Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Boeing, Airbus, and the WTO

The Economist has an update on the brutal competition between Airbus and Boeing. The highlights:

It is always the way with Airbuses: you wait for years, and then three come along at once. In January, the European aircraft manufacturer will roll out the first of its A380 super-jumbos, in preparation for its first test flight by the end of March. Before that, however, it is set to unveil plans for two versions of a smaller, wide-bodied plane, aimed at the mid-sized market.

The rivalry between Boeing and Airbus, the big commercial-aircraft duopoly, has never been more intense. While Boeing struggles to persuade mainstream airlines to buy its latest offering, the 250-seater 7E7, Airbus will soon announce two versions of a new plane, dubbed the A350, to attack it head on....

At its next meeting, on December 10th, the board of the parent company of Airbus, European Aeronautic Defence and Space company (EADS), is expected to rubber-stamp a decision to launch two souped-up versions of its A330, fitted with new wings and engines to increase the range and carrying capacity and so compete with Boeing’s plane. Boeing’s new design claims to offer savings of 15-20% on fuel by making extensive use of lightweight composite materials instead of the usual aluminium.

Anticipating Airbus’s response, last month Boeing persuaded the American government to complain to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) about the subsidies Airbus receives from European governments. Refundable launch aid from Germany, France, Britain and Spain could cover one-third of the over €3 billion cost of developing the A350. Crucially, this aid does not have to be repaid if a plane flops, giving Airbus an unfair advantage in product development, which it has ruthlessly exploited in the past decade.

Boeing is spending almost $6 billion to develop the 7E7, with further contributions from its partners in Japan and Italy. The European Union is counter-protesting to the WTO that Boeing gets all sorts of indirect aid from the American government.

The likeliest result is that both sides are found guilty of breaking the rules but that subsidy continues to flow.

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.

posted by Dan at 10:03 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

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:

A growing demand for goat meat among New York City Muslims has been a boon to a livestock auction tucked away in the middle of Amish country.

Here, where a covered shelter in a parking lot keeps Amish buggies dry when it rains, Mohammad Khalid arrives from Queens every Monday morning to buy as many as 50 goats, which end up in the meat case of Queens Discount Halal Meat by Wednesday afternoon.

"A good goat is a Boer goat," said Khalid, a Pakistani immigrant, pointing to a redheaded goat standing in a pen with his other purchases, all of them bleating and staring nervously at their new owner. "It's very good meat. Tender."

Khalid is one of a handful of Muslim buyers who trek to New Holland every week to buy goats and, to a lesser extent, sheep, for Muslim markets in New York and other East Coast cities.

While the idea of eating goat is considered distasteful by some in the United States, goat is the primary meat dish in many parts of the world. With the number of immigrants arriving from the Middle East, Mexico and Asia surging, so, too, does the demand for goat meat.

According to the most recent Census of Agriculture, which the Department of Agriculture publishes every five years, goats are among the fastest growing sectors of the livestock industry. The number of goats raised annually for meat increased from 1.2 million to 1.9 million--a jump of 58 percent--from 1997 to 2002. The number of farms that raise meat goats grew to 74,980 from 63,422.

"If you want to know who eats goat, it's anybody but white people, descendants of Northern Europe," said Susan Schoenian, a sheep and goat specialist with the University of Maryland extension service. "Now all the immigrants come from every other part of the world, and they all come from goat-eating parts of the world."

Many Muslims and Jews, for example, don't eat pork and Hindus and Sikhs do not generally eat beef.

"Goats cut across all religions," she added. "There's no taboos against eating goats. They are raised all over the Third World because they don't need a lot."

....by far the biggest state for goat meat--those raised specifically to be eaten--is Texas, where 16,145 farms reported raising 941,783 goats in 2002, according to the agriculture census. Texas is also the home to the nation's largest goat auction, in San Angelo, where many of the goats are shipped south to Mexico.

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.

posted by Dan at 10:17 AM | Comments (37) | Trackbacks (6)

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.

posted by Dan at 08:41 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

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:

Rising power China moved Monday to expand its influence in a region long dominated by the United States, signing an accord with Southeast Asian nations aimed at creating the world's largest free trade area by 2010 — a sprawling market of nearly 2 billion people.

China's concerns about securing vital sea lanes and feeding its booming economy's ravenous appetite for oil and raw materials were seen as key motivations for the trade pact with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations at the group's annual summit in Laos....

"China is using its huge market as a bait to lure ASEAN countries away from U.S. and Japan and build closer relations," said Chao Chien-min, a China watcher and political science professor at Taiwan's National Chengchi University.

"I think what Beijing has in mind is to forge good economic and trade relations now and then increase exchanges in other areas, particularly in the military and security arena," Chao said.

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.

posted by Dan at 03:03 PM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (4)

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):

Outgoing President Leonid Kuchma said he was in favor of staging new elections in Ukraine to resolve a bitter dispute over a November 21 presidential vote won by his pro-Moscow prime minister.

"If we really want to preserve peace and agreement in Ukraine, and really want to build a legitimate democratic society that we so often talk about... then let's hold new elections," Kuchma said Monday in televised remarks.

Kuchma said he was ready to seek new solutions to the crisis even if this meant stepping outside the standard procedures for resolving the standoff.

"The situation we find ourselves in today in Ukraine demands not only strictly legal decision, but also political decisions," Kuchma said.

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:

Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich said Monday he would agree to stage a new presidential vote in two regions if mass fraud were proven to have occurred in the Nov. 21 election.
"If there is proof of cheating, that something illegal occurred there and if there is no doubt among experts, I will agree with such a decision," he said in televised comments, referring to two regions in his native eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the Kyiv Post reports that the secessionist threat has freaked out some of the oligarchs:

Signs are emerging... that factions in Ukraine’s political and business elite who previously supported the candidacy of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych are switching sides and putting their chips on Yushchenko.

Citing a statement issued by President Leonid Kuchma’s son-in-law Viktor Pinchuk, opposition television station Channel 5 reported on Nov. 29 that the deputy and business mogul opposes separatist movements in eastern Ukraine that are being spearheaded by Yanukovych and the Donetsk-based tycoons who continue to back him.

Pinchuk is reportedly Ukraine’s second richest man. His assets have been valued at about $3 billion.

Meanwhile, insiders allege that Donetsk-based businessman Rinat Akhmetov continues to back Yanukovych and the separatist movement in eastern Ukraine.

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:

1) Yanukovich's secessionist ploy has alienated/frightened even those with a vested interest in the status quo in Ukraine. Stephen Lee Myers suggests this in his NYT piece today. To them, Yushchenko in power is (barely) preferrable to civil war.

2) Yanukovich and Kuchma are confident that a revote in Donetsk and Luhansk can be stage-managed by them to produce a favorable outcome. Regardless of vote-tampering, Ukrainian nationalists are very unpopular in that neck of the woods.

3) Kuchma is making an offer that he knows Yushchenko will refuse. See this SCSUScholars post for more on that possibility. UPDATE: This Bloomberg report by Halia Pavliva and Julian Nundy has some details that suggest this possibility:

Kuchma's offer to recount the vote would include the participation of international observers, his spokeswoman, Olena Hromnytska, said. If a recount doesn't satisfy the opposing sides, then he would offer fresh elections in the two regions.

If that isn't accepted, Hromnytska said, the president would call new nationwide elections. Under Ukrainian law, any candidate in the initial two-round balloting, including Yanukovych or Yushchenko, would be disqualified from the rerun, she said. (emphasis added)


posted by Dan at 02:31 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (2)

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.

Comment away!!

posted by Dan at 10:37 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

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:

The Committee of National Salvation of Ukraine, headed by Viktor Yushchenko, has issued an ultimatum to Leonid Kuchma.

Within 24 hours, the Committee demands that Kuchma fulfill the following terms:

1) Discharge Yanukovych from his position of Prime Minister, because of his instigation and support of the falsification of the election and in the separatist actions;

2) On the demands of of the decision of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) of November 27, immediately to begin an investigation into new candidates for membership of the Central Election Committee;

3) Discharge from their positions the directors of the Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regional administrations -- the initiators of the break-up of Ukraine;

4) Give a deadline to the Attorney General and the Security Services of Ukraine to open a criminal investigation against the separatists/secessionists of Ukraine.

In the case of noncompliance with the ultimata, "we will judge Kuchma's inaction as a crime against the people, with results indicated in the Criminal Code of Ukraine," continues the ultimatum.

"If the demands are not met, we will begin blocking with people the movements of Kuchma himself on the territory of Ukraine. We know where he is and how he is moving about. And we are able to ensure that he will not make a single step without complying with our demands," stated Yulia Tymoshenko, who read the ultimatum at the meeting.

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.

Peter Finn writes in the Washington Post:

The stoking of historical fears about what many perceive as a Russophile East and a nationalist West could continue to split this country long after the dispute over voting is settled, if they do not rupture it beforehand, analysts say.

"I think the tragedy of this campaign is the use of stereotypes by both sides, but especially Yanukovych's people," said Yulia Tishchenko, an analyst at the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research, "and the dangerous consequences are now becoming apparent. Everyone thinks that if they lose, they lose everything."

[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:

Some feared that the joyful street parties and open-air concerts could still turn into a bloodbath. Lurking in the background, phalanxes of stone-faced riot police and Ukrainian special forces in black body armour and helmets, brandishing machineguns and batons, stood guard silently around the presidential palace.

The key to the revolutions of 1989 was the compliance of the security forces in bowing to the wind of change. There has been little sign that today those same forces would be prepared to switch sides and join the opposition.

(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:

A senior figure in the Ukrainian presidential administration who declined to be identified said that Boris Gryzlov, President Vladimir Putin’s personal envoy to Ukraine, had promised “diplomatic cover” against any international backlash prompted by such a move.

Developing... and not in a way that I'm at all sanguine about.

posted by Dan at 01:01 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (1)

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:

Ukraine, traditionally passive in its politics, has been mobilised by the young democracy activists and will never be the same again.

But while the gains of the orange-bedecked "chestnut revolution" are Ukraine's, the campaign is an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries [Yugoslavia, Georgia, Belarus, and now Ukraine] in four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavoury regimes.

Funded and organised by the US government, deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-government organisations, the campaign was first used in Europe in Belgrade in 2000 to beat Slobodan Milosevic at the ballot box.

John Laughland goes even further in his Guardian essay:

Whether it is Albania in 1997, Serbia in 2000, Georgia last November or Ukraine now, our media regularly peddle the same fairy tale about how youthful demonstrators manage to bring down an authoritarian regime, simply by attending a rock concert in a central square. Two million anti-war demonstrators can stream though the streets of London and be politically ignored, but a few tens of thousands in central Kiev are proclaimed to be "the people", while the Ukrainian police, courts and governmental institutions are discounted as instruments of oppression.

The western imagination is now so gripped by its own mythology of popular revolution that we have become dangerously tolerant of blatant double standards in media reporting. Enormous rallies have been held in Kiev in support of the prime minister, Viktor Yanukovich, but they are not shown on our TV screens: if their existence is admitted, Yanukovich supporters are denigrated as having been "bussed in". The demonstrations in favour of Viktor Yushchenko have laser lights, plasma screens, sophisticated sound systems, rock concerts, tents to camp in and huge quantities of orange clothing; yet we happily dupe ourselves that they are spontaneous....

The blindness extends even to the posters which the "pro-democracy" group, Pora, has plastered all over Ukraine, depicting a jackboot crushing a beetle, an allegory of what Pora wants to do to its opponents.

Such dehumanisation of enemies has well-known antecedents - not least in Nazi-occupied Ukraine itself, when pre-emptive war was waged against the Red Plague emanating from Moscow - yet these posters have passed without comment. Pora continues to be presented as an innocent band of students having fun in spite of the fact that - like its sister organisations in Serbia and Georgia, Otpor and Kmara - Pora is an organisation created and financed by Washington.

It gets worse. Plunging into the crowd of Yushchenko supporters in Independence Square after the first round of the election, I met two members of Una-Unso, a neo-Nazi party whose emblem is a swastika. They were unembarrassed about their allegiance, perhaps because last year Yushchenko and his allies stood up for the Socialist party newspaper, Silski Visti, after it ran an anti-semitic article claiming that Jews had invaded Ukraine alongside the Wehrmacht in 1941. On September 19 2004, Yushchenko's ally, Alexander Moroz, told JTA-Global Jewish News: "I have defended Silski Visti and will continue to do so. I personally think the argument ... citing 400,000 Jews in the SS is incorrect, but I am not in a position to know all the facts." Yushchenko, Moroz and their oligarch ally, Yulia Tymoshenko, meanwhile, cited a court order closing the paper as evidence of the government's desire to muzzle the media. In any other country, support for anti-semites would be shocking; in this case, our media do not even mention it.

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."

Beyond the Guardian, Peter Unwin writes in the Independent that Europe is needlessly riling the Russian Bear over Ukraine (link via Clive Davis):

[W]as not Putin trying to prop up an unconscionable dictator? Maybe, but it is naive to think that the election was a clear clash of baddies and goodies. No one disputes that the election was at the very least deeply flawed. But it is childishness to imagine that all the abuse was on one side. Yulia Tymoshenko, for example, whom we saw on TV preaching democracy beside Viktor Yushchenko, made herself a billionaire from nothing in 10 years. The fruit of honest enterprise alone? It seems unlikely. A truly convinced democrat? Perhaps.

All the same, the Ukrainians invited in observers who have condemned the outcome of the election in forthright terms. The next move is the Ukrainians'. But for the West to go eyeball to eyeball with Putin over the outcome merely complicates Ukraine's domestic problems and takes East-West relations back a dangerous step to the bad old days. By all means tell Putin privately to keep his nose out of Ukrainian affairs - and keep our own out too.

While we are about it, we might make an effort to see Ukraine and the world through Putin's eyes. His job is to make Russia rich and strong. To do so he needs neighbours who want to co-operate with him. But in the past five years he has seen most of eastern Europe absorbed into the European Union and Nato. Fifteen years ago the Russians had an army on the Elbe. Now Nato's reach extends to within 100 miles of St Petersburg. Must Putin now ask proud Russians to accept that Ukraine too should go down that path: new elections this year, then Nato bases, then European Union membership by 2020?...

Look at all this, lastly, in terms of western Europe's interests. Do we really want to see the EU take in 50 million Ukrainians as well as 70 million Turks? Do we want a union so disparate that it can never make itself effective as a political voice in tomorrow's world? Do we, for that matter, want an EU facing an implacably hostile Russia, hostile to us because we have so recklessly forced our way into Russia's back yard? American neo-cons may want that, but we should not. (emphasis added)

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.

posted by Dan at 10:21 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (6)

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:

Talks to end Ukraine's presidential election standoff are going badly, the outgoing president says while the country seethes with street rallies and threatened to break apart over the crisis.

"As I understand, the (working group) talks are going on with considerable difficulty. No one can say what sort of compromise can be found or whether one will be found at all," President Leonid Kuchma said on Sunday.

"But I believe ... that a compromise is very necessary for Ukraine," he said opening the meeting of the National Security and Defence Council.

In the capital Kiev, tens of thousands of supporters of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko rallied again, undaunted by freezing drizzle. Yushchenko told them talk of autonomy in eastern regions loyal to his opponent threatened national unity.

The formal winner of last week's election, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, told a rally of his supporters in the east of the country that the rowdy but so far peaceful protests had brought Ukraine to the edge of disaster.

"As prime minister, I say that today we are on the brink of catastrophe. There is one step to the edge," he told a packed hall in Severodonetsk.

"Do not take any radical steps. I repeat, none ... When the first drop of blood is spilled, we will not be able to stop it."

Yanukovich was in eastern part of the country to rally regions and elites loyal to his cause:

Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich on Sunday called for an emergency meeting of local congressmen to safeguard the constitutional system and break the election standoff.

Yanukovich, who was announced to have won the Nov. 21 presidential runoff by the Central Elections Commission on Wednesday, made the appeal in his tour to the eastern town of Lugansk.

According to the Ukraine National News Agency, about 3,500 deputies from councils at various levels, including 30 from the Supreme Council of Ukraine, will attend the meeting in Severodonetsk, another eastern town.

The reports said Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov is also expected to attend the meeting, which will explore ways to handle the election standoff and "safeguard the constitutional system."

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:

It was both a symbol and a symptom of the revolution that rippled across Ukraine last week. On Thursday, as the presenter of state-controlled UT-1's main morning news program was updating viewers on the Central Electoral Commission's decision to declare Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych the winner of the country's Nov. 21 presidential vote, Natalya Dmitruk, the woman who translates broadcasts into sign language for the deaf, decided to send a very different message. "When the presenter started to read the news," Dmitruk told TIME, "I said: 'I address all deaf viewers. [Challenger Viktor] Yushchenko is our President. Do not believe the Electoral Commission. They are lying.'" In a week filled with extraordinary acts of political protest, Dmitruk's silent rebellion was one of the most defiant.

The second tidbit suggests the extent to which Putin wants to keep Ukraine within its orbit:

Sources well briefed on Kremlin affairs tell TIME that as protests in Kiev gathered momentum, Putin urged the much-discredited outgoing President Leonid Kuchma, eager to secure a safe retirement amid charges of corruption and political violence, to declare Yanukovych the winner. The sources say Putin made it clear that Moscow would not accept a Yushchenko victory. If the Russian President sticks to that hard line, it could provoke serious trouble, abroad and at home. "The Russians have raised the stakes," says Stephen Sestanovich of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations. "They've made this a very emotional issue domestically and there will be a lot of people on Putin's nationalist flank saying, 'Are you going to take this lying down?'"

Finally, the Time writers note that should the Ukraine problem fail to resolve itself, the Bush administration would find itself in a pickle:

However the disputed election finally plays out, it has undermined the Bush Administration's cozy relations with Putin, at least behind the scenes. In his first term, Bush was willing to give Putin a free hand in what Russia calls the "near abroad," the states that spun off from the broken Soviet Union. At the same time, Bush has made encouraging democracy around the world a central pillar of his presidency. In Ukraine, those two policies clash mightily. Washington spent much of Ukraine's bitterly fought presidential campaign studiously avoiding confrontation with Putin, and stuck to that line in the early days after the vote. But at midweek, Secretary of State Colin Powell made clear Washington's support for Yushchenko, saying the U.S. was "deeply disturbed by the extensive and credible reports of fraud." The following day, at an E.U.-Russia summit in the Hague, Putin emphasized that the dispute should be settled without outside interference. No other country has a "moral right to push a major European state to mass disorder," he warned. The Kremlin regards countries like Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus as vital buffers between Russia and the West. Like Russian rulers for the past two centuries, Putin "equates security with well-defined 'zones of interest,'" says James Sherr, an Eastern Europe specialist at Oxford University. Those zones have shrunk in recent years as the Baltic states and Georgia turned sharply toward the West. Putin doesn't want to see the same thing happen in Ukraine. But analysts in the U.S. worry that Putin may have overplayed his hand. If he were seen to be encouraging the east in its secessionist plans, the protests could turn violent.

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.

ANOTHER UPDATE: There appears to be another problem with the blog which is preventing people from posting comments -- and for that I apologize. Hopefully the problem will be fixed tomorrow. Problem solved!!

posted by Dan at 11:08 AM | Trackbacks (6)

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.

posted by Dan at 06:14 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Open Ukraine thread

The latest developments in the country:

1) The Associated Press reports that the Ukrainian parliament has declared the last election invalid. This has no binding authority without Kuchma's signature, but it can't hurt Yushchenko's position;

2) After multiparty talks yesterday, one of the options on the table is holding a re-vote, according to David Holley of the Los Angeles Times.

3) The Kyiv Post reports that the country's oligarchs are keeping a low profile.

4) Interfax reports that the eastern regions of the country (which are Yanukovich's base) are threatening to hold referendums on autonomy should Yushchenko come to power. Meanwhile, the BBC's Lisa Kushch reports on the mood in Donetsk (my old stomping grounds). They're not happy with what's going on in Kiev.

5) The BBC's Sebastian Usher reports that the state-run media outlets, "have joined the opposition, saying they have had enough of 'telling the government's lies.'" (link via Glenn Reynolds)

6) The New York Times has the following blind quote:

A senior Western diplomat in Kiev, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivities, said it appeared questionable whether Mr. Kuchma could seize control of the situation with a crackdown on the mass demonstrations, even if he wanted to.

Demonstrators blocked access to much of Kiev for a sixth day on Saturday and have essentially paralyzed the government. Some law enforcement officers have crossed the lines and sided with Mr. Yushchenko's supporters.

"The ship of state is leaking power like a sieve," the diplomat said.

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:

The business tycoons in eastern Ukraine that supported Yanukovych appear to be taking extreme measures to protect their interests, which include lucrative assets in Donetsk, Lugansk, Kharkiv and Luhansk. Government officials and legislators in these oblasts have in the past two days demanded the formation of an autonomous eastern-southern Ukrainian republic and are threatening to split their oblasts away from Ukraine altogether.

Kharkiv governor Yevhen Kushnyarov on Nov. 26 declared that his oblast would rule itself and control the military on its territory before it takes orders from what it calls extreme right-wing factions allied with Yushchenko. Parliamentarians in the eastern oblasts Donetsk and Lugansk and in the southern part of the Crimean peninsula called for the creation of an eastern autonomous Ukrainian republic... They began blacking out Ukrainian television channels that are reporting objectively about the current situation in Ukraine, leaving only propaganda outlets on the air. Officials from these regions also pledged to stop sending budget revenues from their industrial regions to the capital.

Granting autonomy to these regions would provide guarantees to the business elite in these regions, such as Donetsk tycoon Rinat Akhmetov, who fear that Yushchenko’s inner circle would attempt to gain control over their multi-billion dollar business empires should they come to power.

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.

posted by Dan at 11:34 AM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (7)

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:

1) The leadership backs down;
2) The leadership cracks down;
3) The leadership tries to crack down but the coercive apparatus splits.

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:

Mr. Yushchenko's followers also received a lift in morale when a general in the S.B.U., Ukraine's successor to the K.G.B., appeared on the stage with Mr. Yushchenko in the evening. While not in itself indicating the disposition of the S.B.U., the appearance of the uniformed officer, who identified himself as General Skipalksy of the Kiev region, was the first public display of support for the opposition from within the security services, whose role could be crucial if the peaceful political crisis turns violent.


posted by Dan at 03:34 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (3)

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.]


posted by Dan at 11:05 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (2)

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:

a) Leonid Kuchma wants Yanukovich to win;
b) Vladimir Putin really wants Yanukovich to win.

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.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ukraine's Central Election Commission has declared Yanukovich the winner, and Yanukovich supporters have been bused into Kiev.

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:

If the Ukrainian government does not act immediately and responsibly there will be consequences for our relationship, for Ukraine's hopes for a Euro-Atlantic integration and for individuals responsible for perpetrating fraud.

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.


posted by Dan at 08:17 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (4)

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!

posted by Dan at 08:11 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

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.

Former Kennedy School dean Joseph Nye usually writes the kind of books discussed earnestly at policy forums and perused by index-skimming colleagues killing time at university bookstores. But no more! In his just-published novel, "The Power Game" ("a taut but sensitive political thriller" -- Tina Brown), Nye reaches out for a whole new audience. Here protagonist Peter Cutler, the proverbial "high State Department official," engages in some ill-advised personal diplomacy with the alluring Alexa Byrnes, herself a policy playa at the Department of Defense. Cutler is married, albeit not to Ms. Byrnes:

Alexa led me to the bed in the middle of the enormous room and pulled me down beside her. I kissed her breasts and ran my hand between her thighs. She gripped my shoulders tightly. Unlike the first time I made love to Alexa, when the ecstasy had been eroded by a sense of anxiety and uncertainty, I was sucked into this moment as quickly and completely as if I had placed my feet in quicksand. Memories from years ago blended with intense physical excitement in a driving, pounding torrent of passion.

In his new role as Robert Ludlum manque, Nye joins a long list of policy wonks looking for readers beyond the Beltway and the faculty lounge.

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:

Diane had longed to bandwagon with Jack since their first year in grad school. In their own prisoner's dilemma, she now knew that she wanted more than just tit-for-tat -- she had to have Jack's grim trigger. This wasn't just a one-shot interaction for her. She wanted repeated play -- and although she would never say this out loud, she sensed that Jack had a very long shadow of the future.

It was taboo as a realist not to prefer balancing. If word got out, her reputation among the guns & bombs crowd would be ruined. But Jack's social constructivism was too seductive for her feeble rationalist defenses.

"Oh... Jack," she whispered into his ear, "I give in -- reconstitute my identity!"

He smiled and slowly began his discourse....

Afterwards, she turned to him and purred, "Now that's what I call utility maximization." He laughed.

Then her tone changed. "Seriously, I've never had such a shared meaning with anyone before. It was so.... intersubjective."

Ewww!!--ed. Exactly my point.]

UPDATE: Drezner gets results from Wonkette! [Completely Platonic results!!--ed.]

posted by Dan at 11:54 PM | Comments (22) | Trackbacks (7)

That's a nice piece of foreign policy, Mr. Baker

The Financial Times reports on some successful U.S. diplomacy over Iraq's debt:

Russia, France and Germany on Sunday agreed to forgive up to 80 per cent of Iraq's debts, ending a long-running transatlantic dispute and easing the financial burden to be shouldered by a future Iraqi government.

The deal, confirmed by US officials at the Asia-Pacific Cooperation summit in Santiago and the G20 meetings in Berlin, was welcomed by the White House as evidence of a new-found European willingness to work constructively with Washington little over two weeks after George W. Bush's re-election of as president....

The end of the transatlantic stand-off over Iraq's obligations will relieve Iraq of $33bn of debt and paves the way for a broader agreement among the Paris Club of creditors which will be the benchmark for other holders of Iraq's total sovereign debt of $125bn. Roughly a third of the total debt is held by the 19 Paris Club countries.

The US had been pressing for a 90-95 per cent write-off of Iraqi debts, while French, Russian and other creditors had signalled that they would only be willing to forgive 50 per cent.

A senior White House official said the deal would not have been possible without the personal, positive contributions made by Vladimir Putin, Russian president, Gerhard Schröder, German chancellor and Jacques Chirac, French president. The comments were the warmest expression of appreciation for those leaders on an Iraq-related issue since the war began in March 2003.

Kudos to the Bush administration -- and its point man on this, James Baker -- for reaching such a favorable agreement.

posted by Dan at 01:12 AM | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (3)

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.]

posted by Dan at 04:00 PM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (3)

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:

The league has seen far darker days, be it the drug scandals of the 1970s that nearly put the NBA out of business, or the lockout of 1998-99 that cost Stern's kingdom its distinction as the only major professional sports league in the United States to avoid a work stoppage....

Believe it or not, like it or not, attracting more interest to future chapters of Pistons vs. Pacers is one of the ramifications. That's entertainment, folks. The pattern for many of us, after expressing our disgust and disappointment, is to keep following along, desperate to see what happens next.

However, Stein missteps when he says:

Much of the behavior was actually worse than soccer hooliganism, because soccer hooligans are often plain, old hooligans who pretend to be soccer fans just to have an outlet to cause trouble. Friday's culprits threw bottles, liquids, foods, a chair and God knows what else at Pacers players to escalate the chaos to an all-time high. Or low.

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:

ESPN.com: Can the Pacers really count on you for the rest of the season?

Artest: I'll be here for the rest of the season.

posted by Dan at 08:12 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (4)

A scholarly post

Google released their scholarly search page recently -- Eugene Volokh has a profane review. I'm still kicking the search page's tires.

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.

posted by Dan at 12:03 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (1)

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.

posted by Dan at 11:22 AM | Comments (36) | Trackbacks (1)

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:

Slash and burn. At times it appears that half the FS is involved in making personnel decisions on the other half. The teeth-to-tail ratio is very poor. The assignment process must be streamlined; the seemingly endless negotiations for assignments must end; the protracted meetings and deal-makings must stop; show less sympathy for special needs, e.g., tandem couples. It can take a year or more to assign someone to a posting. Absurd. Reduce the size of the personnel (HR) operation. Put an end to the little empires that exist in HR, empires established by bureaucrats who "homestead" themselves in the HR system, spending years there accumulating power, establishing networks to reward themselves and friends and to punish "enemies." It is tempting to rely on these persons' "expertise," but resist it; rotate them out. Make them stand in a visa line in Mexico City. Get them out of Washington on a regular basis. It's the Foreign Service. They don't want to go? They can go work for the DMV.

Drastically reduce the layers of bureaucracy. Do we need so many staff assistants, special assistants, executive assistants, etc.? Flatten out the pyramid. Work on eliminating whole offices and bureaus. Have the Secretary go to Congress and argue for eliminating the annual human rights report exercise -- an enormous and wasteful enterprise that keeps hundreds of people employed to appease a handful of NGOs who don't like the reports anyhow. Kill off this requirement; eliminate the whole human rights bureau (DRL). Scrap the Undersecretary for Global Affairs (G): what the hell is that job anyhow? Cut the oceans and environment bureau (OES). Merge the three quasi- pol-mil bureaus and reduce their overall size. Beef up the INR function. Spin off USIA, again. Take a merciless look at the consular affairs (CA) bureau, and get rid of all those lawyers in that bureau! Do we need to baby long-term American expats who haven't lived in the US for years and years and often don't pay taxes? Split the CA bureau: hive off citizen services from visa issues.

Until you reform the assignment process, have the Secretary not assume that a person who is, for example, working on Arab-Israeli affairs, actually knows something about Arab-Israeli affairs or that what he knows is actually right or worth knowing. That person could have gotten the job thanks to some complex deal having nothing to do with substance.

Take a hard look at the size and number of embassies abroad. Do we really need an embassy in every African and European country? Do we need them so big?

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.

posted by Dan at 11:08 AM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (2)

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):

IHS and Reason magazine present Ana Marie Cox, Daniel Drezner, Henry Farrell, and Michael Tomasky debating the role of blogs in the election on November 18.

A free-for-all discussion on the role of blogs and politics featuring Wonkette's Ana Marie Cox, blogger and University of Chicago political scientist Daniel Drezner, blogger and George Washington University political scientist Henry Farrell, The American Prospect's Michael Tomasky, moderated by Reason's Nick Gillespie.

Drinks and hors d'oeuvres to follow remarks and Q&A.

Thursday, November 18
7:30-9:00 pm

Porter's Dining Saloon
1207 19th St. NW (19th and M Street)
Washington, DC

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!

posted by Dan at 02:41 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (1)

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:

In pagoda-style buildings donated by the Chinese government to the university here, Long Seaxiong, 19, stays up nights to master the intricacies of Mandarin.

The sacrifice is worth it, he says, and the choice of studying Chinese was an easy one over perfecting his faltering English. China, not America, is the future, he insists, speaking for many of his generation in Asia.

"For a few years ahead, it will still be the United States as No. 1, but soon it will be China," Mr. Long, the son of a Thai businessman, confidently predicted as he showed off the stone, tiles and willow trees imported from China to decorate the courtyard at the Sirindhorn Chinese Language and Culture Center, which opened a year ago.

The center is part of China's expanding presence across Southeast Asia and the Pacific, where Beijing is making a big push to market itself and its language, similar to the way the United States promoted its culture and values during the cold war. It is not a hard sell, particularly to young Asians eager to cement cultural bonds as China deepens its economic and political interests in the region.

Put off from visiting the United States by the difficulty of gaining visas after 9/11, more and more Southeast Asians are traveling to China as students and tourists. Likewise, Chinese tourists, less fearful than Americans of the threat of being targets of terrorism, are becoming the dominant tourist group in the region, outnumbering Americans in places like Thailand and fast catching up to the ubiquitous Japanese.

As the new Chinese tourists from the rapidly expanding middle class travel, they carry with them an image of a vastly different and more inviting China than even just a few years ago, richer, more confident and more influential. "Among some countries, China fever seems to be replacing China fear," said Wang Gungwu, the director of the East Asian Institute at National University in Singapore.

Over all, China's stepped up endeavors in cultural suasion remain modest compared with those of the United States, and American popular culture, from Hollywood movies to MTV, is still vastly more exportable and accessible, all agree. The United States also holds the balance of raw military power in the region.

But the trend is clear, educators and diplomats here say: the Americans are losing influence.

As China ramps up its cultural and language presence, Washington is ratcheting down, ceding territory that was virtually all its own when China was trapped in its hard Communist shell.

"The Chinese are actively expanding their public diplomacy while we are cutting back or just holding our own," said Paul Blackburn, a former public affairs officer of the United States Information Service who served at four American embassies in Asia in the 1980's and 90's.

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.

posted by Dan at 01:22 AM | Comments (37) | Trackbacks (1)

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):

Hunters soon may be able to sit at their computers and blast away at animals on a Texas ranch via the Internet, a prospect that has state wildlife officials up in arms.

The Web site already offers target practice with a .22 caliber rifle and could soon let hunters shoot at deer, antelope and wild pigs, site creator John Underwood said on Tuesday....

Underwood, an estimator for a San Antonio, Texas auto body shop, has invested $10,000 to build a platform for a rifle and camera that can be remotely aimed on his 330-acre (133-hectare) southwest Texas ranch by anyone on the Internet anywhere in the world.

The idea came last year while viewing another Web site on which cameras posted in the wild are used to snap photos of animals.

"We were looking at a beautiful white-tail buck and my friend said 'If you just had a gun for that.' A little light bulb went off in my head," he said.

Internet hunting could be popular with disabled hunters unable to get out in the woods or distant hunters who cannot afford a trip to Texas, Underwood said....

Underwood, 39, said he will offer animal hunting as soon as he gets a fast Internet connection to his remote ranch that will enable hunters to aim the rifle quickly at passing animals.

He said an attendant would retrieve shot animals for the shooters, who could have the heads preserved by a taxidermist. They could also have the meat processed and shipped home, or donated to animal orphanages.

Here's a link to the site in question. Josh Chafetz says, "Only in Texas," but I suspect there are other states out there where this would be a viable option.

posted by Dan at 03:14 PM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Oh, yes, there are costs to blogging

This week's blog casualties:

1) A Delta flight attendant was fired for posting mildly risqué photos of herself in her Delta uniform on her blog.

2) An NBA owner was fined for making disparaging comments about the NBA on his blog.

Not quite as bad as the Iranians, of course.

posted by Dan at 11:16 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

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:

Eight years ago, scientists using a metal rod here to probe the radioactive depths of a nuclear-waste tank saw something that shocked them: a slimy, transparent substance growing on the end of the rod.

They took the specimen into a concrete-lined vault where technicians peered through a 3-foot-thick window and, using robot arms, smeared a bit of the specimen into a petri dish. Inside the dish they later found a colony of strange orange bacteria swimming around. The bacteria had adapted to 15 times the dose of radiation that it takes to kill a human being. They lived in what one scientific paper calls a "witches' brew" of toxic chemicals.

It was a step forward for the U.S. Department of Energy, which has been looking for a few good bugs -- in particular, members of an emerging family of microbes that scientists call "extremophiles." These microbes can survive in some of Earth's most inhospitable environments, withstanding enormous doses of radiation, thriving at temperatures above boiling, and mingling with toxic chemicals that would kill almost anything else.

That makes them a potentially valuable tool in the Energy Department's effort to clean up vast amounts of nuclear waste, including the Savannah River Site near Augusta, Ga., and the Hanford Site near Richland, Wash. The department says it could cost as much as $260 billion to clean up its messes with conventional methods, which rely heavily on chemical treatment and robots. Using extremophiles could slash that bill....

Scientists know of at least a dozen extremophiles. The first was discovered in 1956 in Corvallis, Ore. Scientists were zapping cans of horse meat with high radiation, trying to establish the preservative value of food irradiation. One can developed an ominous bulge. Inside, the scientists isolated pink bacteria they had never seen before.

They gave it the scientific name Deinococcus radiodurans. But researchers were so amazed by the bug's resilience that some years later, they nicknamed it "Conan the Bacterium," spawning a folklore and debate among scientists that continues today. Because the microbes endure radiation at levels higher than any natural source, some scientists have argued that they must have ridden in on comets. Others speculate that they were the Earth's first residents after the planet was born in a radioactive explosion.

The original Conan proved to be a wimp among extremophiles. It could handle radiation, but not the solvent toluene and other chemicals normally found in bomb makers' wastes. So, in 1997, the Energy Department started work on a genetically manipulated bug that researchers called Super Conan.

Super Conan now lives in a petri dish at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, a U.S. military research facility in Bethesda, Md. It can handle nasty chemicals as well as radiation, but the researcher who developed it, Michael J. Daly, says the government is afraid to let it out.

"We're at a point where we could do some field trials," he says, adding that his sponsors at the Energy Department doubt the public is ready for the release of this laboratory-engineered bug into the environment. It might eat nuclear wastes, but they worry about what else might it do, he says.

Rather than confront such touchy matters, the department is confident it can find Super Conan's equivalent in nature, says Ari Patrinos, the department's director of biological and environmental research. He estimates that fewer than 1% of the Earth's bacteria forms have been identified: "There are plenty out there for our needs. We just have to pick and choose." (emphasis added)

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.]

posted by Dan at 06:31 PM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (0)

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:

William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, said he saw a "slightly softer version of Bush politics" over the next four years.

He also predicted that Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defence, would resign, as President George W. Bush wanted to redress "the complete dysfunctionality of State and Defence and the refusal of Powell and Rumsfeld to work together".

If confirmed, Mr Rumsfeld's removal would also mark what Mr Kristol called an "intellectual victory" for the neo-conservatives who railed against the defence secretary's opposition to postwar nation building.

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:

Administration officials said Rumsfeld, the other most prominent member of Bush's war cabinet, will continue to run the Pentagon for the foreseeable future.

"The decision was made to keep Rumsfeld and drop Powell because if they would have kept Powell and let [the Rumsfeld team] go, that would have been tantamount to an acknowledgment of failure in Iraq and our policies there," one government official said, requesting anonymity to speak more candidly. "Powell is the expendable one."

Rumsfeld was asked during a news conference yesterday if he had submitted his resignation to Bush. "I haven't discussed that with him at all, in writing or orally," he said.

Link via Andrew Sullivan.

Greg Djerejian and Josh Marshall have useful thoughts on Bush's motivations here.

posted by Dan at 12:49 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

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:

David Rothkopf, who has written a forthcoming history of the National Security Council titled "Running the World," said that much of the success of a national security adviser is defined not by the adviser but by the president. He said Rice "could not be more effective" as a top staffer to Bush because of the closeness she has had with him.

But Rice's management of the interagency process has been lagging, according to Rothkopf and former and current officials. In part, this is because Rice not only had to manage two powerful Cabinet members with sharply different views -- Powell and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld -- but also to deal with a player distinctive to the Bush administration: Vice President Cheney, who weighs in on every major foreign policy question.

Rothkopf said Bush undercut Rice in her running of the interagency process because he has allowed Cheney and Rumsfeld to operate outside the control of the NSC. "The president has to put his foot down and say, 'This has to stop,' " Rothkopf said, but Bush never did.

In an interview for Rothkopf's book, Rice, who turned 50 on Sunday, noted that she was "the baby" of the group, whereas Cheney, Powell and Rumsfeld had dealt with one another over decades.

But now, Rothkopf said, "her unique relationship with the president is going to enable her to counterbalance Rumsfeld if he stays -- or anyone else. Condi has a better chance of being balanced with these guys now than Colin Powell four years ago." (emphasis added)

posted by Dan at 11:40 PM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (4)

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:

The exodus -- including the previously announced departure of Ashcroft, who is in charge of several aspects of the fight against terrorism -- raises questions about whether Bush will have the continuity that his staff has said he wanted.

Bush is launching the most ambitious legislative agenda of any of his years in office, and his aides are constantly cognizant of the possibility of having to respond to a terrorist attack.

"That's doesn't mean they're leaving today," McClellan said of the officials involved in the latest resignations. "They'll continue to do their job."

The resignation letters carry a variety of dates, indicating that the White House has received a stream of them since the election and has been packaging the announcements.

If this is true, then it means Don Rumsfeld ain't going anywhere.

UPDATE: Rice goes to State and Hadley gets promoted.

posted by Dan at 11:51 AM | Comments (48) | Trackbacks (0)

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):

Robert D. Blackwill, who resigned last week as the White House's top official on Iraq policy, was recently scolded by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice after Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told her that Blackwill appeared to have verbally abused and physically hurt a female embassy staffer during a visit to Kuwait in September, administration officials said.

The incident took place as Blackwill was rushing to return home after a visit to Baghdad to join a campaign swing planned by President Bush. As six officials describe the incident, he arrived at the Air France counter at the Kuwait airport and learned he was not on the flight manifest. Blackwill then turned in fury to an embassy secretary who had accompanied him to the airport and demanded that he be given a seat on the flight, grabbing her arm at one point, the officials said....

A National Security Council spokesman confirmed that Blackwill's actions in Kuwait raised questions but said he could not comment on the details. He said the incident was not the reason Blackwill quit his job three months before Iraq is to hold its first elections. An official at the lobbying firm Blackwill just joined -- Barbour, Griffith and Rogers -- said yesterday that Blackwill was traveling to Europe....

Another official, who is familiar with Blackwill's version of events, said that Blackwill believes the woman's description of the airport incident is not accurate and that another NSC staff member present during the incident supported Blackwill's version of it. The official did not elaborate.

Several officials noted that after the incident was reported, Blackwill traveled repeatedly with Bush on his campaign plane in the final weeks before the election. Blackwill, a deputy to Rice, was widely considered one of the top prospects to replace her as national security adviser if she took another job in the administration.

Instead, he abruptly left the administration and announced this week that he had joined Barbour, Griffith and Rogers....

Blackwill, who spent 22 years in the State Department's foreign service, is widely regarded as a brilliant and prickly boss with a management style that has struck some subordinates as abrasive. When he was ambassador to India early in the administration, he was the subject of two critical reports by the State Department inspector general on his management skills and plunging morale among the embassy staff.

Blackwill was Rice's mentor and boss when they served on the national security staff of President George H.W. Bush, handling European and Soviet affairs.

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.

posted by Dan at 02:55 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (5)

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:

India's prime minister on Thursday ordered a reduction of troops in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir this winter, citing a decline in separatist violence in the disputed Himalayan region.

The announcement coincided with a grenade attack by suspected militants on a paramilitary camp in Srinigar, summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu-Kashmir. The attack set off a gunfight in which an Indian security guard was killed and three guards were wounded, a police official said. Two attackers also were killed.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the forces would be withdrawn starting this winter and ending in March, though he did not disclose how many troops would be cut.

"In recognition of the improvement in the situation, the government has decided to reduce the deployment of troops this winter," Singh said days ahead of his planned visit to the strife-torn Indian state....

Kashmiris reacted cautiously to Singh's announcement.

"We welcome this announcement. But what matters is not the number of troops that will be cut, but the way the security forces behave with the people in Kashmir," said Abbas Ansari, a moderate leader of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Kashmir's main separatist alliance.

India has deployed about 1 million troops in the Himalayan region since 1989, when more than a dozen Islamic guerrilla groups began fighting for independence of the Indian-held portion of Kashmir, or its merger with neighboring Pakistan.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, which has been divided between the South Asian rivals since they gained independence from Britain in 1947 but is claimed by both in its entirety.

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.

posted by Dan at 12:38 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (1)

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).

posted by Dan at 02:06 PM | Comments (29) | Trackbacks (0)

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:

President Bush yesterday signaled deeper U.S. engagement in Middle East peace efforts, saying he sees an "opening for peace" now that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is near death dead. When the new Palestinian leadership requests assistance, he said, the United States "will be more than willing to help build the institutions necessary for a free society to emerge."

Bush's comments, the most extensive on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since his reelection, reflect a growing realization by administration officials that Arafat's death would provide a rare diplomatic opening. One administration official said the president has come to understand that much of the opportunity depends on how the United States responds in the first days and weeks after Arafat dies, because it might ensure that moderate leadership takes hold in the Palestinian Authority.

"The vision is two states, a Palestinian state and Israel, living side by side in peace," Bush told reporters as he met with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. "I think we've got a chance to do that, and I look forward to being involved in that process."

....Two senior White House officials met last Friday on short notice with European officials to lay out administration thinking on the next steps in the Middle East, which include building on the planned Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and following the path outlined in the U.S.-backed peace plan known as the "road map." But they told European officials it would be a mistake to leapfrog a deliberative process and move directly to trying to settle vexing "final status" issues, such as Jerusalem.

An administration official said the meeting, conducted by National Security Council staff members Elliott Abrams and Daniel Fried, was intended to begin discussions on the issue at an early stage with European officials, rather than have administration decisions dictated to allies after the fact.

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.

posted by Dan at 11:41 PM | Comments (63) | Trackbacks (4)

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:

While President George W. Bush is shaking up his domestic policy team, some officials and diplomats believe he would prefer to keep the core members on the national security side into a second term.

Mr Bush is keeping his cards close to his chest. Nonetheless, some in the White House believe he would be content to see at least three key figures stay for the time being: Colin Powell, the secretary of state, Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary, and Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser.

“The president likes continuity. He is loyal to his staff,” commented one official. He said he believed Mr Bush was waiting for the trio to express their preferences....

Earlier in the year close associates of Mr Powell suggested that he might be willing to stay on for another year to 18 months, contrary to the general belief that for personal reasons and fatigue he would be ready to retire.

Others suggested that Mr Powell had an eye on the history books, that perhaps he would be tempted by the chance of making a contribution to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to erase what some see as the blot on his diplomatic record: his presentation to the United Nations of the US case for war against Iraq in February last year.

One former administration official said Mr Rumsfeld wanted to stay at the Pentagon until after next summer, which would allow him to appoint a replacement for General Richard Myers, the chairman of the joint chiefs who is scheduled to step down in September.

Another senior administration official said Mr Rumsfeld had indicated that he did not want to resign under a cloud, referring to the current insurgency in Iraq. He also came under intense criticism over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

The official said there was “vicious infighting” among neo-conservatives at the Pentagon who were jockeying to obtain positions for their colleagues. Douglas Feith, the controversial undersecretary for policy responsible for postwar planning in Iraq, is not expected to serve another term.

If Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defence secretary, resigns or moves, one candidate touted as a replacement is Stephen Cambone, undersecretary for intelligence. Mr Cambone has been instrumental in pushing Mr Rumsfeld's goal of transforming the military.

There has been widespread speculation that Ms Rice, who has had the tough task of dealing with the rivalries between the State Department and Pentagon heavyweights, would rather return to academia. Alternatively she is said to relish the prospect of becoming the first woman appointed defence secretary. If she were to move, then that would also leave a possible opening for Mr Wolfowitz. (emphasis added)

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?

posted by Dan at 09:38 PM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

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:

Connecticut ranks first when it comes to making money — but joins New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island at the bottom of an annual index of charitable giving.

The Catalogue for Philanthropy's 2004 Generosity Index showed Mississippi, for the eighth straight year, as the nation's most giving state. It was followed by Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee.

The survey is based on residents' average adjusted income and itemized charitable donations reported on 2002 federal tax returns, the latest year available.

The index does not take into account non-itemized giving or volunteering, said Carol Schofield of the Connecticut Council for Philanthropy.

Connecticut has the nation's highest average adjusted gross income, at $64,724; its residents donate $175 less to charity than the national average of $3,455. That ranks Connecticut 44th on the index, a slip of seven places from last year.

Connecticut was followed by Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and, at No. 50 on the index, New Hampshire.

Rounding out spots six through 10 were South Dakota, Utah, South Carolina and Idaho.

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.

Here's a link to the Catalogue for Philanthropy's methodology, and a link to the raw data in spreadsheet form.

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.

posted by Dan at 10:26 AM | Comments (87) | Trackbacks (2)

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

The Iranian Internet crackdown

Alas, this section got cut from the conclusion of "Web of Influence":

Authoritarian states that seek to censor the Internet can easily censor blogs. Ironically, blogs are nearly as easy to block as to create. Governments can stymie their citizens’ access to a large fraction of the blogosphere by filtering out standardized blog URLs such as Blogger or Typepad. China has on occasion blocked all blogs based at blogger.com, blogs.com, and typepad.com... wherever Internet content is restricted, so are bloggers.

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:

Iran has continued its crackdown on journalists, with two arrests in the past week, and has moved against pro-democracy Web sites, blocking hundreds of sites in recent months and making several arrests....

As part of its crackdown, the government has blocked hundreds of political sites and Web logs. Three major pro-democracy Web sites that support President Mohammad Khatami were blocked in August.

A university in Orumieh in northwestern Iran shut down its Internet lab, contending that students had repeatedly browsed on indecent Web sites.

The crackdown suggests that hard-liners are determined to curtail freedom in cyberspace. Many rights advocates had turned to the Internet after the judiciary shut down more than 100 pro-democracy newspapers and journals in recent years.

The number of Internet users in Iran has soared in the last four years, to 4.8 million from 250,000. As many as 100,000 Web logs operate, and some of them are political.

The move to block Web sites has the support of a senior cleric, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, who declared in September in the hard-line daily newspaper Kayhan that Web sites should be blocked if they "insult sacred concepts of Islam, the Prophet and Imams," or "publish harmful and deviated beliefs to promote atheism or promote sinister books."

Jeff Jarvis argues that, "They [the mullahs] will fail. This can't be stopped now."

For reasons laid out here (see p. 488-490) and here, I am more pessimistic.

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.

posted by Dan at 04:08 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (4)

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.

posted by Dan at 09:52 AM | Comments (34) | Trackbacks (0)

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.

posted by Dan at 11:39 PM | Comments (29) | Trackbacks (2)

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.

posted by Dan at 04:52 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, November 7, 2004

It begins....

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:

The dollar could slide still further, in spite of hitting an all-time low against the euro last week in the wake of George W. Bush's re-election, currency traders have said.

The dollar sell-off has resumed amid fears among traders that Mr Bush's victory will bring four more years of widening US budget and current account deficits, heightened geopolitical risks and a policy of "benign neglect" of the dollar.

Many currency traders were taken aback on Friday when the greenback fell in spite of bullish data showing the US economy created 337,000 jobs in October.

"If this can't cause the dollar to strengthen you have to tell me what will. This is a big green light to sell the dollar," said David Bloom, currency analyst at HSBC, as the greenback fell to a nine-year low in trade-weighted terms....

[T]he market has been rife with rumours that the latest wave of selling has been led by foreign governments seeking to cut their exposure to US assets.

India and Russia have reportedly been selling US assets, as well as petrodollar-rich Middle Eastern investors.

China, which has $515bn of reserves, was also said to be selling dollars and buying Asian currencies in readiness to switch the renminbi's dollar peg to a basket arrangement, something Chinese officials have increasingly hinted at. Any re-allocation could push the dollar sharply lower and Treasury yields markedly higher.

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:

The strength of the dollar has been produced by (a) the willingness of someone (mostly Asian central banks) to buy and hold the flow of new dollar-denominated assets held abroad generated by our trade deficit, and (b) the unwillingness of private hedge funds, investment banks, and other investors to place large leveraged bets that the dollar decline has started for real. If the private market--which knows that the dollar is going down someday--decides that that someday has come and that the dollar is going down NOW, then all the Asian central banks in the world cannot stop it. You need both (a) and (b) to keep the dollar up. Just one of them won't do.

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.

posted by Dan at 11:54 PM | Comments (51) | Trackbacks (8)

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"?

posted by Dan at 03:36 PM | Comments (45) | Trackbacks (0)

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.

posted by Dan at 10:26 AM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

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:

President Bush will not ask his appointees for the mass resignation letters that sometimes have been requested with a change of term but instead wants the aides to keep doing their jobs unless they are told otherwise, White House officials said yesterday.

White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and the director of presidential personnel, Dina Powell, held a conference call on Thursday with agency heads and their White House liaisons and assured them that although all appointees serve at the pleasure of the president, there will be no universal request for resignations.

The decision reflects both Bush's view that his government is working well, and his determination to move aggressively to pass ambitious legislation before he starts being viewed as a lame duck, officials said.

A White House official said the reprieve also reflects the premium Bush puts on consistency as part of his management style....

Although Bush plans no administration-wide housecleaning, not everyone who wants to stay will be able to. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow was subtly given the idea that he would not be staying for all four years but could take all the time he wanted to leave, administration officials said. Snow may help kick off Bush's proposal to overhaul the tax code and then return home to Richmond, officials said.

Attorney General John D. Ashcroft is also expected to leave. So are Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

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.

posted by Dan at 10:45 AM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

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.

Mystery Pollster Mark Blumenthal may or may not be in the segment as well. I recommended him -- and he's already got his talking points.

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."

See Kevin Drum and Mark Blumenthal here and here for more on this.

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).

posted by Dan at 05:07 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

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:

Bloggers compelled Trent Lott to resign as Senate majority leader and Dan Rather to apologize to viewers on national television. But can these online diarists influence global politics as well? What began as a hobby is evolving into a new medium that is changing the information-gathering landscape for international journalists and policymakers alike.

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!!

[Forget world politics -- did blogs influence the 2004 election?--ed.] Hey, I'm glad you asked -- I'll be on a panel to answer that very question in a few weeks:

IHS and Reason magazine present Ana Marie Cox, Daniel Drezner, Henry Farrell, and Michael Tomasky debating the role of blogs in the election on November 18.

A free-for-all discussion on the role of blogs and politics featuring Wonkette's Ana Marie Cox, blogger and University of Chicago political scientist Daniel Drezner, blogger and George Washington University political scientist Henry Farrell, The American Prospect's Michael Tomasky, moderated by Reason's Nick Gillespie.

Drinks and hors d'oeuvres to follow remarks and Q&A.

Thursday, November 18
7:30-9:00 pm

Topaz Bar
1733 N Street NW, Washignton, DC

Porter's Dining Saloon
1207 19th St. NW (19th and M Street)
Washington, DC

This event is co-sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies and Reason.

Space is limited, so please reserve a place by RSVPing to Alina Stefanescu at astefane-at-gmu.edu. Free drink tickets will be given to the first 50 respondents!

posted by Dan at 12:40 AM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (3)

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:

"Crossfire" is now a metaphor for politics in Washington. There are two teams, each with its own politicians, think tanks, special-interest groups, media outfits and TV personalities. The requirement of this world is that you must always be reliably left or right. If you are an analyst "on the right" you must always support what the team does. If President Bush invades Iraq, you support it. If he increases the deficit, you support that. If he opposes stem-cell research, you support that, too. There's no ideological coherence or consistency to these positions. Republicans are now fervent nation-builders, but only two years ago scornfully opposed the whole concept. You must support your team. If you don't, it screws up the TV show.

Postrel argues that Zakaria's thesis stops at the edge of the TV screen:

In reality, Washington's "right-wing" think tanks offer plenty of intellectual diversity (including a range of intellectual quality and integrity, sometimes within the same organization). You just won't see that diversity reflected in television bookings. There, as in party politics, the goal is predictability and message discipline. The lack of "honest debate" and "bipartisanship" isn't a bug; it's a feature. And it will remain a feature until a political crisis sends one or both parties looking for policy entrepreneurs or until media patrons decide that intellectual exploration and genuine debate are more interesting than talking points. In the meantime, the long-term debate will take place offstage.

However, Zakaria's hypothesis does seem to hold for television, as this e-mail missive to Postrel points out:

Fareed is right about the media pressure for guests to be partisan team players. I just got canceled out of what would have been one of my highest-prestige TV bookings ever because (they told me) top producers had decided I was not firmly enough committed to either side in the election.

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.

posted by Dan at 03:33 PM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)

Tyler Cowen reports from Bangalore

The good economist's assessment of the capital of offshore outsourcing:

Apparently production costs are rising out of control in a city that accounts for a third of India's software exports. The major culprit is congestion; a seven-kilometer commute can now take ninety minutes. Population has grown by a third since 1995, and the new metro and airport are badly behind schedule. Bombay has had similar problems.

The remedy? Madras (Chennai) is rising in popularity as is Calcutta, despite its propensity to elect communist governments.

The bottom line: Indian infrastructure is chaos. This economy has only a limited ability to absord outsourcing ventures.

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."

posted by Dan at 02:53 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

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:

When he goes, the last bulwark against complete neoconservative control of U.S. foreign policy goes with him....

Powell is leaving. We need to repeat that. When this reality sinks in, we will finally understand what we are getting ourselves into in a second Bush term. A handful of conservative columnists, Republican senators and a few other GOP luminaries are trying to reclaim a traditional conservative Republican foreign policy approach. But it is clearly too late.

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:

Salon.com's “Anonymous” from the State Department is right that the internal dynamics of the second Bush administration will change when Colin Powell is no longer part of the administration. Bush is likely to appoint a new secretary of state (whether National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice or someone else) who is more subject to the political control of the Bush-Cheney-Karl Rove White House.

But it’s a mistake to leap from there to the judgment that the neoconservatives will have complete control of the second Bush administration. During the last four years, the neocons were the dominant influence on U.S. foreign policy when it came to Iraq (which was no small thing). The neocons did not control the Bush administration’s first-term policy toward China or Russia, which conformed to the classic realist principles of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.

And the impact of the Iraq war has served to reduce further the neocons’ clout. The war they so strongly favored has lasted vastly longer than they predicted. It took more U.S. troops and cost much more money than they led the nation to believe. By early this year, even leading conservative Republicans, such as columnist George Will, were vehemently opposing the Iraq war and the larger goal of spreading democracy in the Middle East. That internal Republican opposition has been muted this fall during Bush’s reelection campaign, but it is sure to resurface.

I’m not suggesting that Bush’s approach to the world will be utterly transformed during a second term. The vision the Vulcans carried into office four years ago—a view of foreign policy based above all on overwhelming U.S. military power and a skepticism about accommodations with other countries—will not be abandoned.

But I also don’t think Bush’s reelection means that United States is gearing up for some new military invasion. There are limits. Iraq has proved that fact, even to the Bush administration. And a sense of limits may turn out to be one of the defining characteristics of Bush’s second term.

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:

I always jest to people: The Oval Office is the kind of place where people stand outside, they're getting ready to come in and tell me what-for, and they walk in and get overwhelmed by the atmosphere and they say, Man, you're looking pretty. Therefore, you need people to walk in on those days when you're not looking so good and saying, You're not looking so good, Mr. President.... that's what you want if you're the commander in chief and a decision-maker. You want people to walk in and say, I don't agree with this, or I do agree with that, and here's what my recommendation is.

Here's hoping he gets well-served on this front in his second term. I remain apprehensive.

One more link -- Walter Russell Mead has some interesting thoughts over at cfr.com (link via this commenter): One part that stood out:

Bush essentially has no excuses now: he has a mandate, he has both houses of Congress, and he is in full control of the foreign policy machinery. The war in Iraq is one that he chose, that he planned, that he has led. Bush is going to look pretty good if even two years from now Iraq is more or less pacified, and there is a government that is at least, in some ways, better than Saddam Hussein, and you have an island of stability in the middle of the Middle East. In retrospect he will look like a visionary, and people will forget all the ups and downs. When people now think of the Mexican War, they think about it as this quick, glorious dash. But in fact [President James] Polk had terrible problems during the Mexican War [1846-1848]....

Politically, at home, there were questions like, "Will those Mexicans ever negotiate?" "Are we stuck in this quagmire?" And this was a war that ended with the United States getting a whole lot of territory. Likewise, if you think about the Filipino insurrection after the Spanish-American War, I think we lost significantly more troops in suppressing that insurrection than we did in the Iraq war. [American casualties in the Filipino guerrilla war are estimated at 4,000 killed and 3,000 wounded]. What's interesting is that by 1910, even people like Teddy Roosevelt, who himself was an arch-imperialist, were saying that it was a strategic mistake to take the Philippines because it gave us an Achilles heel exposed to Japan. So here you have a war with thousands of U.S. casualties to capture a place that we then basically spent the next 30 years trying to figure out how to get rid of. Yet nobody who supported that war ever paid a political price, and everybody who opposed the war paid a political price. And conceivably, if the war in Iraq goes even reasonably well, Bush looks good.

posted by Dan at 12:29 AM | Comments (39) | Trackbacks (5)

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.]:

1) We won't see a replay of 2000 -- or a replay of 1876, for that matter. I have no doubt that further voting reforms are needed, but the absence of any large-scale scandal that could have turned the election is a good thing.

2) There may be public hysteria over offshore outsourcing, but the odds of government action against it just went way, way down. And any Senate with Jim DeMint replacing Fritz Hollings is more likely to ratify the Doha round. [What about DeMint's gay-bashing?--ed. Dammit, I'm trying to stay positive here!]

3) On a related point, Patrick Belton argues in The Hill that the Bush administration's relations with most foreign governments are pretty good: "thus we are faced with the irony that a president who is not terribly popular with public opinion in most nations in the world is strikingly popular with most of their governments."

4) Given the bust that was the youth vote, there will no longer be any discussion of Eminem as a potent political force (though I must confess to finding the video hypnotic).

5) Foreigners will definitely not perceive the American electorate as soft on the sustained use of force. Although I thought this was an overblown argument, many people I respect made it.

6) The Republican party may be Jacksonian, but it's definitively shed its isolationist wing. One thing that haunted me the 24 hours before the election was that if Bush lost, one possible take-home lesson for the Republican Party was that an interventionist foreign policy was political poison. That's not going to happen.

7) Even if the U.S. government continues to deny funding to stem cell research, the state of California has picked up the torch. Thank you, California taxpayers!!

8) The odds of the Guardian ever attempting to woo American voters again? Zilch.

9) I no longer need to post anything about elections -- back to foreign policy, international relations, and Salma Hayek for me!!

posted by Dan at 04:43 PM | Comments (60) | Trackbacks (5)

My one useful prediction for today....

Thomas Frank's lecture fee just tripled.

UPDATE: More on this point here, here, here, and here.

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.

posted by Dan at 09:26 AM | Comments (72) | Trackbacks (3)

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Open election night thread

Comment on the election returns here. Some useful links:

Florida's Secretary of State presidential vote counter;

Ohio's Secretary of State presidential vote counter;

Iowa's Secretary of State presidential vote counter

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:

1) No terrorist attacks times with the election -- an undisputably good thing;

2) As Kevin Drum points out, "Here's some good news: as near as I can tell from scannng the web, surfing the news channels, and reading email from folks like PFAW, this year's election is looking pretty clean."

3) I, for one, take Jeff Jarvis' pledge.

4) Unless there are truly some massive adjustments in vote counts, the exit polls were skewed towards Kerry.

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.

So... danieldrezner.com calls it for Bush [Yes!! You beat CNN!!--ed. No, wait!! According to CNN:

[Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell] said he could not immediately put an estimate on the number of those ballots but said 250,000 might not be out of the realm of possibility.

While he said the exact number of provisional ballots was unknown, he said it is "trending toward 175,000."

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.]

posted by Dan at 09:05 PM | Comments (37) | Trackbacks (0)

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):

Arizona 45-55
Colorado 48-51
Louisiana 42-57
Michigan 51-48
Wisconsin 52-48
Pennsylvania 60-40
Ohio 52-48
Florida 51-48
Michigan 51-47
New Mexico 50-48
Minnesota 58-40
Wisconsin 52-43
Iowa 49-49
New Hampshire 57-41

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.]

Jonah adds here:

I'm being told that those Wonkette numbers are absolutely, positively not exit poll numbers. They might be results of early voting "exit" polls (i.e. votes cast over the last two weeks), but they do not track at all the exits for votes cast today. That said, I'm told the exits don't look great for Bush either. Of course, that changes none of the caveats about exit polls already posted below.

UPDATE: Jonah has more:

Okay. I've now got a third source. Here's what I feel comfortable saying. Those numbers with Kerry leading by 20 in PA were definitely from the Kerry campaign. Whether the represented an early voting tally or just a totally non-serious collection of tallies from various dudes with clipboards is unclear. But they are entirely bogus for the purposes of understanding what's going on today.

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):

USA: 50-49
Florida: 50-49
Ohio: 50-49
Colorado: 48-50
New Mexico: 50-48

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:

Kerry 50
Bush 49

Kerry 50
Bush 49

Kerry 54
Bush 45

Kerry 51
Bush 46

Kerry 51
Bush 47

Kerry 58
Bush 40

Kerry 48
Bush 50

New Mexico
Kerry 50
Bush 48

North Carolina
Kerry 49
Bush 51

Kerry 46
Bush 53

4:40 PM: Wonkette has new numbers:

FL: 52/48 - KERRY
OH: 52/47 - KERRY
MI: 51/48 - KERRY
PA: 58/42 - KERRY
IA: 50/48 - KERRY
WI: 53/47 - KERRY
MN: 57/42 - KERRY
NH: 58/41 - KERRY
ME: 55/44 - KERRY
FL: 50/49 - KERRY

NM: 49/49 - TIE

NV: 48/49 - BUSH
CO: 49/50 - BUSH
AR: 45/54 - BUSH
NC: 47/53 - BUSH

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]:

Kerry 52
Bush 48

Kerry 52
Bush 47

Kerry 51
Bush 48

Kerry 58
Bush 42

Kerry 50
Bush 48

Kerry 53
Bush 47

Kerry 57
Bush 42

New Hampshire
Kerry 58
Bush 41

Kerry 55
Bush 44

New Mexico
Kerry 49
Bush 49

Kerry 48
Bush 49

Kerry 49
Bush 50

Kerry 45
Bush 54

North Carolina
Kerry 47
Bush 53

NRO's Kathryn Jean Lopez proffers the following set of numbers at 5:28 PM:

FL 50-49
OH 50-49
PA 54-45
WI 51-46
MI 51-47
NH Kerry +3

NV 48-50
CO 46-53
NC 49-51
MO Bush +11

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.

5:55 PM: Much discussion of the political exchanges swinging towards Kerry. Check out Brian Weatherson and James Joyner for more.

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:

CO Bush 50 Kerry 48
FL Kerry 51 Bush 49
IA Kerry 50 Bush 49
MI Kerry 51 Bush 47
MN Kerry 54 Bush 44
NV tied
NH Kerry 53 Bush 45
NJ Kerry 54 Bush 44
NM Kerry 50 Bush 48
OH Kerry 51 Bush 49
OR still too early to get accurate reading
PA Kerry 53 Bush 46
WI Kerry 51 Bush 48

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 all most exit polling information. I see that the nets are not providing the top-line results -- sneaky nets. Slate has the last word on exit polls, though check out this Wonkette post as well.

posted by Dan at 03:30 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (2)

So you say you're still undecided....

Looking for a last-minute guide to make up your mind?

You can access my reasons for voting for Kerry by clicking here. Go read the Economist as well -- these paragraphs ring true for me:

Invading Iraq was not a mistake. Although the intelligence about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction has been shown to have been flimsy and, with hindsight, wrong, Saddam's record of deception in the 12 years since the first Gulf war meant that it was right not to give him the benefit of the doubt. The containment scheme deployed around him was unsustainable and politically damaging: military bases in holy Saudi Arabia, sanctions that impoverished and even killed Iraqis and would have collapsed. But changing the regime so incompetently was a huge mistake. By having far too few soldiers to provide security and by failing to pay Saddam's remnant army, a task that was always going to be long and hard has been made much, much harder. Such incompetence is no mere detail: thousands of Iraqis have died as a result and hundreds of American soldiers. The eventual success of the mission, while still possible, has been put in unnecessary jeopardy. So has America's reputation in the Islamic world, both for effectiveness and for moral probity....

This only makes the longer-term project more important, not less. To succeed, however, America needs a president capable of admitting to mistakes and of learning from them. Mr Bush has steadfastly refused to admit to anything: even after Abu Ghraib, when he had a perfect opportunity to dismiss Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, and declare a new start, he chose not to. Instead, he treated the abuses as if they were a low-level, disciplinary issue. Can he learn from mistakes? The current approach in Iraq, of training Iraqi security forces and preparing for elections to establish an Iraqi government with popular support, certainly represents an improvement, although America still has too few troops. And no one knows, for example, whether Mr Rumsfeld will stay in his job, or go. In the end, one can do no more than guess about whether in a second term Mr Bush would prove more competent....

Many readers, feeling that Mr Bush has the right vision in foreign policy even if he has made many mistakes, will conclude that the safest option is to leave him in office to finish the job he has started. If Mr Bush is re-elected, and uses a new team and a new approach to achieve that goal, and shakes off his fealty to an extreme minority, the religious right, then The Economist will wish him well. But our confidence in him has been shattered. We agree that his broad vision is the right one but we doubt whether Mr Bush is able to change or has sufficient credibility to succeed, especially in the Islamic world. Iraq's fledgling democracy, if it gets the chance to be born at all, will need support from its neighbours—or at least non-interference—if it is to survive. So will other efforts in the Middle East, particularly concerning Israel and Iran.

John Kerry says the war was a mistake, which is unfortunate if he is to be commander-in-chief of the soldiers charged with fighting it. But his plan for the next phase in Iraq is identical to Mr Bush's, which speaks well of his judgment. He has been forthright about the need to win in Iraq, rather than simply to get out, and will stand a chance of making a fresh start in the Israel-Palestine conflict and (though with even greater difficulty) with Iran. After three necessarily tumultuous and transformative years, this is a time for consolidation, for discipline and for repairing America's moral and practical authority. Furthermore, as Mr Bush has often said, there is a need in life for accountability. He has refused to impose it himself, and so voters should, in our view, impose it on him, given a viable alternative. John Kerry, for all the doubts about him, would be in a better position to carry on with America's great tasks.

However, in the interest of fairness, go read the Bush endorsements from Virginia Postrel, Megan McArdle, and Greg Djerejian.

Postrel's detached endorsement of Bush is the mirror image of my attitude towards Kerry:

Bush leaves me cold and always has. I never wanted to hang out with him, so I don't take our policy differences personally. I never idolized his leadership, so I don't feel he's failed me. He gets my vote in part because I don't identify with him. He's just a hired hand, and he's better than the alternative.

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:

Parting cordially, it seems strange that such an effervescent maverick, such a jester at the court of all power - all vanity, indeed - should so wholeheartedly endorse the power machine behind George Bush. And so an obvious thought occurs: perhaps Wolfe is jester at the court of New York too. Would he really be happier away from New York, out on the plains, in the "red states" where everyone at dinner parties votes for Bush? Wolfe's eyes revert to that mischievous glint, and he allows himself a smile. "I do think," he admits, apparently speaking for himself, his country and his president, "that if you are not having a fight with somebody, then you are not sure whether you are alive when you wake up in the morning."

posted by Dan at 12:33 AM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (1)

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:

This time around, the TV networks swear they aren't going to make the same mistake again. They say they have revamped the way they collect and analyze polling data, using more sophisticated equipment and better communications. To tone down their competitive instincts in "calling" states for either candidate, some are blocking their news desks from watching rivals' shows. All the networks are also striving to get their respective "decision desks" -- the units that make the calls -- to work more closely with the producers and reporters so information doesn't fall through the cracks.

"The real race is to get it right, not to be first," says NBC News Vice President Bill Wheatley, the executive in charge of the network's election coverage.

Still, always keeping the snafus of 2000 in mind, to get it right and be first is the goal this time around. Toward that end, perhaps the most significant change in tomorrow night's coverage will be the absence of Voter News Service, the now-defunct consortium formed by major news organizations in 1994 to handle exit polls, vote tabulations and projections. The consensus among the networks is that VNS could have done a better job.

For starters, VNS botched vote data in several counties around the country. Its exit-poll samples were seen as too small to be accurate and didn't take absentee ballots into consideration. Its vote tally in Florida was off when compared with the Associated Press's. And while Florida got all the attention, VNS data also led to bad calls in New Mexico and Washington.

In an 87-page report analyzing what went wrong with the 2000 election coverage, CBS News said the computers VNS used weren't sophisticated enough to compare voting data with historical information and were incapable of raising red flags where they were needed. "The old VNS was based on mainframe technology and was probably about 30 years old and wasn't very flexible to update," concurs Dan Merkle, director of ABC News's decision-desk unit.

Of course, part of the problem is that exit-poll data can be unreliable or overinterpreted, especially in a close race. News organizations, though, can't resist the urge to get an early read on a race. Calling elections based on exit-poll data first started in 1980, when NBC declared Ronald Reagan the winner in a landslide over President Carter at 8:15 p.m. Eastern time -- well before West Coast polls closed and much earlier than when CBS and ABC called the race for Mr. Reagan. After that, the competition to call races first began.

In those days, each network had its own exit-polling unit. In 1989, a cost-cutting effort led the networks and Associated Press to form Voter Research and Surveys, the joint venture that preceded VNS, to do the polling for them. Warren Mitofsky, a CBS executive, was tapped to head the venture but had left by the time VNS was started.

Now Mr. Mitofsky, a veteran pollster, is back and working for National Election Pool, a new consortium of Viacom Inc.'s CBS, News Corp.'s Fox News Channel, Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, General Electric Co.'s NBC, Time Warner Inc.'s CNN and the Associated Press. NEP hired Mr. Mitofsky and another polling veteran, Joe Lenski, who heads Edison Media Research.

The two main tasks of the old VNS -- collecting actual election results and conducting exit polls -- have now been separated. Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International are conducting exit polls and collecting returns from sample precincts -- early indicators that give media organizations an idea of which way a particular state or city is headed. The Associated Press is separately responsible for reporting vote counts as they are tallied at county election sites.

If the new system works the way it is supposed to, throughout Election Day, Edison and Mitofsky interviewers will speak to voters as they leave about 1,500 precincts, asking them whom they voted for and why. The "why" part will be analyzed later, but the "whos" will be tallied and shipped out to give news organizations a first look at where the race is headed.

As soon as the polls close, actual returns will flow from more than 3,000 sample precincts in the 50 states -- a much more accurate early indicator. The pollsters will fold into that data the results from pre-election-day telephone polls of early or absentee voters in 13 states -- 10 more states than in 2000, reflecting the increased prevalence of early voting and voting by mail.

Meanwhile, the AP will dispatch 5,000 stringers to county election sites, who will phone in official returns to 16 vote-collection centers. The first states to report will be Indiana and Kentucky, where polls close at 6 p.m. Eastern time. But in hotly contested states, or states with balloting problems, results could take many hours, even days, to dribble in.

One significant change from four years ago, says Mr. Mitofsky, is that the vote-counting database will automatically compare live AP data from the county election offices to increments that the news organization had previously reported. That should help to avoid debacles such as when Volusia County, Fla., reported a sudden vote surge for President Bush in 2000 -- a "red flag" indicating a glitch that would immediately jump out this year, Mr. Lenski says, because the patterns would be clearly laid out in the data, highlighting any aberrations. "In 2000, there was no way to notice that," Mr. Mitofksy says.

As the information flows in, Messrs. Mitofsky and Lenski will plug it into their computer system and pass it through models to produce calculations. The pollsters will review the results and make judgments. But in a major change from the VNS system, the news outlets will be able to see precinct-level data in real time, giving them access to the early numbers that they couldn't see in previous years. "They may make different judgments than we make about the very same results," Mr. Mitofsky says.

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.

posted by Dan at 05:49 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

A question for polling geeks

This Josh Marshall post raises a question that's been bugging me for the last 48 hours:

The final FOX news poll -- with calls on Saturday and Sunday only --has Kerry over Bush 48% to 46% among likely voters. Among registered voters it's Kerry 47%, Bush 45%. Among those who've already voted, it's Kerry 48%, Bush 43%. (emphasis added)

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:

1) As in 2000, the polls for Election Day are missing turnout and early voting, and so the final vote tally will mirror the early voting and Kerry will win handily;

2) The early voters are disproprtionately likely to vote for Kerry so they have no bearing on the final outcome;

3) The polling of early voters relies on too small a sample and should be ignored.

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!

Early voters split about evenly, one-third each between Democrats, Republicans and Independents. They are a bit older: one-quarter are 65 or over, and eight in ten are above age 45. President Bush holds a lead among them (51% to 43%). (emphasis added)

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."

posted by Dan at 03:12 PM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (3)

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:

An estimated 80% of the evangelical vote went to Bush in 2000. But Bush's senior political strategist, Karl Rove, said after the 2000 election that the president might have won the race against Democrat Al Gore by a comfortable margin had 4 million more evangelicals gone to the polls rather than sitting out the election.

This year, the Bush campaign and conservative groups have made enormous efforts to mobilize evangelicals, a group that includes more than 70 denominations, and which generally sees the Bible as the authoritative word of God, emphasizes "born again" religious conversion, and has committed to spreading its faith and values. Evangelicals are thought to make up about a quarter of the electorate.

In appeals to evangelicals, the president's supporters have pointed to Bush's stance against abortion, his appointment of conservative judges and his support for a constitutional ban on gay marriage. And yet a recent poll found a slight slippage in the president's support.

A poll published last week by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 70% of self-described evangelicals or born-again Christians planned to vote for the president, down from 74% in the same survey three weeks earlier. That was not only a slight decline, but lower than the 80% to 90% support that Bush campaign officials had been forecasting. (emphases added)

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:

It's possible that Rove and the Bush campaign have turned up a huge trove of conservative nonvoters who were registered to vote four years ago and who therefore aren't showing up in the numbers of new registered voters. Unless that's true, however, the early indications are that Rove's repudiation of centrist politics will backfire. The secret of Bill Clinton's campaigns and of George W. Bush's election in 2000 was the much-maligned politics of small differences: Find the smallest possible majority (well, of electoral votes, for both men) that gets you to the White House. In political science, something called the "median voter theorem" dictates that in a two-party system, both parties will rush to the center looking for that lone voter—the median voter—who has 50.1 percent of the public to the right (or left) of him. Win that person's vote, and you've won the election.

Rove has tried to use the Bush campaign to disprove the politics of the median voter. It was as big a gamble as any of the big bets President Bush has placed over the past four years. It has the potential to pay off spectacularly. After all, everyone always talks about how there are as many people who don't vote in this country as people who do vote. Rove decided to try to get the president to excite those people. Whether Bush wins or loses, it looks like he succeeded.

3) The cell phone vote tilts towards Kerry -- maybe. Zogby has a poll:

Polling firm Zogby International and partner Rock the Vote found Massachusetts Senator John Kerry leading President Bush 55% to 40% among 18-29 year-old likely voters in their first joint Rock the Vote Mobile political poll, conducted exclusively on mobile phones October 27 through 30, 2004. Independent Ralph Nader received 1.6%, while 4% remain undecided in the survey of 6,039 likely voters. The poll is centered on subscribers to the Rock the Vote Mobile (RTVMO) platform, a civic engagement initiative launched last March by Rock the Vote and Motorola, Inc., responded to this poll between October 27 and October 30.

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:

Here is the math that matters: If all the states in which the data lean discernibly to either candidate vote as the polls suggest, the election will come down to Florida and Ohio. If Bush takes both, he wins. If Kerry takes either, he wins.

posted by Dan at 01:18 AM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (2)