Monday, January 31, 2005

The International Studies Association makes me laugh

The following paragraph is contained in an e-mail I received from the International Studies Association regarding their upcoming annual conference -- which this year happens to be held in Honolulu:

[O]ur colleagues who live in Hawaii wanted... to remind everyone that appropriate dress code in Hawaii is dramatically different from dress code elsewhere. If you've been there before, you know that people dress quite informally. The weather is always warm without being stifling (thanks to the breezes). Virtually no one wears suits or jackets. So, while we don't expect that you will come to panels wearing bathing attire, please feel free to dress informally. This is true even in the evening during receptions and in restaurants.

After reading this, I became convinced I was trapped in one of those ads for TBS asking myself, "is it just me or is so obvious that it's really funny?"

[Other people who don't get to go to a conference in Hawaii might not find this so funny.--ed. Yeah, well, last year's ISA meeting was held at thesame time of the year -- in Montreal. So screw 'em.]

posted by Dan at 06:16 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

Post-tsunami India

Sumit Ganguly -- a gentleman who knows a thing or two about India -- has an interesting piece in TNR Online about what India's response to the tsunami implies for India's future. The highlights:

The country--which suffered more than 15,000 deaths in the southern coastal state of Tamil Nadu and the Andaman Islands chain in the northeastern Indian Ocean--has a civilian bureaucracy with a much-deserved reputation as slothful and hidebound. On this occasion, however, Indian bureaucrats belied every popular stereotype. Within hours after the tsunami hit, officials in India's Ministry of External Affairs were on the phone with their American, Japanese, and Australian counterparts, negotiating a division of labor: India would concentrate on providing assistance to its most immediate neighbors, such as Sri Lanka, freeing others to focus on more distant areas.

India is still considered by most observers to be part of the "developing world," a group of countries that frequently depend on assistance from others. But the day after the tsunami, India became the leading regional provider of assistance to others. The country's surprising reaction to the tsunami may signal its coming of age as a regional and even global power--with significant consequences for South Asia and beyond....

What does all this mean geopolitically? First, there is the fact that the left-of-center Congress Party-led government willingly worked with the United States in responding to the tsunami. In the past, such a regime would have gone to great lengths to torpedo any American effort to provide relief in the region. For example, when a massive cyclone hit Bangladesh in 1991, leaving extensive devastation in its wake, India expressed misgivings about the U.S. response, which was called "Operation Sea Angel." These anxieties, a product of the cold-war years, have steadily dissipated over the past decade, replaced by a willingness to work with, and even court, the United States on a range of issues, from anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean to jointly confronting terrorism. Indeed, the growing scope of military-to-military contacts between the two countries over the past several years (a centerpiece of the new Indo-U.S. relationship) made it possible for the two states to play a leading and coordinated role in post-tsunami relief. To be sure, the countries remain at odds over certain issues, such as India's ties to Iran and the brutal regime in Myanmar. But the signs point in a positive direction. For example, in a sharp departure from the past, the ongoing U.S. military presence in Sri Lanka to provide humanitarian assistance has not elicited any visceral, reflexive comments from New Delhi officialdom. The latent suspicion of all American initiatives in the region that until recently preoccupied India's foreign policy elite now appears to be in steady decline.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Thanks to Balasubramani for linking to this recent Fareed Zakaria column. Zakaria also knows a thing or two about India:

To understand how much and how fast India is changing, look at its response to the tsunami. I don't mean the government's reaction but that of individual Indians. In the two weeks after the tidal wave hit, the Prime Minister's Relief Fund, the main agency to which people make donations, has collected about $80 million. After the Gujarat earthquake of April 2001, it took almost one year to collect the same amount of money. And remember that the 2001 earthquake was massive (7.9 on the Richter scale), killed more Indians (30,000) than the tsunami appears to have, and also got intense media attention (Bill Clinton headed the fund-raising efforts). What has changed in these four years is the most important new reality about India: the growing wealth, strength and confidence of Indian society....

20 years of modest but persistent reforms in India have had huge effects. Over the past 15 years, India has been the second fastest-growing large economy in the world (after China), with an average growth rate of 6 percent. Per capita income in the country has almost doubled (from an admittedly tiny base), and more than 100 million Indians have moved out of poverty. The animal spirits of Indian capitalism, long suppressed, have been unleashed.

Gurcharan Das, the former CEO of Procter & Gamble in India, and one of the first chroniclers of these shifts in attitude, told me a story of a poor young teenager he encountered. The boy told Das that in order to succeed, he had three goals. He wanted to learn to use Windows, to write an invoice and to learn 400 words of English. "Why 400 words?" asked Das. The boy explained that that's what it took to pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language, the base requirement for admission to an American university. "Now, this guy probably won't get into an American college, but this is the way people are thinking all over India," Das said.

posted by Dan at 02:49 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (4)

From media whore to media elite

According to Crain's Chicago Business (registration required), yours truly is considered to be one of "Chicago's media elite," thanks to

By elite, we don't mean the biggest bosses or the loudest voices. We mean the most important, the people who are the best at what they do, who decide what we read, hear and watch. They're the ones who give Chicago its distinct place in the modern media.

Thanks to Stuart Luman for the write-up -- I particularly like the statement that since I started the blog, I've "gone from obscure egghead to renowned expert." I prefer the term, "renowned egghead," thank you very much.

Oh, and readers are warily encouraged to proffer their opinion about whether the head shot clicked by Crain's photogrpher should replace the one currently greeting people at my home page:


[Glad to see you're making your readers answer the tough questions--ed. Hey, I've got to worry about this s%$# now that I'm part of the media elite!!]

posted by Dan at 12:32 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (1)

The Bush administration thinks about soft power

I've occasionally opined about the question of America's soft power -- whether the concept is useful, and assuming it is, whether it's on the wane.

With the Iraq election, I missed David Brooks's NYT column on Saturday suggesting that Bush administration officials were paying more attention to soft power as well:

The new mood has also brought a resurgence of soft-power thinking. Administration officials are trying to think big about what institutions can be used to implement the freedom agenda the president sketched out in his Inaugural Address.

When you ask exactly which institutions need to be created, they get more than a little vague, but you get a clear sense of their preferences. Bush folks have not developed any new love for the Security Council. Instead, they are much more interested in working with regional groups, like the Organization of American States.

Their favorite kinds of institutions are the kinds they created in response to the tsunami disaster: the kind with no permanent offices and no permanent staff, the kind that is created to address a discrete problem and then disappear when the problem is over. The phrase for this is coalitions of the willing. If you think the Iraq situation soured the Bush team on these sorts of coalitions, you're wrong.

The focus on ad hoc coalitions over more formal institutions will be the subject of a later post -- for now, I would strongly recommend that the Bushies read and absorb Andrew Moravcsik's provocative but well-sourced essay in Newsweek International warning that American soft power is fading fast. Some highlights:

The truth is that Americans are living in a dream world. Not only do others not share America's self-regard, they no longer aspire to emulate the country's social and economic achievements. The loss of faith in the American Dream goes beyond this swaggering administration and its war in Iraq. A President Kerry would have had to confront a similar disaffection, for it grows from the success of something America holds dear: the spread of democracy, free markets and international institutions—globalization, in a word.

Countries today have dozens of political, economic and social models to choose from. Anti-Americanism is especially virulent in Europe and Latin America, where countries have established their own distinctive ways—none made in America. Futurologist Jeremy Rifkin, in his recent book "The European Dream," hails an emerging European Union based on generous social welfare, cultural diversity and respect for international law—a model that's caught on quickly across the former nations of Eastern Europe and the Baltics. In Asia, the rise of autocratic capitalism in China or Singapore is as much a "model" for development as America's scandal-ridden corporate culture. "First we emulate," one Chinese businessman recently told the board of one U.S. multinational, "then we overtake."

Many are tempted to write off the new anti-Americanism as a temporary perturbation, or mere resentment. Blinded by its own myth, America has grown incapable of recognizing its flaws. For there is much about the American Dream to fault. If the rest of the world has lost faith in the American model—political, economic, diplomatic—it's partly for the very good reason that it doesn't work as well anymore.

Read the whole thing -- Moravcsik demonstrates the diminishing allure for America's legal system, economic system, and foreign policy.

As someone who thought of anti-Americanism as a temporary perturbation, I do think Moravcsik is massaging the evidence overstating his thesis a bit. The fact that other countries don't want to adopt America's constitution lock, stock and barrel doesn't mean a rejection the more basic values of liberty, democracy and capitalism. Our serious "soft power rivals" -- i.e., Europe -- look much more like us than was the case during the Cold War. Compared to the values schism that exists between the west and the Arab Middle East, differences over the size of the welfare state or the appropriate electoral system seem trifling Plus, as he notes in the essay, it remains the case that the United States remains popular "in the poorest and most dictatorial countries." This fact has not changed in quite some time -- it's just that there are fewer poor dictatorships than there used to be.

That said, Moravcsik's thesis cannot be quickly dismissed -- he's onto something that Bush officials should consider when talking about soft power.

posted by Dan at 11:57 AM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (2)

The first step -- but far from the last -- in Iraq

Kieran Healy has an excellent post at Crooked Timber on what needs to happen in Iraq after this first election. It boils down to, "those in power who lose elections have to be willing to step aside," but Kieran says it better than that -- and provides an encouraging example from Irish history.

posted by Dan at 10:15 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

How did the Arab media cover the election?

Hassan Fattah provides an interesting answer in the New York Times:

Sometime after the first insurgent attack in Iraq on Sunday morning, news directors at Arab satellite channels and newspaper editors found themselves facing an altogether new decision. Should they report on the violence, or continue to cover the elections themselves?

After nearly two years of providing up-to-the-minute images of explosions and mayhem, and despite months of predictions of a blood bath on election day, some news directors said they found the decision surprisingly easy to make. The violence simply was not the story on Sunday morning; the voting was.

Overwhelmingly, Arab channels and newspapers greeted the elections as a critical event with major implications for the region, and many put significant resources into reporting on the voting, providing blanket coverage throughout the country that started about a week ago. Newspapers kept wide swaths of their pages open, and the satellite channels dedicated most of the day to coverage of the polls....

For many Arabs, the strong turnout on election day proved a unique opening, one that made the debate on television screens more nuanced. On Al Jazeera, especially, many Iraqis lauded the process even as analysts from other Arab countries and Iraqis tied to the former government of Saddam Hussein denounced the elections for having occurred under occupation, and for having been centered on sectarian issues.

"Things used to be a negotiation between political parties where you scratch my back and I scratch your back," noted one commentator, Abas al-Bayati, on Al Jazeera. "Now, this new government will approach all the parties as having the backing of the people. It will have legitimacy." And that legitimacy should allow the government to face down the insurgents, he added.

With the relative lack of violence, many nerves appeared calmed. Iraqis, especially, may have been emboldened by the coverage.

Read the whole thing. One wonders whether the election coverage will embolden residents of the Middle East beyond the borders of Iraq.

UPDATE: In Slate, Michael Young provides another rundown of how the Middle Eastern media covered the election. It has a great opening paragraph:

If there was one message from the Iraqi election on Sunday, it was that newspapers are often vast repositories of conventional wisdom just begging for demolition. What had been broadly pegged by the media in recent months as a likely "illegitimate" election that might lead to an Iraqi civil war appeared to be nothing of the sort (even though 36 people died and nearly 100 others were injured in insurgent attacks). On Monday, the international press was scrambling to make up for having been so wide of the mark.

This would apparently include the New York Times editorial page, as Andrew Sullivan observes.

posted by Dan at 09:46 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Open Iraqi election thread

Feel free to comment here on today's historic election in Iraq. Both the wire service reports and blog accounts suggest that the turnout has been higher than expected. The Washington Post reports that, "Carlos Valenzuela, the United Nations' chief election adviser in Iraq, told CNN that he believed that overall turnout was considerably 'better than expected.'"

Certainly a 72% turnout represents a pretty humiliating political defeat for the insurgency. [UPDATE: hmmm.... the Financial Times now says turnout estimates have been scaled back to 60%] The Reuters story has the most encouraging detail:

Even in Falluja, the Sunni city west of Baghdad that was a militant stronghold until a U.S. assault in November, a steady stream of people turned out, confounding expectations. Lines of veiled women clutching their papers waited to vote.

"We want to be like other Iraqis, we don't want to always be in opposition," said Ahmed Jassim, smiling after he voted.

Dexter Filkins' account in the New York Times is positively effusive:

[If] the insurgents wanted to stop people in Baghdad from voting, they failed. If they wanted to cause chaos, they failed. The voters were completely defiant, and there was a feeling that the people of Baghdad, showing a new, positive attitude, had turned a corner.

No one was claiming that the insurgency was over or that the deadly attacks would end. But the atmosphere in this usually grim capital, a city at war and an ethnic microcosm of the country, had changed, with people dressed in their finest clothes to go to the polls in what was generally a convivial mood.

Matthew Yglesias acknowledges the turnout but has an odd post declaring, "The important thing to keep in mind, I think, is that if the lack of problems does hold up, that will be a testament to the success of our extraordinary security measures, not to the success of our political project." Actually, I'd say it's a testament to both factors -- though it's certainly true that the political project can't be judged a success or a failure based on only one election.

On the other hand, Yglesias' post is a ray of sunshine compared to this morose Juan Cole post.

posted by Dan at 10:41 AM | Comments (47) | Trackbacks (3)

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Fred Kaplan exaggerates just a wee bit

In Slate, Fred Kaplan has an assessment of the National Intelligence Council's 2020 report -- about which I've blogged before. He's puzzled about a few things:

The report has received modest press attention the past couple weeks, mainly for its prediction that, in the year 2020, "political Islam" will still be "a potent force." Only a few stories or columns have taken note of its central conclusion:

The likely emergence of China and India ... as new major global players—similar to the advent of a united Germany in the 19th century and a powerful United States in the early 20th century—will transform the geopolitical landscape with impacts potentially as dramatic as those in the previous two centuries....

The trends should already be apparent to anyone who reads a newspaper. Not a day goes by without another story about how we're mortgaging our future to the central banks of China and Japan. The U.S. budget deficit, approaching a half-trillion dollars, is financed by their purchase of Treasury notes. The U.S. trade deficit—much of it amassed by the purchase of Chinese-made goods—now exceeds $3 trillion. (emphasis added)

A few minor corrections to Kaplan's essay:

1) The U.S. trade deficit is big, but it is most certainly not $3 trillion. The November trade deficit was $60.3 billion. 2004's trade deficit will be in the neighborhood of $600 billion. In 2005 it's expected to grow in size to around $670 billion (see this John Quiggin essay for more). These are all very big numbers and it's worth wondering about the macroeconomic implications -- but they're not $3 trillion. I have no idea where Kaplan got that figure, but it's just wrong.

2) I suspect one reason that the mainstream media didn't cover the trend that Kaplan stressed is that this was not new analysis. From what I can see, the NIC based their projections on a Goldman Sachs paper by Dominic Wilson and Roopa Purushothaman entitled, “Dreaming with BRICs: The Path to 2050” -- which was released in late 2003. I remember it because I referenced it in this TNR Online essay. The danger with such projections, of course, is that too often they are straight-line extapolations from recent history -- remenber, in the early eighties, it was projected that Japan's economy would be bigger than ours right now. As Arthur Chrenkoff points out when discussing potential rivals to American power:

To anyone familiar with Indonesia or Brazil to posit that these two states might as early as 15 years from now pose a challenge to the United States (even if in combination with others) might seem a wildly extravagant claim. China and India are in a much better position to eventually end the "unipolar moment", but both countries still face tremendous challenges in translating their considerable human and natural resources into sustainable and significant international reach.

I'm not saying that the NIC projections should be ignored -- but perhaps they should not be given the status of certified fact that Kaplan would like to stamp on them.

posted by Dan at 06:29 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, January 27, 2005

What a long, strange, trip for Lula

When Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ran for president in Brazil, he took great delight in railing against the Washington Consensus, the IMF, and the United States more generally. Since he's won, however, he's pursued a somewhat different course.

How different? Raymond Colitt has a story in the Financial Times that highlights the gulf between Lula then and Lula now:

For all his charisma, even Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who came to power as the idol of Latin America's Left, found it hard to sell his orthodox economic policy at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on Thursday.

His audience of 10,000 anti-globalisation activists was already miffed at the Brazilian president's decision to attend the World Economic Forum on Friday to meet the bigwigs of capitalism they so despise.

But having to defend two years of textbook economic orthodoxy and cosy relations with the International Monetary Fund was too much for disenchanted supporters at an event launched as a challenge to Davos, Switzerland, five years ago.

As a former union leader who in the late 1970s took on big business and a military dictatorship, Mr Lula da Silva was quick to snap back at his hecklers. “That noise comes from those . . . who don't have patience to hear the truth,” he retorted, in reference to spontaneous jeering.

posted by Dan at 06:08 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (1)

Parents, be sure to add this to your cross-country trip!!

The Economist reports on a proposed new museum in the state of Nevada:

Nevada is the only state in the union where brothels are legal, but prostitution is by no means a hallowed trade. Brothels are usually seedy affairs, tucked discreetly away from churches, town halls and the like (or so somebody we met in a bar once told us). But Lance Gilman, who owns both the Wild Horse bordello and the trademark for the Mustang Ranch, is building a sex village—complete with museum and souvenir shop.

George Flint, head of the Nevada Brothel Association, insists that a trip to the Mustang Ranch could be “just as important as driving to Mount Rushmore”. The businesslike Mr Gilman insists that a house of ill repute is nothing of the kind. Brothels are part of Nevada's history, and nowadays they are respectable businesses....

Mr Gilman is building his Mustang Ranch Village on the plot next to the Wild Horse. The driveway to the village is neatly lined with saplings and, at the end of the road, a row of foreign flags greets visitors as if they are arriving at an international institution. The museum will include a portrait of the legendary Mr Conforte [a previous owner of the Mustang Ranch] and a circular bed with a mirrored headboard from the original Mustang Ranch. Souvenirs will range from the usual T-shirts (boasting about the Mustang's “res-erection”) to more exotic oils and toys. Because Mr Gilman's girls are experts in long-lasting “make-up that doesn't run”, a Mustang Ranch cosmetics line will also be on sale. (emphasis added)

posted by Dan at 06:02 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (1)

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Does the genius grant work as advertised?

Marc Scheffler has an interesting story in Crain's Chicago Business arguing that the MacArthur Fellows Program -- a.k.a., the genius grant -- hasn't worked as advertised in the case of writers:

As part of a program widely known as genius grants, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation most years gives one or more authors $500,000, hoping financial freedom will help the writers produce their best work.

An examination of the program, however, reveals that most of the 31 writers chosen since 1981 as MacArthur Fellows had already hit their artistic peak. That conclusion is supported by the 14 major awards — either a Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award or PEN/Faulkner prize — and 37 minor awards the authors received before getting their MacArthur money.

Surveying book reviews, author profiles and the opinions of literary scholars, Crain's determined that 88% of the MacArthur recipients wrote their greatest works before being recognized by the Chicago-based foundation. The sheer number of books produced by the writers declined, too, after their MacArthur awards.

It would reinforce romantic notions that great art requires personal sacrifice to suggest that, half-a-million dollars in hand, writers get lazy. But something else appears to account for the failure of the MacArthur program to fulfill its promise: Writers are mostly chosen too late in their careers, average age 48, and well after the literary establishment has recognized them for excellence.

One could argue that recognizing past achievement is hardly a bad thing -- except that as Scheffler observes and MacArthur's web site announces, that isn't really the goal of the genius grant:

Although nominees are reviewed for their achievements, the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person's originality, insight, and potential. Indeed, the purpose of the MacArthur Fellows Program is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.

Of course, this begs the question -- beyond great past performances, what are the available metrics that can be used to measure genius and/or creativity?

Clearly, this is an assignment for Tyler Cowen. [UPDATE: Tyler posts hist thoughts on the matter here.]

Oh, and I look forward to the free-for-all in the comments section regarding the "Crain's determined that 88% of the MacArthur recipients wrote their greatest works before being recognized by the Chicago-based foundation" assertion.

posted by Dan at 12:47 PM | Comments (36) | Trackbacks (3)

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The battle over airline regulation

Two stories have come out this past week on the costs and benefits of deregulation in air travel. In the Sunday New York Times, Micheline Maynard examines the debate in the United States over airline deregulation. Some groups don't like it:

[R]epresentatives of labor unions and some consumer groups, long for the stability of the time, before 1978, when the government decided fares and determined where airlines would fly. Labor unions in particular are looking for an alternative to the current situation, having been hit this decade by five airline bankruptcies, the elimination of more than 120,000 jobs and cuts of as much as 50 percent in pay and benefits.

These groups say it is time to consider reregulating airlines, or at least to start a debate about how to stabilize an industry that may be so vital to the nation's fabric that government intervention is warranted....

"Are we willing to accept the results of a free marketplace, or do we think the role of commercial aviation is such a part of our economy that we have to have government influence?" asked Patricia A. Friend, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, a labor union that represents about 75,000 airline employees. "It's a conversation I'd like to have before everyone wakes up and asks, 'What the hell happened?' "

So what are the results of that free marketplace? Read on:

Since federal restrictions on routes and fares were removed, consumers have been saving $20 billion a year on air fares, when adjusted for inflation, according to Brookings. Fares have dropped by more than 30 percent, on average, and as much as 70 percent when tickets are bought in advance, the group concluded.

At the same time, airlines have vastly expanded their networks, bringing air travel - a relatively infrequent experience [several decades ago] - to people all over the country. For example, American, the biggest airline, flew to just 50 cities in 1975; it now serves more than three times that number. Southwest, which started in 1971 with a single route in Texas, now flies to 61 cities, not counting those it serves through a code-sharing arrangement with ATA.

Read the whole thing -- the major airlines are facing a serious financial squeeze, to be sure -- but the 2001 post-9/11 government bailout worsened rather than aided their situation.

Meanwhile, Matt Welch has a great piece in Reason that looks at the travel revolution that low-cost airlines have brought to Europe. The effect has transcended the airline industry:

In less than a decade, the Southwest Airlines revolution has swept through sclerotic Europe like a capitalist hurricane, leaving a fundamentally altered continent in its wake. Low-cost airlines have grown from zero to 60 since 1994 by taking Southwest’s no-frills, short-haul business model and grafting on infinitely variable pricing, aggressive savings from the contemporaneous Internet revolution, and the ripe, Wild West opportunities of a rapidly deregulating and expanding market. Europeans, fed up with costly train tickets, annoying motorway tolls, and Concorde-style prices from national “flag carriers” such as Air France and Lufthansa, have defected to the short-hoppers in droves—200 million, nearly 45 percent of the entire E.U. population, took a low-cost flight in 2003 alone.

These airline upstarts are run by swaggering young CEOs whom the European press treat like rock stars, living up (or down) to the billing by issuing manly predictions of price war “bloodbaths” and pulling off daring publicity stunts, such as Irish carrier RyanAir’s post–September 11 sale of 1 million tickets for “free” (before taxes). Their companies have been rewarded with dot-com-bubble-like stock valuations—and the volatility that comes with them—while their long-haul counterparts dodder toward cutbacks, bankruptcy, and worse. (Switzerland became the first European country to lose its national airline when Swiss Air and Sabena folded in 2001.) In less than a generation, one of the Western world’s most notoriously regulated and distorted markets has become a poster child for unified Europe’s 21st century élan.

In the process, Europeans have changed not only their travel choices but the way they behave. “We aren’t just teaching our customers about our brand,” says Stanislav Saling, the twentysomething Slovak public relations director of SkyEurope, a new Bratislava-based low-cost carrier. “We’re selling tickets to people who have never flown before, and showing them how to use the Internet.” Brits, who have led the low-cost charge with RyanAir and easyJet, are now the world’s biggest owners of foreign second homes as a percentage of population. Across the 25-country, 458-million-resident European Union, marriage between different nationalities is at an all-time high. Residents of post-communist countries, who not long ago were more than happy to take any handouts from their far richer Western neighbors, are now leveraging the low-cost revolution to compete with them instead. Old Europe’s postwar business culture, in which CEOs of highly regulated “National Champions” were virtually interchangeable with their schoolboy pals in government, has been battered by entrepreneurial mavericks of hard-to-define provenance, such as easyJet’s 37-year-old founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou, who was born in Greece, owns houses in four countries, and (as The New York Times put it in April) “feels Greek when he is in London, English when he is in Greece, and European when he is in America.”

One common theme in both of these pieces is that deregulation is not without its costs -- there's more uncertainty about the financial viability of some airlines, greater stress on airline employees as these firms are pressured to improve their productivity, and as the case of RyanAir demonstrates, a few airlines that appear to delight in irritiating their customers.

The other common theme is that these costs are dwarfed by the massive benefits that consumers have accrued in the form of lower air fares and a greater variety of travel options.

Be sure to read the Welch piece on how deregulation could go further.

posted by Dan at 12:00 PM | Comments (29) | Trackbacks (6)

Who got screwed by the Oscars?

The Academy Award nominations were announced this morning. You can look at the list by clicking here.

The staff here at will be hard at work with our annual Oscar predictions. This year, however, we introduce a new interactive feature -- who did work that merited a nomination at the very least but got completely shut out. [You need a catchy name for them, like the Oscars or the Razzies--ed. Hmm.... how about the Rogers?]

Looking over the nominations, the most glaring omission was the absence of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind from most of the major categories. Kate Winslet got nominated, and so did the screenplay, but Jim Carrey, director Michel Gondry, and the movie itself deserved way better treatment.

Other omissions:

1) Laura Dern for Best Supporting Actress in We Don't Live Here Anymore;

2) Paul Giamatti for Best Actor in Sideways -- try to imagine any other actor in that role [UPDATE: Washington Post readers agree!!];

3) Uma Thurman for Best Actress in Kill Bill, Vol. II;

4) For that matter, there's no way anyone watches Kill Bill Vol. II without giving the film a nod in the sound categories for the coffin sequence;

5) Anyone, for anything, for Friday Night Lights (This, by the way, is the film that conservatives should talk about when discussing liberal biases in Hollywood, and not The Passion of the Christ, which actually did collect three Oscar nominations);

6) Once again, action movies got hosed in the technical nominations -- even the "arty" action movies. How in the hell does Collateral not get nominated for Best Cinematography? Or The Bourne Supremacy for Best Editing

7) I haven't seen it yet, but I find it hard to believe that Team America: World Police does not have one song superior to "Believe" from The Polar Express

I'd have added Natalie Portman for Garden State, but she got nominated anyway for Closer, so it's no big whoop. I toyed with the idea of adding Zach Braff for Best Original Screenplay, but the guy is getting thousands of comments on his blog and gets to act with Portman, Sarah Chalke and Heather Graham -- so f*** him.

The staff at welcomes other glaring omissions!!

UPDATE: Do be sure to check out the Golden Raspberry nominations as well. As an added bonus, they have the a special “Worst of Our First 25 Years” list of nominations if you scroll down.

posted by Dan at 10:22 AM | Comments (28) | Trackbacks (4)

Monday, January 24, 2005

About those official purchases of the dollar...

If this report by Chris Giles in the Financial Times is any indication, the official central bank purchases of the dollar -- the primary means through which the United States has financed its current account deficit in recent years -- is going to be tapering off:

Central banks are shifting reserves away from the US and towards the eurozone in a move that looks set to deepen the Bush administration's difficulties in financing its ballooning current account deficit.

In actions likely to undermine the dollar's value on currency markets, 70 per cent of central bank reserve managers said they had increased their exposure to the euro over the past two years. The majority thought eurozone money and debt markets were as attractive a destination for investment as the US.

The findings emerge from a survey of central bank reserve managers published today and conducted between September and December of last year. About 65 central banks, controlling assets worth $1,700bn, took part and the results showed a marked change in attitude over the past two years.

Any rebalancing of central bank reserve portfolios has serious implications for the global financial system as the US has become increasingly dependent on official flows of funds to finance its current account deficit, estimated at $650bn in 2004.

At the end of 2003, central banks held 70 per cent of their official reserves in dollar- denominated assets and central bank purchases of US securities had financed more than 80 per cent of the the US current account deficit in 2003....

In a further worrying sign for the greenback, 47 per cent of reserve managers surveyed said they expected the growth of official reserves to slow to less than 20 per cent over the next four years. Between the end of 2000 and mid-2004, official reserves had increased by 66 per cent.

One two caveats: this poll was taken in the fall of 2004, so we should have expected to see an actual drop-off in official purchases in the past few months. The fact that this has not happened -- yet -- does call the survey results into question. UPDATE: and second, a fact that I either missed in reading this story the first time around or was added after I read it, is the fact that, "The 65 central banks that participated control 45 per cent of global official reserves. Individually, they had up to $250bn under management." Which means that the central banks of Japan and China -- both of which have way, way more than $250bn under management -- were not included in the survey.

See Brad Setser's take on this as well.

Thanks to Andrew for the link.

posted by Dan at 09:58 AM | Comments (30) | Trackbacks (2)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

More equilibrating mechanisms at work

One of the mantras of critics of offshore outsourcing is that countries like China and India have such large pools of low-cost, high-skilled labor that their wages will never rise enough to stop the flow of outsourced activity to those locales.

Siddharth Srivastava files a story that suggests otherwise:

India has shown the highest average salary increase in the Asia-Pacific region during 2004, beating China, Korea and Japan, according to a survey by global human resources firm Hewitt Associates. Analysts are worried, however, that such high increases in wage costs may result in the exit of business that is sought in this country for the very same reason — low overheads. What is particularly worrying is that the highest rise in wages has occurred in the Information Technology sector where India bids to be the number one player in the world due to a combined advantage of low cost and high quality manpower at its disposal. Combined with the news that the rupee has appreciated in the face of a depreciating dollar, IT firms that rely heavily on export revenue fear a resource crunch.

According to the report, India showed the highest average salary increase in Asia followed by China, Philippines and Korea. While India reported an 11.6 percent overall pay hike, in China salaries grew by 6.4-8.4 percent, 7.4-7.7 percent in Philippines and 6.4-6.8 percent in Korea for the year 2004, the survey said....

What is worrying analysts in India is that the IT industry in India witnessed the highest average salary increase at 14.5 percent though as many as 89 percent of participating companies linked salary hike to performance ratings. The rising wages coupled with an appreciating rupee in the face of high U.S. fiscal deficit and the no-tax promise by President George Bush to plug it, will end up eroding the basic comparative advantage that India enjoys vis-à-vis other low cost centers of the world such a Vietnam, China and the Philippines, which are beginning to focus on the software sector. In an interview, Vivek Paul, vice-chairman and president at Wipro’s global IT arm, has warned of an end to the low-wage culture that has been at the heart of India’s software boom.

posted by Dan at 11:06 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, January 21, 2005

When information technology weakens terrorism

One meme that has been a constant since the September 11th attacks has been that terrorist networks have been so adroit in using information technologies to plan, coordinate, and execute acts of violence.

However, an even older meme is that civil society can exploit these technologies to improve their lot in life as well. Two stories out of Iraq today highlight this fact.

Ellen Knickmeyer reports for the Associated Press that Iraqis are using text messaging as a way of outing terrorists:

In the volatile Shiite-Sunni towns south of Baghdad known as the ''triangle of death,'' Iraqi civilians increasingly are letting their thumbs do the talking, via Arabic text messages sent from the safety of their homes, Iraqi security forces and U.S. Marines say.

At a time when U.S. and Iraqi security forces are desperate for information on attacks preferably in advance mobile phone text messages allow civilians to pass on information from a discreet distance, their identities shielded from security forces and their neighbors.

Although a cell phone displays the caller's number, phone records are so chaotic in Iraq that chances are slim anyone could track down a tipster. And text messages can be sent to the most trusted officer, a far safer avenue than calling a police station that might be riddled with informants.

''Many, many people tell us about the terrorists with this,'' [Iraqi National Guard Major Mohammed Salman Abass Ali] al-Zobaidi said, tapping his black cell phone and thumbing down to show more messages.

''All the time, I hear his phone beep beep beep beep, beep beep beep beep,'' said Sgt. Eddie Risner of Ocala, Fla., part of a Marine contingent working with guardsmen to try to block attacks and put a credible Iraqi security force on the street.

In the Chicago Tribune, Aamer Madhani reports on one radio station in the Sunni triangle that's strongly encouraged Iraqis to vote in the upcoming elections:

For someone who recently was threatened with having his tongue cut out for encouraging people to vote, Rafit Mahmoud Sayed has surprisingly little sympathy for those who say they fear going to the polls Jan. 30.

On a recent special edition of his radio show, Sayed initially listened patiently to a caller who talked about his desire to vote but feared a suicide bomber might attack the polling station. After a few minutes of the caller speaking about what a waste it would be to die on his way to the ballot box, Sayed interrupted and upbraided the caller.

"Be sure, this election is about the security situation in Iraq," said Sayed, who named his show "Good Morning, Orange City" after the restive city of Baqouba, the orange-growing capital of Iraq. "If you go vote, you can be sure the security situation will be improved. If you don't go vote, you can expect nothing."

Sayed and the 70 other employees at the Diyala province's government-owned radio and television station outside Baqouba have taken on the task of promoting voter participation with somewhat unexpected zeal. Until recently, most of the programming on the station was fairly simple--music, a children's show, some call-in programs and a few reporters putting together news broadcasts, relying heavily on information provided by a U.S. psychological operation's unit stationed next door to the station.

But when the voter registration process began in November, Sayed, who is also the station's general manager, decided to make election coverage the station's priority.

There have been consequences. In the past few weeks, Sayed said, several of his employees have received death threats through anonymous notes left at their homes or through neighbors. The threats have jangled nerves, but no one has quit, he said....

While the television station hasn't been able to compete with the Arabic-language news giants Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, Radio Diyala has become popular in the province for its call-in programs that often criticize local government officials and insurgents....

During the special election show, the two phone lines for listeners rang non-stop. Some called to say that they would be voting, and others asked for clarification about just what they would be voting for. A few wanted to speak out against the insurgency and read poetry they had written to express their patriotism.

These uses of technology toward improving life In iraq mesh with recent polling evidence suggesting that there is greater support among ordinary Iraqis for the elections than previously expected. As Karl Vick points out in this Washington Post report:

"I think people will be shocked," said an official of another international organization deeply involved in preparing Iraq's nascent political class for the ballot. The official, who insisted that neither he nor his organization could be identified because of security concerns, said most Iraqis remained intent on exercising their right to elect a government after decades of dictatorships.

"I think the real story of this election is what's gone on beneath the radar," the official said. "They may not know what they're voting for. But I think they recognize it's something called democracy."

The one thing that bugs me is that all of these behind-the-scenes efforts mean nothing unless people are physically willing to show up on Election Day. And unlike the transfer of sovereignty, the election date can't simply be moved up at the last minute. An no amount of information technology can alter that fact.


UPDATE: Reuters reports on one way to blunt the terrorist threat on Election Day: "the location of voting centers will be revealed only at the last minute in some areas." Another Reuters report quotes UN election official Carlos Venezuela stating that, "(Conditions) are not the best and certainly far from ideal, but if the security measures work there is a very good chance that the elections that take place will take place successfully ...and will be accepted as legitimate."

posted by Dan at 10:16 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (4)

Your personal ad of the week...

The following ad appeared this week in the Eye, an alternative weekly based in Toronto:


Wait, do you hear that sound? That must be the wails of anguish from women all across North America, upset that they do not live in Toronto and will therefore be unable to learn "the art of bedroom control." Especially when there are young women in Toronto who are myseriously declining this generous offer.

posted by Dan at 09:47 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (1)

The opportunity costs of tsunami aid

Earlier this month Virginia Postrel accurately predicted that there would be a follow-up story on how "generosity toward tsunami victims is pulling money away from other, often local, charities."

As these stories go, you could do far, far worse than Daniel Gross' Slate essay on the topic. The key paragraph:

The outpouring of tsunami donations in early January 2005 probably won't have much of an effect on overall giving levels. And it's likely that many other extremely worthy charities will see their receipts fall. Is that disappointing? Maybe. But there's a different lesson. What's amazing about these very large figures—$480 million (and counting) for tsunami relief, $1.88 billion post 9/11—is that they are just a drop in the bucket of overall donations. They don't really sway the overall numbers. A very large portion of U.S. charitable giving probably isn't spontaneous. Lots of donations derive from bequests and estates, multi-year commitments from foundations and individuals, and annual gifts from corporations. So, the ability of any one event to inspire some fundamental shift in giving is limited.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 11:39 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

The Greatest Americans?

The Discovery Channel and AOL launched a contest today asking "Who is the Greatest American?" According to the Associated Press story, the specific criteria is naming the Americans who they believe "most influenced the way they think, work and live."

I've already entered my five names, in ascending order of importance:

5) Paul Volcker -- a seemingly odd choice, but his stint at the Federal Reserve dramatixally altered expectations about inflation, to the point where it has become politically unacceptable to push for mild forms of inflation. For the century before Volcker came along, that was not true.

4) George Washington -- think about how the United States would be different had Washington not decided to step dowmn after two terms of office. One could argue that his precedent sealed America's political future just as much as the Constitution.

3) Elvis Presley -- the godfather of alll American popular culture.

2) Thomas Edison -- For God's sake, any man who could inspire Homer Simpson to industrious activity belongs on this list!! More seriously, Edison symbolizes the range of private entrepreneurship that made the United States such a dynamic economy.

1) Abraham Lincoln -- America's greatest President and one of America's greatest writers. We live in his image of America.

Honorable mentions for Jackie Robinson, Steve Jobs, Ronald Reagan, Marilyn Monroe, and Henry Ford.

Readers are encouraged to post their own top 5.

UPDATE: Some excellent suggestions have been put forward in the comments -- particularly George Marshall.

posted by Dan at 12:33 AM | Comments (58) | Trackbacks (3)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Open second inaugural thread

Feel free to comment on President Bush's Second Inaugural Address here. here's how it closes:

We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner "Freedom Now" - they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.

When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, "It rang as if it meant something." In our time it means something still. America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength - tested, but not weary - we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.

posted by Dan at 12:48 PM | Comments (31) | Trackbacks (4)

How to turn Americans into libertarians

As I was boarding my ATA flight back to Chicago yesterday, I was startled to see the boarding area so crowded. I then found out that the flight before mine to Chicago -- which was supposed to leave six hours before mine -- had been cancelled. I assumed this was because of the inclement weather (it was snowing), but it turned out I was only partially correct.

The flight had indeed been delayed by a few hours because of the weather. By the time it was ready to take off, however, a new problem presented itself. One of the flight attendants had been on duty by that point for more than 16 hours. Because FAA regulations stipulate that no flight attendant can work more than 16 hours straight, she was not allowed to work on that flight. This left only three flight attendants for that flight segment. That, however, bumped into another FAA regulation -- there must be one flight attendant for every 50 seats on the plane. Because this was ATA, they didn't have some vast reservoir of flight attendants twiddling their thumbs at the airport. So, the flight was cancelled.

Needless to say, the following occurred:

1) The passengers on that flight were less than pleased;
2) The ATA spokespeople were extremely apologetic;
3) It was difficult to hear the words "FAA regulation" said by anyone sitting in the area without an expletive modifying that particular noun.

Where oh where is the Queen of Sky when you need her?

posted by Dan at 11:27 AM | Comments (37) | Trackbacks (3)

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

While I was away...

I had a business trip today (more about why in a week or so), which explains the paucity of blogging on my part.

However, I'm glad to see that there was a thread about me, over at Asymmetrical Information. I was particularly bemused by this equation summarizing my contribution to the blogosphere:

(Andrew Sullivan - hysteria) + international finance + Carmen Electra-blogging = Daniel Drezner

Commenters are warily encouraged to come up with what they believe are more precise equations.

And -- for the record -- I don't think I've ever seen a hysterical post from Andrew Sullivan.

posted by Dan at 11:17 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

It's never good to be compared with the Carter years

Greg Ip has a front-pager in the Wall Street Journal on whether the weakening dollar will help or hurt the economy.

Up to a point, a falling currency is a blessing. After that, it's a curse.

The dollar has fallen 16% against a basket of its trading partners' currencies over the past three years. In theory, that should, with time, make U.S.-made goods more competitive with those made abroad, boosting U.S. growth and employment.

But a growing chorus warns that the U.S.'s gaping budget and trade deficits will lead to a crisis in which the dollar falls much more sharply, driving up interest rates and squeezing the economy.

There are plenty of troubling precedents. Over the past decade, a dozen smaller economies from Mexico to Thailand have gone from growth to deep recession when their currencies collapsed. Even rich countries like Canada have been forced to adopt austere budget policies to cope with currency-induced turmoil. "We are increasingly vulnerable to the kind of sudden stop, where the capital inflows dry up all at once, that's been the bane of emerging markets over the years," says Barry Eichengreen, an economic historian at the University of California at Berkeley.

Could it happen here? It certainly hasn't yet. In a crisis, foreign investors dump stocks and bonds, fearing depreciation will cause further losses. Yet U.S. Treasury bond prices, and thus long-term interest rates that move in the opposite direction, have changed little in the last year -- and stocks are higher. A review of past crises world-wide suggests the U.S. has enough going for it now to avoid a similar fate. Yet the magnitude of the imbalances hanging over the dollar is also without precedent, suggesting a crisis remains possible....

The U.S. has an additional advantage over any other country when it comes to crisis prevention: Its economy is too important for the world to passively accept a dollar collapse.

That's one reason many countries prop up the dollar. China runs a large trade surplus with the U.S., something that would normally force its currency, the yuan, to rise against the dollar. To prevent that, China buys billions of dollars in Treasury securities. That protects its exports and helps keep U.S. interest rates low.

The increased depth, reach and sophistication of markets is one reason Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is optimistic the U.S. can avoid a crisis. "An ever more flexible international financial system" means global imbalances are more likely to be "defused with little disruption," he argued in November 2003.

Indeed, as imbalances have grown in the past decade, currency markets, by some measures, have become more orderly. It's been a decade since the dollar's drop seemed dangerous enough to spark a concerted response from the U.S. and its allies. On the morning of March 2, 1995, Ted Truman, then top international staffer at the Fed, was getting reports of massive dollar sales, some triggered by derivatives strategies, driving the U.S. currency down sharply against the deutsche mark and yen. Bond yields were rising. Mr. Truman went to see Mr. Greenspan and recommended the Fed and Treasury intervene in the markets to buy dollars. "I don't think it's going to do any good," Mr. Truman recalls telling Mr. Greenspan. "But by not being there we are saying we totally don't care what the conditions of the markets are."

Mr. Greenspan agreed, and that afternoon the Fed and the Treasury waded in, buying $600 million worth of dollars in exchange for marks and yen. The next day it repeated the action, joined by 13 central banks. The dollar stabilized. Bond yields dropped.

The U.S. intervened to support the dollar a few more times that year, but hasn't done so since; markets have generally been smooth, and the Clinton and Bush administrations came to see intervention as being of limited use.

Mr. Truman, now a scholar at the Institute for International Economics in Washington, predicts that in the next five years, the U.S. will have to intervene again "either because it's a period of disorder or because we can't withstand the political criticism from our partner countries." He adds: "The very richness and increased flexibility of markets that Alan Greenspan has emphasized probably translates into fewer episodes of disorder, but when they come, they're going to be bigger."

I don't want to reprint the entire article, but one troubling comparison in the piece is a section that compares the current moment with "the last dollar crisis, in the late 1970s." On the whole, it's a mixed bag, but what should worry Republicans is that the comparison is being made at all. A good political rule of thumb for any administration is to do one's upmost to prevent the press from being able to make a valid economic comparisons to the Carter era.

posted by Dan at 11:22 AM | Comments (33) | Trackbacks (2)

Monday, January 17, 2005

Behind the scenes in Ukraine

Back on November 25th, at the beginning of Ukraine's Orange Revolution, I blogged the following:

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.

In the New York Times, C.J. Chivers has a riveting behind-the-scenes look at Ukraine's security services during the election campaign, suggesting that in the case of Ukraine, it was a combination of options (2) and (3). Here's one key moment:

The state was leaking power. The next day, Nov. 27, Mr. Kuchma summoned [S.B.U. chief] General Smeshko to a meeting at Koncha Zaspa, a government sanitarium outside Kiev.

In a conference room were Mr. Yanukovich and politicians from eastern regions supporting him, with the leader of the Interior Ministry, or M.V.D., Mykola Bilokon, one of Mr. Kuchma's loyalists, who made no secret of his support for the premier.

Mr. Yanukovich confronted Mr. Kuchma, asking if he was betraying them, four people in the meeting said. Then came demands: schedule an inauguration, declare a state of emergency, unblock government buildings.

Mr. Kuchma icily addressed his former protégé. "You have become very brave, Viktor Feyodovich, to speak to me in this manner," he said, according to Mr. Bilokon and General Smeshko. "It would be best for you to show this bravery on Independence Square."

General Smeshko intervened to offer the S.B.U.'s assessment of the situation, warning the premier that few of Ukraine's troops, if ordered, would fight the people. He also said that even if soldiers followed an order, a crackdown would not succeed because demonstrators would resist. Then he challenged Mr. Yanukovich.

"Viktor Feyodovich, if you are ready for a state of emergency, you can give this order," he said. "Here is Bilokon," he continued. "The head of the M.V.D. You will be giving him, as chairman of the government, a written order to unblock the buildings? You will do this?"

Mr. Yanukovich was silent. General Smeshko waited. "You have answered," he continued, according to people in the meeting. "You will not do it. Let us not speak nonsense. There is no sense in using force."

Mr. Kuchma left the room to take a phone call, then returned with a state television crew. Mr. Yanukovich slammed down his pen and left.

The government's position was set: there would be no martial law. It was formalized the next day, on Nov. 28, when the National Security and Defense Council voted to solve the crisis through peaceful means.

"This was the key decision," Mr. Kuchma later said. "I realized what it meant to de-block government building by force in these conditions. It could not be done without bloodshed."

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 10:26 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (2)

Open Sy Hersh thread

Feel free to comment on the veracity and implications of Sy Hersh's latest New Yorker essay here. This is how it opens:

George W. Bush’s reëlection was not his only victory last fall. The President and his national-security advisers have consolidated control over the military and intelligence communities’ strategic analyses and covert operations to a degree unmatched since the rise of the post-Second World War national-security state. Bush has an aggressive and ambitious agenda for using that control—against the mullahs in Iran and against targets in the ongoing war on terrorism—during his second term. The C.I.A. will continue to be downgraded, and the agency will increasingly serve, as one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon put it, as “facilitators” of policy emanating from President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. This process is well under way.

Despite the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, the Bush Administration has not reconsidered its basic long-range policy goal in the Middle East: the establishment of democracy throughout the region. Bush’s reëlection is regarded within the Administration as evidence of America’s support for his decision to go to war. It has reaffirmed the position of the neoconservatives in the Pentagon’s civilian leadership who advocated the invasion, including Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Douglas Feith, the Under-secretary for Policy. According to a former high-level intelligence official, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff shortly after the election and told them, in essence, that the naysayers had been heard and the American people did not accept their message. Rumsfeld added that America was committed to staying in Iraq and that there would be no second-guessing.

“This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone,” the former high-level intelligence official told me. “Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah—we’ve got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.”

This paragraph is the one that -- if true -- disturbs me the most:

The former high-level intelligence official told me, “They don’t want to make any W.M.D. intelligence mistakes, as in Iraq. The Republicans can’t have two of those. There’s no education in the second kick of a mule.” The official added that the government of Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani President, has won a high price for its coöperation—American assurance that Pakistan will not have to hand over A. Q. Khan, known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, to the I.A.E.A. or to any other international authorities for questioning. For two decades, Khan has been linked to a vast consortium of nuclear-black-market activities. Last year, Musharraf professed to be shocked when Khan, in the face of overwhelming evidence, “confessed” to his activities. A few days later, Musharraf pardoned him, and so far he has refused to allow the I.A.E.A. or American intelligence to interview him. Khan is now said to be living under house arrest in a villa in Islamabad. “It’s a deal—a trade-off,” the former high-level intelligence official explained. “‘Tell us what you know about Iran and we will let your A. Q. Khan guys go.’ It’s the neoconservatives’ version of short-term gain at long-term cost. They want to prove that Bush is the anti-terrorism guy who can handle Iran and the nuclear threat, against the long-term goal of eliminating the black market for nuclear proliferation.”

If this is true, it suggests the administration really believes that the threat posed by nuclear-armed states is greater than the threat posed by a black market proliferation network that could sell to states and non-state actors alike.

That said, here's the paragraph that makes me wonder just how much Hersh's sources are speaking without knowing:

The new rules will enable the Special Forces community to set up what it calls “action teams” in the target countries overseas which can be used to find and eliminate terrorist organizations. “Do you remember the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador?” the former high-level intelligence official asked me, referring to the military-led gangs that committed atrocities in the early nineteen-eighties. “We founded them and we financed them,” he said. “The objective now is to recruit locals in any area we want. And we aren’t going to tell Congress about it.” A former military officer, who has knowledge of the Pentagon’s commando capabilities, said, “We’re going to be riding with the bad boys.”

Read David Adesnik's posts on the U.S. role in El Salvador in the early eighties to see why the statement about the death squads is wildly off the mark.

One obvious dynamic at work is that some of Hersh's intelligence sources have to be victims of the Porter Goss regime at Langley. On the one hand, that probably gives these officials a strong incentive to spll their guts. On the other hand, it also gives them an incentive to stick it to the Bush administration by any means necessary.

For the record, here is the Defense Department's press release in response to the Hersh essay -- in which precise facts contained in Hersh's piece are challenged; for interpretation of the DoD's statement, check out CNN's take.

posted by Dan at 09:37 PM | Comments (46) | Trackbacks (5)

Rice reshapes the foreign policy apparatus

Last year I wrote in TNR Online:

[T]here are good reasons to believe that realists would trump the neocons during a second term. None of the neocons hold Cabinet-level positions (the most prominent is Paul Wolfowitz) and the rumored shift at the State Department from Colin Powell to Condoleezza Rice will probably strengthen the hand of the realists. (Yes, Powell opposed the neocons, but he also proved rather inept at winning influence with the president; Rice, by contrast, is a realist who will have Bush's attention.)

Continuing that vein of thinking, Guy Dinmore has a great story in the Financial Times on how Condi Rice is staffing both the State Department and the NSC:

A shake-up of the US foreign policy team under Condoleezza Rice will see the emergence of younger rising stars as well as seasoned negotiators, bringing together a combination of pragmatists and "hawks".

While analysts and diplomats are focusing on whether the second Bush administration will see a loss of influence for the ideologically driven neoconservatives, Ms Rice appears to be choosing a mix of career professionals and experts noted primarily for their loyalty and commitment, as well as a willingness to challenge conventional wisdoms...

One of the young climbers cultivated by Ms Rice in the council is Meghan O'Sullivan, senior director for strategic planning with responsibility for Iraq and Iran. "She is rising quickly through the ranks," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ms O'Sullivan, who is in her 30s, in effect replaces Robert Blackwill, a veteran diplomat who ran the Iraq Stabilisation Group as deputy national security adviser. He has joined a lobbying firm after resigning last year following colourful press reports about his personal life and an altercation with a State Department employee....

Stephen Krasner, a professor of international relations at Stanford University, where Ms Rice was previously provost, is tipped as the new head of policy planning. In 2001 he spent a year in the State Department, working on the Millennium Challenge Account, an aid programme for developing nations that meet criteria of good governance.

At a time when the future of the United Nations is under scrutiny, it is interesting that Ms Rice is believed to have chosen a specialist on the shape of future institutional forums. Mr Krasner has challenged conventional notions of sovereignty. He is also strongly opposed to the International Criminal Court as lacking in democratic accountability.

In an interview a week after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Mr Krasner said prudence was what counted in international relations. "The notion that you can create an ideal world is what walked us into Mao's China, Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia. If you want a decent life, what you need is a political system which is prudent and limited. I think that the United States has actually done pretty well in that regard."

What O'Sullivan and Krasner have in common with each other -- as well as with Robert Zoellick, the new no. 2 at State -- is that they are really smart, and they are realists.

Full disclosure: I've known O'Sullivan for some time and am a big fan of her book, Shrewd Sanctions. And Krasner was my dissertation advisor, so you cam pretty much throw any claim to objectivity out the window on him.

UPDATE: Richard Holbrooke sounds some similar themes and discusses other personnel transfers in the Washington Post (Thanks to Zathras for the pointer)

posted by Dan at 04:24 PM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (1)

Sunday, January 16, 2005

How much has China changed in fifteen years?

Zhao Zhiyang, the former leader of the Chinese Communist Party until the Tiananmen Square crackdown, has died. Jasmine Yap has an obituary in Bloomberg; here's a link to the New York Times obit by Jim Yardley.

Combined, the obituaries make a telling point about China in the eighties -- and set up a test to see how much China has changed.

As Yardley points out:

At Mr. Deng's behest, he acted boldly, embracing economic reform by expanding self-management for peasant farmers and some industries. In 1987, after the ouster of Hu Yaobang, who was deemed too lenient toward student protests, Mr. Zhao became general secretary of the Communist Party, a job that made him Mr. Deng's presumptive heir.

Yap's obit points out the initial trigger for the Tiananmen protests:

Zhao, also a former prime minister, lived under house arrest after he opposed the military crackdown on pro-democracy activists and was removed from power by then paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. He was last seen in public on May 19, 1989, begging student protesters to leave Tiananmen Square, a day before Chinese authorities declared martial law in the capital and shot dead hundreds of the demonstrators.

Students began filling the square in April 1989 to commemorate the death of former party Secretary General Hu Yaobang, whom they considered was sympathetic to demands for more democracy in China. By May, the square had turned into an encampment for students from across the nation, who called for democracy and an end to Communist Party corruption and defied government orders to leave.

If Hu's death triggered Tiananmen, one wonders whether Zhao's death will trigger any similar kind of political mobilization against the government.

To be honest, I'll be surprised if it does. This is for one of three reasons:

1) China's communist government has delivered robust economic growth in the 15 1/2 years since Tinanmen;

2) The Chinese government's tools of political coercion and suppression have become more sophisticated and aware since 1989 -- therefore, they are more likely to nip a poential Tiananmen in the bud;

3) China's citizenry has become more nationalist in the past fifteen years, and therefore do not have the same amount of political antipathy towards the government.


UPDATE: Looks like the Chinese government is attempting to try hypothesis no. 2 out, according to the New York Times' Joseph Kahn:

Chinese leaders imposed a ban today on news reports about the death of Zhao Ziyang, the former Communist Party chief who opposed the 1989 crackdown on democracy protesters, suggesting that his official obituary would treat him as a pariah.

The New China News Agency issued a terse dispatch announcing that Mr. Zhao, who was 85 years old, died early today. But the news agency identified Mr. Zhao simply as a "comrade," not as China's former top political leader, and the main evening news broadcast made no mention of his passing.

Editors said that propaganda officials had ordered television stations and newspapers not to report about Mr. Zhao, and popular Web sites were instructed to ban public discussion of the former leader.

posted by Dan at 10:14 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (4)

Hey, in Philadelphia, I'm a law professor!!

Frank Wilson has a review of Hugh Hewitt's Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. This paragraph jumped out at me:

Hewitt notes that while it was left-of-center bloggers Atrios (Philadelphian Duncan Black) and Joshua Micah Marshall who got the anti-Lott swarm buzzing, it was conservative bloggers - notably the chameleonic Andrew Sullivan, whose coloration at the time was deemed conservative, and Republican law professor Daniel Drezner - who brought it to critical mass. On the other hand, during the Raines swarm, Marshall mentioned the affair only once.

Y'know, if I was earning the same salary as a law professor, I wouldn't complain.

UPDATE: Thanks to Warren Dodson for pointing out that Wilson was merely repeating what Hewitt wrote in Blog on p. 11: "Daniel Drezner, a University of Chicago law professor and uber-blogger, called for Lott's resignation on Saturday . . . ."

I'll take the mis-designation in return for being called an uber-blogger. Hmmm.... note to self: contact Marvel Comics about new superhero idea.....

posted by Dan at 07:20 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Following up on Sibel Edmonds

Remember FBI whistle-blower Sibel Edmonds? The Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General has just issued a review of how the FBI handled both Simonds' allegations of incompetence and security breaches among FBI translators, as well as the Bureau's decision to terminate Simonds. Ted Bridis reports for the Associated Press:

The FBI never adequately investigated complaints by a fired contract linguist who alleged shoddy work and possible espionage inside the bureau's translator program, although evidence and witnesses supported her, the Justice Department's senior oversight official said yesterday.

The bureau's response to complaints by former translator Sibel Edmonds was "significantly flawed," Inspector General Glenn Fine said in a report that summarized a lengthy classified investigation into how the FBI handled the case. Fine said Edmonds's contentions "raised substantial questions and were supported by various pieces of evidence."

Edmonds says she was fired in March 2002 after she protested to FBI managers about shoddy wiretap translations and told them an interpreter with a relative at a foreign embassy might have compromised national security by blocking translations in some cases and notifying targets of FBI surveillance....

Fine did not specify whether Edmonds's charges of espionage were true. He said that was beyond the scope of his probe. But he criticized the FBI's review of the spying allegations, which he said were "supported by either documentary evidence or witnesses other than Edmonds."

The report did not name Edmonds's co-worker, although Edmonds has identified the employee in comments to journalists. The report said there could be innocent explanations for the co-worker's behavior, but "other explanations were not innocuous."

The report noted that Edmonds's co-worker passed a lie detector test, as Edmonds has done, but it described the polygraph examinations as "not ideal" and noted that follow-up tests were not conducted....

Edmonds is described in the new report as an outspoken, distracting worker who irritated FBI supervisors and was "not an easy employee to manage." Nevertheless, it concluded the FBI fired her largely because of her allegations, not her work habits. (emphasis added)

That assessment of Simonds raises a point I've made in the past about whistle-blowers: "there's probably a strong correlation between being a whistle-blower and generally being a royal pain-in-the-ass."

Jerry Seper has a similar story in the Washington Times (link via Glenn Reynolds). Better yet, why not read the unclassified summary of the actual OIG report?

posted by Dan at 06:10 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, January 14, 2005

Your weekend reading -- from the CIA

The National Inteligence Council -- the intelligence community's "center for midterm and long-term strategic thinking" -- has released its latest version of Mapping the Global Future: Global Trends 2020. For newspaper accounts, click on this USA Today story by John Diamond. According to the NIC's home page, this time the project used some of that Internet stuff I've heard so much about:

Significantly, the NIC 2020 Project employed information technology and analytic tools unavailable in earlier NIC efforts. We created an interactive Web site which contained several tools including a "hands-on" computer simulation that allows novice and expert alike to develop their own scenarios. This "International Futures" model is now available to the public to explore.

In perhaps a troubling sign for the NIC, when I clicked on that link all I got was a "Service Unavailable" message.

This glitch does not mean the whole project is without interest. For example, check out this graph:


Food for thought.

UPDATE: Never have I seen so many comments posted asking me for further guidance in understanding a graph. First, click here to see the graph in context, and here to see the list of contributors to the project.

From what I can divine, the graph's y-axis is equal to (total # of muslims living in the EU)/(total # of ethnic Europeans living in the EU). That metric is a bit unusual -- ordinarily one would show (total # of muslims)/(total # of people -- including Muslims). The labeling of the y-axis and the unusual NIC metric suggest could lead a casual observer to conclude that there are more Muslims in Europe than there actually are.

As for the trend lines, they look reasonable, given the low fertility rates of "indigineous" Europeans and high fertility and migration rates of Muslims.

For harder data (as opposed to trend lines), click over to

posted by Dan at 09:40 PM | Comments (60) | Trackbacks (7)

When offshore outsourcing reverses course

Following the "homeshoring" meme, there are lots of reports this month about American firms souring on offshore outsourcing and reverting to onshore outsourcing instead. CNET's Ed Frauenheim has one story about tech companies outsourcing to a firm with operations in Oklahoma City. Another story takes a longer look at one homeshoring firm, Decisions Design:

Decision Design knows first-hand about the potential pitfalls of shipping tasks to India. The company launched Indian operations in 2001 but closed them down two years later. "Our offshore experience wasn't what we anticipated," Davis said in a statement. "The quality of work was lower than required, which caused rework and actually created higher costs than if we had done the work here."

The botched experiment led the company to the notion of "homeshoring centers" in the United States that nonetheless offer low costs to customers. In part by locating offices on the fringe of Silicon Valley and Chicago, the company claims that it can deliver savings of 30 percent to 60 percent below typical onshore development costs.

Decision Design, whose clients include Lehman Brothers and JPMorgan Chase, was brought in several times last year when a customer's offshore project wasn't panning out properly, O'Neill said. Offshore operations face problems, including low quality and slow project completion times, she said.

Here's a link to a press release from Housteau, third homeshoring firm, opening up a new development center in Columbus.

With rising wages in India and other offshoring magnets, expect to see more stories about this trend.

[Hold on a sec; how can you simultaneously defend the practice of offshore outsourcing but still celebrate homeshoring?--ed. Ah, but remember what I actually wrote in "The Outsourcing Bogeyman":

It is also worth remembering that many predictions [about the growth of offshore outsourcing] come from management consultants who are eager to push the latest business fad. Many of these consulting firms are themselves reaping commissions from outsourcing contracts. Much of the perceived boom in outsourcing stems from companies' eagerness to latch onto the latest management trends; like Dell and Lehman, many will partially reverse course once the hidden costs of offshore outsourcing become apparent.

I still think that offshoring, when done correctly, benefits the U.S. economy. But what we're seeing in the links above is the reversing of course.]

posted by Dan at 05:46 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (1)

How teaching at the University of Chicago affects my thinking

Continuing the sports-blogging of today, Baseball America has a fascinating discussion between two old-style baseball scouts and two new-style sabermetricians (link via David Pinto). As Alan Schwartz frames the discussion:

For the past two years, the scouting and statistics communities have feuded like members of rival families. Baseball lifers who evaluate players with their eyes are derided as over-the-hill beanbags who don’t understand the next frontier. Numbers-oriented people are cast as cold, computer-wielding propellerheads with no appreciation for scouting intangibles. Not surprisingly, the camps have grown so polarized that they have retreated to their respective bunkers rather than engage in open and intelligent debate.

Read the whole thing. As I read it, my mind turned -- naturally -- to Thomas Hobbes.

[WTF??!!--ed] I grant that the link between Hobbes' Leviathan and Moneyball seems odd, but this is what teaching in the Universoty of Chicago's core curriculum has done to me. I kept thinking that the debate between scouts (who are mostly baseball lifers with vast amounts of experience in the game) and sabremetricians (who believe there are pretty strong cause-and-effect relationships between certain statistical measures and future performance) is the same as Hobbes' ranking of the epistemological merits of experience and science. From Chapter V, Book I of Leviathan:

As much experience is prudence, so is much science sapience. For though we usually have one name of wisdom for them both; yet the Latins did always distinguish between prudentia and sapientia; ascribing the former to experience, the latter to science. But to make their difference appear more clearly, let us suppose one man endued with an excellent natural use and dexterity in handling his arms; and another to have added to that dexterity an acquired science of where he can offend, or be offended by his adversary, in every possible posture or guard: the ability of the former would be to the ability of the latter, as prudence to sapience; both useful, but the latter infallible.

Hobbes' point was that the prudence gained from experience was certainly useful -- but not nearly as useful as combining prudence with a scientific way of looking at things. The good sabermetricians represent how science can improve upon experience.

I think it's safe to say I would not have made this link were I teaching elsewhere.

[Wow, a post about Hobbes, the U of C, and baseball stats -- talk about a huge demographic!! Huge!!--ed.]

UPDATE: ESPN's Rob Neyer is pessimistic that there really can be an exchange between sabermetricians and scouts. No mention of Hobbes, however.

posted by Dan at 12:58 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (1)

Charles P. Pierce doesn't like capitalism very much

Pierce -- who writes for the Boston Globe Magazine, Esquire. and appears regularly on National Public Radio, has a truly bizarre Slate essay that takes aim at Michael Jordan.

What, exactly, has Jordan done to incur Pierce's wrath? He's expanding his business empire:

Michael Jordan, a once-famous basketball personage, announced last week that he had teamed up with a Chicago development firm to build a brand-new casino resort about a half-block east of Caesars Palace, just off the Strip, in Las Vegas. There is no place in America demonstrably more homogenized or more corporatized than Vegas. Logos have swarmed in from every point on the compass. Las Vegas now differs from, say, Charlotte only in that it has casinos instead of Gaps and Banana Republics, except that it has those, too. This is Michael Jordan's kind of sin. This is Michael Jordan's kind of town.

The last couple of months have been a triumph of banality, even by Jordan's standards, which always have been considerable. He's lent his name to a motorcycle racing team; Michael Jordan Motorsports began testing at Daytona on Jan. 3. He's turned up at his son's basketball games, complete with an entourage to shoo away the curious. He appeared on My Wife and Kids, a truly godawful ABC sitcom on which his fellow guest stars included Al Sharpton and Wayne Newton, who at least share a similar taste in pompadours and amulets. And now, he will bring to Las Vegas yet another banging, clanging neon corral, with a fitness center, a spa, and a rooftop nightclub. The surprise is not that Michael Jordan has become such an unremarkable, boring old suit. The surprise is that we ever saw him any other way.

Michael Jordan was a great player. He also was a great salesman. And that was all he ever was, and that seems to be all that he ever will be. There's nothing wrong with that. He made some great plays and some pretty good commercials. Has anyone so completely dominated his sport and left so small a mark upon it? From the very beginning of his professional career, and long before he'd won anything at all, Michael Jordan and his handlers worked so diligently at developing the brand that it ultimately became impossible to remember where the logo left off and the person began. He talked like a man raised by focus groups. He created a person without edges, smooth and sleek and without any places for anyone to get a grip on him. He was roundly, perfectly manufactured, and he was cosseted, always, by his creators and his caretakers, against the nicks and dings that happen to any other public person. He held himself aloof from the emerging hip-hop culture that became—for good and ill—the predominant culture of the NBA. Remember, he once warned us, Republicans buy shoes, too. He always sold himself to people older than he was.

How dare Jordan cater to old fans!!!

I'm genuinely baffled by Pierce's claim in the piece that "there's nothing wrong" with Jordan just being a great player and great salesman -- because the entire essay is devoted to saying that those things are somewhow wrong. Furthermore, even on this plane of analysis, Pierce tries to diminish Jordan's effect as a pitchman, when in fact his effect overshadowed every other athlete up to his time (click here for the whole story). The fact that Jordan was perhaps the first African-American sports figure to be able to achieve such a high-demand status within the corporate world goes unremarked by Pierce as well.

As for Jordan's business ventures since his retirement, I'll let these words from Magic Johnson speak for themselves:

When I was an NBA player, I was always dreaming of business plans. As a black man you have to. Minorities make money, but we don't generate wealth. But a business generates wealth—it is power, it is something that you can pass on to the next generation. That is what is needed in the black community. We can pass on problems—it's about time we passed on wealth.

Side note: I'm personally very, very grateful to Magic -- thanks to his Urban Coffee Opportunities program, the Hyde Park neighborhood has more places to get a decent cup of coffee.

Click here for another blog response to the Pierce essay.

posted by Dan at 12:13 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Can the New York Times and booger jokes co-exist?

Over at Slate, Bryan Curtis has a subversive proposal regarding Dave Barry and the Grey Lady:

Here's an idea: As soon as William Safire shuffles off to the Old Columnists' Home, put Barry smack dab in the middle of the Times editorial page. Barry confessed a few years ago that he's a raving libertarian—just the kind of dyspeptic crank who would take pleasure in thumbing Washington in the eye. Give him 14 inches twice a week and let him write whatever he wants. Why settle for another graying libertarian when you can have a libertarian who makes booger jokes?

The big question -- aside from how quickly the Timesmen dismissed this suggestion -- is whether Barry would give up his blog to do it.

posted by Dan at 11:27 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Your Jewish humor of the week

When I clicked on this Eric Muller post (link via Matthew Yglesias), I laughed so loud I nearly woke up my sleeping baby daughter -- a hanging offense in this household.

As Eric put it in his post, "Either you will find this funny without my explaining it to you, or no amount of explaining will do the trick."

UPDATE: This link, on the other hand, will probably be funny to Jews and non-Jews alike.

posted by Dan at 11:12 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (2)

Regarding Dan Rather and Armstrong Williams

I've been remiss in not posting about the Rathergate Commission report as well as the Armstrong Williams scandal. Fortunately, Kathleen Parker's syndicated column sums up my thoughts on both matters pretty well -- so go check out her argument (Jeff Jarvis too -- though that's always a good recommendation).

Oh, except for this part of Parker's essay:

What happened with Williams affects all of us in the business, as we share the same precious real estate and public trust. To readers seeing columnists clustered together on a page, we appear to be members of the same club. Increasingly, however, commentators are products of think tanks or politics--or renegade blond prosecutors--which can be problematic, but not always bad.

Many of these people, including Williams, can bring unique insights and experiences to the debate. The same is true of the new media genre known as blogs, in which citizen journalists post news links and commentary on the Web, often shadowing the mainstream media, challenging and fact-checking, as well as influencing outcomes in politics and government.

They are a formidable and welcome force, but as non-journalists in the institutional sense, they're accountable to no one. Therein shines the little light we can find among these dark tales of the fallen.

For all their flaws, mainstream (institutional) journalists are accountable where others are not. When they mess up, consequences are real and ruthless, as Williams and the CBS folks can attest. That much consumers can rely upon. (emphasis added)

In one sense Parker is correct -- if a blogger just screws up, nothing prevents that blogger from continuing to post. However, without acknowledging mistakes, that blogger is suddenly going to have a lot fewer readers than before -- and that is a formidable constraint. The mainstream media can experience this problem as well, but not as powerfully. In part that's because a blogger is the sole content provider for his or her blog, whereas a columnist -- or even an anchorman -- is only a cog in a larger media machine.

The key is that bolded part about "acknowledging mistakes" -- and this is one area where the blogosphere has an advantage. Ironically, because bloggers tend to screw up on a regular basis, it is far easier for us to admit error. Journalists are probably more diligent at fact-checking, and probably make fewer mistakes overall. But they do make them. Because these mistakes are more infrequent, and because accuracy is a slightly more precious currency in the mediasphere than the blogosphere, they will resist admissions of error -- compounding the original problem.

This dynamic is reflected in RatherGate. The telling section in the CBS report is how producer Mary Mapes, Rather, et al reacted after their report was challenged. They dug in their heels and engaged in even more distorted reporting in an attempt to defend the veracity of their documentation (check out p. 183 of the report, for example).

posted by Dan at 05:14 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (0)

The political economy of disaster aid and debt relief

The Economist has a good backgrounder on the delicate politics of proffering aid and debt moratoriums as a means of assisting countries experiencing natural disasters. It opens as follows:

Between them, the 19 member states of the Paris Club, an informal coterie of major lenders, pledged $3.64 billion in aid to the countries afflicted by the Indian Ocean tsunami. But these 19 countries, meeting in the French capital on Wednesday January 12th, had also been due to receive about $5 billion in debt repayments this year from these same disaster-hit nations. Indonesia, the country that suffered the most casualties in the disaster, also carries the bulk of the region’s debt. It was due to pay $3.15 billion in principal and $1.36 billion in interest in 2005. But at its meeting, the Paris Club decided to offer all tsunami-hit countries a freeze on debt repayments, starting immediately, until the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have completed an assessment of their needs. In the face of such suffering, the rich world has agreed to be generous, not usurious.

But not all of Indonesia’s fellow sufferers are crying out for their burden to be lifted. Thailand, for one, is cautious about creditors’ magnanimity. To delay its repayments may send the wrong signal to the capital markets, it fears, suggesting that Thailand is a mendicant country unable to carry its debts. This might deter new creditors and investors. Thailand therefore may thus decide to show that it can pay its debts in full and on time, even though it is not now obliged to do so.

Some of the lenders have also had reservations about offering debt relief, although it is impolitic to air them too loudly. Such relief frees up resources, which a government can then devote to aid and reconstruction—or divert to anything else. Heavily indebted governments tend to be bad governments, sceptics argue. If they cannot borrow money prudently, why should we trust them to spend it well?

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: CNN provides another complication when disaster relief is deployed:

Concerns continue to grow over Indonesian efforts to exert more control over aid operations in Aceh province, which was devastated by the December 26 tsunamis.

Jakarta is telling aid workers and reporters to keep the military informed about their locations and travel plans in the region, especially if venturing outside Banda Aceh or Meulobah.

The government has warned of possible violence by separatist rebels in Aceh, although both the rebels and Jakarta declared a cease-fire after the tsunami.

Indonesian vice president Yusuf Kalla also suggested all foreign troops providing aid in Aceh should plan to be out of the area by March 31.

posted by Dan at 02:42 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (1)

A very important post about... food porn


What you see above you is the Hardee's Monster Thickburger. The burger contains 1,420 calories and 107 grams of fat according to MSNBC. Here's their more complete description:

[T]wo one-third-pound slabs of Angus beef, four strips of bacon, three slices of cheese and mayonnaise on a buttered sesame seed bun. The sandwich alone sells for $5.49 or $7.09 with a medium fries (520 calories) and soda (about 400 calories). [Which adds up to a 2,340 calorie meal. If memory serves, it's commonly assumed that the daily caloric intake of a healthy adult is around 2,000 calories--DD]

McDonald’s Corp., Wendy’s International Inc. and other fast-food giants have broadened their offerings of salad and other lower-calorie fare amid concerns the industry could be held legally liable for America’s obesity epidemic. Hardee's [also called Carl's Jr. in some parts of the country--DD] offers no such concessions, although the chain is not completely oblivious to dietary trends, offering at least three "low-carb" items including a low-carb Thickburger.

In an interview on CNBC, Hardee's chief executive Andrew Puzder was unapologetic, saying the company's latest sandwich is "not a burger for tree-huggers."

"This is a burger for young hungry guys who want a really big, delicious, juicy, decadent burger," he said. "I hope our competitors keep promoting those healthy products, and we will keep promoting our big, juicy delicious burgers."

This CBS report by Jim Axelrod has more funny quotes from Puzder:

You got all four major food groups. You got beef, pork, mayonnaise and butter.

"You got everything ... yeah," said Hardee's CEO Andy Puzder....

On one hand, it's inspiring late-night ridicule as a heart attack on a bun, as talk show hosts such as David Letterman jest. One showed a picture of faux doctors performing defibrillation on an imitation Hardees owner.

"They actually had somebody play me on a TV show, and I had a heart attack," Pudzer said. "I even thought that was good. My ex-wife wanted a copy."

And harsh criticism from the food police…

"This is the epitome of corporate irresponsibility, marketing this kind of junk," said Michael Jacobson, from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "We call this kind of product food porn."

But despite the bad press, or may be because of it, it's also produced an 8 percent growth in sales for Hardees. Blue-state critics, meet red-state consumers.

"Well it's a heavy burger," one consumer said. "It definitely fills my stomach up."

The reporter told Puzder, when halfway through his burger: "I can't eat another bite. I'm all done. Is this common?"

"Not for me," Puzder said.

Speaking of food porn, Puzder's irreverent sense of humor translates into Hardee's new and risqué advertising campaign. Seth Stevenson has a review of these ads in Slate -- as he concludes, "Whatever I may think of these ads, I bet they're effective with the target demographic." He's probably right -- click here for the ad that, er, goes the furthest along this line (it's entitled "Fist Girl").

[What, exactly, was the point of this post?--ed. Well, there's a complex observation to be made here about what "Red America" wants -- Many lefty commentators believe that Red Staters are getting hoodwinked into buying deceptive political propaganda about "moral values" hook, line, and sinker. The appeal of the Monster Thickburger suggests that Red State denizens know exactly what they want, and appreciate it when it's sold to them without any deception whatsoever. Oh, bullsh**t, you just wanted to write a post with the title of "Food Porn" in it and get yourself a Wonkette link!--ed. The two points are not mutually exclusive.]

My question to readers -- does the blunt salesmanship make you more likely or less likely to go to a Hardee's and order a Monster Thickburger?

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds offers his answer as well as a food review.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Based on the comments so far (and previous blog posts on this topic), there's another possible reason for the appeal of the Monster Thickburger -- the fact that institutions like the Center for Science in the Public Interest preach against it. Indeed, their decision to label all Thickburgers as "food porn" guaranteed that they would earn sound bites, but the effect might be the opposite of what they intended. I gotta think that if a consumer sees something with that label, it will pique rather than retard their interest (insert your own joke about "larger beef" or "more pork" here). If I was Hardee's Andy Puzder, I'd try to spam e-mail this CPSI warning to as many potential customers as possible.

[What if you were working for the CPSI?--ed. There are two possibilities. One option is to try to beat Hardee's at their own game and go snarky rather than excessively earnest -- like the truth ads with regard to smoking. The other option is to be callous and wait for the Red State population to prematurely decline on its own accord after elevated consumption of Monster Thickburgers.]

FINAL UPDATE: This post nicely coincides with Department of Agriculture release of Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. Among the key recommendations: "To maintain body weight in a healthy range, balance calories from foods and beverages with calories expended." (link via food economist Parke Wilde)

posted by Dan at 11:08 AM | Comments (132) | Trackbacks (12)

What happens when women become doctors?

Ronald Kotulak has an interesting front-pager in the Chicago Tribune on the effect of an increased number of female doctors on the health care system. The article is interesting in how it skirts the line between stereotyping and just saying what's true:

With women becoming doctors in ever-increasing numbers, medicine is generally becoming more patient friendly, treatment is improving and malpractice suits may become less common, experts say.

But, they add, the feminization of medicine is helping to lower physician salaries, encourage part-time doctoring and exacerbate a looming shortage of physicians.

The change in the medical field has been swift and dramatic. Since 1975 the percentage of female doctors has nearly tripled, from 9 percent to 25 percent. And the wave is far from cresting: 38 percent of doctors under age 44 are women, and half the students in U.S. medical schools are women, a change that is expected to intensify.

Already, women have taken over some specialties, such as pediatrics, and they are swarming into internal medicine, primary care, psychiatry, dermatology, and obstetrics and gynecology.

The changes are setting in motion dramatic new trends that already are affecting both patient care and the profession of doctoring.

One result is a patient-doctor relationship that is more empathetic, compassionate and nurturing. Many women go into medicine because they feel rewarded helping people, said Jorge Girotti, associate dean for admissions at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical School, where 54 percent of the 300 entering students are female.

"If you bring that attitude in, you're more likely to see the overall patient as a whole rather than just a disease," he said. "Knowing what may be going on with a particular patient may require a broader interest rather than just the one symptom they tell you about."

But the sweeping changes also are affecting how doctors spend their time. Female physicians are more likely to work in teams, provide care for the poor, take institutional jobs with shorter hours and take lower-paying positions, all of which lower salaries overall, according to experts. They also are pioneering a trend toward part-time work and rebelling against the extremely long hours often associated with the profession.

A recent survey of graduating pediatric residents found 58 percent of the females--and 15 percent of the males--said they had a strong interest in part-time work. Now, just 15 percent of pediatricians work part time.

Read the whole thing. What's particularly interesting is the "colonization" of women into the subspecialties that permit flexible work hours.

I'm sure there's a labor economist somewhere writing about this... which would be ironic, as women who get doctorates in economics disproportionately become labor economists (the joke when I was in grad school was, "all women go into labor").

posted by Dan at 10:49 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

When bilateral is better than multilateral

Raphael Minder reports for the Financial Times that the United States and European Union have decided to settle the Boeing/Airbus dispute through bilateral talks rather than continue to seek a WTO ruling:

The US and the European Union buried the hatchet on Tuesday in their trade dispute over aircraft subsidies, saying they would return to the negotiating table to reach a bilateral agreement curtailing aid to Airbus and Boeing.

In October, the US and the EU launched the biggest dispute in the history of the World Trade Organisation in an effort to end what each side said were unfair subsidies to the world's two largest aircraft makers.

Brussels and Washington appear to have decided that too much was at stake to risk the prospect of a WTO ruling that could prove self-defeating for both sides. Instead, the two parties will give themselves three months to reach an agreement "to end subsidies to large civil aircraft producers in a way that establishes fair market competition for all development and production" of aircraft.

Peter Mandelson, the EU's trade commissioner, said: "When disputes arise in transatlantic trade relations we should try to solve them by dialogue and co-operation. Today's agreement creates a positive atmosphere for more work to strengthen the economic partnership between the EU and the US, which is vital for both of us." From the start, Mr Mandelson expressed hope that the dispute might be "kept out of the WTO net through a proper discussion."

....The US was due to ask for the formation of a WTO panel later this week, but both sides appear to have concluded that a lengthy WTO dispute settlement procedure, which would no doubt have led to appeals, would have created huge uncertainty for the two aircraft makers at the time at a crucial time in their product development.

Click here and here for previous posts on this topic.

This is a win-win-win decision. The United States and the European Union benefit from being able to craft a compromise rather than risking a WTO arbitration ruling that theoretically could have hurt both governments. Furthermore, bilateral talks permit the kind of give-and-take in bargaining that a WTO panel can't provide.

The WTO wins because it doesn't have to deal with this case -- which for many reasons is ill-suited for its dispute settlement mechanism. More importantly, the WTO keeps its reputation intact. The high stakes nature of this dispute virtually guaranteed that one or both economic great powers would not have complied with the WTO ruling. All that would have done is weaken the legitimacy and credibility of one of those rare multilateral organizations that is generally acknowledged to be effective.

posted by Dan at 11:56 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (2)

Monday, January 10, 2005

Why do the Democrats reward failure?

There was a sentence in this Associated Press report on possible replacements for Terry McAuliffe to be the new Democratic Party chairman that caused me to pause and re-read to make sure I wasn't hallucinating:

Others who have expressed interest in the chairmanship include former Texas Rep. Martin Frost, Democratic activists Simon Rosenberg and Donnie Fowler, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and former Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Leland. Howard Dean, a former Democratic presidential candidate, is considering whether to join the race.

Some Democrats have approached current chairman Terry McAuliffe about remaining in the job. (emphasis added)

As someone who likes to see an incentive system whereby losing political parties search for ideas and individuals that can help them win again, what the f#%$ are the Democrats asking McAuliffe to stay on thinking?

This is emblematic of a larger problem bedeviling the Democrats -- an oligarchy of party consultants that are not ousted after losing. Amy Sullivan has a great Washington Monthly story on the problem. Some highlights:

[Joe] Hansen is part of a clique of Washington consultants who, through their insider ties, continue to get rewarded with business even after losing continually. Pollster Mark Mellman is popular among Democrats because he tells them what they so desperately want to hear: Their policies are sound, Americans really agree with them more than with Republicans, and if they just repeat their mantras loud enough, voters will eventually embrace the party. As Noam Scheiber pointed out in a New Republic article following the great Democratic debacle of '02, Mellman was, perhaps more than anyone else, the architect of that defeat. As the DSCC's recommended pollster, he advised congressional Democrats to ignore national security and Iraq in favor of an endless campaign about prescription drugs and education. After the party got its clock cleaned based on his advice, Mellman should have been exiled but was instead...promoted. He became the lead pollster for John Kerry's presidential campaign, where he proffered eerily similar advice—stress domestic policy, stay away from attacking Bush—to much the same effect.

Hansen and Mellman are joined by the poster boy of Democratic social promotion, Bob Shrum. Over his 30-year career, Shrum has worked on the campaigns of seven losing presidential candidates—from George McGovern to Bob Kerrey—capping his record with a leading role in the disaster that was the Gore campaign. Yet, instead of abiding by the “seven strikes and you're out” rule, Democrats have continued to pay top dollar for his services (sums that are supplemented by the percentage Shrum's firm, Shrum, Devine & Donilon, gets for purchasing air time for commercials). Although Shrum has never put anyone in the White House, in the bizarro world of Democratic politics, he's seen as a kingmaker—merely hiring the media strategist gives a candidate such instant credibility with big-ticket liberal funders that John Kerry and John Edwards fought a fierce battle heading into the 2004 primaries to lure Shrum to their camps. Ultimately, Shrum chose Kerry, and on Nov. 3, he extended his perfect losing record.

Since their devastating loss last fall, Democrats have cast about for reasons why their party has come up short three election cycles in a row and have debated what to do. Should they lure better candidates? Talk more about morality? Adopt a harder line on national security? But one of the most obvious and least discussed reasons Democrats continue to lose is their consultants. Every sports fan knows that if a team boasts a losing record several seasons in a row, the coach has to be replaced with someone who can win. Yet when it comes to political consultants, Democrats seem incapable of taking this basic managerial step.....

This Peters Principle effect of Democratic operatives rising—or muscling their way—up to the level of their incompetence, happens for a simple reason: The consultants are filling a vacuum. After all, someone has to formulate the message that a candidate can use to win the voters' support. Conservatives have spent 30 years and billions of dollars on think tanks and other organizations to develop a set of interlinked policies and language that individual Republican candidates and campaigns can adopt in plug-and-play fashion. Liberals are far behind in this message development game. Indeed, most Democratic elected officials have been running recently on warmed-up leftovers from the Clinton brain trust, ideas which were once innovative but are now far from fresh. With little else to go on, consultants—many of whom came to prominence during the Clinton years—have clung to old ideas and strategies like security blankets. “Democratic consultants are being asked to fill a role they're not suited to,” says Simon Rosenberg, head of the New Democratic Network, “to come up with ideas and electoral strategy in addition to media strategy.”

Rosenberg hints at a second Democratic deficit: The party has no truly brilliant strategists in positions of power. Such talent is always rare in both parties and tends to come out of the political hinterlands, often as part of a winning presidential campaign team. Jimmy Carter's 1976 campaign was waged by a crew of Georgia political operatives with the help of unconventional pollster Pat Caddell. Four years later, Reagan defeated Carter by relying on a California-based gang of professionals. James Carville and Paul Begala were largely unknown before they took Bill Clinton to the White House. And outside the South, the team of Karl Rove, Karen Hughes, and Mark McKinnon weren't much less obscure when they put together the strategy for George W. Bush's winning 2000 campaign.

Republicans have proven much more adept than Democrats at giving their best talent a national stage. While Democrats have permitted a Washington consultancy class to become comfortably entrenched, Republicans have effectively begun to pension off their own establishment. “The D.C. consultants for the GOP have their list of clients, but they're definitely on the outside looking in,” Chuck Todd told me. “The Bush people have been very careful to give them work…but they're not in the inner circle.” In 2004, seasoned Washington media strategist Alex Castellanos paid the bills with a handful of safe congressional races and a few unsuccessful primary challengers. Meanwhile, nearly every tight Senate race (North Carolina, Alaska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Florida) was handled by a Tampa-based firm, The Victory Group.

Republicans, of course, don't have any natural monopoly on strategic talent—they just give their best young strategists chances to run the biggest national races. In all likelihood, there is another Karl Rove or James Carville out in the Democratic hinterlands, who ought to be playing essential roles in the most important races. It might be David Axelrod in Chicago, who developed the media strategy for the then-unknown Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) primary campaign; West Coast strategists Paul Goodwin and Amy Simon, who helped Democrats regain the legislature in Washington state; or even unconventional D.C.-based consultants like Anna Bennett, the pollster who engineered Melissa Bean's upset of veteran Rep. Phil Crane (R-Ill.) in November. But any new talent will likely remain on the national margins—running races for Congress and judgeships—until someone breaks up the consultant oligarchy.

The electoral system takes care of dead weight when it comes to politicians. The proof is in the political wreckage evident after yet another year of Democratic defeats at the polls. Dick Gephardt—after 10 years at the helm of the Democratic minority in the House—has decided to go back home to Missouri. John Kerry is returning to the Senate instead of stretching out his legs in the Oval Office. The consultants, however, live on. After pocketing a $5-million paycheck following the election, Shrum is back from a vacation in Tuscany and now advising Sen. Jon Corzine's (D-N.J.) gubernatorial race. Mellman, whose advice helped sink Democrats for two consecutive campaign cycles, continues to line up clients. As for Hansen, his connection to Daschle may not help him now that the South Dakotan has vacated the Democratic leader's office. But don't cry for Joe Hansen—he's the consultant for incoming Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 11:34 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (2)

What's next for Palestine

It looks like Mahmoud Abbas won a healthy mandate in Palestine. What should he do now?

Seth Jones offers some suggestions in the Financial Times [Full disclosure: Jones did his graduate work in poli sci at the U of C.] Some highlights:

An opinion poll regularly conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, an independent body, shows the percentage of Palestinians who believe there is significant corruption in Palestinian Authority institutions jumped from about 50 per cent in 1996 to more than 85 per cent last year. This explains the frenzied demonstrations by Palestinian crowds against corruption in the authority last year.

The first step after Sunday's election to create a better security and justice system for Palestinians is to restructure their “Balkanised” security services. There are roughly nine Palestinian security services in the West Bank and Gaza each. They range from civil police to the General Intelligence service, or Mukhabarat Salamah. Arafat retained power and control over these services with few checks and balances. They were organised under the rule of political leaders rather than the rule of law. The restructuring should include decreasing the number of services, eliminating direct executive control over them and separating law- enforcement functions from intelligence and other security aspects by placing them in different ministries.

Read the whole thing. And offer your comments about whether Abbas will be able to turn the Palestinian Authority into a functioning, law-abiding state.

posted by Dan at 10:38 AM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (1)

That silly Alan Dershowitz

Look, the Harvard Law School has taken its fair share of lumps in the past year -- so critiquing Alan Dershowitz's critique of John Grisham's latest potboiler in the New York Times Book Review seems a bit like piling on.

However, I can't let this paragraph slide:

I have long been a Grisham reader. I have to be. So many of my students come to law school primed by Grisham novels -- and the movies based on them -- as their introduction to the practice of law. In many ways, it is a better introduction than high school civics and college political science courses that preach an incorruptible legal system -- especially its judiciary -- that always remains above politics. Grisham's lawyers and judges may be a bit over the top, but they are often closer to the real thing than the hagiographies of our ''sainted'' judges that pass for judicial biography.

I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that students who decide to matriculate at Harvard's law school might -- just might -- have formed their opinions about the law from a greater range of experience than reading Grisham's oeuvre. At a minimum, I'm sure they've read Scott Turow's vastly superior legal thrillers.

Second, it's clearly been a long, long time since Dershowitz checked out the political science literature on the judiciary. I'm hardly an expert on the poli sci literature on the courts, but even I am dimly aware that the trend in the past few decades has been to study judges as rational actors intent on pursuing political agendas -- not exactly above politics (click here for some examples of this literature) Comparative political scientists do tend to assume that American judges are less corrupt than many of their foreign counterparts -- because that appears to be true. However, political scientists have long abandoned the concept that judges do not think or act in a political or strategic manner. And I'm pretty sure that this is reflected in undergraduate courses.

posted by Dan at 10:30 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, January 7, 2005

There really is a blog about everything

With Robert Zoellick's move to the State Department, the number of possible candidates for World Bank President declines by one.

I would now blog more about this kind of rumor mill -- except there is already a blog devoted solely to this topic. So I'm outsourcing speculation to that site.

This leads me to this Leonard Witt post about the structure of the blogosphere. It's really an exchange between Jeff Jarvis and Lewis Friedland over whether the blogosphere amounts to anything new. Friedland is skeptical:

Blogs like everything else on the net are subject to certain laws of exponential traffic, sometimes called Power Laws. And while there may be 1.65 million Blogs out there that are semi-active, there are a very tiny, tiny handful of those notes that are actually read. And they in fact do control traffic, that's the way traffic on the net works. And to say that because anybody can be a publisher that that opens up a broad range of voices is a delusion really. Yes, new voices will enter the mainstream consistently but they will not be trafficked to simply because they are smart and clever. Some will, but and this is my third and final point, much of the traffic on the net when you start investigating the structure of the Blogosphere and the structure of the net very much represented the horserace political commentary of much of the mainstream media. It’s clever, it’s more up to date, it has more voice, there's more opinion, its sharper; but if you look at the Blogosphere as a whole with some important exceptions much of what it consists of is a lot of he-said, she-said political commentary that is not any different what you would find on the cable news networks.

Click on the link to see Jarvis' response, which I agree with. Basically, it boils down to the notion that there are mass audiences and there are niche audiences -- and different blogs feed different types of audiences. For each audience, a skewed distribution of traffic and links exists -- but just because a blogger doesn't generate Glenn Reynolds' kind of traffic does not automatically render them unimportant.

The fact that David Stevens and Alex Wilks decided to set up a blog devoted exclusively to the search for a new World Bank President -- which, let's face it, is not on most people's radar screen -- is a point for Jarvis.

Anyway, click over there to get and give the best dirt on possible candidates and their odds.

posted by Dan at 05:28 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Here's what I hear about Zoellick

Robert Zoellick will be moving from from U.S. trade representative to Deputy Secretary of State. Here's the Bloomberg report by Glenn Hall:

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick was nominated to the No. 2 post in the State Department as a replacement for Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

Zoellick, 51, whose nomination requires Senate confirmation, would serve as deputy to Condoleezza Rice, President George W. Bush's nominee for secretary of state. They worked together on the National Security Council under President George H.W. Bush in the late 1980s....

Zoellick is "a sensible choice,'' said Harlan Ullman, who taught Powell at the National War College and now serves as an adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based policy group. "He doesn't seem to have the ideological baggage of other people,'' he said. Zoellick "would be seen more in the centrist camp.''

Confirmation hearings in the Senate for Rice are scheduled to begin Jan. 18. A date for Zoellick's hearing hasn't been set.

Ullman said there was speculation Bush might choose John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control, to fill the No. 2 spot at the department as Bolton often is the department's most outspoken critic of countries such as Iran and North Korea.

Bolton is not expected to remain in his current position, after failing to secure the deputy position, a State Department official said on the condition of anonymity.

Zoellick may prove even more helpful than Bolton because of his effectiveness in keeping a bureaucracy in line, said Gary Schmitt, president of the Project for the New American Century, a Washington-based policy study group.

That kind of control could mean Rice and Bush will face less dissent from the higher ranks of the department, Schmitt said.

"Zoellick is one tough nut when it comes to managing things,'' Schmitt said. "The bureau will be managed, that's for sure.''

Schmitt's approving comments suggest that Matthew Yglesias might be jumping the gun in claiming that the neocons lost this round -- though it's equally possible that Schmitt is just spinning.

Matt points out the difficulty in deciphering Zoellick's own political preferences:

I've heard it said that he's a principled free trader who's just happened to lose a lot of internal battles with the White House political team, but I've also heard it said that he's a committed mercantilist whose views have made it hard for the White House economic team to get a proper hearing for their views.

To which Brad DeLong replies:

For the record, I have heard neither of these things said. What I've heard said is that Zoellick was relatively ineffective as USTR, and in meetings was more interested in figuring out what the High Politicians wished to hear than in giving good counsel.

I assume Brad is hearing that after reading the Ron Susskind book.

For the record, what I've heard about Zoellick at USTR is that he did the best he could with a weak hand -- i.e., Bush was never willing to commit significant amounts of politial capital in favor of more vigorous trade policies. Perhaps you could blame Zoellick for being unable to persuade Bush otherwise, but I suspect henever got the chance. Given this constraint, Zoellick worked hard to keep the Doha round on track while simultaneously attempting "competitive liberalization" as a policy. Given the policy environment he was operating in, I'd give Zoellick a B+.

As for Zoellick's deep thoughts on foreign policy, I would recommend his article "A Republican Foreign Policy" in the January/February 2000 issue of Foreign Affairs. It was the less-noticed companion piece to Condoleezza Rice's essay in the same issue.

Here's one section from Zoellick's article:

Five principles distinguish a modern Republican foreign policy. First, it is premised on a respect for power, being neither ashamed to pursue America's national interests nor too quick to use the country's might. By matching America's power to its interests, such a policy can achieve its objectives and build credibility both at home and abroad. U.S. policy should respect the histories, perspectives, and concerns of other nations, but it should not be paralyzed by intellectual penchants for moral relativism. All states do not play equally important roles. Given America's responsibilities in the world, it must retain its freedom to act against serious dangers.

Second, a modern Republican foreign policy emphasizes building and sustaining coalitions and alliances. Effective coalition leadership requires clear-eyed judgments about priorities, an appreciation of others' interests, constant consultations among partners, and a willingness to compromise on some points but to remain focused on core objectives. Allies and coalition partners should bear their fair share of the responsibilities; if they do, their views will be represented and respected. Similarly, to have an effective U.N., the key nations that compose it must recognize that their actions -- not their speeches and posturing in an international forum -- will determine whether problems can be solved.

Third, Republicans judge international agreements and institutions as means to achieve ends, not as forms of political therapy. Agreements and institutions can facilitate bargaining, recognize common interests, and resolve differences cooperatively. But international law, unlike domestic law, merely codifies an already agreed-upon cooperation. Even among democracies, international law not backed by enforcement mechanisms will need negotiations in order to work, and international law not backed by power cannot cope with dangerous people and states. Every issue need not be dealt with multilaterally.

Fourth, a modern Republican foreign policy must embrace the revolutionary changes in the information and communications, technology, commerce, and finance sectors that will shape the environment for global politics and security. Because of these changes, people's aspirations -- to exercise their free will and transform their lives -- are rising in all corners of the globe. Communities of private groups, whether organized for business or social ends, will achieve results far beyond the reach of governments and international bureaucracies. The United States can leverage this dynamism to open minds and markets. America's foreign policy must promote these global trends. It must take practical steps to move the world toward greater freedoms and human rights. It should link itself to the agents of change around the world through new networks of free trade, information, and investment.

Finally, a modern Republican foreign policy recognizes that there is still evil in the world -- people who hate America and the ideas for which it stands. Today, we face enemies who are hard at work to develop nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, along with the missiles to deliver them. The United States must remain vigilant and have the strength to defeat its enemies. People driven by enmity or by a need to dominate will not respond to reason or goodwill. They will manipulate civilized rules for uncivilized ends.

posted by Dan at 05:08 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, January 6, 2005

So you want to influence public opinion....

If you had an idea and wanted to insert it into the national debate, where would you publish it? In other words, what are the most influential media outlets in the United States?

Almost a decade ago, I had a conversation about this topic with someone who had served in the government at a pretty high level and was clearly on his way up the media ladder. His response was that on foreign policy questions, there were only four outlets that mattered: Foreign Affairs, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Which I've used as a rule of thumb.

Turns out that Erdos & Morgan conduct an annual survey on this kind of question -- although it deals with influence writ large rather than specifically influencing foreign policy. Last month the 2004-5 results were released -- and the Council on Foreign Relations is very excited about it:

Foreign Affairs has been ranked the most influential media outlet in the United States, according to a new study of U.S. opinion leaders conducted by Erdos & Morgan, the premier business-to-business research firm. The findings place Foreign Affairs ahead of all other magazines and newspapers - including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Economist - as well as all broadcast media....

The Erdos & Morgan 2004-2005 survey represents the views of over 450,000 American thought leaders who shape policy and opinion in the public and private sectors. It is the best-known and most widely used survey of opinion leaders in the United States, and documents where they get the information they use in their work.

Here's the top 10:

Foreign Affairs
CQ Weekly
The New York Times
The Wall Street Journal
The Economist
Harvard Business Review
The Washington Post
The New York Times Sunday Edition
The New England Journal of Medicine

A few things worth noting:

1) I'm surprised that no broadcast media cracked the top 10.

2) One wonders how individual blogs would do if they were added to the survey (I'm assuming they weren't, since this is targeted at large-scale advertisers. If Henry Copeland is smart, though, he'd pay to see that some blogs were added to the list). I doubt they would crack the top 10 -- but I could see one or two of them cracking the top 25.

UPDATE: Someone has e-mailed me this press release in which the New York Times makes similar claims to Foreign Affairs. However, read this comment -- which suggests that basically the NYT and Foreign Affairs are using slightly different interpretations of "influence" -- and both publications have some substantive claim to this mantle.

posted by Dan at 05:58 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (3)

My kind of big aims

The signature aspect of the current president is his belief that incrementalism is bunk. George W. Bush clearly believes that great achievements come from grand, uncompromising visions. If some of them fall by the wayside (mission to Mars, anyone?), so be it. But if even a few of these visions comes to fruition, then Bush can be viewed as both a successful politician and a world historical figure.

I'd be more excited about this if it wasn't for the concern I had about both the rank ordering and actual implementaion of these visions. Like Andrew Sullivan, I'm leery of the fact that tax fairness and Medicare reform were shunted aside in favor of Social Security reform -- one reason why I haven't blogged at all about the latter.

Still, if a politician adopts this style and seems to have is priorities in order, it can be damn inspiring.

Which brings me to the governor of California and his State of the State address. John M. Broder recaps it for the New York Times:

A little over a year after Arnold Schwarzenegger did an end run around politics as usual in the recall election that made him governor of California, he is embarking on a new campaign against the status quo here.

In his annual State of the State address on Wednesday night, the governor called on the Democratic-controlled Legislature to enact a fundamental overhaul that would include that most sacred of political cows, the way Congressional and legislative districts are drawn.

Mr. Schwarzenegger proposed turning over the drawing of the state's political map to a panel of retired judges, taking it out of the hands of lawmakers who for decades have used the redistricting process in a cozy bipartisan deal to choose their voters and cement their incumbency. He threatened to take the issue directly to the voters if the Legislature does not act on the plan in a special session he called for.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, noted that of the 153 seats in the California Congressional delegation and Legislature that were on the ballot in November, not one changed party hands.

"What kind of a democracy is that?" he asked in his address....

Although Mr. Schwarzenegger rode to office as the action-figure anti-politician ready to take on the entrenched interests in Sacramento, little has changed in the political culture here. Well-heeled interests still set the agenda, and the state still faces a huge budget gap.

The governor made clear in his address that he seeks to change all that. He endorsed a controversial proposal to convert the state's public employee retirement system from a traditional pension plan to an employee-directed program similar to the 401(k) plans often used in the private sector. He proposed a constitutional amendment that would impose automatic across-the-board spending cuts if state spending grew faster than revenues. And, calling California's public schools a disaster, he proposed that new teachers be paid based on merit, not just seniority.

He warned that if the Legislature did not heed his call, he would take his program to the voters in a special election, as he did last year to secure passage of a $15 billion bond to help balance the state's budget.

"If we here in this chamber do not work together to reform the government," the governor said, "the people will rise up and reform it themselves. And, you know something, I will join them. And I will fight with them."

The proposals will be hugely controversial. Democrats have already indicated they will oppose the redistricting plans. State employee unions will balk at what they will call the privatization of the state pension fund. Teachers' unions will scream about merit pay. The Legislature, much of whose financial support comes from just those well-organized interests, is likely to hesitate to enact any of them.

Mr. Schwarzenegger learned in his first year in office that he was most effective not when negotiating with balky legislators but when campaigning at shopping malls and on television. His televised appeals helped pass his borrowing plan and sink well-financed ballot measures to expand Indian gambling and to soften the state's tough three-strikes sentencing law.

This year, aides said, the governor will devote his considerable star power and high approval ratings to trying to change fundamentally the way the state does business.

Side note: is it just me or when the New York Times uses the word "controversial," it's always code for, "a person or idea that we here in the newsroom believe is wrong"?

I don't know enough about the pension proposal to comment on its worthiness. [UPDATE: Dan Weintraub has some thoughts.] But the other two priorities sound great to me.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum depresses me by not supporting Arnie's proposal.

posted by Dan at 12:19 AM | Comments (27) | Trackbacks (2)

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Imagine the following help wanted ad....

WORLD BANK PRESIDENT: Must attempt to eradicate poverty, AIDS, corruption, and illiteracy in developing world within five-year term. Desired skills include working knowledge of economics, management training, and the ability to cooperate and listen to G-7, IMF, NGO community, and the developing countries. People skills a plus. American citizenship a prerequisite.

Christopher Swann reports in the Financial Times that James Wolfensohn is out:

The search has begun for a new World Bank president, with James Wolfensohn indicating that he would leave that post after 10 years when his term expires in June.

The US Treasury on Monday said Mr Wolfensohn had not sought a third term at the bank, and that discussions with shareholders to try to determine his successor had already begun....

The post has historically been held by an American, but there may be pressure from developing economies for a wider range of candidates. Some poorer countries were disappointed when Rodrigo Rato, the European nominee, was tapped to be managing director of the International Monetary Fund in May 2004, beating Mohamed El-Erian, an Egyptian and a former member of the fund staff, now head of portfolio management at Pimco, the fund manager.

But World Bank watchers do not expect a break with tradition. Among Mr Wolfensohn's most widely mentioned possible successors are Robert Zoellick, the US trade representative; John Taylor, Treasury undersecretary for international affairs; Christine Todd Whitman, former director of the Environmental Protection Agency; and Colin Powell, US secretary of state.

The FT is being kind -- the BBC reports more accurately that, "Privately, [Wolfensohn] had let it be known that he would like to serve another five year term, but his lobbying efforts in Washington have failed."

I blogged last month about some of these candidates to replace Wolfensohn. The two I did not mention then were Taylor and Zoellick. Based on this Washington Post story by Mike Allen and John F. Harris on Whitman's forthcoming memoirs, I think it's a safe bet that Bush won't be too eager to appoint her to any position anytime soon (link via NRO's Ramesh Ponnuru. As for Taylor, my sources suggest that his lackluster performance in the G-7 process might prove to be a stumbling block (and there is the small matter of Taylor having advocated for some interesting IFI reforms in the past).


UPDATE: Paul Blustein's story in the Washington Post has other candidates, including, "Randall L. Tobias, the administration's global AIDS coordinator" and "Carla A. Hills, a former U.S. trade representative."

posted by Dan at 12:12 AM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (2)

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Today's tempting trailer

I've blogged before about the seductive temptations of good movie trailers. Every once in a while they pan out in the form of a great film -- The Triplets of Belleville, for example -- but all too often their promise doesn't translate into a great film.

Still trailers should be appreciated on their own terms, and the one that I confess to clicking on a fair number of times in recent days is Sin City. Click here to see the trailer. Based on the great Frank Miller's comic books and directed by Robert Rodriguez, the entire aesthetic of the trailer looks way cool -- in a way that Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow did not.

The movie comes out in April -- so we'll see.

posted by Dan at 03:29 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

January's Books of the Month

The general interest book for January comes from the pen of my colleague Charles Lipson: Doing Honest Work in College: How to Prepare Citations, Avoid Plagiarism, and Achieve Real Academic Success. This is really two books in one. The second part of the book is a quick guide to citation ctyles across the myriad disciplines. This section is more accessible than the Chicago Manual of Style, which makes it great for undergraduates.

[Yes, but this is the general interest book, not the "specifically for undegraduates" book!!-ed] Ah, yes, but the first part of the book is devoted to the Three Principles of Academic Honesty, which are laid out on the first page of the book:

  • When you say you did the work yourself, you actually did it.

  • When you rely on someone else's work, you cite it. When you use their words, you quote them openly and accurately, and you cite them, too.

  • When you present research materials, you present them fairly and truthfully. That's true whether the research involves data, documents, or the writings of other scholars.
  • Lipson's book is intended for undergraduates, but in light of the rash of plagiarism that exists among professors -- particularly at the Harvard Law School for some reason -- these maxims should not only be imbibed by undergraduates [What about outside academia?--ed. An excellent question for the commenters -- are these rules appropriate for non-academic forms of employment that require research and writing? My gut says yes, but I'm curious to hear counterarguments.]

    The international relations book for January is Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization. While I started this book last October, I only finished it over the break.

    Foer doesn't really provide a theory of globalization -- God knows there are enough of those already. Foer does something better -- he uses soccer as a lens to discuss the ways in which nationalism coexists, conflicts, and occasionally compliments the economic interdependence underlying globalization. The book consists of a series of national vignettes, some of which are fascinating (why Brazilian soccer retained its corrupt practices despite the best efforts of foreign direct investors) and some of which are counterintuitive (Berlusconi's soccer club mirrors his presidential style -- and this is a good thing for both Italian soccer and Italian democracy). Given recent developments, the chapters on Ukraine and Iran are also worth checking out.

    Oh, and if by any chance you happen to be a Catalan nationalist, buy the book -- the effusive praise Foer heaps upon his favorite team FC Barcelona, is a veritable paean to the wonders of the Catalan people's ability to express their identity without any of the uglier downsides of nationalism (see the chapter on Bosnia for that outcome).

    posted by Dan at 12:50 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

    Sunday, January 2, 2005

    Other sourcing trends

    If 2004 was the Year of Offshoring, 2005 might be the Year of Homeshoring. CNET's indefatigable Ed Frauenheim reports that, "a number of companies are turning to a new method to meet call center challenges: getting workers to handle calls from their homes." That story was based on an IDC report, An Alternative to Offshore Outsourcing: The Emergence of the Home-Based Agent -- a bargain at $3500.00 for just seven pages!! Or, you could look at the summary in this press release. Key paragraph:

    [A] number of companies are turning to a new sourcing model called "home-shoring" or "home-sourcing" to address call center challenges that sometimes arise, such as the need for superior agent quality, frequent turnover, and the seasonal nature of the business. IDC believes that in certain situations, by moving some work stations into agents' residences, companies can boost productivity and efficiency while continuing to reduce costs.

    Similarly, Kamil Z. Skawinski reports for CCN Magazine that "several companies have recently sprung up in rural areas of the U.S. offering a variety of onshore outsourcing services." Click here for one example, Rural Sourcing.

    Finally, Adam Kolawa offers advice to IT professionals about whether their jobs could be outsourced offshore in Information Week. Apparently, "although outsourcing may seem widespread, the jobs of many IT professionals are difficult to outsource and essentially immune to it."

    posted by Dan at 11:40 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

    Sexing up offshore outsourcing

    Great, just great. Bruce Bartlett says in the Washington Times that yours truly is "an indispensable blogger" on matters of international trade, "especially outstanding on the so-called outsourcing issue and excels in staying on top of the research in this area."

    So now I've got expectations to meet. How do I satisfy my expectant readership? [Sex up the topic!!--ed.]

    With that suggestion, it's worth highlighting a McKinsey Quarterly analysis which concludes that even in a world where offshore outsourcing is possible, location still matters a great deal. This is especially true when trendy undergarments are involved:

    We found compelling evidence that in a number of cases, offshore manufacturing isn't all it's cracked up to be. One reason is that for many manufacturers, the importance of direct labor is declining rapidly. Since it often accounts for just 7 to 15 percent of the cost of goods sold, hard-goods and high-tech manufacturers often say that wage rates are hardly the most critical determinants of their overall economic performance.

    Consider the case of one fashion apparel company based in Los Angeles. Its 1,500 workers, paid at rates well above the minimum wage, make casual wear in an old, multistory downtown brick warehouse. The executives view labor costs, currently 3 percent of the retail price of these goods and heading lower, as a secondary concern to the company. If it were to move its operations offshore, logistics costs might well swallow up any savings from lower wages. Another example: A consumer electronics manufacturer we interviewed has stripped away roughly 60 percent of its labor costs from production and reduced lead times from weeks to days. Even if an offshore competitor drove down its own labor costs close to zero, this manufacturer would still have an insurmountable advantage in logistics—a fact that has emboldened the company to reverse-engineer low-end Chinese goods for manufacture in California.

    Since keeping plants near customers shortens lead times, it facilitates greater responsiveness to changing market conditions. The Los Angeles apparel maker can fill orders for up to 160,000 units in 24 hours, since the entire supply chain--including weaving, dyeing, and sewing—is located downtown. The company carries less than 30 days' worth of inventory and could even become a build-to-order producer. Another Los Angeles garment maker produces hand-sewn fashion accessories with a lead time of less than five days.

    This kind of speed can be a competitive weapon--and its absence a trap. In the fashion apparel industry, with its spiky, unpredictable demand, the five-month lead times that accompany offshore production can leave manufacturers with excess inventories of fading styles or shortages of hot items. When a brief fashion craze ended before one California designer's shipment of goods had arrived from China, for instance, the company was left with a boatload of velvet knickers that could be sold only at a high discount. And with mass retailers penalizing suppliers for late orders by as much as 2 percent a day, the cost of miscalculation can be high....

    Not that all U.S. manufacturers should make their goods at home; offshoring will always be a valuable component of manufacturing strategies. And for companies that make goods such as socks or spark plugs--for which demand is stable, inventory-holding costs low and labor a high proportion of total costs--overseas production in low-wage countries is a very attractive idea.

    Nonetheless, offshoring often isn't the right strategy for companies whose competitive advantage comes from speed and a track record of reliability. And with buyers in advanced markets like California becoming more sophisticated--demanding shorter product life cycles, quicker delivery, and lower inventory costs--slow, unreliable manufacturers forgo valuable opportunities to gain market share or revenues. (emphasis added)

    Read the whole thing.

    UPDATE: Gary Rivlin penned a less-sexy but similar-themed piece on Dell's decision not to engage in much offshoring in a New York Times piece behind their archive wall. Fortunately, the Charlotte News Observer republished it. Key paragraph:

    Dell's decision to expand its U.S. manufacturing presence, however, has nothing to do with patriotism. Executives here say their decisions are based on the bottom line as well as on geography; it is simply more efficient to stamp out computer equipment closer to the customer. "The reason we continue to manufacture in the United States is that it's the optimal place to do so, and we can do it most cost effectively," said John Hamlin, who oversees Dell's consumer line.

    posted by Dan at 11:25 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

    I have a small, deeply disturbed following

    So I was checking out my Amazon Associates report on what was purchased at via And now I'm haunted.

    Occasionally I think, "Exactly what did I post that made some reader decide to purchase these items via my website?"

    Unfortunately, most of the time I fret about what I posted to trigger this purchase.

    The horror, the horror.

    posted by Dan at 10:30 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

    Saturday, January 1, 2005

    Merry new year!!

    Ah, it's good to be back from sabbatical!!

    [Er, you posted three times during your so-called "sabbatical"--ed.] Yes, but it took a massive catastrophe for me to write two of those posts -- before that, there were whole days when I didn't think about blogs, didn't click on blogs, didn't care about blogs.

    [So what were you doing instead?--ed.] Interacting with my children, traveling, writing, exulting in the fact that that Jason Varitek was re-signed & designated captain of the Red Sox, and perusing the latest issue of the American Political Science Review -- which for the first time in quite a while had multiple articles that were interesting to those who don't write about Congress. I suspect this speaks both to the APSR's renaissance under Lee Sigelman as editor and to my renewed commitment to read more outside my own little bailiwick of poli sci.

    With regard to blogging, I have four New Year's resolutions:

    1) Try to do better at blogging about new scholarly work in political science that connects to real-world events. In the past I have been afraid of "worlds colliding" on this front, but Eszter Hargittai is slowly convincing me that blogging and scholarship can be allies.

    2) Be detached enough in my blogging to avoid incurring the wrath of either Matt Welch or Radley Balko -- both of whom have spanked certain quarters of the blogosphere for its "righter-than-thou" attitude. Balko in particular points out:

    The most remarkable thing about blogs and the 2004 campaign was just how ready formerly independent voices on both sides were willing to spew out official campaign talking points, eschew criticism of their own guy, and otherwise fell into line in order to get their man elected.

    3) Update the blogroll. There are some great blogs that I've been periodically checking out but haven't added. For example, I've got to add The American Scene to the blogroll -- they performed yoeman service guest-blogging at Andrew Sullivan's site for the past ten days. [It's up now--ed.] Hey, one resolution partially satisfied already!!

    At the same time, there are other blogs on the list that I have not been reading as of late -- which says more about my tastes and preferences in all likelihood than any change in the quality of blogging. So, check out the blogroll over the next couple of days

    4) Get linked to by Real Clear Politics more often -- man, those guys can drive some traffic!

    Readers are hereby encouraged to write in their resolutions.

    posted by Dan at 03:59 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (3)