Monday, August 30, 2004
My excellent reason for reduced blogging
Much as I would like to blog about the Republican National Convention, I'm afraid danieldrezner.com will be pretty much silent for the next week. Part of this is due to the imminent arrival of 100th annual meeting of the American Political Science Association.
The more important reason is a personal one that I vaguely alluded to last week. There's a new addition to the family:
Sunday, August 29, 2004
Open progressive conservative thread
Go read David Brooks' cover story for the New York Times Magazine on the future of both conservatism and the Republican Party (not necessarily the same thing).
Brooks opens with a point I've made in recent months:
In sketching out the future governing philosophy of Republicans, however, Brooks offers some depressing words for libertarians:
Read the rest of the piece to see the positive vision of government that Brooks offers, in the tradition of Hamilton, Lincoln, and TR. The essay probably offers the most articulate framework for understanding Bush's domestic policy agenda you'll see in the mainstream media. Then come back and post what you think.
[What do you think?--ed. I have a mixed reaction. The overarching philosophy of using government to expand individual choice is an undeniably appealing one. Policies like the earned income tax credit certainly fit into that category. However, I have caveats to Brooks' "progressive conservatism." While there's much discussion of what a conservative government can do, there's less about how it can do this. My inclination is to prefer that the government act more as paymaster than implementor, but I'm not sure Brooks would agree. The boundaries of the Brooksian state don't seem all that constrained. At the end, he argues that a good progressive conservative government could cut useless measures like corporate subsidies, farm subsidies, and needless tariffs. However, it's no coincidence that the intellectual godfather of modern-day protectionism is Alexander Hamilton. Finally, I just hate the phrase "progressive conservative." I understand what Brooks is going for, but it sounds like "pragmatic idealism" or "collective indivudualism."]
Saturday, August 28, 2004
China's growth as a regional power, redux
Almost exactly one year ago, the New York Times ran a story on China's growth into a world power, about which I blogged here -- I thought it made some stupid historical analogies.
Today Jane Perlez -- one of the Times' best foreign correspondents, in my book -- has a similar story. This one has no dumb analogies and a lot more meat on it:
Read the whole thing. It remains the case that China's power is only felt at the regional level -- and Perlex asserts rather than proves her argument about America disengaging because of the war on terrorism.
Still, it's worth chewing on.
Friday, August 27, 2004
I'm 1% certain that I'm 1% smarter than Chris Bertram
I'm guessing we're equally chagrined at our performance, however (I can't believe I was that far off on the GDP of Great Britain-- wait, yes I can: in my head I used the inverted exchange rate between the two currencies to get from dollars to pounds).
Go take it for yourself and report back.
This is what happens when you appease terrorists
Last month the Phillipine government's decision to evacuate all nationals out of Iraq after a truck driver was taken hostage. At the time, Arroyo said she was proud of her decision: "she was unrepentant Tuesday, saying the hostage, Angelo de la Cruz, had became a symbol of the 8 million Filipinos who have left their poor country to send home money from hard and sometimes dangerous work abroad." Arroyo subsequently banned Filipinos from working in Iraq.
There's something wrong with this argument
There's something bothering me about this line of argument -- namely, that it applies with equal force to George H.W. Bush. Before he got elected in 1988, Bush Sr. was widely viewed as a resume looking for a position to fill. And he was a mighty fine president in my book.
I'm not saying that John Kerry is George H.W. Bush. I'm just saying that Lileks ain't persuading me.
UPDATE: Before adding a comment to this post, re-read it very carefully -- yes, that's right, I'm comparing Kerry to Bush 41, not to Bush 43.
This post is dedicated to parents of toddlers...
Sarah Ellison has a must-read front-pager in today's Wall Street Journal. Well, actually it's only a must-read if you have small children -- if you don't, just skip to the next post.
OK, now that the appropriate demographic has been selected, here's Ellison's account of the most daunting challenge parents of two-year olds face -- toilet-training them before they start pre-school. The good parts:
As much as I occasionally rag on journalists, Ellison deserves dome props for this piece. It manages to offer slice-of-life vignettes while simultaneuously addressing larger issues -- day-care regulations, child-rearing philosophies, and product innovations.
UPDATE: Over at Galley Slaves, Victorino Matus has more information about the role that toilets can play in larger questions of public policy.
Bush is losing Wall Street -- will he lose Main Street as well?
David Wighton and James Harding report in the Financial Times that George W. Bush has alienated former supporters among the financial folks:
This jibes with the disaffection felt with the Bush economic team by Republican-leaning policy wonks. And from the other side of the Republican spectrum, David Kirkpatrick reports in the New York Times that traditional conservatives aren't pleased with the Republican party platform (link via Noam Scheiber).
The interesting question will be whether any of this will affect the election. In another post, Scheiber asks the key question:
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Lazy media stereotype continued
Oh, wait, I got that wrong -- replace "op-ed columnist" with "blogger" and then you get Canfield's lead paragraph.
My point here is not (only) to pick on Canfield -- the substance of his story is to discuss the limits of the blogosphere's influence -- but rather to re-emphasize a point I made when George Packer's blog essay came out: "conduct a mental experiment -- replace the word 'blogosphere' with 'New York Times op-ed columnists' or 'David Broder. See if the criticism[s]... still hold up."
Also, it's not like there aren't theories out there explaining how blogs influence politics.
Amy Zegart goes medieval on Fred Kaplan
I think it's safe to say that intelligence reform expert Amy Zegart really dislikes Fred Kaplan's take. She e-mailed me the following reaction:
Post your own thoughts below.
UPDATE: Esther Pan has compiled an excellent backgrounder on the different reform proposals at the Council on Foreign Relations web site.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Offshoring creates jobs in California
Yesterday, Virginia Postrel posted and linked to several stories about a Public Policy Institute of California study on the effect of offshore outsourcing on the Californian economy. Postrel wrote, "The study found that outsourcing actually increases employment in California. Now the Assembly is sitting on the study."
The Assembly may have sat on the study, but it now appears to be available to the public. I clicked over to the PPIC web site and found the report by Jon Haveman and Howard Shatz, which is dated today. Some of their analysis sounds awfully familiar. The good parts (from p. 22-24):
I look forward to the California state legislature's efforts to impose a tariff on services from Arizona.
Here's the report's conclusion regarding the bills designed to block the offshore outsourcing of government contracts (from p. 31):
[Sure, that's California. The rest of the country is losing jobs, right?--ed. Not according to this Business Week story from earlier this month]:
UPDATE: Ashish Hanwadikar has more links on this.
Josh Elliott beats me to the rant
Josh Elliott posts a fine rant in Sports Illustrated's blog about the Olympics that echoes my own thoughts on the matter:
One could argue that there is some degree of subjective judgment in any sport -- umpires calling balls and strikes, officials determining if a runner jumped the gun, etc. However, it is exceedingly rare for the subjective elements in these sports to overwhelm the objective components. In gymnastics or ice skating, the entire competition is based on subjective judgments.
This doesn't mean that judged competitions aren't exciting. Gymnastics, diving, ice skating can be entertaining, and they demand physical excellence -- but they're not sports.
I fully recognize that this will never happen, but that doesn't change the fact that Elliott is right.
UPDATE: Hmmm.... I'm not sure Laura McKenna would approve.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias and Belle Waring weigh in with some counterarguments. Belle is misinterpreting my post in think that I was laying out a necessary and suifficient condition for an activity to be labeled a sport -- I was just articulating a necessary condition.
Matt raises an interesting point:
I'll confess one source of bias that went unmentioned in my original post: it could also be that the Olympic sports I consider to be dubious require musical accompaniment.
Headlines from the future
Read the whole thing.
William Sjostrom has taken a look at the American Political Science Association's (APSA) press release announcing the highlights for its annual conference next week. Sjostrom thinks the deck of high-profile speakers is stacked:
Sjostrom has half a point. I flipped through some of the previous APSA programs, and though there are some exceptions -- William Kristol is an APSA regular -- most of the guest speakers range from mainstream Democrat (Rep. John Lewis, Amitai Etzioni) to radical leftist (Noam Chomsky). And I'll certainly acknowledge that the APSA membership and structure is probably skewed slightly to the left.
Over time, this is undoubtedly a self-reinforcing equilibrium, as conservative-minded political scientists abandon conferences like APSA for the think tank world or for parallel organizations like the Eric Voegelin Society. The assumption that all academics are leftists probably makes it difficult for APSA to obtain top-flight speakers that are right of center.
However, before anyone gets too excited, a brutal, unvarnished truth must be acknowledged -- at most, 5% of APSA participants attend these talks. APSA has about 6,000 attendees, and a crowd of 300 for these kind of talks would be impressive. These speakers influence no one, but are rather preaching to a small and committed choir.
The reasons for the poor attendance are several. First, these kind of talks are usually held during the vital hours of eating and drinking, where the real business of APSA is conducted: power-schmoozing. Well, that and reconnecting with old grad school friends. Second, after a long day of presenting, discussing, and listening to political science, the last thing most people want to do is go to a lecture about politics.
Which is the other dirty secret about my profession -- there's a difference between political science and politics. Most of the presentations and papers given at APSA do not address normative debates about the way politics should be. Instead, they are more detached analyses of why things are the way they are. Sometimes the answers can be ideological, but most political scientists just care about whether their answer is correct -- or more precisely, whether someone else can demonstrate that their preferred answer is wrong.
Anyway, now is as good a time as any to link back to my tips for conference rookies attending APSA for the first time this year.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Open intelligence reform thread
Feel free to comment here on Senator Pat Roberts' proposed plan for intelligence reform. As I've said before, I'm leery of the pushes towards centralization made in the 9/11 Commission report, and Roberts' proposal goes further in some ways. On the other hand, I really do like the idea of splitting up the analytic and clandestine components of the CIA, an I really like the idea of rotating intelligence officers through different agencies.
My opinion don't count for much on this, however. On the other hand, Amy Zegart's opinion does count for a great deal -- intelligence reform is what she studies. So check out what Zegart said last night on Aaron Brown's NewsNight:
UPDATE: I think it's safe to say that Fred Kaplan doesn't like the proposal.
My kind of president
Screw Bush or Kerry -- why can't someone like Mikheil Saakashvili run for president in the United States? As someone who witnessed first-hand the Soviet-style traffic police in action when living in Ukraine, I could only weep with joy after reading C.J. Chivers' account in the New York Times of Saakashvili's police reforms. The good parts:
Read the whole thing. And here's a backgrounder on Georgia's current situation.
Finally, a president who actually wants to shrink the state!
The rest of the story explains why this schedule may be just a tad optimistic -- but damn, do I like this guy's instincts.
Finally, a leader for the lower-right quadrant!!
LAST UPDATE: Gavin Sheridan has lots of posts on Georgia.
Monday, August 23, 2004
Deciphering Lou Dobbs
Lou Dobbs has just published a book, Exporting America : Why Corporate Greed Is Shipping American Jobs Overseas. To promote it, Dobbs gave a long interview to Bill Moyers on the latter's PBS program.
The interview provides a field day of contradictions and economic illiteracy, but the one thing that came through loud and clear is that Lou Dobbs is not the best writer in the world. Moyers quotes the opening passage from Exporting America:
I'm pretty sure I know what Dobbs meant by that second sentence -- but I can't swear complete certainty.
UPDATE: Thanks to alert reader gw, who actually went into the bookstore and discovered that the underlined sentence is written as: "Never have there been fewer business leaders willing to commit to the national interest over the selfish interest for the good of the country over that of the companies they head."
Slightly more intelligible, but I think the Pulitzer committee will be underwhelmed.
Singing the deficit blues
Over at Time's web site, Perry Bacon Jr. declares a pox on both Bush and Kerry when it comes to deficit reduction:
This mirrors a point Steve Chapman made last week in the Chicago Tribune:
I've said it before and I'll say it again -- I've never been more underwhelmed with my choice of major party candidates.
If I haven't depressed you already, go check out the Concord Coalition's latest report on fiscal responsibility. The quick summary:
Saturday, August 21, 2004
A multiple choice question for my readers
This strikes me as something of an exaggeration -- most of the blogs I originally put on the blogrolll are still quite active.
However.... for professional and personal reasons that will soon become apparent, I may be facing one of Krubner's three options relatively soon. Option one seems too radical, and I doubt I'll be pursuing it. So I have a question for my readers -- would you prefer irregular blogging from me alone -- à la the great Virginia Postrel -- or having danieldrezner.com expand into drezner&company.com?
I await your input.
UPDATE: Thanks for all the input!! I'll be reaching my decision soon.
Friday, August 20, 2004
Hi, my name is Dan....
Will Baude has an amusing post up about addiction over at Crescat Sententia. The good part:
The latest Iraq autopsy
Larry Diamond was a Senior Adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad from January to April of this year. A few months ago I blogged about his dissatisfaction with the administration's handling of the post-war occupation of Iraq.
Diamond has articulated that dissatisfaction into a lengthy essay in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs entitled "What Went Wrong in Iraq," that expands on this criticism at length. It's sobering reading. Here's how it starts:
Read the whole thing. And here's a link to the rest of Diamond's writings on Iraq.
Just how Wilsonian are Americans?
Patrick Belton links to the joint Pew/Council on Foreign Relations public opinion survey and comments as follows:
The Council on Foreign Relations seems to agree with Belton's interpretation, asserting, "Realpolitik does not play well with the American public."
The data that Patrick reports is correct but incomplete. Belton's numbers come from the "Beliefs" section. However, when you look at the "Foreign Policy Priorities" section, you get some different looking results. Here's the numbers on what should be a "top priority" of foreign policy (this is from p. 18 of the report). I've bolded the causes that could be clearly labeled as Wilsonian and italicized those that smack of a realist outlook on world affairs:
That's not a Wilsonian ordering of priorities. With the exception of the AIDS response, this is quite the realpolitik preference ordering -- including the (dispiritingly) robust popularity of protectionism.
These results bolster a thesis that I've been cogitating on for the past few months: despite claims by international relations theorists -- including most realists -- that the overwhelming majority of Americans hold liberal policy preferences, it just ain't so. Even if those beliefs are extolled in the abstract, when asked to prioritize among different foreign policy tasks, the realist position wins.
This observation about the shift in attitudes since October 2001 is also interesting (p. 19):
Thursday, August 19, 2004
Happy blogiversary to Eric Zorn!!
Read the whole thing. Jeff Jarvis is quoted, and he expands on his thoughts in this post, which closes:
UPDATE: Henry Copeland has some useful thoughts on this.
Blowback on charter schools
Diana Jean Schemo's New York Times front-pager on Tuesday about an American Federation of Teachers report claiming that charter schools are underperformers compared to public schools has caused Laura at the (newly moved) Apartment 11D to despair:
One possibility is that -- contrary to the fears of skeptics -- it turns out that charter schools do not merely skim the public student body's cream of the crop. As Harvard researchers Will Howell, Paul Peterson, and Martin West point out in their Wall Street Journal op-ed: "These results could easily indicate nothing other than the simple fact that charter schools are typically asked to serve problematic students in low-performing districts with many poor, minority children." Here's the graphical presentation:
Another problem with the AFT study -- it provides only a snapshot of performance, without any trend line. Even the Times story observes:
Here's a link to an extract from that report.
One interesting puzzle, however. The Times story says the American Federation of Teachers "has historically supported charter schools." Rotherham says, "how long can the AFT continue to trade on the notion that all this is more in sorrow than anger? They just don't like charter schools...." My instinct is to side with Rotterham, but I really don't know which assertion is correct. UPDATE: Robert Tagorda provides some clues.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Chester Finn, the charter school advocate quoted in the Times piece bemoaning the low scores of chater schools, blasts the underlying story line here.
Yeah, this'll probably need to go into the revised blog paper
Should Henry Farrell and I revise our blog paper -- and of course we'll be revising it -- Wednesday's White House Briefing by Dan Froomkin in washingtonpost.com will probably have to be cited.
Why? I'm glad you asked:
Bloggers are rightly accused of excessive navel-gazing, and according to the Washington Times' Chris Baker, blogs "have been the domain primarily of amateur political pundits, conspiracy theorists and pseudo-experts on any number of topics." Still, it is worth observing that both Orr's analysis of blogs -- as well as his reading preferences -- seem to buttress the arguments made in our blog paper.
[Hey, what about that WaPo contest?--ed. Readers should feel free to knock themselves out.]
I'd like some porn to go with my glass of red wine
The following is a public health posting from danieldrezner.com:
Much as I would like to say that it's scientifically sound to use porn, the social scientist in me has to observe two whopping caveats to this report:
[That analysis was so robust, so powerful!!--ed. Oh, shut up.]
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Tipping towards one side of the fence
Phil Carter has a lengthy and compelling post that looks at the Tommy Franks book, American Soldier, and highlights highlights just how f#$&ed up the policy process leading up to Operation Iraqi Freedom really was (link via Kevin Drum). Some of the disturbing parts:
I don't agree the sentence about "junking the UN process," -- Germany gets the first-mover prize in that regard -- but beyond that Zakaria makes a powerful case about the primacy of process.
But what about the objectives? Matthew Yglesias responds to my previous post in this way:
Carter, Zakaria, and Yglesias are persuasive -- very persuasive.
Persuasive enough to reduce my probability of voting for Bush down to 0.4.
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Does America suffer from a skills deficit?
One of the policy debates that emerges with the offshore outsourcing debate is whether greater investments in training and education would really address the shift in jobs demand that comes with greater technological innovation and international trade.
With that debate in mind, Timothy Aeppel has a Wall Street Journal front-pager on the current difficulties American employers are facing because of the dearth in Swiss-style machinists:
Here's a chart of the expected increase in demand for certain skill jobs for the future:
It should be noted that the story also says, "U.S. apprenticeship programs have dwindled as the large American companies that once provided the bulk of such training have cut back to save money and now outsource some of the work."
Why ultimate will not become an Olympic sport
In my life before spouse and child, your humble blogger was a halfway-decent ultimate frisbee player -- good enough to play for the Williams College men's team in the late eighties and Stanford men's ultimate team back in the early nineties. I loved the sport, loved the people who played the sport, and counted myself lucky that my only ultimate-related injury was a broken collarbone.
Ultimate has its own national organization and its own world organization as well; according to this census, over 38,000 people actively participate in the sport across the globe. It was always on the cusp of achieving greater mainstream success when I played. So it's with a slight twinge of sadness that I read Barry Newman's Wall Street Journal story explaining why ultimate is unlikely to ever become an Olympic sport. The key sections:
Full disclosure: I know Nob Rauch, as he also attended Williams and played ultimate there.
UPDATE: Zach Braff -- who's clearly hooked on the blogging -- has some really amusing thoughts on how to spiece up the Olympics. Surprisingly, my favorite idea of Braff's was not "Olympic Pole Dancing," but rather adding hedge-clippers to the synchonized diving competition!!
India's crisis of governance
Gurcharan Das has a Financial Times op-ed (subsciption only) that points out the biggest constraint India faces in its economic development: its own government:
Another Financial Times article by Edward Luce and Ray Marcelo highlights that these difficulties create macroeconomic as well as microeconomic difficulties:
At the state level, the Economist has an interesting story on the lack of accountability in Gujarat following the 2002 pogroms against the Muslim minority, and its aftereffects. And in Bangalore, poor infrastructure is causing leading IT firms to consider relocation.
April Witt attempts a sympathetic portrayal of Jessica Cutler -- a.k.a., Washingtonienne -- in the Washington Post Sunday Magazine and halfway succeeds. In the story, Cutler comes across as much less calculating than much of the press coverage of her earlier in the summer. She's also sounds more self-deprecating than in her previous interviews.
On the other hand, she also appears to be aimless, immature, and confident that her looks would open doors for her despite a checkered resume (and, to be fair, she was correct about this). Like others before her, she also foolishly believed that her blog would never be read beyond her circle of friends.
Read the whole thing. This part is particularly interesting:
Looks like Miss Cutler has been reading the blog.
Interestingly enough, a later contributer to the chat posted the following:
Monday, August 16, 2004
Hugo Chavez wins -- what now?
Hugo Chavez is declaring victory in the Venezuelan recall referendum with 58% of the vote. His opponents are declaring a "gigantic fraud."
Daniel Davies has a nice summary of Chavez's post-referendum conundrum over at Crooked Timber:
Davies' analysis leads to an interesting corrollary affecting the U.S. presidential election. Gas prices are one of the few economic indicators that voters care about deeply. If the Chavez result causes gas prices to fall, one has to assume it would benefit Bush and hurt Kerry.
Hugo Chavez providing a political boost to George W. Bush? We certainly do live in interesting times.
UPDATE: The Organization of American States and the Carter Center announced that, "their results agree with the preliminary results announced by the 'Electoral National Council' on the presidential recall referendum."
Sunday, August 15, 2004
The merits of mindless movies
Matthew Yglesias pans Alien vs. Predator, and I have every reason to believe him. Alas, a lot of Americans either disagrees or something, since it opened with a $38.3 million take this weekend -- roughly 50% more than the much-praised Collateral from last week.
On the other hand, AVP does have one virtue -- it prompted Dalton Ross to write a really funny Entertainment Weekly story on how other sci-fi movie franchises would do pitted against one another. Alas, its subscriber only, but here's his take on which movie is better -- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan or Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back:
Let the great geek debate commence!
UPDATE: The Associated Press suggests why Alien vs. Predator will not be raking in a lot more bucks:
LAST UPDATE: David Edelstein has a paean to "versus" movies in his review of AVP in Slate:
The shifting threat from Al Qaeda
The Economist has a good rundown of the latest intelligence about Al Qaeda and its altered post-9/11 state, reaffirming some points that Daniel Byman made a few weeks ago. The good parts version:
Brad DeLong, cartoonist extraordinaire
I must say I admire DeLong's Bush-like, straight-shooting rejoinder -- except for the fact that the entire post is so cartoonish in its treatment of Bush's grand strategy that it undercuts his point. So let's inject a little Kerryesque nuance into the discussion.
First of all, I'm puzzled that DeLong believes Gaddis is praising unilateralsm -- because that's nowhere in his Foreign Policy essay. Indeed, one of his points -- which DeLong quotes -- is that "even in these first few lines, then, the Bush NSS comes across as more forceful, more carefully crafted, and—unexpectedly—more multilateral than its immediate predecessor."
One could argue that Gaddis must have it wrong, and that the administration has, in practice, been astonishingly unilateral. I penned a counterargument to this back in February 2003 and I'll stand by it. The key point: "At worst, the administration can be accused of threatening to act [and eventually acting] in a unilateral manner if it doesn't get most of what it wants through multilateral institutions. Which is pretty much how all great powers have acted since the invention of multilateral institutions."
Yes, the Bush administration has acted more unilaterally than the previous administration, but the extent of its unilateralism is a question of degree rather than some revolutionary paradigm shift. Which is the point of distinguished diplomatic historian Melvyn Leffler in International Affairs. Leffler is hardly a full-blooded fan of the Bush NSS, but the main point of his essay is that the key components of the Bush grand strategy -- hegemony, preemption, democratization -- have appeared and reappeared throughout recent American history. To claim that Bush and/or the neoconservatives sudddenly invented what's in the National Security Strategy is to look at the history of American foreign policy wearing a really powerful set of blinders.
Leffler also underscores a point I made in March of 2003 about why democratization was not an unrealistic goal in Iraq.
Brad is enough of a historian to know better than this post. Once he reenters the land of the three-dimensional, the blogosphere will be a better place.
Saturday, August 14, 2004
Back on the clock
I'd like to thank Siddarth and Reihan for doing such an admirable job of blogging in my absence, and convincing me that I need to see Harold & Kumar go to White Castle. They've encouraged me to outsource the blog somewhat more frequently.
Well, it wasn't just them. I didn't go on vacation this past week -- I just took a break from blogging. And I must confess it felt like a vacation. The e-mail traffic declined, as did my web surfing -- leading me to polish off a few day-job side-projects and make some progress on my book. By the end of the week, my need to check out other blogs slowly faded away. It was very relaxing -- I even recovered from the Nomar Garciaparra trade.
More substantive posts later. In the meantime, check out Rand Beers' interview with Bernard Gwertzman over at the Council on Foreign Relations site. Beers is John Kerry's chief foregn policy advisor, and would likely become national security advisor in a Kerry administration.
Reading the interview, I was disappointed to see zero, zip, nada on democracy promotion. In fact, what was striking about the interview was the general lack of bigthink. On the other hand, there was a great deal of explication about the Kerry team's policy process -- pretty impressive for a campaign.
This leads to an disturbing question. Which is better: a foreign policy with a clearly articulated grand strategy but a f#$%ed-up policy process, or a foreign policy with no articulated grand strategy but a superior policy process?
UPDATE: Oh, I also took the opportunity to see Garden State -- and was pleased to see that it actually lived up to the trailer. Hands down, it's Natalie Portman's best performance since Beautiful Girls.
Sunday, August 8, 2004
Al Jazeera's Forced Vacation
The Iraqi government's decision to shut down the Baghdad office of al Jazeera seems sure to backfire. Allawi justified the decision saying that the network's practice of airing videotaped terrorist demands amounted to incitement. The primary problem with this decision is its futility: al Jazeera can still broadcast into Iraq and the insurgents have shown themselves capable of disseminating their gruesome footage via the web (cf. Nick Berg's beheading). Since there does not appear to be much of an upside, we ought to consider the downside, most notably a propaganda field day for those opposed to the nascent Iraqi regime. Clearly, they will say, the U.S. occupiers have forced their puppets to shut down the only station that was telling the truth about Iraq, and so on. I strongly doubt that the United States in fact had anything to do with the decision, particularly since Rumsfeld admitted on Friday that there was little he could do about negative coverage from al Jazeera. (Interestingly, he does note prior attempts by the Iraqis to clip al Jazeera's wings by denying them press credentials.) But none of this will deter conspiracists in the region and elsewhere.
Outsourcing's Human Face
Hi everyone. I'm looking forward to trading ideas this week while Dan takes a well-deserved break. We must all respect a man who, however unwisely, has put his blog where his mouth is and outsourced it. One or two readers have complained that we're not actually located in Bangalore, something we'll try and rectify in the future. If we had done this next week, I could have blogged while on vacation in Asia, which with time difference would have allowed the blog to run 24/7, demonstrating how outsourcing can release the full potential of American capitalism (to say nothing of web-based opinion journalism). And don't worry too much about our willingness to blog for no wages--so is Drezner.
If you've read our bios, there will be no prizes for guessing who the straight man is this week. So, rather than asking Reihan, "Who's on first?", let me jump in with a news item...
Saturday, August 7, 2004
A note from the management at danieldrezner.com
As the blogosphere keeps growing, competition has become cutthroat and civility seems to be on the wane. Although we are proud of our association with Professor Drezner, we have decided for the next week to launch a pilot project: outsourcing to two temporary guest bloggers. The fact that they're both Indian and willing to work for free should not be construed to lend any credibility to rumors of danieldrezner.com relocating its offices to Bangalore.
With that out of the way, meet your two quest bloggers for the week -- Reihan Salam and Siddharth Mohandas!! Their biographies:
(During his adult years, Reihan has also worked at the Council on Foreign Relations and The New Republic). Enjoy!!
[A brilliant cost-cutting maneuver!! This will triple your blog profits!!--ed. Happy Meals for everyone!! Oh, and did I mention that you've been outsourced indefinitely? You labor-hating bastard!!--ed.]
Just so long as it's campaign rhetoric...
Jill Zuckman writes in today's Chicago Tribune on how the Kerry-Edwards ticket responds to hostile and vocal Bush supporters at campaign events:
I'm sure Kerry supporters would say this is just campaign rhetoric -- exaggerated, distorted, and buffoonish campaign rhetoric.
UPDATE: Just for the record, like Pejman Yousefzadeh, I'm certainly not endorsing the booing in the first place. Indeed, one could argue that this kind of incivility merely encourages the response Edwards gave. What I can't stop wondering -- again -- is what this leads to if Kerry wins.
Friday, August 6, 2004
The UN weighs in on Darfur
Alexander Higgins of the Associated Press reports that the United Nations is not happy with Sudan's government:
Here's a link to the UN News account -- I looked for the actual report, but the UN website was not forthcoming.
In TNR Online, David Englin discusses the resources that would be needed should a military intervention be necessary.
Jobs and the election
I was trying to think of a way to phrase my post about the latest job figures.
Even Irwin Stelzer, in a Weekly Standard article that highlights the good news about the economy over the past month, concedes the following:
Back in the fall at a Right Wing News symposium, I was asked, "What does the
Keep that line in mind for the next three months [That would be easier if you hadn't assumed it was going to be Dean--ed. Hey, I was just responding to the question!! Besides, all the cool blogs thought Dean was going to win then!]
Have Americans stopped reading? Why?
While perusing Mark Edmonson's New York Times Magazine essay on reading I was alarmed to see a reference to a National Endowment of the Arts study suggesting that Americans were reading less literature than they used to.
Surfing over to the NEA's web site, I found the relevant press release from last month. The highlights:
I had two reactions after reading this:
Skimming the actual report, however, I came across this surprising finding on p. 15:
So maybe it's not the Internet.
There are two other facts worthy of note. First, it turns out that decline in total book reading -- as opposed to literature -- is not nearly as pronounced. The percentage of Americans who read a book did decline from 60.9% to 56.6% over the past decade, but the rate of decline was half that of literature readers.
Second, while reading may be in decline, writing is booming. From page 22 of Reading at Risk:
The obvious concern with a decline in reading is that such a trend causes critical thinking skills and one's imagination to atrophy. However, one could certainly argue that reading nonfiction, creative writing, and, hey, maybe even blogging (which for most people is a form of diary-keepng) helps to promote these skills as well. Well, that and a lot of solipsism as well.
To be sure, in terms of gross numbers, the increase in writing is dwarfed by the decline of literature reading. So I'm still worried that we're on the road to hell. But maybe the gradient to Hades isn't quite as steep as the NEA says it is. [I've still got questions about the study--ed. Then read the whole thing!]
One final, random thought -- why hasn't either presidential candidate seized on this report? This strikes me as the ultimate campaign issue if you're wooing middle-class suburban voters.
UPDATE: Jon H. notices something very important from p. 30: "Newspaper and magazine articles about post-September 11 developments and the war in Afghanistan may have hindered literary reading during the survey year." Actually, that's kind of important. If the survey year was anomalous, it could have thrown the trend line completely out of whack.
There will be more on this story soon.
Over 2,000,000 served
Yesterday danieldrezner.com passed the 2 million mark for the number of unique visitors since I started the blog.
Thanks to one and all for clicking!!
Thursday, August 5, 2004
What kind of intelligence reform is necessary?
Members of the 9-11 Commission are not pleased with President Bush tweaking their intelligence reform proposals:
Sounds like a bad omen for the administration, and more fuel for the left half of the blogosphere.
However, intelligence expert Anthony Cordesman argues in a Council on Foreign Relations interview that Bush did the right thing in his initial proposal:
As someone who urged the Bush administration to take the 9-11 Commission's policy recommendations seriously, this sounds about right to me.
Furthermore, Columbia sociologist Duncan Watts has a Slate piece that suggests the urge to centralize control/authority is mistaken:
Watts might be overestimating the extent to which even the 9-11 Commission wants to centralize inelligence. However, his points about the power of informal social networks and decentralized efforts sounds awfully familiar with James Surowiecki's arguments about intelligence reform.
The left half of the blogosphere seems exercised about the notion that the Bush administration suggests that it is implementing the Commission recommendations when it actually isn't. Re-reading Bush's Rose Garden announcement, I think they do have half a leg to stand on. However, I don't really care whether the administration is trying to spin the atmospherics on this -- duh, of course they are -- but I do care about whether the substantive recommendations are the right ones to make. There's an implicit assumption in much of the blogging on this that the Commission must be correct.
The more I think about it, the more I believe that the Commission has put forward a serious proposal -- but there should not be an a priori assumption that it's the best proposal.
UPDATE: I received the following e-mail this morning:
So what's going on in Saudi Arabia?
Well, the good news is that the Saudis have decided to hold national elections in a few months, according to Reuters:
At the same time, the Economist reports that the House of Saud remains sensitive to media criticism:
The most interesting take on the current Saudi situation comes from David Gardner's Financial Times survey. The section on education is particularly revealing:
Read the whole thing.
The grass is always greener...
Beyond the hideous pressures of trying to look chic, I've always said that being a professor at a quality academic institution is a fantastic day job if you can get it. Of course, Zach Braff -- star of Scrubs, director of Garden State, and newbie blogger -- reminds me that there are better jobs out there:
Blowing things up, hanging around with Heather Graham...:
Sniff. [No one, I repeat, no one feels sorry for you--ed.] Oh, did I forget to mention that Braff has had to work in close proximity with Sarah Chalke, Tara Reid, and Natalie Portman as well? And the fact that MSN Entertainment's Kat Giantis reports there are indications that Braff is now dating Natalie Portman? [OK, so no one feels sorry for him either--ed.]
Hillary Clinton does outsourcing
One of Bill Clinton's political gifts was to take at a divisive issue and frame it in a way that sidestepped traditional political faultlines. Quick example: his call for making abortion "safe, legal, and rare." That phrase epitomizes the vast American middle on the issue. One could argue that this is the core of "Third Way" politics in general -- Tony Blair's "tough on crime -- and tough on the causes of crime" would be another example.
Which brings me to Hillary Clinton and outsourcing. The good Senator from New York has managed to play both sides of the fence on this issue, blasting Treasury Secretary John Snow for suggesting that outsourcing helps the economy -- while simultaneously welcoming one of India's biggest outsourcing firms to Buffalo, NY. How to explain this? Some have accused her of lacking a firm grasp on policy issues -- but it could be that Hillary is stumbling around, trying to find a Third Way on the issue.
Which brings me to her Wall Street Journal op-ed of a few days ago. No stumbling here -- she comes up with a superior political response to offshore outsourcing -- that it's not as cost-effective as firms believe it to be:
The article then goes on to propose many of the things John Cassidy said wouldn't be discussed by politicians in his New Yorker essay. The political brilliance of this argument is that it allows the junior Senator from New York to blast the trend of offshore outsourcing without having to agitate for inane policy solutions like protectionism. Her argument is that if firms only realized the true costs, they wouldn't outsource to Bangalore, but to Buffalo instead.
Now, I'm pretty sympathetic to Clinton's argument -- it's a definite improvement over the position taken by the senior Senator from New York. It also buttresses a point I made in "The Outsourcing Bogeyman":
My one caveat: eager to learn more, I checked out the New Jobs for New York web site to find the Howard Rubin study. I found this press release and this summary of the Rubin report (co-authored with Patricia Jaramillo). What I did not find was any hard numbers to back up Rubin's findings. It's not that they don't necessarily exist -- I just couldn't find any copy of the full report, and the summaries provided no data on this point.
Lest I be accused of not doing enough shoe-leather reporting, I, like, actually picked up the phone and called New Jobs for New York. The executive director was very friendly, and suggested I contact Rubin directly. I've left a message with him.
Should I see hard numbers, the readers of danieldrezner.com will be the first to know.
In the meantime, consider this a case study of how Hillary is learning from Bill.
UPDATE: Rubin might have his own consulting prejudices -- according to Forbes, he's a VP for Meta Group.
Blogs threaten national security
Well, some of them do -- according to The Onion.
Or, is this just a power play by the CIA? You be the judge.
Wednesday, August 4, 2004
What the f#$% is going on at the FBI?
Let's say you're running the organization responsible for trying to track potential terrorists in the United States. Immediately after 9/11, let's say that one of your new employees tells you that some of the people doing necessary translating work (from Middle Eastern languages into English) are incompetent, helping to explain why relevant information never made it to the necessary links in the chain of command. What do you do?
Alas, in the case of FBI whistle-blower Sibel Edmonds, it appears that both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice picked option B. For more background on the story, check out this Boston Globe story by Anne E. Kornblut, as well as Fred Kaplan's justifiable rant in Slate. The FBI admitted last week that Edmonds' whistle-blowing was "a contributing factor" in her firing. [Last week? That's, like, a decade in blog-years--ed. Better late than never.]
The coverage of this story reveals the extent to which the FBI has resisted any efforts at reform. In a 60 Minutes story on Edmonds from October 2002, consider this section:
And then there's this New York Times account of another case study in FBI management:
Look, maybe the FBI has changed its ways and these examples are exceptions to the rule. And it should probably be acknowledged that there's probably a strong correlation between being a whistle-blower and generally being a royal pain-in-the-ass.
But they're still pretty scary exceptions. And this open letter from Edmonds to the 9-11 Commission doesn't make me feel any more sanguine. Particularly this part:
UPDATE: In the interest of fairness, here's a link to yesterday's testimony by the Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism/Counterintelligence to the Senate Government Affairs Committee on what the FBI thinks it has done right since 9/11. And here's the FBI's official response to the 9-11 Commission's report.
August's books of the month
Well, given that I've linked to it twice in recent days, my international relations book has to be American Soldier by Tommy Franks. Already the book has forced Don Rumsfeld to defend Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith against Frank's critique. In doing so, according to this AP report, Rumsfeld revealed the following:
One has to assume that Rumsfeld is referring to Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress -- which, given Chalabi's track record since, is not exactly the most effective endorsement of Feith.
The general interest book is James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations. The fact that I make this recommendation even though I can't stand ridiculously long subtitles is a further testament to how much I'm enjoying the book.
Surowiecki's argument is simple -- when left to their own devices, large numbers of people who have diverse talents and perspectives will be consistently better than all individuals at problem-solving, decision-making, and future predictions. The key, to Suroweicki, is how information is gathered nd processed from the crowd. On p. 78, he makes this point with regard to the very topical question of ntelligence reform:
A side note on the intelligence reform question -- Mark Kleiman and Amy Zegart raise some disturbing questions about whether Bush's proposals for a National Intelligence Director would have sufficient authority to improve our intelligence capabilities. Zegart's speculation is particularly troublesome: "my warning bells go off whenever I hear the word "coordinate" so much in one press conference."
I'm cautiously optimistic, for two reasons. First, I suspect Bush is trying to mimic the Goldwater-Nichols reforms of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1986 -- and if memory serves, the JCS is neither in the operational chain of command nor does it possess budgetary authority. Bush explicitly compared the two in the press conference.
Second, Surowiecki's argument is that although coordination at the higher levels matters less than methods to ensure that the information is properly aggregated. In that sense, the reforms at the top matter less than ensuring the transmission of information.
I'm not sure I completely buy Surowiecki's arguments about how crowds facilitate cooperation, but it's still a stimulating argument.
There's a final reason to recommend this book -- it's clear that Surowiecki doesn't just admire cowds in the abstract, he likes to participate as well -- if one defines the blogosphere as a crowd. He's commented on at least two blogs I'm aware of: Crooked Timber and Brad DeLong -- and hey, he just posted here. The blogosphere violate one of Surowiecki's underlying assumptions, which is that one member of the crowd can't influence other members. Still, while many prominent readers of blogs never deign to post a comment, Surowiecki has no problems doing so.
Go check them both out.
UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias thinks I'm misinterpreting Goldwater-Nichols, and has some links to offer up. The thing is, all of the JCS tasks listed in Yglesias' are "advisory." Replace "advisory" with "coordinating role" and it's not clear whether Bush's admittedly vague proposal is all that different.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reading up on Goldwater-Nichols some more, it's clear that the JCS lies outside of the operational chain of command -- the regional commander-in-chiefs (CINCs) report directly to the Secretary of Defense. However, Matt might be correct that the JCS has a larger budgetary role than I originally thought.
Beyond that, the key elements of Goldwater-Nichols was to endow the chairman of the JCS more authority vis-a-vis the service chiefs -- by giving the chair control over the Joint Staff and designating him/her as the principal military advisor to the president. Bush's proposed NID would have similar capacities.
More intruigingly, the Act also empowered the regional CINCs relative to the service chiefs, thus increasing local coordination among the various services. I haven't seen anyone discuss whether something like this would be advisable or appropriate in the case of intelligence -- well, except for those ubiquitous TNT previews for "The Grid."
Tuesday, August 3, 2004
The New Yorker does outsourcing
I got a lot of e-mail requests to discuss John Cassidy's New Yorker story from last week on offshore outsourcing. I resisted them because Cassidy's essay was not on the New Yorker website, so it seemed like it would have been weird. But the e-mails kept coming. So here goes:
What's weird about the piece is that it reads like Cassidy wrote it back in April and then put it in a desk until The New Yorker had some pages to fill. For example, the estimate Cassidy cites from Forrester Research on the number of jobs that will be outsourced was revised upwards in May -- which would bolster Cassidy's point -- but the older figure is used.
This paragraph is emblematic of the problems with the story:
OK, let's skip over the fact that 70% of those corporate execs have said they have no immediate or future plans to outsource. What's important is that Cassidy's small caveat about productivity gains allows him to commit a major fudge, blaming outsourcing for the larger, lackluster employment picture. This simultaneously ignores the importance of productivity and conveniently ignores the fact that the employment data doesn't back Cassidy up.
Both Schultze and Cassidy state that outsourcing and productivity gains can cause the gross destruction of jobs. However, Cassidy wants the reader to believe that outsourcing is the real villain -- Schultze shows that it isn't.
Cassidy closes with the following paragraph:
Brad DeLong has his own problems with this closing. For me -- beyond the dubious linkage between arts funding and outsourcing -- what's missing from the Cassidy piece is a recognition of American strengths in innovation for the future. Hell, even the Progressive Policy Institute -- in a policy brief on offshoring by Richard Atkinson that reads like Cassidy's wish list no less -- recognizes this fact:
When the Progressive Policy Institute agrees with the former head of the McKinsey Global Institute, it does suggest that this is kind of important.
Also on this point, Tammy Joyner has a long Atlanta Journal-Constitution story on the hidden costs that can come from offshoring -- in large part due to the infrastructure deficiencies that Cassidy elides in his essay.
Two other offshoring stories worth checking out:
1) Bruce Bartlett has a policy brief on insourcing vs. outsourcing.
2) William Bulkeley has a Wall Street Journal story on how IBM is adopting new policies to reduce layoffs due to offshore outsourcing. Key line: "IBM is increasing employment for the first time in three years. Earlier this year it said it expected to boost world-wide employment by 15,000 to 330,000 in 2004, including a net U.S. employment boost of up to 2,000, despite offshoring."
More from Tommy Franks
One interesting bit from this Nightline interview is that it wasn't only western intelligence agencies who were fooled on the WMD question:
Michael Kilian's Chicago Tribune story also provides a lot of ammunition for the Kerry campaign:
UPDATE: The Tribune story also makes it clear in the book that Franks has no love for either Douglas Feith or Richard Clarke:
Monday, August 2, 2004
Evaluating the threat from Al Qaeda
Dan Byman, a counterterrorism specialist at Georgetown, has a counterintuitive Slate essay on why the U.S. homeland is safer than commonly thought -- despite the recent terrorist advisory for certain East Coast locales:
There's another reason to believe that an Al Qaeda attack might stoppable. Although the U.S. might still not be prepared to protect critical infrastructure, this Washington Post story suggests that Al Qaeda isn't targeting it either. For all the talk about Al Qaeda's flexibility, they appear to be relatively orthodox in targeting symbols. The key paragraph:
More on this point from Knut Royce of Newsday.
None of this means that the Al Qaeda threat has been eliminated -- but it's still worth noting.
UPDATE: Douglas Jehl and David Johnston report in the New York Times that, "Much of the information that led the authorities to raise the terror alert at several large financial institutions in the New York City and Washington areas was three or four years old." However, both the Times account and this Chicago Tribune story make it clear that while most of the information was old, it was only in the past few weeks that it was obtained by U.S. intelligence. The Tribune report also states, "The senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that while much of the surveillance predated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, some information about one of the targeted buildings was from 2004."
Tom Maguire (who's been on a roll as of late) has some relevant thoughts.
George W. Bush violates the laws of bureaucratic politics
The Associated Press' Deb Reichmann reports that President Bush has embraced two key recommendations from the 9-11 Commission -- the creation of a national intelligence czar and counterterrorism center. Here's a link to the White House transcript of Bush's remarks and answers to questions.
The most startling change from the 9-11 Commission's recommendations was the decision not to place the NID inside the White House. On this point, Bush said:
Later on in the Q&A, he compares the structure he's proposing to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
I'll admit to being gobsmacked -- not because Karl Rove might be reading my blog, but because the Bush administration had an opportunity to centralize policy authority and passed. Their proposed reform might be even better, because it provides one layer of bureaucratic protection from the overt political manipulation of intelligence. However, for a White House -- any White House -- to decline placing an important bureaucracy inside the Executive Office of the President is unusual.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum offers a slightly darker interpretation for Bush's decision:
This is certainly possible -- one reporter said at the press conference that, "some of your [Bush's] own advisors oppose creation of a National Intelligence Director."
That said, bear in mind that even if true, Rumsfeld still lost a fair amount of authority. The President did outline the division of labor in this answer:
If the proposed NID has significant decision-making authority of resource allocation among the myriad intelligence agencies, that's a pretty significant transfer of power.
Laura Tyson vs... John Kerry
Here's an example of the difficulty in trying to nail down what a Kerry administration's trade policy would look like. On the one hand, Matthew Yglesias has a good American Prospect piece (expanding on this blog post) on what he learned in Boston about the Kerry economic team. The key part is his recount of what Kerry advisor Laura Tyson said:
This is music to my ears -- except that I then checked out the Kerry Edwards position paper on trade. On p. 2, I see this nugget of information:
Strictly speaking, the position paper does not conflict with Tyson's statement -- the former refers to "new free trade agreements," the latter to the WTO. However, Matt's implication that there's no wiggle room in a Kerry trade policy to use regulatory standards as a way of blocking trade liberalization is a bit overstated.
One final thought -- I'd like to see someone ask the Kerry economic team the following question: "It was recently decided to extend the deadline for the Doha round of WTO negotiations to the end of 2005. On p. 9 of your position paper on trade, the following is stated:
Does this review apply to Doha as well?"
The five W's and Nigerien yellowcake
Josh Marshall has a long post up detailing some of his investigation into the sourcing of the Nigerien yellowcake documentation: "[T]he Italian middle-man who provided the notorious Niger uranium documents to Italian journalist Elizabetta Burba (she later brought them to the US Embassy in Rome, you’ll remember) was himself given the documents by the Italian military intelligence service, SISMI."
Read the whole thing, and then read Tom Maguire's critical take on one section of Marshall's post.
For me, this is the key part of Marshall's post:
Marshall and Maguire are hashing out the "what?" question of journalism. My big question is why? Assuming Marshall is correct on the sourcing (and he posted this because the Sunday Times of London also has the story), what, exactly, was SISMI's motive in forging the documents and then passing them on to other western intelligence agencies?
Pamela Anderson, novelist
Pamela Anderson is the sort-of author of a forthcoming novel, Star, loosely based on her own climb up the celebrity foodchain. She discusses the book in an interview with Entertainment Weekly's Rebecca Ascher-Walsh. Here are the parts that appeared in the print version of the magazine:
Lest one think that Miss Anderson is the personification of a dumb blonde, read her longer interview with Amazon.com editor Daphne Durham. She's probably not going to be applying for Mensa membership anytime soon, but the contrast between the two interviews does reveal Miss Anderson's savviness at image manipulation and a healthy willingness to poke fun at herself.
And who knows, Star might actually be the perfect book for an August vacation. In an editorial review, Durham praised the book as, "funny, sexy, and utterly compelling--a must read for chick lit fans."
[So Star is going to be one of August's books of the month?--ed. Tempting, but no.]
The perils of excessive certainty
As for retaining cred on both sides, one shouldn't rule out the possibility of equally pissing off both sides as well.
On the latter point, I'm glad Atrios is so sure of himself -- I'll proceed with more caution this time around. Take the case of trade policy. I thought Bush was going to invest more political capiital into trade liberalization than he actually has (today's good news aside) and dismissed the campaign pledge to West Virginia steelworkers to provide protection as "campaign rhetoric." Whoops.
Kerry's rhetoric on outsourcing and trade has been more heated and more prominent than Bush's trade talk in 2000. His choice for vice president used even stronger protectionist rhetoric during the primary campaign. Even if the Senator from Massachusetts doesn't really mean it, there is the problem of "blowback" -- becoming trapped by one's rhetoric (See: George H.W. Bush, "no new taxes").
For the issues I care about, there's still a fair amount of uncertainty about what either a Kerry or Bush administration would look like come January 2005. At this point I'm not thrilled with my choice either way.
Bob Rubin's "probabilistic" decision-making style rested in part on deferring decisions until they were absolutely necessary. I'm happy to bide my time.
Sunday, August 1, 2004
What does Tommy Franks think?
In Plan of Attack, General Tommy Franks -- the CentCom commander and architect of both the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns who retired in the fall of 2003 -- was quoted as describing Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith as "The f***ing stupidest guy on the planet." With a quotation like that, I'm kinda curious what Franks will be saying in his soon-to-be-released book, American Soldier.
Mark Thompson has a Q & A with Franks in Time that suggests a, dare I say it, complex take on the Bush Administration. Some of the good parts (the ALL CAPS are Thompson's questions):
Read the whole thing.
Doha is back on track
Following up on Thursday's post, WTO negotiators have announced a successful "July package" that lays the groundworks for cobbling a successful trade deal. Lisa Schlein has a story for Voice of America:
As this WTO press release points out, this pushes the deadline back from the original January 2005 deadline, but that's to be expected. The WTO Secretary-General is clearly pleased:
[C'mon, it's a froggin' press release -- of course he's going to be upbeat!--ed. Actually, it's been my experience that compared to other international governmental organizations, the WTO press material is remarkably free of spin or artifice.]
You can take a gander at the text of the recent agreement by clicking here.
The contrast between the Bush administration's positive contributions to this step foward on trade and Kerry's praise of the "fair trade" shibboleth, does alter one of the four key factors in my voting decision come November. So, my probability of voting for Kerry has been lowered from .54 to .50.
UPDATE: Robert Tagorda provides plenty of links, including this New York Times story and the Kerry campaign's fatuous press release on the matter. From the latter, this part was particularly inane:
The first point is a non sequitur, since it has little to do with the Bush administration. Exports are largely a function of other countries' aggregate demand and the exchange rate. Under Bush, the dollar has depreciated in value. What's depressed exports has been the sclerotic growth of our major trading partners, not some failure of the Bush administration.
As to the second point, I look forward to hearing the Kerry economic team argue that, "We can expect to sell our goods and services, and create jobs, if America and our partners, trading partners, start raising barriers and closing off markets."
In contrast, USTR head Bob Zoellick said the following in his press release:
Here's a useful USTR fact sheet as well.
This does not excuse the myriad examples of protectionism committed by this administration -- but the past week has seen some substantive pluses for the Bush team and some rhetorical minuses for the Kerry team on trade.