Monday, May 31, 2004
What a big foreign policy team you have, Senator Kerry!
Readers of the blog are aware of my current dissatisfaction with George W. Bush's management of the foreign policy apparatus -- which means I'm taking a good hard look at Kerry. As someone who's primarily interested in foreign affairs, a few questions come to mind -- what are the foreign policy priorities of a President Kerry? How would Kerry manage the system? Who would be the key players in a Kerry administration?
The answers to the first question can be found in this Sunday special by Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post (click here for Kerry's audio interview with Kessler). I'll comment on the substance of this in a later post.
As to the latter two questions, Robin Wright provides some clues with a backgrounder in Sunday's Washington Post. The key parts:
On Kerry's senior team, I have decidedly mixed feelings. I have the utmost respect for Holbrooke and Perry -- but I'm not as confident about the rest of the group. See this David Adesnik analysis of Wesley Clark for one source of trepidation. As for Berger -- well, any former National Security Advisor who writes on Democratic foreign policy should be able to beat out some lowly midwestern assistant professor of political science for the lead article position in Foreign Affairs. [Smart-ass-ed. Sorry -- but do scroll down Kausfiles to see Mickey's take on Berger's ability to present a public face for Kerry.]
Another thing -- hundreds of foreign policy experts and academics? That would be impressive -- I'm pretty sure the entire National Security Council staff is less than 200 people.
Whether such a large campaign staff would accomplish anything is an unanswerable question. On the other hand, if the story is correct, it means two things:
1) Kerry takes foreign policy seriously.
Which blogs are read by the media?
Nothing spurs forward progress in research like competition. First Henry Copeland has his blog survey. Now I read that Eszter Hargittai is starting her own project on blogs and the media, and she's looking for a "way of finding prominent political blogs." Which means that now is as good a time as any to post the results of the survey of media professionals' favorite blogs!!
Between September 2003 and January 2004, Henry Farrell and I received responses to five survey questions about blogs, the media, and politics. Beyond my initial post, the survey was widely linked around the blogosphere, including Instapundit, CalPundit, OxBlog, Crooked Timber, the Volokh Conspiracy, James Joyner, Jim Romenesko, Boing Boing, Scripting News, Howard Bashman, Andrew Sullivan (OK, that was me when I was guest-blogging), and National Review Online. The result was 140 proper responses from media professionals, i.e., those that made their living working for a media outlet (or freelancing for more than one). 33 of these responses were from what I'm characterizing as "elite" media outlets -- defined as general interest intermiediaries of national standing for those interested in politics.* More informally -- these are the outlets read by the movers and shakers in the political sphere. Examples of this latter category include the Economist, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, CBS, CNN, ABC, AP, Reuters, and Bloomberg.**
Participants were asked to list "the three blogs you read most frequently." The result was a total of 391 total responses and 89 elite responses (some respondents provided fewer than three blogs).
What were the ten most popular blogs among all responses? In order:
The lineup looks slightly different when looking only at the elite responses:
Now, let's make the obvious caveat -- the responses are obviously going to be affected by which blogs linked to the survey questions. Neither Atrios nor Josh Marshall, for example, advertised the survey at all (they were asked), so their results are likely to be biased downwards. People were e-mailing me their responses, and I have no doubt that the only reason I'm on the list is that some journalists were just being polite. Also, since the survey took place in the fall, newly emerging blogs like Daily Kos are probably more read now by media professionals than they were last September. This is certainly true of Wonkette, which didn't exist last September.
That said, two counterpoints are worthy of note. First, while there is likely some rightward political bias, the magnitude of the bias might not be that significant. Several high profile left-leaning blogs did link to the survey (Kevin Drum was nice enough to link twice). Second, it is striking that if you do a Nexis search of the names listed above during the same time duration, you wind up with very similar relative numbers in terms of media mentions. So if the numbers are out of whack, they're not that out of whack.
Which leads to a provocative possibility -- Eric Alterman may have a point. In What Liberal Media?: The Truth About Bias and the News, Alterman argued that claims of liberal media bias are vastly overblown. Looking at the Top 10 lists, it's hard to deny the prominence of rightward-leaning blogs on the list. Marshall and Atrios are there, but they're a bit lower on the list than either Blogstreet's Most Influential Blogs or The Truth Laid Bear's Blogosphere Ecosystem have them. The elite responses are somewhat more liberal than the overall responses, but the difference is not terribly great. At a minimum, the media professionals that consume blogs seem to have far more centrist tastes than is often proclaimed by those on the right.
Before Alterman starts jumping up and down, however, bear in mind that there's another possible selection bias in the responses. If media professionals who seek out blogs to read are those who find mainstream media reporting unsatisfactory because it's skewed to the left, then these responses are not necessarily indicative of the political preferences of the larger media ecosystem. This came through in several of the responses. It's equally possible that liberal journalists are practicing The Godather, Part II dictum of, "keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer" -- i.e., reading blogs they disagree with politically because they want to know the counterarguments to their beliefs. This came through in a lot of the surveys as well -- and, of course, it comes through in the recent Pew survey of the media as well.
A lot to chew on -- want to play around with the raw data? You can access the Excel spreadsheet here -- all names, official positions, and other biographical information have been excised from the data set.
Finally, a big thank you to Crescat Sententia's Amanda Butler, who provided invaluable assistance in collecting and collating the data while displaying the utmost discretion.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum and Glenn Reynolds both have useful links on the relationship between the mediasphere and the blogosphere. This American Journalism Review article by Rachel Smolkin is particularly interesting. And Laura at Apartment 11D is working on her own project about how blogs affect political participation. Meanwhile, John Hawkins has a post on which blogs conservatives like to read.
* If you look at the raw data, you might notice that responses from the same publication were divided into elite and non-elite categories. In thise cases, it was because the non-elite respondent was a freelancer.
** A few more specialized publications are included in the elite category because they specialize in politics -- Roll Call, the Hotline, and Foreign Affairs fall under this category.
Saturday, May 29, 2004
So what do we know about Iyad Allawi?
Apparently Ayad Allawi is to be the Prime Minister of Iraq from June 30th of this year to January 31st, 2005. He's consulted with U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi about the make-up of the provisional government's cabinet.
What else do we know from his selection? Josh Marshall doesn't offer much of a guide:
Juan Cole thinks that Brahimi preferred an exile who could not use the position to entrench himself in power. However, the BBC reports that Brahimi ain't exactly thrilled with the selection of Allawi.
I can offer zilch in the way of information about Allawi himself. But I do think that the nature of Allawi's selection contains two interesting nuggets of information. The first comes from Mike Allen and Robin Wright's Washington Post story about the selection. It suggests the extent to which the Bush administration did not want to be seen as puppetmaster on this one:
The second nugget of information is that whoever Allawi is, Ahmed Chalabi doesn't like him. I know this via another Laurie Mylroie mass e-mail, which contained a link to this scathing Al Arab commentary by one Dr. Haifa Al-Azawi. The last paragraph is all you need to read:
If Mylroie doesn't like him, Chalabi doesn't like him. [So does that mean he's a good choice or a bad one?--ed. My gut says to be mildly pessimistic. The IGC chose him so they wouldn't be locked out of the next government and the spoils that come with it. There had to have been some serious quid pro quos for Allawi to get the support from the council. My one prediction, therefore, is that some corruption scandal will break between now and January.
On the other hand, play the following game -- stack the accusations made against Allawi and Chalabi side by side and see if they're exactly identical or just roughly idential.]
Friday, May 28, 2004
More on CPA recruitment
In my TNR Online piece yesterday, I briefly referenced the fact that ideological litmus tests were used to screen out otherwise first-rate applicants to the Coalition Provisional Authority. I've heard this from multiple sources, including those who were eventually hired, but many were reluctant say anything for the record. The Washington Post story confirmed some of this.
For a first-hand account, the following is reprinted from an e-mail I received from a former CPA employee who wishes to remain anonymous:
Now, let me be the first to say that a shared ideology should play a role in hiring decisions at some level. If an applicant was asked why s/he wanted to go to Iraq, and that person answered, "I want to expose the role of evil multinational oil companies in the exploitation of Iraqi resources," well, that person wouldn't make a terribly good CPA employee. Let me also say, as Kevin Drum pointed out previously, that the people who were hired to be CPA personnel have the best of intentions and appear to have spared no effort to rebuild Iraqi society.
That said, how does a person's opinion towards Roe v. Wade possibly affect their ability to function in Iraq?
This is a story crying out for further investigation.
In the meantime, CPA employees who believe that this is an exaggerated picture of the hiring process should feel free to e-mail. I'll be happy to reprint what's relevant to the topic.
UPDATE: A claifying missive from my anonymous source:
Debating the political effects of bad movies
The Day After Tomorrow is now in theaters. I will not be attending -- not because of the film's ludicrous environmental theories, which make for some cool-looking FX, but because the director dissed Chicago.
Reading the reviews, however, it's clear that the film has put left-of-center movie critics in an awkward position. The Hartford Courant's Deborah Hornblow, for example, thinks the film will help the environmental movement:
Slate's David Edelstein frets a little more about blowback:
[So what's your take on this global warming deal?--ed. Click here to find out.]
UPDATE: Julian Sanchez has a wickedly funny take on the flick:
Thursday, May 27, 2004
The rise of the Indian lobby
Joshua Kurlantzick has an interesting essay in The New Republic on the growth of Indian-Americans as a politically influential interest group, to be wooed by Democrats and Republicans alike. [So why is this filed under the outsourcing category?--ed.] Apparently, the Democratic rhetoric on offshoring have hampered their efforts to woo this bloc of voters. The good parts version of the article:
All that's left is for Pat Choate -- you know, the 1996 Reform Party candidate for vice president -- to write his follow-up to Agents of Influence, which was about how the Japanese were lobbying to take over the U.S.
Wal-Mart comes to Chicago
As part of my ongoing Wal-Mart coverage, the City Council voted yesterday on proposals for two Wal-Mart stores to be opened within the city limits. The Chicago Tribune's Dan Mihalopoulos -- who seems to have the Wal-Mart beat -- reports on a split decision:
Actually, it reads to me as if the union was just lucky it was up against an inexperienced alderman, and got a temporary victory at best.
No failure of proof here
A lot of information in today's TNR Online column comes from previous blog posts. There's a lot of posts about the current situation in Iraq. Even former CPA advisors are dissatisfied -- click here for Larry Diamond's take and here for Yass Alkafaji's take. On Iraqi polls showing greater disenchantment with the American occupation, click here and here -- the latter one contains the 80% figure with regard to the CPA (thanks to Mark Kleiman for the links). Here's a blog post that discussed the rising support in Iraq for Muqtada Al-Sadr. There are a raft of polls demonstrating waning U.S. support for the current administration's Iraq policies -- this Washington Post poll is just the latest. The general pessimism in Washington on Iraq comes from Doyle McManus' Los Angeles Times think piece this past Sunday. On the conservative reaction in particular, here's another link to Reihan Salam's TNR essay, and my blog riff that emanated from it.
The White House has a link to the full text of President Bush's speech on Monday.
Here's a link to James Dobbins et al's America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq -- the quote in the TNR article comes from this press release. The calculation of the number of troops needed in Iraq comes from Michael Gordon's November 2003 Dispatches essay for nytimes.com.
I've previously written about the errors in postwar planning in this Slate piece, which prompted some interesting feedback. The two TNR Online articles I wrote last year on democracy promotion in the Middle East can be found here and here. The point about ideological litmus tests being applied to CPA personel is based in part on this Ariana Eunjung Cha story in the Washington Post (link via Kevin Drum) and in part on first-person accounts I've received from CPA personnel. My assertion about the lack of viable policy options to the neoconservative grand strategy in the Middle East is based in no small part on the information gleamed from a roundtable conference held last week at the University of Toronto on "International Security and the Transatlantic Divide." Thanks to Professor Jeffrey Kopstein for inviting me to participate.
The current debate about Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith crystallizes the current questioning of administration competency. General Franks' quote about Feith -- "The fucking stupidest guy on the planet" -- can be found on page 281 of Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack. Other juicy Franks quotes can be found at this Slate synopsis by Bryan Curtis. Slate's Chris Sullentrop has a pretty harsh assessment of Feith.
One of the things that got cut from the essay was my point that the situation in Iraq is not necessarily as bad as it has been portrayed in recent weeks. On the current situation in Fallujah, see this National Review Online essay by W. Thomas Smith Jr., which includes a verbatim transcript of a May 20th press conference held by held by Muhammed Ibrahim al-Juraissey, the city's mayor; Gen. Mohammed Latif, commander of the Fallujah Brigade; and Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division. On the successes against Sadr's Mahdi militia, see this Washington Post account by Daniel Williams and Scott Wilson as well as this New York Times account by Edward Wong (credit must go to Andrew Sullivan for linking to all of these stories). I blogged about the progress in legal reforms in Iraq last month, and the revival of Iraqi security forces this month. Here's a link to the DoD claims about local governance.
One final caveat that got cut -- we can't rewind history and replay Iraq with better implementation. It is impossible to say with absolute certainty that the flaw lay with the idea or the implementation. I clearly think it's the implementation, but I will gladly concede that there are decent arguments out there that the idea itself was wrong as well. Fareed Zakaria's The Future of Freedom is as good a summation of these points as any, and here's a link to my take on Zakaria's thesis, with my follow-up here.
A flaw in design or implementation?
My latest TNR Online essay is now available. It's on the implications that the current difficulties in Iraq could have on the overall grand strategy of the United States. The answer depends heavily on whether one believes that the idea of exporting open societies to the Middle East was a bad idea, or whether it was a good idea married with bad implementation.
Go check it out. Footnote link will be up later in the day.
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
I am not a blogaholic, I am not a blogaholic....
Occasionally, I wonder if I devote too much time to the blog. Comparing how I spent my anniversary (not a lot of blogging) the opening of this Katie Hafner story in the New York Times does make me think that if I do have a problem, at least it's somewhat underc control by comparison:
Ah, for the good old days, when a man would steal away to his computer to download pornography.
Read the whole article, by the way -- my favorite passage was, "A few blogs have thousands of readers, but never have so many people written so much to be read by so few." And Jeff Jarvis has a nice defense of duty and blogging.
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
Not since Conan O'Brien...
The alchemy of selecting a commencement speaker is a fragile one, as these two Chicago Tribune stories by Nara Schoenberg can attest. The alchemy of delivering a graduation speech that commands the attention of matriculating students suffering from hangovers is even more fragile.
This is particularly true if you try to be funny. My standard for funny commencement speeches has been Conan O'Brien's address to Harvard's class of 2000.
Jon Stewart's address to William & Mary's class of 2004 hits the mark (link via Andrew Sullivan). The funny part -- for someone who got a Ph.D.:
The funny and poignant part:
A landmark too far
The National Trust for Historic Preservation describes itself as "the leader of the vigorous preservation movement that is saving the best of the country's past for the future." Yesterday they declared the eleven most endangered historic places in the United States. The places range from the natural (Nine Mile Canyon) to the man-made (the Bethlehem steel plant) -- and then there's the entire state of Vermont. Here's why:
This is an extreme but telling example of the reactionary phenomenon that Virginia Postrel has documented in both The Future and Its Enemies and The The Substance of Style. As Postrel put it on p. 8 of The Future and Its Enemies:
I'm not averse to historical preservation in principle, but doesn't it seem as though landmarking an entire state is an example of a landmark too far?
This debate is really about the externalities created by the demand for large retail stores versus the evident economic benefits from such stores. The National Trust is basically claiming that the externalities are so costly that they threaten the very fabric of an entire state. Politically, magnifying the externalities of big box stores makes sense, but their web page on Vermont does not provide a scintilla of evidence that these costs actually exist.
The grand irony, of course, is that a century from now -- when Wal-Marts and other big box stores are threatened from whatever the new new thing in retail turns out to be -- I have no doubt that the National Trust will start landmarking the big box stores and decrying our lost retail heritage.
Who suffers from this kind of idiotic extremism? The Chicago Tribune story by Jon Margolis about this little absurdity suggests that the residents of Vermont might disagree with the National Trust's weighing of costs and benefits:
Meanwhile, click here to read how large chains are trying to expand their urban markets while responding to local concerns in Chicago.
Monday, May 24, 2004
Open thread on Bush's latest Iraq speech
I will nt be watching Bush's speech tonight on Iraq live, as my wife and I have an anniversary to celebrate.
Feel free to comment on it here, however. The Washinghton Post's Dan Froomkin does a nice job of describing the lay of the land.
One prediction -- it will be impossible for media write-ups not to link the situation in Iraq with the physical aftereffects of Bush's bicycle accident.
Ranking the Rich, mark two
Longtime readers of the blog may remember that I was critical of the Center for Global Development for last year's Ranking the Rich. That report, if you remember, had the U.S. ranked 20th out of 21 countries in terms of helping the developing world. It was a good effort, but it stacked the deck against the U.S. in a number of ways.
In response to their feedback from last year's index, the authors of the index revised the measures used for some of the components, and added a new one -- technology.
And for all of those just waiting to ask whether the revision factored in private aid flows as well as official development assistance -- a topic I've addressed before -- here's the key passage:
Go check out the whole report -- I'll be attending a board meeting soon, so any and all constructive feedback is appreciated.
Sunday, May 23, 2004
So who are you?
Henry Copeland has posted some preliminary results from his survey of blog readers that I linked to last week. He got a decent sample size -- 17,159 respondents.
Among the more interesting findings:
The political breakdown is also interesting:
Saturday, May 22, 2004
Whither Russia, or when print beats the Internet
The Economist has a survey of Russia this week. Its core thesis:
Now, if you read this survey on the Internet, you come away with a cautiously optimistic picture of the country.
However, there is the rare moment with looking at something in print provides greater information than reading it on the Internet. This is one of those times, and that information suggests that Russia is worse off than the survey's author, Gideon Lichfield, suggests.
Why? In the print edition of the Economist, most country surveys like these are filled with advertisements from either large companies indigenous to the country in question, or large multinationals with significant amounts of foreign direct investment. Generally speaking, the number of ads is a rough indicator of the economic dynamism of the surveyed country. In February, for example, a survey of India had five full ad pages.
For this 16-page survey, there was only one half-page advertisement -- and that came from the state-owned export-import bank.
In contrast, when Ukraine had a survey a decade ago, it was a basket case of hyperinflation and ethnic tensions -- but there were at least two ads.
Russia's economy is more fragile than the Economist believes.
Wow, my second health care post in less than a year
Loyal readers of danieldrezner.com are aware that while I'm aware that health care is important, I find it difficult to maintain focus when the issue comes up.
I am dimly aware, however, that Canada's single-payer system is frequently cited by liberals as their preferred form of health care reform. Which is why I found the following Brad Evenson story in Cananda's National Post so interesting:
This may be an example of correlation and not causation. Still, a common assumption among the cognoscenti is that Canada's health care system is superior to America's -- and this study points out that this is not necessarily so.
John Kerry, man of action
Well, this Washington Post story by Dan Balz and Thomas Edsall ought to shore up John Kerry's robust reputation for taking clear stands and being resolute in his decision-making:
Readers are invited to submit guesses as to how long it takes Kerry to back away from this trial balloon.
Thursday, May 20, 2004
I'm off to mend the transatlantic relationship again!
No blogging for the next 48 hours -- I'll be at the University of Toronto for a roundtable conference on "International Security and the Transatlantic Divide." Yours truly is a discussant for Laurent Cohen-Tanugi, the author of Alliance at Risk: The United States and Europe Since September 11.
I promise to resist any and all urges to mention any contacts I've had with Said Ibrahim.
UPDATE: Home now. The conference was actually very illuminating -- more about it later this week.
Where are conservatives on Iraq?
Reihan Salam has a great TNR Online piece that breaks down where the various tribes of conservatives fall on Iraq -- or, as Salam puts it, a "Guide to the Right on Iraq Gone Wrong." The relevant categories (NOTE: I've added some names that Salam omits where I think they apply -- my additions are in italics):
For the immediate future, I'm interested in two things:
A) Will the latter two groups merge? What separates them is not the ends but the means of advancing those ends -- gentle vs. not-so-gentle criticism. I've been feeling myself shift slowly over this calendar year, and I strongly suspect others are as well (Matthew Yglesias shares my suspicions).
B) Who will be the last neo-neocon standing? To be fair, I haven't read Frum and Perle's An End to Evil -- and I'm sure there are a lot of ideas in there that the current situation in Iraq does not undercut. However, a key tenet of this group has been the inherent goodness of Ahmed Chalabi, and the U.S. decision to raid his headquarters today (plus the decision earlier this week to terminate his funding) may just signal a souring of the DoD-INC relationship [UPDATE: Chalabi's home was also raided]. If that doesn't do it, this anecdote from Salon's Andrew Cockburn just might:
Who will the neo-neos go with -- Bush or Chalabi? My money is on Chalabi.
UPDATE: Josh Marshall has further thoughts on Chalabi and the neo-neocons. One point he makes confirms my theory about which way the neo-neos go: "I don't doubt that some of Chalabi's Washington supporters have encouraged him to take a more oppositional stand toward the occupation authorities to bolster his own popularity."
ANOTHER UPDATE: Just got one of Laurie Mylroie's mass e-mails. She condemns "today's outrageous, and totally uncalled for, raid on Ahmed Chalabi's compound" and asks, "Just what is the U.S. doing in Iraq?"
Yeah, she's stickin' with Chalabi.
It gets worse in Darfur
I've blogged about the atrocities taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan before here and here. A few days ago, the Los Angeles Times' Robyn Dixon reported on the growing humanitarian crisis in Sudan:
Be sure to read the whole thing.
This was probably not the best week for the Bush administration to take steps towards lifting the arms embargo on the Sudanese government.
This is the kind of goof that someone responsible for public diplomacy -- like an Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, let's say -- could have caught. Oh, wait....
UPDATE: It should be noted that despite the PR screwup I alluded to earlier in this post, Human Rights Watch -- not exactly the most Bush-friendly organization -- has praised U.S. behavior on this front:
A really disturbing Iraq poll
The Financial Times reports on some unsettling poll results from Iraq:
The one piece of good news that skeptics and optimists about Iraq could agree upon was that Sadr did not command significant amounts of support among the Iraqi populace. This poll makes it much tougher to maintain that assertion. This isn't a question of media bias -- this is a very uncomfortable reality that must be acknowledged by policymakers and oundits of all stripes.
The one possible caveat, ironically, is that the poll was taken before the Abu Ghraib scandals [How the hell is that good news?--ed. Because that also means the poll was likely taken before a) U.S. troops demonstrated they were willing to take on Sadr's militia; and b) Grand Ayatollah Sistani vocally turned against Sadr. If Reuel Marc Gerecht is correct in saying that the prison scandals "have not elicited much condemnation from Iraq's Arab Shiites and Sunni Kurds, who represent about 80 percent of the country's population," then Sadr's popularity might actually have declined since the poll was taken.]
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Darn that competitive market
Then there's the competition that it's inducing among e-mail service providers. As the Motley Fool points out, both Yahoo! and Lycos Europe have recently expanded the memory in their mail services in response to Gmail.
Of course, if any of this competition comes from outside the United States, then it's just an example of how our country is being devastated by foreign competition.
Iraq and the media
Mickey Kaus and Glenn Reynolds have posts up on the difficulties of finding a coherent narrative in evaluating the situation in Iraq. Kaus points out that this is particularly true of those of us not in Iraq and have to rely on the Internet. This includes even well-known area experts as Juan Cole. Kaus also points out:
This ties into a different point made by Reynolds in his post:
Indeed, Josh Marshall made this very point (without the motivation) earlier this week in discussing a Washington Times excerpts of Bill Sammon's new book, Misunderestimated: The President Battles Terrorism, John Kerry and the Bush Haters::
My centrist instincts want to place a pox on both Bush and the mainstream media's houses -- the latter for not stepping back and looking at the big picture, and the former for thinking that excessive coverage of Abu Ghraib taints all negative media coverage of Iraq. It should be asked, however -- which is the greater sin? The media, for reporting the truth but not the whole truth? Or Bush, for ignoring distasteful parts of the truth because the whole truth is not being reported?
At last, my daughter Amiga will have a playmate
Gwyneth Paltrow has named her new baby girl Apple Blythe Alison Martin. According to ITV, "Paltrow named her baby girl Apple after the little girl of partner [Coldplay frontman] Chris Martin's North American booking agent."
For those tempted to tease Ms. Paltrow for her name choice -- and I've certainly teased Paltrow in the past -- do bear in mind that other celebrities have done far worse to their offspring, as Kat Giantis points out for MSN Entertainment. Consider that actor Rob Morrow agreed to name his daughter Tu Morrow. And Giantis filed her story before Geena Davis announced the names for her just-delivered twins -- Kian and Kaiis.
Furthermore, Paltrow can at least claim to some originality in her oddball choice. According to the Social Security Administration, 261 mothers decided last year to name their daughter "Journey." 5062 moms picked "Trinity," even though both of the Matrix movies released in 2003 sucked eggs. You can scan the most popular names from last year by clicking here.
In honor of Apple's birth, readers are invited to post the worst name choices they have ever heard or read about.
The Nation celebrates capitalism in spite of itself
Marc Cooper's essay in The Nation on Las Vegas takes the requisite number of poshots at the American variety of capitalism. That said, it's impossible for Cooper to hide his sneaking admiration for the place. Some highlights:
UPDATE: Megan McArdle points out that New York can rival Vegas in the area of conspicuous consumption.
Go take a survey!!
If you have a second [Of course they have a second -- otherwise they wouldn't be wasting their time reading your blog, dumbass!--ed.] please click over to BlogAds survey of reader demographics. There are a total of 22 questions, so it should be pretty painless. Be sure to answer "drezner" for question 22. And please answer by 9:00 p.m. Eastern time this (Wednesday) evening.
This is a win-win kind of deal. The more reader info BlogAds gets, the better they'll be able to solicit advertisers. The more of my readers who fill out the survey, the more accurate my information, which means better posts and more targeted ads for y'all.
I'm also asking you to respond because some of the questions would provide useful evidence for the blog paper I'm co-authoring with Henry Farrell.
It would also mean that during those ultracompetitive blogger sweeps periods, I won't have to resort to cheap or desperate ratings ploys to attract more readers like I've done before on occasion [Er, there is no such thing as sweeps in the blogosphere--ed. You mean there's no reason for me to link to Jennifer Garner pics on occasion? I didn't say there was no reason to do that--ed.]
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
The Weekly Standard takes on Don Rumsfeld
A bunch of interesting Weekly Standard articles this week.
Jeffrey Bell writes that the current Defense Secretary has been as deeply affected by Vietnam syndrome as the antiwar dobes -- and with far more deleterious consequences for the current campaign in Iraq:
In the same issue, Frederick Kagan blasts both the administration and Congress for playing shell games with overall Army troop strength. This example of short-run thinking is especially disturbing:
Finally, do check out Reuel Marc Gerecht's cogen argument that the scandals at Abu Ghraib will have no effect on the pace of democratization in the Middle East.
On the anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education
Whenever I start thinking, "Drezner, you've had a good run as of late," I always reflect on my colleague Danielle Allen. She is a full professor in both Classics and Political Science, and was recently appointed Dean of the Humanities here at the U of C. Allen holds two Ph.D.'s -- one in government from Harvard, one in Classics from Kings College, Cambridge. She has published two books -- one of which is The World of Prometheus: the Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens. I've perused enough of The World of Prometheus to know that although I may be a decent writer, I don't quite have her chops. She's also a published poet and documentary film producer. Oh, and she was a 2001 recipient of a MacArthur genius grant.
I could live with all of this if it weren't for two facts:
The reason I raise all of this is that Danielle Allen has written an essay commemorating the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education that is probably better than anything I could gin up. Here are the highlights:
UPDATE: Eugene Volokh is another academic who's smarter than me and has some interesting things to say about Brown.
Beware the ed school mafia
When I was in grad school at Stanford, there was an largely unspoken consensus that the education school was the weakest of the grad school programs in the university. They had the flimsiest pedagogy and the most "flexible" curriculum (in that pretty much any course on campus could somehow apply towards their degree). The fact that this program was training America's next generation of teachers troubled me a little back then, but now I share Alan Greenspan's fervor in boosting education in the United States.
Which is why it's so disappointing to hear that any scholar who questions the rigor of education school curricula in this country runs into difficulties. Eduwonk posts the following tale:
Education Week has further details (registration required):
Maybe they do things differently in ed schools, but for my classes, course syllabi are a pretty decent indicator for course content.
It's hard to ascertain the extent of any negative feedback Steiner is experiencing beyond Eduwonk's post. That said, if Steiner is really the subject of a whispering campaign, but if he is, it's emblematic of the difficulties the U.S. will face in education reform.
[C'mon, this contretemps just a stalking horse for standard left-right debates about education, right?--ed. Steiner's chapter is part of a book co-edited by scholars at the American Enterprise Institute and the Progressive Policy Institute. I'd call that pretty bipartisan. Plus, as Eduwonk observes, "Steiner's not a Lynne Cheney type or an ideologue, he's a lefty!']
Monday, May 17, 2004
The big leap
Modern American life has created a staggered series of events for people to acquire the trappings of a grown-up -- graduating from college, choosing a career, getting married, having children, etc.
Having experienced all of these (I did not bear the children, but you get my meaning), I actually think the scariest was the decision to become a property-owner.
Which is why I can identify with Laura of Apt. 11D, who may not be at that location for much longer:
What you've done, Laura, is take a very big leap. Sounds like the right thing to do, but a big leap is a big leap, even when you clear the chasm.
Brad Delong suggests: "I have one piece of advice: fixed-rate mortgage."
The real reason to boycott The Day After Tomorrow
Glenn Reynolds has a post up about the absurd environmentalism that undergirds The Day After Tomorrow, a disaster movie coming soon to a theater near you. MoveOn.org has touted the film as, "The Movie the White House Doesn't Want You to See."
We here at danieldrezner.com tend to cast a skeptical eye on the bashing of action movies for their political content -- mostly because all action movies have their built-in political absurdities. Any principled moviegoer choosing to abstain from action movies with political or factual absurdities would be unable to go to any of these movies. Since we here at danieldrezner.com also like to see explosions, chases, and digitally-enhanced mayhem on a regular basis, we cannot recommend boycotting The Day After Tomorrow because of silly envoronmentalism.
However, as a loyal Chicagoan, I can recommend that all current and former residents of this great city boycott the movie because of what director Roland Emmerich told Entertainment Weekly about setting the film in New York City as opposed to Chicago (subscription required):
I'll concede that New York City may be the most easily recognized city in the world.
But claiming that Chicago doesn't have any "worldwide recognition" smacks of provincialism.
When international relations gets bizarre
Nicholas Wood reports in the New York Times about a truly bizarre effort by Macedonia's effort to ingratiate itself to Washington in late 2001/early 2002:
This would be funny if it hadn't had real consequences:
UPDATE: A hat tip to my commenters, who point out that this story is not a new one.
Sunday, May 16, 2004
What's to be gained from more trade liberalization?
As part of its ongoing Copenhagen Consensus project on global issues, the Economist reports this week on the effect that the elimination of protectionist barriers would have on global economic growth:
Click here for links to Anderson's full paper, in addition to two "opponent note" rejoinders.
The last time I'll make fun of Dennis Kucinich
There comes a point in a politician's career when their future prospects appear to be so dismal, the best thing the observer can do is show some kindness, look away, and write about something else.
After reading Rick Lyman's New York Times article about Dennis Kucinich's ongoing campaign, I think that time has come for the good representative from the state of Ohio.
One last excerpt, however:
The one-upsmanship of conference presenters
For some of this weekend I attended an Olin conference entitled, "Tyranny: Ancient and Modern." Most of the presenters were quite illuminating, but there was one amusing monent. It centered on what role the Bush administration played in the release of activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim from an Egyptian prison (click here for more on Ibrahim).
The question was whether U.S. economic pressure (in the form of reduced foreign aid) hastened or delayed Ibrahim's release. The following is, to the best of my ability, a recreation of the factual debate between two of the presenters who shall go unnamed:
I was half-expecting an Annie Hall-like moment for Ibrahim to suddenly walk on stage and embarrass one or the other speaker.
The grand irony was that Ibrahim had been in that very room approximately thirteen months earlier. If memory serves, he did thank the U.S. government, although one would also have expected him to do this. [And, it should be noted that regardless of the effectiveness, both of the speakers applauded the administration for its efforts in this matter.]
Friday, May 14, 2004
Josh Chafetz has assigned me the homework task of explaining the ramifications of the surprising Indian elections for India's economic development and relations with Pakistan.
Actually, I think the links Chafetz provides in his post do a fair job of capturing some of the dynamics. As this Washington Post editorial points out, it wasn't an increase in poverty that caused the BJP to fall:
Salman Rushdie suggests that it wasn't rural poverty so much as growing inequality that triggered this outcome:
Rushdie also points out the numerous sins of the government in power -- particularly it's hidden-hand role in the 2002 pogrom of Muslims in Gujarat. The Economist provides an excellent summary account as well.
My quick answers to Josh's questions -- the election returns aren't going to affect all that much of India's policy, except that there will be a ratcheting up of anti-American rhetoric. Congress has repeatedly said that its committed to the liberalization program -- and 8% GDP growth buys a lot more rural development aid than the 4% growth that would come if liberalization stalled. Relations with Pakistan might worsen a bit, in the sense that the BJP, as Hindu nationalists, had the credibility to compromise. Congress might not have that margin of error.
UPDATE: Looks like India's financial markets are less sanguine than I about the election results.
Good signs of economic recovery
Virginia Postrel provides useful links suggesting that the two traditional harbingers of the American economy -- California and small businesses -- are feeling the positive effects of the recovery. From the California story:
UPDATE: Bloomberg has some great news about industrial production as well. This is the most intriguing paragraph:
LAST UPDATE: The National Federation of Independent Business summarizes their Small Business Economic Trends for May by saying: "Small-business owners are laying the foundation for what could be the best economy in 20 years."
Should Rummy resign redux
I've received a fair amount of e-mail traffic politely asking me to reconsider my call for Donald Rumsfeld to resign. Here's one snippet:
I agree that Rumsfeld has been proven correct in his warfighting strategies. I am completely unconvinced that Rumsfeld has been proven correct in his statebuilding strategies.
So, let me collect the most optimistic news about Iraq that I've seen recently and see if I should change my mind:
OK, that's the best I can do (readers are asked to provide links to even better news).
Is that enough for me to change my mind about Rummy? No, it's not.
The above list indicates that the situation in Iraq is not hopeless, which is an unambiguously good thing. What the list doesn't indicate is what Rumsfeld's doctrines and decisions have done to improve the situation in Iraq. After a year of Rumsfeld overseeing the handling of Iraq, opinion polls show that a majority of Iraqis want the U.S. to conduct an immediate withdrawal, and 80% of Iraqis don't have much confidence in the Coalition Provisional Authority (both links via Mark Kleiman)
[What, you expected this to be easy? Show some backbone!--ed.] No, I didn't expect it to be easy. However, I did expect Rumsfeld, as a smart individual who wanted to be in charge of Iraqi statebuilding, to recognize some of the resource constraints he faced and take the necessary steps to solve them. Rumsfeld has been given clear and direct warnings on this since last summer, and there's strong evidence that he's correctly processed this information. There's just not much evidence that his solution -- train new Iraqi security forces from scratch -- has worked. The side effects have been serious. The absence of a proper U.S. constabulary force, combined with a failure to guard Iraq's borders, have led Iraqis to the opinions they hold now about American troops -- and those opinions aren't good. The failure to provide security, combined with Abu Ghraib, have tarnished perceptions of U.S. power and legitimacy. As much as Rumsfeld may want to deny it, perception and legitimacy are valuable in world politics. They make it much less costly to influence international interactions, by making the exercise of hard power less frequent. Donald Rumsfeld's management of the Defense
I don't think Iraq is hopeless -- but I also don't think that Rumsfeld has made much of a positive contribution since the end of the "major combat." It's precisely because I want to see the U.S. succeed in Iraq that I think it's worth it to replace Rummy ASAP.
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Drezner gets results from Steve Chapman!!
Steve Chapman's op-ed column in today's Chicago Tribune picks up on the debate about inner-city Wal-Marts in Chicago that I touched on last week. The good parts:
Adieu to the adult sitcom?
Slate's headline writers teased me with this Dana Stevens essay about the Frasier finale. The headline is, "Where Have All the Grown-Ups Gone? The Frasier finale marks the end of situation comedies for adults."
The Stevens essay underscores this point in this graf:
The problem with the rest of the essay is that it doesn't ever expand on this thesis, turning instead to why Frasier was so good. Left unaddressed is why are there no more sophisticated, adult sitcoms?
I actually do have a roundabout theory to explain this -- the target demographic of sophisticated adults have morphed into obsessive-compulsive parents. This argument is implicit in David Brooks' latest book, On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense. One of the themes in the book -- which Brooks has previously touched on in myriad articles -- is the growing obsession with parenting in this country, to the point where unorganized play has simply ceased to exist in much of the country.
Brooks tends to focus on the effect this has on the kids -- but what about the parents? All this organizing of their kids' lives can crowd out other activities, as Brooks points out on p. 139:
Whether the tradeoff of more child rearing at the expense of adult relationships is a good thing or a bad thing I will leave to my gentle readers and bloggers I trust on the subject. However, if fewer adults are investing the time in adult friendships, that could translate into less demand for adult situation comedies on network television.
Just an idle thought.
Closing note -- before people start bewailing the decline of the sophisticated sitcome, do bear in mind that for every Frasier there have been a hundred crappy adult sitcoms. Furthermore, it is at least possible to write a sophisticated family-oriented sitcom -- go watch an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond and admire Patricia Heaton's perfection of the slow burn.
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
The schizophrenic Senator Lieberman
Senator Joe Lieberman gave a speech this morning at the New America Foundation on offshore outsourcing and what the U.S. government should do about it. Here's a link to his white paper summary of proposals -- and here's a link to Grant Gross' coverage of the speech for IT World. Among other things, Lieberman calls for increased wage insurance, expanded Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), and a bipartisan commission to study the problem.
I'm of two minds about the speech and proposal. I like the proposals. Boosting R&D investment, expanding TAA, expanding education spending, getting our macroeconomic house in order -- I'm in favor of all of these, and promoted some of them in my Foreign Affairs article.
The problem is the speech, which is alarmist in the extreme. Here's one sample:
OK, lets count the inaccuracies in these two grafs:
Lieberman is correct about the education gap and the decline in public R&D investments -- but those problems have little to do with the alarmist tone of the speech.
Why wrap such sensible proposals around such exaggerated rhetoric? Because it's politically effective. The key Lieberman proposals --- education, R&D, macroeconomic prudence -- are smart things to do on their own. However, only the spectre of foreign competition seems capable of motivating Washington -- a fact that flummoxed Paul Krugman a decade ago.
While I'm very enthusiastic about the Senator's concrete proposals, I'm very, very queasy about the scaremongering tactics that are associated with them.
Those damn Indians
Oh dear -- Indian companies are messing with the dominant narrative that U.S. jobs are being outsourced to the subcontinent at an increasing rate. According to Contractor UK:
Damn Infosys and Bharti!! Next thing you know, Americans might actually realize that trade is a win-win game!!
The Campbellsville comeback
Christopher Miller has an interesting article in the Bowling Green Daily News about how the town of Campbellsville, Kentucky responded to the 1997-98 decision by Fruit of the Loom to offshore production:
Read the article to see how the town pulled this off.
A hint -- education and insourcing are involved.
A PG-13 post about heavy manufacturing
Be warned. If you think heavy manufacturing is really important, or that unions are vital to the development of American capitalism, do not click on this Tim Belknap rant.
The following contains strong language about the manufacturing sector, and may not be suitable for economic romantics under the age of 80 who believe that the United States needs to return to the "good old days" when what was good for GM was good for America.
A brief preview:
Dissecting soft power
Jim Hoagland has a good review of Joseph Nye's Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics and John Lewis Gaddis' Surprise, Security, and the American Experience in The New Republic.
I've always found "soft power" a maddening concept, in that Nye has managed to identiy something important but its precise definition and causal logic remains inchoate (click here, here, and here for more of my thoughts on the matter). Hoagland appears to be equally frustrated with Nye:
In contrast, Hoagland has a more favorable take on the Gaddis book:
UPDATE: For more on the Gaddis book, readers would be well-served to check out the Slate Book Club exchange between Robert Kagan and Niall Ferguson about Gaddis' book as well as Walter Russell Mead's Power, Terror, Peace, and War: America's Grand Strategy in a World at Risk.
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Should Rummy resign?
In the wake of the ever-widening prisoner scandal (see the heretofore secret Red Cross report here and the Washington Post story about it here), a lot of people are calling for Rummy's head. The Economist wants him to resign -- as does Megan McArdle. President Bush maintains that he's "doing a superb job." As Kevin Drum documents, those who supported the war are growing ever more disgruntled with the administration in general and Rumsfeld in particular. Andrew Sullivan puts it well:
Actually, one could argue that the administration has in fact shifted a fair amount on how to handle postwar Iraq -- it's just that the shifts have amounted to mere tinkering given the lack of troop strength, the absence of border protection, and the abject failure of the Iraqi statebuilding project. In other words, they shifted on everything but the big things.
A year ago, I wrote the following about Rumsfeld's obsession with slimming down the military:
We're down the road now. The administration never really resolved that dilemma, and I'd say we've hit trouble with a capital "T".
This is certainly not only Rummy's fault -- though he should have been asking tough questions on Iraq instead of letting others ask fluffy ones. The man residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue shoulders the bulk of the responsibility. Bush's job prospects will be decided in November, however (and since I was undecided back in January -- when foreign policy was Bush's strength -- imagine my current preference ordering). In the meantime, it seems inescapable to me that Donald Rumsfeld should resign as Secretary of Defense. It's not just Abu Ghraib -- it's the whole damn Mongolian cluster-f#*k of the postwar occupation.
I'm willing to be persuaded otherwise -- but the arguments better be really, really, good ones.
UPDATE: Some of the commenters seem to be confusing my disdain for Rumsfeld with a desire to get out of Iraq. That's just wrong. It's precisely because I want the U.S. to stay in Iraq, to help build institutions that resemble a liberal polity, to demonstrate that the words "democracy" and "Arab" can be combined in the same sentence, that I want Rummy to go.
ANOTHER UPDATE: This commenter prudently suggests that I can't support Rummy's removal without a suitable replacement.
OK. My suggested replacement would be retired Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki.
Sunday, May 9, 2004
Louis Drezner, R.I.P. (1902-2004)
No blogging for the next two days, as I'll be at my grandfather's funeral. Here's a reprint of the relevant sections of his obituary as it appeared in today's New York Times:
I'll miss his smile -- the man had a smile that made you forget your troubles and believe that all was right in the world.
Oh, and yes, you read the obituary correctly -- he is survived by his older sister, my great-aunt Shirley. She's 103.
UPDATE: My profound thanks to one and all for your kind condolences -- I'm very touched.
The ceremony was lovely, and sad as the occasion was, it was nice for the extended Drezner clan to congregate together and swap fond memories of Grandpa. His quite but authoritative presence will be dearly missed.
The political science of blogs
David Adesnik has a marathon-length post on moderating a Harvard panel with a Boston Globe journalist and discussing what he's learned via blogging. He concludes:
Oh my God, I can't believe how ignorant Davi--- just kidding.
More seriously, David has hit on one of the reasons I've given for blogging -- it can command immediate attention in a way that an article in either International Organization or the American Journal of Political Science cannot. Score one for blogging.
And yet -- there are two important caveats to David's thesis that blogging is more influential than political science. The first is that it may be that either activity is a necessary but not sufficient condition for influencing the body politic. Using myself as an example -- I got my gig at TNR Online because they liked the style and content of the blog. But, they also liked the fact that I was a professor of political science. My academic credentials probably opened a few doors that have been more difficult to open for a Kevin Drum or a Steven Den Beste.
The second caveat is that, while many political scientists yearn for "policy relevance," it comes in different forms. One way is to become a public intellectual/media whore and directly address one's fellow citizens. There are other, more permanent ways, however. John Maynard Keynes once observed that, "Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist." A good political scientist can have that kind of long-run influence as well. I doubt that politicians ever listened to what E.E. Schattschneider, David Mayhew, Hans Morgenthau, or Graham Allison said on a day-to-day basis -- but the political world they live in was partily constructed by their ideas.
Saturday, May 8, 2004
My very own public intellectual feud
Devoted readers of danieldrezner.com are aware that on occasion, sometimes, I've been known to get into the occasional intellectual scuffle with a another blogger or public figure. Most of them have been minor tempests that quickly faded into obscurity.
Alas, obscurity is harder to come by when a dispute is carried out in the Letters page of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. To see Jagdish Bhagwati's reply to my review of In Defense of Globalization, as well as my response to Bhagwati's response, click here.
I'll confess to being genuinely puzzled by Professor Bhagwati's obsteperous response -- as my lovely wife put it, between Bhagwati and myself, our opinions on globalization range from A to A'. I thought I gave the book a pretty favorable review, and I certainly think it's worth reading. Trust me, if I don't like a book, I can be much more scathing in my comments.
And for those of you who wish to make a living by being a critic (or a book author), learn this lesson well -- don't write angry. Or rather, if you feel the urge, write angry, but then be sure to crumple up that effort and try again with a cooler head.
Why? It's exceedingly difficult to translate anger into polished prose -- particularly anger directed at another person, as opposed to a more abstract target -- without seeming either petty or undisciplined. Angry writing is also, more often than not, completely humorless. And wit is a valued commodity in almost every writing venue known to man.
This is a tough lesson to digest, because the exceptions to this rule are the most coveted critics of them all. A critic that manages to focus their anger into an righteous but humorous vivisection of someone else is the ne plus ultra of entertainment. If you can do it, I'll tip my hat in deferential respect.
However, I strongly suspect that this skill is much rarer than is commonly perceived.
Friday, May 7, 2004
Ethnic cleansing in Sudan
The Sudanese government is aiding and abetting the killing of African Muslims in its western Darfur region. According to Bloomberg:
This looks like a job for the U.N. Human Rights Commission!! Oh, wait...
UPDATE: The Economist has a nice story encapsulating the Sudan problem.
Alexei Izyumov's Swiftian jobs program
Izyumov, an associate professor of economics and director of the Center for Emerging Market Economies at the University of Louisville, makes a modest proposal in the Boston Globe about dealing with the real villians behind recent job losses:
Good job numbers
The Bureau of Labor Statistics employment figures for April are out -- and the U.S. economy created 288,000 jobs last month. The number of persons unemployed for 27 weeks or longer declined by 188,000. Revised figures show that since
In 2004, the economy has averaged the creation of over 200,000 new jobs per month.
In related news, the Financial Times reports that:
Much of this is due to continued strength in the service sector.
Of course, the economy has had to struggle to create jobs this year in the wake of massive job losses due to offshore outsourcing. Oh wait, according to this BLS breakdown, the economy has created over 200,000 jobs in the "professional business and services" category in 2004, the sector designated as most vulnerable to job losses from offshoring (to be fair, employment in "computer systems design and related services" has fallen by 6,000 since January).
So, great news -- but I'd really like the Bush administration to take the following warning from Alan Greenspan seriously:
Read the whole speech.
UPDATE: Bruce Bartlett points out that due to the economic recovery, the Congressional Budget Office projects tax revenues for this fiscal year to be up by $100 billion.
A minor Friends carp
I am glad that Matt LeBlanc will have his own show in the fall -- truth be told, Joey was always my favorite (though as an academic, I did appreciate how adeptly the writers skewered Ross' academic pretensions).
One minor complaint, however -- during the episode, Monica explains that they've named the twins Erika (after the birth mother) and Jack, after Monica's father. Which is great, except for the fact that Monica Geller is Jewish. Jews (well, Ashkenazi Jews at least) do not name their children after living relatives.
Now Friends, like many shows (Mad About You) was always skittish about discussing religion, even though three of the show's characters (Ross, Monica, Rachel) were Jewish. They inevitably celebrated Christmas, for example.
Which is fine -- there are certainly Jews who do this. However, there was no need for the show to have a Jewish character do something that even a non-practicing Jew would never even have considered.
The show's creators, David Crane and Marta Kaufman, are both graduates of Brandeis. They should have known better.
Thursday, May 6, 2004
News flash -- Michael Moore massages the facts
Well, it's a good thing that except for the NYT, the media didn't take the bait on this one. Oh, wait....
Bwa ha ha ha!!
The Los Angeles Times reports that the political tide may be turning on offshore outsourcing:
It's just coordinated lobbying?! What about well-honed rhetoric backed by cogent analysis and hard data? [Yeah, you know it's actually the lobbying, right?--ed. Allow me my meager illusions of influence, OK?]
Part of the Times' reasoning is based on the E-loan experiment that I blogged about in March. Consumers are given a choice between having their paperwork processed in 10 days overseas or 12 days in the United States. According to the LAT, "In the three months that ended Monday, 85.6% of 14,329 loan applicants chose processing overseas."
Meanwhile, Miguel Helft writes in the San Jose Mercury News that data privacy concerns with regard to offshore outsourcing are grossly exaggerated:
Read both pieces.
It's hard not to be discouraged about the information coming out from the Taguba Report, as well as the additional pictures and private correspondence suggesting that the pattern of prisoner abuse was wider than originally thought. Josh Marshall links to this Sy Hersh quote last night on O'Reilly:
On top of all this, the White House's official "I want it publicly known that I'm displeased with Rumsfeld but I'm not actually going to say it or do anything about it but leak it to the press" policy is, as Jacob Levy observes, truly bizarre.
You can say, as Victor Davis Hanson did, that at least the U.S. is now coming to grips with the problem -- and that the system worked in exposing these abuses. Glenn Reynolds and Tacitus offer their useful perspectives of what to do now.
Wednesday, May 5, 2004
Yours truly is there at #119, but I suspect that if the various blogs that reside at Blogspot were disaggregated, I'd fall off that list pretty fast.
Until then, I'll just use my lofty perch to advance the forces of good -- or try to get a BMW. I haven't made my mind up yet on this one.
Arts & Ideas, R.I.P. (1997-2004)
To which I can only say, Amen.
I've never forgiven that section of the paper from running an article back in the summer of 2001 claiming that Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's Empire was "the next big idea" in international relations theory. Based on that article, I purchased the hardcover edition of the book and wasted several hours of my life wrestling with their turgid prose and nonfalsifiable nostrums (Alan Wolfe efficiently dissected the "meandering, wordy, and incoherent book" in this The New Republic review from late 2001).
According to Donadio, it appears I was far from the only one to dislike this section of the Saturday paper of record:
The Observer also quotes from Siegel's hysterical parody of the section:
The ultimate BMW ad
One does have to wonder if Porsche's poor performance is correlated with the car's paucity of space, which can lead to.... er... maneuvering difficulties, if one were to attempt to perform the deed in the car.
UPDATE: Mickey e-mails to say, "they [male BMW drivers] only SAY they have sex 2.2 times a week." Of course, male Porsche drivers only say they have sex 1.4 times a week. This leads to one of two possibilities:
Given the styling of both auto brands, I have to think that (1) is more likely than (2). In my mind, Porsches seem flashier than BMWs. One would therefore expect Porsche buyers to be more flamboyant/open than the buttoned-down BMWers, not less so.
Furthermore, the fact that the poll shows a similar gap among female responsdents -- who one might expect to be more modest in their survey responses due to historical double standards on this question -- leads me to think that this isn't a response bias problem.
Yes, I just wasted ten minutes on this addendum that I will never have back.
Fun with BLS numbers
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a Mass Layoff Statistics program, in which firms that lay off 50 or more workers must provide as reason for such a move to the BLS. Those reasons range from automation to product line discontinuation. Offshore outsourcing is not one of the options, but "import competition" and "overseas relocation" are options. So, it's possible to estimate the extent to which offshore outsourcing is respinsible for job destruction via mass layoffs [How do you know that the firms aren't lying to the government?--ed. You don't -- but since the names of the firms are kept strictly confidential, there's no reason for them to lie either]. You can do it too -- just click here to create your own table.
Here are the percentages of jobs lost through mass layoffs because of either import competition or overseas relocation for the last seven years:
Now, these figures do not cover instances when a firm let go less than 50 people, so clearly there's a bias in the data towars multinational corporations over small businesses. That said, these numbers reveal two important facts:
1) Offshore outsourcing is not responsible for a significant percentage of the jobs that have been lost.
2) There is no evidence that offshore outsourcing is responsible for an increasing number of jobs lost over time.
Finally, some have argued that the massive increases in U.S. labor productivity are due to sloppy GDP accounting: "[T]he work done by Indian software firms is being recorded as US economic activity and growth because it's been offshored." If true, this would be a serious measurement error, since the government would be overstating both economic growth and labor productivity
The BLS issued a memo in late March on this very issue back in March that's worth perusing. The highlights:
While we're talking about offshore outsourcing, here are a few stories about the benefits that accrue to the United States from insourcing. The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Stephen Koff reports on Honda's Ohio operations as an example of this phenomenon:
The Associated Press' Charles Sheehan makes a similar point in analyzing the effect of outsourcing and insourcing in Pennsylvania:
To be fair, some of the numbers on insourcing are contested. The Economic Policy Institute's Robert Scott and Adam Hersh argue that the number of jobs created due to insourcing isvastly overstated, because those figures include cases of acquisition rather than greenfield investment -- i.e., Daimler's takeover of Chrysler. Unanswered is whether foreign acquisition prevents those firms and jobs from disappearing entirely. For a counter, read the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's April report, "Jobs, Trade, Sourcing, and the Future of the American Workforce.”
Some odds & ends on outsourcing:
1) For the most recent spate of reporting on the phenomenon, you could do far worse than what's been written by the Portland Press Herald's Edward Murphy or Fortune's Jeremy Kahn. The first article looks at the effect that offshore outsourcing is having on medical transcription. The latter looks at how offshore outsourcing is affecting small businesses. Both are complex tales, but there's a familiar pattern -- the jobs being outsourced are the ones that could also disappear through automation.
2) I received an illuminating e-mail from a call center manager at America Online's Arizona facility:
Tuesday, May 4, 2004
Wal-Mart vs. Jesse Jackson
Dan Mihalopoulos has a story in today's Chicago Tribune on the contentious neighborhood politics Wal-Mart faces in trying to open new stores in the Windy City:
As a fellow South Sider, let me just second Krystal's sentiments there. This is not a case where Wal-Mart would put "mom & pop stores" out of business, since there are appallingly few retail options in these neighborhoods.
However, local African-American leaders have taken a different and depressingly predictable position:
I can see the campaign commercial now: "Chicago's political and religious and community leadership -- keeping jobs out of your neighborhood until we get ours!!"
You can read Basker's paper about Wal-Mart by clicking here.
Thank goodness the good Reverend Jackson is here to prevent these pernicious effects from taking place in Chicago!!
Reuters reports that Al Gore has found a day job -- trying to become the next Rupert Murdoch:
Readers are invited to submit programming ideas here -- beyond the obviously brilliant suggestion of hiring lots of bloggers.
UPDATE: For those hard at work trying to come up with program ideas, this Zap2it story quotes Gore more extensively on the desired content:
Well, that clears things right up.
ANOTHER UPDATE: So far, my faves are the reality TV suggestion "Alpha Male Makeover" and the game show called "The Lock Box".
Useless international organization dept.
Click here for a previous post that discusses Sudan.
Here's a thought -- why not just disband the U.N. Commission on Human Rights? At this juncture, its sole purpose for existence seems to be to whitewash the activities of authoritarian regimes, bestowing undeserved legitimacy on these governments. Wouldn't a caucus of democracies be more likely to speak its mind outside of the United Nations system?
North Korea talks to Selig Harrison
The Financial Times reports that North Korea has told Selig Harrison -- a North Korea expert who has acted as a conduit for North Korean diplomatic proposals in the past -- that it has no plans to sell its nuclear material to Al Qaeda:
The problem with these kind of dimplomatic messages is that they merely confirm the predispositions of the different elements of the Bush administration. To
I'm betting that Bush will side with the conservatives on this one.
The Asian brown cloud
The Chicago Tribune's front-pager yesterday was a James P. Miller story about the effect of Chinese air pollution -- the "Asian brown cloud" -- on U.S. weather. Some of the tidbits:
It's not clear if there are any policy implications from this -- but I hadn't seen the phenomenon reported previously.
Monday, May 3, 2004
Random quote of the day
While reading a Philip Pettit paper for the U of C's Political Theory Workshop (a forum I attend maybe once a year), I came across a priceless quote. It's by John Wallis, a 17th century mathemetician at Oxford, about one of his rivals, a Mr. Thomas Hobbes, author of Leviathan and, in many important ways, the father of modern political science. It would be safe to say that Wallis was not a real Hobbes fan. The quote reads:
I apologize for not posting this earlier
Jacob Levy's latest TNR Online essay is about the art and politics of apologizing. The key paragraph:
OK, sorry, but I lied -- the whole piece is nothing but key paragraphs.
Read the whole thing.
Health care and techological innovation
Newt Gingrich and Patrick Kennedy have co-authored a New York Times op-ed on the need for the health care sector to embrace the information revolution. [Hey, wasn't this Catherine Mann's point in her essay on IT and outsourcing?--ed. Why, I believe it was one of them, yes.] They have some fascinating data:
The one thing that Gingrich and Kennedy do not discuss is privacy concerns -- although if people are willing to have their financial information computerized, it's hard to see how health information is qualititatively different.
Sunday, May 2, 2004
Back on the telly again
My outsourcing mediafest continues -- I'll be on CNNfn's Dolans Unscripted this Monday morning at around 10:10 AM Eastern Daylight Time.
Outsourcing will be the topic -- but it's unscripted, so who knows what could come up in conversation!!
C'mon, Lou Dobbs -- if CNNfn and CNN International are willing to interview me on outsourcing, what are you so afraid of?
I dare you, Lou. I double-dog-dare you.
Warning -- technical difficulties may be ahead
Over the past 24 hours I've been inundated with a few hundred spam comments. This is forcing me to do something I should have done a long time ago -- download MT Blacklist to deal with the problem.
However, given my lack of html-savviness, this may not take place in a completely smooth fashion.
So, if there's no posting for a while, you know the reason.
UPDATE -- Oh, man, this is awesome!! I should have done this ages ago. Thank you, Jay Allen!!
Saturday, May 1, 2004
May's Books of the Month
As I've suggested recently, over the past six months America has been inundated with a spate of tomes, memoirs, and policy dissections of the current administration's foreign policy/grand strategy. Almost all of them have been critical. Some of them have their merits, and some of them are so God-awful that I'm upset I wasted my time reading them.
I'm not the only one who thinks that a lot of these books are problematic. As the New York Times reported last week:
Readers of danieldrezner.com are busy people -- if you had to pick one book on the Bush administration's foreign policy, which one would it be?
This leads me to May's recommended international relations book: Ivo Daalder and James Lindsey's America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy. Of all of these books -- and I've read too many of them -- America Unbound has three merits that almost all of the other books do not. First, their prose is detached and analytical. There is some strenuous mental effort here, and it doesn't suffer from the tunnel vision that infuses Richard Clarke or Paul O'Neill/Ron Susskind's books. It does this without sacrificing much in terms of color or detail. Which leads to the second strength of the book -- it's exceptionally well-researched. Reading it, and perusing the footnotes, I was stunned at how much detail Daalder and Lindsey were able to collect from public sources. Third, the book's thesis is both counterintuitive but well-supported -- that despite what people say about neocon or Straussian conspiracies, the person who's clearly in charge of American foreign policy is George W. Bush. America Unbound is hardly uncritical of the administration; Daalder and Lindsey both did tours of duty as NSC staffers in Clinton administration. I didn't agree with all of it -- but I can't dismiss it.
The general interest book is Tom Perrotta's Little Children, a delicious look at the ecosystem of suburban parents and toddlers. Perrotta -- who also wrote the novel Election, upon which one of my favorite movies was based -- opens the book with this paragraph:
Hyde Park is not a boring suburb, but the playground politics discussed in the book have the clang of familiarity that made it a fun read for me. Go check it out.
Torture in Iraq
Pictures of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners have now been broadcast by the Arab media. This follows up the documentation of such abuse at Abu Ghraib, as cataloged by the U.S. Army and reported in The New Yorker. The report found several instances of “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” at Abu Ghraib. The acts include:
The Associated Press reports on the anger in the Arab world:
Here's the thing, though -- I feel a similar involuntary revulsion at reading press reports on the reaction of "the Arab street" to these pictures. Does anyone think that any of the Arabs interviewed for this story displayed even the slightest hint of rage or shame at the Arabs who burned four American civilian contractors in Fallujah in March?
I'm not even remotely suggesting that this redeems anything done by U.S. soldiers in Abu Ghraib. And tactically, this will obviously inflame Arab resentments. But spare me the righteous indignation of the Arab street.
UPDATE: Lots of interesting reactions to this post. I take Andrew Lazarus' point that Muslim clerics in Fallujah did in fact condemn the desecration of the American corpses -- whether that sentiment was widespread across the Arab street remains unclear.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias, Brad DeLong, and especially PaulB in the comments raise some trenchant and valid objections to the tone/content of my post (though Brad is stretching my position by more than a little bit -- Tacitus explains the distinction I was trying to raise better than I).
This may have been one of those times in which I let my "mild nationalism" (as Matt put it) get the better of me and, as a result, compose a post with too much truculence and too little penitence in it.
So, let's close this with a clear statement -- the actions at Abu Ghraib were inexcusable and despicable acts that are repugnant in and of themselves. They needlessly inflame an already inflamed Arab street, and knock us down a peg in the eyes of other countries and their citizens.