Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Boeing, Airbus, and the WTO
The Economist has an update on the brutal competition between Airbus and Boeing. The highlights:
I suspect the Economist is correct. The trouble with this case is that the fixed costs for commercial aircraft are high enough to ensure increasing returns to scale for the entire market. Which means that this may be one of those situations where strategic trade theory applies.
Which means that the WTO is ill-suited to resolving this dispute.
It's all about the goats
Andrew Martin has a fascinating front-pager in today's Chicago Tribune about how rising immigration from less developed countries into the United States is altering the mix of goods that American farmers cultivate:
Since goat meat is better for you than other forms of meat -- the fat content is 50%-65% lower than similarly prepared beef while the protein content is roughly equal -- someone should be promoting the Goat Diet.
Monday, November 29, 2004
It was either Secretary of Commerce or the new face of Avon
I don't have much to say about President Bush's announement that he intended to nominate Kellogg chairman Carlos M. Gutierrez as the new Commerce Secretary, beyond the observation that this is Bush's first post-election selection that did not spend the first term in the White House.
However, this sentence in Washington Post writer William Branigin's story about the appointment did leap out at me: "Latino Leaders magazine named Gutierrez as one of the nation's 10 most-admired Latinos last year (others included actress Salma Hayek, singer Julio Iglesias and baseball player Sammy Sosa)." (emphasis added)
The staff here at danieldrezner.com, ever eager for gratuitous references to Salma Hayek, applaud Mr. Branigin for finding a completely gratuitous excuse for mentioning the lovely and talented Ms. Hayek -- who, incidentally, recently became a spokesperson for Avon products:
Hat tip to Baseball Crank.
It's a beautiful day in China's neighborhood
One of the themes of the book I've been working on (and on... and on, and on...) is that great powers create regional intergovernmental organizations that allow these states to advance their regulatory and political preferences among the most vulnerable states they can find. I label these kind of international governmental organizations as "neighborhoods."
Looks like China is trying to create its own neighborhood, according to the AP:
No need to hyperventilate -- as the story notes, the U.S. remains the primary economic presence in the region. This is more interesting as a harbinger of the future.
Just one more Ukraine post for today...
As my previous posts suggest, I've been very wary of what happens if Ukraine blows up. Fred Weir and Helen Womack's piece in the Christian Science Monitor encapsulates these fears pretty well.
That said, it's cheering to see signs that maybe Ukraine won't blow up -- this week.
AFP reports that President Kuchma has come out in favor of new elections in the disputed regions (Donetsk and Luhansk):
That last quotation is significant, because Yanukovich has stated his preference all along for strictly legal solutions.
Yanukovich has acceded to Kuchma's preferences, according to Reuters:
Meanwhile, the Kyiv Post reports that the secessionist threat has freaked out some of the oligarchs:
On Akhmetov, check out Tom Warner's story in the Financial Times.
Encouragingly, Interfax reports that Ukraine's defense minister has rejected the idea of a state of emergency.
What's going on? There are three possibilities:
Comments are back on
Apologies for the lack of comments over the past 24 hours -- there was a massive spam attack that caused the good people at Hosting Matters to shut things down temporarily.
The Ukrainian opposition rolls the dice
Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko and his supporters are now making demands of president Leonid Kuchma. Here's the Reuters report -- but Maidan has an English translation of the actual demands:
That 24 hours thing is funny, because according to the Post-Modern Clog, "Kuchma has given the protesters blockading the Cabinet building a 24-hour deadline to clear out."
Actually, it's not funny. Supporters of Yushchenko want to believe that Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich commands little support, even in the Eastern part of the country - but Reuters reports that "an estimated 150,000 demonstrators took to the streets in Donetsk" in support of Yanukovich. Yanukovich may be a toady of Kuchma and potentially Vladimir Putin, but he's not wrong when he says, "If only one drop of blood is shed, we won't be able to stop the flow." The thing is, both sides have now dug in, and although the Ukrainians are masters at muddling through, it's becoming increasingly difficult to see how this can be resolved through non-violent means.
[Why can't there be a velvet divorce between the regions, a la Czechoslovakia?--ed. Erin Arvedlund explains the myriad economic problems with this idea in the New York Times, but it's even more problematic than that. Yushchenko's response to the eastern threats of autonomy show that nationalists are, well, nationalist -- they don't want only half the country.]
I have to think Yushchenko is gambling on Kuchma lacking the ability to use force. However, Mark Franchetti reports in London's Sunday Times that:
(link via NRO's Andrew Stuttaford)
The other thing to worry about is the Russian response to any escalation in the crisis. What will Putin do? Helen Womack reports in the Christian Science Monitor that, "The likelihood for a fresh poll increased when a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Russia, which had overtly backed Yanukovich, said Moscow also now favored a rerun." However, Askold Krushelnycky and Mark Franchetti report in London's Sunday Times about a more disturbing possibility:
Developing... and not in a way that I'm at all sanguine about.
Sunday, November 28, 2004
So is Fleet Street on crack or what?
The British press has some very interesting takes on what's happening in Ukraine.
In the Guardian, Ian Traynor thinks the "Orange Revolution" is made in the USA:
Laughland is associated with the British Helsinki Human Rights Group (BHHRG), which should not be confused with British Chapter of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights. BHHRG has posted two scathing reports about the Orange Revolution -- one on Yushchenko's "Shadow of Anti-Semitism" and this report on the election's second round, in which they conclude, "BHHRG finds no reason to believe that the final result of the 2004 presidential election in Ukraine was not generally representative of genuine popular will."
Well, now it's clear to me -- the Bush administration has carefully crafted a crisis in Ukraine to force western Europe back into our arms while finally installing an anti-Semitic government in Ukraine.
[Seriously?--ed.] Seriously, there are a couple of things going on here. Let's deal with BHHRG and Laughland first -- well, let's reference this Chris Bertram post first, since it encapsulates where this line of criticism is coming from. Basically, if a cartoon version of Edmund Burke were divined into existence and asked to monitor elections in regions outside Western Christendom, the result would be BHHRG. In the former Soviet bloc, this means they expect voters to prefer Slavophiles over Western reformers -- and if they prefer the latter, it must be because of perfidious Western interference. Their suspicion of outsiders, particularly poor outsiders, is also at the roots of Unwin's fears of Ukrainan entrance into the EU.
Their charge of anti-Semitism seems partially blunted by the fact that a) Principal elements of the Jewish community support Yushchenko; and b) As someone who's travelled all around that country, let's be clear that a mild form of anti-Semitism is probably one of the few traits that unites the different regions.
As for Traynor's allegations, they are both true and vastly exaggerated. It's probably true that the groups identified by Traynor have helped fund opposition groups in the countries listed. That said, to suggest that the U.S. government was the architect behind the massive demonstrations that ousted Slobodan Milosevic, Eduard Shevardnandze, and are threatening Leonid Kuchma overlooks a) The genuine resentment these leaders have generated among their populations; and b) The ability of the U.S. government to "coordinate" such a disparate bunch of organizations (Traynor's thesis requires the Bush administration to be in league with George Soros). There's an element of the paranoid style in these reports that sounds... vaguely familiar. [UPDATE: This charge of American orchestration of events seems particularly amusing after reading Bradford Plumer castigate the Bush administration over at the Mother Jones blog for not planning enough for these contingencies. From what I've read, this is a case where all the planning in the world wasn't going to change what happened.]
Finally, as to the charge of corruption among Yushchenko's supporters -- particularly Ms. Tymoshenko -- click here, here, and here for more background (and here's a link to Tymoshenko's web site). I have no doubt that Yushchenko and his supporters are not as clean as the driven snow. However, while Tymoshenko's stage of primitive accumulation seems well past, Yanukovich's supporters are still in their prime and show no signs of changing tack.
Which is pretty much the way to evaluate the current lay of the land in Ukraine. Yushchenko and his supporters are not innocent democrats -- but I'm not sure that anyone who has ever held political office (save maybe Vaclav Havel) fits that description.
For another corrective to these reports, see Nick Paton Walsh's article in the... er... Guardian.
As to Unwin's realpolitik concerns, those can not just be dismissed away, and I'll try to blog about them soon.
UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias makes some excellent contrarian points. To be clear -- I find the arguments made by Laughland, Traynor, and BHHRG to be badly slanted and grossly exaggerated -- but some of the points they are making not completely devoid of truth.
Today's Ukraine update
Richard Balmforth reports for Reuters that multiparty talks among the parties with a stake in last week's disputed election aren't going well in Kiev:
Yanukovich was in eastern part of the country to rally regions and elites loyal to his cause:
In a somewhat ominous development, the AP's Anna Melnichuk reports that Kuchma is calling for an end to the protestors' blockade of government buildings in Kiev, calling it a "gross violation of the law." In Kiev, Post-modern Clog posts that, "Everybody is buzzing right now about martial law." To be fair, he also notes, "at this point it's only a report of discussions and nothing more solid than that." Still, Yushchenko now seems more cognizant of this possibility. UPDATE: SCSU Scholars is keeping track of this thread of scuttlebutt.
Meanwhile, Time has its Ukraine package, which has three interesting tidbits of information. The first suggests the depth of the protest at the vote-rigging:
The second tidbit suggests the extent to which Putin wants to keep Ukraine within its orbit:
Finally, the Time writers note that should the Ukraine problem fail to resolve itself, the Bush administration would find itself in a pickle:
This puts Bush's comments from this Friday in the proper perspective.
UPDATE: This BBC report has a good summary of the developments to date.
Saturday, November 27, 2004
Brad Setser has a blog
I've been remiss in not linking to Brad Setser's semi-new blog. Brad and I overlapped at Treasury -- and his pay grade was much higher than mine. He subsequently spent at year at the Council on Foreign Relations and is the co-author (with Nouriel Roubini) of the just-released Bailouts or Bail-Ins: Responding to Financial Crises in Emerging Markets.
This post on China feeling its oats in the global economy is a good place to start. So is this one on the various replacements for the G-7 and their strengths and pitfalls.
Open Ukraine thread
The latest developments in the country:
Speculate on what you think will happen here. What keeps gnawing at me is that whatever the outcome, one region of the country is going to be supremely pissed off.
Whether this leads to an attempt at secession -- and how the Russians would react to this -- are the questions on my mind.
UPDATE: Much obliged to Andrew for the link (and for his startling link to before/after shots of Yushchenko and the mysterious illness that plagued him this summer). For more Ukraine posts, click here and here. And let me add one admission of fallibility -- I'm genuinely surprised that Yushchenko and his supporters have made as much headway as they have to date.
ANOTHER UPDATE: On the one hand, this Interfax report suggests at least some degree of comity among the parties contending for power in Ukraine.
On the other hand, Roman Olearchyk's analysis in the Kyiv Post suggests that elites in the eastern parts of the country would take steps beyond autonomy to protect their interests:
Olearchyk goes on to dismiss these moves because they lack popular support. If these protests in Dniepropetrovk are any indication, Olearchyk may be right -- it's a bad, bad sign for Yanukovych if he doesn't have a lot of support in Kuchma's old stomping grounds (however, Steven Lee Myers reports in the New York Times that, "in eastern Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of supporters of Prime Minister Yanukovich took to the streets"). However, I fear he underestimates the trouble the elites in these regions can create -- particularly if they want to generate a pretext for Russian intervention.
Finally, pro-Yushchenko blogs worth checking out for the situation on the ground include Tulipgirl, Le Sabot Post-Moderne, and Orange Ukraine. I'm not aware of any pro-Yanukovich blogs in English, but Jonathan Steele's essay in the Guardian gives you a sense of what they would say if they existed. Oh, and check out SCSUScholars -- one of them has in-country experience.
Thursday, November 25, 2004
Ukraine's fine line between legal and extralegal
Ron Popeski reports for Reuters that Ukraine's Supreme Court has rebuffed the Central Election Commission's certification of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich as the presidential winner over Viktor Yushchenko. As previously noted, this is not an outrageous surprise, as Kuchma's influence over the Supreme Court was not strong.
More intriguingly, Roman OLearchyk reports in the Kyiv Post that at least one television station has replaced it's Kuchma-crony news director and recast its broadcast in a more "objective" manner.
Stefan Wagstyl and Tom Warner report in the Financial Times on the increasingly uncomfortable position Ukraine's two top oligarchs (Viktor Pinchuk and Rinat Akhmetov) find themselves. If they stick with Yanukovich, they risk a general strike that would have some effect on their businesses. If they permit Yushchenko to come to power, they'll be on the uncomfortable end of a corruption probe.
When a government facing a popular uprising, there is a moment when all of Burke's "pleasing illusions" about power fade away, and the rulers face a choice between using raw coercion or backing down. At this juncture, there is one of three possibilities:
That moment is rapidly approaching in Kiev.
UPDATE: Check out this blogger, based in Kiev, for a straightforward explanation of the interrelationships between Kuchma, Yanukovich, and the Ukrainian Oligarchs.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Anatoly Medetsky has an amusing and revealing account of Ukraine's "blue/orange" split among Kiev protesters in the Moscow Times. The description of the Yanukovich supporters -- who come from the region of Ukraine I lived in -- ring true.
Meanwhile C.J. Chivers reports in the New York Times of hints that the security forces are split on the crisis:
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
What I'm thankful for this year... and next year... pretty much every year
[What about me? What about the blog? You're thankful for that too, right?--ed. Absolutely. Alas, the one "action" shot of me blogging does not successfully convey that sentiment.]
High stakes or déjà vu in Ukraine?
A few years ago there were sizeable protests in Kiev because of "Kuchmagate," in which tapes came to light suggesting that President Leonid Kuchma played a role in the disappearance of Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze in September 2000. There was tangible evidence that Kuchma personally ordered Gongadze -- who was investigating corruption in Kuchma's administration -- to disappear. Despite months of protests, however, Kuchma stayed in office (click here for an exhaustive World Bank study on this case).
Not to put a damper on what's going on right now in Ukraine, but that example should be kept in mind when speculating whether the protests at the rigged election results in Ukraine will actually cause a change in government a la the Rose Revolution in Georgia [Quickly: opposition leader/reformer/nationalist Viktor Yushchenko led by double digits in Western-run exit polls over Kuchma stalwart/Russophile Viktor Yanukovich. However, the preliminary election results had Yanukovich winning by three percentage points. Outside observers are pretty much unanimous in their belief that there was massive vote fraud].
The two most salient facts in assessing what will happen are that:
I would love to be wrong about this, but it doesn't look good for Yushchenko.
Stefan Wagstyl and Tom Warner have a pretty sophisticated analysis in the Financial Times pointing out the limits to Kuchma's influence within legal institutions. My concern, however, is whether the "party of power" will be willing to use extrralegal means to secure their position in the country. They have in the past (though this has not included firing on crowds) -- I see no reason it will change now. The one difference between now and what happened two years ago is that the opposition has a clearly identified leader -- who went so far as to swear himself in as president yesterday.
We'll see if that makes a difference. As a political scientist who's spent time in-country, my guess is no.
UPDATE: The International Herald-Tribune has more details -- but I still don't see any evidence that Kuchma or Putin are prepared to back down.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: In response to the CEC announcement, Yushchenko has called for a national strike. Meanwhile, both the US and EU have (appropriately) slammed the election process. Powell said:
I'm not sure how costly a sanction that would be to a Yanukovich government -- which reveals the fundamental asymmetry when talking about Ukraine as the pivot between Russia and the West. If a Russophile is elected, they can get by with Russian assistance (which Putin would be happy to provide). If a nationalist/reformer is elected and tries to move closer to the West, it doesn't change the fact that the country is completely dependent on Russia for its energy supplies.
One interesting diplomatic dimension will be the extent to which both the US and EU bypass the Ukrainian actors entirely and lobby Putin directly. CNN International already reports that Powell "repeated [his] concern to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a separate phone call.... 'Tomorrow is the EU-Russian summit in Europe, and I'm confident this will be a subject of discussion between the EU leadership and the Russians,' the secretary said."
Meanwhile, Anne Applebaum provides useful analysis in the Washington Post.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Some slight technical difficulties
Apologies for the disappearing sidebar -- there are some technical difficulties that the good people at Hosting Matters are checking out.
Hopefully everything will be back to normal soon.
UPDATE: Fixed!! Thanks to Stacy and Annette!
Monday, November 22, 2004
My eyes.... my eyes!!!
I may never forgive Greg Djerejian for pointing me to this Alex Beam article in the Sunday Boston Globe about what happens when policy wonks stop writing position papers and start write novels with... shudder... sex scenes.
Insert your own joke about hard and soft power here -- and let me just add that I can't believe Ana Marie Cox hasn't taken this excerpt and done unspeakable things to it yet.
Other writers that appear in Beam's story include Gary Hart, William Cohen, Richard Perle, and Lynne Cheney. Go check it out and report back on who has the gift for smut (my vote is for Cheney).
[Oh, like you could do better?--ed. Someone would have to pay me an obscene advance for that to happen. And besides, if I did choose to write such a passage, it would be much more salacious to couch it in the language of international relations theory:
Ewww!!--ed. Exactly my point.]
UPDATE: Drezner gets results from Wonkette! [Completely Platonic results!!--ed.]
That's a nice piece of foreign policy, Mr. Baker
The Financial Times reports on some successful U.S. diplomacy over Iraq's debt:
Kudos to the Bush administration -- and its point man on this, James Baker -- for reaching such a favorable agreement.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Oh my, that does feel good
While Eszter Hargittai and others might debate whether blogging should or should not "count" as scholarship, one thing most scholar-bloggers probably agree on is that at this point it doesn't count. So, for those of us aspiring for tenure, what matters are the old standbys -- university press books, book chapters, and refereed journal articles [What about essays in Foreign Affairs or The New Republic or the New York Times?--ed. A former colleague once labeled this stuff as "ash & trash," and I fear he's probably correct.]
For the past several years I've been working feverishly -- and, well, OK, sometimes not so feverishly -- to finish my second book manuscript, about economic globalization and the variance in the global coordination of regulatory standards. My original goal was August 2003. Then, when I realized I had some problems with the theory section, my new goal was August 2004. Then, when I realized Erika wasn't kidding when she said being pregnant was completely sapping her strength, I foolishly thought I could still wrap it up by September. In other words, like every academic project, there were cost and schedule overruns.
Well, it's finally done, and has just been sent to my publisher for external review. Which is great -- because now I can't even look at it for several months. There's no point. Any revisions I make now would not be apparent to the referees, so I might as well wait until I receive their thoughts before I take another crack at it. Furthermore, there is a real benefit to be gained from putting a project like this away for a spell and then coming back at it with a pair of fresh, detached eyes. It allows a writer to excise those bits and pieces of prose that might have taken days or weeks to polish, but in the end are extraneous to the core argument. To close to the writing, and one is reluctant to engage in this kind of essential triage.
From a work perspective, it will be wonderful to start and/or complete other projects. Even better will be the temporary surfacing from my little submarine to see what in the dickens everyone else in my field has been working on.
This is only a temporary reprieve -- come spring, I'll be back at work on the revisions for a few months. But if this is not the end, it's the beginning of the end -- and that's a very good feeling.
[What if your readers want to read it?--ed. Then I feel nothing but pity for them. However, here's a link to the .pdf file. Read it and weep.]
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Could be worse -- could be Celtic/Rangers
Last night as I was flying back to Chicago I dipped into Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains the World. The two chapters I read were about the tight linkage between Serbia's soccer hooligans and Arkan's war crimes, and the fierce Celtic-Rangers rivalry that defines Glasgow.
Reading the book helped put last night's melee between the Indiana Pacers, the Detroit Pistons, and the Piston fans at Auburn Hills in the proper perspective. Brendan Loy has the immediate reaction.
I'm not condoning the behavior of the fans here -- Mike Celizic is correct to assign a significant amount of blame on the moronic fan that threw something at Ron Artest in the first place. And, of course, Artest was Artest -- which means he subsequently lost it. If he hadn't, however, this would have ended with some minor suspensions and would not have led off Sportscenter. In other words, it took a precise sequence of actions for this to happen, and if Artest isn't the player in the middle, I'm not sure it escalates.
This was a case of emotions spilling out of control by all concerned -- starting with Artest and Ben Wallace. What it was not was a case of organized, premeditated violence with the intent of harming players or opposing fans. Go read Foer's book for examples of truly sociopathic sports fans.
What happened last night wasn't pretty -- but Marc Stein is probably right to say that the NBA will recover quickly from this episode:
However, Stein missteps when he says:
In my book -- and I believe most criminal codes -- premeditated acts are considered more heinous than acts of passion.
UPDATE: Kevin Hench has a good round-up over at Fox Sports. And Chris McCosky of the Detroit News points out the failure of the refs to take control of the situation -- not to mention their inexplicable failure to whistle Artest for a foul in the first place.
LAST UPDATE: Given that Artest was suspended for the rest of the season, this interview he gave last week to ESPN.com's Marc Stein seems unintentionally hilarious. The key bit:
A scholarly post
Another useful site for scholars is ResourceShelf's DocuTicker -- a blog that started up about six months ago and is devoted solely to linking to recent government and think tank research (thanks to A.S. for the link). In fact, on their main site, Rita Vine provides a librarian's assessment of Google's new search feature.
Finally, Eszter Hargittai has a post "challeng[ing] the position of dismissing blogging as relevant scholarship altogether." As one of the people Eszter is challenging, I'm going to digest her post before proffering a full response. But. as with anything Eszter writes, it's well worth reading.
Friday, November 19, 2004
Hey, the system works
Kevin Drum and David Adesnik are gnashing their teeth over Colin Powell's statements about a nuclear Iran -- and the fact that they were based on shaky empirical evidence. Kevin writes, "It's hard to believe our credibility can get any worse on stuff like this, but obviously we're trying."
I take the "glass-is-half-full" approach on this one. A lot of IR scholars were convinced that what happened in Iraq was evidence that contrary to a lot of democratic peace theory stretching back to Kant, the executive branch could gin up any excuse to go to war and it would fly with the other branches of government and the American people.
I always thought this was exaggerated. Iraq was a sui generis case in which, post-9/11, the administration went after low-hanging fruit in the form of a country in the same region that we'd fought a decade earlier, and was in noncompliance with a lot of UN Security Council resolutions. There aren't a lot of countries like that -- even Iran isn't like that. Furthermore, the post-invasion revelations about the mistakes that were made were not going to just fade away.
The Powell episode bears this out. If Iraq did anything, it made all the relevant actors -- including the Bush officials who leaked to the Washington Post -- recognize that the hurdle to justify coercive force is going to be higher from here on in. Maybe, just maybe, the failures of intelligence in Iraq have made everyone set the evidentiary bar just a bit higher for future military action.
One final random thought -- is it me, or did the Powell episode happen at almost blog speed for the U.S. government? Basically, Thursday's post corrected Wednesday's post.
Now one can question whether the U.S. government should really operate according to the norms of blog posting, and I share Kevin's concerns about U.S. credibility. Credibility is sustained by being right, but it's also sustained by admitting when you are wrong. This strikes me as a case where the government was forced to be more transparent with the quality of the information they had than at any time in the run-up to Iraq.
And that's a very, very good thing.
The state of the State Department
Via Glenn Reynolds, I've been growing more and more interested in this anonymous group blog by State Department Foreign Service Officers who happen to be Republican. This post on what Condi should do to reform the management at Foggy Bottom rings true:
I don't agree with all of their recommendations -- yeah, we do need embassies in all of those countries -- but their observations about the excessive levels of bureaucracy are spot-on. When I had my CFR fellowship and was choosing between going to State and Treasury, I took the Treasury option even though it was at a lower level. It took only one visit and one glance at the two organizational charts to realize that Treasury's hierarchy was much quicker and flatter -- and as a result, policy was able to be altered and implemented much more quickly.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
It's always something....
According to Drezner family lore, whenever I travel I always leave something behind. Alas, this time around I forgot the AC cord for my laptop, so blogging will probably be very light today and tomorrow.
For those in DC, a reminder of why I'm travelling (note NEW LOCATION):
UPDATE: Well, the panel was a blast -- for those of us who had chairs to sit on. The room was pretty crowded, which was great in terms of interest but not so great in terms of temperature and ventilation. Thanks to one and all who showed up!
China extends its soft power
Jane Perlez writes in the New York Times about the contrast between China's expanding efforts to sell its culture in its near abroad with the ratcheting down of U.S. public diplomacy:
Read the whole thing -- Perlez backs up her assertion.
Does any of this matter? This depends whether you think that soft power actually matters. I think soft power doesn't exist without hard power, so really Chinese soft power matters only as it represents a manifestation of China's hard power.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
About that values gap....
I've been back and forth about whether the values gap explains the 2004 election. Mystery Pollster Mark Blumenthal looks at the latest Pew analysis of the role that moral values played in the 2004 election, and comes away convinced that there's something to the argument. Go check it out.
And, for a lovely example of this, see how you react to this Reuters story (thanks to R.H. for the link):
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Oh, yes, there are costs to blogging
This week's blog casualties:
Not quite as bad as the Iranians, of course.
What happens if Conan the Bacterium infects Aquaman?
John J. Fialka has a front-pager in today's Wall Street Journal (this link should be good for non-subscribers as well) that spurs a "Wow, this is cool" reaction in me. It's about research into microorganisms that can not only survive in nuclear waste dumps -- they thrive there:
I will confess that the bolded section was my second reaction when reading the headline. I immediately flashed back to when I would watch Superfriends on Saturday mornings. Inevitably Aquaman would experience some "freak genetic mutation" and turn into some giant pissed-off fish that wreaked havoc on the high seas until Superman finally gave him the antidote. It was always a nuisance. [Er, but these extremophiles would prevent this from happening -- so why did you think of Aquaman?--ed. I didn't say I was following a rational chain of logic here. I was describing gut instinct.]
Shrewd assessment or wishful thinking from William Kristol?
Via Dan Froomkin, there's an article by Guy Dinmore in the Financial Times suggesting that Donald Rumsfeld is on his way out as well. Well, it's not the FT saying this so much as William Kristol:
Kristol has much better inside dope than I, but I've seen little evidence that Rumsfeld wants to leave -- or that Bush wants him to go. Then there's this quote from Mike Allen's Washington Post story:
Link via Andrew Sullivan.
Monday, November 15, 2004
David Rothkopf on the NSC
As Condi Rice moves on to State, Glenn Kessler and Thomas E. Ricks devote half a Washington Post article to what David Rothkopf, a former Clinton apointee at Commerce and the author of the forthcoming The Committee in Charge of Running the World, thought of Rice's performance at NSC. Rothkopf makes some points that have been stressed here at danieldrezner.com:
Open cabinet reshuffle thread
Mike Allen and William Branigin are reporting in the Washington Post that Colin Powell will resign today as Secretary of State. Three other cabinet secretaries -- Education Secretary Rod Paige, Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman, and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham -- are also expected to resign.
Feel free to post your thought here on Powell's legacy, possible replacement, implications for U.S. foreign policy, and whether there will be any further departues from the foreign policy team. I'm particularly curious about this section in the Allen and Branigin story:
If this is true, then it means Don Rumsfeld ain't going anywhere.
Saturday, November 13, 2004
The NSC SOB leaves town
I missed this last week, but apparently Bob Blackwill has resigned from the National Security Council. Glenn Kessler and Al Kamen proffer one explanation for his departure in the Washington Post (link via Greg Djerejian):
I've seen Blackwill in action and heard enough backchatter from people who have worked for him to be utterly unsurprised by anything in this report. His tenure as the U.S. ambassador to India was marked by similar problems.
Still, Blackwill's departure is a shame. He may have been an imperious SOB, but he was also a policymaker and manager of rare gifts -- and the country could use a few of those people. [You're just saying this because he's a Republican--ed. No, the Democrats have senior policymakers on their side with a similar set of positive and negative traits -- see Richard Holbrooke, Gene Sperling, or Ed Rendell. So Holbrooke and Sperling were physically abusive bosses?--ed. No, absolutely not -- but the verbal abuse, well, that's a different kettle of fish.]
UPDATE: John Burgess provides an illuminating comment about his experiences working under Blackwill in India.
Friday, November 12, 2004
The dogs that don't bark in international relations
Newspapers, media outlets -- and, because we feed off them, blogs -- tend to focus on the violent hot spots in international affairs. This is entirely appropriate -- but occasionally, it's worth stepping back and remembering that there are parts of the globe where everyone has expected and predicted things to go "BOOM!" -- and yet, in fact, conditions have improved.
Which brings me to Rajesh Mahapatra's report in the Associated Press about the further easing of tensions in South Asia:
As the second graf indicates, his doesn't mean that everything is sunshine and roses in Kashmir. However, the curent situation is certainly an improvement compared to conditions two years ago.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
More Friday baby blogging -- on Thursday
Provide the thought bubble behind Lauren's expression.
(Many thanks to Pam D. for the photo).
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Open Arafat thread
Feel free to comment on the significance of Yasser Arafat's death here.
In particular -- is it good for the Palestinians?
If this Glenn Kessler story in the Washington Post is any indication, the Bush administration is intent on making progress on the Israeli/Palestinian issue:
Assuming that Arafat's successor recognizes the futility of the second intifada, one wonders whether, to use a crude analogy, the Palestinians will be to Bush what the Soviets were to Reagan -- an implacable foe that was transformed into a near ally after a display of toughness on the U.S. side and a change in leadership on the other side.
Of course, this requires a Palestinian version of Gorbachev. I leave it to the commenters to comment on the odds of that happening.
Meet the new foreign policy team -- same as the old foreign policy team?
Guy Dinmore and Demetri Sevastopulo report in the Financial Times on what's next for Bush's foreign policy team -- apparently, it's more of the same:
One niggling thought -- if Mr. Rumsfeld fails to solve the insurgency problem -- created in part by Mr. Rumsfeld's failure at contingency planning -- just when would he decide to step aside?
Another mostly useless correlation
In the past week there have been a great deal of chatter about how the high correlation between the states that voted for Bush and -- well, let's see, there's the prior practice of slavery, IQ (though this one is apparently a hoax -- click here for more), obesity (OK, that was in 2000, but I guarantee someone's going to post something about it for 2004), "lasting contribution(s) to freedom, culture and progress (in the blue states)," and "virtually every form of quantifiable social dysfunction."
As reluctant as I am to wade in on this -- because all these comparisons demonstrate are potentially spurious correlations -- it's worth pointing out that there are metrics on which the Red states look much nicer than the Blue states. Take, for example, generosity. Laura Walsh explains for the Associated Press:
You can see the entire list by clicking here. You have to go 26 places before a blue state pops up (New York). My suspicion is that if non-itemized deductions and volunteering were included, the observed correlation would only increase, since one would expect the wealthier states to substitute money for time in terms of altruism, and non-itemized deductions would include a greater number of smaller donations by the less affluent -- and there are more of these people in the red states. That's just a hunch, though.
Again, to derive the conclusion that Bush voters are more altruistic than Kerry voters from this data is absurd -- but just as absurd as the other correlations that have been posted.
Tuesday, November 9, 2004
The Iranian Internet crackdown
Alas, this section got cut from the conclusion of "Web of Influence":
Unfortunately, as my co-author Henry Farrell points out, this point can now be seen in Iran. Nazila Fathi reported on it yesterday in the New York Times:
Jeff Jarvis argues that, "They [the mullahs] will fail. This can't be stopped now."
UPDATE: For some more background on this crackdown, which has been going on for the past few months, check out this Hossein Derakhshan post from two months ago (link via Rebecca MacKinnon) as well as this Human Rights Watch press release from last month.
Open Fallujah thread
Feel free to comment on the current offensive in Fallujah here.
Andrew Sullivan has some contrasting assessments that are worth checking out.
Monday, November 8, 2004
That stupid George Lucas
Over the weekend I took my son to see The Incredibles with the Official BlogBrother, and a fine time was had by all -- though I suspect I enjoyed it more than the boy (My favorite line of dialogue is when the superhero voiced by Samuel L. Jackson asks his wife where his supersuit is. After some back-and-forth about whether he's really going to go out to save the day, he pleads, "Honey, this is for the greater good!" Her response is, "I am your wife! I am your GREATEST good!!")
However, the point of this post is that before the movie they unveiled the teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. You can see it by clicking here.
The damn thing is driving me crazy -- because you know, you just know that the odds are heavily stacked in favor of the movie being God-awful. If you combine Episodes I and II together, you get about ten minutes of interesting film -- the last ten minutes of Episode II. Maybe that's a promising trend, and maybe the fact that this movie has to end on a downer note means that it will echo the greatness of The Empre Strikes Back.
But I doubt it -- George Lucas might have the reputation of being a master storyteller, but that doesn't change the fact that he's a really bad writer. The discussion of politics between Amidala and Anakin in Attack of the Clones were a particular low point. And anyone who can make Natalie Portman seem dull deserves a good thrashing.
However, the trailer is seductive -- the voice of Alec Guiness, the image of Lord Vader, the return of the Wookies to the narrative. For the millisecond he's on screen, even Liam Neeson finally seems comfortable in the Star Wars universe.
It's tempting, so tempting to plan on seeing the movie on the big screen. It reminds me of the last time I was excited about a sci-fi trailer -- oh, right, that was Episode I.
This is going to be vexing me until May.
Damn George Lucas and his beguiling trailers!! [Calm down! Trust your feelings! And rise--ed. Yes.... master.]
UPDATE: I see Pejman Yousefzadeh is also in danger of being seduced by the dark side.
November's books of the month
The international relations book is Cowboy Capitalism: European Myths about the American Reality by Olaf Gersemann, the Washington correspondent for Wirtschaftswoche, a German economics and business weekly. In the book, Gersemann runs through the litany of European stereotypes about inner workings of the American economy ("Americans work three jobs just to make ends meet;" "Unemployment is low only because so many people are in jail") and sees if the data matches up with the stereotype. Nine times out of ten it doesn't -- and even on the tenth time, there's no evidence that the American variety of capitalism is the proximate or underlying cause for the observed outcome. Go check it out.
The general interest book is The Best American Political Writing 2004, edited by Royce Flippin. The title is a bit deceptive -- it's really the best political writing from June 2003 to June 2004. [Cough!--ed.] However, post-election, it's a useful primer on the rhetorical state of play during the primary and general election seasons. [Cough! Cough!--ed.] In terms of ideological diversity, the forty-eight selections range from Pat Buchanan to Katha Pollitt.
[Ahem -- I said, COUGH, dammit!!!!--ed.] Oh, yes, -- by some error in someone's judgment, this TNR Online essay of mine from April 2004 made the cut. Even more surprisingly, it holds up pretty well post-election.
Sunday, November 7, 2004
The reason the dollar has managed to stay as strong as it has -- despite the combination of large trade deficits and low interest rates -- is that Asian central banks have been buying up greenbacks.
The big question that watchers of global finance have been asking in recent years is: what happens when the Asian central banks stop buying dollars?
Steve Johnson and Andrew Balls of the Financial Times suggest that we're about to find out:
Brad DeLong has further thoughts on the matter.
UPDATE: Do check out the Institute for International Economics web site as well -- papers by Fred Bergsten, Catherine Mann, Morris Goldstein, and John Williamson address various aspects of the U.S. curent account deficit.
ANOTHER UPDATE: DeLong says I'm oversimplifying things:
Well, yes... except that the external pressures on a country to stop buying a foreign currency in order to prevent currency appreciation are much weaker than the external pressures on a country to stop selling a foreign currency in order to prevent currency depreciations. My guess is that (b) doesn't take place until there's some sign that (a) is about to happen.
LAST UPDATE: Some of the commenters are wondering what the big deal is, since, "the value of the dollar remains about 10% ABOVE where it was during the halcyon days of Bill Clinton."
The answer is, possibly, nothing. If the dollar slowly depreciates by about 20-30% over the next year, there's no reason for concern. And the administration deserves some credit for talking down the dollar while preventing a precipitous fall. The question is whether this will continue as Asian central banks stop buying the dollar in such large quantities.
David Brooks 1, Maureen Dowd 0
Go read Brooks NYT column from Saturday.
Then read Dowd's column from today.
Which one is the member of the "reality-based community"?
So what do Chicago's graduate students do in their spare time?
Well, some of them set up one of those blog thingmabobs. Go check out Political Arguments, a group blog comprised of several U of C Ph.D. students in political theory.
This post tackles the whole red-blue question -- go check it out.
I confess to some guilt at linking to them -- because I'm not convinced that it's a great idea for graduate students to be blogging. This is not because they have nothing to say -- quite the opposite. The problem is that for grad students, the opportunity cost of blogging is less time spent on their own research and reading -- activities that are kind of important in terms of getting their advanced degrees.
Of course, I'm sure my senio colleagues have the same attitude towards this little enterprise, so consider this a "pot calling the kettle black" kind of disapproval.
Saturday, November 6, 2004
So much for the massive turnover prediction
Prior to the election, many conservatives e-mailed me stating that they shared my qualms about aspects of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, and that of course Bush was going to clean house after the election.
Reading Mike Allen's story in today's Washington Post, I have my doubts:
What astonishes me is not that Bush wants to keep most of his cabinet officers on board -- that is certainly true to Bush's style. What's amazing is that these people want to stay on. Forgetting partisanship or performance, these jobs are just exhausting. Prior to this administration, the average length of tenure for cabinet or subcabinet position was somewhere between eighteen months and two years.
To paraphrase Michael Jackson, this Bush administration isn't like other administrations.
UPDATE: This site is getting rather worked up about this issue.
Friday, November 5, 2004
Media whore alert -- ABC edition!!
I may (or may not) be on ABC World News Tonight this evening. The story is about the merits of releasing exit poll information to the public the day of the election. My mantra: the democratization of information is a good thing, but exit polls should be treated like cigarettes -- warning labels like this one are appropriate.
They say I'll be on, but given what happened last time, I'll believe it when I see it -- three months from now.
If I go on, readers may get the extra-special bonus of seeing my patented one-fingered typing style. That's what I was doing when they shot the b-roll -- you know the "action" footage of an interviewee as you hear, "Daniel Drezner, assistant professor..." on the voiceover.
UPDATE: Alas, no b-roll, but they did use an excerpt. Note that when I'm interviewed as a blogger, I dress more casually.
One thing that bugged me about the closing of the piece was the assertion that Internet content providers somehow did something "wrong" in posting the exit polls. None of the sources I looked at posted wrong numbers -- the flaws lay in the exit polls themselves. Furthermore, none of those who posted them said anything remotely close to, "with these exit polls, we're calling the election for Kerry."
LAST UPDATE: Wow, this is a first -- after reading this post, someone from ABC World News Tonight just called to apologize for the last sentence in the story (it was put in there at the last minute).
Blogs, American politics, and international relations
Subscribers to the paper version of Foreign Policy already know this, but Henry Farrell and I have an article on the blogosphere's influence on world politics and foreign affairs in the November/December issue. It's entitled "Web of Influence," but actually I like the teaser on the cover even better: How Blogs Have Changed the World. Here's the abstract:
Go check it out -- critiques have already been posted elsewhere in the blogosphere. Oh, and if your blog was not mentioned in the "Around The World in Blogs" section, don't blame us, blame the staff at FP!!
Thursday, November 4, 2004
The social construction of television punditry
Virginia Postrel has two good posts up riffing on Fareed Zakaria's column bemoaning the Crossfiring of American politics. Zakaria's key point:
Postrel argues that Zakaria's thesis stops at the edge of the TV screen:
However, Zakaria's hypothesis does seem to hold for television, as this e-mail missive to Postrel points out:
My experience with the TV thing is that bookers tend to go with a two-person or three-person format when discussing anything of substance. In the two-person format, it's necessary that the commentators take clear positions on clear sides of the partisan fence. In three-person formats, the third person is allowed to be an "expert" or "referee" that's somehow above the fray.
Either way, you're confined to a stereotype.
Tyler Cowen reports from Bangalore
The good economist's assessment of the capital of offshore outsourcing:
Megan McArdle has further thoughts on this. Key line: "Trendline extrapolation is a silly business in almost any economic situation, but never more so than where trade is concerned."
What next for U.S. foreign policy?
The answer to the title question depends in part on who stays and who goes for Bush's second term. The New York Times had a Sunday piece about this ten days ago (sorry, no link) where one Bush official admitted that the variance for Bush's second-term foreign policy was wider than what could be expected of a Kerry administration.
This anonymous foreign service officer wrote in Salon last month that Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage are not staying for a second Bush term:
James Mann is the author of Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet -- and he disagrees on Foreign Policy's web site:
I don't know what the right answer is, but I do know this -- regardless of cabinet shuffles, the one guaranteed constant in the second term is that Richard B. Cheney remains the Vice President, and will remain a very active player in the foreign policy machinery.
Cheney may be extremely intelligent, but as I've said before, I'm not sure it's healthy to have the sitting vice president be that active in the foreign policy process.
UPDATE: Some of the commenters are puzzled by my concern about Cheney's activism in the foreign policy process.
I have two problems with this. The first is Cheney's Ahab-like obsession with the unchecked expansion of the executive branch powers. The second is that even compared to Al Gore, Cheney has participated more actively in the NSC decision-making process. And rank matters. As I said back in January, "the difficulty is that even cabinet-level officials can be reluctant in disagreeing with him because he's the vice-president. This leads to a stunted policy debate, which ill-serves both the President and the country." So unless you think Cheney is clairvoyant, this is not a good thing in terms of weighing the costs and benefits of different policy options.
I might add that Bush himself recognized the need for a good policy process in today's press conference:
Here's hoping he gets well-served on this front in his second term. I remain apprehensive.
Wednesday, November 3, 2004
Always look on the bright side of life.
The guy I voted for lost. Worse, the median voter in the United States appears to be a populist -- not exactly encouraging for a libertarian.
But you know what? The last time my candidate for president lost (1996), the next four years turned out swimmingly for most people in the country. So in the spirit of optimism, here are the good things to think about in the wake of Bush's re-election [What about the bad things?--ed. I'm sure those will come up in the comments section. And here.]:
My one useful prediction for today....
Thomas Frank's lecture fee just tripled.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmmm.... perhaps someone at the the New York Times op-ed page has been reading this blog.
Glenn Reynolds reminds me to link to Josh Chafetz's takedown of Frank's thesis in The New York Times Book Review. However, that doesn't vitiate my argument that Frank's star going to be on the rise in the market of public intellectuals, for three reasons. First, regardless of whether Frank's normative distaste of the free market is correct, his positive analysis -- that Red State voters identify with the Republicans because of cultural issues -- seems pretty trenchant. Second, Frank's materialist theory of politics plays well in the places that will pay for Frank to talk. Third, contra Chafetz, I can't completely dismiss Frank's thesis -- that economic populism might resonate with Red State voters.
Tuesday, November 2, 2004
Open election night thread
Comment on the election returns here. Some useful links:
Wisconsin's Election Bard, alas, "does not provide unofficial results."
UPDATE: Megan McArdle cheers me up -- a swap of free-trader Jim DeMint for uber-protectionist Fritz Holling in South Carolina is a good thing for foreign economic policy.
ANOTHER UPDATE: James Carville just said on CNN that Bush has the upper hand -- Kerry needs to "draw an inside straight" to win.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Four idle thoughts before I go to sleep:
OK, TWO MORE THOUGHTS: First, I just heard Kenneth Blackwell, the Ohio Secretary of State say (quite cogently) on ABC that the provisonal ballots cannot be counted until 11 days after the election. So if it's close there, and everything else breaks as expected, it could be a long two weeks.
That said, the current numbers have Bush up by 191,000 votes with about 80% of the vote counted. Even if there are 130,000-150,000 provisional votes, Kerry would have to close the gap significantly for those votes to really tip the election.
Second, Fox News is now calling Ohio for Bush. Intriguingly, their vote totals are higher than the Ohio Secretary of State's figures.
FINAL UPDATE: Good morning!! OK, if this count of provisional ballots is accurate (link via Jim Lindgren), the total nomber of provisional votes is still less than Bush's margin of victory in the counted votes. Which means Bush takes Ohio, which means the worst he can do would be a 269-269 split, which Bush would win in the House -- which would be appropriate, since he won the popular vote by more than 3.5 million votes.
That is larger than Bush's current margin -- but those votes would have to go to Kerry by 85-15 for it to matter. This Daily Kos e-mail suggests that this is how that vote split in 2000, but that would still be an extraordinary outcome. So I'm sticking with my call.]
Open exit poll thread
I always favor more information over less information, so any exit poll info I get my hands on will be posted here.
However, please, please, PLEASE read Mark Blumenthal on the inherent uncertainty and limited utility of exit polls (particularly the early ones) before reading further. Hell, read what I wrote about this two years ago (and forgot about until James Joyner linked to it!!). Remember, when you're looking at exit polls, you're looking at raw sausage [Wonkette will love that analogy!!--ed.]
OK, done with that? Let the rumors, extrapolation, and mindless speculation commence!!
3:00 PM ET: Very strange -- Drudge had early figures from the National Election Pool posted. As I was looking at them, the screen refreshed, and poof, they were gone! Fortunately, Jonah Goldberg has posted them -- as has Wonkette.
Here's the full set of numbers that have been floating around (first number is Kerry, second is Bush):
The raw data has Kerry up by 20 points in Pennsylavania and up by 16 points in New Hampshire. That should tell you the size of the variance in these polls, because there's just no way Kerry wins by twenty points in Pennsylvania. Drudge says that the "early sample was based on a 59- 41 women to men ratio" -- which would partially explain those numbers. [59-41 for which states??!!--ed. Damned if I know -- though Cliff May has a silly theory for why this is true.]
UPDATE: Jonah has more:
Slate promises to post the numbers on their site, so be sure to check them out on a semi-regular basis.
3:25 PM: Now Wonkette has new numbers (first number is for Kerry):
Those numbers are all way too tight to extrapolate anything for anyone.
4:10 PM: See, this is why I'm glad danieldrezner.com's audience is so.... selective.
4:20 PM: Slate's first set of numbers -- which appear to be a mixture of morning and early afternoon polls:
4:40 PM: Wonkette has new numbers:
Drudge says, "One block from ground zero in NYC, 2 hour wait to vote..."
5:40: Slate now has the 4 PM exit polls [UPDATE: OK, these have now mysteriously disappeared from their web site -- may be due to the problem alluded to by Wonkette's source below]:
NRO's Kathryn Jean Lopez proffers the following set of numbers at 5:28 PM:
Both Drudge and NRO point out that early exit polls had Gore up in Florida by 3 and that didn't pan out as expected. This is true -- but if memory serves, those same polls had Bush winning the Electoral College pretty easily when you added up states -- Bush was winning in Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in the early exit polls of 2000.
6:05 PM: According to MSNBC, with "0% of precincts reporting," it's 61% to 38% for Bush nationwide!!! Seriously, I have no idea where those numbers are coming from.
UPDATE: Kudos to MSNBC for this page, which suggests that they'll be posting exit polls once the voting officially ends in each state.
6:06 PM: Scott Elliott says that, "My understanding is that exit polling does not include absentee and early voting. That is a very important point, given that as many as 20-30% of voters have already voted in some spots, and just re-emphasizes the worthlessness ofs exit polling." I don't think that's entirely correct -- I believe National Election Pool is trying to incorporate early voting, but they're doing it via phone polls -- less reliable than exit polls. Cleck here for more on early voting.
6:15 PM: Wonkette has fresh, hot, supple numbers:
Furthermore a source tells her, "There appear be problems with exits in the following states that could be tipping numbers toward kerry: MN, NH, VT, PA, VA, CT, DE. described only as 'serious' issues we're looking at. so i would not put too much faith in those results." UPDATE: Go check out Noam Scheiber on possible biases in exit polling and what they mean.
6:32 PM: Drudge now has Ohio tied, Kerry up by 2 in Florida and Minnesota, and up by 4 points in Wisconsin. I can't tell what he's saying about Pennsylvania, and Bush is up by seven in New Hampshire.
FINAL UPDATE: OK, go to this page at CNN or this one at MSNBC for
So you say you're still undecided....
Looking for a last-minute guide to make up your mind?
Postrel's detached endorsement of Bush is the mirror image of my attitude towards Kerry:
I feel somewhat despondent about voting against my party -- but reading this Guardian story about Tom Wolfe's attitudes towards New York society, particularly the closing paragraph, reminds me of the occasional virtues of going against the grain:
Monday, November 1, 2004
Hey, network news producers!! Over here!!!
Joe Flint and Shailagh Murray have a great Wall Street Journal front-pager on the major networks' plans for reporting on the election Tuesday night:
I have a humble request for the nets -- show us how the sausage is made. In other words, instead of hiding the data from the exit polls from us, explain as the returns come in what the polls say and compare and contrast them to the incoing returns.
[Won't that be kind of... dull?--ed. It would still be much more interesting than Tim Russert and his f@#$ing midget whiteboard, or Dan Rather and his nonsensical similes.]
UPDATE: Some network should really hire myster pollster Mark Blumenthal to explain how the sausage is made -- go read his infomative post on the merit of exit polls.
A question for polling geeks
This Josh Marshall post raises a question that's been bugging me for the last 48 hours:
Here's a more in-depth story by Dana Blanton on Fox's results, which notes, "about one in five voters report they have already voted by early or absentee ballot, and these voters break for Sen. Kerry by 48 percent to 43 percent." I can't find that figure anywhere in Fox's .pdf report of the results, but there it is.
Here's my question -- this confirms other reports I've heard saying that the early vote favors Kerry [But see the update to this post below--ed.] So what does this mean for the election? There are three possibilities:
Most cognoscenti seem to assume (2). My question is, why? The one argument that makes sense to me is that early voting is a sign of intensity of preferences, and the ABB vote is more intense than the ABK vote.
UPDATE: Stop the presses! CBS News also has early voting results -- but they have Bush beating Kerry!
Let's take a moment to allow the heads of those obsessed with media bias to explode at the thought that FOX has a poll favorable to Kerry while CBS has one favorable to Bush.
However, the large contrast between the CBS and FOX results lead me to think that the answer to my original question is actually (3).
One final question -- the Fox result has 9% of voters voting for someone other than Bush or Kerry, and the CBS result has 6% of voters doing that. Who else are they voting for besides Nader?
ANOTHER UPDATE: Over at Tapped, Garance Franke-Ruta has early voting numbers for Florida (a third of the vote cast; 51 to 43 Kerry) and Iowa (a quarter of the vote cast; 52 to 41 Kerry). However, Franke-Ruta seems to buy hypothesis (2) -- early voters are more likely to go for Kerry. Link via Kevin Drum, who offers a hypothesis on why this might be true: "memories of Florida combined with news of Republican efforts to suppress voting have probably motivated Kerry voters to vote early in greater numbers than Bush voters due to their distrust of the voting process."
Tentative answers to some big voting questions
A quick follow-up to my last election post about possibilities not included in the polls:
1) Looking at the latest batch of polls, I notice that some of them include Nader, but I haven't seen any of them include Badnarik (if I'm wrong about this plase post a comment). Again, my hunch is that the Libertarian party candidate will be the equivalent of Nader for disaffected right-leaning voters.
2) Peter Wallsten wrote a story last week in the Los Angeles Times suggesting that the evangelical vote -- a vital Bush constituency -- might not turn out as much as the administration hopes:
UPDATE: Chris Sullentrop speculates that there's another problem -- the Republican effort to get out the evangelical vote also triggered greater turnout among Democratic-leaning non-voters:
3) The cell phone vote tilts towards Kerry -- maybe. Zogby has a poll:
The problem with this poll is that while it went after cell phone users, it apparently did not identify those people who have no land line -- so there's no way to know the magnitude of any sample bias in more traditional polls. [Isn't another problem with this poll that they used Rock the Vote's database, which might be nonpartisan in theory but is undoubtedly Democrat-heavy in practice?--ed. Zogby says "The results of the survey are weighted for region, gender, and political party," so I'm assuming he's compensated for that kind of sample bias -- but this is open for debate.]
Again, remember the electoral projection motto of danieldrezner.com: "I don't know who's going to win -- and you don't know either."
UPDATE: The three things mentioned in this post trend towards Kerry, so here's a thought that trends towards Bush. If I remember correctly, last time around Zogby's polling trended strongly towards Bush in the last week or two of the election, leading to one poll suggesting that California was a dead heat between Bush and Gore. Obviously, those polls underestimated Gore's growing strength over the final few days.
Now a lot of people are assuming that the polls will kick the same way this time, and that therefore a tie really means Kerry is up by a few percentage points. Click here for an example. However, what if the trend that the polls missed wasn't the late surge towards a Democrat, but the last surge towards the incumbent party? I know this flies in the face of the incumbent rule, but it's still worth keeping in mind.
LAST UPDATE: Will Saletan et al at Slate get the final word: