Monday, January 31, 2005
The International Studies Association makes me laugh
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.]
Read the whole thing.
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 danieldrezner.com:
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!!]
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 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:
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
That said, Moravcsik's thesis cannot be quickly dismissed -- he's onto something that Bush officials should consider when talking about soft power.
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.
How did the Arab media cover the election?
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:
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:
Dexter Filkins' account in the New York Times is positively effusive:
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.
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Fred Kaplan exaggerates just a wee bit
A few minor corrections to Kaplan's essay:
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:
Parents, be sure to add this to your cross-country trip!!
The Economist reports on a proposed new museum in the state of Nevada:
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:
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:
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?
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.
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:
So what are the results of that free marketplace? Read on:
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:
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.
Who got screwed by the Oscars?
The staff here at danieldrezner.com 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.
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 danieldrezner.com 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.
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:
Thanks to Andrew for the link.
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:
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 Chicago Tribune, Aamer Madhani reports on one radio station in the Sunni triangle that's strongly encouraged Iraqis to vote in the upcoming elections:
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:
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."
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.
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:
Read the whole thing.
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:
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.
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:
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:
Where oh where is the Queen of Sky when you need her?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
Read the whole thing.
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:
This paragraph is the one that -- if true -- disturbs me the most:
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:
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.
Rice reshapes the foreign policy apparatus
Last year I wrote in TNR Online:
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:
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.
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.
Yap's obit points out the initial trigger for the Tiananmen protests:
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:
UPDATE: Looks like the Chinese government is attempting to try hypothesis no. 2 out, according to the New York Times' Joseph Kahn:
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:
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.....
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:
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?
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:
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 muslimpopulation.com
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:
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":
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.]
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
The big question -- aside from how quickly the Timesmen dismissed this suggestion -- is whether Barry would give up his blog to do it.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Your Jewish humor of the week
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.
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:
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).
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:
Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: CNN provides another complication when disaster relief is deployed:
A very important post about... food porn
This CBS report by Jim Axelrod has more funny quotes from Puzder:
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)
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:
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").
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:
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.
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:
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:
Read the whole thing.
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:
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.
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'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.
Friday, January 7, 2005
There really is a blog about everything
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:
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.
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:
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:
To which Brad DeLong replies:
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:
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:
Here's the top 10:
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.
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.
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.
Wednesday, January 5, 2005
Imagine the following help wanted ad....
Christopher Swann reports in the Financial Times that James Wolfensohn is out:
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."
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.
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:
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).
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:
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."
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:
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:
I have a small, deeply disturbed following
So I was checking out my Amazon Associates report on what was purchased at Amazon.com via danieldrezner.com. And now I'm haunted.
Unfortunately, most of the time I fret about what I posted to trigger this purchase.
The horror, the horror.
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:
Readers are hereby encouraged to write in their resolutions.