of thousands of new jobs in the United States, according to a recent study commissioned by the information technology industry....

According to this study, these benefits "ripple" through the economy, leading to about 90,000 net new jobs through the end of 2003. This effect, the study said, should produce a total of 317,000 net new jobs through 2008.

The study also said outsourcing added some $33.6 billion to U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2003 and could add a total of $124.2 billion through 2008.

And outsourcing lifts the wages of U.S. workers, according to the study, though minimally -- real wages were 0.13 percent higher in 2003 because of outsourcing and could be 0.44 percent higher by 2008.

[C'mon, this study was sponsored by the IT industry -- can it be credible?--ed. According to the relevant Global Insight web page, Novel Nobel Prize winning economist Lawrence Klein was a major contributor to the report. But go read the press release and the executive summary of the report -- you be the judge!]

UPDATE: To clear up one source of confusion from some of the comments -- the study is not claiming that an economy with outsourcing will create only 317,000 jobs by 2008. The study says that holding other factors constant (population growth, fluctuations in aggregate demand, etc.) an American economy creates an additional 317,000 jobs.

posted by Dan at 08:55 PM | Comments (75) | Trackbacks (4)

The VP and the NSC

One of my great white whales has been the Bush team's poor management of the foreign policy process. I had suggested two months ago that one cause of this was the fact that the Vice President had inserted himself into the National Security Council process in a way that deliberately or accidentally sabotaged the decision-making process:

[T]he 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.

U.S. News and World Report has a story this week confirming this fear. The highlights:

[Richard] Clarke's insider account opened a new window on policymaking at the National Security Council and on [Condoleezza] Rice's role there--and the view isn't pretty. "This is the most dysfunctional NSC that ever existed," says a senior U.S. official. "But it's not Condi's fault. The person that's made it so dysfunctional is Cheney." For the first time, a vice president is sitting in on meetings with other NSC principals and is constantly involved in the policymaking. A copy of every NSC memo goes to the vice president's staff, so that Cheney can play an active role on issues that interest him.

posted by Dan at 12:38 AM | Comments (74) | Trackbacks (3)

Monday, March 29, 2004

Finishing Against All Enemies

Having finished Against All Enemies, I was searching for a way to describe my read of Richard Clarke. Christopher Hitchens points out in Slate that in Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon's The Age of Sacred Terror, Clarke is depicted "as an egotistical pain in the ass who had the merit of getting things right."

That's not bad. I'd make it simpler -- Richard Clarke is the perfect bureaucrat. I mean that in the best and worst senses of the word. In the best sense, it's clear that Clarke was adept at maximizing the available resources and authority required to do his job, given the organizational rivalries and cultures that made such a pursuit difficult. In the worst sense, Clarke was a monomaniacal martinet whose focus on his bailiwick to the exclusion of everything else is phenomenal.

Think I'm exaggerating? According to Against All Enemies, the reason Clinton decides to intervene in Bosnia in 1995 is because Al Qaeda was threatening to capture the Bosnian government. That's an interesting theory to be sure, but somewhat at odds with more authoritative accounts of the intervention (it doesn't help that Clarke misspells Richard Holbrooke's name).

The result is that what's in Against all Enemies is certainly the truth, but as I said before, I doubt it's the whole truth.

Clarke implies that the Bush administration should have made Al Qaeda the highest priority -- as it supposedly was during the second term of the Clinton administration. However, the Clinton sections have a familiar refrain -- Clarke's team tries to get the government to move, the White House is behind the push, and the effort dies somewhere in the bowels of the CIA, FBI, or the Pentagon. Now, the heads of the CIA and FBI were unchanged during the first eight months of the Bush administration, and Rumsfeld's difficulties with the uniformed brass at Defense during those months prompted rumors of resignation. So it's hard to see how anything would have changed unless the Bush team had focused on Al Qaeda to the exclusion of all other foreign policy priorities, which no one, not even Clarke, was suggesting at the time.

As the Washington Post pointed out on Saturday (link via David Adesnik):

For all the sniping over efforts by the Bush and Clinton administrations to thwart terrorism, information from this week's hearings into the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks suggests that the two administrations pursued roughly the same policies before the terrorist strikes occurred.

Witness testimony and the findings of the commission investigating the attacks indicate that even the new policy to combat Osama bin Laden and his Taliban hosts, developed just before Sept. 11, was in most respects similar to the old strategy pursued first by Clinton and then by Bush.

The commission's determination that the two policies were roughly the same calls into question claims made by Bush officials that they were developing a superior terrorism policy. The findings also put into perspective the criticism of President Bush's approach to terrorism by Richard A. Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism chief: For all his harsh complaints about Bush administration's lack of urgency in regard to terrorism, he had no serious quarrel with the actual policy Bush was pursuing before the 2001 attacks.

posted by Dan at 05:51 PM | Comments (75) | Trackbacks (2)

Vive le Big Mac!! Vive la France!!

Todd Richissin writes in the Baltimore Sun that despite the frictions over the past year, France still loves MacDonald's. Why? It's their nourriture de confort -- comfort food:

Just a hop down the road, the Decler sisters could have been dining on a couple of tender frog legs or a mixed seafood grill with scallops, or an order of steak tartare so tender that the knife provided with it never comes into play.

But the Declers were having none of it.

They were dining on Les Big Macs and frites, Big Macs and fries -- french fries -- and loving every bite.

"I can love good food and I can also love McDonald's," says Vanesse Decler, 21, in a mini-review that the fast-food chain would have to accept as decidedly mixed. "I like the meat and the sauce and even the bun."

Call the French snooty, or just demanding, for their attention to good food, good wine, good atmosphere in their restaurants, for lingering over their meals. But the French have a dirty little secret: Of all the people in Europe, they like McDonald's more than anyone else does.

Pound for quarter-pound, they eat more of it, more often, than any other nationality on the continent, and the nay-sayers here who predicted the French would give up their beloved aged cheese before adopting the quick-fry meat patties so often seen as emblematic of America's bad taste, have been proven as wrong as red wine with white fish.

The French have taken McDonald's, a classic symbol of Americana, and made it very much their own, with menu variations that range from bite-size clumps of regional cheeses to fondue.

Despite the ability to order just about McAnything here, though, the old McDonald's classics are what keep people like the Declers filling the franchises, which can be found in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, among the street artists surrounding the Louvre and within a whiff of the restaurants at Les Halles, where the Declars were taking a shopping break.

"I love these," says the other half of the Decler sisters, 18-year-old Christelle, closing her eyes and placing a fry on her tongue. "Yes, there is other food around, but this is different, like food you want to eat as a break."

posted by Dan at 11:22 AM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (3)

Saturday, March 27, 2004

More feedback on Kerry's international tax plan

Bruce Bartlett examines the Kerry tax proposals and comes away unimpressed:

There are many problems with Kerry's plan to tax the unrepatriated overseas profits of U.S. companies. The main one is that few other countries tax the foreign profits of their companies at all. Consequently, U.S. firms are already at a competitive disadvantage tax-wise. Kerry's plan would make the situation worse, encouraging U.S. companies to reincorporate in other countries.

As far as jobs are concerned, the Kerry plan probably would reduce employment in the U.S. That is because a very considerable amount of exports go from U.S. businesses to their foreign affiliates. And, contrary to Kerry's implication, the bulk of earnings on sales by foreign affiliates are repatriated to the U.S. annually, thereby offsetting a significant portion of the trade deficit.

I also received an e-mail that's worth re-printing:

I've worked in Operations/Supply Chain for one of those gigantic multi-nationals for almost 20 years, and I have outsourced product and services since the early 90s. I have done dozens of "Make/Buy" analyses and can recite the formulas we use almost by heart.

We NEVER justify an outsourcing decision on TAX alone. In fact, I just finished a major analysis to centralize some of our far-flung operations in an region with no (read 0%) corporate tax...BUT yet, tax considerations weren't part of the analysis. We make our decisions based on all the other reasons: labor content & costs, logistics, ability of the local supplier to generate ongoing productivity, technical skills of the local population... pretty textbook stuff.

We'll look at potential tax savings after we make our decision as "icing on the cake." The reason is simple: tax laws change. We'd never make a major move and cause a business disruption betting on the assumption that politicians would leave things alone.

So John Kerry's plan won't factor into our decisions at all.

Just one person's account? Not according to Kerry's economic advisors. From the New York Times:

Would ending deferral keep jobs at home? Or would other cost savings from going abroad - in particular, lower wages - override the loss of the tax advantage? Mr. [Jason] Furman [a Harvard-trained economist] argues that absent the tax advantage, many more jobs would stay in America, but he does not brim over with conviction on that score.

"There is a conceit among people in the business community that you don't make decisions for tax reasons," he said. "You make them because of the underlying fundamentals and then you ask the accountant to figure out, given the choice you've made, how to lower the tax. I don't think that is a rational explanation of the thinking of executives who are trying to maximize profits."

This story has additional lukewarm sentiment from the business community.

So, I'm underwhelmed -- but oddly encouraged.

Why? This is much less populist than I had feared based on Kerry's rhetoric during the primary season. This is a key point of the Times article cited above. The key bits:

What is striking about the candidate's economics team is that all of its members - not to mention nearly every adviser they are reaching out to - served the Clinton administration in one way or another....

...the fixes that Mr. Kerry and his core economic advisers are beginning to offer are clearly rooted in Clinton economics, which is resolutely centrist. Fiscal responsibility and deficit reduction, hallmarks of the Clinton years, are bedrock orthodoxy in the Kerry camp, too.

So is faith in the private sector's powers to generate prosperity. Job creation will come from corporate America, not government, once the right incentives and subsidies are in place, the war room says. In fact, the Clinton-era god of deficit reduction and private-sector supremacy is also worshiped in the Kerry camp. "This group is consulting literally daily with Bob Rubin," Mr. Altman said. "He was the best secretary of the Treasury since Alexander Hamilton and he is the single most influential figure in business and finance."....

The galaxy forming around Mr. Altman is particularly important. Mr. Rubin is there, of course. Lawrence H. Summers, Mr. Rubin's successor as Treasury secretary, is consulted - although now, as president of Harvard, Mr. Summers takes no active role in the campaign.

OK, The praise of Rubin might be a bit over the top, but I find a lot of this reassuring. The fact that, as the article reports, "[this] sort of thinking does not appear to sit so well with Senator Edward M. Kennedy" is just gravy.

posted by Dan at 07:25 PM | Comments (45) | Trackbacks (5)

The ten-year anniversary of the Rwandan genocide

The Economist has an article marking the 10-year anniversary of the Rwandan genocide and the lessons learned from it. There's an interesting contrast between the lessons learned by the "international community" and the lessons learned by the survivors of the genocide:

Though they would deny it, Rwanda's ruling party and its tough-as-kevlar president, Paul Kagame, have concluded that the only way to guarantee the survival of the Tutsis is to remain in power indefinitely. In many respects, they rule well: Rwanda has seen a remarkable recovery since 1994. But they tolerate no serious domestic opposition, nor much in the way of free speech. Rwanda today is a thinly-disguised autocracy, where dissidents, who are usually accused of genocidal tendencies, live in fear, or exile, or both. The regime is also a menace to its neighbours. It was justified in invading Congo to disperse the génocidaires who were using the place as a base for attacks on Rwanda, but it surely did not have to kill 200,000 people in the process.

The rest of the world has learned different lessons from its failure ten years ago. Then, the West's reluctance to get involved was largely a consequence of America's shambolic intervention in Somalia the previous year. Since then, the response to all remotely similar emergencies has been guided by a desire not to allow a repeat of Rwanda. Some of the results have been encouraging. NATO eventually checked Serb aggression in the Balkans, though only after the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. British troops ended Sierra Leone's terrible civil war. Last year, in Congo's Ituri region, UN peacekeepers found themselves in a position with ominous echoes of Rwanda in April 1994: outnumbered, lightly armed and unable to prevent horrific tribal killings. Instead of cutting and running, Europe sent a French-led force to restore order, with some success.

The genocide has also jolted the world into reconsidering how to prosecute mass killers. Ad hoc international tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, though slow and costly, are gradually securing convictions. Several countries have passed laws allowing their courts to try those accused of genocide, regardless of where the crime was committed. The impetus to set up an International Criminal Court sprang partly from the world's shame over Rwanda. Legally, genocide is oddly defined—why is it worse to seek to eliminate an ethnic group than a socio-economic one? It is also hard to prove. Few cases are as clear-cut as Rwanda's; Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serb leader, may be acquitted of genocide, though probably not of other grave charges.

UPDATE: Nicholas Kristof points out why this is a far from academic conversation:

For decades, whenever the topic of genocide has come up, the refrain has been, "Never again."

Yet right now, the government of Sudan is engaging in genocide against three large African tribes in its Darfur region here. Some 1,000 people are being killed a week, tribeswomen are being systematically raped, 700,000 people have been driven from their homes, and Sudan's Army is even bombing the survivors.

And the world yawns.

David Gelernter writes in the Weekly Standard about the relevancy of genocide prevention to Iraq as well. Both articles are worth checking out (and thanks to commenters for raising both topics).

posted by Dan at 12:30 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (5)

Friday, March 26, 2004

The media whore of Hyde Park

I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that my outsourcing essay is starting to attract some attention. Here's my day today:

1) Wake up to do phone interview on outsourcing with WPTT's Jerry Bowyer in Pittsburgh.

2) Log on, discover that Arts & Letters Daily has linked to "The Outsourcing Bogeyman."

3) See mention of outsourcing piece by Bruce Bartlett in his latest column (Bruce has links to two other reports on outsourcing that are worth checking out).

4) Arrange to do radio interview with Rick Jensen on WDEL next week.

5) Receive e-mail notification that the Foreign Affairs web editor is very pleased with the web traffic. Thanks for that should go to MetaFilter and Kuro5hin for highlighting the piece. [UPDATE: Thanks to Dan Gillmor as well.]

6) Receive phone call from ABC News Business correspondent Betsy Stark requesting interview on Kerry's economic speech and outsourcing. Have camera crew invade office and bemuse colleagues.

So, it looks like there's a decent chance that I'll be on World News Tonight with Peter Jennings this evening. Check your local listings!!

Here's the funny/scary thing -- I have no idea how the interview will be framed. I was critical of Kerry on outsourcing but I also said that the corporate taxation proposal he announced today indicated a change in rhetoric from "Benedict Arnold CEO's." We talked for ten minutes, and there was a lot of tape -- they could go either way with it. [You should have followed Brad DeLong's advice on interviews--ed. Now you remember to tell me.]

UPDATE: Nope, they cut me. C'est la vie.

posted by Dan at 04:36 PM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

John Kerry on corporate taxation

The Washington Post reports that John Kerry is giving a major economic speech in Detroit today, proposing a mixture of temporary and permanent cuts in corporate tax rates in return for "the most sweeping reform of international tax law in over 40 years." The gist:

In today's speech at Wayne State University in Detroit, Kerry will reiterate his call for the elimination of all tax breaks that encourage U.S. companies to locate operations and jobs overseas. For the first time, he will target a popular tax incentive, known as "deferral," offered to most U.S. companies that do business in lower-taxed foreign countries.

To soften the blow to corporations, Kerry will propose a one-time, one-year offer to tax at 10 percent any profits a company brings back to the United States and invests here, an expanded tax credit to companies that create domestic jobs, and a reduction in the corporate tax rate to 33.25 percent from 35 percent -- a 5 percent cut.

"The most salient feature, or at least symbolic feature, is the corporate tax rate [cut]," said Roger Altman, a top economic adviser to Kerry. "When is the last time you saw a Democrat propose a corporate tax cut?"

Gene Sperling, another Kerry economic adviser, said the tax cuts for business will be fully funded by the international tax changes.

But R. Bruce Josten of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the Kerry plan seems to ignore the complexity of the global economy. "There is a broader point he completely misses: There are companies that open up overseas" for reasons other than tax avoidance, he said.

Here's the Associated Press analysis: "[Kerry] settled on a blend of loophole-cutting populism and business-friendly moderation, casting his package as jobs-producing tax reform."

Discuss below.

UPDATE: Reaction at The Corner and Hit & Run. Here's a link to the details of the proposal. My gut reaction is three-fold:

1) This is a lot more about symbolism than substance. According to the Post story, the total sums involved in these tax changes are around $12 billion. That sounds like a lot, but it's around 1% of the federal budget. Not a lot of money either way.

2) That said, the symbolism is important, in that "corprate tax reductions" sound a lot better to the business community than "Benedict Arnold CEOs."

3) The economic advisors quoted in the Post story are Roger Altman and Gene Sperling. They fall decidedly into the "sane" camp of Democratic economic advisors.

posted by Dan at 01:22 PM | Comments (41) | Trackbacks (0)

Palestinians for nonviolence

In the wake of the second intifada and the increase in suicide bombings over the past four years, it's tempting -- particularly post 9/11 -- to pidgeonhole all Palestinians as a feckless, violent people. Sheik Yassin's assassination and the resulting protests in the occupied territories only reinforce that perception.

That kind of easy stereotyping is dangerous, because it obscures the complexities within Palestinian society that I've discussed in the past. I'm not saying that Palestinian civil society is in a healthy state -- merely that it would be a mistake to assume that Hamas/Islamic Jihad/Al-Aqsa = Palestine.

On that note, the Chicago Tribune reports the following:

Sixty prominent Palestinian political figures and intellectuals published a statement Thursday urging restraint and peaceful protest instead of violent revenge for Israel's assassination this week of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, founder of the militant group Hamas.

The unusual appeal came after Hamas and other armed factions vowed to strike Israel on an unprecedented scale in retaliation for the killing of Yassin in a helicopter missile strike Monday in the Gaza Strip. It also came a day after a 16-year-old boy wearing an explosives vest was disarmed in the West Bank, an event that shocked many, including the boy's family.

The Palestinian statement, published on half a page of the Al-Ayyam newspaper, called on Palestinians to break the violent cycle of strike and response, reflecting a growing assessment among mainstream leaders that armed attacks have hurt the Palestinian cause....

The signatories included senior members of the mainstream Fatah movement, lawmakers, academics and peace advocates.

"We feel Sharon has dictated his agenda on both sides, condemning the Israeli people to acts of retaliation and more suicide bombings, and he has also forced the hand of the Palestinian organizations to exact revenge," said Hanan Ashrawi, a lawmaker who signed the statement.

"We want to expose Sharon's policy and prevent the Palestinians from reacting constantly, and to say that there is a way to resist occupation through non-violent means," she added.

Another signer, Ahmad Hilles, the head of the Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip, said that "it is not in the Palestinians' interest for the conflict to become an armed conflict, . . . the arena preferred by Sharon."

posted by Dan at 10:57 AM | Comments (30) | Trackbacks (0)

A fitting coda for Jayson Blair

Don Wycliff, who was a stern critic of Jayson Blair when he was discovered last May to have made up or cribbed other people's stories, reports on how well Blair's "memoir" is selling:

Blair's book, "Burning Down My Masters' House," was published March 6 and has barely made a ripple in terms of sales--fewer than 1,400 copies sold nationwide in the first nine days, according to Nielsen Book Scan.


[Isn't that still higher that the totals sales from your first and second books combined?--ed. True, but mine got better reviews!]

posted by Dan at 10:20 AM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, March 25, 2004

More Clarke links The Clarke-Rice smackdown!!*

For those who are reluctant to shell out the money, Julia Turner creates a "good parts" version of Against All Enemies in Slate.

Brad DeLong, meanwhile, composes what Condoleezza Rice's public testimony would have looked like -- it looks pretty credible. [UPDATE: the New York Times reports that Rice will testify before the 9/11 Commission again in private -- she had testified behind closed doors for four hours last month.]

Fox News reports on the emnity between Rice and Clarke:

[M]uch of the back-and-forth between the administration and Clarke has focused on seemingly bad blood between Rice and Clarke. Clarke suggested in his recently published book, "Against All Enemies," which attacks the White House for inaction, that Rice appeared as if Clarke didn't know whom he was referring to when he mentioned Al Qaeda to her during a discussion early in the administration's tenure.

He also said that the national security adviser might have gotten clues to the Sept. 11 attacks by holding daily counterterrorism meetings in the summer of 2001, the way he had done in 1999. He credits those briefings to the discovery of a plan to launch terrorist attacks during New Year's Eve celebrations in the United States.

"That kind of information was shaken out in December 1999, it would have been shaken out in the summer of 2001 if she had been doing her job," Clarke told the panel on Wednesday.

But McClellan said it wasn't the briefings that prevented the attack.

"Mr. Clarke continues to say that because of the meetings at the White House, they were able to prevent the plot — the Millennium plot. Well, we know from news reports at that time that it was the hard work of an individual Customs agent who was able to thwart the Millennium plot, by stopping this individual at the border," he said.

Rice has also countered that it's Clarke who wasn't doing his job, refusing to attend her meetings. Officials say privately that Clarke was angry that CIA Director George Tenet gave President Bush his weekly counterterrorism briefings, something Clarke had done for President Clinton in the previous administration.

The Economist has more here and here. The latter story nicely sums up the state of play:

The Bush administration was urged to do more before 9/11, and chose not to, for reasons that seemed right and reasonable at the time. It was working on a strategy to deal with al-Qaeda, but too slowly to do any good. Some of its members were more concerned about Saddam Hussein than Osama bin Laden. Nothing here can be called indefensible. Whether this is the record of someone who treated al-Qaeda with the utmost seriousness is another matter.

*Post title changed upon request from Tom Maguire.

UPDATE: David Adesnik has more.

posted by Dan at 11:07 PM | Comments (69) | Trackbacks (1)

Reading Against All Enemies, part II

Over at Time, Romesh Ratnesar accuses Clarke of "sexing up" his interactions with Bush. One example:

Perhaps Clarke's most explosive charge is that on Sept. 12, President Bush instructed him to look into the possibility that Iraq had a hand in the hijackings. Here's how Clarke recounted the meeting on 60 Minutes: "The President dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this'.....the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said, 'Iraq did this.'" After Clarke protested that "there's no connection," Bush came back to him and said "Iraq, Saddam — find out if there's a connection." Clarke says Bush made the point "in a very intimidating way." The next day, interviewed on PBS' The NewsHour, Clarke sexed up the story even more. "What happened was the President, with his finger in my face, saying, 'Iraq, a memo on Iraq and al-Qaeda, a memo on Iraq and the attacks.' Very vigorous, very intimidating." Several interviewers pushed Clarke on this point, asking whether it was all that surprising that the President would want him to investigate all possible perpetrators of the attacks. Clarke responded, "It would have been irresponsible for the president not to come to me and say, Dick, I don't want you to assume it was al-Qaeda. I'd like you to look at every possibility to see if maybe it was al-Qaeda with somebody else, in a very calm way, with all possibilities open. That's not what happened."

How does this square with the account of the same meeting provided in Clarke's book? In that version, Clarke finds the President wandering alone in the Situation Room on Sept. 12, "looking like he wanted something to do." Clarke writes that Bush "grabbed a few of us and closed the door to the conference room" — an impetuous move, perhaps, but hardly the image that Clarke depicted on television, of the President dragging in unwitting staffers by their shirt-collars. The Bush in these pages sounds more ruminative than intimidating: "I know you have a lot to do and all, but I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this. See if he's linked in any way." When Clarke responds by saying that "al-Qaeda did this," Bush says, "I know, I know, but see if Saddam was involved. Just look. I want to know any shred....." Again Clarke protests, after which Bush says "testily," "Look into Iraq, Saddam."

Nowhere do we see the President pointing fingers at or even sounding particularly "vigorous" toward Clarke and his deputies. Despite Clarke's contention that Bush wanted proof of Iraqi involvement at any cost, it's just as possible that Bush wanted Clark to find disculpatory evidence in order to discredit the idea peddled by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that Baghdad had a hand in 9/11. In the aftermath of 9/11, Bush rejected Wolfowitz's attempts to make Iraq the first front in the war on terror. And if the President of the United States spoke "testily " 24 hours after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, well, can you blame him?

This is on pages 32-33 of Against All Enemies -- and actually, Clarke's written account of the Bush encounter is more charitable to the President than Ratnesay indicates. The key passage occur right after the encounter:

"Paul Kurtz walked in, passing the President on the way out. Seeing our expressions, he asked, "Geez, what just happened here?"

"Wolfowitz got to him," Lisa[Gordon-Hargerty] said, shaking her head.

"No," I said. "Look, he's the President. He has not spent years on terrorism. He has every right to ask us to look again, and we will, Paul."

[Yeah, and don't forget what Clarke said on background in mid-2002!--ed. Actually, I'm not terribly persuaded that this should weaken Clarke's credibility. As anyone who's worked in government should know, what's said in an official capacity will read differently than what's said when one is allowed to be candid. Clarke was acting as a dutiful bureaucrat in 2002, and not as an independent agent.]

posted by Dan at 04:04 PM | Comments (69) | Trackbacks (2)

An interesting correlation

Mickey Kaus says what I was thinking:

During Kerry's last week of public campaigning, his numbers sank. After a few days holed up in Ketchum, Idaho, with the Clarke anti-Bush allegations getting huge play, he's back up. ... Kerry's future campaign strategy seems clear: Stay on vacation until November! Let the media do his work for him. The less people see him the better he looks.

[But that contradicts Noam Chomsky's thesis that the media has been bought and paid for by Bush!--ed. You did that just to link to Chomsky's new blog, didn't you? Er, yes - but his permalinks don't seem to work--ed.]

CLARIFICATION: Commenters on this post seem to think that I think this is more than a coincidence. I don't -- and I'm assuming Mickey's tongue is mostly in his cheek as well.

posted by Dan at 12:34 PM | Comments (31) | Trackbacks (0)

Reading Against All Enemies

As I said before, Richard Clarke's criticisms of the Bush administration need to be taken seriously, so I went out and bought Against All Enemies yesterday. Last night I read the preface and the first two chapters. What stood out for me so far came on page x in the preface, in which he writes:

It is also the story of four presidents:

  • Ronald Reagan, who did not retaliate for the murder of 278 United States Marines in Beirut and who violated his own terrorism policy by trading arms for hostages in what came to be called the Iran-Contra scandal;

  • George H.W. Bush, who did not retaliate for the Libyan murder of 259 passengers on Pan Am 103; who did not have an official counterterrorism policy; and who left Saddam Hussein in place, requiring the United States to leave a large military presence in Saudi Arabia;

  • Bill Clinton, who identified terrorism as the major post-Cold War threaty and acted to improve our counterterrorism capabilities; who (little known to the public) quelled anti-American terrorism by Iraq and Iran and defeated an al Qaeda attempt to dominate Bosnia; but who, weakened by continued political attack, could not get the CIA, the Pentagon, and FBI to act sufficiently to deal with the threat;

  • George W. Bush, who failed to act prior to September 11 on the threat from al Qaeda despite repeated warnings and then harvested a political windfall for taking obvious yet insufficient steps after the attacks, and who launched an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq that strengthened the fundamentalist, radical Islamic terrorist movement worldwide
  • So, in Clarke's account, three Republicans dropped the ball on terrorism, while the lone Democrat fought the good fight but failed to achieve anything because of Republican attacks.

    Let's assume for the moment that Clarke is telling the truth in his characterization of the four presidents (I still need to read those portions). Is he telling the whole truth? Tell you what, let's rework those bullet points a little bit:

    It is also the story of four presidents:

  • Ronald Reagan, who retaliated vigorously against the most prominent source of anti-American terrorism during the eighties -- Libya -- through a concerted military and intelligence campaign, and who authorized the capture of Palestinian terrorists following the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro;

  • George H.W. Bush, who waged a successful diplomatic campaign in the United Nations to impose sanctions on Libya, which eventually forced that country to admit complicity in the Pan Am 103 bombings and permit the operational planners to be extradited; who waged a successful diplomatic and military campaign to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, impose the most comprehenseive sanctions regime in UN history, and protect the Kurds from retribution following the invasion;

  • Bill Clinton, who -- despite being freed from the strictures of the Cold War era -- failed to retaliate following the downing of a Black Hawk helicopter in Somalia, and subsequently pulled U.S. forces out of the area; who failed to pressure Saudi Arabia into cooperating in the investigation following the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing; and who again failed to retaliate following the bombing of the USS Cole;

  • George W. Bush, who took aggressive and appropriate actions following the 9/11 attacks to expel al Qaeda from their Afghan sanctuary; who forced the Pakistani regime to reverse course in their support of the Taliban; who dispatched crucial anti-terrorist support to poor states like Yemen, Georgia and the Philippines; whose efforts have led to the capture or death of two-thirds of al Qaeda's top echelon of leaders; and who removed Saddam Hussein from power.
  • Did I stack the deck in the second set of bullet points? Absolutely. My point, however, is that Clarke stacked the deck in the first set of bullet points.

    Why would he do this? Some will say it's because Clarke is a partisan hack, which isn't really credible -- he was a registered Republican voted in the Republican primary in 2000, served under three Republican presidents, and already vowed not to advise Kerry. My hunch is that it's more simple and personal than that. Let's rework those bullet points one last time:

    It is also the story of four presidents:

  • Ronald Reagan, during which I was just a State Department DAS and therefore had marginal influence;

  • George H.W. Bush, whose Secretary of State demoted me;

  • Bill Clinton, who was wise enough to listen to my sage advice and let me run the Principals meetings on counterterrorism;

  • George W. Bush, who had the gall to strip me of the hard-won autonomy and power I achieved under Clinton and force me to work through the regular chain of command
  • I'm still going to read the rest of the book. It's worth remembering that Clarke was correct in his assessment of Al Qaeda, and as the Chicago Tribune points out, even George W. Bush acknowledged to Bob Woodward that bin Laden was not on the top of this administration's priority list when it took office. And I am curious to see what he has to say about whether/how the decision to invade Iraq undermined the military effort to defeat Al Qaeda.

    Still, it's hard not to believe that Clarke's evaluation of presidential performance is directly correlated with how well those presidents treated Clarke.

    UPDATE: Greg Djerejian posted something about Clarke from three weeks ago that's also worth reading.

    posted by Dan at 09:42 AM | Comments (118) | Trackbacks (14)

    Wednesday, March 24, 2004

    Globalization and creative destruction

    In previous posts, I've treated trade and technology as competing explanations for why employment has declined in certain sectors. However, to be fair, the effects are not mutually exclusive. Open borders increase the incentives for technological innovation, and innovation increases the rewards from trade.

    On this point, the New York Times ran an article two days ago about how the trade and technology are intertwined. Their case study -- how globalization is affecting the orange-growing industry. The highlights:

    Chugging down a row of trees, the pair of canopy shakers in Paul Meador's orange grove here seem like a cross between a bulldozer and a hairbrush, their hungry steel bristles working through the tree crowns as if untangling colossal heads of hair.

    In under 15 minutes, the machines shake loose 36,000 pounds of oranges from 100 trees, catch the fruit and drop it into a large storage car. "This would have taken four pickers all day long," Mr. Meador said....

    [A]s globalization creeps into the groves, it is threatening to displace the workers. Facing increased competition from Brazil and a glut of oranges on world markets, alarmed growers here have been turning to labor-saving technology as their best hope for survival.

    "The Florida industry has to reduce costs to stay in business," said Everett Loukonen, agribusiness manager for the Barron Collier Company, which uses shakers to harvest about half of the 40.5 million pounds of oranges reaped annually from its 10,000 acres in southwestern Florida. "Mechanical harvesting is the only available way to do that today."....

    [T]he economics are in mechanization's favor. A tariff of 29 cents per pound on imports of frozen concentrated orange juice lets Florida growers resist the Brazilian onslaught — but not by much. According to Ronald Muraro and Thomas Spreen, researchers at the University of Florida, Brazil could deliver a pound of frozen concentrate in the United States for under 75 cents, versus 99 cents for a Florida grower.

    Mechanical harvesting can help cut the gap. Mr. Loukonen of Barron Collier estimates that machine harvesting shaves costs by 8 to 10 cents a pound of frozen concentrate.

    Read the whole thing. The creative desctruction of technological innovation does impose short-run dislocations on certain segments of the American economy -- particularly unskilled workers. However, the long-run effects are unambiguously positive, as Ted Balaker argues over at Reason (link via Virginia Postrel).

    This is not a new debate -- Frédéric Bastiat made these arguments in mid-19th century France. The Dallas Federal Reserve has a nice primer of Bastiat's arguments (thanks to Scott Harris for the link).

    The rhetoric of Bastiat's opponents sound awfully familiar today.

    posted by Dan at 11:35 AM | Comments (35) | Trackbacks (2)

    Tuesday, March 23, 2004

    Regarding Richard Clarke

    Being out of town and putting the Foreign Affairs essay to bed, I'm late to the Richard Clarke story. Clarke has a new book, Against All Enemies: Inside the White House's War on Terror--What Really Happened. He also appeared on 60 Minutes. The Bush administration using the big guns -- Condoleezza Rice and Richard Cheney -- to fire back. Howard Kurtz provides a nice rundown of the state of play.

    The blogosphere is getting into it as well -- check out Josh Marshall, Matthew Yglesias, Kevin Drum, David Adesnik, Chris Lawrence, James Joyner, and David Frum. The basic liberal line is that Clarke's account is a damning indictment of the Bush team's woeful unpreparedness for the war on terror, in part due to an obsessive focus on Iraq. The basic conservative line is that Clarke is just a disgruntled ex-bureaucrat who's hawking a book.

    So what's my take?

    1) Richard Clarke is no Paul O'Neill. Back in January I pointed out the flaws of Paul O'Neill as a messenger on Iraq. Clarke is a different story. This guy managed to work at a high level at the National Security Council for three different administrations. This is highly unusual -- most NSC staffers are either political appointments who leave with a departing administration or career bureaucrats who cycle out of State, DoD, or the intelligence community for a two-year stint.

    What does it mean that Clarke was able to hang around so long? It means two things. First, he was very capable at his job, in a way that O'Neill wasn't. Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said on 60 Minutes that:

    Dick is very dedicated, very knowledgeable about this issue. When the President came into office, one of the decisions we made was to keep Mr. Clarke and his counter-terrorism group intact, bring them into the new administration--a really unprecedented decision, very unusual when there has been a transition that involves a change of party.

    Ryan Lizza adds, "this White House has never been confronted with such a credible and nonpartisan critic on the issue of terrorism."

    Second, he was extremely skilled in the art of bureaucratic politics. One official who saw Clarke in action -- and has no love for this administration -- described him to me as "smart, conservative, dedicated, insecure, and vindictive." I've heard stories from both friends and foes of Clarke, and they have one common thread -- you did not want this man for an enemy. He knows how to retaliate. [UPDATE: check out Fred Kaplan's sidebar and main story in Slate about Clarke for examples.]

    So, when the Bush team decided to jettison Clarke sometime after 9/11, they made an enemy out of Clarke. And they're paying for that now.

    So, does Clarke have a personal incentive to stick it to this administration? Absolutely. Does he know what he's talking about? Absolutely. Can what he says can be ignored? Absolutely not.

    2) The administration ain't helping its own cause. Ryan Lizza has a fine rundown of the different lines of attack levied against Clarke in the 48 hours since this story went live. They range from the plausible (Clarke was obsessed with process and not outcome) to the implausible (Cheney's implication that Clarke was out of the loop prior to 9/11). They also contradict each other at times. The fact that both Rice and Cheney have addressed this head-on demonstrates, in Kevin Drum's language, that "the White House is sure acting like they have the potential to do some serious damage."

    3) The administration could help its own cause. Stephen Hayes points out in the Weekly Standard that Clarke does come off as biased in throttling the Bush administration for apparent lassitude while the Clinton administration seems to gets a free pass:

    In his own world, Clarke was the hero who warned Bush administration officials about Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda ad nauseam. The Bush administration, in Clarke's world, just didn't care. In Clarke's world, eight months of Bush administration counterterrorism policy is more important than eight years of Clinton administration counterterrorism policy.

    It's worth remembering that every new administration needs about six months to work out the foreign policy kinks -- flash back to the Clinton team's firxt six months if you think this is a recent problem. To claim that they were slow to move on Al Qaeda misses the point -- unless it was a campaign issue, every new administration is slow to move on every policy dimension.

    Furthermore, as the Washington Post reports, in the end the administration did get this one right, in the form of a September 10, 2001 deputies meeting that agreed upon a three-part, three-year strategy to eject Al Qaeda from Afghanistan. For all of Clarke's accusations about the Bush team's neglect, it's hard to see how things would have changed if this decision had been made a few months earlier. Post-9/11, for all of Clarke's claims about intimidation to show Iraq caused 9/11, the policy outcome was that we ejected the Taliban from Afghanistan. Iraq was put on the back burner. I'm someone who's been less than thrilled with Bush's management of foreign policy. Some of what Clarke says disturbs me, particularly about homeland security. But for this case, it does look like the system worked.

    The best thing for this administration is to say in response to Clarke would be: "Yes, if we could turn back time, we'd have given AQ more consideration. But it probably would not have prevented 9/11. And don't claim that we could solve a problem in eight months that the last team -- in which Clarke was the lead on this policy front -- couldn't solve over eight years."

    4) There is a deeper policy split at work. Rational Bush opponents are happy to see Saddam gone but do not see any connection between the war in Iraq and the larger war on terror. Rational Bush supporters will acknowledge that at best there was a loose connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda, but that remaking Iraq is a vital part of the war on terror because it will help to remake the Middle East, terrorism's primary source.

    David Frum writes:

    The huge dividing line in the debate over terror remains just this: Is the United States engaged in a man-hunt - for bin Laden, for Zawahiri, for the surviving alumni of the al Qaeda training camps? - or is it engaged in a war with the ideas that animated those people and with the new generations of killers who will take up the terrorist mission even if the US were to succeed in extirpating every single terrorist now known to be alive and active? Clarke has aligned himself with one side of that debate - and it's the wrong side.

    I'm not completely convinced that Frum is being fair to Clarke, but the comment raises an interesting parallel between current debates over how to wage the war on terror and previous debates over how to contain the Soviet Union.

    55 years ago, George Kennan and Paul Nitze had different positions on how to wage a containment policy, with Nitze taking a much more aggressive posture in NSC-68 than Kennan did in "The Sources of Soviet Conduct." I'm not sure that it's ever been decided which position was right. The same will likely be true of current debates.

    posted by Dan at 02:15 PM | Comments (214) | Trackbacks (17)

    A query to those worried about outsourcing

    The lion's share of the critical feedback I've received from "The Outsourcing Bogeyman" essay has been targeted at my claims about the IT sector. I'm supposedly wrong on the IT side of the equation, and therefore better-paying jobs will follow lower-paying jobs overseas.

    What's interesting is that I haven't heard much discussion about either the manufacturing part of the story or the business processes part of the story. Does this mean people are willing to acknowledge that these are sectors where standard trade theory apply?

    [Now you're just goading your critics--ed. No, just curious -- plus, it might make a good article about public perceptions of economics.]

    posted by Dan at 12:08 PM | Comments (46) | Trackbacks (1)

    Monday, March 22, 2004

    Critiquing one critique

    Scott Kirwin posts his critique on why I’m wrong on outsourcing. It boils down to:

    1) I’m relying on the outdated theory of comparative advantage, which according to Paul Craig Roberts, no longer applies when capital and technology are mobile.

    2) I’m relying too much on statistics from the McKinsey Global Institute to support my case because it’s “the research arm of one of the world's great outsourcing firms. It's like citing Japanese gov't statistics to justify whaling.”

    3) I’m underestimating the extent to which better-paying jobs can be outsourced.

    I’ve dealt with the “death of comparative advantage” argument in the past – or rather, Noam Scheiber has.

    However, it’s worth pointing out that the current direction of capital flows bears no resemblance to what either Roberts or Kirwin fear. The U.S. currently runs a massive capital account surplus, which finances both our budget and trade deficits. When restricted to foreign direct investment, the overwhelming majority of U.S. outrward FDI goes to other OECD countries. This objection is the reddest of red herrings.

    On relying too much on MGI data because they’re big into outsourcing – hey, I’ll relinquish MGI data if Kirwin and others renounce the use of data from Gartner, Forrester, Deloitte, etc. [You're being flippant!--ed. Here's a more substantive response.] All of these firms are equally into outsourcing but still put up overhyped guesstimates about projected job losses. As I pointed in the Foreign Affairs article, these firms also have a strong incentive make outsourcing a business fad. Think their job loss numbers might be exaggerated a tad?

    On the future of better-paying jobs, Jacob Kirkegaard of the Institute for International Economics points out that the Forrester study that got everyone hyperventilating in the first place points out that most jobs projected to be lost are below the US average wage.

    Certainly the data to date don’t support Kirwin at all. According to Kirkegaard:

    Computer programmers engaged in relatively simple tasks (when compared to other software occupations) have seen a sustained job loss since the end of 1999, while more advanced software occupations have increased their employment since the beginning of 1999. This is an indication that indeed low-skilled tasks within the software sector may be migrating out of the United States, but higher-skilled tasks remain. Such a trend of technological destruction of US IT jobs, where increasingly standardized tasks are either automated or offshore outsourced, may also be present in other IT occupations…

    [E]xcluding management occupations, of the 12 IT occupations that earned more than $50,000 in 2002, 75 percent increased their employment from 1999 to 2002. IT jobs earning more than $50,000 expanded by 184,000 from 1999 to 2002, of which computer software engineers earning approximately $75,000-a-year accounted for 115,000 jobs.


    posted by Dan at 06:46 PM | Comments (54) | Trackbacks (3)

    Statebuilding proceeds in Iraq

    The Washington Post reports on an imminent deal to disarm the two big militias remaining in Iraq. The key parts:

    Leaders of Iraq's two largest militias have provisionally agreed to dissolve their forces, according to senior U.S. and Iraqi officials. The move is a major boost to a U.S. campaign to prevent civil war by eliminating armed groups before sovereignty is handed over to an interim Iraqi government on June 30, the officials said.

    Members of the two forces -- the Shiite Muslim Badr Organization and the Kurdish pesh merga -- will be offered a chance to work in Iraq's new security services or claim substantial retirement benefits as incentives to disarm and disband. Members of smaller militias will also be allowed to apply for positions with the new security services, but those that choose not to disband will be confronted and disarmed, by force if necessary, senior U.S. officials said.

    The occupation authority is still negotiating with Kurdish and Shiite leaders, who want more extensive guarantees than they have been offered. But U.S., Kurdish and Shiite officials said they had secured an agreement in principle and likely will announce a formal deal within the next few weeks.

    "We believe that all militia members should be part of one national army and police force," said Hamid Bayati, a top official of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Shiite political party that controls the Badr Organization, which is estimated to have at least 10,000 members.

    Jalal Talabani, one of Iraq's two top Kurdish leaders, said in an interview that Kurdish officials have "an agreement with the coalition to find an honorable solution for the pesh merga."

    posted by Dan at 12:14 PM | Comments (22) | Trackbacks (1)

    posted by Dan at 12:10 PM | Comments (58) | Trackbacks (0)

    Saturday, March 20, 2004

    The outsourcing bogeyman

    Regular readers might have noticed that I was focusing a bit on offshore outsourcing recently. There's only so much one can say about the topic in a blog post, however, so I figured, what the heck, let's turn it into a paper:

    According to the election-year bluster of politicians and pundits, the outsourcing of American jobs to other countries has become a problem of epic proportion. Fortunately, this alarmism is misguided. Outsourcing actually brings far more benefits than costs, both now and in the long run. If its critics succeed in provoking a new wave of American protectionism, the consequences will be disastrous -- for the U.S. economy and for the American workers they claim to defend.

    That's the abstract of my Foreign Affairs essay, "The Outsourcing Bogeyman," which will come out in the May/June issue of that journal, but is now online at their web site.

    Here's a link to the bibliography and footnotes, but you should comment on the piece here.

    posted by Dan at 03:24 PM | Comments (91) | Trackbacks (3)

    Thursday, March 18, 2004

    Open Al Qaeda thread

    Multiple news stories about a senior Al Qaeda figure being surrounded by Pakistani forces here, here, and here. Anticipatory Retaliation says it's Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden's second-in-command.

    Discuss below.

    posted by Dan at 05:56 PM | Comments (56) | Trackbacks (0)

    Wednesday, March 17, 2004

    Au Revoir

    Blogging will be intermittent at best for the rest of this week, as I'll be at the International Studies Association annual meeting in Montreal. Weather aside, I've never been to the city and I've heard from reliable sources that it's a great town.

    Don't worry, however -- within the next 24 hours, I will be posting something that should prompt a fair amount of conversation (cue enigmatic smile).


    UPDATE: OK, it might be 48 hours.

    ANOTHER UPDATE: Wound up being 72 hours -- click here for more.

    posted by Dan at 01:18 PM | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (0)

    I'll have my coffee extra bitter, please

    Brad Delong writes:

    A change in state: today I stopped drinking lattes, and started drinking iced lattes. It was 85 degrees. Summer is icumen in.

    Yes, spring is coming!! Oh, wait....

    Even better -- I'm departing for Montreal later today!!

    Damn you DeLong!! Damn you to hell!!

    posted by Dan at 01:02 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    The lack of correlation between jobs and trade

    Brink Lindsey has a policy brief on the relationship between employment and trade over the past few years, particularly in the manufacturing sector. From the abstract:

    Even in good times, job losses are an inescapable fact of life in a dynamic market economy. Old jobs are constantly being eliminated as new positions are created. Total U.S. private-sector jobs increased by 17.8 million between 1993 and 2002. To produce that healthy net increase, a breath-taking total of 327.7 million jobs were added, while 309.9 million jobs were lost. In other words, for every one new net private-sector job created during that period, 18.4 gross job additions had to offset 17.4 gross job losses.

    International trade contributes only modestly to this frenetic job turnover. Between 2000 and 2003, manufacturing employment dropped by nearly 2.8 million, yet imports of manufactured goods rose only 0.6 percent. Meanwhile, despite the new offshoring trend, the Department of Labor is forecasting a 35 percent increase in computer-and math-related jobs over the next decade.

    Calls for new trade restrictions to preserve current jobs are misguided. There is no significant difference between jobs lost because of trade and those lost because of technologies or work processes. All of those job losses are a painful but necessary part of the larger process of innovation and productivity increases that is the source of new wealth and rising living standards.

    Read the whole thing.

    posted by Dan at 11:51 AM | Comments (34) | Trackbacks (1)

    Iran in turmoil?

    Well, don't I feel like the perfect fool.

    Post something about possibly cooperating with the Iranian government, and then the Iranian people go and rise up. Click here, here, and here for details.

    We'll see where this leads. One wonders whether the complete impotence of "reformers" in the government triggered this outbreak.

    I would love for this to pan out -- but I have every confidence that the hardliners are prepared to be as brutal as necessary to stay in power.

    I really hope my confidence is misplaced.

    posted by Dan at 11:34 AM | Comments (32) | Trackbacks (2)

    Should there be a "grand bargain" with Iran?

    The Financial Times breaks a story that back in May, Iran wanted to join Libya on the Bandwagon Express:

    The US has for 10 months been stalling over an Iranian offer of landmark talks that would see the Islamic republic address Washington's concerns on nuclear weapons, terrorism and Israel - because of divisions within the Bush administration.

    US officials and go-betweens say the talks, which could in return establish normal diplomatic relations between the countries, have been resisted by hawks in Washington who adamantly oppose opening a dialogue with the clerical regime in Iran, which George W. Bush, the US president, branded part of the "axis of evil".

    However, Colin Powell, the secretary of state, recently told an internal meeting that Mr Bush was looking for an "opening" with Iran, raising the possibility of a positive reply. The recent example of Libya has shown how some countries that Washington has labelled "rogue nations" can begin to rehabilitate themselves in US eyes.

    What has become known in diplomatic circles as Iran's "grand bargain" was first communicated to the US State Department through the "Swiss channel" on May 4 last year. Switzerland represents US interests in Iran. The communication quoted a senior Iranian official as laying out a "road map" to normalise relations, which have been hostile since the Iranian revolution of 1979.

    Under the plan, Iran would address US concerns over nuclear weapons and terrorism, co-ordinate policy on Iraq and consider a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In return, Iran expected a lifting of sanctions, recognition of its security interests, dropping of "regime change" from the official US lexicon and eventual re-establishment of relations. "There was a lot of detail to be worked out," said one American familiar with the proposal. "They proposed concrete steps on how to work on this. The substance of the agenda was pretty reasonable."

    However, Washington has given no formal response to the offer. Instead, the Swiss foreign ministry received a rebuke from the US for "overstepping" its mandate. Nonetheless, unofficial contacts have continued with Iran through various channels.

    Even those "realists" in the Bush administration, who believe it is in the US national interest to talk to Tehran's hardline clerics, perceive that Iran's behaviour is getting worse on issues such as its suspected nuclear weapons programme, support for "terrorist" groups and its human rights record.

    One high-level figure involved is Brent Scowcroft, a former national security adviser and retired general, who has held talks with Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations. Both men declined to comment.

    Here's my question -- should this deal have been made back in May? Should it be made now?

    Note that the FT story makes it clear that the quid pro quo required the US to give the Iranian regime a partial pass on human rights. On the other hand, that's also not part of the Libya deal either. One could argue that Iran's record of prior bad acts raises the bar for trusting them. On the other hand, Libya tried to acquire WMD capabilities while the negotiations with the US and UK were taking place.

    My initial take -- the deal should have been cut, and probably should still be cut. I say this fully aware that such a deal would be detrimental to the short-term advancement of human rights in Iran.

    The top priorities of the administration are the war on terror and remaking the Middle East. Iran's cooperation on the terror front would have been pretty easy to measure (making the deal easy to revoke if Iran failled to follow through), and an unambiguously good thing if Iran had followed through. The downside would have been giving the Iranian hardliners a freer hand in cracking down -- but it's not as if not making the deal has improved matters. Furthermore, if the deal increases Iraqi stability, then it improves the odds of Iraq democracy, which would have a powerful demonstration effect.

    I'm perfectly willing to entertain counterarguments.

    One final thought -- the deal is still out there. Should it be taken now?

    UPDATE: Lots of good feedback, mostly centered on a) whether Iran would live up to its side of the bargain, and b) what this would mean to Iran's citizenry.

    My arguments in favor rested on the notion that a) The Iranian government lived up to its bargain, and b) Our current policy of "regime change" via isolation and browbeating was not working (though check out my next post). Furthermore, cooperation on terrorism, WMD proliferation, and Iraqi stability cannot be lightly dismissed -- though I agree that there would need to be tangible metrics to ensure Iranian compliance.

    Furthermore, in terms of policy consistency, why would it be OK to cut a deal with Libya and not Iran? Roger L. Simon [who y'all should read] says that it's a question of magnitude -- Iran is bigger and more important than Libya.

    Fair enough -- but my question would be whether the demonstration effect of a more stable and democratic Iraq on the Irania population outweighs whatever direct effect U.S. condemnation has on the stability of the Iranian regime.

    posted by Dan at 01:08 AM | Comments (63) | Trackbacks (6)

    Why Bill James is not an economist

    Bill James, the godfather of baseball sabermetrics, is now working as a consultant for the Boston Red Sox. Of course, it's only recently that James' pioneering idea of using statistical analysis to determine what causes a baseball team to win games has been accepted.

    Before that, he had an interesting set of careers, as he told

    Before he started making his living analyzing baseball, James worked in several unglamorous odd jobs, including fast food restaurants, night watchman, convenience store clerk and forklift driver. One of his first career goals was to be an economics teacher.

    But his obsession for baseball drained the ambition he had for any other kind of work.

    "I was never a particularly good student," said James. "I suppose I was capable of being a good student -- most everybody is -- but when I studied Micro Economics, for example, I would take what I learned there and figure out how to apply it to baseball. I would spend five minutes mastering the concept, 50 hours figuring out how it might apply to baseball. This was a drain on my potential to become an Economics professor. Even when I was in high school, teachers would tell me to put away those box scores and do my homework. Once I focused on writing about baseball, all of that energy was working for me, rather than working against me."

    As someone who also started out in economics, but found politics more interesting, I can certainly understand.

    UPDATE: On a loosely related topic, David Pinto has an interesting guest essay by Glenn Berggoetz and Jeff McBride arguing that contra conventional wisdom, ex-catchers make lousy managers.

    posted by Dan at 12:50 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (4)

    Tuesday, March 16, 2004

    Reflection on Spain and Al Qaeda

    The New York Times has two very good op-eds about the implication of the 3/11 bonbings and subsequent Spanish elections. Edward Luttwak shows it's possible to simultaneously disagree with the war in Iraq and disagree with the Spanish socialists:

    Even those who view the Iraq war as a strategic error for the United States — and I'm one of them — cannot take seriously the Zapateros of Europe, who seem bent on validating the crudest caricatures of "old European" cowardly decadence. It was an act of colossal irresponsibility for the Socialists and the Spanish news media to excoriate the Aznar government for asserting that ETA, the Basque separatist movement, was probably behind the attacks.

    Were the Socialists certain Al Qaeda was involved? No, but saying so made it easier to convince voters that the bombs had been placed by Muslims angry that Spain had sided with the United States in the war — and that the only way to make things right would be to get out of Iraq.

    Whatever their motivation, the Socialists' argument was fundamentally flawed. Osama bin Laden and other Islamists had identified Spain as a priority target years before the Iraq war. Under Muslim law, no land conquered by Islam may legitimately come under non-Muslim rule. For the fanatics, Spain is still Al Andalus of the Middle Ages, which must be re-claimed for Islam by immigration and intimidation. Even if the bombs were placed by Islamists, the idea that Spain was attacked solely because of Mr. Aznar's support for the Iraq war is simply wrong.

    This was Fareed Zakaria's point in the Sunday Washington Post as well (link via Virginia Postrel):

    Some in Spain have argued that if an Islamic group proves to be the culprit, Spaniards will blame Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. It was his support for America and the war in Iraq that invited the wrath of the fundamentalists. But other recent targets of Islamic militants have been Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, not one of which supported the war or sent troops into Iraq in the after-war. Al Qaeda's declaration of jihad had, as its first demand, the withdrawal of American troops from Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden does not seem to have noticed, but the troops are gone -- yet the jihad continues. The reasons come and go, the violence endures.

    Meanwhile, Scott Atran picks up on the evolution of the relationship between Al Qaeda and local terrorist groups in the other op-ed. The highlights:

    While most Westerners have imagined a tightly coordinated transnational terrorist network headed by Al Qaeda, it seems more likely we face a set of largely autonomous groups and cells pursuing their own regional aims. Yes, some groups — from Ansar al-Islam in Iraq to Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia to Pakistan's Jaish-e-Muhammed — seem to be coordinating strategy and perhaps tactical operations among themselves. But for the most part the factions are swarming on their own initiative — homing in from scattered locations on various targets and then dispersing, only to form new swarms.

    While these groups share the motivations and methods of Al Qaeda, it is likely they have had only distant relations with Osama bin Laden and the Sunni salafists around him. In fact, Mr. bin Laden and the Qaeda hardcore should perhaps be viewed as they were in the 1990's, as just one hub of a loosely knit global network of mujahedeen leaders left over from the Soviet-Afghan war. It was only after the F.B.I. began investigating the 1998 American Embassy bombings in Africa that American prosecutors — and the rest of the world — began referring to Al Qaeda as a global terrorist organization. We may be overestimating Mr. bin Laden's reach.

    The suicide bombings last November in Istanbul are a case in point. Turkish officials immediately attributed the bombings to Al Qaeda, although it quickly became clear that the explosives were probably made and detonated by Turkish groups claiming to represent Al Qaeda's aims. In fact, Osama bin Laden's greatest threat may be that simply by claiming to act in his name, regional groups are better able to recruit and coordinate operations.

    This makes sense. Terrorist attacks conducted by Al Qaeda proper have usually been targeted at highly symbolic targets -- luxury hotels, embassies, the Pentagon, the WTC, etc. They're not averse to killing large numbers of civilians, but they prefer doing it while destroying important symbols of political, economic and military power. The Madrid bombing was not like that -- hence, it's likely that the operation, while perhaps sponsored by AQ, was not implemented by them.

    UPDATE: This commentor makes a good point: "I wonder if what's happened is that AQ or its franchisees have moved from targeting physical symbols such as hotels and embassies to also targeting more nebulous symbols, such as the elections themselves."

    posted by Dan at 11:06 AM | Comments (127) | Trackbacks (3)

    Thanks, but no thanks

    Via Glenn Reynolds, I see another ranking of blogger influence. This one claims to rank order "[t]he most influential reporters and bloggers on the web."

    The good news -- I come in at #15. Wow -- this and the Library of Congress in less than 24 hours!

    The bad news -- According to this ranking system, David Brooks comes in at #20, Tom Friedman comes in at #40, David Broder at #57, and George Will at #172. Fareed Zakaria is not among the top 200.

    In other words, I'm fairly certain that the methodology used to compile this list is horses--t. [What if you're wrong?--ed. Then I'll magnanimously offer to trade places with Tom, Fareed, George, or either David -- because I'm that kind of guy.]

    UPDATE: After informing my lovely wife Erika of this ranking page, she queried, "I didn't know your Mom had a web site."

    ANOTHER UPDATE: Kudos to Philippe Lourier for responding to semi-constructive criticism and taking the responses in stride.

    posted by Dan at 01:14 AM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (1)

    Monday, March 15, 2004

    Productivity, outsourcing, and employment

    Business Week has a cover story on the mystery of low job growth in the United States. Some of the highlights:

    [I]f the outsourcing of jobs to India, China, and other low-wage centers has caused some of the U.S. job losses of the past three years, it is hardly the primary explanation for the weak job market. Instead, the continued ability of U.S. companies to squeeze out productivity gains on the order of 5% annually, since the recession ended, is having a far greater impact on the jobs picture. What's more, thanks to a late-'90s binge on technology, a broader array of industries is now finding ways to eke out efficiencies from their workforces than in the past. That means that the dearth of hiring, long a fact of life in the manufacturing sector, is becoming a reality in the service businesses -- retail, finance, transportation -- that account for 80% of U.S. jobs....

    As innovation has brought ever-cheaper computing power and new ways to make use of it, capital has become increasingly cheap relative to labor. The returns on investment in new labor-saving, high-tech equipment have soared. Given that labor accounts for about two-thirds of the cost of making and selling products, greater labor productivity in today's global economy is tantamount to corporate survival. As a result, productivity is growing even faster now than in the late 1990s. And it's a real job killer this time: A one-percentage-point increase in annual productivity growth costs about 1.3 million jobs....

    As for companies considering hiring, they increasingly face a situation that has long plagued their European rivals: The soaring cost of employee benefits is making companies increasingly hesitant to add workers unless absolutely needed. Benefits costs, fueled by sky-high health-care premiums and the need to restore underfunded pension plans, are up 6.5% from a year ago. After adjusting for inflation, that's the fastest clip on record. If a company can get three people to do the work of four, that's one less health-care premium it has to pay....

    Given a dearth of new jobs, why is the unemployment rate falling, from a peak of 6.3% last June to 5.6% in February? Chiefly, people are dropping out of the labor force, which has reduced the amount of job growth needed to push the jobless rate lower. The labor force participation rate -- the percentage of the working-age population that is either employed or seeking work -- has dropped to a level even lower than during the 1990-91 recession. However, almost all of the decline has occurred in the 16- to 24-year-old age group, while participation in the 25-and-older segment has held up....

    Which comes back to the vexing issue of outsourcing. No one doubts that it is having an impact -- though exactly how strong is hard to say since good numbers are unavailable. While some put the number higher, Forrester Research Inc. estimates that of the 2.7 million jobs lost in the last three years, only 300,000 have been from outsourcing. (emphasis added)

    Given that Forrester's estimates on the effect of outsourcing on the American economy have been at the high end of this debate, this should be treated as an upper bound estimate. This USA Today editorial -- the contents of which are otherwise none too friendly to business -- says, "Many economists estimate that only about 1 in 100 layoffs are caused by outsourcing. By contrast, the bulk of job losses stem from domestic factors. (emphasis added)" Back-of-the-envelope calculations would imply that only 27,000 gross jobs (as opposed to net) have been lost due to offshore outsourcing. Which would be the lower bound estimate.

    Technological innovation is responsible for the vast improvements in labor productivity, which explains the combination of seemingly robust economic growth and seemingly weak job growth. One wonders whether this will foster the the rise of a neo-Luddite movement in the United States.

    UPDATE: Hmmm.... maybe the USA Today figure was not a lower bound. This Economist story says:

    As for outsourcing, it is implausible now, as Lawrence Katz at Harvard University argues, to think that outsourcing has profoundly changed the structure of the American economy over just the past three or four years. After all, outsourcing was in full swing—both in manufacturing and in services—throughout the job-creating 1990s. Government statisticians reckon that outsourced jobs are responsible for well under 1% of those signed up as unemployed. (emphasis added)

    Plenty more on this topic from Steven Bainbridge, Tyler Cowen, and Alex Tabarrok.

    posted by Dan at 12:54 PM | Comments (93) | Trackbacks (3)

    Remember, this is for posterity....

    In the final month before I handed in my dissertation, I was working in my office at Stanford when the fire alarm went off. I gathered my things to leave the room, including my laptop with the digital version of the dissertation (during grad school, that laptop was rarely more than ten feet away from me). Leaving the building, I was surprised to see that there was an actual fire in the building? My first reaction? "Thank God I got the dissertation out. Even if something had happened to me, at least my work would survive!"

    This is how academics think -- will their work live on?

    I relate this anecdote because the Library of Congress has a project called MINERVA -- short for Mapping the INternet Electronic Resources Virtual Archive. According to this explanatory page:

    An ever-increasing amount of the world’s cultural and intellectual output is presently created in digital formats and does not exist in any physical form. Such materials are colloquially described as "born digital." This born digital realm includes open access materials on the World Wide Web.

    The MINERVA Web Preservation Project was established to initiate a broad program to collect and preserve these primary source materials. A multi disciplinary team of Library staff representing cataloging, legal, public services, and technology services is studying methods to evaluate, select, collect, catalog, provide access to, and preserve these materials for future generations of researchers.

    Today I received an e-mail stating that: "The Library has selected your site for inclusion in its historic collection of Internet materials."

    What does this mean? Practically speaking, it means the following:

    [T]he Library of Congress or its agent will engage in the collection of content from your Web site at regular intervals. The Library will make this collection available to researchers onsite at Library facilities. The Library also wishes to make the collection available to offsite researchers by hosting the collection on the Library's public access Web site. The Library hopes that you share its vision of preserving Web materials and permitting researchers from across the world to access them.

    Well, I do share that vision, but my reader-commentors may not. So consider this a public service notice -- your comments are being recorded for posterity.

    Think about it -- decades or centuries from now, some struggling graduate student may be reading some of this.

    That poor, pathetic soul.

    posted by Dan at 11:59 AM | Comments (22) | Trackbacks (0)

    Did Al Qaeda knowingly influence Spain's election?

    In the aftermath of the Socialist Party's victory in Spain's national elections -- after trailing in most polls to the People's party before last week's Madrid bombings -- what does it all mean? Is this a harbinger of Al Qaeda's ability to influence European voters? Was the electoral outcome what Al Qaeda intended?

    Andrew Sullivan believes the answers to both questions are yes:

    It's a spectacular result for Islamist terrorism, and a chilling portent of Europe's future. A close election campaign, with Aznar's party slightly ahead, ended with the Popular Party's defeat and the socialist opposition winning. It might be argued that the Aznar government's dogged refusal to admit the obvious quickly enough led people to blame it for a cover-up. But why did they seek to delay assigning the blame on al Qaeda? Because they knew that if al Qaeda were seen to be responsible, the Spanish public would blame Aznar not bin Laden!.... And in yesterday's election victory for the socialists, al Qaeda got even more than it could have dreamed of. It has removed a government intent on fighting terrorism and installed another intent on appeasing it. For good measure, they murdered a couple of hundred infidels. But the truly scary thought is the signal that this will send to other European governments. Britain is obviously next. The appeasement temptation has never been greater; and it looks more likely now that Europe - as so very often in the past - will take the path of least resistance - with far greater bloodshed as a result.

    Matthew Yglesias is not so sure about either proposition:

    [E]veryone's beliefs about these matters are so obviously going to be colored by their partisan political preferences that I don't know if there's a particular point in trying to argue for one version or another. It just seems worth pointing out that it's certainly not clear that this is what the terrorists were trying to achieve. Personally, I very much do not favor withdrawing troops from Iraq, and will be disappointed if that is the ultimate outcome of this tragedy. One ray of hope is that the circumstances of the attack would give the Socialist Party a possible excuse for flip-flopping were they so inclined. I doubt, however, that they will be.

    I'm on the fence on this issue. The fact is, authoritarian/totalitarian actors have had a pretty lousy record at consciously influencing democratic elections in other countries. That said, it seems difficult not to believe that AQ got what it wanted from this attack.

    UPDATE: Mickey Kaus speculates about whether and how Al Qaeda would try to spring an October Surprise in the United States. Eugene Volokh also has interesting thoughts on the matter.

    FINAL UPDATE: This story would seem to vitiate Yglesias' argument.

    posted by Dan at 01:04 AM | Comments (82) | Trackbacks (4)

    That cursed affluence

    Robert Samuelson's latest Newsweek column argues that America's obesity "crisis" is an ailment of affluence. The interesting grafs:

    The supposed villains here are fast-food restaurants and food companies that have supersized us to corpulence. There's some truth to this, but the larger and more boring truth is that food's gotten cheaper, and as a result, we consume more of it—and more away from home. In 1950, Americans devoted a fifth of their disposable incomes to food (and less than a fifth of that to eating out). Now food's share is a tenth (and almost half is out). We eat what pleases us, and so why should anyone be surprised that the average American now consumes about 150 pounds of sugar and sweeteners annually, up roughly 20 percent since 1980? The only saving grace is that some of the extra food "is thrown away—otherwise, all Americans would weigh 300 pounds," says Roland Sturm, an obesity expert at the Rand Corp....

    Getting wealthier spawns other complaints. One is the "time squeeze"—the sense that we're more harried than ever. We all know this is true; we're tugged by jobs, family, PTA and soccer. Actually, it's not true. People go to work later in life and retire earlier. Housework has declined. One survey found that in 1999 only 14 percent of wives did more than four hours of daily housework; the figure was 43 percent in 1977 and 87 percent in 1924. Even when jobs and housework are combined, total work hours for women and men have dropped.

    Read the entire piece.

    posted by Dan at 12:41 AM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (0)

    Saturday, March 13, 2004

    More on Madrid

    The Associated Press reports that arrests have been made in the Madrid bombings (link via Glenn Reynolds):

    Spain's interior minister Saturday announced the arrest of five suspects in the Madrid bombings, including three Moroccans.

    The other two suspects had Indian passports, a ministry spokesman said.

    The five were arrested in connection with a cell phone inside an explosives-packed gym bag found on one of the bombed commuter trains.

    The suspects "could be related to Moroccan extremist groups," the minister said. "But we should not rule out anything. Police are still investigating all avenues. This opens an important avenue."

    Newsday reports that a videotape has been found:

    The Spanish government announced early today it had found a videotape in which the al-Qaida network claims responsibility for Thursday's bombings in Madrid. The news, eight hours before polls opened in a general election, raised a possibility that Thursday's attacks will tip a close vote into defeat for a government that has been a staunch ally of the Bush administration in its global war on terror.

    Interior Minister Angel Acebes announced the discovery of the tape not long after issuing news of five arrests -- of three Moroccans and two Spaniards of Indian origin. On the tape, a man identified as Abu Dujan al-Afghani spoke in Moroccan-accented Arabic, saying the attacks were al-Qaida's retribution for Spain's support of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

    "It is a response to your cooperation with the criminals Bush and his allies," said the speaker, according to a Spanish-language translation issued by Acebes' ministry.

    An anonymous caller told a Madrid TV station where to find the tape, in a trash bin near a mosque. Acebes cautioned that the tape may not be authentic and that al-Afghani is unknown to intelligence officials.

    The loose affiliation between a Moroccan terrorist group and Al Qaeda would not be shocking. Earlier this week I heard Daniel Byman present a World Politics review essay entitled "Al Qaeda as an Adversary: Do We Understand Our Enemy?" in which he suggested that Al Qaeda was willing to fund regional and/or national terrorist groups with material support and training as a way of advancing its "brand" as it were.

    Byman's conclusions:

    First, many of the bromides regarding counterterrorism in general—often drawn from struggles against small, left-wing European groups with at best limited popular appeal—do not apply to al-Qaeda. Its size, dedication, and popular appeal make it unusually, perhaps uniquely, formidable. Second, one must be wary of confusing al-Qaeda with its many affiliates and of confusing these violent radical groups with the broader political Islamist movement. Third, the United States must reengage its allies, ensuring that its counterterrorism strategy is robust enough to maintain their support. Fourth, public diplomacy, always an American weakness, must go from an episodic and underfunded foreign policy instrument to a major tool of national power. Fifth, al-Qaeda’s unusually innovative nature requires the United States to try to defend not only against obvious methods such as truck bombs but also against new means like surface-to-air missiles and sustained suicide bombing campaigns. Sixth and finally, political leaders must engage the public to increase the ability of the United States to stand fast in the event of another major attack. (emphasis added)

    posted by Dan at 11:44 PM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (0)

    Friday, March 12, 2004

    An outsourcing bibliography

    Welcome, Foreign Affairs readers! If you want to comment on the essay, please go to this blog entry. If you're reading this it means you want to know where all the facts, figures, and quotations from "The Outsourcing Bogeyman" came from. I don't blame you -- as an academic, I'm leery of publishing an essay without the proper acknowledgments and citations.


    Bruce Bartlett and Sreenath Sreenivasan provided useful and informative links to the outsourcing phenomenon. Many thanks to Virginia Postrel, Sebastian Rosato, and Nick Schulz for reading draft versions of the article and providing trenchant feedback. I am also grateful to Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, Gideon Rose, and James F. Hoge, Jr. at Foreign Affairs for their sage advice during the drafting process. Through their links and commentary, Tyler Cowen, Brad DeLong, Mickey Kaus, Glenn Reynolds, and especially Virginia Postrel made the writing of this essay considerably easier.

    A crude version of this paper was delivered -- crudely -- to my American Foreign Economic Policy class a few weeks ago (amusing side note: I had planned to give a lecture on the topic when I drafted the syllabus back in November. The week I wound up delivering it was coincidentally the same week outsourcing was the cover story of Economist, Time, Business Week and Wired. The students were very impressed with the topicality). They provided me with excellent feedback. And finally, lots of blog readers posted their own comments in response to my myriad posts on the subject. Agree or disagree, their feedback helped me to figure out how best to frame my arguments.

    Sources for quotations:

    Mankiw's comments come from Warren Vieth and Edwin Chen, “Bush Supports Shift of Jobs Overseas,” Los Angeles Times, 10 February 2004. Reaction comments from Edmund Andrews, “Democrats Criticize Bush Over Job Exports,” New York Times, 11 February 2004. I posted about this here.

    Stephen Roach's comment comes from "Debating the Jobless Recovery" on the Morgan Stanley web site. It should be noted that Roach is hardly an advocate of protectionism.

    The IBM official was quoted in Bob Herbert, “White-Collar Blues,” New York Times, 29 December 2003. Nilekani was quoted in Steve Lohr, “Many New Causes for Old Problem of Jobs Lost Abroad,” New York Times, 15 February 2004. Fiorina's statement came from Carolyn Lochhead, “Economists Back Tech Industry’s Overseas Hiring,” San Francisco Chronicle, 9 January 2004.

    The billboard quotation came from Elizabeth Becker, “Globalism Minus Jobs Equals Campaign Issue,” New York Times, 30 January 2004. Kerry's line about "Benedict Arnold CEO's" has been everywhere, but here's James K. Glassman's use of it.

    Tom Daschle's later quote comes from Ted Landphair, “Outsourcing, Costly for US Workers, an Issue in Election Year,” Voice of America, 7 February 2004. Robert McTeer's very funny line comes from “Delta Air, General Electric Say Creating Jobs Abroad Helps U.S.,” Bloomberg, 23 February 2004. The Bloomberg story was also the source of information regarding how Delta Air Lines was able to create additional American jobs via offshore outsourcing.

    While not a quote, the Commerce Department report I referenced is Raymond J. Mataloni, Jr., “U.S. Multinational Companies: Operations in 2001,” Survey of Current Business, November 2003. The relevant passage is on p. 89.

    Sources for numbers:

    Many of the sources can be found in the general references below. For the plethora of job loss projections, I relied on Clay Risen's “Missed Target," The New Republic, 2 February 2004; and CIO Magazine, “Offshore Outsourcing – The Backlash,” September 2003.

    On the gap between Gartner's estimation of firm-specific job losses due to outsourcing versus Joglekar's estimates, see Thomas Hoffman, “Researcher Says Offshore Moves Don’t Leave to Big U.S. Job Losses,” ComputerWorld, 22 December 2003. Professor Joglekar was also kind enough to speak to me by phone -- I wish more of what he said could have fit into the final version of the essay.

    On the overestimation of call center outsourcing, see Dick O’Brien, “Outsourcing threat is overstated,” ElectronicNews.Net, 26 January 2004. The TPI estimates came from this press release and this report comparing European and American outsourcing trends. See also Justin Pope, "Some Managers Hold Firm Against Pressure to Move IT Jobs Overseas," Associated Press, 1 February 2004.

    The effect of sugar tariffs on jobs come from Aaron Lukas, “A Sticky State of Affairs: Sugar and the U.S. Australia Free-Trade Agreement,” Center for Trade Policy Studies, 9 February 2004. The total effect of steel tariffs on jobs was calculated based on annual costs projected in Gary Clyde Hufbauer and Ben Goodrich, “Next Move in Steel: Revocation or Retaliation,” Institute for International Economics Policy Brief 03-10, October 2003, p. 10.

    IBM's fund for displaced workers can be read about in Stacy Cowley, “IBM Starts Fund to Aid Displaced Workers,” ComputerWorld, 2 March 2004.

    The data on manufacturing output and employment can be found in this Alliance Capital Management report.

    Data on insourcing comes from Michael Walden, “A Potent ‘Insource’ of U.S. Jobs,” Raleigh News and Observer, 2 February 2004, Lawrence Kudlow, "Outsourcing ‘Outrage,’" New York Post, 3 March 2004, as well as the Commerce Department.

    Facts about the trade adjustment assistance program can be accessed at the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration Fact Sheet.

    General references on outsourcing:

    Space constraints made it difficult to cite them in the piece, but two worthwhile sources are Sreenath Sreenivasan's outsourcing page, which has tons of links, and Alan Greenspan's recent speeches and testimony that touch on the subject -- here, here, and here. Brink Lindsey has just written a policy brief, "Job Losses and Trade: A Reality Check," that's worth checking out. Finally, you can access all of my blog posts about outsourcing -- if you've read through the Foreign Affairs essay, several of them will look familiar.

    Otherwise, here are the most in-depth treatments of the subject that I've seen:

    International Data Corporation, Offshore Services: The Impact of Global Sourcing on the U.S. IT Services Market, November 2003.

    Catherine Mann, “Globalization of IT Services and White Collar Jobs: The Next Wave of Productivity Growth,” Institute for International Economics Policy Brief 03-11, Washington, DC, December 2003

    Jacob F. Kirkegaard, “Outsourcing – Stains on the White Collar?” Institute for International Economics working paper, January 2004

    McKinsey Global Institute, “Offshoring: Is It a Win-Win Game?” San Francisco, CA, August 2003

    Rafiq Dossani and Martin Kenney, “Went for Cost, Stayed for Quality?: Moving the Back Office to India,” working paper, Stanford University Asia/Pacific Research Center, November 2003

    Ashok Bardham and Cynthia Kroll, “The New Wave of Outsourcing,” Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics, University of California At Berkeley, November 2003

    Erica Groshen and Simon Potter, “Has Structural Change Contributed to a Jobless Recovery?Current Issues in Economics and Finance 9 (August 2003): 1-7

    Jyotti Thottam, "Is Your Job Going Abroad?" Time, 22 February 2004.

    Gene Grossman and Elhanen Helpman, "Outsourcing in a Global Economy," NBER Working Paper No. w8728, January 2002.

    Daniel Pink, “The New Face of the Silicon Age,” Wired, February 2004

    General references on globalization and the U.S. economy:

    Douglas Irwin, Free Trade Under Fire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002).

    Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales, Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists (New York: Crown Business, 2003).

    Kenneth Dam, The Rules of the Global Game: A New Look at U.S. International Economic Policymaking (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001).

    Kenneth Scheve and Matthew Slaughter, Globalization and the Perceptions of American Workers (Washington: Institute for International Economics, 2001).

    posted by Dan at 03:59 PM | Trackbacks (5)

    Consumer-driven offshore outsourcing

    A common meme from those who blast offshore outsourcing is that it's driven by rapacious firms eager to maximize short-term profits. This raises an interesting question -- what if consumers are the ones driving offshoring?

    I raise this because Tyler Cowen links to a press release that's an interesting test of the extent to which consumers reveal their preferences on the subject:

    E-LOAN, Inc., a consumer direct lender, today announced that home equity customers designated to its Indian outsourcing program have the power to decide whether they want to participate before they complete their application. Home equity customers who choose to participate in the program enjoy the benefit of closing their loan two days faster than if the entire transaction was processed domestically.

    "Our Indian outsourcing pilot program is an important component of our overall strategy to cost efficiently provide customers with even faster service by becoming a 24-hour processing operation," said Chris Larsen, E-LOAN's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. "At the same time, we continue to believe that privacy and security, combined with transparency and choice, are key to building a trusted brand. Therefore, we have decided to fully disclose our outsourcing program and empower customers to weigh the benefits of their participation in it. We believe that this approach will help us continue to earn and preserve consumer trust and confidence in E-LOAN."

    The pilot program, which launched in early February, currently has the capacity to process 25 percent of E-LOAN's home equity applications. Testing shows that 86 percent of the customers designated for the program are choosing to take advantage of the faster processing time associated with it -- the ability to close their home equity loan in ten days versus twelve days. (emphasis added)

    CBS Market Watch has a story on this as well.

    A question to those who oppose offshore outsourcing -- should this expansion of consumer choice be banned or restricted?

    If so, what other limitations should be placed so this sort of thing doesn't happen? Eliminate Wal-Marts? Japanese auto imports?

    In other words, to what extent is the outcry over outsourcing a slippery slope to policies designed to block all forms of trade and technological innovation?

    UPDATE: This story talks about how other firms are dealing with the offshoring phenomenon in their marketing strategies. Key line: "'No outsourcing' could become the latest twist on the 'made in the USA' slogan."

    Just to be clear, even though I've defended offshore outsourcing as a good thing, I have no problem whatsoever with this kind of marketing strategy. If consumers prefer to pay higher prices in return for the satisfaction of buying American, that's fine. Consumer choice should not be restricted in either way.

    posted by Dan at 11:30 AM | Comments (58) | Trackbacks (3)

    Thursday, March 11, 2004

    Open Spain thread

    Discuss motivations and implications of the despicable Madrid bombings below. My first thought was that this was Al Qaeda inspired, but the Economist makes a persuasive case that this was the ETA.

    UPDATE: Well, this would seem to turn Al Qaeda into a live possibility. The Associated Press and CBS have more.

    Not surprisingly, Glenn Reynolds has a link-rich post.

    posted by Dan at 02:55 PM | Comments (86) | Trackbacks (4)

    Is "Islamic liberal democracy" an unholy trinity?

    Lee Smith has an provocative Slate essay on what Islamists are talking about when they talk about democracy. Among the highlights:

    There is an ongoing debate in the Muslim world, American academia, and now also U.S. policy circles concerning the nature of Islamist democracy. Undoubtedly, Islam is as compatible with democracy as any other religion. But whether democracy comports well with a movement that has in the past advocated jihad and is responsible for thousands of deaths, 1,200 in Egypt alone, is another question entirely. Indeed, some of the Islamist movement's most influential ideologues have very specifically opposed democracy because it invests political sovereignty in the people—"We, the people"—rather than in God.

    Nevertheless, recent books like Noah Feldman's After Jihad and Graham Fuller's The Future of Political Islam suggest that the Islamist movement may indeed be compatible with democracy. They find that while there are holdouts like Osama Bin Laden dead set against anything like democracy, there are many, perhaps even a majority of Islamists who favor free elections. Unfortunately, that's about as far as the Islamists go when it comes to democracy. Free elections are OK, since they see that they would do very well in polling places across the region. However, it's not at all clear that the Islamists have any interest in the broad array of liberties—like freedom of speech and equal rights—that most people, certainly most citizens of liberal democracies, associate with democracy.

    Later on in the essay, Smith acknowledges that Islamists who actually understand/support what constitutes a liberal democracy may not say so publicly:

    [D]issimulation is a well-established technique in the history of the 100-plus-year-old Muslim reform movement, even among two of its leading figures, Jamal al-din al-Afghani and his greatest disciple, Muhammad Abdu. Abdu once relayed to a correspondent that he followed his master in the belief that "the head of religion can only be cut with the sword of religion." The fact is, as another Muslim reformer, wrote, "We found that ideas which were by no means accepted when coming from your agents in Europe were accepted at once with the greatest delight when it was proved that they were latent in Islam."

    So the $64,000 question -- what does Grand Ayatollah Sistani -- may be impossible to ferret out.

    posted by Dan at 02:22 PM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (1)

    Blogs, politics, and gender

    Henry Farrell argues that during the current campaign season, blogs will funnel more money to Democrats than Republicans. His reasoning:

    Regardless of whether the blogosphere tilts left or tilts right (your guess is as good as mine), the most-read blogs on the liberal-left side of the spectrum are much more closely aligned with the Democratic party apparatus than the blogs on the right are with the Republican machine. They also have the precedent of MoveOn, and of the Dean movement to build on. Rightbloggers, even the ones who support the administration, tend to self-identify as libertarians rather than Republicans, and maintain a little distance from the formal aspects of the Republican party.

    Meanwhile, the political part blogosphere apparently does share one common trait -- gender. Brian Montopoli at CJR's Campaign Desk writes:

    Women are responsible for as little as four percent of political blogs -- "sites devoted to politics, current events, foreign policy, and various ongoing wars" -- according to the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE).

    When it comes to politics and campaign commentary, in other words, the blogosphere looks a little like your high school chess club: Even though everyone's invited to join, you could be forgiven for thinking that someone posted a "No Girls Allowed" sign on the classroom door.

    Just for the record, I was not part of the chess club when I was in high school -- my captaincy of the math team took up far too much of my time.

    More seriously, Montopoli seems to go a bit off the rails at the end:

    If you accept the premise of the blogosphere as a true meritocracy, a place where our intellectual (and emotional) impulses can flourish unchecked, then you're buying into the concept of the blog world as a window into human nature. If that's the case, the blogosphere -- with perhaps just four percent female participation in poliblogs -- shows us that while women are just as interested as men in spouting off, they're fundamentally less interested than men in spouting off about politics.

    But if the blogosphere comes freighted with the same cultural considerations and institutional biases that weigh down the rest of the world, then blogs offer us no more window into our natural inclinations than the mainstream media -- and the blogosphere's claim to be the great equalizer is nothing more than the emperor's newest clothes.

    (link via here).

    A follow-up question -- what about the readers of political blogs? Do they skew disproportionately male as well? That seems to be the (unfortunate) case among my commenters. [Maybe that's because they don't like posts like this one?--ed. I'll grant that as a possibility -- but I have yet to receive a single complaint on that front.]

    Let me know what you think.

    UPDATE: Megan McArdle, Amanda Butler, and Laura at Apt. 11D weigh in on the gender question.

    posted by Dan at 12:47 AM | Comments (41) | Trackbacks (7)

    Wednesday, March 10, 2004

    Gonna be an exhausting campaign

    Kevin Drum has a great post up delineating the barbs and counter-barbs between the Bush and Kerry campaigns since Super Tuesday made Kerry the de facto nominee. There's been a fair amount of cross-fire for one week -- and reading between the lines, Kevin already seems exhausted by the campaign.

    This leads me to wonder how the Feiler Faster Thesis will operate with eight months to go in this campaign. The thesis, to reiterate, is:

    [P]olitical trends that used to last for weeks now last for hours. It's like watching the 1984 campaign on fast forward, except that the calendar still drags on into early June, meaning there's room for plot twists we could only dream of in 1984.

    Feiler's implication is that campaigns will have constant twists and turns. There's another possibility, however -- if there are no external motivations for changes in strategy, voters could get bored fast.

    That may be the case here. According to USA Today, the extent of party polarization in this election is at a historic high (however, as Eric Weiner points out in the Los Angeles Times, America is actually not politically polarized compared to other countries). The extent of polarization means there's a low probabilty of public opinion dramatically shifting one way or the other. Given that the two candidates are pretty close in terms of support, and the stability of that support, there may be no change in the relative position of the candidates for quite some time. Which means there's no incentive to change strategies for the near future.

    Which means the campaign could get old fast.

    I stress "may" because there are always exogenous shocks to the political system, so in all likelihood this situation won't last for 8 months. However, the Feiler Faster Thesis suggests that it will feel like eight months.

    UPDATE: Hmmm.... this is interesting, and would certainly change the dynamics of the race (link via InstaPundit).

    ANOTHER UPDATE: Josh Marshall advances the "exhaustion" meme.

    posted by Dan at 02:42 PM | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (0)

    The winners and losers in the current economy

    The Heritage Foundation's Alison Fraser and Rea S. Hederman, Jr have a concise summary of who's benefiting and who's not in the current American economy. The key section:

    So why has job growth been so slow? One factor may be that certain structures of the economy are changing. The sectors that have failed to rebound are in a period of a transition. For example, despite strong growth in manufacturing output, that sector will never employ the numbers that it once did. Strong productivity growth for several quarters is evidence of this fundamental shift. Still, this news is positive for most workers in America. The increase in productivity means lower prices and greater value for consumers; in other words, workers have greater purchasing power than in the past. Higher productivity often leads to higher wages, which have already increased by almost 1 percent since December. And because inflation is low, these gains are not nominal -- workers really are better off.

    Reflecting these changes, the nature of unemployment has shifted, as well. Fewer workers are unemployed due to layoffs or downsizing. Most unemployed now are new entrants to the labor force and reentrants who have been out of the workforce for some time. It is also telling that the number of workers working part-time for “economic reasons,” as the BLS puts it (that is, they are unable to find full-time work), has fallen by nearly 400,000 since November. While it may be tough for the unemployed to find new work, those working are less likely than before to lose their jobs and more likely to see their wages or hours increase. (emphasis added)

    In other words, those who claim that offshore outsourcing is causing people to lose their jobs are pretty much wrong. Virginia Postrel has more links and commentary on the subject here and here.

    Kash chips in with a post on patterns within the employment data (link via Brad DeLong). The two sectors generating job growth?:

    For obvious reasons, education and health has seen the least replacement of labor with IT, and so seeing lots of job growth in those industries is not surprising. Somewhat less obviously (at least to me), professional and business services (this category includes things like legal, engineering, administrative, advertising, management, consulting, IT and accounting services for businesses) has also been adding jobs at a rapid rate. I guess the workers in those industries also tend to be difficult to replace with IT.

    So the sector that is supposedly most vulnerable to job loss from offshore outsourcing has actually created a significant number of jobs over the past year, when outsourcing was supposedly at its worst.

    Funny that.

    posted by Dan at 12:36 AM | Comments (40) | Trackbacks (2)

    Bush defends trade -- Kerry defends reviewing trade

    Brad DeLong is mostly correct in pointing out that the Bush administration has not been the most vigorous defender of open trade policies since the outsourcing brouhaha bubbled up. However, President Bush has apparently decided get off the fence and put the administration on the rhetorical offensive in reaction to Congressional moves to penalize corporations for offshore outsourcing. According to the Financial Times:

    In a speech in Virginia, Mr Bush said: "There are economic isolationists in our country who believe we should separate ourselves from the rest of the world by raising up barriers and closing off markets. They're wrong. If we are to continue growing this economy and creating new jobs, America must remain confident and strong about our ability to trade in the world."

    Robert Zoellick, the US trade representative, similarly warned Congress on Tuesday that "given the fact we're now in a stage of an economic recovery, the absolutely worst thing we could do would be to turn to economic isolationism".

    Mr Zoellick told the Senate finance committee that increasing US exports to countries such as China and India, encouraging foreign investment in the US, and helping workers adjust to the loss of some jobs abroad were better responses than "bureaucratic interventions that will increase prices to our people".

    Mr Bush's comments came less than a week after the Senate passed legislation aimed at preventing US government contracts from being carried out by workers in developing countries.

    Here's a link to the entire text of the speech.

    As part of the offensive, Zoellick's testimony before the Senate Finance Committee contains this opening:

    “With America’s high standard of living, we cannot successfully compete against foreign producers because of lower foreign wages and a lower cost of production.” Perhaps this pessimism sounds familiar. It could very well have come from one of today’s opponents of trade, arguing against a modern-day free trade agreement. But in fact these words were written by President Herbert Hoover in 1929, as he successfully urged Congress to pass the disastrous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act that raised trade barriers, destroyed jobs, and deepened the Great Depression.

    Meanwhile, one of John Kerry's pledges on trade policy is as follows:

    [A]n immediate 120 day review of all existing trade agreements to ensure that our trade partners are living up to their labor and environment obligations and that trade agreements are enforceable and are balanced for America’s workers.

    Looks like he'll be getting part of his agenda implemented through the help of Senate colleagues and the General Accounting Office:

    A key Senate lawmaker, amid a ballooning trade deficit and festering disputes with foreign countries over wireless standards and other barriers to open markets, today asked the General Accounting Office to review the 250 trade agreements to which the United States is a party.

    “This study, which will be completed in 2005, will help Congress and the administration better assess how well we do at enforcing trade agreements and how to allocate our resources to achieve the best possible results,” said Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), ranking member of the Finance Committee, at a hearing this morning.

    posted by Dan at 12:09 AM | Comments (31) | Trackbacks (2)

    Tuesday, March 9, 2004

    A Syrian human rights protest

    The New York Times reports that there was a human rights protest in a place where neither human rights nor protests are all that common -- Syria:

    The security police quickly squelched an extremely rare public demonstration demanding political reform on Monday, the 41st anniversary of the Baath Party's seizure of power here.

    Organizers and other reform advocates said the huge police presence in downtown Damascus, which far outnumbered the demonstrators, was a sign of how jittery the government and especially the overlapping security services remained just a year after the rapid fall of the Baath Party in neighboring Iraq.

    "There was a band of about 20 to 30 nonviolent people, hardly a group that could threaten the government, yet it reacted in a way that is completely out of proportion," said a Syrian intellectual who declined to be quoted by name, fearing reprisals.

    Rights advocates and others seeking reform planned to draw attention to their petition demanding the lifting of emergency laws, which have been in place throughout Baath Party rule, by staging a sit-in at the gates of Parliament. The reform advocates say they have gathered 7,000 signatures to support their demands.

    But when the small band unfurled a few paper banners reflecting their demands, dozens of plainclothes security officers pounced. They shredded the banners and ripped up the notebooks of some reporters covering the protest, igniting numerous scuffles.

    In addition to that, a U.S. diplomat was detained by Syrian security officials for an hour, prompting a vigorous protest from the United States.

    Although security officials clamped down on the protest pretty much before it started, its organizer was released, because he gave an interview to the Associated Press after the protest. He sounds undaunted:

    Aktham Naisse, who leads the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria, said Monday's sit-in outside parliament was a success even though police quickly detained all the demonstrators.

    "As activists, we were able to send a clear message to the Syrian street, and to international public opinion, that we are serious about our demands and program," Naisse told The Associated Press in an interview. "We embarrassed the Syrian authorities which, unfortunately, showed they are unable and unwilling to meet our demands."....

    Naisse, who was told to appear for further questioning later Tuesday, told AP: "I think the authorities realized it was foolish of them to arrest us, and would have been even more foolish to keep us under arrest. There would have been an extremely high political price to pay if they did."

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds links to this BBC story about the incident. And this BBC article provides some more backstory.

    posted by Dan at 01:13 PM | Comments (35) | Trackbacks (1)

    Monday, March 8, 2004

    Kenneth Rogoff tests the Nixon analogy

    Last month I wrote:

    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.

    Kenneth Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard -- and chief economist at the IMF from 2001 to 2003 -- has an amusing article in Foreign Policy on whether, when it comes to spending, Bush really is as bad as Nixon when it comes to domestic spending. His conclusion -- "Overall winner: Nixon—although Bush has eight months left."

    He also makes the point that compared to the rest of the world, U.S. presidents seeking re-election are misers:

    U.S. presidents are hardly the only or the best practitioners of electoral economics. Mexico, for example, boasts a history of political business cycles that make the United States look fiscally Puritan. Mexican Presidents José López Portillo in 1982 and Carlos Salinas de Gortari in 1994 set benchmarks that few have surpassed. Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin gave away the country’s natural resource base (under the guise of “privatization”) to ensure his reelection in 1996, a problem the country is still painfully sorting through today. In Italy, every prime minister seems to produce a fiscal splurge come election time—and Italy has a lot of elections. But then, a country does not achieve one of the world’s highest debt-to-GDP ratios (more than 100 percent) without effort.

    Go read the whole thing -- it's a nice primer on the political business cycle.

    posted by Dan at 11:32 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (1)

    Jon Rauch on gay marriage

    My previous post on gay marriage generated a fair amount of discussion pro and con. So, for those still interested in the issue, check out Jonathan Rauch's affecting New York Times Magazine essay on the subject. The most compelling section:

    A solitary individual lives on the frontier of vulnerability. Marriage creates kin, someone whose first ''job'' is to look after you. Gay people, like straight people, become ill or exhausted or despairing and need the comfort and support that marriage uniquely provides. Marriage can strengthen and stabilize their relationships and thereby strengthen the communities of which they are a part. Just as the president says, society benefits when people, including gay people, are durably committed to love and serve one another.


    UPDATE: Tyler Cowen offers an economic rationale for gay marriages -- more money spent on weddings!

    This reminds me of a moment when this issue flared up in the mid-nineties. I was watching a Sunday morning talk show with a gay friend. At one point she yelled at the television: "I don't want to overthrow the government!! I don't want to corrupt your children!! I just want to be able to register at Crate & Barrel!!"

    posted by Dan at 12:22 PM | Comments (120) | Trackbacks (0)

    Bad news for sci-fi geeks?

    Maureen Ryan has a long story in today's Tempo section of the Chicago Tribune arguing that the big-screen success of Lord of the Rings will not translate into more sci-fi on television:

    "The Lord of the Rings" collected an awe-inspiring 11 Oscars, and its best picture win was a first for a fantasy film.

    But fans of fantasy, horror and science-fiction entertainment can't count on the critical success of "Rings" -- and its box-office records -- to sweep their favorite genre from the multiplex to the TV schedule.

    The truth is stranger -- and stronger -- than fantasy: Market forces have a stranglehold on even the smaller networks and cable channels that used to nurture genre TV.

    "I do think it's harder for science fiction and genre shows to make it than it has been in the past. It's harder for them to find their place," says Dawn Ostroff, president of UPN....

    But the biggest indignity may have been suffered by "Jake 2.0," the sci-fi flavored saga of a computer nerd-turned-superhero.

    UPN recently aired a repeat episode of its reality show, "America's Next Top Model," in "Jake's" time slot. The would-be cover girls' rerun beat the mutant computer nerd's usual ratings. The upshot: "Jake" is "on hiatus" (in other words, don't look for it next year).

    Read the entire thing -- it's a nice bashing of the proliferation of reality shows and Law & Order clones.

    That said, two quibbles. First, as someone whose sci-fi enthusiasm is actually pretty erratic, was there ever a golden age of sci-fi on television?

    Second, if there has been such a decline, could it also be explained by the improvement in big-screen special effects, which increases the incentive to produce sci-fi movies but reduces the incentive to create poor substitutes for the small screen? In other words, big-screen successes like LOTR are not complements for small-screen sci-fi, but substitutes.

    posted by Dan at 10:20 AM | Comments (29) | Trackbacks (1)

    Sunday, March 7, 2004

    The decline and fall of Islamic extremism?

    Fareed Zakaria argues that the attacks on Iraqi Shiites last week demonstrates that Islamic extremism are growing more desperate and less powerful (link via Josh Chafetz):

    That Islamic extremist groups are now targeting Shiites is surely a sign of desperation. Unable to launch major terrorist attacks in the West, unable to attract political support in the Middle East, militant Islam is searching for enemies and causes.

    Consider the progress of Al Qaeda and affiliated terror groups over the past three years. For a decade they had attacked high-profile American targets only—embassies, a naval destroyer, the World Trade Center. Once the United States mobilized against them, and got the world to join that fight, what have they hit? A discotheque, a few synagogues, a couple of restaurants and hotels, all soft targets that could not ever be protected, and all outside the Western world. As a result, the terrorists have killed mostly Muslims, which is marginalizing them in the world of Islam....

    Support for violent Islam is waning in almost all major Muslim countries. Discussions from Libya to Saudi Arabia are all about liberalization. Ever since September 11, when the spotlight has been directed on these societies and their dysfunctions laid bare to the world, it is the hard-liners who are in retreat and the moderates on the rise. This does not mean that there will be rapid reform anywhere—there are many obstacles to progress—but it does suggest that the moderates are not running scared anymore.

    If this effort pans out, it would certainly constitute another blow to Al Qaeda.

    Is this true in Saudi Arabia, where the difference between Wahabbi fundamentalism and official Saudi policy is tissue-thin? Both the Economist and the New York Times Magazine have stories on that country's internal debate about its religious and political future. The latter story has this to say about the Saudi state:

    In private, say Western-educated elites, reformists, Islamist reformers and even conservatives outside the cities, it is the royal family that must change. The leaders are old and out of touch with one of the fastest-growing populations in the world, most of whom are under 25. The princes are siphoning off the country's riches. There is no accounting of public funds. The welfare state -- or rather the royal dispensation system -- is collapsing, crime and unemployment are rising. ''It's an old political system like the Soviet system,'' one critic told me. ''We have one party, one ruler, corrupt judges, and all we're supposed to do is praise the government.''

    Many in the royal family are aware that the kingdom must evolve. In December, Crown Prince Abdullah, the king's half brother and the royal thought to be the most reform-minded, convened a National Dialogue on extremism in Mecca -- an unusual event at which Wahhabi clerics were forced to listen to Shiites, Sufis and even women. But the royal family works in opaque ways. Crown Prince Abdullah, who is the most likely heir to the throne, talks about the need to change the education system, while Prince Nayef, the interior minister, finances both the much-loathed religious police, who drive around in new American jeeps preventing vice and promoting virtue, and those in the interior ministry who keep a vigilant eye on the universities, ensuring they toe the Wahhabi line. Are the princes working at cross-purposes?

    Few know. What is known is that every prince has his fief, while the kingdom, as Mansour put it, is like an orchestra without a conductor. King Fahd suffered a stroke in 1995 and has been a mostly absent leader. By all accounts he can barely recognize his family members. Yet the question of succession is unresolved. And as long as the kingdom has no conductor, little will change, except that the religious radicals embedded within the establishment will keep seizing more ground -- a reality confirmed by engineers, religious professors and civil servants whom I met in Buraida, Asir, Jidda and Riyadh.

    Shortly before Crown Prince Abdullah held his National Dialogue, a petition written primarily by Islamic reformists advocating a constitutional monarchy was submitted to the crown prince and signed by about 300 people -- mostly Islamists, including Abdullah Bejad, along with some liberals. Some of the princes were apoplectic and called the petition a treason. The signers responded with their own outrage. ''Seventy-five percent of countries in the world participate in planning their future,'' an angry professor who was one of the petition's authors ranted to me one night. ''All we are saying is we must have a role in our future. The royal family wants us just to drink camel's milk, ride dune buggies and sit by the fire. After a time you begin to go mad. When people realize no conferences or resolutions will get any results, they are going to do something primitive. And if things go worse here, America will be in trouble, too.''

    The Economist concludes that there is some reason for hope:

    The most hopeful sign of compromise, albeit outside the current power base, is that moderate Islamists and secular reformers sound prepared, so far, to work together towards winning greater representation for themselves and greater accountability from the royal rulers. Indeed, it is arguable that the al-Qaeda phenomenon has forced non-violent Islamists and secular gradualists to converge. Both lots, in any case, think the house of Saud must adapt or die.

    Is there a Saudi Gorbachev—or could Crown Prince Abdullah become one? Probably not. Besides, he would point out that, though Soviet rule ended more or less peacefully, the Union collapsed and the ruling elite were chased out. Perhaps Spain's General Franco is a more hopeful model. But where is a Saudi Adolfo Suárez, let alone a democracy-loving constitutional monarch à la Juan Carlos. He could be there, among the vast array of princes. But no one seems to have found him yet.

    posted by Dan at 11:18 PM | Comments (41) | Trackbacks (4)

    How conservative is Bush? How liberal is Kerry?

    Northwestern University political scientists Jeffrey A. Jenkins has an interesting essay in today's Chicago Tribune on where George W. Bush and John Kerry stand in the political spectrum, using standard methods in the study of American political science:

    Looking at how the president might have voted on key ideological issues before Congress, I compared Bush's score to those of Republican senators and other Republican presidents across time.

    I also looked at how Sen. John Kerry's positions compare with other Democratic presidents, using the same kind of measures....

    As it turns out, Bush is positioned near the dividing line between the center-right and right quartiles of the party. So, while clearly right of center, he is not part of the most conservative segment of the party, anchored historically by the likes of Sens. Phil Gramm and Jesse Helms.

    He is considerably more conservative than Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford, somewhat more conservative than Richard Nixon, slightly more conservative than his father, George H.W. Bush, but less conservative than Reagan....

    What about Kerry, the would-be president?

    Should he become president, what should we expect? How does this left-leaning moderate compare to other recent Democratic presidents?

    In fact, only Lyndon Johnson appears more conservative than Kerry; Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton appear slightly more liberal; and John F. Kennedy, to whom Kerry is often compared, appears considerably more liberal than the Massachusetts senator trying to follow in his footsteps....

    In the end, what does all of this mean? Put simply, the American people have a real choice in 2004. Rather than appear as "echoes," Bush and Kerry represent very different ideological views of the world. While neither carries a distinctly extremist mentality, their views of the role government plays in the economy and society meaningfully diverge.

    For an introduction to the methodology Jenkins used for this op-ed, click here.

    UPDATE: James Joyner provides a cogent critique of the Poole-Rosenthal method for determining ideological position:

    The problem I have with Poole’s coding methodology is that it’s excessively time bound. To compare Bush 43 to Reagan or Kerry to Carter ignores massive shifts in public opinion during those time periods. The “center” is not a spot on a map; it’s a median of current attitudes.

    ANOTHER UPDATE: Chris Lawrence has further thoughts on methodology. And Jenkins responds by posting comments here, here, and here. One point is particularly interesting -- Poole and Rosenthal used the early 1990's Kerry as an example of their methodology in their 1997 book Congress: A Political Economic History of Roll Call Voting. Kerry came out as quite liberal. What happened?:

    What's interesting is that over time Kerry has remained remarkably consistent, BUT the party has continued to move left. So, because of leftward movement of carry-over members along with liberal replacement of moderates, Kerry now looks left-of-center, but not extremist.

    posted by Dan at 12:08 PM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (12)

    Friday, March 5, 2004

    Insert your own EU joke here

    According to the Financial Times, many citizens of the new European Union entrants literally cannot understand the acquis communautaire:

    Less than two months before 10 new member states join the European Union, it has emerged that about half have failed to translate the EU's 85,000-page rulebook into their national languages.

    The embarrassing disclosure could have serious legal consequences, because EU laws are only enforceable in the new member states when written in the national tongue.

    Some countries began the vast translation exercise as long ago as 1996, but the complexity of the work - and a shortage of translators - has overwhelmed some accession candidates. "There is an urgent need for this to be done, or there will be problems in implementing EU law in some acceding states," said a spokesman for Günter Verheugen, the EU enlargement commissioner.

    posted by Dan at 05:36 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (2)

    A message from the editors at Foreign Policy

    The managing editor of Foreign Policy sent me an e-mail yesterday regarding the Huntington kerfuffle. I just wanted to pass this part of the message along to the myriad contributors to's discussion threads:

    Some of my colleagues and I think that comments by people on your blog are, by and large, some of the most interesting and thoughtful i've seen anywhere online on this debate.

    Savor the praise.

    posted by Dan at 01:11 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

    What to read about jobs in the U.S. economy

    The February employment data could have been better:

    U.S. employers added 21,000 workers in February, less than the lowest forecast, further evidence of a "jobless'' economic recovery that may affect President George W. Bush's reelection prospects.

    The results follow a January gain of 97,000 that was less than previously estimated, the Labor Department said in Washington, and trailed the median forecast of 130,000 in a Bloomberg News survey of economists. The unemployment rate held at 5.6 percent as more Americans gave up their search for a job.

    The Chicago Tribune also has economic gloom on today's front page:

    As the nation's 8 million jobless wait for evidence that a growing economy will finally lead to robust hiring, one thing is already clear: Long-term joblessness is the worst it's been in this country for more than 20 years.

    According to a new study by the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank, 22.1 percent of all unemployed workers were out of work for six months or more in 2003--the worst annual rate since 1983.

    And a growing number of those long-term job seekers were people with lots of experience and plenty of education, raising more questions about the loss of highly paid work during the nation's persistent "jobless recovery."

    Here's a link to the EPI report upon which the Trib story is based.

    This is not going to look great for President Bush. However, Noam Scheiber -- hardly a Bush fan -- points out that it would be unfair to blame Bush for the current sluggishness in job growth:

    Listening to Kerry, you almost get the impression that George W. Bush spends his waking hours personally scrolling through corporate payrolls looking for vulnerable people to throw out of work. By this logic, all you'd need was a president more sympathetic to the plight of the common man and you could instantly reverse the American economy's recent hemorrhaging of jobs. Alas, it's not so simple. As incompetent as Bush may be at managing the economy, he deserves little if any responsibility for the millions of jobs lost during his term. Nor is there much Kerry or any other Democrat could have done to reverse the trend had they been in office instead.

    Call it cosmic justice for the Florida recount, or a genetic predisposition toward economic bad luck. But, whatever you call it, you have to acknowledge that the deck was pretty much stacked against Bush on the jobs issue from the day he entered office. Just like American businesses over-invested in computers and sophisticated factory machines during the bubble years of the late 1990s, they also over-invested in labor. There is some debate among mainstream economists over the lowest sustainable unemployment rate (known as the NAIRU, or non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment, for sticklers). But even if you're optimistic and put it slightly below 5 percent, then the economy would have needed to shed between a million and a million-and-a-half jobs from its 2000 unemployment rate of 3.9 percent.

    Finally, the continuing battle over the validity of the household survey for measuring jobs versus the payroll suvery for measuring jobs continues. According to the payroll survey, 716,000 jobs have been lost since the recession ended in November 2001; according to the household survey, 2.2 million jobs have been created.

    The conventional wisdom among economists is that the payroll survey is the more reliable of the two in terms of measuring jobs. EPI's Elise Gould does a fine job of summarizing the arguments in favor of relying on the payroll survey.

    The Heritage Foundation's Tim Kane argues that the conventional wisdom is wrong (link via Bruce Bartlett). A summary of his arguments:

    The payroll survey double-counts many workers who change jobs and is now artificially deflated because job turnover is down. Decelerating turnover in 2002-2003 explains up to 1 million jobs artificially "lost" in the payroll survey since 2001.

    The BLS household survey indicates record high employment. The disparity of 3 million jobs (in employment growth) between the household and payroll surveys since the recovery began is unprecedented.

    The disparity between the two BLS surveys of total employment is cyclical. The disparity widens during recessions and narrows during periods of rapid growth in gross domestic product (GDP). Such variation strongly suggests a statistical bias in one of the surveys.

    Payroll survey data are always preliminary. Past revisions have regularly shown the initial estimates to be off by millions of jobs. For example, initial estimates of job losses in 1992 were revised in 1993, 1994, and 1995 and now show net job creation.

    The payroll survey does not count the surge in self-employment. The household survey has recorded a surge of 650,000 self-employed workers. This number may be even higher if modern workers in limited liability companies and in consulting positions with traditional firms are not identifying themselves as self-employed.

    Go check everything out.

    posted by Dan at 12:16 PM | Comments (42) | Trackbacks (1)

    Thursday, March 4, 2004

    More feedback on Huntington

    The Economist does their take on Huntington's Foreign Policy essay. Last three grafs:

    A large opinion poll co-ordinated in 2000 by the Washington Post found that 90% of new arrivals from Latin America believe that it is important for them to change in order to fit in with their adopted country. Only one in ten of second-generation Latinos relies mainly on speaking Spanish. Latinos do not see themselves as a monolithic ethnic group. Nor do they necessarily agree with the politics of their countrymen back home. The New America Foundation's Gregory Rodriguez points out that a significant proportion of the American troops being killed in Iraq are Latinos—and that the commander of the allied liberation forces there, Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez, grew up in a Texan county that is 98% Mexican-American.

    Mr Huntington is right to point out that absorbing large numbers of people from a next-door country poses unusual problems. The United States needs to heed George Bush's call to bring immigrants out of the shadow economy where millions of them now work. It needs to scrap the failed experiment with bilingual education which has left so many immigrants unable to speak English. And it needs to stop pandering to ethnic demagogues with special programmes for ethnic minorities.

    But the cost of closing the borders would be far bigger than keeping them open, by starving the economy of some of its most energetic workers. Throughout its history America's great strength has been its ability to absorb new people—and the new ideas and tastes that they bring with them. There is no reason to think that this will change just because the new people come across the Rio Grande rather than across the Atlantic.

    Over at the Corner, John Derbyshire comments on my TNR critique of Huntington. He opens:

    Dan Drezner's piece strikes me as fair and judicious. That does not, of course, mean "correct." I would seriously dispute a number of his points -- for example, that Mexico is redefining itself as a "North American" country. It seem more likely to me that the cultural gap between us and them is widening, not narrowing.

    Just to reiterate -- I didn't say that Mexico was redefining itself as a North American country, though I believe this to be true. My point in the TNR essay was that Huntington thought this was true when he wrote The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order eight years ago.

    In closing, here's an e-mail response to the TNR essay that I've received [No fair!! This is just a single anecdota!--ed. If Huntington can quote a guy talking to Robert Kaplan, I can use this.]:

    I am a Mexican-American, I am a U.S. citizen. I live in El Centro, California, which is adjacent to the California-Mexico border. I want to make the following personal observations, which I believe are held by the majority of Hispanics.

    First, a little background; my father was born in the USA, but for economic reasons my parents found it necessary to live on the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border, and work in the USA. Because of this, I was born in Mexico. I was 6 years old when my parents moved to the USA, legally and permanently.

    I strongly believe that the scenarios of doom that persons like Mr. Samuel Huntington and Mr. Victor Davis Hanson ("Mexifornia") are based on premises that are not based on reasoned research and analysis of the Hispanic community. I, and my siblings, are the second-generation Mexican-Americans of my family. I and one of my brothers, and my two sisters, are completely fluent in English and Spanish. My other brother, is not. His Spanish is horrendous, as is his wife's, also Mexican-American.

    Their children? forget it--they wouldn't know a Spanish word if they got hit by one. My wife and I, also Mexican-American, are fluent in both languages. My oldest son was fluent at one time, he is 28, but is rapidly losing the Spanish. My other son, has trouble with it, and my baby, my daughter of 19 yrs old, can more understand it than speak it. I have a grandaughter, no Spanish whatsoever. I look around at my contemporaries and find the same phenomenom with their children and grandchildren.

    The American culture is overwhelming and very, very powerful. MTV, VH-1, and the like have immense influence on children as they grow up. Our children are no different than others and in that they probably know more about Janet Jackson, NSync, Kid Rock, pizza, downloading music, Bill Gates, etc. etc, in other words American popular culture, than they do about "their" Mexican culture and language.

    Over time, assimilation is complete.

    We hear all the absurd claims, among them the most absurd is the claim that we, Mexican-Americans, want a 'Reconquista', the reclaiming of the land that Mexico lost to the USA during the Mexican-American war. Again, among my contemporaries I know of no one that wishes to replace our existing way of life and replace it with a government run and managed by Mexico City, with all that that nightmare would entail.

    As with anything else, if you look hard enough you will find some group or another that will state just such a thing, but there are odd-balls in everything. For example, if you search hard enough I am sure that you will find some Americans that support a dictatorship in the USA, yet they don't speak for the majority of Americans.

    As for those that claim that illegal immigrants pose a threat, are these the same illegal immigrants that risk their life, their families, their livelihoods, their savings, to cross into the USA, for what??? To impose a government and an economy that they risked so much to get away from??

    posted by Dan at 01:44 PM | Comments (35) | Trackbacks (7)

    Wednesday, March 3, 2004

    March Books of the Month

    Given February's elevation of trade questions to the forefront of political debate, both of this month's books are devoted to the topic -- from slightly different directions.

    In the United States, arguments against the merits of free trade and investment tend to fluctuate with the business cycle. When growth is robust and times are good, the arguments made against globalization are non-economic: it deteriorates labor and environmental standards in other countries, it leads to cultural homogenization, yada, yada, yada. When growth is weak and times look uncertain, the arguments made against globalization are pitched to appeal to material self-interest: free trade causes unemployment, America is losing its "competitive advantage," yada, yada, yada.

    This month's two books address divide their labor in terms of defending the merits of free trade. Douglas Irwin's Free Trade Under Fire does an excellent job of demolishing the recession-based arguments made against free trade, while assembling all of the arguments and evidence for why trade is a win-win proposition.

    As for flush times, Jagdish Bhagwati's In Defense of Globalization marshalls considerable evidence that globalization does not need a human face because it already has a human face. By lifting people out of poverty, globalization is a cure for many social ills.

    Go check them out.

    posted by Dan at 03:59 PM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

    Challenging the Hispanic Challenge

    My first response to Huntington's Foreign Policy essay -- some of which appears in my latest TNR Online essay -- is in this post from last week.

    Here's a link to Samuel Huntington's essay "The Hispanic Challenge"; you can purchase and advance copy of Who We Are here. If you study political science and don't have either Political Order in Changing Societies or The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, you should. The quotations in Clash in the essay come from pages 150 and 136 respectively.

    For a lovely biographical essay of Huntington, you could do far worse than Robert D. Kaplan's December 2001 Atlantic Monthly essay.

    For an excellent, dispassionate look at how the 19th century version of globalization affected the United States, see Kevin O'Rourke and Jeffrey Williamson's Globalization and History

    David Brooks' New York Times column from last Tuesday on Huntington provided the 60% figure on English-speaking habits among third-generation Hispanic Americans.

    I've disagreed with Huntington before -- see my review of The Clash of Civilizations in The Washington Quarterly here.

    The Franklin and Schlesinger quotes come from Schlesinger's July 1921 American Journal of Sociology fascinating essay, "The Significance of Immigration in American History." Some of you can access this on JSTOR. Frankin is quoted on p. 74; Schlesinger's quote comes from p. 83 of the article.

    The Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research at the University of Albany is doing fascinating things with Census data on Hispanics. The report that's directly quoted can be found here, but check out this one on how race factors into the equation as well. I am exceedingly grateful to Robert Tagorda for posting about it.

    For an economic analysis of the immigration question, chapter 15 of Kenneth Dam's The Rules of the Global Game is an excellent starting point.

    Final effort towards full disclosure -- Huntington, in addition to founding Foreign Policy, also founded the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. During the 1996-97 academic year, I was fortunate enough to be a post-doctoral fellow at that institute.

    posted by Dan at 10:56 AM | Comments (35) | Trackbacks (8)

    Revisiting Huntington

    Remember last week when I said about Samuel Huntington's new essay that, "I think he's wrong now. I'll be posting much more about this later."?

    Those five of you waiting on pins and needles will finally be sated. Huntington's essay is the topic of my latest TNR Online essay. Go check it out.

    posted by Dan at 10:19 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (1)

    Tuesday, March 2, 2004

    Stacking the deck on science

    I've been remiss in not commenting on the administration decision to change the composition of the Bioethics Advisory Council. I've certainly been remiss in linking to Jacob Levy's dissection of these changes. And I've been really remiss in not linking to Glenn Reynolds' Tech Central Station analysis, since he uses Carmen Electra as a metaphor.

    Glenn has a further roundup of reaction here (As you would expect, Virginia Postrel is less than thrilled). Even Ramesh Ponnuru, who agrees with the administration, think this was a political screw-up.

    UPDATE: Glenn has more here.
    Leon Kass defends the Bioethics Advisory Council here.

    posted by Dan at 11:30 AM | Comments (52) | Trackbacks (0)

    Manufacturing update

    The Institute for Supply Management issued their February report. Here's the highlights from Fox News:

    U.S. factories boomed at close to a 20-year high in February, according to a survey released Monday that also suggested a turnaround in hiring may be on the horizon after a three-year struggle.

    The Institute for Supply Management said its monthly manufacturing index fell to 61.4 in February from January's two-decade high of 63.6, showing the ninth straight month of expansion in the sector that makes up less than a fifth of the U.S. economy....

    A reading above 50 in the index shows expansion. All 20 industry sectors in the survey also showed expansion....

    The employment index jumped to 56.3 in February -- the highest since December 1987 -- from January's 52.9. ISM's Ore said more and more factories were reporting hiring though it has yet to show up in government employment statistics.

    One source of increasing manufacturing employment will come from Japanese auto firms, according to the Chicago Tribune:

    Amid the furor over the loss of U.S. jobs overseas, a movement is under way in the opposite direction, fueled by the foreign companies blamed for employment migration decades ago.

    Steadily, the three big Japanese auto companies--Toyota, Honda and Nissan--are expanding their U.S. operations and adding workers.

    Honda is hiring 2,000 in Alabama to build sport-utility vehicles, and Nissan will add more than 2,000 in plant expansions in Tennessee and Mississippi.

    Toyota, the largest of the three with 25,000 U.S. manufacturing workers, will add 2,700 jobs within two years, 2,000 at a truck plant under construction in San Antonio.

    When it opens in 2006, the Japanese Big Three will have capacity to build 4.3 million vehicles in North America and will employ nearly 70,000 U.S. autoworkers.

    The Japanese car companies, blamed for taking U.S. auto industry jobs in the 1970s and 1980s, are building and hiring here because they are selling more cars here.

    [Must be because their productivity is lower and therefore they need to hire more workers--ed.] Actually, the reverse is true:

    In recent years, Toyota has rolled out North American-built models that are bigger, better equipped and less expensive than previous versions.

    The 2004 Toyota Camry Solara convertible, built in Georgetown, Ky., has a base price $2,095 less than the 2003 model, despite new features such as a larger engine.

    Part of the price cut stems from a new body welding line at the Kentucky plant that Toyota is adopting worldwide. It uses fewer welding robots, takes up less space and costs $20 million, half the cost of the previous welding line.

    "They're masters at that," said David Cole, director of the Center for Auto Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. "The way you compete with low-cost labor is you get really good as fast as you can."

    The 2003 Harbor and Associates productivity report, a widely watched study of North American auto plants, bears out the Japanese efficiencies.

    Nissan's Smyrna, Tenn., plant was the most productive, requiring 17 labor hours per vehicle. Toyota averaged 22 hours per vehicle, with Honda close behind. GM averaged 24 hours, Ford 26 and Chrysler 28.

    posted by Dan at 11:22 AM | Comments (36) | Trackbacks (0)

    A new source for offshore outsourcing

    Sreenath Sreenivasan, an associate professor at the Columbia School of Journalism, has set up an ousourcing page with tons of links. Go check it out and see which fact/story you think is the most interesting.

    My winner is this story by Sreenivasan about what piqued media interest in the offshoring phenomenon:

    [A]part from tech and business reporters, most folks I spoke to had little interest in the [outsourcing] story, presuming this was just like other movements of jobs overseas, such as, say, manufacturing to China....

    Everything changed Feb. 9, 2004, thanks to small items in The New York Times (by media reporter Jacques Steinberg) and on the AP wire. Reuters was going to hire six journalists in Bangalore, India, to cover announcements from U.S. companies (none replacing existing employees elsewhere, Reuters said). This served as a wake-up call to journalists who had had no interest in the topic of jobs moving overseas.

    I immediately started getting e-mail messages and phone calls from people whose attention I'd been trying to get. Nothing like the prospect of our own necks being on the line to make us listen. Gee, if I spend most of my day "reporting" by using the phone and the Internet, couldn't someone who is paid one-tenth of my salary easily do this job?

    Alas, this confirms what I wrote here about the Reuters story.

    This piece of information is also interesting:

    About 10 percent of the dues-paying members of the ITPAA, the main anti-outsourcing group in the U.S. are Indian-Americans.

    posted by Dan at 01:02 AM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (2)

    Monday, March 1, 2004

    Haiti and drugs

    Patrick Belton at OxBlog has been following the Haiti situation, so go check out his posts (here's his latest).

    Yesterday the Chicago Tribune had a front-page story illustrating the difficulty of dealing with either the government or the rebels on this issue. The highlights:

    [E]xperts and diplomats say several of the top rebel leaders are former military and police officials who are suspected of major human-rights violations while in power and who allegedly have financed their insurgency with past profits from the illegal drug trade.

    That puts the would-be leaders on similar footing with the government of embattled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who U.S. officials and others say has allowed Haiti to become one of the region's most significant transit points for Colombian cocaine on its way to the United States....

    But as U.S. officials back away from Aristide, they risk helping to power a cadre of unsavory characters who may do little to stem the flow of cocaine and other illicit drugs into the United States, experts and diplomats say.

    "There is absolutely nothing redeeming about these guys," said Alex Dupuy, a Haiti expert at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. "They are a bunch of thugs. It's hard to imagine that the U.S. would want to support these guys back in power."

    The two top rebel leaders have been suspected of involvement in the drug trade. Authorities in Haiti and elsewhere believe top commander Guy Philippe became involved in narcotics smuggling in the 1990s while he was a leading Haitian police official. Philippe denied in an interview with the Tribune that he ever participated in the drug trade....

    Haiti's state institutions have long been weak because of the nation's devastated economy. And its now-crumbling police force and much of its political elite have been tainted by the cocaine trade, according to U.S. officials, experts and others.

    For two decades, Colombian drug lords have used money and power to turn the island nation into a virtual base of operations, using its isolated beaches and even highways as landing strips to off-load cocaine later shipped to U.S. shores.

    Judith Trunzo, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Haiti, said last year that an interior minister's travel visa to the United States was canceled because of suspected involvement in narcotics trafficking.

    At least five other Haitian officials' visas were canceled under similar suspicion, a diplomatic source said last week.

    Read the whole thing.

    posted by Dan at 12:30 PM | Comments (27) | Trackbacks (1)