Thursday, September 30, 2004

Dan Froomkin has an assignment for the blogosphere

Planning on watching tonight's foreign policy debate? Then listen to Dan Froomkin -- the author of the invaluable Whie House Briefing at the Washington Post -- who has an assignment for the blogosphere and its readership:

[H]ere's another way to make sure that the substance of Bush and Kerry's comments are fully and quickly assessed.

Some key political bloggers, who have so effectively proven their ability to hold the press accountable, will tonight be posting their own debate fact-checks -- and will be asking their readers to find and document substantively incorrect statements by the candidates, as well.

I've already talked to several bloggers on both sides of the political spectrum and they're on board. I urge others in the blogging community to join in the experiment. Just make sure you e-mail me at so I know you're out there.

I will be able to do this (I hope) -- but even if I can't my readers are heartily encouraged to do so. Dan's e-mail to me said specifically, "If you accept reader comments, I am asking you to ask your readers to do so as well."

UPDATE: Just got back to the hotel -- I'll be liveblogging the debate.

9:05 PM: Kerry looks exhausted to me.

9:08 PM: Bush: "The A.Q. Khan network has been brought to justice" WHAT?????

9:14 PM: Was it just me, or did Kerry just assert that Osama bin Laden was definitely in Afghanistan?

9:18 PM: Bill Clinton's gift was to be able to marry a set of stylized facts to a political narrative. When Kerry tries to do this, he just gets bogged down -- the narrative disappears.

9:29 PM: Rick Brookhiser over at NRO says that on radio, "Kerry seems marginally better than Bush." That's interesting, because on television, I'd say Bush seems more forceful than Kerry to date.

9:29 PM: "I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. But the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?" That's a good line.

9:35 PM: Bush: "We won't achieve out objectives is we give mixed signals." That's Bush's theme for the night.

9:40 PM: Kathryn Jean Lopez is right about Kerry's optics problem.

9:56 PM: The second time Kerry uses the "outsourcing to Afghan warlords" line. Both of these guys are repeating themselves a hell of a lot. UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg makes a good point here.

10:00 PM: Kerry's rejoinder about the number of states further ahead in the WMD program is good, but a factual question -- are there really thirty states with active WMD programs? UPDATE: Here's the precise quote: "Thirty-five to forty countries in the world had a greater capability of making weapons at the moment the president invaded than Saddam Hussein." That sounds way off to me, but I'll need to fact-check.

10:03 PM: Bush keeps pronouncing "mullahs" as "mooolahs" -- that can't be correct, can it? UPDATE: Apparently it is -- points for Bush.

10:07 PM: I think Bush was wrong in saying that North Korea breached the 1994 accord with regard to the highly enriched uranium and not plutonium. Technically, the 1994 framework never mentioned the highly enriched uranium -- though it is safe to say the DPRK violated the "spirit" of the text.

10:13 PM: I really like the exchange about certainty. It nicely sets up the contrasts between the two. UPDATE: Let's reprint this in full:

BUSH: [T]hat's my biggest concern about my opponent. I admire his service. But I just know how this world works, and that in the councils of government, there must be certainty from the U.S. president.

Of course, we change tactics when need to, but we never change our beliefs, the strategic beliefs that are necessary to protect this country in the world....

KERRY: But this issue of certainty. It's one thing to be certain, but you can be certain and be wrong.

It's another to be certain and be right, or to be certain and be moving in the right direction, or be certain about a principle and then learn new facts and take those new facts and put them to use in order to change and get your policy right.

What I worry about with the president is that he's not acknowledging what's on the ground, he's not acknowledging the realities of North Korea, he's not acknowledging the truth of the science of stem-cell research or of global warming and other issues.

And certainty sometimes can get you in trouble....

BUSH: I fully agree that one should shift tactics, and we will, in Iraq. Our commanders have got all the flexibility to do what is necessary to succeed.

But what I won't do is change my core values because of politics or because of pressure.

And it is one of the things I've learned in the White House, is that there's enormous pressure on the president, and he cannot wilt under that pressure. Otherwise, the world won't be better off.

10:14 PM: Kerry, "I've never wavered in my life." ?????!!!!!!!

10:16 PM: Maybe it's my imagination, but this debate improved dramatically once the questions moved away from Iraq.

10:21 PM: Dammit, the Yankees clinched the AL East.

10:23 PM: On the response to Russia, it strikes me that Bush talks like a neoconservative when it comes to the Middle East, but a pragmatic realist when he talks about the rest of the world. UPDATE: Hey, Kerry picked up on this!

10:30 PM: The debate wraps up. Optics-wise, it doesn't look good for Kerry to just have Theresa up there while Bush has his daughters up there as well.

After an awful start, I thought Kerry and Bush got stronger as the evening wore on. But Kerry got much stronger -- his criticisms of Bush got sharper over time. Bush stuck to the message, stuck to his message, and stuck to his message. I'll be curious to see how the ratings look -- whether people stuck with the debate for the entire evening. If they tuned in early but then tuned out, Kerry is in trouble. If people came in halfway through, Kerry gets a boost. The other key is which clips the media uses in their recaps.

Here's a link to the Washington Post's transcript of the debate.

I was glad to see that issues beyond Iraq came up for discussion. Indeed, the discussion about certainty boiled down to core philosophical disagreements on the process and preferences of foreign policy between the two candidates -- a rarity in this age.

This Jonah Goldberg post sounds on target:

The Bush campaign miscalculated on having the first night be foreign policy night. That doesn't mean everything's gone great for Kerry, but it wasn't the overwhelming advantage for Bush that the strategists -- and I -- thought it would be.

Plus, Jeff Greenfield admits he reads conservative blogs!!

I've decided to liveblog the post-debate spin -- for what it's worth. Everyone should remember that immediately after the first Gore-Bush debate, the pundits thought Gore had cleaned Bush's clock.

CNN: Poor Mike McCurry -- technical difficulties are ruining his spin efforts.
UPDATE: Dear God, not Larry King!!!!!!! ACK, IT'S ANN RICHARDS!! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!

ABC: They have an instant poll showing Kerry winning 45% to 36%, with 17% calling it a draw.

Kevin Drum: Thinks it looked bad when Bush was smirking. Actually, I didn't see much smirking -- I thought Bush looked pissed off. I don't know if that's going to hurt him or not.

Andrew Sullivan: Starts off with snark -- but it's interesting that Abu Ghraib did not come up once during the debate.

Larry King just said CNN has a poll with Kerry winning the debate 53% to 37%. As David Gergen points out, given Gallup's prior polling showing stronger support for Bush than Kerry, it's an interesting signal (UPDATE: Bill Schneider confirms Gergen's assumption -- the pre-debate polling sample was 52 to 44 in favor of Kerry Bush).

FINAL UPDATE: I'm going to sleep. Comment away!!

posted by Dan at 04:03 PM | Comments (163) | Trackbacks (10)

Erratic blogging ahead

I'm typing this within spitting distance of Harvard University -- I'm here for a conference on offshore outsourcing sponsored by the Harvard Law School's Labor & Worklife Program. There are going to be a lot of WashTech and AFL-CIO representatives here -- I'm sure I'll be very popular. Anyway, blogging will be light -- though I promise to post my post-debate thoughts.

My primary goal these next two days -- avoiding that darn plagiarism bug that seems endemic to this place. The rash of plagiarism has even generated its own anonymous blog.

One quasi-serious thought about this: bloggers are probably extra-sensitive to this kind of ethical infraction, because one could argue that citations in the blogosphere usually go beyond what exists in academia. A common norm in blogging is to cite the blog that connects one to an original document -- e.g., "ooh, look at this interesting Washington Post story (link via Belgravia Dispatch)." However, very few footnotes in academia go so far as to say who tipped them off to the cited source. There are exceptions (thanking a colleague for pointing out the piece, or attribution when an embedded quote is lifted without checking the original source), but they're very rare.

posted by Dan at 11:51 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Open debate thread

What questions about foreign policy would you like to see put to the candidates tomorrow evening?

Debate away!

UPDATE: Hey, Jim Lehrer!! Over here!! Read these questions -- they're all very good!!

My question is to the Commission on Presidential Debates:

According to your web site, "The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners." Given that the rules for this debate pretty much forbid any interaction between the candiates, do you feel you've honored your charter?

[Don't the campaigns set these ground rules in their own bargaining?--ed. Yeah, but the Comission has given its official imprimatur to this, so they're at least somewhat complicit.]

posted by Dan at 10:51 PM | Comments (64) | Trackbacks (0)

Until the New York Times allows footnotes, this post will have to do.

Wondering whether my New York Times op-ed was based primarily on memos from the seventies that mysteriously reappeared this month? Relax, I have some footnotes for you.

The principal source for the op-ed was the GAO's report on the offshoring of services -- about which I've previously blogged. And a big thank you to the GAO staff for their professional and courteous responses to the myriad e-mails queries I sent them (not that they necessarily endorse anything I said in the op-ed)

This post also has some relevant material in terms of discussing the relative importance of different factors contributing to job losses.

Four other sources -- IBM's adventures with offshoring are summarized in this Industry Week story by Tonya Vinas. The Kodak anecdote came from a paper by Daniel T. Griswold and Dale Buss for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Kerry's quote was widely reported -- here's one link. Here's a link to the full .pdf version of their report, "Outsourcing Benefits Michigan Economy And Taxpayers." The polling data comes from this Foreign Policy Association report on public attitudes towards foreign policy. Alas, this also reveals the one error of fact in the op-ed -- Zogby's polling was conducted in August and not September.

Finally, readers who want to read more of what I've written on the topic should this June 2004 piece from The New Republic online, and my Foreign Affairs article from May/June of this year, "The Outsourcing Bogeyman."

For a dissenting view, read this report sponsored by WashTech and conducted by the the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois, Chicago (I commented on it here)

posted by Dan at 12:58 AM | Comments (45) | Trackbacks (4)

An existential crisis for the blog

Those poor souls with enough time on their hands to click on this blog's "about me" page may recall one reason I gave for blogging:

I love the academic side of my job, i.e., the researching and writing about international relations theory. But I’m also a policy wonk. And since the New York Times op-ed page mysteriously refuses to solicit my views, the blog lets me scratch that itch.

Well, today I have an op-ed in the New York Times on offshore outsourcing. Here's the opening paragraph:

John Kerry is making the outsourcing of jobs by American companies a centerpiece of his campaign, telling audiences that "because of George Bush's wrong choices, this country is continuing to ship good jobs overseas." President Bush's team has in turn accused the senator of hypocrisy, noting that many of Mr. Kerry's supporters in the business world run companies that are sending jobs offshore. Yet as each side angles for votes, neither is addressing the real issue: is the outsourcing of jobs a problem? The answer, surprisingly, is no.

I'm less than thrilled with the title, "Where Did All the Jobs Go? Nowhere" because I'm not claiming that the employment situation is hunky-dory -- it's not. I'm claiming that the contribution of offshore outsourcing to that employment picture is prett minimal -- contrary to popular belief.

Anyway, I have every confidence that this will be the topic of discussion among policy cognoscenti for today!

[Ahem, did you see who wrote the other op-ed for the Times today?--ed. Hey, who are Americans going to listen to -- an untenured professor located somewhere in flyover country, or the guy who won the popular vote for President in 2000? Besides, the last time a prominent big shot shared a prominent piece of publishing real estate with me was when Sandy Berger had a Foreign Affairs essay in the same issue as me. And look at what happened to him!]

Anyway, an awkward question arises -- if I can publish in places like the New York Times op-ed page.... do I still need the blog for itch-scratching?

An internal debate worthy of only the most pure of egomaniacs.....

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

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

I'll take Matthew's bait

Matthew Yglesias is a bright young man, so I have to assume he doesn't really mean what he's saying in this post:

One thing I thought was sort of unfortunate about Klam's article -- though I understand why he did it -- is that it left out the most boring, but probably most valuable, sub-sector of blogging. Namely, the expert blogger. The folks who do this well are creating some extremely useful stuff, especially for those of us whose business it is to be semi-informed about a wide range of things. And, in my opinion, we don't have nearly enough of them. Juan Cole is great, but why don't we have two, three, four Juan Coles. Only in the field of law, or so it seems to me, are there a sufficient number of expert bloggers that one can count on a critical mass of posts emerging when something important (a big Supreme Court case, usually) comes up that let readers follow the back and forth of debate and really learn something. A related -- and expanding -- blogospheric niche is the DC wonk blog, as seen by the efforts of Rotherham, Kilgore, Clemons, and Schmitt (sporadically). This, I think, holds a great deal of promise.

Academics have real jobs and will only perform the great public service of blogging about what they know if they happen to be egomaniacs. Think tankers and other such people one encounters here in DC, on the other hand, really are just being paid to disseminate ideas throughout the world. (emphasis added)

[BEGIN SARCASM] Reading this, I'll resist the temptation to call for a coalition of the egomaniacs to smite the puny, insignificant Ph.D.-less Yglesias -- and just assure him that I put my pants on one leg at a time just like the little people inside the Beltway [END SARCASM]

However, it's worth pointing out that those last two sentences are comparing apples and oranges. If Matt thinks the think tank world has fewer egomaniacs.... well, he's been hanging out too much with the research assistants and not enough with those higher up the think tank food chain. For those with doctorates, one could argue that those who elect to go the think tank route are self-selecting into career tracks that reward egomania -- in the form of greater public adulation, proximity to power, and more media whoring opportunities -- to a far, far greater extent than academia.

So, while it's likely that both academic and think tank bloggers are egomaniacs, I would submit that the probability of egomania -- while high in both categories due to self-selection effects -- is greater for the think tank crowd.

For one example of a modest academic blogger, consider the Invisible Adjunct -- who had such an ego that she refused to reveal her identity despite the outpouring of adulation that came with her regretful departure from the blogosphere.

UPDATE: Brad DeLong fesses up to Yglesias. My favorite line comes from one of his commenters: "I was just happy for someone to say in seriousness that 'Academics have real jobs.'"

ANOTHER UPDATE: Matt points out he was joking -- and rereading his post, I think I might have taken it too seriously. And a final, obvious point -- anyone who thinks that it's a good idea to have an eponymous web site have a touch of that old egomania.

posted by Dan at 01:00 PM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (2)

Jimmy Carter, meet Jane Galt

Jimmy Carter wrote a snarky op-ed in the Washington Post about Florida's voting system, arguing that, "some basic international requirements for a fair election are missing in Florida."

Megan Mcardle, a.k.a. Jane Galt, posts a rejoinder over at Asymmetrical Information. Some snark is involved.

posted by Dan at 01:07 AM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (1)

Monday, September 27, 2004

What is John Kerry's Plan B?

A key plank -- some would say the key plank -- of John Kerry's plan for Iraq is to "internationalize, because others must share the burden."

It's not like I'm thrilled with the Bush administration's handling of the war, but I'd like to see Kerry's response to this Financial Times story:

French and German government officials say they will not significantly increase military assistance in Iraq even if John Kerry, the Democratic presidential challenger, is elected on November 2.

Mr Kerry, who has attacked President George W. Bush for failing to broaden the US-led alliance in Iraq, has pledged to improve relations with European allies and increase international military assistance in Iraq.

"I cannot imagine that there will be any change in our decision not to send troops, whoever becomes president," Gert Weisskirchen, member of parliament and foreign policy expert for Germany's ruling Social Democratic Party, said in an interview.

"That said, Mr Kerry seems genuinely committed to multilateralism and as president he would find it easier than Mr Bush to secure the German government's backing in other matters."

Even though Nato last week overcame members' long-running reservations about a training mission to Iraq and agreed to set up an academy there for 300 soldiers, neither Paris nor Berlin will participate.

Michel Barnier, the French foreign minister, said last week that France, which has tense relations with interim prime minister Iyad Allawi, had no plans to send troops "either now or later".

That view reflects the concerns of many EU and Nato officials, who say the dangers in Iraq and the difficulty of extricating troops already there could make European governments reluctant to send personnel, regardless of the outcome of the US election.

If you read the whole article, it's clear that the European reluctance is based on the sense that the current security situation in Iraq is deteriorating -- in other words, it's partially the current administration's fault that Kerry's plan won't work.

However, that doesn't change the fact that Kerry's insistence that he can turn Iraq into a more multilateral endeavor is the foreign policy equivalent of promising that the budget can be balanced through more stringent enforcement of the current tax code -- it sounds nice, but it ain't true.

posted by Dan at 01:43 PM | Comments (68) | Trackbacks (2)

Remind me please why Donald Rumsfeld still has a job?

A few days ago, James Dobbins laid out the basic timetable for resource allocation when it comes to statebuilding in the New York Times (link via David Adesnik):

The object of nation-building is to return power to a competent, responsible and representative local government as soon as possible.

In a country like Iraq where the governmental structure has collapsed, the first priority is to establish public security. Second is to begin rebuilding the local structures for governance. Third is to create an environment in which basic commerce can occur - where people can buy and sell goods and services and get paid in a stable currency. Fourth is to promote political reforms, stimulate the growth of civil society, build political parties and a free press, prepare for elections and organize representative government. Fifth, and last, is improving roads, bridges, electricity, water, telephones and the rest....

The Defense Department brought a perspective to the tasks of nation-building that reflected its own experiences in building military bases and procuring weapons systems, which led it to largely ignore recent and historical experiences with nation-building. Instead, the Pentagon focused more on hardware than software, on improving infrastructure rather than social structures. It also relied more on large American military contractors than on Iraqi contractors and smaller nonprofit groups specializing in political transformation.

To be fair, Dobbins' lead paragraph pointed out that the Bush administration was reallocating resources towards security provision. And in Sunday's Washington Post, General David Petraeus lays out a forceful program of reconstituting Iraq's security forces (link via Glenn Reynolds):

Helping organize, train and equip nearly a quarter-million of Iraq's security forces is a daunting task. Doing so in the middle of a tough insurgency increases the challenge enormously, making the mission akin to repairing an aircraft while in flight -- and while being shot at. Now, however, 18 months after entering Iraq, I see tangible progress. Iraqi security elements are being rebuilt from the ground up.

The institutions that oversee them are being reestablished from the top down. And Iraqi leaders are stepping forward, leading their country and their security forces courageously in the face of an enemy that has shown a willingness to do anything to disrupt the establishment of the new Iraq....

Iraq's borders are long, stretching more than 2,200 miles. Reducing the flow of extremists and their resources across the borders is critical to success in the counterinsurgency. As a result, with support from the Department of Homeland Security, specialized training for Iraq's border enforcement elements began earlier this month in Jordan. (emphasis added)

Read all of Petraeus' essay. I hope his prediction is correct. However, that bolded section stood out because of what Steve Negus wrote in today's Financial Times:

Only a two-foot embankment or a $2 bribe stand in the way of a Syrian Islamist wishing to wage jihad in Iraq.

The US military and the Iraqi interior ministry have pushed in recent months to seal Iraq's long western border against the infiltration of "foreign fighters" as part of an overall plan to beef up security before January elections.

But for now, US and Iraqi officials say, the border is virtually no obstacle at all.

Until earlier this month, travellers at this remote desert border crossing could enter Iraq without a visa. Now a visa is required - but Iraqi officials freely admit the requirement can easily be circumvented with a bribe.

Travellers mingle in an immigration hall before being called one by one to have their papers stamped. It is a chaotic environment in which money can easily change hands without anyone noticing.

Asked if his men are genuinely interested in stopping infiltration, one Iraqi customs official shrugs and says: "To be honest, no."

An infiltrator who wants to avoid even the minor inconvenience and expense of the official posts would have little trouble doing so, US officers say.

Rumsfeld's Defense Department was in charge of ensuring post-invasion security. It's been eighteen months since the invasion, and while Rumsfeld is clearly aware of the problem, there is little indication that he has made any strategic adjustment to the situation at hand.

Why does he still have a job?

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan links to this Rajiv Chandrasekaran report in the Washington Post:

Less than four months before planned national elections in Iraq, attacks against U.S. troops, Iraqi security forces and private contractors number in the dozens each day and have spread to parts of the country that had been relatively peaceful, according to statistics compiled by a private security firm working for the U.S. government.

Attacks over the past two weeks have killed more than 250 Iraqis and 29 U.S. military personnel, according to figures released by Iraq's Health Ministry and the Pentagon. A sampling of daily reports produced during that period by Kroll Security International for the U.S. Agency for International Development shows that such attacks typically number about 70 each day. In contrast, 40 to 50 hostile incidents occurred daily during the weeks preceding the handover of political authority to an interim Iraqi government on June 28, according to military officials.

Reports covering seven days in a recent 10-day period depict a nation racked by all manner of insurgent violence, from complex ambushes involving 30 guerrillas north of Baghdad on Monday to children tossing molotov cocktails at a U.S. Army patrol in the capital's Sadr City slum on Wednesday. On maps included in the reports, red circles denoting attacks surround nearly every major city in central, western and northern Iraq, except for Kurdish-controlled areas in the far north. Cities in the Shiite Muslim-dominated south, including several that had undergone a period of relative calm in recent months, also have been hit with near-daily attacks.

In number and scope, the attacks compiled in the Kroll reports suggest a broad and intensifying campaign of insurgent violence that contrasts sharply with assessments by Bush administration officials and Iraq's interim prime minister that the instability is contained to small pockets of the country.

posted by Dan at 01:23 AM | Comments (73) | Trackbacks (1)

Sunday, September 26, 2004

The New York Times Magazine discovers that bloggers are geeks

The teaser for Matthew Klam's cover story on political bloggers:

The bloggers covering the presidential race are maverick, funny, mostly partisan and always hypercaffeinated. Are they ruining political journalism or recharging it?

That's a great question, but Klam doesn't answer it in the article -- in fact, I'm not even sure he addresses it.

Instead, Klam has written a piece on how, regardless of ideology, topic of interest, or writing style, all bloggers share a common trait -- they're geeks. [Surely not Wonkette?--ed. Click here for her dirty little secret (link via Mark Blumenthal).] By geek, I mean that they have an unusually strong appetite for information that the rest of humanity might find.... a tad dry. Geeks are also acutely conscious of the pre-existing social hierarchy, and have a strong sense of unease about their place in that hierarchy.

Klm's essay is essentially a profile of Josh Marshall, Ana Marie Cox, and Markos Moulitsas -- all of whom are successful bloggers, and all of whom aspire to be more than successful bloggers.

So, while I learned little that would be useful for my research on blogs and politics, I did pick up the following tidbits of information:

1) The Pandagon bloggers get chicks -- a fact that they're Jesse Taylor is chivalrously mute about it in their his own blogging of the article (Ezra Klein, on the other hand, surrendered to his inner Fonzie). This is from Klam's opening:

The Tank was just one small room, with theater lights on the ceiling and picture windows that looked out on the parking garage across 42nd Street. Free raw carrots and radishes sat in a cardboard box on a table by the door, alongside a pile of glazed doughnuts and all the coffee you could drink. The place was crowded. Everyone was sitting, staring at their laptops, at bridge tables or completely sacked out on couches. Markos Moulitsas, who runs the blog Daily Kos, at, was slouched in the corner of one squashed-down couch in shorts and a T-shirt, his computer on his lap, one of the keys snapped off his keyboard. He's a small guy with short brown hair who could pass for 15. Duncan Black of the blog Eschaton, who goes by the name Atrios, sat at the other end of the couch, staring out the window. On the table set up behind them, Jerome Armstrong of MyDD worked sweatily. Jesse and Ezra, whose blog is called Pandagon, were lying with two cute women in tank tops -- Ezra's girlfriend Kate and Zoe of Gadflyer -- on futon beds that had been placed on the tiny stage of the performance space. Their computers and wireless mice and some carrots and radishes and paper plates with Chinese dumplings were scattered between them. A month ago, at the Democratic convention, Zoe had accidentally spilled a big cup of 7-Up on Jesse's computer, killing it. She and Jesse now looked as if they might be dating.

Congratulations to Jesse and Ezra for emerging from this story with a semblence of their dignity intact.

2) Ana Marie Cox looks good drinking a martini, is overly infatuated with MTV, and doesn't get paid a whole hell of a lot to be Wonkette.

3) Somewhere in the back parts of his closet, Joshua Micah Marshall has a set of Vulcan ears and a Klingon dictionary:

In Boston, the day before the convention started and after a long, glittering night following the Wonkette to fancy parties, I came back late and found Josh Marshall in my hotel room, lying sideways on a cot, blogging. He was drinking a Diet Coke, his face illuminated by the glow of his laptop, legs crossed, socked feet hanging off the edge. Earlier in the day, when he mentioned that his hotel reservation didn't start until Monday, I had offered to share my room with him for the night....

In my room in Boston, he had a little hotel ice bucket by his side with two more Diet Cokes in it, and he finished them off before bedtime. It was late, and I was tired and he was disoriented, trying to blog under such circumstances, but before we turned off the lights he wanted to show me his Talking Points Memo ID, which resembled a press badge. He wondered if I thought it looked real. The credentials we would all be receiving the next day didn't require any press badge, but staff reporters of actual news organizations always seem to have separate institutional ID's, thick plastic magnetized deals that can open locked doors. Working off the model of a friend's ID, Marshall had, using his girlfriend's computer and photo printer, made a sober little knockoff, including his picture (in coat and tie), an expiration date and an explanation of company policy: should the company's only employee be terminated, the badge would become the property of Talking Points Memo. He laminated it at Kinko's. He had also brought his own lanyard (each media empire has its own necklace strings) and his own little plastic badge holder. I told him it looked completely legit.

Your humble blogger is very glad that he's sufficiently below the radar that Klam found it unnecessary to profile him. I susect this is how Klam's first psragraph would have gone:

Daniel Drezner typed furiously on his Dell laptop -- a particularly impressive feat given that Drezner uses only two fingers to type. With his right foot, he slowly rocked a car seat containing his youngest child, Lauren, only a few weeks old and currently dozing off. With all the successes Drezner has reaped from his blogging, I sense he had hoped he'd be exempted from some child care duties during this election season. This unspoken argument has had no effect on his wife Erika, who was taking a much-needed nap. Success in blogging seems to have had little effect on Drezner's domestic responsibilities.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds collects blogosphere responses. I'm particularly amused that both the left and the right halves of the blogosphere are pissed off about Klam's essay.

I have to think that Klam must be ticked off at the Times headline writers -- they badly mischaracterized the tenor of Klam's essay, which is far more anthropological than political in nature.

posted by Dan at 12:29 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (3)

Friday, September 24, 2004

Note to self: trademark the University of Drezner

Yesterday the GAO issued a report entitled "Diploma Mills Are Easily Created and Some Have Issued Bogus Degrees to Federal Employees at Government Expense." This snippet, from the results in brief, discusses the actions of the GAO's Office of Special Investigations (OSI):

OSI purchased two degrees from a diploma mill through the Internet. After identifying “Degrees-R-Us” as a diploma mill, our investigator held numerous discussions in an undercover capacity with its owner. Posing as a prospective student, the investigator first contacted Degrees-R-Us to obtain information regarding the steps to follow in purchasing degrees. Following those instructions, we purchased a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a Master of Science degree in Medical Technology. The degrees were awarded by Lexington University, a nonexistent institution purportedly located in Middletown, New York. We provided Degrees-R-Us with references that were never contacted and paid a $1,515 fee for a “premium package.” The package included the two degrees with honors and a telephone verification service that could be used by potential employers verifying the award of the degrees.

OSI also created a diploma mill to test vulnerabilities in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFEL). We created Y’Hica Institute for the Visual Arts, a fictitious graduate-level foreign school purportedly located in London, England. We first created a bogus consulting firm that posed as Y’Hica’s U.S. representative and the principal point of contact with the Department of Education (Education). In addition, we created a Web site and set up a telephone number and a post office box address for Y’Hica. Using counterfeit documents, we obtained certification from Education for the school to participate in the FFEL program. Education has since reported that it has taken steps to guard against the vulnerabilities that were revealed by our investigation. (emphases added)

I'm trying to visualize the bull session at which GAO staffers came up with the name "Y’Hica Institute for the Visual Arts." Readers are invited to submit their preferred name for a diploma mill (obvious jokes about Harvard will be treated with casual scorn).

Hmmm.... on the off chance that the Department of Education hasn't closed that loophole, maybe academic blogs can find another revenue-generating stream?

UPDATE: Here's a news recap of the report:

How many senior level employees in the federal government have degrees from diploma mills?

The real answer: no one knows. That is the conclusion of the GAO’s Robert J. Cramer, Managing Director for GAO’s Office of Special Investigations, who testified before a Congressional subcommittee on the issue. A recent investigation found that there is a problem but there isn’t a system in place to accurately verify the validity of educational degrees claimed by federal employees.

Having said that, it is clear that some senior federal employees have obtained degrees from educational companies that do not require any work to earn the degrees.

GAO defines diploma mills as nontraditional, unaccredited, postsecondary schools offering degrees for a low flat fee, promoting the award of academic credits based on life experience, and not requiring classroom instruction....

GAO asked the Department of Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, Veterans Administration, Small Business Administration and Office of Personnel Management for information. 28 senior employees in these listed degrees from unaccredited schools, and 1 employee received tuition reimbursement of $1,787.44 toward a degree from a diploma mill.

The final result is that agencies are not able to provide reliable data because they do not have systems to verify academic degrees or to detect fees for degrees disguised as payment for individual training courses. Additionally, the agency data GAO found do not reflect the extent to which senior-level federal employees have diploma mill degrees. This is because the agencies do not sufficiently verify the degrees that employees claim to have or the schools that issued the degrees.

posted by Dan at 06:13 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

Do blogs penetrate the campaign cocoon?

Jay Rosen has a must-read post that relates a Philip Gourevitch lecture on what it's like to cover a presidential campaign. Gourevitch comes across as the grown-up version of the Lindsey Lohan character in Mean Girls, applying his strengths as a foreign correspondent to a new situation: "The presidential campaign as a foreign country visited for the first time by our correspondent."

The two parts I found particularly informative:

"A presidential election is a like a gigantic moving television show," he said. It is the extreme opposite of an overlooked event.

The show takes place inside a bubble, which is a security perimeter overseen by the Secret Service. The bubble is a physical thing: a threshold your body crosses. If you are part of the traveling press corps, sticking with the candidate through the swing states, then you have to be swept--screened for weapons and explosives--or you cannot be on the bus. If you go outside the bubble for any reason, you become a security risk until you are screened again by hand....

"Right there they have you," Gourevitch told our crowd of about 50 journalism students and faculty. "Outside the bubble you cannot go because then you're dirty again and have to be checked by the Secret Service." Under these conditions, he said, "no spontaneous reporting is possible."

You cannot jump into the crowd with an audio recorder and find out why those people were chanting what they were chanting before they were shown away by security guards. Accepting this limitation--a big one--becomes part of the bubble.

While it's tough for the press to leave that bubble, it's becoming easier for outside information to enter it:

Gourevitch joins the bus, and trudges through the morning's events. Nothing but photo ops and words heard a hundred times that week. There's a break and he pulls out his notebook. Then he realizes not a single thing happened that is worth writing down. But the other reporters have opened their laptops and they are springing into action. They found nothing to write down either. They're checking emails, pagers, and the Net because they "receive" the campaign that way. The bubble is made of data too.

A trail of meaninglessly scripted events is taken for granted, the emptiness at each stop is tolerated, in part because things crackle and hop so much in the information sphere.

I wonder if blogs are part of what these journalists check.

Read the whole thing -- and then go read the debate between Glenn Reynolds and Virginia Postrel over whether blogs focus too much on media criticism. This point by Postrel rings true:

Many of the best policy blogs have almost no media criticism, nor do they go looking for political scalps. They don't even constantly write about the superiority of blogs. That's why you almost never read about them. Reporters and media critics are bored, bored, bored by the very sort of discourse they claim to support (a lesson I learned the hard way in 10 long years as the editor of Reason). They, and presumably their readers, want conflict, scandal, name-calling, and some sex and religion to heighten the combustible mix. Plus journalists, like other people, love to read about themselves and people they know.

UPDATE: For more on the metaphysics of media coverage, check out John Holbo's marathon post on the topic.

posted by Dan at 01:11 AM | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (1)

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Peter Bergen on Afghanistan

As a follow-up to my last post on Bush's commitment to democracy promotion, it's worth pointing to this New York Times op-ed by Peter Bergen (link via Andrew Sullivan, who characterizes Bergen as "by no means a Bush-supporter."). The highlights:

Based on what Americans have been seeing in the news media about Afghanistan lately, there may not be many who believed President Bush on Tuesday when he told the United Nations that the "Afghan people are on the path to democracy and freedom." But then again, not many Americans know what Afghanistan was like before the American-led invasion. Let me offer some perspective....

As I toured other parts of the country, the image that I was prepared for - that of a nation wracked by competing warlords and in danger of degenerating into a Colombia-style narcostate - never materialized. Undeniably, the drug trade is a serious concern (it now compromises about a third of the country's gross domestic product) and the slow pace of disarming the warlords is worrisome.

Over the last three years, however, most of the important militia leaders, like Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum of the Uzbek community in the country's north, have shed their battle fatigues for the business attire of the politicians they hope to become. It's also promising that some three million refugees have returned to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. Kabul, the capital, is now one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, with spectacular traffic jams and booming construction sites. And urban centers around the country are experiencing similar growth.

While two out of three Afghans cited security as their most pressing concern in a poll taken this summer by the International Republican Institute, four out of five respondents also said things are better than they were two years ago. Despite dire predictions from many Westerners, the presidential election, scheduled for Oct. 9, now looks promising. Ten million Afghans have registered to vote, far more than were anticipated, and almost half of those who have signed up are women. Indeed, one of the 18 candidates for president is a woman. Even in Kandahar, more then 60 percent of the population has registered to vote, while 45 percent have registered in Uruzgan Province, the birthplace of Mullah Omar...

What we are seeing in Afghanistan is far from perfect, but it's better than so-so. Disputes that would once have been settled with the barrel of a gun are now increasingly being dealt with politically. The remnants of the Taliban are doing what they can to disrupt the coming election, but their attacks, aimed at election officials, American forces and international aid workers, are sporadic and strategically ineffective.

If the elections are a success, it will send a powerful signal to neighboring countries like Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, none of which can claim to be representative democracies. If so, the democratic domino effect, which was one of the Bush administration's arguments for the Iraq war, may be more realistic in Central Asia than it has proved to be in the Middle East.

UPDATE: Do check out Alexander Thiel's more pessimistic op-ed on the same page. This fact is certainly disturbing:

Kabul's Supreme Court, the only other branch of government, is controlled by Islamic fundamentalists unconcerned with the dictates of Afghanistan's new Constitution. On Sept. 1, without any case before the court, the chief justice ordered that Latif Pedram, a presidential candidate, be barred from the elections and investigated for blasphemy. His crime? Mr. Pedram had suggested that polygamy was unfair to women. These clerics are trying to establish a system like that in Iran, using Islam as a bludgeon against democracy.

Reading these two side by side, there's actually less disagreement that one would think. Shorter Thiel: "We could have done Afghanistan better than we have." Shorter Bergen: "Compared to the way things were, there's still a vast, vast improvement."

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias raises some issues with Bergen. And a comment on Matt's site confirms something I had suspected -- Bergen missdates an Asia Foundation poll that I had blogged about here. Bergen says the poll was taken in July, but that's only when it was publicly released. The survey was conducted in February and March.

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

China and the G-7

Paul Blustein reports in the Washington Post about a very important invitation:

China will participate in a special meeting with the Group of Seven industrialized countries on Oct. 1, the U.S. Treasury said yesterday, an announcement that could herald Beijing's eventual membership in the elite economic club.

John B. Taylor, the undersecretary of the Treasury for international affairs, said one major purpose of the meeting will be "high-level engagement" with the Chinese on their currency policy, which has become a politically charged issue in the United States.

Beijing's longtime policy of fixing its exchange rate at 8.3 yuan per dollar is viewed by many economists, manufacturers and labor groups as giving Chinese products an unfair price advantage in world markets, and the Bush administration has come under criticism for failing to press the matter more aggressively.

Calling the meeting "a historic first engagement," Taylor said it will be held over dinner in Washington after a regular session of top G-7 policymakers on global economic issues. Jin Renqing, the Chinese finance minister, and Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China, will join counterparts including Treasury Secretary John W. Snow and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Asked whether the Chinese will be invited to future meetings or given full membership in the group, Taylor declined to rule either possibility in or out.

"The next steps will depend on how this meeting goes," he said. But he strongly indicated that more such meetings are likely, saying that they "are useful in making progress on economic reform" and that the currency issue "is a very natural one for the G-7 to discuss with China" given its implications for global trade and finance....

Following the end of the Cold War, Russia was also invited to join the group's annual leaders' summit, which was re-christened the G-8. Russian officials also attend some of the meetings of finance ministers and central bank governors, though they do not participate in the sessions dealing with matters such as exchange rates. Russian officials will not attend the meeting with the Chinese, Taylor said.

I suspect it will be quite some time -- if ever -- before China becomes a full-blown G-7 member. Having participated in the G-7 process while at Treasury, it involves an intense and ongoing consultation among officials up and down the chain of command. This kind of close working relationship doesn't always produce consensus, but there is a shared trust in the value of the consultation process. When the states in question are on the same page -- or at least pretty close to each other -- it's a powerful coordination tool.

The trillion-dollar questions are whether a) Chinese preferences are even close to the advanced industrialized states on global economic matters; b) Whether the G7 finance ministries are willing to trust their Chinese counterparts. You'd think I would have firm answers to those questions -- but I don't.

Still, the outcome of this meeting will be very interesting to observe.

posted by Dan at 12:41 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (2)

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The GAO's Rorshach test on offshore outsourcing

Over a year ago, U.S. Representative Adam Smith (D., Wash.) asked the GAO (which used to be called the General Accounting Office, but has since been renamed the Government Accountability Office) to study "issues related to offshore IT services outsourcing." As the offshore outsourcing brouhaha heated up, more and more congressman dogpiled on top of this request, expanding the GAO's mandate beyond just the IT sector.

The first part of that report has been released today. It's essentially a literature review of available government data on the magnitude and impact of offshore outsourcing. There are two themes that come out from this: 1) the government data on this phenomenon is incomplete and imperfect; 2) what data exists suggests that offshore outsourcing is not quite the tsunami it's been made out to be.

This is from the Results in Brief (p. 3):

Federal statistics provide limited information about the effects of offshoring IT and other services on the U.S. labor force and the economy overall. The Department of Labor’s Mass Layoff Survey (MLS) shows that layoffs attributable to overseas relocation have increased since 1999, but these layoffs represent a small fraction of workers laid off—of 1.5 million layoffs reported in the 2003 MLS, 13,000 (0.9 percent) were reportedly due to overseas relocation. The data also show that most of these layoffs were in the manufacturing sector.

And this is from p. 15:

U.S. government data provide some insight into the trends in offshoring of services by the private sector, but they do not provide a complete picture of the business transactions that the term offshoring can encompass. In particular, they do not identify U.S. imports of services previously produced by U.S. employees. Similarly, federal procurement data on purchases of IT and other services provide some insights, but it can be difficult to determine where such work is performed. The available data indicate that the trend in offshoring show little change over the past 5 years. (emphasis added)

This is consistent with my own back-of-the envelope-calculations from earlier this year.

Now, what's interesting is the responses to this report. This is a snippet from the press release by two Seattle-based labor unions, SPEEA-IFPTE and WashTech:

"This study is a good first step," said Charles Bofferding, executive director of SPEEA. "It recognizes that outsourcing is growing and a troubling trend for our workers and our country."

"The GAO has clearly stated in this report that outsourcing of U.S. jobs abroad can not be ignored, and the government needs to act in order to address the issue in terms of data collection and policy solutions," said Marcus Courtney, WashTech president.

Released in Washington, D.C., the study was made at the request of Washington state Reps. Adam Smith (D-9th District) and Jay Inslee (D-1st District). The congressmen were prompted to make the request by the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), IFPTE Local 2001 and the Washington Alliance of Technical Workers (WashTech), CWA Local 37083. (emphasis added)

Now let's go to what Representative Adam Smith has to say about the report in his press release:

The extent of outsourcing is probably less than they [the GAO] had expected going into the study. Also, at least by using the metrics available, they were unable to separate out the impact of outsourcing on the economy versus other “meta” factors such as the burst of the technology bubble and the hangover from the pre-Y2K tech buildup.

Services are still a relatively small part of the US imports.

“This study shows us that we have the opportunity to address the growing trend of offshore outsourcing with positive and aggressive solutions,” said Smith. “We should increase investment in research and development, improve math and science education in K-12, enhance training and professional development for workers, open markets for American goods and renew the government’s focus on promoting innovation. By doing so, we can make sure that our economy remains the most vibrant and competitive one in the world.”

Smith continued, “We are at a relatively early state in the offshore outsourcing trend. We must get the facts straight and have a serious and educated policy dialogue on outsourcing. It’s my hope that this study will help “kick off” that process and move the discussion in a positive way that is focused on real issues and solutions. I am committed to continuing my work on identifying real solutions to this potentially growing problem for the American people.” (emphasis added)

A tip of the cap from everyone here at to U.S. Representative Adam Smith. Beyond the unbelievably cool-sounding name, Smith has acted like a responsible grown-up on the offshore outsourcing issue. His one op-ed on the subject didn't demagogue the issue, and offered an eminently sensible, constructive request -- expanding coverage of Trade Adjustment Assistance to include service sector workers. No hysterical claims that offshoring was destoying the American economy, or even his district. Just a sensible policy proposal and an appropriate request for more information. Also, in contrast to the aforementioned unions, it appeared he's actually read the GAO report.

A politician who seems reasonably well-informed and resists scapegoating a non-issue. Damn, that's refreshing.

Oh, and for those who just can't get enough of offshore outsourcing, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has just released its 2004 World Investment Report. If you download Chapter IV, there's a nice overview of the offshoring phenomenon.

UPDATE: Brier Dudley and Marilyn Geewax have dueling stories at the Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer respectively. One data point that captures attention is the fact that "the number of business, technical and professional services, flowing into the United States, however is rising, from $21.2 billion in 1997 to $37.5 billion in 2002," as reported by Geewax (this is CNN's lead as well).

That's an increase of 76.9%, which sounds really bad. But it's only half of the picture. What about exports of business, technical and professional services?

Those precise figures weren't in the GAO report, so I e-mailed their staff to see if they knew -- and they promptly replied. As it turns out, during the same period, exports of these services rose from $44 billion in 1997 to $64.5 billion in 2002 (This is from the Bureau of Economic Analysis's Survey of Current Business, October 2003, p.65, Table E).

So in other words, between 1997 and 2002, when offshore outsourcing is supposedly taking off, the balance of trade in the services likely to be offshored went from a $22.8 billion surplus to a.... $27.0 billion surplus.

My heart be still.

FINAL UPDATE: In fairness, see this erudite comment below by an IT consultant. I certainly won't deny that offshoring can have a hard affect on indivudual workers -- I just don't think it warrants the hysteria that, say, this comment epitomizes.

posted by Dan at 02:49 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (1)

A modest proposal to ban automation

Over at the anti-outsourcing IT Professionals Association of America, someone has discovered an insidious plan to destroy jobs in this country:

Have you seen self check out counters lately in your area stores such as Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart, Home Depot, Grocery stores etc. We have many in Dallas area. Guess what? The employers are cutting hours of cashiers, give them less than 28 hours, cut/stop their benefits and health insurance, use customers to do their job for free, and pocket higher profits. Watch out for those so called "Self check outs" or "Speedy check out Counters".

Basically, customers who use self check out terminals are eliminating jobs of fellow Americans.


Now I don't want to go off on a rant here, but if you ask me, this proposal doesn't go far enough. It's not just the automated cashiers who put people out of jobs. What about the ATMs that dispense money instead of bank clerks? What about those automated kiosks in airports that dispense boarding passes instead of gate agents? What about those computer thingmabobs -- you know, the devices without which no one could conceive of being a member of the ITPAA -- that have replaced many secretarial positions? Dear God, what about the Internet? WHAT ABOUT THE INTERNET??!!!

Clearly the ITPAA has fallen for the lump of labor fallacy. But I do admire their intellectual consistency. Most opponents of trade and offshoring clam up when it's suggested that a logical extension of their position is to oppose technological innovation and automation as well -- since technology, like trade, is about how to produce more efficiently (for more on this point, see this essay by Brink Lindsey). So bravo to the ITPAA for not being afraid to be out-and-out Luddites.

UPDATE: Several commenters suggest that the site I linked to is some kind of satire or parody. I can assure you it is quite real. I should also add that although I vehemently disagree with Scott Kirwin (ITPAA's founder) on the offshore outsourcing stuff, we've had nothing but polite interactions over the Internet on this issue.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Several commenters point out their dislike of automated checkout lines. They should check out the Economist's thoughts on the topic. Closing paragraph:

[T]here are limits to how far self-service can be taken. Companies that go too far down the self-service route or do it ineptly are likely to find themselves being punished. Instead, a balance between self-service and conventional forms of service is required. Companies ought to offer customers a choice, and should encourage the use of self-service, for those customers that want it, through service quality, not coercion. Self-service works best when customers decide to use a well designed system of their own volition; it infuriates most when they are forced to use a bad system. Above all, self-service is no substitute for good service.

posted by Dan at 02:32 PM | Comments (32) | Trackbacks (1)

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The neocon split over George W. Bush

A few weeks ago I was talking with someone far more plugged into Washington than myself. We were chatting about the neoconservatives and my breakfast partner raised an important distinction -- that one had to distinguish between the neocons who supported John McCain in 2000 (Robert Kagan, Bill Kristol) and the neocons who supported George W. Bush in 2000 (Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle). Both groups had the same overarching policy goals, but there was one important difference -- the McCain supporters understood that democracy promotion in the Middle East and elsewhere was not something that could be done on the cheap. In the case of Iraq, for example, the McCain neocons believed that statebuilding in Iraq would require a heavy force, while the Bush supporters bought into Rumsfeld's idea that shock, awe, and a light force could do the trick.

This split has persisted in the wake of what's happened in Iraq. However, there's now a deeper question that could really split the neocons -- is the Bush administration really interrested in democracy promotion at all?

This question isn't really inspired by the Bob Novak article -- which still sounds fishy to me. Rather, it's the Bush White House's non-response to Vladimir Putin's power grab -- a position which über-neoconservative Robert Kagan criticized in his Washington Post column last week (link via Kevin Drum).

This week, the problem is Pakistan. The New York Times has an interview with President Pervez Musharraf that opens as follows:

Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, said in an interview today that his leadership was freeing his country from the menace of extremism and that this national "renaissance" might be lost if he kept his pledge to step down as Army chief at the end of this year.

"Yes, I did give my word that I would," he said of his promise to serve only as the country's civilian president after Dec. 31, 2004 in a step viewed as fulfilling his larger promise to return Pakistan to democratic rule. "But the issue is now far greater than this."

Speaking in a one-hour interview with The New York Times after his arrival in New York for the United Nations General Assembly meeting this week, General Musharraf said Pakistan was making significant inroads into Al Qaeda, arresting some 600 suspects, ending the terror group's illicit fund-raising in major cities and breaking up long-established bases in remote border areas. This effort, he said, required "continuity."

This buttresses a Times story from two days ago suggesting that Musharraf was planning this very thing.

Substantively, realists argue that regime type doesn't matter, and that since Russia and Pakistan are vital allies in the war on terrorism, we should look the other way for thesecountries. I've alread said why I think this is the wrong move most of the time. Last week, Kagan said why this is wrong with regard to Russia:

With Russians confronting vicious terrorists, Putin is consolidating his own power. How, exactly, does that help us win the war on terrorism?

In fact, it will hurt. Failure to take sides with democratic forces in Russia will cast doubt on Bush's commitment to worldwide democracy. A White House official commented to the New York Times that Putin's actions are "a domestic matter for the Russian people." Really? If so, then the same holds for all other peoples whose rights are taken away by tyrants. If the Bush administration holds to that line, then those hostile to democracy in the Middle East will point to the glaring U.S. double standard; those who favor democracy in the Middle East will be discredited. That will be a severe blow to what Bush regards as a central element of his war on terrorism.

Nor should the president and his advisers doubt that vital U.S. interests are at stake in the Russian struggle. Fighting the war on terrorism should not and cannot mean relegating other elements of U.S. strategy and interests to the sidelines. A dictatorial Russia is at least as dangerous to U.S. interests as a dictatorial Iraq. If hopes for democratic reform in Russia are snuffed out, Russia's neighbors in Eastern and Central Europe will be rightly alarmed and will look to the United States for defense.

And there is an even more fundamental reality that the president must face: A Russian dictatorship can never be a reliable ally of the United States. A Russian dictator will always regard the United States with suspicion, because America's very existence, its power, its global influence, its democratic example will threaten his hold on power.

The U.S. will also be blamed by Pakistanis for Musharraf's anti-democratic decisions as well:

Western diplomats complain that while the country's opposition members are full of fiery rhetoric and criticism of General Musharraf, they have proven to be largely ineffective political opponents.

But Siddiqul Farooq, a spokesman for the anti-Musharraf faction of the Pakistan Muslim League political party, blamed Western countries for the situation.

"If the West does not believe in double standards and if the West believes in the democratic system, then it should also like to see the same system in Pakistan," he said. "The West should put pressure on Musharraf."

There's also a political question for the McCain wing of the neocons (at least) -- if this administration's commitment to democracy promotion is this weak, then what difference is there between Bush and Kerry for someone who cares about this issue?

[But just yesterday Bush proposed a Democracy Fund at the United Nations!!--ed. Oh, good -- the U.N. has excelled at the promotion of democratic governance. Oh, wait.... ]

UPDATE: David Adesnik offers some unresolved thoughts on this subject.

posted by Dan at 04:21 PM | Comments (62) | Trackbacks (7)

Monday, September 20, 2004

Will Bush pull out of Iraq in January?

Robert Novak says the answer is yes in the Chicago Sun-Times:

Inside the Bush administration policymaking apparatus, there is strong feeling that U.S. troops must leave Iraq next year. This determination is not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi democracy and internal stability. Rather, the officials are saying: Ready or not, here we go.

This prospective policy is based on Iraq's national elections in late January, but not predicated on ending the insurgency or reaching a national political settlement. Getting out of Iraq would end the neoconservative dream of building democracy in the Arab world....

Well-placed sources in the administration are confident Bush's decision will be to get out. They believe that is the recommendation of his national security team and would be the recommendation of second-term officials. An informed guess might have Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, Paul Wolfowitz as defense secretary and Stephen Hadley as national security adviser. According to my sources, all would opt for a withdrawal....

Abandonment of building democracy in Iraq would be a terrible blow to the neoconservative dream. The Bush administration's drift from that idea is shown in restrained reaction to Russian President Vladimir Putin's seizure of power. While Bush officials would prefer a democratic Russia, they appreciate that Putin is determined to prevent his country from disintegrating as the Soviet Union did before it. A fragmented Russia, prey to terrorists, is not in the U.S. interest.

The Kerry campaign, realizing that its only hope is to attack Bush for his Iraq policy, is not equipped to make sober evaluations of Iraq. When I asked a Kerry political aide what his candidate would do in Iraq, he could do no better than repeat the old saw that help is on the way from European troops. Kerry's foreign policy advisers know there will be no release from that quarter. (emphasis added)

Reactions from Andrew Sullivan, Josh Marshall, Robert Tagorda,and Greg Djerejian. They all boil down to the credibility of Novak's sources.

The bolded portion of the piece provides me with the greatest skepticism on this subject. On what planet is Paul Wolfowitz going to get confirmed by the Senate, even a Senate with a slight Republican majority? Only this June, the Los Angeles Times had a piece on how this was a non-starter. Naturally, that piece is no longer availably for free, but Robert Tagorda excerpted it in this post:

[W]here neoconservatives were once seen as having a future in Republican administrations, the setbacks in Iraq could make it difficult for the group's leading members to win Senate confirmation for top posts in the future....

[P]roblems in Iraq have made administration neocons lightning rods for criticism. Without significant improvements in U.S. efforts there, many of them would be unlikely to remain for a second Bush term, neoconservatives and congressional Republicans said.

Last year, Wolfowitz, a former senior State Department official, was frequently mentioned as a leading candidate to replace Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in a second Bush term. Now, congressional officials and neoconservatives agree there is little chance that Wolfowitz, seen as a primary advocate of the war, could survive a Senate confirmation.

"No way," said a senior Republican congressional aide.

OK, so Novak is talking about Wolfowitz for DoD rather than State, but I don't see anything that's changed since June.

Which means either Novak's source is not as plugged in as Novak thinks -- or that Novak's source is plugged in but highly delusional.

BELATED UPDATE: I've had a few conversations with people who have much better administration sources than I. Their collective assessment is that the speculation in the Novak article is -- to use the technical term -- "bulls**t"

posted by Dan at 11:10 PM | Comments (85) | Trackbacks (2)

Open CBS postmortem thread

Feel free to comment on the admission of error on by CBS on its 60 Minutes II story on Bush's National Guard duty -- and its ramifications for the election, the mediasphere, and the blogosphere -- here.

Joe Gandelman has some commentary that's worth excerpting:

[B]y issuing this statement CBS has at least stopped the massive bleeding -- but not the bleeding. It waited so long it's credibility has been damaged; this wasn't just a case of bloggers but other key media outlets going after the veracity of CBS. If it had just been a case of bloggers CBS' retraction wouldn't have come. In fact, many journalists were dismayed by how this story ever got on the air, given the strict standards of confirmation on major stories practiced by not only most news outlets (including local papers) but also taught in journalism schools.

PREDICTION: This will likely increase interest in the media for more information on George Bush's military history. There were two issues here: the validity of the documents and whether forgeries were being held up as real, and questions about Bush's military history.

I'll only add two thoughts:

1) The statement implies that the documents got through the process because their source -- Bill Burkett -- lied to CBS about their provenance. This fails to mention the fact that their own document experts raised serious doubts.

2) CBS can mock the blogosphere all it wants, but it's worth pointing out the partisan (meant in the best sense) Kevin Drum recognized the dubious quality of Burkett as a source long before the nonpartisan staff at CBS: "I talked with Burkett at length back in February, and speaking as someone who believes his story about Bush's files being purged, I still wouldn't trust him for a second if he suddenly produced a bunch of never-before-seen memos out of nowhere."

UPDATE: One of the ironies of this case is that earlier this year Jack Shafer had praised CBS and 60 Minutes in Slate for admitting error in a prior report. Of course, that was Lesley Stahl instead of Dan Rather.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Laura McKenna has a must-read post on media and blogger biases.

posted by Dan at 03:13 PM | Comments (28) | Trackbacks (1)

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Character and the 2004 election

Peter Beinart's TRB column in The New Republic says that the Bush administration is using foreign policy as a cover to press its character issue.

President Bush talks a lot about the war on terrorism. And so many have assumed he wants to make this election a referendum on foreign policy. But I don't think that's true. What he wants, I suspect, is to make this election a referendum on "character"--the same issue that helped him so much in 2000. It's just that, after September 11, foreign policy is the easiest way to do that. In 2000, before international affairs was a top voter concern, the Bush campaign said Al Gore showed poor character by exaggerating his invention of the Internet and the prescription-drug costs for his dog. Today, the Bushies say John Kerry shows poor character by waffling on the war on terrorism. An actual debate about the wisdom of Bush's foreign policy--particularly in Iraq--is precisely what his campaign's character strategy is designed to prevent.

Read the whole thing.

Beinart isn't necessarily wrong here, but his analysis does omit one rather important point -- John Kerry's been just as guilty on this front. Anyone who saw the Democratic National Convention saw a pageant to Kerry's Vietnam service -- an attempt to signal to voters through his biography that he has the necessary character to evince strength and leadership in foreign policy.

The interesting question to ask is why the perception of Bush's strength of character has apparently held up better than Kerry's. Groups on both sides have been firing at each other on character questions for most of the summer. Possible explanations:

1) Bush's strength is not real but a polling artifact;

2) Bush is still riding the convention wave -- but it's ephemeral [C'mon, the GOP convention ended last month!!--ed. Go click on Will Saletan's infamous "Bush is Toast" piece in Slate and check the date. He wrote that at the peak of Gore's convention bounce];

3) The character attacks against Kerry didn't need the mainstream media, but the ones against Bush did. For conservatives, as Jonathan Last put it in the Weekly Standard: "An informal network--the new media--has arisen that has the power to push stories into the old media. The combination of talk radio, a publishing house, blogs, and Fox News has given conservatives a voice independent of the old media." This would be a case study in support of Brian Anderson's theory (and, with a slightly different normative perspective, Eric Alterman's) about the growth of conservative influence in the mediasphere;

In contrast, the attacks against Bush did need the mainstream media, which then proceeded to make some pretty big journalistic f***-ups;

4) Bush and his supporters were more aggressive than the Kerry camp in hitting back and hitting back fast;

5) "The old conventional wisdom is correct: reelection campaigns are fundamentally referendums on the incumbent."

6) Kerry actually does have greater character issues than Bush; and finally...

7) John Kerry is just a God-awful campaigner until he's threatened with near-certain defeat.

Readers are invited to submit their own explanations and select among these.

UPDATE: John Harwood has a great primer explaining the fluctuating poll numbers in today's Wall Street Journal.

posted by Dan at 05:50 PM | Comments (48) | Trackbacks (1)

Paul Samuelson's mistake about offshore outsourcing

One of the more common critical responses to defenses of offshore outsourcing is the claim that defenders of the practice are being deluded by a set of archaic economic ideas that only work in the ivory towers -- they need to get out in the real world, man.

Beyond ignoring the intrinsic value of economic theory as a device for understanding the world, what's amusing about this line of argumentation is that protectionists throw it out the window the moment someone comres up with an economic theory that seems to support their argument. Which is fine -- except that, far more often than not, the models they embrace rest on assumptions that are often harder to satisfy in the real world than the standard neoclassical trade models.

For exhibit A on all this, consider Paul Samuelson's recent contribution to the outsourcing debate. In The American Prospect, Eamonn Fingleton has a rhetorical field day proclaiming that Samuelson's bombshell has eviscerated the orthodoxy of free trade. One excerpt:

For James Fallows, a liberal-leaning critic of Washington's blink-first style in trade diplomacy, Samuelson's analysis is a call to policy-makers to break free from utopian theories and, instead, take a hard look at the real world.

"The great problem in Western discussion of trade theory has been its simpleminded Panglossianism," he says. "The main thing that has supported globalism, apart from the self-interest of many powerful participants, has been the idea that economic theory was 100 percent on the side of Dr. Pangloss. To have the most esteemed of all modern economists say that things are not this simple is a very important step."

There's just one problem with all of this -- Samuelson's paper has nothing to do with offshore outsourcing as it's commonly understood.

Arvind Panagariya -- Professor of Economics at Columbia -- provides a concise explanation for where Samuelson gets confused on offshore outsourcing (thanks to Asif Dowla for the link). Here's a long excerpt to explain what Samuelson was arguing:

Samuelson employs the standard Ricardian model, which assumes two countries (called America and China), two goods (called 1 and 2) and one factor of production (called labor). Because the endowment of labor is taken as fixed in the Ricardian model, any change in the total national income are reflected fully in the change in the real wage. If the real wage rises, real incomes of all individuals and therefore the nation rise. Alternatively stated, the wage also represents the per-capita income in the model....

Samuelson conducts three experiments in this model:

(1) He starts at autarky and then allows the countries to trade. Both America and China unambiguously benefit from this opening to trade. America has a comparative advantage in good 1 and specializes completely in that good and China in good 2. Nothing controversial arises here.

2) Starting at this free-trade equilibrium, Samuelson next introduces a productivity increase in China in the good it exports, good 2. With more of good 2 produced, its relative price falls. America can now buy good 2 more cheaply from China, which benefits America. Nothing controversial arises here either, at least from the American viewpoint.

(3) Starting once again at the free-trade equilibrium, Samuelson finally introduces a productivity improvement in China in the good it imports and America exports, good 1. If this productivity improvement is just right to equalize the cost ratios between America and China that gave rise to trade in the first place, all trade is wiped out and America is robbed off all benefits of trade it previously enjoyed....

Samuelsons analytic result... that technical progress in China can wipe out all potential gains for America is not in dispute at allas I describe below, it has been known to trade economists at least since 1950s when the late Harry Johnson who taught International Trade at the University of Chicago first demonstrated it. What is in dispute is whether it represents outsourcing.

Thus consider the example given by Samuelson in the last first of the two paragraphs quoted above (which is incidentally fully in conformity with the definition of offshore outsourcing provided at the beginning of this note): High I.Q. secondary school graduates in South Dakota, who had been receiving from my New York Bank wages one-and-a-half times the U.S. minimum wage for handling phone calls about my credit card, have been laid off since 1990; a Bombay outsourcing unit has come to handle my inquiries. (Emphasis added) In the analytic model, the good experiencing productivity change in China is the one exported by the United States to China (i.e., good 1). But did any high I.Q. secondary school graduates from South Dakota (or elsewhere in America for that matter) handle the phone calls for the customers in China? Not really. The calls were made by the Americans and answered by the Americansno international trade in them took place. Virtually all activities associated with outsourcingcall center services, x-rays transmitted electronically to be read abroad, transcribing services, accounting services and virtually all back office serviceshave this property of having been non-traded before the Internet, phone and fax turned them into traded services. Therefore, the equilibrium at which Samuelson considers the productivity change is simply the wrong one to represent outsourcing.

posted by Dan at 12:51 AM | Comments (23)

The return of the Velcro ® pack

The wife and boy and the girl and the dog and I live close (but not too close) to campus, and without ever checking an academic calendar, we know when school is about to start -- it's when the Velcro ® pack of college students has its brief half-life.

Incoming first-years naturally congregate in dorm-size bundles for the first week or two -- because they don't know anyone else. Before classes start, these large packs will migrate across campus, appearing to observers as if they are bound by some invisible set of Velcro fasteners. A few minutes before typing this, the first Velcro pack walked by our place.

Once classes start, and a few weeks go by, these large student clusters disappear. The initial insecurity that binds these groups together begins to dissipate; some students discover that they don't necessarily want to hang out with some of their dormmates; others discover friends with like-minded interests; and now, of course, there are those who stay in their dorm room, in pajamas, pathetically surfing the Internet.

So these large band of students will soon be subdividing. But their annual recurrence is always an endearing feature for those of us who manage to stay in a college environment for our working lives.

[Classes haven't started already?--ed. The University of Chicago is on the quarter system, so classes start later here than those universities on the semester system. They also end later in the year.]

posted by Dan at 12:30 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, September 18, 2004

There's media bias and then there's media bias

The Economist runs an interesting story on the debate within Islamic societies about their future. This part stood out in particular:

Three years ago, it was only Americans who asked Why Do They Hate Us? The same question is now being asked by Indonesians, Spaniards, Turks, Australians, Nepalese, French, Italians, Russians and others whose citizens have fallen victim to jihadist “vengeance”. The puzzle is how so many Muslims could for so long remain oblivious to the extremism in their midst.

Egypt's leading newspaper, the government-owned daily Al Ahram, provided a clue recently. On September 1st, it relegated to inside pages the brutal massacre of 12 Nepalese kitchen workers by Iraqi guerrillas, who claimed to be “executing God's judgment” against “Buddhist invaders”. A day later, Al Ahram put on its front-page news that rioters in Katmandu, the Nepalese capital, had attacked a mosque—but did not explain what they were angry about. A slip, perhaps, but the omission reflected a pattern, repeated across the Muslim world, of harping on Muslim injury.

There is nothing abnormal in rooting for your own. American coverage of, say, Iraq, is hardly exemplary in even-handedness. The trouble comes with the cumulative effect of repeating a tale of Muslim victimhood, of amplifying it through mosque sermons and manipulating it for short-term political gain. All too many governments have found it convenient to direct their own peoples' grievances into offshore arenas, such as Iraq, and so deflect demands for empowerment closer to home.

Seeing the world through a lens of victimhood has grown into a comfortable habit. So it is that some Arab commentators have explained the kidnapping and murder of foreign civilians in Iraq as the work of American agents.

Suddenly the raging debate about media bias in this country seems.... well, not insignificant exactly, but.... small. On the other hand, it would be an interesting question to see whether the growth of blogs in places like Iran help to correct flaws with the Middle Eastern "mainstream" media.

The article concludes on this vaguely hopeful note:

[T]he sheer nastiness of jihadist violence has begun to generate a powerful groundswell of angry Muslim opposition. The coincidence of the anniversary of September 11th 2001 with the horrific slaughter of schoolchildren at Beslan provoked a chorus of condemnation. This was not only against terrorism, but also against the clerics whose extremist interpretations support that terrorism.

Why, demands a former Kuwaiti minister writing in the Saudi daily Al Sharq al Awsat, have we not heard a single fatwa against Osama bin Laden, when Muslims fell over themselves to condemn Salman Rushdie for writing a “vapid” novel? Who has done more damage to Islam? Muslims must no longer remain silent, declares an editorial in the Egyptian weekly Rose al-Yusef; our fear of speaking out has become the terrorists' fifth column.


posted by Dan at 01:00 AM | Comments (46) | Trackbacks (1)

Friday, September 17, 2004

Your weekend debate on Iraq

What do you do with a country like Iraq?

Andrew Sullivan has plenty o' posts and links with regard to the current stituation in Iraq -- click here, here, here, and here.

Over at the Council on Foreign Relations, Anthony Cordesmann has a frank conversation with Bernard Gwertzman that makes it clear he's none too thrilled with his choice of major party candidates when it comes to Iraq. Here's his response to the question: "Regarding the mistakes you describe in the post-war military planning, were they honest mistakes or should the United States have anticipated the insurgency's resiliency?":

I don't think people could predict firmly what level of insurgency was going to be created. But some of this insurgency could have been avoided in the first place. People did not predict that when the United States went in, it wouldn't secure the country, would leave large areas of the country open, wouldn't secure the arms depots, would allow the government offices to be looted and the economy crippled during the early days after the liberation.

Nobody predicted that we would not attempt to use the better elements of the Iraqi armed forces and police force and essentially try to recreate everything from scratch. But they could predict that the economic aid would be so ideological and so tailored to restructuring the entire Iraqi economy that most of the money would not flow to the Iraqis, and the services they got would be considerably worse today than they were under Saddam Hussein. So, in a way, this has been an interactive process. We've failed at many levels.

And here's his response to the question, "The president is caught up in his own election campaign and he is under heavy attack from Senator Kerry for his handling of the war. What do you think of Kerry's comments?":

Well, I think the problem with Senator Kerry is that virtually everyone can see that we have very serious problems with the major insurgency, that we do not yet have an Iraqi government that Iraqis see as legitimate, and that our aid program, if it hasn't exactly collapsed, is almost totally ineffective in meeting either its short-term or longer-term goals. These are very real problems. The difficulty is that Senator Kerry's criticisms have not as yet been translated into one meaningful suggestion as to how to solve the problem.

Instead, you have vague references to the international community, bringing people in from the outside, a whole host of measures which at best provide token or symbolic progress, but wouldn't solve the problem. And I think there has been at least one mention of a "plan," which is being kept secret if it exists. There is an old axiom in American politics: "You can't beat something with nothing."

Finally, here's Cordesmann's estimate of the chances of putting down the insurgency and establishing a democratic government in Iraq:

I think it is doable and not impossible. But I think we need to understand that the odds for success were 50-50 at best if we had adopted the right course of action after the fall of Saddam. Now the odds are probably one in four. We've wasted a year; we've wasted billions and billions of dollars. We've made serious military, political, and economic mistakes.

For more useful CFR information on Iraq, check out Sharon Otterman's summary of the Sunni insurgency and U.S. plans to deal with it.

posted by Dan at 05:55 PM | Comments (46) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, September 16, 2004

The five challenges to the global economy

Fred Bergsten writes in the Economist about the five looming challenges to the global economy over the next few years:

Five major risks threaten the world economy. Three center on the United States: renewed sharp increases in the current account deficit leading to a crash of the dollar, a budget profile that is out of control, and an outbreak of trade protectionism. A fourth relates to China, which faces a possible hard landing from its recent overheating. The fifth is that oil prices could rise to $60 to $70 per barrel even without a major political or terrorist disruption, and much higher with one.

Most of these risks reinforce each other. A further oil shock, a dollar collapse, and a soaring American budget deficit would all generate much higher inflation and interest rates. A sharp dollar decline would increase the likelihood of further oil price rises. Larger budget deficits will produce larger American trade deficits, and thus more protectionism and dollar vulnerability. Realization of any one of the five risks could substantially reduce world growth. If two or three, let alone all five, were to occur in combination then they would radically reverse the global outlook.

There is still time to head off each of these risks. Decisions made in America immediately after this year's elections will be pivotal. China, the new growth locomotive, is key to resolving the global trade imbalances and must play a central role in future. Action by a number of other countries will be essential to maintain global growth and to avoid deeper oil shocks and new trade restrictions.

Read the whole thing -- and then check out John Williamson's lucid lecture to the Chinese on the merits of various exchange rate regimes. One conclusion:

China is not a natural candidate for a fixed exchange rate against the dollar. It is not small, it does not trade predominantly with the United States, and it is not clear that it is prepared for the renunciation of sovereignty that a truly fixed rate implies. (But it does have an important national interest in avoiding sharp and arbitrary variations in its currency vis-à-vis those of its neighbors.)

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

Jagdish Bhagwati really doesn't like John Kerry

Over the past month, international economist Jagdish Bhagwati has started taking some serious pot shots at John Kerry's rhetoric on trade and outsourcing -- despite Bhagwati's self-proclaimed status as a Democrat. This past Monday he penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed (subscription required) that contained the following:

How does one forgive him his pronouncements on outsourcing, and his strange silences on the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations? Indeed, Sen. Kerry, whose views and voting record were almost impeccable on trade, has allowed himself to be forced into such muddled and maddening positions on trade policy that, if one were an honest intellectual as against a party hack, one could only describe them as the voodoo economics of our time.

There seem to be three arguments by Sen. Kerry's advisers that have prompted this sorry situation for the Democrats: First, that the Bush trade policy is no better; second, that electoral strategy requires that Sen. Kerry act like a protectionist, while indicating subtly (to those that matter) a likelihood of freer trade in the White House; and third, at odds with the previous argument, that the U.S. does indeed have to turn trade policy around toward some sort of protectionism (and restraints on direct investment abroad) if it is going to assist workers and reward the unions. Each argument is flawed....

In the end, Sen. Kerry cannot totally jilt his constituencies. He will have to claw his way to freer trade, making him a greater hero in a war more bloody than Vietnam. The unions, in particular, are going to insist on their reward. This is forgotten by the many pro-trade policy advisers and op-ed columnists who argue privately that we should not worry -- because Sen. Kerry is a free trader who has merely mounted the protectionist Trojan Horse to get into the White House. The irony of this last position is that it is, in fact, too simplistic. Besides, it suggests that when President Bush does the same thing, he's lying, but that when Sen. Kerry does it, it's strategic behavior! Is it not better, instead, for us to tell Sen. Kerry that his trade policy positions are the pits -- before he digs himself deeper into a pit from which there is no dignified exit?

Juan Non-Volokh points out that in this op-ed, "Bhagwati is harshly critical of Kerry, but he does not celebrate President Bush's trade credentials." True enough. However, last month, Bhagwati did say much nicer things about Bush (and much harsher things about Kerry) as part of an interview he gave to Der Spiegel:

Bhagwati: The Democratic party is moving towards a kind of anti-globalization attitude, an anti-free trade attitude in particular. I think this is dangerous. Since I finished my book, there has been this debate about outsourcing. Kerry and Edwards are clearly trying to use scare tactics here. At the convention, they got lots of applause whenever they spoke about American jobs being shipped overseas.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: If those arguments resonate at the convention, they might convince voters, too.

Bhagwati: But Kerry and Edwards don't know what they're talking about. If we look at the offshoring of online services like call centers or basic accounting, we're talking about a maximum loss of 100.000 jobs a year to countries like India. That is nothing for an economy this size. The US is a major hyperpower, and yet every time it gets into competition with Mexico, China and India, we work ourselves into a panic. It's like a rottweiler getting scared because a French poodle is coming down the road.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Kerry and Edwards are not just speaking about call centers. Especially in industrial swing states like Ohio, they promise to stop the loss of manufacturing jobs to lower-wage countries like China or Malaysia.

Bhagwati: Here we're not talking about outsourcing but good old foreign investment. There is a huge amount of academic work that shows that this is beneficial to the US. On average, low-value jobs are going out and high-value investment is coming in. In North Carolina, where Mr. Edwards comes from, we have the I95. Along the way, there used be textile firms that have gone out since they can't produce efficiently there. Now the workers are employed by Siemens and several other German companies, with far better salaries. That section of I95, in fact, is now known as the autobahn.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Rhetoric is one thing - but do you think Kerry will actually implement detrimental economic policies if he's elected? For instance, he proposes to give tax credits to companies that create jobs in the US instead of abroad. That can't do any harm, can it?

Bhagwati: It boils down to subsidizing companies when they stay and penalizing them when they go out. If we start doing that, other countries can follow. Everybody will be worse off. Our firms lose comparative advantage if they're stopped from saving costs. A dead firm can only employ dead souls. So we may save 10 jobs by not outsourcing but we will lose the entire 100. Keep in mind, too, that investment from multinationals helps countries like India and Mexico fight poverty. Some sections of Africa sorely need foreign investment. If we Democrats crack down on this, it's not compatible with our notion that Bush and his friends are the nasty guys.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Bush himself is hardly a model free-trader. He imposed highly protectionist tariffs on steel imports right at the beginning of his term.

Bhagwati: He tried to win over voters in crucial industrial states. But he later punched holes into the safeguards, exempting all kinds of products and countries. Once the WTO declared them illegal, he quickly lifted the tariffs. Bush really believes in the capacity of American firms to compete successfully. During the campaign, he keeps stressing that free trade is good for us. He even got a member of his cabinet to say there's nothing wrong with outsourcing. I'm afraid Bush looks very presidential on trade, unlike my own party. (emphasis added)

Question to Kerry suppporters who also support free trade -- if Kerry were to actually get elected, would he prove to be a prisoner of his own protectionist rhetoric, or be able to tack back towards a more trade-friendly position because he burnished his protectionist bona-fides with his campaign rhetoric?

Full disclosure -- Bhagwati is not my biggest fan.

UPDATE: It's all Bhagwati, all the time here at!! Click here for the transcript of a "debate" between Lou Dobbs and Jagdish Bhagwati on PAula Zahn Now earlier this week.

posted by Dan at 12:28 PM | Comments (44) | Trackbacks (5)

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

This strikes me as really bad news

James Drummond and Steve Negus report in the Financial Times that the safest place in Iraq for U.S. personnel is no longer safe:

US military officers in Baghdad have warned they cannot guarantee the security of the perimeter around the Green Zone, the headquarters of the Iraqi government and home to the US and British embassies, according to security company employees.

At a briefing earlier this month, a high-ranking US officer in charge of the zone's perimeter said he had insufficient soldiers to prevent intruders penetrating the compound's defences.

The US major said it was possible weapons or explosives had already been stashed in the zone, and warned people to move in pairs for their own safety. The Green Zone, in Baghdad's centre, is one of the most fortified US installations in Iraq. Until now, militants have not been able to penetrate it.

But insurgency has escalated this week, spreading to the centre of Baghdad. The zone is home to several thousand Iraqis, and on Sunday it came under the heaviest attack since it was established. Up to 60 unexploded rockets were found inside its perimeters after a five-hour barrage.

On Tuesday, a car bomb outside a Baghdad police station killed 47 people, and 12 members of the police and their driver were shot dead in Baquba. The attack was the worst in the city for several months.

The violence in Iraq continued on Wednesday when 10 Iraqis were killed in clashes with US troops using artillery in Ramadi, west of Baghdad. The decapitated bodies of three men, believed to be Arab kidnap victims, were separately found on a highway north of Baghdad.

UPDATE: Douglas Jehl reports in the New York Times that the intelligence community is pessimistic about Iraq's future.

posted by Dan at 11:35 PM | Comments (85) | Trackbacks (9)

Orin Kerr pages the right half of the blogosphere

Astute readers may have observed that I have refrained from posting about Swift Boats, Kitty Kelley, typewriter fonts et al.

While I certainly understand why the rest of the blogosphere is exercised about this stuff, Orin Kerr says what I've been thinking:

[L]et me see if I understand things correctly. A presidential election is less than two months away, and there is a war going on right now in Iraq. The war in Iraq raises profound questions about United States policy with regard to the Muslim world for decades to come. But instead of debating the war that is going on right now, we're debating the war records of the two candidates from more than three decades ago. Wait, no, that's too direct: we're debating one network's story about one candidate's war record from three decades ago. Wait, maybe that's too direct, too: we're debating the fonts on different typewriters that may or may not have been used to write a memo that led to a story about one candidate's war record from three decades ago. Yeah, that's pretty much it.

C'mon, folks: don't we have more important things to blog about?

Now, I take Ramesh Ponnuru's point that bloggers don't have an obligation to do anything -- though that is one reason why some journalists don't like them. And readers should feel free to post comments here on why they disagree or agree with Orin or why these matters are vitally important questions before the republic compared to Iraq or Russia. Really, post away.

But this is the first and last post you will read at about this subject. Because substantively,* I just don't care about any of it -- which is why I feel no desire to write about it.

My one and only political response to all of this stuff is very simple, and echoies Lawrence Lessig: does anyone seriously believe that this election should be decided by what either candidate did more than thirty years ago?

*For the blog paper Henry Farrell and I are writing, I'll confess to some interest in the role blogs have played in framing these stories.

UPDATE: TMH reminds me why I like my comments section, as he makes a decent point:

[O]ther issues, such as Iraq, are clearly more important, but (a) bloggers have less ability to influence them and less incentive to “cover” every development there, (b) most people have already long since made up their minds about the big issues and (c) most undecided Presidential voters don’t seem to care much about them. For better or worse, the thinking seems to be that “undecideds” can more easily be swayed about candidates’ biographies than about the issues. Hence, the re-fighting of the Vietnam War this campaign season.

I don't buy (c) for a minute, but (a) and (b) have some traction.

Check out Baseball Crank, who makes similar points.

On the other hand... those who take the blogosphere as able to influence the media should read Telis Demos' TNR Online piece and ask whether blogs have been consistent in their media critique (though see David Adesnik's critique as well). [UPDATE: Hey, whaddaya know, bloggers have at this -- except that it turns out Demos' story was the one with factual errors. See Stuart Buck and Brian Carnell on this point (hat tip to Crow Blog for the links)]

Oh, and one final point: this post certainly shouldn't be interpreted as a defense of CBS. This Josh Marshall post -- which offers an interpretation that's most favorable to their reporting -- sums it up. "GotterDannerung" indeed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Orin Kerr responds to his critics. The key part:

My sense is that bloggers are embracing Memogate to the exclusion of other things, as if it were an enormous relief to be able to lose ourselves in the story. The story lets the right half of the blogosphere feast on some of its favorite themes: damn that liberal media, blogosphere to the rescue, etc. Don't get me wrong, those are good themes. But at some point the hearty appetite begins to look like escapism. And I think we've reached that point, if not passed it long ago.

Jonah Goldberg is worth reading on this as well. As is Jeff Jarvis.

posted by Dan at 05:35 PM | Comments (64) | Trackbacks (2)

Why my probability of voting for Alan Keyes is zero

I've tried not to blog about the Illinois Senate race because it's just embarrassing to Republicans, but Noam Scheiber reminds me of this jaw-dropping story by Rick Pearson in yesterday's Chicago Tribune on how Alan Keyes plans to win the race:

Declaring that his campaign strategy is dependent on controversy, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Alan Keyes told the state's top GOP donors at a recent closed-door meeting that he plans to make "inflammatory" comments "every day, every week" until the election, according to several sources at the session.

The sources said Keyes explained that his campaign has been unfolding according to plan and likened it to a war in which lighting the "match" of controversy was needed to ignite grass-roots voters.

"This is a war we're in," one source recounted Keyes as saying. "The way you win wars is that you start fires that will consume the enemy."

Keyes' comments came during a 40-minute address to about 20 leading Republican fundraisers and donors Thursday at the posh Chicago Club. The sources asked not to be identified to prevent additional pre-election controversy within an already divided GOP.

At the session, the sources said, Keyes denied that he has engaged in name-calling in his campaign. But he likened Democratic opponent Barack Obama to a "terrorist" because Obama, a state senator, voted against a legislative proposal pushed by abortion foes, sources said.

Then there's this bizarre proposition:

Keyes also said the repeal of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which created the direct public election of senators, was a "critical" issue of his campaign, the sources said. The Republican contender said the method spelled out until 1913 in the Constitution, in which state legislators chose U.S. senators, would bring more accountability to government.

There's now at least a 60% chance that in this general election I'm going to vote for John Kerry and Barack Obama.

Excuse me, I have to go lie down for a while.

posted by Dan at 01:03 PM | Comments (31) | Trackbacks (1)

The CIA's take on intelligence reform

Ted Barlow has a good summary of a talk given by deputy executive director of the CIA Marty Peterson. On Iraq:

In his recounting, the CIA underestimated Saddam’s missile programs, which were more advanced than anyone realized; they overestimated his biological and chemical weapons programs, which he described as “more capabilities than functioning programs”; and they were approximately right regarding his nuclear weapons programs, which hadn’t restarted. In response to a question, he said that he doubted that Saddam had smuggled out WMDs to other countries before the war.

He made the point that the CIA wasn’t involved in the policy decision to invade Iraq, without expressing an opinion about whether it was the right decison. In general, I felt that he was making a good-faith effort to be non-partisan.

On China:

He’s very concerned about China and Taiwan. He says that China is investing heavily in their military, and that we can tell that they’re doing drills that show that they’re learning how to use their new hardware. He thinks that the end result of this activity is likely to be a crisis over Taiwan. He mentioned a converstation with the former Prime Minister of Singapore, who said that China and Taiwan, not North Korea, was the East Asian security issue that he was most worried about.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 12:04 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

The academic kingdom

Eugene Juan Non-Volokh reprints a Fabio Rojas e-mail that characterizes the different styles of legitimate academic work (as opposed to simple plagiarism):

During grad school, I discovered there were two modes of "legitimate" academic work: craftsman and bureaucrat. The craftsman worked alone, or with one or two colleagues, to carefully write papers and books. This is the "classic" scholar approach. When you think of a philosopher mulling over every turn of phrase or a historian carefully citing ancience documents, you are thinking "craftsman."

Much to my surprise, I also learned that a lot of scholars are "Bureaucrats": they have grants, research assistants and a large network of co-authors. This kind of scholar is more like an architect - he designs the overall project, but an army of helpers puts together the final project.

At first I was horrified, but I came to realize that some research has to be conducted in this fashion. You simply can't conduct national surveys all by yourself. At the Chicago Soc dept (where I got my Ph.D.) you had a lot of both. Sociology (and political science as well) produces research that requires huge team efforts as well finely crafted individual work. Lot of mass surveys/experiments as well as carefully argued social/political theory.

I also realized that big name scholars get their reputation by being brilliant craftsmen or by being extremely competent academic entrepreneurs. I grew up worshipping the craftsmen - Ron Coase is a great example - infrequent, but outstanding publications. But now I realize a lot of famous names only produce their quantity because they rely to heavily on assistants.

I don't have any problems with Rojas' two categories, except that they omit two other styles of (mostly) legitimate academic work that characterize a much larger fraction of the profession -- the Recycler and the Importer.

The recyclers are academics who come up with one big theoretical idea, and then try to use that idea to explain every possible phenomenon under the sun. If the idea is a good one, this can prove to be a very fruitful exercise in explanation, providing a sharp theoretical lens to examine puzzles that not been suitably explained. In economics, one could arguably make the case that this is how Gary Becker and Joseph Stiglitz earned their Nobels.

Of course, the problem with recyclers is that sometimes the idea isn't all that great -- and over time, fails to explain even the areas that originally inspired the academic. Alas, this is the more likely outcome for recyclers. The good scholars then go back to the drawing board and try to tweak their original idea, or come up with a new one. The bad ones -- well, they cling to their theories for dear life, often publishing the same idea over and over and over again. Even if the original idea has some merit, most academics recycle their ideas way past the point of diminishing marginal returns.

The Importer is the academic who engages in intellectual arbitrage. They develop an expertise outside their disciplinary boundaries, and then import the ideas, paradigms, and analytical tools culled from these outside areas to explain phenomenon within their discipline. Within political science, for example, most rational choice scholarship was imported from economics. The pioneers -- Anthony Downs, Thomas Schelling -- were economists.

As academic specialization increases, importers can serve a very useful purpose, ensuring that there is some diffusion of knowledge across the disciplinary fields. However, one could also argue that importers are not always discriminating in their tastes, leading to the spread of some dubious, non-falsifiable paradigms across the social sciences and the humanities.

Readers are invited to submit other legitimate styles of academic work -- "hack," "media whore," or "blogger" don't count.

(In next week's installment of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Academic Kingdom, Marlan Perkins and I will examine which of these species are carnivorous!)

posted by Dan at 11:15 AM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (2)

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

WashTech's contribution to the outsourcing numbers

The Ford Foundation has sponsored a study by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech), a local of the Communications Workers of America (an AFL-CIO affiliate union), in conjunction with the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois, Chicago, on IT employment since 2001.

Their press release paints a grim picture:

The report found that high-tech workers have seen a doubling of unemployment rates in the past three years. The University of Illinois at Chicago conducted the research for the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, a local of the Communications Workers of America.

The report goes on to analyze job growth and unemployment in six key regional high-tech labor markets. For example, San Jose continued to lose more than 14,000 IT jobs after November 2001, and its neighbor to the north, San Francisco, lost 9,300. The unemployment rate faced by San Jose area technology employees still remains high, going from 1% in 1997 to more than 6% by 2002, and in San Francisco from 1.3% in 1997 to more than 8.8% in 2002, the last year for which data are available.

The other labor markets studied are Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle and Washington, DC. Nearly every labor market mirrored the Silicon Valley's experience, with Washington, DC the only location to show positive job growth in the past year.

The report cited offshore outsourcing as contributing to the lack of strong job creation in this sector. (emphasis added)

Here's a link to the actual report, and here is the AP wire report by Allison Linn.

The sum total of the discussion about offshore outsourcing comes on p. 5 of the report:

While there is a lack of current and reliable information on the extent of job losses due to offshore outsourcing, there is little doubt that it has contributed to soaring unemployment rates in the industry. For instance, UIC-CUED analysis of the Current Population Survey
reveals that national unemployment rates for computer programmers was 6.7% in 2003, two years after the end of the recession, compared to 2.5% in 2001. Incidentally, computer programming is also one of the top occupations sent offshore.

That's it -- lots of data about the unemployment picture, one paragraph on the causal connection between offshore outsourcing and that employment picture.

Certainly, their analysis could be correct -- but I have my doubts. One of them is that it's not clear whether their data are accurate -- a point made in Ed Frauenheim's analysis of the report at

In recent weeks, conflicting information has emerged about the job scene for tech professionals....

A survey by a staffing firm found gradually increasing confidence among IT workers in the job market. But a recent study by the Information Technology Association of America trade group found just a "slight" recovery for the IT job market in 2004.

That report concluded that the number of U.S. IT workers rose 2 percent, to 10.5 million, in the first quarter of this year, but demand for IT workers is dropping.

ITAA's report included workers in the internal IT departments of many types of corporations, while the new study for WashTech is limited to companies in the technology industry, such as Internet service providers and software publishers. (emphasis added)

Why is that last paragraph so important? Because if you look at Frauenheim's story about the ITAA report, you find the following sentence: "ITAA said nearly 89 percent of new jobs came from non-IT companies, despite popular fears over mass job loss to outsourcing and globalization." If one really believes that offshore outsourcing is responsible for massive job losses in the IT sector, that last figure is a puzzling one -- because the line that management consultants continually push is that offshore outsourcing is great for firms that don't specialize in IT services and want to subcontract those operations to the lowest-cost provider out there.

If the UIC/CUED study omitted the strongest source of job creation, that's somewhat problematic.

Even the AP report contains the following:

Sung Won Sohn, chief economist at Wells Fargo Bank, said he has seen some evidence that the high-tech job market began improving in the months after this study was completed. Still, he said, those in the software industry have fared better than those in the computer hardware industry.

Overall, Sohn thinks the high-tech industry will rebound, although the new jobs created might require different skills. That still leaves high-tech workers in better shape than other industries, he said.

"I view the setbacks in tech as temporary," he said, "whereas if you're talking about old-style manufacturing, those jobs are gone forever."

Before angry IT workers start posting comments, let's make it clear that I'm not claiming that it's a rosy jobs situation for IT workers. But some of the unemployment numbers sound a bit overstated. And what this report does not say -- indeed, the quoted paragraph acknowledges that that the authors can't say -- is the extent to which offshore outsourcing is responsible. There's no attempt to parse out the relative explanatory power of each possible cause (dot-com bubble, Y2K overhiring, productivity gains combined with slack demand, offshore outsourcing, etc.)

UPDATE: Some of the press reportage of this study has been very good on pointing out the flaws in the report. Barbara Rose's story in the Chicago Tribune has the following:

The American Electronics Association, which represents high-tech employers, agreed with the report's data but said the industry's outlook is brighter than the study suggests.

The group argued it is misleading to measure losses starting in 2001, when employment was near a historic peak.

"There was so much venture capital being thrown at the tech industry, it was a spike, a bubble, an abnormality," said Matthew Kazmierczak, the association's research director.

He said employment has been growing since January in categories included in the study.

Economist Bill Testa, director of regional programs at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said he was not surprised the Chicago region lost 16,400 jobs, including 10,200 after the official end of the recession.

"We really did take it hard in that area," he said. "We were late getting going with a lot of new companies being created near the end of the boom, and we went down hard."

The study defines IT employment narrowly, focusing on software firms, Internet service providers, data processing and computer systems design companies. It excludes high-tech manufacturing and the large numbers of IT jobs at financial-services firms and other companies.

The study identifies 47,000 information technology jobs in greater Chicago. By contrast, a University of Minnesota study identifies 347,000 IT workers in the Chicago area.

"It all depends on the methodology," said Paul O'Connor, executive director of World Business Chicago. "There's still been demand for skilled IT people."

This is from Diane Lewis' Boston Globe story:

Staffing agencies and recruiters in the Boston area said demand is up for individuals with project management experience or unique IT skills but not necessarily for those with basic skills. They said the demand appears to be in the financial services sector.

"A lot of what we are seeing is some demand for software engineers in the financial services area and stronger demand for the infrastructure people," said Aaron Green, president of the Professional Staffing Group, an employee staffing agency in Boston. "We have not seen a lot of demand for software outside of financial services."

posted by Dan at 04:56 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

Monday, September 13, 2004

This blog is two years old

Yesterday the blog celebrated its second birthday. Which means it's also the two-year blogiversary of both Jacob Levy and David Adesnik -- congrats to both of them as well. [UPDATE: Jacob is celebrating his anniversary by taking a sabbatical.]

Last year I was happy with a bunch of press mentions and my TNR Online gig. In the past year, the blog has directly or indirectly contributed to publications in the New York Times Book Review, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, and Slate -- not to mention multiple media whoring opportunities at ABC's World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News, CNN International, CNNfn, and a bunch o' radio shows. [That's it?--ed. Well, I got to share several bottles of wine with Laura McKenna and Wonkette as well.... and actually, there are few more items in the hopper that will be announced in the weeks to come. I'm sure there are tens of people who are very excited!!--ed.]

It's good to have the blog!

[So what's your goal for this next year?--ed. It's The Daily Show or bust for me!!]

There will be some slightly deeper meditations on this anniversary a bit later in the week.

posted by Dan at 06:56 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (4)

Must-read interview of the day

Fafnir at Fafblog has an explosive, news-breaking interview with a very key player in a recent political/media scandal. You must check it out.

Must, I say.

posted by Dan at 01:50 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (2)

Charter school update

Last month there was a kerfuffle when the New York Times splashed a shoddy American Federation of Teachers study suggesting charter schools were a buit on their front page. Click here for the roundup.

This month, EduWonk's Andy Rotherham alerts us to a more sophisticated study by Harvard economist Caroline M. Hoxby. This is the abstract:

This study compares the reading and mathematics proficiency of charter school students to that of their fellow students in neighboring public schools. Unlike previous studies, which include only a tiny fraction (3 percent) of charter school students, this study covers 99 percent of such students. The charter schools are compared to the schools that their students would most likely otherwise attend: the nearest regular public school and the nearest regular public school with a similar racial composition. In most cases, the two comparison schools are one and the same. Compared to students in the nearest regular public school, charter students are 4 percent more likely to be proficient in reading and 2 percent more likely to be proficient in math, on their state's exams. Compared to students in the nearest regular public school with a similar racial composition, charter students are 5 percent more likely to be proficient in reading and 3 percent more likely to be proficient in math. In states where charter schools are well-established, charter school students' proficiency "advantage" tends to be greater.

As Rotherham observes:

Rather than the NAEP sample data which has garnered so much attention, Hoxby was able to analyze almost the entire universe of 4th-graders attending charter schools and compare their achievement in reading and math on state assessments to students at the schools they most likely would have otherwise attended. Where 4th-grade data was not available she used 3rd-or 5th-grade data. It's a much more sophisticated study than the recent AFT report.

I await with bated breath the NYT's splashy front-pager on this charter school study.

UPDATE: That breath will be bated for quite some time.

posted by Dan at 11:51 AM | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (4)

You say "Department of Homeland Security" I say "massive pork barrel"

Amy Zegart had a must-read op-ed in yesterday's Newsday on homeland security and intelligence reform. Here's one of the disturbing bits:

If we ask how far we have come since 9/11 in terms of safety planning the evidence is not encouraging.

Homeland security funds are flowing, but not to the right places. Since 9/11, Congress has distributed $13 billion to state governments with a formula only Washington could concoct: 40 percent was split evenly, regardless of a state's population, targets or vulnerability to terrorist attack. The result: Safe places got safer. Rural states with fewer potential targets and low populations, such as Alaska and Wyoming, received more than $55 per resident. Target-rich and densely populated states like New York and California received $25 and $14 per person respectively. Osama bin Laden, beware: Wyoming is well fortified.

It gets worse. Over the past three years, the federal government has spent 20 times more on aviation security than on protecting America's seaports, even though more than 90 percent of U.S. foreign trade moves by ship, but less than 5 percent of all shipping containers entering the country are inspected. One recent study showed the odds of detecting a nuclear bomb inside a heavy machinery container were close to zero. As the 9/11 Commission concluded, such a lopsided transportation strategy makes sense only if you intend to fight the last war.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 11:27 AM | Comments (26) | Trackbacks (2)

Saturday, September 11, 2004

The foreign direct investment of Hooters


Jon Bonné reports in MSNBC that the Hooters restaurant chain is not only expanding to the skies and casinos -- it is also busting out beyond American borders:

With all those reports of call centers heading off to India, one U.S. brand intends to tap into the subcontinent's growing prosperity. Hooters is exporting its controversial brand of home-grown sex appeal.

The Atlanta-based restaurant chain, known more for its scantily-clad female servers than its rib-sticking menu, this week announced it signed a deal to open several Indian franchise locations, though it has not said where....

"I am looking forward to the 'recreation' of this dining atmosphere," Sunil Bedi, Managing Director of franchisee H.O.I. Pvt. Ltd., said in a statement....

Hooters' expansion is the latest sign that U.S. businesses have awoken to the potential of the Indian middle class and its growing disposable income, said Jagdip Ahluwalia, executive director of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston.

"We've got Domino's there, we've got McDonald's there, we've got all these brands out there," Ahluwalia said. "There is a window of opportunity that’s open. And if we don’t grab that opportunity, Europe will."

Hooters already has a strong global presence with some 370 restaurants, including 26 overseas locations in such places as Austria, Guatemala, Singapore and Taiwan. This is its first location in South Asia, where more modest sensibilities often prevail. But it has aggressive plans for further expansion -- including its first restaurant in China, due this fall, three restaurants in Thailand and elsewhere.

"We're going to continue to fill out Latin America," said [vice president of marketing for Hooters of America Mike] McNeil.

I can already visualize the impending Naomi Klein column, heaving with brand outrage -- of course, Klein has had her own problems as of late.

posted by Dan at 05:35 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

Libertarians go medieval on George W. Bush

Clay Risen has a TNR Online story about the Cato Institute's disenchantment with the Bush administration. The highlights:

Cato is on the outs with the administration. From its deficit spending to its regulatory record to the Iraq war, the Institute charges that the administration has betrayed conservative values, bankrupted the government, expanded federal programs, and made the world less safe. Were it not for the occasional, wistful nod to the Reagan era, Cato's policy papers, TV appearances, and columns could be mistaken for those of the left-wing Economic Policy Institute. In fact, Cato staffers and scholars are so fed up with Bush that many say they will sit out the election--or even vote for John Kerry. "Most people at the Institute have no plans to vote for the president this time," said one member of the Cato policy staff who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "There will be some votes for Kerry inside the Cato Institute this year."

Of course, given that Cato has only a few dozen staff members, Bush doesn't have to worry about losing the think tank's vote this November. To be sure, Bush's nascent "ownership society" agenda, which is said to include renewed efforts at social security privatization, could win back some at Cato. But, judging by the depth of the animosity toward him at the Institute right now, it will take a lot more than a stump speech to do so. Moreover, its antipathy is indicative of a growing belief among the GOP's fiscally conservative constituencies--not just libertarian ideologues, but big-business executives, small-business owners, virtually any voting bloc concerned with fiscal restraint--that Bush has been an abject failure. And, in a close election, that could make a difference.

Exhibit A of this antipathy can be found Doug Bandow's essay in Salon, Why Conservatives Must Not Vote for Bush" [Salon?!--ed. Yes, Salon]. The highlights:

George W. Bush presents conservatives with a fundamental challenge: Do they believe in anything other than power? Are they serious about their rhetoric on limited, constitutionally restrained government?....

Republican partisans have little choice but to focus on Kerry's perceived vulnerabilities. A few high-octane speeches cannot disguise the catastrophic failure of the Bush administration in both its domestic and its foreign policies. Mounting deficits are likely to force eventual tax increases, reversing perhaps President Bush's most important economic legacy. The administration's foreign policy is an even greater shambles, with Iraq aflame and America increasingly reviled by friend and foe alike.

Quite simply, the president, despite his well-choreographed posturing, does not represent traditional conservatism -- a commitment to individual liberty, limited government, constitutional restraint and fiscal responsibility. Rather, Bush routinely puts power before principle.

Although anecdotal evidence of conservative disaffection with Bush is common -- for instance, my Pentagon employee neighbor, a business lobbyist friend, even my retired career Air Force father -- for many the thought of voting for John Kerry remains simply too horrific to contemplate. And this dissatisfaction has yet to show up in polls. Fear of Kerry, more than love of Bush, holds many conservatives behind the GOP.

Yet serious conservatives must fear for the country if Bush is reelected. Is Kerry really likely to initiate more unnecessary wars, threaten more civil liberties and waste more tax dollars?

At which point Bandow actually recommends considering Ralph Nader as a viable alternative to voting for Bush.

One could try to dismiss this kind of alienation on the right as the conservative version of Naderites. But that would be a hard case to make.

posted by Dan at 10:03 AM | Comments (36) | Trackbacks (1)

Friday, September 10, 2004

So you want to be a poli sci graduate student....

Hey you, reading this blog? Are you curious about pursuing a career in the up-and-coming field of political science? Do you wonder what it would be like to be a graduate student in this highly marginally lucrative field?

I will repress my first instinct to suggest that you seek professional help and instead suggest that you listen into Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg this evening. Here's the description of tonight's program (which starts at 9 PM Central time:

Tonight on the program, we go inside the ivory tower with three graduate students from the University of Chicago. Not only do today’s graduate students work on their dissertations and prepare for careers as researchers and professors, they also have nuanced views of the world that are a window into today’s younger generations. Joining Extension 720 to discuss their political views, the current state of academia, and the life of a graduate student today will be HEATHER WILHELM, JOHN SCHUESSLER and EMILY NACOL.

I know all three of these students, and have taught two of them. They're all whip smart -- so I'll be listening in.

Click here to listen online.

posted by Dan at 02:57 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Blog quote of the day

As I'm catching up on the blogosphere, I see that Matthew Yglesias has shut off comments, and that Steven Den Beste has hung up his blog spikes.

For someone who's never been particularly spare in his prose, Den Beste comes up with a very pithy closing line about blogging:

I've learned something interesting: if you give away ice cream, eventually a lot of people will complain about the flavors, and others will complain that you aren't also giving away syrup and whipped cream and nuts.

posted by Dan at 02:51 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (1)

Friday baby blogging

Longtime readers can rest assured that this will not be a regular feature on

However, in light of recent events, readers are invited to be on their best behavior and submit a caption for the following photo of Lauren:


My thought would be, "How old do I have to be before I can pick out my own wardrobe?'

posted by Dan at 02:38 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

Michael Moskow on wages and the current economic recovery

As the economy began to generate positive (but not stunning) job growth, and as data on jobs lost due to offshore outsourcing came out, claims that outsourcing or globalization more generally were having a massive job-destroying effect began to ring hollow.

At this point, much of the criticism shifted to the quality of the jobs being created. Even if employment is on the rise, the argument runs, if all the jobs are at Wal-Mart then it's a very hollow recovery. Since even trade theorists acknowledge that an open economy does affect the composition of jobs that are created, and since the numbers suggest that more low-wage jobs were being created than high-wage jobs, this is a critique that cannot be easily dismissed.

On this point, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago president Michael Moskow has a Financial Times op-ed today (subscriber-only) on whether this economic recovery is different from other economic recoveries in terms of the mix of jobs that are created. The highlights:

A great deal of public debate has focused on the wages for jobs created since US employment finally began to grow in earnest this year. Since real, or inflation-adjusted, wages are the key to how fast living standards improve, they deserve scrutiny. However, much of the recent analysis says little about the long-term prospects for wage growth or the policies that would support faster wage growth.

Daniel Aaronson of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago has found, as several analysts have, that job growth in the last six months has been slightly more concentrated in low-wage industries. But Mr Aaronson also points out that the mix between high- and low-wage job growth is tied to the business cycle. High-wage job growth tends to be more rapid than low-wage job growth when labour market conditions are strong; the reverse is true when labour markets are weak or in the earlier stages of improvement. We have every reason to think this normal business cycle pattern will continue.

Rather than focusing on the wage mix of jobs created in the past half-year, we should keep our eyes on more important factors while assessing the prospects for real wage growth. Productivity is the main driver of wage growth. The news here has been positive: productivity growth has been very strong over the past decade and is likely to remain solid. This bodes well for average real wage growth.

But not all US workers have benefited equally from increases in productivity. Workers with more education and skills have generally seen their real wages rise substantially; those with less education have seen little increase and perhaps even a decline.

Much of the increase in the wage premium for education and skills is due to technological change that has increased demand for highly educated workers. Another portion is due to factors such as deregulation and globalisation, which have increased competition in both product and labour markets. Workers with only a high school education were once able to find jobs in industries so insulated from competition that they could expect a lifetime of secure employment and high wages. But such jobs are disappearing....

We must improve the graduation rate. At-risk children need special resources, and research suggests that the benefits to society from investment in these children can be sizeable. But additional spending is not enough. We must develop appropriate standards of accountability for teachers, with incentives properly designed and high achievers rewarded. We must also find ways to inject more competition into the education system.

Human capital investment is not limited to schools. Cognitive and non- cognitive skills development begins at birth and continues well after we turn in our last exam paper. Early intervention programmes can help children get off on the right foot - especially in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods. And in our dynamic economy, in which technology, international trade or other developments can displace even good workers, retraining needs must be met. The record of government-sponsored training programmes is far from uniformly positive. Still, it will be increasingly important to provide retraining that is efficient, effective and sensitive to labour market needs.

By training workers, rather than protecting jobs, we can take full advantage of the gains from technological advance and international trade. Researchers continue to evaluate society's investments in human capital. Even in an age of sizeable budget deficits, we should invest in programmes for which this research shows the benefits clearly outweigh the costs.

Here's a link to the FRBC press release of the paper by Daniel Aaronson and Sara Christopher, and here's a link to the actual paper. The key paragraph:

We find that the share of job growth in higher-paying sectors typically responds favorably to overall employment growth and, conversely, falls when labor markets weaken. Recent history falls squarely in this pattern. Recent estimates of higher-paying industry job growth have rebounded over the past year and currently stand about where we would expect given the state of the labor market.

posted by Dan at 12:23 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, September 9, 2004

Can two curses cancel each other out?

The Boston Red Sox have been on a bit of a run as of late -- going 21-7 in August and 7-1 in September. They've wone 20 of their last 22 games, and have gone 8-1 in their last three series against the cream of the American League West. Since August 15th, the Red Sox have chopped eight games off the Yankees' 10-1/2 game lead in the AL east. Even more enjoyably, these Sox are winning in a variety of ways -- pounding the cover off the ball one game, and then winning with quality defense and pitching the next. Even though they've suffered through a rash of injuries, everyone is starting to get healthy at the right time. David Pinto's wife thinks the Red Sox are in "kill mode." Even the New York Daily News observes:

For the first time in what seems like forever, the Red Sox don't need to rely on divine intervention to further their cause. If anyone is playing baseball that is blessedly pure, it's Boston, which has a rotation that routinely cruises through seven-plus innings and has barely put a wrong foot defensively since trading Nomar Garciaparra, its favorite son. If anyone is cursed now, it's the Yankees. Even Manny Ramirez stepped out of his own special universe yesterday to ask a visiting New Yorker about Kevin Brown, the Yankee pitcher who did what thousands of Red Sox fans have done across the decades [Brown punched a wall after a so-so start, breaking his non-pitching hand and sidelining him for at least three weeks--DD].

"He punched a wall? Intentionally? Wow," said the man who has been known to do silly things like play with a water bottle in his back pocket, but has never come close to committing Brown's stupidity.

Meanwhile, the Yankess have gotten into a pissing match with the Commissioner's office, and neither side looks good.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't post any of this, convinced from last year's experience that the very act of positive posting about the Red Sox could jinx the team and leave me cursed with spam comments for eternity. However, today I see that the Old Towne Team is on the cover of Sports Illustrated (here's Tom Verducci's article for SI subscribers, and Verducci's mailbag for everyone). Of course, this invites the dreaded SI cover jinx to rear its ugly head. Compared to the aunted Satanic powers of the SI jinx -- especially in this decade -- this humble blog can do little harm.

According to the Boston Globe's Bob Hohler, SI cover boy Curt Schilling and manager Terry Francona aren't too worried:

Schilling said he was not concerned. "We're bigger than that," he said. Nor was manager Terry Francona put off. "It's like worrying about the weather," he said. "You can't do anything."

There are forces more powerful than at work here. All a good Red Sox fan can do is salute the bravery of Schilling, Francona et al, check the Baseball Prospectus' Playoff Odds Report, hope that the baseball gods just let the best team on the field win the pennant (Intriguingly, today's odds sheet gives the Sox a better chance of winning the pennant than the Yankees, even though they're still two games back as of this writing), and pray that in some weird Buffy The Vampire Slayer fashion, the SI jinx negates the residual curse of the Bambino.

UPDATE: Murray Chass mournfully writes in the Times that because of the existence of the wild card, the Sox-Yankees pennant chase will not be as dramatic as the 1978 race. This may be true -- I wouldn't count out either the Angels or the A's just yet -- but overlooks one of the major benefits of the current playoff format. Now, instead of a one day playoff, the possibility looms that the Yankees and the Sox could play another seven-game series. Surely, Chass would grant that last year's ALCS series more than made up for the drama lost from the absence of an exciting pennant chase.

But if Chass wants to forfeit his press credentials to any of the six upcoming Sox-Yankees games, I'll take them.

When bloggers get press passes to Fenway -- then we'll know the blogosphere has arrived!!

ANOTHER UPDATE: The day I post this, the Yankees sweep a double-header and the Sox lose. Arrrgggghhh!!! [Blame Sports Illustrated!! Blame Sports Illustrated!!--ed]

LAST UPDATE: Jim Baker's discussion of the Sox today in Baseball Prospectus perfectly encapsulates the inner monologue of any longtime fan. It's also sidesplittingly funny:

By now, the Red Sox have put themselves in a position where not making the playoffs seems unlikely. What that means is this: as we speak, the following memo is going around the corporate headquarters of The Fates:


I am assuming that most of you haven't noticed that our frequent past project Boston Red Sox have gone on a 20-2 run. Because of that, we must begin planning immediately for their ultimate undoing. It's much too late to dash their hopes à la 1978 during the regular season. Clearly, we are going to have to come up with something for the playoffs, instead. Last year's work was extraordinary but we don't have a Grady Little on hand to make our jobs easy, so this is what we need:

  • I want the boys down in R & D to give me four scenarios of doom.

  • I need marketing to gauge the level of expectation of the Red Sox nation. How high is the cynicism factor? What can we do to overcome it, in order to maximize heartbreak?

  • Creative: Your thoughts? Can we top Bill Buckner without making it too obvious?
  • You have your assignments. I need your preliminary ideas on my desk in one week. In terms of priority, put the Cubs aside until further notice.

    Heh. Rueful heh.

    posted by Dan at 03:02 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

    Paul Samuelson's outsourcing "bombshell"

    Steve Lohr breathlessly reports in the New York Times that Nobel prize winner and undisputed godfather of modern economic theory Paul Samuelson is coming out with an article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives on outsourcing that contradicts the mainstream economic take:

    At 89, Paul A. Samuelson, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, still seems to have plenty of intellectual edge and the ability to antagonize and amuse.

    His dissent from the mainstream economic consensus about outsourcing and globalization will appear later this month in a distinguished journal, cloaked in clever phrases and theoretical equations, but clearly aimed at the orthodoxy within his profession: Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve; N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers; and Jagdish N. Bhagwati, a leading international economist and professor at Columbia University.

    These heavyweights, among others, are perpetrators of what Mr. Samuelson terms "the popular polemical untruth."

    Popular among economists, that is. That untruth, Mr. Samuelson asserts in an article for the Journal of Economic Perspectives, is the assumption that the laws of economics dictate that the American economy will benefit in the long run from all forms of international trade, including the outsourcing abroad of call-center and software programming jobs.

    Sure, Mr. Samuelson writes, the mainstream economists acknowledge that some people will gain and others will suffer in the short term, but they quickly add that "the gains of the American winners are big enough to more than compensate for the losers."

    That assumption, so widely shared by economists, is "only an innuendo," Mr. Samuelson writes. "For it is dead wrong about necessary surplus of winnings over losings."

    Sounds like a radical break -- oh wait, let's get into the details:

    Mr. Samuelson, who calls himself a "centrist Democrat," said his analysis did not come with a recipe of policy steps, and he emphasized that it was not meant as a justification for protectionist measures....

    According to Mr. Samuelson, a low-wage nation that is rapidly improving its technology, like India or China, has the potential to change the terms of trade with America in fields like call-center services or computer programming in ways that reduce per-capita income in the United States. "The new labor-market-clearing real wage has been lowered by this version of dynamic fair free trade," Mr. Samuelson writes....

    For his part, Mr. Bhagwati does not dispute the model that Mr. Samuelson presents in his article. "Paul is a great economist and a terrific theorist," he said. "And in markets like information technology services, where America has a big advantage, it is true that if skills build up abroad, that narrows our competitive advantage and our exports will be hit."

    But Mr. Bhagwati, the author of "In Defense of Globalization" (Oxford University Press, 2004), says he doubts whether the Samuelson model applies broadly to the economy. "Paul and I disagree only on the realistic aspects of this," he said.

    The magnified concern, Mr. Bhagwati said, is that China will take away most of American manufacturing and India will take away the high-technology services business. Looking at the small number of jobs actually sent abroad, and based on his own knowledge of developing nations, he concludes that outsourcing worries are greatly exaggerated....

    The Samuelson model, Mr. Bhagwati said, yields net economic losses only when foreign nations are closing the innovation gap with the United States.

    "But we can change the terms of trade by moving up the technology ladder," he said. "The U.S. is a reasonably flexible, dynamic, innovative society. That's why I'm optimistic."

    The policy implications, he added, include increased investment in science, research and education. And Mr. Samuelson and Mr. Bhagwati agree that the way to buffer the adjustment for the workers who lose in the global competition is with wage insurance programs.

    "You need more temporary protection for the losers," Mr. Samuelson said. "My belief is that every good cause is worth some inefficiency."

    Before I throw my two cents in, let me just add the following caveats:

    1) I haven't seen Samuelson's essay (anyone who's got a copy of it, e-mail it to my brand-new gmail address listed on the right);

    2) I'm not an economist;

    3) Paul Samuelson is way, way, way, way, way, way, way smarter than I am.

    That said, this dispute boils down to a few empirical questions:

    1) Just how many well-educated workers are there in China and India?

    2) Will U.S. firms have an incentive to offshore sophisticated value-added work in areas where the United States currently has a comparative advantage?

    3) Will the United States continue to be a locus for value-added innovations?

    4) To what extent are wages and employment in the affected industries declining because of outsourcing as compared to technological innovation standardizing and commodifying what used to be highly complex (and highly paid) tasks?

    In the past, my answers to these questions have been a) not as many as you think; b) no, c) yes, and d) not a lot. [On (d), see Tyler Cowen's and Arnold Kling]. Which is why I side with Bhagwati on the outsourcing question.

    Furthermore, Samuelson appears to partially fall into the Douglas Irwin trap of firing a warning shot on outsourcing but providing little in the way of a solution that departs from those who believe outsourcing is not a problem. Indeed, Samuelson explicitly rejects the solution most favored by those who oppose outsourcing -- higher trade barriers.

    So, in the end, I'm not convinced that Samuelson's dissent changes the substantive issues of debate. But as a political scientist, it is impossible to deny the extent to which Samuelson's article will alter the rhetorical balance of power in this policy debate. Samuelson will succeed in reigniting debate on this topic, as well as provide aid and comfort to those who wish oppose the practice of offshore outsourcing.

    So let the debate be joined.

    UPDATE: Arnold Kling links to a draft version of the response paper by Jagdish Bhagwati, Arvind Panagariya, and T.N. Srinivasan alluded to in Lohr's Times story. Kling's summary:

    The authors point out that some of the concern is not about trade per se but about the accumulation of capital and know-how in China and India. They suggest that this could harm the U.S. if it reduces trade by eliminating the division of labor. That is, suppose that the U.S. stays stagnant, but China and India learn how to do everything that we know how to do. Then they will no longer export cheap goods to us, and we will lose. This, they claim, is what Samuelson's theoretical paper describes. If so, then it does not really describe outsourcing.

    LAST UPDATE: Douglas Irwin – who’s read the paper – is underwhelmed. This is from an e-mail he sent to me:

    [Samuelson’s paper] doesn't have much to do with outsourcing. If a foreign country experiences technological progress in a home country's export industry, it can deteriorate the terms of trade of the home country and make it worse off (not vis a vis autarky, but its previous trade situation). We've know this since the U of C's great Harry Johnson pointed it out in the 1950s…. Pretty thin stuff.

    VERY LAST UPDATE: One of the commenters linked to Joe Stiglitz's outsourcing essay in the Singapore Straits-Times from May of this year. That essay contains the following:

    Many of globalisation's advocates continue to claim that the number of jobs outsourced is relatively small. There is controversy, of course, about the eventual size, with some claiming that as many as one job in two might eventually be outsourced, others contending that the potential is much more limited.

    Sounds dispassionate, except for one thing -- I have not seen any estimate even remotely suggesting that "one job in two might eventually be outsourced." That's way higher than any of the upper bound numbers I've seen (the highest I've seen is 30%).

    Readers are invited to post a link to any study that suggests otherwise.

    posted by Dan at 01:49 PM | Comments (33) | Trackbacks (3)

    Wednesday, September 8, 2004

    Bush flip-flops on intelligence reform

    Looks like President Bush has changed his mind on intelligence reform:

    The White House unveiled plans Wednesday to give a new national intelligence director strong budgetary authority over much of the nation's intelligence community, a key provision in the Sept. 11 commission's recommendations.

    President Bush intends to give the intelligence director full budget authority over the National Foreign Intelligence Program and "the management tools" to oversee the intelligence community and integrate foreign and domestic intelligence, the White House said in a statement.

    The administration's plan comes as the Senate prepares to start crafting its own legislation to address criticisms from the 9/11 commission that the nation's 15 different intelligence agencies did not work together properly to stop the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington.

    Bush's actual statement is even more explicit: "We believe that there ought to be a National Intelligence Director who has full budgetary authority." According to the draft plan on the White House's web site, the NID would have significant authority over personnel decisions as well.

    Needless to say, this is a departure from what Bush proposed last month on the subject.

    I'm still not convinced it's the right thing to do -- and Phil Carter is on vacation, so I can't ask him. What's more interesting is why Bush changed his mind -- was this just blowing with the political winds or does he believe this is the right thing to do?

    The title to this post suggests my thoughts on the answer.

    UPDATE: It occurs to me that there's a slightly more generous interpretation of Bush's actions -- that he started out with a deliberately vague proposal and then filled in the details over time. Still, even within that vagueness, Bush implied a lot more decentralization than the current proposal.

    Meanwhile, over at Slate, Fred Kaplan thinks the debate over bureaucratic debate misses the point about personnel.

    posted by Dan at 04:28 PM | Comments (36) | Trackbacks (6)

    Teen sex and TV

    This is one of those posts where I'm reporting something I wish wasn't true but appears to be so. Social conservatives, this is dedicated to y'all.

    The RAND Corporation has a study suggesting that teenagers who watch large amounts of television containing sexual content are twice as likely to begin engaging in sexual intercourse in the following year as their peers. This is from the press release:

    Adolescents who watch large amounts of television containing sexual content are twice as likely to begin engaging in sexual intercourse in the following year as their peers who watch little such TV, according to a RAND Corporation study issued today.

    In addition, the study found that youths who watch large amounts of TV with sexual content are more likely to initiate sexual activities other than intercourse, such as “making out” and oral sex. These adolescents behaved sexually like youths who were 9 to 17 months older, but watched only average amounts of TV with sexual content, according to the study published in the September electronic edition of the journal Pediatrics.

    “This is the strongest evidence yet that the sexual content of television programs encourages adolescents to initiate sexual intercourse and other sexual activities,” said Rebecca Collins, a RAND psychologist who headed the study. “The impact of television viewing is so large that even a moderate shift in the sexual content of adolescent TV watching could have a substantial effect on their sexual behavior.”

    “Television habits predicted whether adolescents went to ‘second or third base,’ as well as whether they had sex for the first time,” Collins said. “The 12-year-olds who watched a lot of television with sexual content behaved like the 14- or 15-years-olds who watched the least amount of sexual television. The advancement in sexual behavior we saw among kids who watched a lot of sexual television was striking.”

    Researchers from RAND Health found that television shows that included only talk about sex had just as much impact on adolescent behavior as shows that depicted sexual behavior.

    “We found little difference whether a TV show presents people talking about whether they have sex or portrays them having sex,” Collins said. “Both affect adolescents’ perceptions of what is normal sexual behavior and propels their own sexual behavior.”

    On a positive note, the study found that one group — African American youth — that watched more depictions of sexual risks or safety measures was less likely to begin engaging in sexual intercourse in the subsequent year.

    Studies show that about two-thirds of television entertainment programs contain sexual content, ranging from jokes and innuendo to intercourse and other behaviors. Two earlier studies have suggested a link between adolescents’ viewing of television and their sexual behavior, but those earlier efforts all had significant shortcomings, according to researchers.

    With funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, RAND researchers surveyed 1,792 adolescents aged 12 to 17 from across the nation, asking them about their television viewing habits and sexual behavior. The participants were followed up with a similar survey a year later.

    Here's a link to the actual study, published in the e-journal Pediatrics.

    Ordinarily, I'm skeptical of studies like this because they tend to capture correlation rather than causation. One would expect teens who are more interested in sex to both watch TV shows about it and engage in sexual activity, so this kind of correlation would be unsurprising. However, in this case the authors control for some of the underlying demographic and social characteristics that would act as covariates. So I don't think this can be dismissed so lightly.

    posted by Dan at 12:08 PM | Comments (55) | Trackbacks (4)

    Tuesday, September 7, 2004

    Another comparative advantage of the blogosphere?

    I've been remiss in not congratulating Kevin Drum for his first book review for the New York Times. He deftly critiques Arthus Schlesinger Jr.'s War and the American Presidency -- even though Kevin is undoubtedly sympathetic to Schlesinger's argument. Go give it a read.

    As I was reading it, it occurred to me that Drum's review was probably enhanced by his blogger origins. Why? Because Kevin, unlike many other possible reviewers, was probably not concerned with ingratiating himself with Schlesinger. Which is why bloggers might be the best critics of them all. Bloggers, as the gatecrashers of the commetariat, are less constrained by personal or professional ties from providing honest appraisals. This is not to accuse non-bloggers of acting in an opportunistic fashion -- rather, it's simply more difficult, even at a subconscious level, to speak truth to power when you know what you'll say will hurt someone's feelings.

    [So why does the post title have a question mark?--ed. Because some bloggers are not exactly gatecrashers. Read this Josh Marshall post, for example, and imagine him writing the same review Kevin Drum wrote about Schlesinger's book. But you liked that anecdote!--ed. True, but my current point is that the more bloggers are emeshed within the mediasphere -- myself included -- the more we face the same set of implicit personal and professional constraints that others "inside the tent" currently face.]

    posted by Dan at 10:31 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

    It's arrival day!!

    Crooked Timber's Eszter Hargittai points out that today is the 350th anniversary of Arrival Day, "the first Jewish immigrants’ arrival in New Amsterdam (today’s New York City) on September 7, 1654." She has a lovely post about going to a Jewish wedding, and closes with these words:

    There are several reasons why I live in the U.S. and although no one factor is fully responsible, one contributing reason is that no matter how people try to downplay it, anti-Semitism is alive and well in Europe. I prefer to live in a country where I do not have to be on my guard all the time about being Jewish. (I realize experiences must vary across the U.S., but this is my experience having lived in seven states in rural, suburban and urban areas and I appreciate it.) At my friends’ wedding, Jews and non-Jews of numerous backgrounds came together to celebrate in the joy of two wonderful people. In my mind, this story is the perfect tribute to Arrival Day.

    Having spent most of my life in this country, but a few years in Europe, I must reluctantly concur with Eszter [Reluctantly?--ed. Why should anyone be happy about anti-Semitism in Europe?].

    For more on Arrival Day, check out the Head Heeb.

    posted by Dan at 02:17 PM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (2)

    Studying happiness

    Tyler Cowen looks at a summary of the economics of happiness and offer this critical conclusion:

    The conventional (academic) wisdom underrates money, status, sex, and marriage. [Could it be that academics do not always get these goods, and thus hope to manage their expectations and feel better about their failures?] As pure "ends in themselves," they can be a mixed bag. But if you can pursue them in a meaningful way, enjoy the process, and meet with relative won't forget Oscar Wilde: "The only thing worse than being famous is not being famous," etc.

    Speaking of happiness, Tyler also has some additional thoughts about Heidi Klum and insurance markets.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again -- Marginal Revolution is worthy of daily consumption.

    posted by Dan at 12:32 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

    Night of the living growth and stability pact

    When we last left the European Union's growth and stability pact in the fall, it had been scuttled for both economic and ;political reasons. The economic reason was that the pact did not make a whole lot of economic sense in a world with a continent-wide monetary policy combined with business cycles; the political reason was that France and Germany were violating the Maastricht criteria of keeping their budget deficit within three percent of their GDP, and the EU finance ministers refused to sanction either country

    Inexplicably, the European Commission then decided to sue France and Germany in the European Court of Justice. This was inexplicable because the Commission was guaranteed to lose either way. If the ECJ ruled against the Commission, then it undercut the power of the EU's principal policymaking body. If they won, they'd be in the awkward and intractable position of trying to force the two largest EU states into compliance -- a highly unlikely outcome.

    The Economist catches up with what's happened since the fall:

    The commission won that procedural battle—the European Court of Justice ruled in July that finance ministers could not suspend the pact at their own convenience—but it has now conceded the war. On Friday September 3rd Romano Prodi, outgoing president of the commission, and Joaquín Almunia, the EU’s commissioner for monetary affairs, announced their proposals for a reformed pact that will be economically literate and politically feasible, albeit legally feeble....

    The single currency’s fiscal rules are meant to ensure that all members maintain sustainable public finances. But sustainability is a complex issue. The old pact tried, in effect, to reduce fiscal prudence to a single number (3%) for a single variable (the annual budget deficit). The new proposals, by contrast, look at the public finances in the round. They take account of where a country stands in its economic cycle and how much debt it carries, as well as how big a deficit it runs in any given year. The new version of the pact sacrifices the legal virtues of clarity and predictability—everyone knew what the old pact meant and where they stood in relation to it. But in doing so, it sheds the old pact’s economic clumsiness and perversity....

    The commission also wants to shift its focus from the size of a country’s deficit to the sustainability of its debts. Italy, for example, is bearing a debt burden worth more than 106% of its annual output. In July, its sovereign credit rating was downgraded. Its finance minister had resigned a few days before, remarking that “it is difficult to manage the world’s third-biggest debt pile without being its third-biggest economy.” And yet Italy escaped censure under the old stability pact, because its annual budget deficit remained within 3% until this year. By resorting to ad hoc measures, such as privatisations and tax amnesties, it sidestepped the stability pact without ever addressing the underlying weakness of its finances.

    How much debt is too much? The commission will work on the loose presumption that debts should be below 60% of GDP, or headed in that direction. But again, it will not be able to rely on a single number. Some countries can sustain a higher debt ratio than others because they have a higher underlying rate of growth, for example; and some countries’ finances are in worse shape than they seem because of the future cost of pensions that have yet to appear on their balance sheet. The commission’s judgment will always be open to question, critics of the proposals say; indebted governments will always find some factor the commission has overlooked. Maybe so. But at least the new fiscal framework forces the commission and the euro area’s finance ministers to exercise their judgment, rather than relying on an arbitrary rule.

    The old pact was politically divisive. Some, such as Mr Prodi himself, thought it stupid. Some thought it sensible but not credible—it threatened countries with fines, but never followed through. Others complained that the threat of punishment was only credible for smaller countries, such as Portugal, not big powerful ones, such as France. The commission hopes its new, revised pact will work by consensus and “peer pressure”. It puts its faith in political persuasion, not quasi-judicial punishments.

    So what does this mean for the debate over whether the EU is an international organization or a supanational one? I argued last year that this type of outcome would undercut the supranational line of argumentation. However, because of the underlying problems with the policy that was at issue, this outcome may be overdetermined.

    posted by Dan at 01:18 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

    Saturday, September 4, 2004

    Does industrial policy actually work?

    The crux of the debate about the costs and benefits of economic globalization centers around how to interpret the East Asian miracle. To advocates of economic liberalization (Xavier Sala-i-Martin, Martin Wolf, Surjit Bhalla, Brink Lindsey), the success of the Pacific Rim is due to the focus on export promotion, and the 1997-99 crisis the fault of crony capitalism coming home to roost. To skeptics of economic liberalization (Dani Rodrik, Joseph Stiglitz, Robert Wade), the success of the Pacific Rim is due to the selective protectionism and smart industrial policies pursued by the relevant states, and the 1997-99 crisis the fault of financial liberalization coming home to roost.

    With this set-up, Marcus Noland has an Institute for International Economics working paper on whether South Korea's industrial policy was actually "effective." Here's the abstract:

    This paper attempts to determine whether conditions amenable to successful selective interventions to capture cross-industry externalities are likely to be fulfilled in practice. Three criteria are proposed for good candidates for industrial promotion: that they have strong interindustry links to the rest of the economy, that they lead the rest of the economy in a causal sense, and that they be characterized by a high share of industry-specific innovations in output growth. According to these criteria, likely candidates for successful intervention are identified in the Korean data. It is found that, with one exception, none of the sectors promoted by the heavy and chemical industry (HCI) policy fulfills all three criteria.

    Before everyone jumps up and down, bear the paper's closing paragraph in mind:

    The calculations made in this paper are admittedly quite crude, and they should not be considered a test of the theoretical arguments in favor of selective intervention. Indeed, even accepting the argument put forward in this paper, one could quarrel with the specific statistical results for the reasons cited above. But beyond these questions of econometric technique, it is certainly correct to argue that the level of industry aggregation (imposed by data availability constraints) is far too high and that both the underlying externalities and the forms of intervention may be far more subtle than the relations modeled in this exercise. Nonetheless, this approach may provide a useful starting point for identifying potential candidates for industrial promotion.

    posted by Dan at 10:37 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (0)

    Friday, September 3, 2004

    This should be interesting...

    My APSA panel on blogs and politics is today. Andrew Sullivan, Wonkette, and Cass Sunstein on the same dias -- not to mention Henry Farrell and Laura McKenna from 11D -- and all I have to do is sit back and listen.

    I'll post an "after-action report" once I've recovered from the numerous drinks that will undoubtedly be consumed after the panel.

    BEFORE-DRINKS AFTER-ACTION UPDATE: Well, Andrew didn't show up, but by APSA standards the panel was a huge success -- I'd say 60-75 110 people were in attendance, and the panelists did an awesome job. Naturally, Ana Marie stole the show by comparing bloggers to AOL adult chat-rooms -- "bloggers are pleasuring themselves, and mostly staying at home." After that, none of us could say anything without thinking of the obvious double entendres.

    For an mostly accurate accounting of the panel, check out Steve the Llama Butchers' liveblogging. My favorite bits:

    Befitting the newfound prestige allotted to blogging, we are located on the back of the fifth floor of the Palmer House Hilton, right behind the catering kitchen but in front of the laundry. It's not that we're in an out of the way part of the hotel, but I'm pretty sure I just saw Harrison Ford go by being chased by Tommy Lee Jones, muttering something about a one-armed man killing his wife. Well now....

    4:20 pm--"blogosphere" used at the 100th Meeting of the American Political Science Association.

    Woodrow Wilson officiallly rolls over in his grave....

    So there you have it: quite possibly the first panel at the 100 year history of the American Political Science Assoication to feature two University of Chicago professors, and the subject of S&M, naughty bits, and power indexes all were discussed.

    See also Richard Skinner, Eszter Hargittai, Chris Lawrence, and Steve Clemons for their observations. I particularly liked Clemons characterization of Antoinette Pole and Laura McKenna as "clearly the Thelma & Louise of blogging research."

    posted by Dan at 02:49 PM | Comments (26) | Trackbacks (2)

    Thursday, September 2, 2004

    Open Republican National Convention thread

    For obvious reasons, I didn't see any of the Republican National Convention, and only heard random parts of Bush's speech.

    With that awesome windup, feel free to comment on the convention and Bush's speech here.

    Random question -- did the convention change or solidify anyone's voting preferences?

    posted by Dan at 11:28 PM | Comments (122) | Trackbacks (1)

    Wednesday, September 1, 2004

    September's books of the month

    Give the anti-globalization protestors their due. After the Battle in Seattle, most of the claims of most of the protestors were dismissed by the commetariat within the space of a single op-ed column. Five years later, they've managed to convince a fair fraction of the globe of the correctness ofd their ideas.

    The result has been a raft of books devoted to debunking the myriad claims of the anti-globalization and alternative globalization crowds, some of which I've discussed here. However, September's international relations book of the month blows the other books in this category out of the water. Martin Wolf's Why Globalization Works is the best single book I've read to date that comprehensively addresses all of the claims and counter-claims with regard to economic globalization. It's the kind of book I wish I'd written. Go buy it. Now.

    In light of recent events, today's general interest book is Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon. As one who's had to read a fair number of toddler books over the past years, I'll always have a soft spot for this one. Brown's The Runaway Bunny
    is also good -- and Margaret Edson uses it to brilliant effect in the closing of Wit. And of course I love Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. However, Goodnight Moon will always be my favorite to read out loud -- the cadences are just lovely.

    However, opinions vary on this. So readers are invited to submit their favorite children's book for the under-five set.

    posted by Dan at 11:31 AM | Comments (56) | Trackbacks (1)

    The blinkered economics of the Chicago City Council

    Gary Washburn and H. Gregory Meyer report in today's Chicago Tribune that City Council opposition has succeeded in thwarting Wal-Mart's plans to open up a big box store in the South side of the city (for previous posts on this topic click here, here and here):

    Wal-Mart will continue work--for now--on plans for a new store on Chicago's West Side but will not pursue a proposed outlet on the South Side in the wake of wrangling and delays, the company said Tuesday.

    Wal-Mart foes said they will seek to block a zoning change that would allow the South Side store anyway, questioning the sincerity of a company that has been under a withering attack since announcing its intention to open stores in the city earlier this year.

    Wal-Mart's plans in the city may be determined by what happens with two pending ordinances that would set minimum pay and benefit standards for employees of "big box" retailers, including Wal-Mart, said John Bisio, a company spokesman....

    Delays related to opposition to Wal-Mart have pushed back plans for a South Side shopping complex at 83rd Street and Stewart Avenue that would have included a Wal-Mart. When the retailer sought to persuade the site's developer to extend a recent signing deadline in order "to see how those [big box] proposals played out," the request was turned down, Bisio said. That forced the company to cancel its plans on the South Side, he said.

    What might those two proposed ordinances be? Glad you asked:

    [North Side Alderman Joe] Moore is co-sponsor of a measure that would require big retailers to pay a minimum of $10-an-hour in wages and benefits to workers. Ald. Edward Burke (14th) has co-sponsored another proposal that would set a $12.43-an-hour minimum wage and require that 40 percent of all merchandise sold by the big retailers be manufactured in the United States.

    Moore's ordinance would apply only to new big box stores; Burke's to new and existing stores.

    While even free-market enthusiasts acknowledge that the effect of minimum wage laws is not cut and dried, I'm pretty sure even Alan Kruger would say that $12.43 would be a deleterious move. A $10 minimum wage with a grandfather clause would be equally bad. As for the content provision, well, that's just moronic.

    As a south sider who would like to see more jobs and more commerce created in the neighborhood, I'd like to thank Alderman Joe Moore and Alderman Edward Burke for doing such bang-up jobs at public policy. If you'd like to thank them too, feel free to shoot an e-mail to Mr. Moore or an e-mail to Mr. Burke applauding them for their bold and imaginative contributions to urban planning and economic development!!

    posted by Dan at 11:06 AM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (1)