Monday, February 28, 2005
Two steps forward, one step back in the Middle East
In the past 72 hours, there have been a number of developments in the Middle East -- suicide bombings in Iraq, Egyptian announcements about political reform, Lebanese people power bringing down the government, half-brothers being captured, reformist cabinets being named.
I was going to post something about how in the political change in the Middle East used to follow a one step forward, two steps back mentality, but as of late the trend has been more of a two steps forward, one step back nature of -- but Greg Djerejian and David Brooks beat me to it, so go check them out.
The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe happened after reformists first attained power through elections in Poland and Hungary. It happened rapidly, with no one comprehending the speed with which the old, corrupt edifices of power crumbled. Could the example of elections in one Muslim country in the Middle East have a similar ripple effect?
[You forget the backward steps--ed. True, true, I'm probably engaging in the error of analogy. Still it's interesting that such an analogy is even conceivable now.]
Interesting values quote of the day
The following quote comes from Jeanette Walls' source on the fact that Paris Hilton's Blackberry was hacked and its contents made public:
Sunday, February 27, 2005
Oh, right -- Oscar predictions 2005!!
Ever since 2003, we here at danieldrezner.com have been unafraid to make bold predictions about who will win and who should win the Academy Awards. This year is no exception, but I will confess that this time it's a bit more labor rather than a labor of love. [Surely you weren't expecting Ms. Salma Hayek to get nominated for After the Sunset, did you?--ed. Well, just look at her premiere outfit!!
Look, if Kathy Bates can score an Oscar nomination for valiant disrobing a few years ago, surely Salma deserves something for valiant... robing.]
Anyway, this has less to do with Ms. Hayek and more to do with the fact that Ms. Drezner appeared in August, making it very, very difficult to get away for Oscar viewing. There is, however, one other factor -- which Frank Rich raised in his New York Times column: "The total box office for all five best-picture nominees on Sunday's Oscars is so small that their collective niche in the national cultural marketplace falls somewhere between square dancing and non-Grisham fiction." So while I haven't seen many of the top Oscar nod movies this year, I haven't felt truly compelled to see them in the same way as in previous years. Even the fashion is now boring, as Julia Turner points out in Slate (though Turner may have underestimated the effect that 9/11 and Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction have had on muting the red carpet).
In other words, I'm flying blind a bit more than usual this year.
Nevertheless, ignorance has never prevented me from making bold predictions in the past. On with the Oscars!
My calculation on this one is purely stragtegic: this year's Oscars will be a legacy fight between Scorcese and Eastwood. Neither is exactly loved by the system -- however, between Million Dollar Baby and The Aviator, the latter more closely meets the parameters of the standard "prestige" Best Picture. Plus, Million Dollar Baby has just a hint of a backlash because of the controversy surrounding its ending.
Will either of those two films be remembered even five years from now? Unlikely. The same cannot be said of either Eternal Sunshine or The Incredibles.
The one lock of the year. Why Foxx's role in the latter movie is considered a supporting performance is beyond me -- I think he had more screen time than Tom Cruise. It's the contrast between the two peformances that make you realize just how gifted and good Foxx really is. Plus, I really want to see Wanda say something in the acceptance speech.
UPDATE: Honorable mention must go to one Gary Brolsma, for his "Numa Numa" performance. Kieran Healy is dead-on in roasting the New York Times for not understanding Brolsma's confident deadpan style. "Earnest but painful"? Gimme a break!!!
Hilary Swank is to acting as the Florida Marlins are to baseball. For the first nine years of their existence, the Marlins were an under .500 team for seven of those years. The two years they were above .500, they won the World Series. So it is for the first nine years of Ms. Swank's career and her acting choices -- mostly stinker roles (The Core, anyone?) with the occasional jaw-dropping performance. This year yielded a way-above average performance for her.
All Kate Winslet did in Eternal Sunshine was make someone with a bad orange dye job seem simultaneously compelling and thoroughly imperfect. Whenever I think about her performance, it reminds me of what must have been the inspiration for the Sheryl Crow song, "My Favorite Mistake."
Best Supporting Actor
If I was the Oscar coordinator for Million Dollar Baby, my promotional campaign would for Freeman would be real simple -- I'd just send out a postcard with the sentence, "Morgan Freeman has never won an Oscar" and let that fact bore itself into the skulls of Academy voters. WTF?
It is highly unlikely that Mr. Harris will ever win an Oscar -- but damn, that man was funny in Harold & Kumar, the feel-good libertarian movie of the year. [Does he really deserve an Oscar for playing himself??!!--ed. I'm pretty sure that Mr. Harris' actual personality is a bit different from his Harold & Kumar persona. Besides, consider the balance required to perform that scene where he's driving down the road with the two models in the car. I remain unconvinced--ed. C'mon say it with me -- Doogie!! Doogie!! DOOGIE!!]
Best Supporting Actress:
By awarding Blanchett an Oscar this year, the Academy can make up for one of their more egregious f***-ups in not giving her the Best Actress award for Elizabeth. Plus, it will be logically difficult for people to vote for Foxx for Best Actor and not acknowledge Blanchett's similar style of craft. Madsen will give Blanchett a run for her money in this category, and her performance was just effortless -- but Blanchett has the stronger track record, and that will sway Academy voters.
I'm probably one of about 20 people who saw We Don't Live Here Anymore, so I understand if this appears to be an obscure choice. In many ways, what blew me away about Dern's performance was that it was the opposite of Blanchett's -- a portrayal of a thoroughly ordinary, frazzled, and depressed housewife. Dern broght such pain to it, however, that the movie has stayed with me despite its forced contrivances.
I had to sleep on this one -- it's a close call between Eastwood and Scorcese. However, with Mystic River now on cable, I've concluded that Academy voters will give the psychic nod to Clint for both films. [You're kidding me, right? Scorcese has lots of great films too!!--ed. Yes, but the only one on cable right now is Gangs of New York. Er, never mind--ed.]
Enjoy your 2005 Oscars -- especially since the 2006 affair will be so boring, what with the Farrelly brothers' Fever Pitch coming out of nowhere to totally sweep the Oscars!
UPDATE: Well, it's over, Chris Rock killed -- killed -- for the first ten minutes (but see Roger L. Simon for a dissenting perspective -- though the American people seem to agree with me). The bit at the Magic Johnson theatre was pretty funny as well, especially with the Albert Brooks kicker. And I admit that I won't forget hearing Chris Rock read, "Growing up as a young Welsh lass....." anytime soon. Ironically, I think Rock was too good -- he made the rest of the show seem boring by comparison (except for Sean Penn, who came across as a humorless clod).
[Aren't you going to say anything about Salma Hayek's unfortunate hairstyle?--ed. Too depressing to discuss.]
Friday, February 25, 2005
The Saudis move, but move slowly
Indeed, as Glenn Reynolds has recently pointed out, the Saudis remain a potent source of terrorist support.
Neverheless, the Saudi regime does seem to be moving forward -- however slowly -- in altering their behavior in constructive ways. Again, it's maddeningly slow, but progress nevertheless.
This week saw further evidence of this. This past week the British and Saudis held a two-day conference entitled "Two Kingdoms: The Challenges Ahead," and some constructive things were said. Khaled Almaeena reports an example of this in Arab News :
Similarly, the Saudi government is making tentative noises about giving women the right to vote in future election. Beth Gardiner explains this in an Associated Press report:
One wonders if the strong performance of the conservatives in the first round of regional elections convinced the regime that giving women the political franchise might be in their own self-interest.
This post is not meant to be a jumping up and down saying, "Look, Saudi reforms!! Yippee!!" Clearly, this is going to take a while.
But it would be nice if one could say that the Saudis were only 85 years behind the times -- instead of 250.
Developing.... very, very, slowly.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Call me "Dr. Dre" from now on
Sampling, cutting, pasting, and then writing a few short words of commentary? That b**ch Levin don't know what the f*** he's talking about. [Fo'shizzle!--ed.]
[Did Levin get the "circle jerk" meme from Bill Keller--ed. Beats me. Speaking of Keller, however, Jeff Jarvis has posted his ongoing correspondence with the New York Times Executive Editor. Oh, and Slate has added a new feature, Today's Blogs -- which appears to be a useful compliment to their equally useful Today's Papers feature.]
How stable is Bretton Woods 2?
The Bretton Woods regime for managing the international monetary system was inherently unstable because of the Triffin dilemma. Nevertheless, the true Bretton Woods system did last for 14 years (1958-1971). It lasted for eleven years after Triffin explained the system couldn't last forever.
Economists are labelling the current monetary arrangements as Bretton Woods 2. Under this system, the U.S. is running massive current account deficits to be the source of export-led growth for other countries. To fund this deficit, central banks, particularly those on the Pacific Rim, are buying up dollars and dollar-denominated assets.
The dollar’s fall in value relative to the euro is costly for the central banks holding large amounts of dollar-denominated assets. In purchasing so many dollars, these banks have a powerful incentive to ensure that their investment retains its value -- but they an equally powerful incentive to sell off their dollars if it appears that they will rapidly depreciate. This cost creates a dilemma for these central banks. Collectively, these central banks have an incentive to hold on to their dollars, so as to maintain its value on world currency markets. Individually, each central bank has an incentive to sell dollars and diversify its holdings into other hard currencies. This fear of defection leads to a classic prisoner’s dilemma—and the risk that these central banks will simultaneously try to diversify their currency portfolios poses the greatest threat toward a run on the dollar.
So, the stability of this arrangement depends heavily on how much cooperation there is among the official purchasers of the dollar, and the extent to which these institutions are willing to absorb the costs of holding a depreciating asset compared to the benefit of subsidizing export-led growth as a means of absorbing underutilized labor.
Earlier this week it looked like South Korea was about to trigger the fall in dominoes. As Brad recounts:
However, it turns out that the predictions of Korean behavior were greatly exaggerated, as Hae Won Choi, Seah Park, and Mary Kissel explain in the Wall Street Journal:
[So Roubini and Setser weren't right today -- what about next week, next month, or next year?--ed.] Ah, this leads to door #2: David H. Levey and Stuart S. Brown's "The Overstretch Myth" in the March/April 2005 issue of Foreign Affairs. The key section:
An abstract of one of the Dooley, Folkerts-Landau, and Garber papers concurs with this evaluation of the "peripheral" economies:
[So who's right? WHO'S RIGHT-???!!!ed.] I'm not so stupid as to claim the ability to render a judgment on this question. What I can say is that among the economists I talk to, more of them to open door #2. However, the market hiccup that took place earlier this week highlights the fragility of this equilibrium. In the end, this is more a question of political economy than straight economics, and the likelihood of successful cooperation among this group of economies makes me wonder about the robustness of Bretton Woods 2. So even though I understand the logic of their arguments, I remain a little less sanguine than my economic advisors.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Interesting facts of the day
The Economist has a survey on New York City that is chock full of fascinating information. Some of the items that piqued my interest:
Click here to hear an audio interview with the survey's author, Anthony Gottlieb.
Technical difficulties solved
For the past week there had been some difficulties with the trackback feature on the blog.
Everything should be working properly now.
Apologies to one and all for the inconvenience.
Help out the Millennium Challenge Corporation!
I received the following e-mail from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a government entity designed to administer the Millennium Challenge Accounts proposed by President Bush during his first term. Here's the key parts of the e-mail:
I'm happy to hear useful suggestions on this front. The indicators that I've seen on this issue are mostly the macro-historical stuff coming from the world polity paradigm in sociology. I suspect that even the progenitors of these measures would acknowledge that they wouldn't be of much use for the MCC.
How offshore outsourcing has devastated the high tech sector
A year ago I was in the middle of writing "The Outsourcing Bogeyman" for Foreign Affairs. When it came out, I received a fair amount of static from tech workers explaining that I didn't understand the situation they faced. Since offshore outsourcing is an ever-increasing phenomenon, perhaps we should examine how offshoring devastated the tech sector over the course of the past year.
Hmmm.... well, just just means fewer tech people are losing their jobs. Surely it doesn't mean that these firms are hiring again, right? Let's check out this Kathie O'Donnell story for CBS MarketWatch:
Well, I'm sure this doesn't translate into increased demand for white collar workers across the board or anything.
Besides, as the smarter critics point out, what matters less than the number of jobs lost or gained is the downward effect that offshoring has on wages. Surely, offshore outsourcing would have put a damper on wages in the high-tech sector, right? Let's check out this Frauenheim story for CNET:
To be fair, there is contradictory information on the wage issue. This Dice survey suggests that wages fell overall in the computer sector in 2004. But even this report observes that:
This would be consistent with the homeshoring phenomenon of tech sectors doing well in lower-wage areas outside of Silicon Valley. The fact that the Dice survey does not appear to cover new tech hotspots like Oklahoma leads me to trust the Labor Department figures more.
[So things are better in 2004 than in 2003 -- but the labor market in IT has sucked for a couple of years. Why are you so giddy about one year of positive data?--ed. The downturn in the IT labor market was real, but there were a lot of reasons for that -- the end of Y2K, the dot-com crash, the recession, and, yes, offshore outsourcing. However, offshoring critics has insisted that the problem is only getting worse and will lead to devastating employment and wage effects on the IT sector. Clearly, offshoring is not going away in the IT sector -- but the 2004 data suggests that the götterdammerung assumption was, at the very least, a gross exaggeration.]
North Korea zigs, North Korea zags
It appears that North Korea has changed its mind about walking away from six-party talks on its nuclear ambitions. Anna Fifield and Richard McGregor provide the following report in the Financial Times:
If this change of tack pans out -- the North Korean statement has an awful lot of wiggle room -- then North Korea has put China into an increasingly awkward position. This episode would demonstrate that China is the one country that can get the North Koreans to cooperate. Which means, down the road, that China will be pressured by the other members of the six-party talks to compel North Korea to halt its weapons program.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
A different take on the female public intellectual "problem"
I've got a lot on my plate right now, which is why I've been studiously avoiding the whole Larry Summers kerfuffle -- I haven't had the time to read his remarks in full and don't want to wade in those waters until/if I do.
However, I do want to wade into an eddy of the Michael Kinsley/Susan Estrich blood feud over a Los Angeles Times op-ed by Charlotte Allen. To be specific, I don't want to bother with Estrich or Kinsley -- click here, here, here, and here for more on them -- but rather examine Allen's original hypothesis a bit more carefully -- because, to put it kindly, it's a crock of s***.
Here's the nub of Allen's argument:
Let's conduct a little experiment: as a faculty member at the University of Chicago, and looking only at my colleagues within my university, can I gin up a list of notable public intellectuals who write on topics beyond feminism? Why, yes, yes I can!!:
Hey, I did that without breaking a sweat!!
If Allen -- who co-edits (???) Inkwell, the blog of the Independent Women's Forum -- wants to claim that female public intellectuals are hostage to doctrinnaire feminism, I'll concede that she doesn't have to search that far to find examples to support her hypothesis. However, she appears not to have searched at all for any cases that contradict her hypothesis. And that doesn't make her a very good public intellectual at all.
[You only searched within the confines of your ivory tower. Maybe your university is atypical--ed. I'd agree, but beyond the U of C, it's still not that difficult to think of counterexamples to Charlotte Allen's hypothesis -- Deborah Dickerson, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Jessica Tuchman Matthews, Peggy Noonan, Virginia Postrel, Diane Ravitch, Claudia Rossett, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Theda Skocpol, etc. (UPDATE: Other excellent suggestions from the comments thread -- Anne Applebaum, Amy Guttman, Samantha Power, Elaine Scarry, etc.)]
UPDATE: Aspiring public intellectual Phoebe Maltz offers her take:
Monday, February 21, 2005
Bill Keller on the blogosphere
New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller has been quite chatty about the blogosphere as of late. According to this report by Amanda Erickson in the Columbia Spectator:
Wow, sounds like this Keller guy is a bit of an anti-blog jerk. Wait, it gets worse -- in an open letter to Jeff Jarvis he says that, "bloggers... are paranoid, propagandistic, unreliable, hate-filled, self-indulgent, self-important and humorless." (link via Glenn Reynolds.)
Now, before anyone gets too upset, bear in mind that the quote I just generated from Keller's letter is not really consistent with the overall tone of his snarky but friendly exchange with Jarvis. Read the whole letter. Let's put that quote in context now:
Sounds correct to me -- I might add that if you take "cable television" or "talk radio" as a media category, the comment still holds.
What's interesting about these different Keller episodes is that the Columbia Spectator reporter probably took just the juiciest bit from Keller's comments regardless of whether they were consistent with the overall tenor of his remarks -- whereas Jarvis ("mediaman by day, blogboy by night") reprinted all of Keller's comments, allowing one to judge Keller's argument in toto.
Oddly enough, this is undoubtedly one trait that good bloggers share with the New York Times. The Times, as the "paper of record," was very good about printing the full text of important documents and speeches before there was a world wide web. The best bloggers, through hyperlinks, can engage in a similar practice when parsing out someone's comments.
Just a thought.
Sunday, February 20, 2005
Interesting developments in Iraq
Read the whole thing. Ware's story jibes with Patrick Quinn's AP account of the Sunni response to both the election and the latest string of suicide attacks:
Even in a best-case scenario, successful negotiations with the Baathist insurgents would not end the violence in Iraq that Zarqawi and others would generate. And, if memory serves, the Sunnis made similar noises about participating in the political process after Hussein's capture.
Still, these are very encouraging signs.
UPDATE: Be sure to check out Phil Carter's post on the spontaneous creation of anti-insurgency militias in Iraq.
Dumb, dumb A-Rod
[NOTE: If you don't care about baseball, just skip this post entirely.]
Alex Rodriguez reported to spring training for the Yankees today. Over the past week multiple members of the Red Sox have bashed A-Rod to varying degrees over comments he made in the offseason and his on-the-field altercations with the Red Sox during the regular season -- and most infamously, in Game 6 of the ALCS (go to this link and then click on the "Plays of the Game" for the 10/19 game vs. the Yankees).
To which I can only say, "Huh?"
Recall the situation -- the Red Sox were leading 4-2 with one out in the bottom of the 8th inning and Derek Jeter on first base. A-Rod hits a weak squibbler to Arroyo, and tried to slap it away. For his troubles, A-Rod was called out and Jeter was sent back to first base. If A-Rod doesn't slap at Arroyo's glove, he's advanced Jeter into scoring position with Gary Sheffield at the plate. It sounds minor, but having Jeter at second rather than first makes it much easier for Sheffield to drive in a run.
What A-Rod did wasn't silly -- it was downright stupid.
UPDATE: Speaking of A-Rod, Karen Guregian has a piece in today's Boston Herald excoriating the Red Sox players for bashing A-Rod so much. This is a bit rich -- as Murray Chass points out in today's New York Times, it's the media trying to keep this story alive:
Hat tip: David Pinto.
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Deepening capital markets in South Africa
As part of danieldrezner.com's keen interest in the spread of financial services to the developing world (click here for an earlier example of this interest), Laurie Goering has a story in today's Chicago Tribune on the effort by South African banks to get South Africans comfortable with the idea of depositing their money in... banks:
Read the whole thing.
As someone who knows very little about the South African financial sector, I have two questions after reading this piece:
Friday, February 18, 2005
Regarding Eason Jordan
Most of this debate is on whether Jordan's blog-fueled exit is good or bad. For me, there's another question -- did the blogosphere really force him out?
I ask this after reading Ed Morrissey's timeline of Jordangate in the Weekly Standard. Assuming that Morrissey's account is accurate, then the media heat on Jordan was never particularly strong -- and it was dying down the day before he left CNN. Consider this section of Morrissey's article:
In a blog post on the same topic, Morrissey again complains about the lack of media attention to this story:
So Morrissey acknowledges that the story was starting to lose steam the day before Jordan left, and that the mainstream media seemed disinclined to pursue the story any further. If the MSM was either not paying much attention or playing down the scandal, why did Jordan choose to resign when he did?
There are three possibilities:
I just don't think (1) is true -- if it is, it certainly violates the argument that Henry Farrell and I have made about when blogs are influential. (2) might be correct -- see Rebecca MacKinnon on this point -- but based on what both Stephens and David Gergen have said, I'm dubious about the tape being that damaging. [But Morrissey points out that what he said at Davos fits a larger pattern--ed. Yes, but Morrissey also laments the fact that this was not reported in the MSM beyond the original Guardian story from last November.]
Which leads me to (3). It's telling that Katherine Q. Seelye's New York Times account observes, "Some of those most familiar with Mr. Jordan's situation emphasized, in interviews over the weekend, that his resignation should not be read solely as a function of the heat that CNN had been receiving on the Internet, where thousands of messages, many of them from conservatives, had been posted." And, as Mickey Kaus points out, Howard Kurtz's first-draft version of what happened provided an alternative explanation. Check out this Keith Olbermann post as well.
Unlike Michelle Malkin, I haven't called anyone to check out this hypothesis -- this is only me spitballing. But something ain't right here.
I'm curious what others think -- and I'm particularly curious what the higher-ups at CNN think.
Hail Hitler -- Ted Hitler, that is
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart had a piece on bloggers by
The eerie thing is that Colbert's closing statement is precisely the point that Henry Farrell and I make in our predictions for the future of the blogosphere. To quote Colbert:
It's really depressing that The Daily Show is not just funnier that I am -- they are better at stating the more substantive point about bloggers.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
A run on the Lebanese pound?
Roula Khalaf and Kim Ghattas report in the Financial Times that the Lebanese pound could be in trouble:
What's historically intriguing about this is that if memory serves, the Lebanese pound managed to retain its value throughout the 1975-1991 civil war.
UPDATE: Daniel Davies points out in the comments that my memory is faulty, and that the Lebanese pound suffered hyperinflation during the civil war. As it turns out, the historical data says we are both correct. The pound did a decent job holding its value in the first stage of the civil war, from 1975 to 1983. After the Israeli incursion, however, hyperinflation did kick in.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
I know saffron, and The Gates is not saffron
I'm typing this in New York City, about a block from Central Park. As some of you are no doubt aware, Christo has opened up his latest art exhibit, The Gates, in Central Park. This is how he describes it on his web site:
This is great -- but ask the New York cabdrivers about this exhibit as you pass through the Park -- as I did -- and what you get is an impressive string of invective (to be fair, part of this is due to the exhibit shutting down some of the cross-park roads -- but only part).
Having seen it, I'm very amused by the headline for Michael Kimmelman's New York Times review, "In a Saffron Ribbon, a Billowy Gift to the City." Now, if Christo and Kimmelman want to call it "saffron," more power to them. To me, the color of "The Gates" is not saffron -- it's safety orange.
This is the biggest problem with the exhibit: approaching the Park, all you think is that the entire area must be under massive construction. It's just a bizarre color choice, and mars what would otherwise have been an aesthetically pleasing exhibit.
For a somewhat contrary take, see Virginia Postrel's take
There's the Planet Earth, and then there's Tulsa World
My favorite part is the claim by Tulsa World's lawyers in the letter sent to Bates that he "inappropriately linked [Bates'] website to Tulsa World content."
Man, imagine how inappropriate it would be to link to the e-mail of the good people who run Tulsa World.
It's getting uncomfortable for Syria
Prior to the invasion of Iraq, I wrote the following at TNR Online:
Note that Lebanon was not mentioned in that graf, because that country has essentially been a Syrian fiefdom since the end of the Lebanese Civil War.
However, the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri yesterday highlights the increasing crunch Syria now faces. David Hirst -- who's covered the Middle East for over forty years -- explains what's going on in the Guardian:
Rami G. Khouri, writing in the Beirut-based Daily Star, agrees on the tectonic political shifts uinleashed by the assassination:
The New York Times' Steven Weisman and Hassan Fattah report that the assassination itself has already made life more difficult for Syria:
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
In honor of the Kyoto Protocol...
As the Kyoto Protocol goes into effect on Wednesday, here's a roundup of environmental links that have caught my eye over the past week:
1) On Monday Antonio Regalado had a front-pager in the Wall Street Journal (the link should work for non-subscribers) about the famous/infamous "hockey stick" graph that showed a dramatic climb in temperatures since the start of the Industrial Revolution:
Astonishingly, neither weblog mentioned in the piece has posted any correction of substance about the article -- so bravo to Regalado for apparently writing an accurate article on a technical and controversial subject.
2) Over at a new international law blog called Opinio Juris, Julian Ku notes that while the Bush administration is no fan of Kyoto, it is leading the way in reducing methane. He links to this Gregg Easterbrook essay in The New Republic which contains the following:
[Easterbrook? Easterbrook? Is he a reliable source on enviro-stuff?--ed. There have been some problems in the past, yes. However, I'm taking Kevin Drum's lack of criticism (he's usually all over Easterbrook's environmental posts like Paris Hilton on the cover of a magazine) to be a good sign.]
Ku graciously points out that I blogged about the "Methane to Markets" initiative back in July of last year.
3) John Quiggin has been all over the question of whether Bjorn Lomborg stacked the deck of the Copenhaen Consensus to ensure that global warming would be ranked at the bottom of the world's problems. Alex Tabarrok disputes this, pointing out that Lomborg picked an ardent advocate of the Kyoto Protocol. However, as I read this, Tabarrok's point is consistent with Quiggin's: Lomborg picked someone knowing they would make a radical argument, this ensuring his panelists would reject it.
"Confessions of a scholar-blogger"
That's the title of a short essay I wrote for the University of Chicago Magazine, the U of C's alumni magazine. Here's the opening and closing paragraphs:
Thanks to Mary Ruth Yoe for her crisp editing -- and thanks to Jacob Levy for coining the term "scholar-blogger" in the first place.
You should check out the rest of the magazine's contents -- as I've noted in the past, it's consistently interesting and informative. For example, check out Sharla Stewart's article on Richard Thaler and the rise of behavioral economics. Stewart has a good track record in writing about the social sciences -- her essay on the "perestroika" movement two years ago remains the single-best thing I've read on the subject.
Handicapping the race for the WTO leadership
Because the hard-working staff here at danieldrezner.com has been focused on who the next World Bank president will be, we've ben remiss in discussing who will become the next Director-General of the World Trade Organization.
Fortunately, Michael C. Boyer, James G. Forsyth, and Jai Singh have an article in Foreign Policy that picks up the slack and handicaps the race. It's worth checking out.
One of the more intriguing elements of the jockeying for position is that one of the candidates -- Mauritian Foreign Minister Jaya Krishna Cuttaree -- has set up his own web site devoted entirely to his candidacy for the WTO position. No blog yet -- but give him time.
Finally, on the general topic of the cockeyed process of selecting people for leadership posts at various international economic organizations, do yourself a favor and go buy a copy of Miles Kahler's Leadership Selection in the Major Multilaterals.
Monday, February 14, 2005
You try democratizing Belarus!
Peter Savodnik has a Slate essay comparing and contrasting US and EU efforts to promote a viable democratic opposition in Belarus. For the past decade, Alexander Lukashenko has pretty much ruled the country according to his own increasingly erratic whim. The Americans, the Europeans, and a fair number of Belarusians would love to see his back. However, as Savodnik recounts, there is a transatlantic split on how to promote democracy in Minsk:
Savodnik makes it clear that he wants the EU to change its strategy -- but to be honest, I'm not sure what would be a better strategy. If the EU were to pursue a more "American" approach with its aid, Lukashenko would doubtless boot them out of the country as well. I'm no real fan of the EU's current strategy, but it's far from clear that there's a better alternative.
There are, alas, all too many foreign policy dilemmas like this one -- when all the policy options stink to high heaven.
Perhaps I've become too cyncical, however -- readers are encouraged to devise a better policy to promote democracy in Belarus.
Iraq's election results
Anthony Shadid and Doug Struck provide a summary of Iraq's election returns in the Washington Post. The highlights:
Jeff Weintraub, analyzing the results, suggests that "On first impression, the latest news about the Iraqi election returns has confirmed my most optimistic hopes." Juan Cole, looking at the same numbers, concludes, "[current Prime Minister Iyad] Allawi's defeat... is a huge defeat for the Bush administration, though it will not be reported that way in the corporate media."
UPDATE: Robin Wright has an odd news analysis piece in the Washington Post today. It's odd becuse the headline reads, "Iraq Winners Allied With Iran Are the Opposite of U.S. Vision" -- and the piece consists of expert quotes (including Cole) making this point. However, in the 16th paragraph there's this casual admission that, "U.S. and regional analysts agree that Iraq is not likely to become an Iranian surrogate." I'll have more to say about the question of Iran's influence in Iraq sometime this week.
Meanwhile, Weintraub e-mails the following:
ANOTHER UPDATE: It's intriguing to compare the New York Times news analysis by Dexter Filkins with Wright's analysis in the Washington Post. Filkins' analysis differs from Wright's in two ways: a) no expert quotes from American sources (though plenty of quotes from Iraqis); and b) a more optimistic piece. The highlights:
See this James Joyner post for more.
Saturday, February 12, 2005
Following up on U.S. foreign aid generosity
In the wake of President Bush's decision to triple the amount of official U.S. aid to tsunami-affected countries to $950 million, it's worth revisiting the question of U.S. foreign aid generosity.
Steve Radelet has a solid Q&A on the topic for Foreign Policy's web site. On the question of whether, "America Is the Most Generous Country in the World if You Include Private Donations to Charities," he writes:
Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: The Radelet essay is particularly good in contrast to James Traub's effort in the New York Times Magazine. Traub covers some of the same ground, but can't seem to concede the point that on development policy, the Bush administration is actually closer in its stated plans to Traub's "ideal" than either the Clinton administration or the European Union (link via Tom Maguire). [Must be the Davos Kool-Aid--ed.]
So how are things in Saudi Arabia?
The Chicago Tribune has two stories on developments within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia today -- kind of a good news/bad news deal.
The bad news is that those provincial elections didn't turn out like Saudi reformers had hoped. Evan Osnos explains:
Read the whole thing -- it's not clear how much of a setback this is, given that it was only one region, and a conservative one at that (though I'd love a Saudi expert to identify a liberal region in the country). Of course, the decision to exclude women from the vote probably didn't help the moderates much.
One other nitpick at this report is the history it provides of Islamist movements:
I'll be happy to be corrected on this, but if memory serves that's not quite accuate. It's true that the Six Day War was a triggering event for the rise of Islamist parties -- but the motivation was different. Secular Arab regimes were afraid of the growing political power of leftist/communist parties in their countries. As a result, they permitted the rise of Islamist parties to offer a counterweight.
On the good news side of the ledger, Christine Spolar reports that the Saudi regime is reaching out on the war on terror:
The internal steps to combat radicals is particularly interesting:
Explaining North Korea's actions, redux
MSNBC's Eric Baculinao files a story on the North Korean situation that contains a first in my memory -- a North Korean policy analyst providing anonymous quotes. [What, that's never happened before?--ed. I'm sure it has, but it's the first time I've seen it.]. The highlights:
So what the hell is the North Korea Freedom Act? Click here to read more about the re-named bill -- The North Korea Human Rights Act of 2004. Here are links to the text of the law, a three-page analysis of the its provisions from its supporters, and a critique by a former aid worker.
[So is this the real explanation for the DPRK's actions?--ed. I doubt it -- the timing is off. The act was signed into law about four months ago, and the DPRK official was referring to its old name in the report. Still, what's interesting is the attempt by DPRK officials to rationalize their action.]
My all time favorite Internet quiz
I think I can live with this result:
Friday, February 11, 2005
The limit to Al Qaeda's appeal
There may be another positive foreign policy spillover from Iraq's election -- it is forcing Al Qaeda into rhetorical gambits that limit its appeal.
Read the whole thing. Middle East Online points out that Al Qaeda ain't thrilled with economic integration either:
Kim's not making many friends
If, as speculated in my last post, Kim Jong Il thought that his nuclear announcement and withdrawal from six-party talks would drive a wedge between the US and the other members of six-party talks, he appears to have miscalculated.
CNN reports that North Korea has repeated its demand (made over the past couple of years) for direct bilateral talks with the United States on this issue. [UPDATE: Deb Riechmann reports for the AP that Scott McClellan rejected this demand at the White House press briefing.] Andrew Salmon reports in the International Herald-Tribune that the six-party talks haven't gone well for the DPRK:
THat same report also makes it clear that North Korea's latest gambit has not gone down well in South Korea.
If Seoul is upset, however, Japan is even more so -- and they are upping the ante with a clear and specific sanctions threat. James Brooke explains in the New York Times:
Read the whole article -- the U.S. and South Korea are ambivalent at best about the sanctions lever. At first glance, this would seem surprising: the best outcome is if North Korea backs down before March 1. Some people believe that the worst outcome, however, is Japan implementing sanctions on a defiant North Korea. I don't agree -- these sanctions will hurt the DPRK elite where it lives, in that it restricts hard currency access and consumer goods that only the elite can afford. This lever should be enough to get them back to six-party talks.
UPDATE: For more, the BBC has a round-up of the regional press reaction. The Christian Science Monitor has a round-up of global press reaction. Their most intriguing link is this Hamish McDonald story in the Sydney Morning Herald:
Thursday, February 10, 2005
I'm typing this in Princeton, NJ, as I'm giving a talk here today -- so there will not be much blogging for the next 24 hours.
Talk amongst yourselves. Here's a topic for discussion -- why has North Korea decided now is the time to publicly announce that they have nuclear weapons and suspend participation in six-nation non-proliferation talks?
Is it because Kim feels he can widen the diplomatic wedge between the United States and the other members of the talks (Japan, South Korea, China, Russia) -- or is it that Kim fears his regime is tottering on the abyss and the only way he can stay in power is to gin up a new international crisis? These are not mutually exclusive reasons, of course -- but which one is the primary cause?
Be sure to check out NK Zone for more blogging on the Hermit Kingdom. Also worth reading: In Foreign Affairs, Mitchell Reiss and Robert Gallucci rebut Selig Harrison's claim that North Korea doesn't really have a uranium enrichment program (link via Josh Marshall).
UPDATE: Oh, man did that first header date me -- I meant the current leader of the DPRK, Kim Jong il -- not his father, Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994. Apologies to all for the error.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Follow-up post here. Over at NRO, S.T. Karnick offers the following speculation on Kim's motives:
I think that's a major stretch. As CNN points out today, there have been ample rhetorical opportunities as of late for the administration to target North Korea -- and they haven't used them:
No, Rice's testimony was a useful rhetorical hook for North Korea's actions, and not the cause.
In the International Herald-Tribune, there is more speculation about this being an example of internal DPRK strife:
Wednesday, February 9, 2005
The transatlantic relationship is important -- but not that important
The Economist has a story on the state of transatlanric relations following Condi Rice's speech on the topic yesterday at the Sciences Po. It's worth reading, but contains this odd passage:
While improving the transatlantic relationship is no doubt a nice positive externality from a more fruitful Middle East peace process. I think it's safe to say that the Bush administration's timing on this issue has nothing to do with Europe and everything to do with Yassir Arafat's passing.
Look, I think the transatlantic relationship is important, particularly with regard to the global political economy -- but it's not the cause of every twitch in U.S. foreign policy. The Economist is trying to read intent where there was none.
Another interesting question will be the extent to which the improving tranatlantic relationship reflects a greater recognition of shared interests -- or a greater willingness to amicably agree on disagreeing. For an example of tensions between these two approaches, see this FT story by Daniel Dombey.
Tuesday, February 8, 2005
Pretend you're a U of C undergraduate!!
Paper topic for my students in Power, Identity and Resistance: Liberalism and Its Critics:
Monday, February 7, 2005
Fox's in-game breach of contract?
So the Super Bowl was a pretty good if not great game, and a pretty good if not great halftime show by Paul McCartney (though if there is any song that was made for massive fireworks displays, it's "Live and Let Die.").
The general consensus, however, is that the ads were pretty lame. See Seth Stevenson's review in Slate and Chris Ballard's at SI.com. Part of the reason for this may have been the extent to which FOX and the NFL censored the ads, according to The Age's Caroline Overington:
Forget whether or not this is censorship -- FOX is a private company, not the government -- if Parsons is correct, then I would imagine this has got to be one whopper of a breach-of-contract suit [Ahem, despite what others may believe, you're not a lawyer--ed. Good point -- I'd appreciate some legal takes on this issue.]
If you want to see the "controversial" ad, click here (I recommend the two-minute version -- the last spoken line made me laugh out loud). The ironic thing about the ad is that the object of the satire is not the NFL, but sanctimonious politicians (and, I might add, by far the best ad of the evening was the G-rated one for The NFL Network with Joe Montana et al singing "Tomorrow")
It should also be pointed out that this isn't the first time the NFL has acted like a spoiled brat it its desire to be seen as "wholesome". Last year ESPN aired a fictionalized show called Playmakers, a "behind-the-scenes" look at a professional football team. While the show was a bit over-the-top at times, Playmakers was an above average drama with some excellent performances -- kinda like The Shield for the NFL. However, the NFL believed that the show cast the NFL in a bad light, and made it's displeasure known to ESPN. In short order, ESPN caved in to the NFL.
UPDATE: Krysten Crawford has a story on this for CNN/Money that confirms Parsons' account:
Check out this Parsons post from earlier in the week to see the back-and-forth between GoDaddy and FOX to get any ad on the air. Finally, the advertising blog adrants suggests that the the ad might not have played well. The Associated Press concurs, reporting that an post-game survey of 700 people found the GoDaddy ad to be one of the least liked. On the other hand, the Boston Globe's Alex Beam and the Kansas City Star's Aaron Barnhart both liked it. Howard Bashman correctly points out that, "Congressional hearings don't usually contain this much pretend near nudity."
Writing at WPN News, Kevin Dugan (who hated the GoDaddy ad) makes the provocative argument that blogs have ruined Super Bowl ads forever:
Pamela Parker makes a similar argument.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Joal Ryan reports for E! Online that the FCC received 33 complaints from the Super Bowl this year -- eight of which were devote to the GoDaddy.com ad. Three viewers called in to complain about Janet Jackson from last year.
The state of transatlantic public opinion
Today the German Marshall Fund of the United States released a survey of American, German, and French public opinion that was conducted in late November. The results suggest that public attitudes towards the countries across the Atlantic are not great -- but at least they're improving:
The most interesting finding in the survey is the congruence between American and European attitudes about how to deal with Iran:
FULL DISCLOSURE: This seems an appropriate moment to mention that I was recently named a non-resident transatlantic fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Furthermore, "During his time with GMF, he will advise on the design and analysis of public opinion surveys on foreign policy and collaborate with the Trade and Development program on the transatlantic trade relationship." Which means that one of my responsibilities was offering my (minor) input to this survey instrument.
Sunday, February 6, 2005
The positive spillovers of Iraq's elections
Iraq had its first free election a week ago -- and the Washington Post has two stories suggesting that positive reverberations from that event are being felt in and out of Iraq.
Inside Iraq, Anthony Shadid and Doug Struck report that many who rejected the elections before they happened now want to participate in politics:
More weeks like this, and Jon Stewart's head may have to implode.
Saturday, February 5, 2005
The Federal Reserve tackles the current account deficit
I've been a worrywart about the size of the current account deficit -- but yesterday Alan Greenspan said the currency markets and I should relax. Andrew Balls and Chris Giles explain why in the Financial Times:
Here's a link to the full text of Greenspan's speech. Some highlights:
However, Greenspan footnoted the same article to which Brad DeLong links -- "Expansionary Fiscal Shocks and the Trade Deficit," by Christopher J. Erceg; Luca Guerrieri; Christopher Gust. The paper's punchline:
If the paper is correct, then the alleged return to fiscal sanity doesn't matter all that much.
Of course, the crux of Greenspan's argument is that European firms can't afford to cut prices to counterbalance an appreciating Euro. He may well be correct, and I hope he's right -- because China won't be
I've been happy as a clam not paying that much attention to the Super Bowl hype. It's not that I'm not interested in the game -- it's just that I'm interested in the game and not the two weeks of media overkill preceding the game.
That said, there is one brand of story I always find interesting -- interviews with retired football players who bemoan how the game has changed. A classic example of this genre is legendary Eagle Chuck Bednarik. The Associated Press' Dan Gelston reports that Badnarik doesn't want the current incarnation of the team to win:
Read the whole thing -- I think it's safe to say the Bednarik doesn't pull any punches. He also sounds like the last person with whome you'd want to be stuck in an elevator. [Yeah... think of him as the anti-Salma--ed.]
If Bednarik seems a bit too "old school" for modern fans, SI's Peter King looks at former Los Angeles Ram Jack Youngblood -- whose comeback from injury makes Terrell Owens look like a complete wuss:
Definitely read the whole thing. As someone who has suffered the exact same injury that Youngblood did, let me just say that I'm very impressed with Youngblood's threshhold for pain.
Friday, February 4, 2005
February's books of the month
This month's international relations book is an easy call -- Stephen D. Krasner's Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy. Since Krasner was appointed to be the State Department's Director of Policy Planning this week, it seems fitting for people to take a look at his most recent sole-authored book.
This would be particularly useful because if there is one thing the DC press corps sucks eggs at, it's parsing out the policy implications of academic writings. For exhibit A, consider Al Kamen's column from a few weeks ago which tried to uncover Krasner's thoughts about foreign policy from his latest article in Foreign Policy. Key paragraph:
Well, the last thing I would want in a director of policy planning is to have someone who.... plans out contingencies for future world-historical events.
Now, before I anounce my general interest book, would everyone under the age of 18 please go click over somewhere else right now. Go ahead, I'll wait....
OK, adults only? Here's the thing -- I had a general interest book all picked out -- and then I checked my mail today and saw a very thick envelope. In it was a copy of Paul Joannides' The Guide to Getting It On!.
The accompanying note reads as follows:
This is how my life has changed since starting a blog -- in the same week, I can go from appearing on C-SPAN to receiving gratis copies of sex manuals.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I have a small, deeply disturbed following.
[Say, maybe you could put that "blog that's long enough to gag a UN hooker" among your praiseworthy reviews!!--ed. No, no I really couldn't.]
Thursday, February 3, 2005
Speaking of Egypt...
This was one of the more interesting paragraphs in Bush's State of the Union:
The lines about Egypt and Saudi Arabia were nicely phrased, in that they represented a challenge to the regimes there.
Coincidentally enough, the Wall Street Journal has a front-pager by Karby Leggett on Egypt's economic reforms. From the opening, it appears that Egypt's latest prime minister is adopting a much more market-friendly posture:
Sounds good -- but what about democracy? Here's where things get sticky:
So, what does the U.S. do? Hope that the economic reforms trigger future political reforms, or apply more leverge on the Mubarak regime -- even if a more democratic government might not pursue such market-friendly policies?
Wednesday, February 2, 2005
Comment on the State of the Union -- and then watch C-SPAN!!
Feel free to comment on President Bush's State of the Union address here. Oh, and CNN's Michael Coren reports breaking news -- bloggers will apparently be providing some real-time commentary on the speech!!
Yours truly will not be live-blogging the SOTU -- but loyal readers will be able to hear my thoughts on the speech (and the Democratic response) if you tune into C-SPAN for the post-speech coverage. I'm batting second in their reaction line-up -- Ramesh Ponnuru leads off and Brad DeLong will come third. As These two have clashed in the past, think of me as providing a temporal de-militarized zone of pundity!
UPDATE: Well that was painless -- except for my near-total lack of coherence on the final question.
Otherwise, Jeff Jarvis pretty much captured my take.
So you say that markets dominate the world....
Those who rejoice and those who reject the supposed triumph of market forces in the global economy would be wise to remember that, "Three of the most important prices in the world economy are set by means other than markets." To see which markets these are, read the Economist story from which this quotation is taken.
Of course, that statement is also an exaggeration -- obviously, market forces have a powerful effect on the prices of oil, capital, and different currencies. It would be more accurate to say that these are three markets where governments exercise significant to monopoly control over the supply of the product in question.
The perfect storm... of fishing regulations
A minor key in the movie (and perhaps the book -- I haven't read it) The Perfect Storm is that one reason the Andrea Gail was lost at sea is that its evil greedhead owner didn't want to save some money and not pay for upkeep on the boat. Certainly, this is a classic theme in fiction -- the poor working slobs are made to suffer because of the greed of capitalist pig-dogs.
I dredge this up because Kirsten Scharnberg has a story in today's Chicago Tribune about a more recent fishing boat accident that claimed five lives. This time, however, the villain appears to be.... excessive regulaions:
Read the whole thing -- regulation is not the only culprit, but it's a biggie. [C'mon, how bad could it be?--ed. Barney Frank thinks the regulations are excessive.]
This is just sick. Sick, sick, sick, sick, sick.
I must congratulate Maggie Haberman of the New York Daily News for reporting a story that leaves me pretty much speechless. My only thought: this is not a good day for the Tribe.
[What, no excerpt?--ed. Not with this story -- you'll have to click on it yourself. Here's a link to the less lurid but also less informative wire service account.]
The hopes and fears of libertarians in Bush's second term
Back in late November, Reason magazine asked "a variety of pundits, pols, and profs to tell us their biggest hopes and fears for the next four years." Click here to see the answers in the February 2005 edition of the magazine. Contributors include Vernon Smith, Nadine Strossen, Tyler Cowen, Virginia Postrel, Jacob Levy, Heather MacDonald, Glenn Reynolds.... and yours truly.
Tuesday, February 1, 2005
What would you like to ask Mr. Anonymous?
Because he's giving a talk at the Program on International Security Policy, I'm going to have 45 minutes or so to chat one-on-one with Michael Scheuer -- a.k.a., Mr. "Anonymous", a.k.a., author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terrorism.
I've blogged about the book in the past, but I'll admit that I haven't had time to read the book, nor have I been paying much attention to him since the book was released. So, I'm blegging for good questions from loyal readers -- and I'll be sure to post his answers.
UPDATE: As the graduate student who escorted him to me whispered into my ear, "What a nice, nice man!" I wasn't able to ask him all of your questions, but here are some quick responses (NOTE: I'm summarizing his views; I'm not saying I necessarily agree with them):
More later if I get a chance.