Sunday, July 31, 2005
The revolution in basing affairs?
On the one hand, Donald Rumseld and the DoD have been engaged in a multi-year plan to reorganize and reposition the U.S. military. According to Thom Shanker of the New York Times, the repositioning of 50,000 U.S. troops from Korea and Germany back to the United States is complete.
On the other hand, Maura Reynolds and David Holley report in the Los Angeles Times that some countries are requesting that U.S. forces leave ahead of schedule:
Over at the Christian Science Monitor, Mark Sappenfield suggests that these recent developments suggest the complexity of fighting a global war on terror:
Another way of interpreting the data is that the administration is actually willing to put its emphasis on democracy promotion front and center, even in regions considered of geostrategic importance. The willingness to leave nondemocratic Uzbekistan while maintaining bases in democratizing Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan suggests that the U.S. is recalculating the requirements to be a long-term partner of the U.S. (This, by the way, would contradict what I wrote in Diplomatic History last month.)
The LAT report suggests that the Uzbeks might just be bargaining, so we'll see how this unfolds.
UPDATE: Austin Bay has more on Uzbekistan, although, again, I'll be interested to see if whether the U.S. and the Uzbeks wind up cutting a deal.
Your absurd suggestion of the day
Hat tip to Simon Says for the link.
Oh, and for those Brits reading who want to voice a response to the ASA's suggestion, here's a link to their complaint page.
Friday, July 29, 2005
Quote of the day
Overheard at a Cato Institute talk I attended:
ANOTHER UPDATE: Virginia Postrel echoes this theme:
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Hey, Karen Hughes!!!! Over here!!!!
I see you are slowly wending your way through the confirmation process for the post of Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Congrats on that unanimous vote.
Read the whole thing. And then roll up your sleeves.
And then -- only if you have the time, mind you -- go read Anne Applebaum too. .
So CAFTA passes...
The Bush administration is getting really, really good at using William Riker's "minimum winning coalition" theory of passing trade bills. Here's the Washington Post story by Paul Blustein and Mike Allen:
As that bolded portion suggests, whether using Riker's theory is good for public policy is another question entirely.
As I said before, I supprted CAFTA's passage, and I'm glad to see President Bush used some of those reasons to get it through. But I confess I can't muster a great deal of enthusiasm about this passage, except in so far as it preserves the possibility of achieving the Doha round.
Oh, and since the Bush administration won't do it, let me take the opportunity to thank the fifteen Democrats who voted for the bill -- without whom, I suspect, CAFTA would have gone down. You're a shrinking breed.
One interesting question for the future will be how the defections from the AFL-CIO will affect the lobbying power of unions on trade-related issues. I suspect that their trade policy shop is going to get seriously dented by this change. [But Nathan Newman says that competition among unions for organizing will be good for the labor movement!--ed. Check out Robert Fitch's take in Slate and see if Newman's optimism is still well-placed.]
UPDATE: Well, it looks like the Bushies aren't the only ones playing hardball:
The Economist is cute but wrong
Tim Harford is guest-blogging over at Marginal Revolution, and he links to a partially tongue-in-cheek Economist story (subscription required) that opens with the following:
Harford goes on to observe, "frequent flyer miles are now the world's dominant currency, with outstanding balances at $700bn."
I'm embarrassed to say I haven't gotten around to having an online subscription, but I think the Economist's claim of frequent-flyer miles collectively functioning as a single currency is wrong. Why? Because collective frequent flyer miles are denominated with different units of account (some airlines use segments rather than miles). They also don't work terribly well as mediums of exchange -- e.g., exchanging United miles with American miles. UPDATE: Well, exchange is possible but incredibly costly, according to this MSN Money report:
The problem is that this makes the HHonors points the currency, not the frequent flyer miles themselves.
Individually, I can think of each frequent-flyer program as creating money, but together they don't form a single currency, but rather another six or seven.
It's been a while since I thought of how to define a currency, so I'd appreciate a correction if I'm wrong on this. I never feel completely comfortable contradicting the Economist.
UPDATE: Several commenters have suggested that I didn't detect the irony in the Economist piece -- au contraire, I was aware of the lighthearted one. If the logic underlying the humor doesn't hold up, however, then I'm not sure how funny it is.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
How offshore outsourcing has devastated the high tech sector -- part deux
Six months ago I posted on how the IT sector seemed to be thriving as of late despite the rise of offshore outsourcing.
Here's a link to the Foote Partners press release that's discussed above.
It's also worth noting that beyond offshore outsourcing, there was an excellent reason for the drop in wages that did take place among IT services between 2000-2003: reduced demand. According to the WTO's report on offshore outsourcing, the annual percentage change in the U.S. IT market in the early part of this decade was as follows:
So it's a funny thing -- as demand has picked up in the US, the number of IT jobs and the level of IT wages has increased.
Oh, and for those IT readers of danieldrezner.com who complain about no jobs, I'll close with some anecdotal want-ads from the ComputerWorld story:
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Is grade inflation real or imagined?
Over at Crooked Timber, Harry Brighouse asks whether grades are improving because of inflation -- or because of other reasons:
A lot of Harry's alternative explanatuons would suggest -- perish the thought -- there have been productivity gains in education.
Much as I'd like this to be true, I'm probably more skeptical than Brighouse of this possibility -- click here for one reason why the distribution of grades suggests other factors at work besides improving student and instructor quality.
Pervez Musharraf announces victory!
A lot of Iraq critics have argued that the best thing to do in the country now is "declare victory and go home."
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf seems to be pursuing a variant of this strategy with regard to his Northwest Frontier. This is according to the Financial Times' Farhan Bokhari et al:
Monday, July 25, 2005
How the Chinese
Now we know that the Chinese devalued the yuan -- and we know pretty much why. But what were nuts and bolts of the decision-making process? How did it hapen?
The staff at the Wall Street Journal has a great essay on the two-year process by which the Chinese decided to revalue their yuan. The opening is killer:
UPDATE: Sorry, typo in the heading -- it should have been "revalue" and not "devalue" thanks to commenters for pointing out the error.
So I guess bilats are OK then
The Bush administration has insisted for years that the only way it will talk with the North Koreans is at multilateral talks involving Japan, South Korea, Russia, China, etc. The North Koreans, in contrast, always wanted bilateral talks with U.S. officials.
On the eve of the six-party talks starting again, it looks like the DPRK got its wish, according to the IHT'sChristopher Buckley:
Read the whole thing -- there's some interesting material on how the Chinese view Sino-DPRK relations.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Open Sharm al-Sheikh thread
Feel free to comment on the latest bombing in Egypt here.
I do not have anything to add that I haven't already said in this post from late 2002.
UPDATE: OK, two more things I can say, or rather link. First, this Washington Post story by Craig Whitlock suggests that the central Al Qaeda leadership has more direct control over the timing and location of terrorist attacks than the "franchise" model of Al Qaeda has suggested to date.
Second, is it my imagination or does this Canada TV story suggest Hosni Mubarak has seen Casablanca one too many times?:
ANOTHER UPDATE: Interesting.... this New York Times story by Elaine Sciolino and Don Van Natta Jr. cuts against the Whitlock story in the Post. One intelligence official is quoted as saying, "Al Qaeda is finished. But there is Al Qaedaism. This is a powerful ideology that drives local groups to do what they think Osama bin Laden wants."
Talking 'bout my old generation
Generation X -- you (and I) are old and getting older. Monica Eng's story in the Chicago Tribune explains:
Private equity groups go to Europe
Peter Gumbel has a fascinating story in Time on the growth of U.S. based private equity firms engaging in leveraged buyouts of European firms.
Read the whole thing. The restructurings are causing a bit of a ruckus. That fact that these groups are headquarted in the U.S. probably doesn't help matters right now. More importantly, European unions allege that the private equity groups come with mass layoffs. I have no doubt that's true in some cases, though the funny thing is that if you read the entire article, you will fail to find a single example of a U.S. firm actually recommending mass layoffs.
Friday, July 22, 2005
Does the U.S. need more mercenaries?
The funny thing is that the U.S. relies more on mercenaries than Alex may know -- the U.S. military has outsourced a lot of its logistical functions in Iraq, for example. According to this Council on Foreign Relations page, for example, the following functions have been at least partially outsourced:
However, let's assume Alex's question was tied specifically to the use of mercenaries for combat as opposed to non-combat operations. Two quick speculations for why mercenaries might not work out:
Finally, it's not clear to me that Alex's examples of U.S. "mercenaries" are really akin to the Hessians. Offering a citizenship inducement to foreigners joining the military is undeniably offering an additional incentive to enlist -- however, is the incentive a purely economic one or, are there identity motivations as well? Furthermore, in a world without a draft, what is the difference between offering greater monetary compensation to U.S. citizens interested in enlisting and offering similar economic incentives to foreigners interested in becoming Americans?
UPDATE: One clarification: I don't think that linking citizenship to enlistment is necessarily a bad idea -- I'm just not sure it qualifies as what Tabarrok thinks of as mercenarism.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Blegging for health care experts
As I've said before, health care is one of those public policy areas that I know is really, really important -- and yet I cannot muster up any authentic interest in the issue whatsoever.
So, I'm going to ask my readers to help me out and decipher the import of a recent Medicare initiative, as descibed by Gina Kolata in the New York Times:
I have every confidence that the mix of open source software and halth care policy will inspire someone to comment on the importance of this policy initiative.
The beginning of the end of Bretton Woods 2?
China's central bank posted the following announcement on its web site today:
What does this mean? In the short run, not much -- China is effectively appreciating its currency by only two percent and widening its band a bit. More interesting will be whether this initial move puts pressure on China to either revalue more or let its band widen more in the future. The statement implies that the Central Bank could do this, but my hunch, and the press coverage of the announcement, leads me to believe they'll sit on 8.11 for some time.
In the medium run, the decision to move from a fixed exchange rate of a managed float is going roil the currency markets a bit -- see this Bloomberg report on the yen, for example. More interestingly, Malaysia has followed China's lead and has decided to move the ringgit from a strict dollar peg to a managed float as well. The really intriguing question is how much this move will retard public and private purchases of dollar-denominate assets. This Associated Press report suggests that other Asian central banks are taking this in stride.
For the U.S., I'm not sure a two pecent revaluation is going to affect trade one way or the other. The rule of thumb has been that a ten percent revaluation would lower the trade deficit by one percent, so this won't have that big of an effect on the trade balance (and I would wager that the J-curve effect with such a small revaluation will be longer-lasting). The bigger effect may be political, in that this could eases protectionist pressures in Congress. On the other hand, it could also convince yahoos like Senator Schumer that this is the way to pressure the Chinese into making foreign economic policy concessions.
On the other hand, if Xu Haihui's report for International Finance News -- reprinted in the Financial Times -- is true, then the effect on certain sectors of China's economy could be significant:
UPDATE: For nice backgrounders on the issue, see this Wall Street Journal report by Michael Phillips (the link should work for everyone), this Financial Times renminbi page, and this backgrounder on China's slowing economy in the Economist.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Brad Setser weighs in: "Too small in my view to have much of an economic impact, in any way. On trade flows. Or on capital flows. I would still bet on a further revaluation." Nouriel Roubini and David Altig are debating the implications of the move on the Wall Street Journal's Econoblog.
Online screw-ups affecting the workplace -- continued
Via Over at CNET's new and interesting workplace blog, Paul Festa thinks this is another example of bloggers gone wild -- however, as David Scott points out:
Strictly speaking, Gee wasn't blogging -- furthermore, it was a blogger who apparently called him out.
[And would you have done the same thing if you had read Gee's post?--ed. Given that Gee posted this in a public forum, yep, you betcha. Er, haven't you occasionally evinced an ocular interest in the fairer sex on this blog?--ed. It's one thing to point out that a public figure has pleasing features when. in part, that's why they are public figures -- it's another thing entirely to publicly make the same point about someone over whom you hold an authority relationship. There are certain bright lines in my job, and that's one of them.]
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Mahathir Mohamad's grumpy retirement
There appears to be a rift brewing between former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad and his successor, current Malaysian PM Abdullah Badawi.
After reading this excerpt from John Burton's story in the Financial Times, see if you can guess which one I hope prevails:
Danica McKellar's unique two-fer
I'm pretty sure that Danica McKellar is the first person in history to be the subject of a profile in the New York Times science section, as well as ">the subject of a profile and a photo essay in Stuff magazine.
A tip of the cap to Ms. McKellar's very talented and flexible publicist.
So how is Viktor Yushchenko doing?
Eight months after the Orange Revolution, how is Ukraine doing? Well, this BBC report is kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it appears Yushchenko is following Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili in abolishing the most useless organization ever created in the Soviet Union -- the traffic police:
On the other hand, the second half of this report makes Yshchenko sound a bit... odd.:
There are many, many problems afflicting Ukraine. I think excessive swearing is not up at the top of that list.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Open SCOTUS nominee thread
Feel free to comment here on President Bush's announcement this evening of his choice to replace Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the Supreme Court. Orin Kerr is so excited about this that he's breaking into song.
The extensive network of legal spies working for danieldrezner.com report that Clement might be the perfect justice to navigate the 7-10 split that is the Senate confirmation process. I've heard experts on both sides of the aisle praise her. Jack Balkin thinks Clement would be a shrewd political move. Over at Power Line, John Hinderaker repeates a Reuters report that Clement would receive the support of Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu. Andrew Sullivan has a whole bunch o' posts up, including a link to this Legal Times story, which suggests that, "Two of the most noteworthy opinions written by Clement are in the area of criminal rights and law enforcement." This may please The New Republic's William Stuntz, who argues that, "the Supreme Court's most important job is not managing the culture wars. Regulating the never-ending war on crime is a much bigger task."
Remember, however, that George W. Bush loves -- loves -- to surprise the media.
UPDATE: And he does -- it's Judge John Roberts from the DC Court of Appeals. Looks like John Derbyshire was wrong.
UPDATE: Listening to NPR, Jeffrey Rosen says that while no Supreme Court nominee is a slam dunk, this is pretty "dunky."
The U.S.-India entente
So, dear readers, who do you agree with -- John Bolton or George W. Bush? I ask because of this Washington Post story by Dana Milbank and Dafna Linzer:
The Bush administration's calculus is pretty obvious -- they think the geopolitical benefits of a close relationship with India outweigh whatever norm violation has taken place because of how India acquired nuclear weapons. According to the Post article, a Carnegie Endowment paper by Ashley J. Tellis, "India as a New Global Power: An Action Agenda for the United States," spells out the administration's logic. UPDATE: Here's a link to Sumit Ganguly's take on Tellis' argument from the pages of Foreign Affairs.
Comment here on whether you think the tradeoff is worh it. My guess is that foreign policy analysts, regardless of idelology, will be split on this. Full disclosure: I've repeatedly advocated this move in a number of fora. The nonproliferation genie cannot be put back in the bottle for the subcontinent, and this move merely acknowledges reality [But what about the nonproliferation norm?--ed. Yeah, I don't assign a whole lot of explanatory power to that.]
UPDATE: The Economist does a nice job of spelling out the mixture of realpolitik and idealpolitik that's behind this:
Your surreal online moment for today
In the middle of an online Q&A on CAFTA with U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman -- run by the White House, no less -- the following exchange took place:
Monday, July 18, 2005
Today's Plame post
In one of the footnotes to Running the World, David Rothkopf has a great quote from former NSC director Anthony Lake:
The flip-side of this argument is that, when an administration does something wrong, and the explanations are either malevolence or incompetence, bet on the latter.
The revelations of the last week regarding Karl Rove, Lewis Libby, and the whole Plame Game business makes me wonder if this was a similar story -- that it turns out Rove/Libby were clearly involved in the Plame leak, but they didn't know they were the source, since they claim to have gotten the information from journalists. Indeed, Matt Cooper's story doesn't necessarily square with the original version of events, which had the White House aggressively calling reporters left and right to impugn Joseph Wilson and his wife.
In my own blogging on the topic, I have wavered between thinking the White House acted maliciously on a grand scale or acted incompetently... and maliciously on a petty scale.
All the stuff from last week suggested incompetence -- until I came across this Los Angeles Times story by Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten:
This story does jibe with the malevolent interpretation of events.
In commenting on this story, Kevin Drum points out something that's been bugging me about the Plame Game for the past week:
I don't know what's going on here.... but I'm sure my commenters will.
Rashomon in the nanny world
Continuing the theme of the professional downsides of blogging, Helanie Olen had a piece in yesterday's New York Times about firing her nanny because ofher blog:
The ex-nanny posts her rebuttal, naturally, on her blog, which starts off as follows:
I'd tell you to read the whole thing, but it is very, very long. Bitch Ph.D., who knows the blogger in question, posts her own thoughts on the matter:
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Wait a minute... I could have hired a PR firm??!!!
Is it my imagination or does it seem that a story like this one by Felicity Barringer appears about once a quarter in the New York Times these days?:
Why the hell didn't anyone mention that I could have hired PR people to pimp up my material before I handed in my friggin' tenure file???!!!
The international relations of baseball
I have an essay in today's edition of Newsday about the international relations of baseball -- in particular, what can be gleaned from the International Olympics Committee's decision to drop baseball from its roster of sports and Major League Baseball's decision to set up the World Baseball Classic.
The key paragraph:
Go check it out. My favorite part is the tagline: "Daniel W. Drezner is assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago and a lifelong fan of the Boston Red Sox."
Some background links: click here for one example of corruption in the International Olympics Committee. Here's a link to Gary Sheffield's comments to the New York Daily News; and here for evidence on the number of national baseball federations.
I should point out one sloppy construction in the piece. The article says, "the National Hockey League allowed its players to participate in the Olympics, and they trashed their rooms after they lost their last game." That charge should be limited to the American NHL players; my apologies to any and all Canadians.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Talk about your fun accession negotiations!
In The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Thomas Friedman argued that globalization forced states into the Golden Straitjacket, choosing between "free market vanilla and North Korea." This is one of those classic Friedmanisms that is simultaneously overexaggerated and yet tugs at some gut sense that there's a truth embedded in somewhere in that statement.
Anyway, I bring this up because apparently North Korea has called and apparently wants vanilla. Anna Fifield explains for the Financial Times:
I really do not know how much credence to put into this report. But if there's any truth to it, I'd love to be a fly on the wall when the accession negotiations start.
My contribution to the greatest sports moments meme
Earlier this month, Steven Taylor of PoliBlog provided his anwer to the "Ten Unforgetable Sports Moments that You Actually Saw (not ones you saw later on tape)" meme. Kevin Drum offered his as well. More specifically, it's events you saw live, be it in person or on television.
Taylor puts together a pretty good list, but he betrays his youth -- most of his examples are in the last ten years.
Here are my answers -- and remember, the key adjective is "unforgettable," not "greatest":
That's it -- feel free to add yours. [Where the hell is the Miracle on Ice? You saw that, right?--ed. Oh, I saw it, but no one outside of the ice rink saw it live. ABC showed the game tape-delayed. And thank God there was no World Wide Web back then, because it would have been too tempting to find out who had won beforehand. As it was, my parents turned off all the radios and TVs in the house to ensure ignorance.]
Friday, July 15, 2005
Is the war against Al Qaeda generating results?
Bruce Jentleson kicks off his first post for America Abroad with a valid question:
Just about everyone is questioning the policy on Iraq. However, one of the key criticisms of the Iraq war is that it incubated a new generation of adherents to Al Qaeda. Is that really true? Are the Bush administration's anti-terrorim policies "sound enough and solid enough to win in our arenas"?
Via Orin Kerr, I see the latest Pew Global Attitudes survey is up, and there are some numbers that suggest the answer is (mostly) yes. It turns out that Osama bin Laden is losing the hearts and minds of Muslims. Susan Page summarizes in USA Today:
Click here for more poll results. As Nick Gillespie put it in Hit & Run, "Bin Laden: Hopes for Re-Election as World's Most Popular Asshole Dim."
Here are the key charts:
The numbers offer support to both supporters and critics of the way the Bush administration has prosecuted the war of terror.
On the one hand, the numbers are trending in the right direction, and the comparison between the July 2002 numbers and July 2005 numbers in most countries suggests that Iraq hasn't generated
On the other hand, the numbers for Jordan are not trending in the desired direction at all. This could be due to Iraq, although if that was the case one would have expected a similar trend in Turkey and that hasn't happened. Still, it should disturb policy analysts across the policy spectrum that the one Arab country simultaneously possessing a free trade agreement with the United States and a peace treaty with Israel has a population that is growing more comfortable with radical Islam.
In honor of Justice Rehnquist....
Anyone attempting to earn a Ph.D. is familiar with Matt Groening's Life is Hell strip about graduate school. Patricularly this part:
In honor of Chief Justice William Rehnquist's contrarian announcement that he's staying on for a while, I thought it worth reprinting this fact from Charles Lane's profile of Rehnquist in the July/August 2005 issue of Stanford magazine:
Readers should feel free to speculate on how history would have changed had the Harvard Government department not been as hostile an environment to Rehnquist.
The media in the year 2014....
I, for one, welcome our new GoogleZon overlords.... I think.
This is supposed to cheer me up?
In the middle of an essay on the Weekly Standard's web site that is generally upbeat on the economy, Irwin Stezler comes to the paragraph that depresses the hell out of me:
Well, that makes me feel much better.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
A new outsourcing business model
There are a lot of things that don't make sense to me about this business model:
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Progress for the Doha round?
Richard McGregor reports in the Financial Times about a potential breakthrough in the agricultural negotiations for the Doha round of world trade talks.
Sounds great, until you get to the nitty-gritty of the proposal:
The scary thing is that what's proposed represents liberalization of a sort -- agriculture is so heavily protected and subsidized that it will take decades for complete liberalization.... if it ever happens.
Supachai is more pessimistic about the overall progress of the Doha round. Click here for his statement from last week. Key paragraphs:
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Are times changing in France?
Christian Noyer, governor of the Bank of France, recently gave an interview to the Financial Times in which he said some very un-French things:
Read more of the interview here -- in which he gives faint praise to new French PM Dominique de Villepin while dismissing Villepin's suggestion for closer political consultations with the European Central Bank.
Open Karl Rove thread
I'm on quasi-vacation in Aspen at the moment (more about that later), but feel free to comment here on the whole Karl Rove mess. In particular:
An immigrant's take on offshoring
Suketu Mehta has an op-ed in the New York Times on the rise of offshoring to India. Mehtu comes at this from an interesting angle, as he and his family "came to America in 1977 not for its political freedoms or its way of life, but for the hope of a better economic future." While acknowledging the anxiety caused in the tech sector by offshoring, Mehta's conclusions are straightforward:
Monday, July 11, 2005
Prospect theory and homeland security
In the wake of the London transport attacks and calls in the United States for protecting our infrastructure,, it is worth remembering one of the most important results from the work on prospect theory in economics is that human beings overestimate the likelihood of rare events actually occurring. One political implication of this fact is that governments will be asked to overinvest in measures designed to regulate and curb low-risk events.
In the wake of the London transport bombings, there has been a lot of chatter on television about what must be done to boost homeland security. However, prospect theory offers an important corrective to this natural response -- we exaggerate the cost of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
Keep this in mind when reading Benjamin Friedman's article in Foreign Policy on the myths and realities of homeland security. Here's how it opens:
Read the whole thing -- and then check out this 2003 primer on "Prospect Theory and its Applications for Disaster and Emergency Management."
You can feel the Euromentum!!
Never mind that France and the Netherlands rejected the EU constitution last month -- it's back on track now!!. Sarah Laitner explains in the Financial Times:
Given that neither the French nor the Dutch seem to be suffering from voter's remorse, I'd say the EU constitution has as much mojo right now as..... Joementum.
Indeed, this definition of Joementum perfectly captures Juncker's plight.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
The real digital divide
A common lament among development activists is that regions like Africa are held back by the digital divide -- these places have less access to the Internet.
However, the Economist runs a good story on the information technology that would benefit poor African countries the most:
The good news is that firms like Motorola have a huge incentive to expand to this market, and are in the process of creating low-cost handsets.
The bad news is that developing countries themselves might block further expansion of cell phone usage:
One reason left unmentioned in the Economist piece why some governments might impose high barriers to cell phone usage -- cell phones increase the costs of repression. A newtork of opposition activists armed with cell phones and text messaging capability can more easily coordinate political action against a repressive government.
Friday, July 8, 2005
Grad students: no blogs allowed
I've expressed trepidation in the past about whether graduate students or untenured faculty should start a blog.
An essay by "Ivan Tribble" (a pseudonym) in the Chonicle of Higher Education doesn't make me feel any more sanguine. The highlights:
How to respond? One fellow scholar-blogger puts it this way:
I was all set to defend the utility of academic blogging, but I see that Robert Farley was kind enough to do it for me -- literally:
I'll close with two pieces of advice:
1) To "Ivan Tribble": Click here before you condemn blogging to the academic dustbin. But if you or your colleagues still truly believe your assertion that, "Past good behavior is no guarantee against future lapses of professional decorum," then here's my advice -- do not hire anyone ever again. As you say, "We've all... expressed that way-out-there opinion in a lecture we're giving, in cocktail party conversation, or in an e-mail message to a friend." Therefore, it doesn't matter whether potential future colleagues have a blog or not -- all it takes is five minutes to set one up. The only foolproof way to "guarantee against future lapses of professional decorum" online is to have no colleagues. Come to think of it, you should also ban any current colleagues from using any computer hooked up to the Internet -- it's the only way to preserve decorum.
2) To graduate students: I'd like to say that Ivan the Tribble is your classic piece of outlying data, but I can't. The default assumption you should make is that the academy has a lot of people who share the Tribble worldview of the blogosphere. I seriously doubt that any amount of reasoned discourse will alter this worldview. So think very, very, very carefully about the costs and benefits of blogging under one's own name.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum says something that had occurred to me as well:
To be fair, however, there are short-run and long-run countertrends:
Sunday night, or what you will
Readers are free to interpret the story as an example of:
Me, I'm still trying to stop laughing.
Raising the Union Jack
If the State Department can do it, so can the good folks who put together danieldrezner.com:
Thursday, July 7, 2005
Why support CAFTA?
In an e-mail, Slate and New York Times contributor Daniel Gross asks a fair question: "unless you're a really, really, passionate free trader--which few congressional members, republican or democrat, are--why would you vote for CAFTA?"
Actually, it's not like free traders are terribly enthusiastic about the deal. In NRO, Bruce Bartlett conveys a free trader's feelings about the deal pretty well:
In the end, there are three reasons I can give to support CAFTA:
There are many things I don't like about this agreement -- but there are even more things I don't like about the policy environment for trade if CAFTA goes down.
UPDATE: As God is my witness, I did not coordinate this blog post with Donald Rumsfeld.
One final reason for supporting CAFTA if you're from the Midwest -- CAFTA puts an ever-so-slight dent in the wall of sugar protectionism, which would help to staunch the flow of candy manufacturers across the border.
The new bipartisanship
Kal Raustiala has an excellent piece in TNR Online about whether bipartisanship is on the decline. His basic thesis -- traditional centrist bipartisanship is down, new bipartisanship across a vast ideological chasm is up:
Read the whole thing.
With regard to foreign affairs, This kind of bipartisanship leads to a wholesale rejection of realpolitik. A foreign policy that appears to lack values is anathema to ideologues on both sides. As Raustiala points out, however, it can also lead to greater internationalism of a sort -- on debt relief or Darfur, for example.
The shifting politics of trade and immigration are another, more prenicious example of this new bipartisanship, by the way. Trade was your classic centrist issue that generated support from centrists on both sides of the aisle. Today, liberal Democrats oppose trade expansion and relatively open immigration because they fear the effects on unions and the working class. Conservative Republicans oppose trade expansion and relatively open immigration because of fears about global interdependence and the loss of sovereignty.
The result: a weakening Congressional support for an open economy.
UPDATE: Hmmmm.... John Thacker posts a comment that makes me wonder if I've overstated the case on trade. I'd be curious if his evidence applied to the House, however -- which is really the chamber I was thinking about with regard to trade.
Al Qaeda in Europe
CNN reports on the group claiming responsibility for the London transport bombings:
The clumsy-sounding name (at least in English) of this group makes me wonder if this is another of Al Qaeda's local subcontractees.
UPDATE: Stephen Flynn has some thoughts at the Council on Foreign Relations home page that sound this theme as well. Some highlights:
Read the whole thing.
LAST UPDATE: Steve Coll and Susan B. Glasser make a similar point to Flynn's in the Washington Post:
Open London transport thread
Comment here on the London Transport bombings.
Tom Regan at the Christian Science Monitor has a link-filled article.
A friend from London sends the following e-mail:
UPDATE: Patrick Belton has more on the timeline of events, adding:
ANOTHER UPDATE: Greg Djerejian ponders the aftermath:
Wednesday, July 6, 2005
Those passionate Brits
London has won the right to host the 2012 Olympics. The city defeated Paris in the final vote -- since 1992, the French capital has lost out three times in a row (to Barcelona, Beijing, and now London).
This Associated Press report suggests that the International Olympic Committee was swayed by the passion of the British boosters:
Which is not to say that the French weren't passionate -- it's just that the passion of their president, Jacques Chirac, might have been directed at the wrong targets:
Free trade democrats, R.I.P. (1934-2005)
Beginning with the passage of the 1934 Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, there has always been a signifcant contingent of Democrats who supported the expansion of foreign trade -- even when Republicans were mostly protectionist.
Look, CAFTA is not perfect, and if you read the article in its entirety, you'll see it wasn't only Democrats behaving badly.
However, neither of those points negates the fact that this trade deal is a no-brainer in terms of both economics and foreign policy.
Yglesias' two primary objections to CAFTA are that the agreement "is an effort to impose low labor standards and a misguided intellectual property regime on Central American nations." The first objection is, well, horses**t -- CAFTA doesn't force the Central American countries to lower their labor standards. I'm somewhat sympathetic to the excessive IPR argument - but click here to read a Chicago Tribune editorial about why the "Brazilian solution" preferred by Tyler doesn't necessarily work well either.
ANOTHER UPDATE: In the comments, Steve points out that Republicans control all the branches of government, so why blame the Dems? Brad Setser points out that Republicans have been acting protectionist with regard to the proposed CNOCC takeover of Unocal. Daniel Gross makes this point on his blog as well:
So am I unfairly bashing Dems?
In a word, no. True, the Republicans currently control the executive and legislative branches -- however, the same was true of the Democrats when NAFTA was under debate. Because of Democratic defections, however, the Clinton administration needed the cooperation and support of Republican leaders to secure its passage -- and Clinton got that support (indeed, if memory serves, more Republicans voted for NAFTA than Democrats). Nancy Pelosi sure as hell ain't playing that game today.
And while it's undoubtedly true that one can point to protectionist Republicans who are members of Congress, one can't say that the entire party is behaving in a protectionist manner. That's no longer true of Congressional Democrats.
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Brad DeLong asserts that I'm misreading the Weisman story: "Drezner's wrong. And the story he cites does not say what he claims it says. It does not say that free-trade Democrats are gone." He thinks the relevant sections of the Post story are as follows:
Two final points. First, while I didn't address these points head-on in my original post, it was very cute of DeLong to elide my statement that, "if you read the article in its entirety, you'll see it wasn't only Democrats behaving badly."
Second, let's say DeLong is correct -- Clinton got 102 Democratic votes for NAFTA in the House, and then only 73 Democratic votes with the China WTO vote. At present, there is a whopping total of "50 pro-trade Democrats" in the House now. No matter how you slice it, that's not an encouraging trend line.
[Maybe free trade Congressional Democrats aren't dead -- they're just in a persistent vegetative state!--ed. Don't go there.]
I'll have more to say about CAFTA soon.
Tuesday, July 5, 2005
Gonna be a fun takeover battle
Peter S. Goodman reports in the Washington Post that the Chinese Foreign Ministry hasn't taken too kindly to Congressional doubts about the proposed CNOCC takeover of Unocal:
Look, I'm probably more sympathetic to the proposed takeover than most Americans, but that highlighted passage even made me laugh out loud. As the Economist pointed out two weekso ago, 70.6% of CNOOC's stock is owned by a "state-owned, unlisted parent company." Furthermore, "The Chinese offer is in cash—the shares even of a well-run Chinese firm are not yet acceptable as takeover currency." A separate story points out:
There's nothing "normal" about this particular commercial exchange -- from the Chinese side of things, there is government intervention all over the friggin' place. The Chinese government's suggestion otherwise just makes them look ham-handed.
The irony, of course, is that regardless of the Chinese government's idiocy, the Congressional concerns about the takeover are pretty much bogus. Goodman's story quotes Rep. William J. Jefferson, a Louisiana Democrat, saying last week that, "We cannot, in my opinion, afford to have a major U.S. energy supplier controlled by the Communist Chinese." However, as Paul Blustein noted in last Friday's Post, the concerns about China's market power from a Unocal purchase affecting U.S. energy prices and supplies are absurd:
July's Books of the Month
This month's international relations book is David Rothkopf's Running The World: the Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power. Rothkopf's history of the NSC starts with the National Security Act of 1947 and continues to the present Bush administration. I've blogged about Rothkopf's arguments in the past (click here as well) and I'm very sympathetic to his arguments about the flaws in the NSC process.
A former Clinton administration official, Rothkopf was still able to interview a number of Bush foreign policy principals, including Condoleezza Rice. Go check it out.
The general interest book comes from a U of C book group that I'm participating in on Carl Schmitt's Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy. However, the book I would recommend first is Schmitt's The Concept of the Political. That book contains perhaps the most accessible and thought-provoking critique of the Western liberal tradition. Alan Wolfe, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education last year, provides a decent summary of Schmitt's argument (link via Ted Barlow):
Wolfe goes on at one point to suggest that American conservatives have embraced Schmitt's dialectic:
In this section, Wolfe succumbs to the very friend-enemy trope that Schmitt embraces. However, a conservative political operative of some reknown recently embraced this dialectic as well:
I believe that Schmitt's understanding of the classical liberal tradition to be deeply flawed -- indeed, Wolfe himself would have a hard time reconciling that paragraph from his Chonicle of Higher Education essay with his recent New York Time Book Review essay on Louis Hartz's The Liberal Tradition in America.
However, Schmitt remains a useful guidepost. Indeed, Schmitt's friend-enemy distinction will likely be the best way to view the brewing fight over Sandra Day O'Connor's replacement (see Ann Althouse for more on this).
Go check them out.
The big Russian elephant in the room
Alex Rodroguez has a front-page story in the Chicago Tribune about a new challenger to Vladimir Putin in Russia:
It's an OK article, but Rodriguez ignores the elephant in the room when discussing Kasparov's political fortunes in Russia: he's Jewish. Iin fact, Kasparov changed his name from Weinstein after his father's death. To put it gently, I seriously doubt that two-thirds of the Russian population oppose his presidential aspirations because of his politics.
Monday, July 4, 2005
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
In honor of America's birthday, go read the Declaration of Independence. Like most of America's founding documents, it's remarkably succinct.
And then go read Andrew Sullivan's "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." Sullivan's closing paragraph:
Sunday, July 3, 2005
I've got my reading material for the week
The World Trade Organization has just issued its annual trade report. Beyond an update of recent trade developments, the document -- like its IMF and World Bank counterpart -- also provides more extensive analytic essays on various trade topics.
Oh, and there's also a shorter essay of offshore outsourcing. In which you can find the following:
Yeah, I'm not interested in this report at all.
Frances Williams has a nice summary of the offshoring sections of the WTO report in the Financial Times.
Saturday, July 2, 2005
Daniel W. Drezner -- the magazine?
Hey, if ESPN can do it, why not the hardworking staff at danieldrezner.com?
If you're wondering what the heck I'm talking about, click over to James "Outside the Beltway" Joyner for some background about the FEC's slow-motion investigation of how to regulate the blogosphere. Anticipating the inevitable FEC screw-up, some bloggers, like Bill Hobbs, have decided to simultaneously a) retiring from blogging, and b) declare themselves to be "online daily interactive magazine(s) of news and commentary."
Over at Captain's Quarters, Ed Morrissey is valiantly resisting this trend, stating:
Ed makes an excellent point. However, Duncan "Atrios" Black makes a persuasive argument about joining the online magazine community:
Make it twister with Salma Hayek, and this would be the easiest call in blog history.
Decisions, decisions.... I will humbly leave it to my readers to decide for me.
And, no, there would be no swimsuit issue.
Friday, July 1, 2005
The Supreme Court's long, hot summer
Orin Kerr has some interesting (but mildly contradictory) musings on O'Connor's resignation. Of particular interest:
Brian Fletcher at SCOTUSblog has a roundup of initial reactions. They've also set up a Supreme Court Nominations blog that will undoubtedly be worth checking out.
Open Ahmadinejad thread
More generally, It's still unclear to me what the precise relationship is between Ahmadinejad and the clerics that actually run Iran. Yesterday's New York Times op-ed by Abbas Milani said the clerics "masterminded Mr. Ahmadinejad's victory." However the NYT editorial of the same day argues that Ahmadinejad, "offered a populist economic platform that implicitly challenged the cronyism and corruption of more than a quarter-century of clerical rule."
I don't know enough about Iran's internal politics to comment -- but I'm sure that will not deter you from commenting.
[Isn't this just a case of life being complex? Maybe Ahmadinejad agrees with the clerics on some issues but not others?--ed. Undoubtedly true -- but the question that's still unanswered is whether he's willing to address certain sacred cows within the clerical establishment even as he's agreeing with them on other issues.]
How to reverse New England's demographic decline
Click here for the Globe's accompanying photo essay.