Friday, September 30, 2005

The shift in jobs and the need to shift job training

The Economist reports on the decline in manmufacturing employment in the U.S.

For the first time since the industrial revolution, fewer than 10% of American workers are now employed in manufacturing. And since perhaps half of the workers in a typical manufacturing firm are involved in service-type jobs, such as design, distribution and financial planning, the true share of workers making things you can drop on your toe may be only 5%. Is this cause for concern?

The Economist answers its own question in this opinion piece:

Shrinking employment in any sector sounds like bad news. It isn't. Manufacturing jobs disappear because economies are healthy, not sick.

The decline of manufacturing in rich countries is a more complex story than the piles of Chinese-made goods in shops suggest. Manufacturing output continues to expand in most developed countries—in America, by almost 4% a year on average since 1991. Despite the rise in Chinese exports, America is still the world's biggest manufacturer, producing about twice as much, measured by value, as China.

The continued growth in manufacturing output shows that the fall in jobs has not been caused by mass substitution of Chinese goods for locally made ones. It has happened because rich-world companies have replaced workers with new technology to boost productivity and shifted production from labour-intensive products such as textiles to higher-tech, higher value-added, sectors such as pharmaceuticals. Within firms, low-skilled jobs have moved offshore. Higher-value R&D, design and marketing have stayed at home....

Yet there is a residual belief that making things you can drop on your toe is superior to working in accounting or hairdressing. Manufacturing jobs, it is often said, are better than the Mcjobs typical in the service sector. Yet working conditions in services are often pleasanter and safer than on an assembly line, and average wages in the fastest-growing sectors, such as finance, professional and business services, education and health, are higher than in manufacturing....

People always resist change, yet sustained growth relies on a continuous shift in resources to more efficient use. In 1820, for example, 70% of American workers were in agriculture; today 2% are. If all those workers had remained tilling the land, America would now be a lot poorer.

Of course, the good service sector jobs do require some training. And this Chicago Tribune story by Barbara Rose highlights the deficit in human capital investment in Chicago:

Chicago's future economic prosperity will depend in part on the success of programs such as The Employment Project that move more workers into the mainstream of a competitive global economy, a new study reports.

The study by the nonprofit Chicago Jobs Council, to be released Wednesday, is intended as a wake-up call to the fact that an estimated 41 percent of the area's labor force will reach retirement age over the next 15 years, fueling demand for new skilled workers. Yet an increasing number of job seekers have only limited basic skills.

The report is part of a broader awakening about the importance of workforce development in an era in which companies need better-educated workers to compete globally, business leaders said.

"If you had to look for the single least sexy and most complicated topic out there, this is it," said Paul O'Connor, executive director of economic development group World Business Chicago.

Here's a link to the Chicago Jobs Council report discussed by Rose.

posted by Dan at 12:09 AM | Comments (27) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Red Sox cause heartburn -- but do they save lives

It's going to be an agonizing/wonderful/intense final weekend of Major League Baseball's regular season. Whenever Major League Baseball has to post this kind of web page to explain the possible playoff permutations (link via David Pinto), you know there are some close races.

Naturally, the piece de resistance is the AL East, with the streaking Yankees a game ahead of the Red Sox, who are tied with Cleveland in the wild card standings.

I don't know how these games could top the drama of the last two years with these two teams -- but then again, I thought that was true right before last year's ALCS, and look what happened.

Intriguingly, the close series probably means an easier load for Boston's emergency rooms:

A couple of dyed-in-the-red-wool Fenway fanatics -- who, by day, specialize in analyzing trends in health-care use -- wondered what happens to emergency room traffic when the Sox catapult into the playoffs.

The result of their research: Last fall, while the Sox pummelled the Yankees in the deciding game of the league championship and, then, the Cardinals in Game Four of the World Series, business in the ER was as cold as Manny Ramirez's bat was hot.

''We knew if we were looking for any public event that would have an effect on health-care utilization, it would have to be the Red Sox championship games," said Ben Reis, inveterate Sox fan and Children's Hospital Boston researcher....

The researchers discovered that during the championship games, televisions were blaring in three of every five households in the Boston area, watching Curt, Johnny, and the rest of the self-proclaimed Idiots.

At the same time, visits to the emergency rooms plummeted, on average, by 15 percent when compared to historical trends for ER visits on autumn evenings.

Fewer ER visits and more babies -- you know the recent Red Sox revival has been good for New England.

[Sure, there are fewer visits, but do the Red Sox save lives?--ed. The reportage is unclear. On the one hand, it seems that people with chronic ailments might defer or postpone visits. On the other hand, "There was no evidence, the researchers from Children's report, of a surge in ER visits immediately after the game concluded." One has to wonder if there were fewer driving accidents, etc. while people were watching the games.]

posted by Dan at 10:25 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Gone grand strategizin'

Blogging will be intermittent for the next few days, as I'm off to Princeton University for the next couple of days. I'll be participating in a conference sponsored by the Princeton Project on National Security, which I referred to a year ago as "a nonpartisan effort to strengthen and update the intellectual underpinnings of U.S. national security strategy."

It's definitely bipartisan -- half of Democracy Arsenal and America Abroad will be in attendance.

If you glance at the planned agenda you'll see that participants will be trying to think big thoughts. In my case, it will probably consist more of listening to others think big thoughts.

In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves about this truly horrifying report.

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

The end of the immigration spike

Mickey Kaus is still worried about immigration even after reading and partially debunking a L.A. Daily News story by Rachel Uranga:

[I]t's worth worrying about a) the possible collapse of a common language and b) the possible Quebec-like Mexification of Southern California.

I've never really bought into either meme. And today, Nina Bernstein has a New York Times story that pours more cold water on this hypothesis:

For years it seemed that immigration to the United States could only rise. Now a new study, based on a year-by-year analysis of government data, shows a startlingly different pattern: Migration to the United States peaked in 2000 and has declined substantially since then....

In terms of immigrant destinations, the study confirms a long-recognized trend away from the "big six" traditionally immigrant states - California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas - which still receive 57 percent of immigrants, toward so-called new growth states like Iowa and North Carolina. The foreign-born pioneers to such states in the 1990's now serve as a magnet for friends and relatives from abroad, especially when jobs are plentiful

Bernstein's story is a riff on the Pew Hispanic Center's latest report, "Rise, Peak and Decline: Trends in U.S. Immigration 1992 – 2004." The executive summary also observes that:

The shift of immigrant flows away from states with large foreign-born populations such as California and New York towards new settlement states such as North Carolina and Iowa accelerated during both the peak and the decline that followed.

Indeed, the report makes it clear that the shift in immigration flows to new states is a permanent and not temporary shift.

Beyond allaying fears of Mexifornia, the study has two take home points.

First, immigration flows follow the economy:

Rather than undergoing a continuous increase in immigrant levels as is commonly perceived, the United States experienced a sharp spike in immigration flows over the past decade that had a distinct beginning, middle and end. From the early 1990s through the middle of the decade, slightly more than 1.1 million migrants came to the United States every year on average. In the peak years of 1999 and 2000, the annual inflow was about 35% higher, topping 1.5 million. By 2002 and 2003, the number coming to the country was back around the 1.1 million mark. This basic pattern of increase, peak and decline is evident for the foreign-born from every region of the world and for both legal and unauthorized migrants.

In 2004, migration bounced back to exceed 1.2 million. Whether or not this move portends further increases is impossible to predict. But even with this recent increase in migration, the most recent data show that immigration flows are at levels comparable with those of the mid-1990s and still significantly below the peak levels of 1999–2000.

Both the run-up to the peak and the drop-off in immigration coincide with a variety of conditions known to influence such flows, most notably the performance of the U.S. economy. Immigration grew sharply during the rapid economic and job expansion of the 1990s and then declined as the economy went into a downturn after 2001. Measures of the change in the Mexican labor force—the largest single source of U.S. immigrants by far—follow trends closely related to the pattern of changes in U.S. immigration.

This finding probably won't surprise many economists, but it is politically significant -- because it counters the belief that immigration is some unyielding, unstoppable force.

That said, the second, more disturbing take-home point is that the composition of immigration flows is changing -- and not for the better:

From 1992 to 2004, the unauthorized share of immigration inflows increased and the share that was legal decreased. By the end of the period, more unauthorized migrants than authorized migrants were entering the United States.

Declines in legal immigration accounted for the largest part of the drop from the peak flows at the turn of the 21st century. From the peak in 1999–2000 to the trough in 2003, over 60% of the decrease in flow is attributable to lower levels of inflows of legal permanent residents and legal temporary immigrants counted as part of the population.

This kind of study may give greater impetus to a grand bargain on immigration reform -- in which legal immigration flows are expanded at the same time there is a crackdown on illegal immigration. [I thought the grand bargain involved a guest worker program--ed. Yeah, but my grand bargain would ditch that part -- guest worker programs don't have a great track record, and the dispersal of immigrants to non-border states would probably reduce its allure anyway.]

Go check out the whole report.

posted by Dan at 11:28 AM | Comments (31) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

So how's the public diplomacy thing going?

Karen Hughes, the under secretary for public diplomacy, is in the middle of a "listening tour" of the Middle East. Guy Dinmore reports in the Financial Times on how it's going.

The stop in Saudi Arabia was apparently quite an eye-opener:

Indignant Saudi women on Tuesday turned the tables on Karen Hughes, the US under secretary for public diplomacy, rejecting her analogy of them as the “broken wing” of a bird that the US will help fly....

Mrs Hughes, better known as the long-time communications guru for President George W. Bush, began the “open dialogue” before several hundred women at Dar al-Hekma university by introducing herself as a “working mom”.

She went on to talk about the importance the US attaches to freedom and welcomed a new Saudi labour law that is supposed to open up more job opportunities for women....

Students and teachers lined up at the microphones to express in perfect English their indignance at the stereo-typing of Saudi women as living in a closed society, unable to work or drive or vote. They also slammed the US media for spreading such an image, notably one Oprah Winfrey show that they said presented a Saudi woman beaten by her husband together with the message that theirs was a country to be avoided.

“We are happy, not just content, but happy,” one student objected.

Mrs Hughes quickly replied that she thought Arab women were strong and intelligent, but stuck to her guns, saying that Americans “take their freedom very seriously”, and that means speech, religion, voting and driving – for work and shopping.

Doesn't sound great -- but read this section, and consider the possible sample bias:

Afterwards, the young women – many from wealthy families who spend their summers in the west – were eager to give interviews, explaining why driving was not such a big deal for them, and that the right to vote would come eventually.

“We don’t want the US to force us to bring change,” said one teacher. “They did not allow the blacks to vote before, and now they are forcing the world to accept their views.”

Students described Mrs Hughes as “very kind” and “friendly”, but begged to differ on her views. “I go out with my driver. I go to the beach. I don’t feel caged in,” said one student. “People think we go on camels and live in tents.”

When pressed, they admitted that they would like the right to drive and vote but insisted that reform would come at Saudi Arabia’s pace and choosing. Some complimented King Abdullah for his gradual reform efforts, saying he wanted women to drive but that many conservatives in Saudi society did not.

UPDATE: If this Josh Marshall post is accurate, then the FT has downgraded Hughes from Minister of Propaganda to her actual title.

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

Serenity -- the review

Forget the clever marketing strategy -- is Serenity worth the coin? Does it soar like a leaf on the wind?

The answer partially depends on where you fit in the movie-going universe:

1) Joe and Jane Moviegoer. If you like action flicks with a dash of surprising levity, Serenity is definitely worth checking out. Writer/director Joss Whedon clearly knows his genres, and has no trouble mixing them -- in this case, sci-fi and westerns -- and has even less trouble subverting genre stereotypes. The best parts are the first and last 30 minutes of the film. There's a lot of backstory exposition, and if you go for opening weekend, you might notice a lot of oddly enthusiastic moviegoers, but I agree with Variety's Derek Elley in saying that, "Familiarity with the original episodes isn't necessary, as a tight opening effectively recaps the backstory." This is not Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me -- thank God.

[UPDATE: I'm glad to see this thumbs-up from someone illiterate in Whedon-speak.]

If geeks and fanboys scare you, do not see Serenity on opening weekend. Then go.

2) Firefly fans. Hmmm... how to put this.... hell yes, it's worth the coin. Whedon brought his "A" game and Universal gave him just enough money to make it very, very shiny. Whedon accomplishes in Serenity what he did so proficiently in his best work on TV -- he creates characters who stay true to their motivations, and then makes you realize that just because an actor is featured in the opening credits, there's no guarantee that they'll still be alive when the end credits run. It's that credible danger that makes the final half-hour of Serenity so intense for fanboys and fangirls alike. In Chiwetel Ejiofor, Whedon has found the perfect villain for this piece. Summer Glau and Nathan Fillion are equally good in the emoting and kickass fighting categories. The rest of the cast has their moments as well.

3) Aspiring movie auteurs: This take from Ken Tucker's New York magazine review should whet your appetite:

[Whedon] can write quick, gabby banter for an array of heroes and oddballs better than any auteur since Preston Sturges, and he can dramatize the camaraderie within an ensemble better than anyone since Howard Hawks.

My take: You wish you could do a tracking shot like the one Whedon serves up in the opening credits. Serenity is a nice exercise in demonstrating how special effects should serve the story and not vice versa. As for dialogue, one person who saw an earlier preview put it best: "Han Solo wishes he was this cool." Whedon betrays his TV past with some claustrophobic shots at some junctures, but this is a great big-screen directorial debut.

4) Libertarians: Back in August, I resisted posting on this debate on the politics of Firefly that had been going around the blogosphere. Having seen Serenity, I think I'll weigh in.

To recap: Tyler Cowen argued that the "implicit politics" of the show imply it's "actually Burkean conservative."

Sara T. Hinson thought the show sounded libertarian themes -- like all sci-fi:

At its best, science fiction advocates liberty. While Star Trek lamentably supported a "Federation knows best" mentality, other works like Star Wars and Robert Heinlein's novels have promoted the dissolution of central rule and the triumph of the individual. For the science fiction writer, space means one thing: freedom. Like the Wild West where men made their own rules and property rights were enforced at the end of a landowner's shotgun, space has afforded the hope that one day man can move beyond the reach of any government's oppressive hand.

Having seen Serenity, I have to side with Hinson. While I thought the television show had both libertarian and modern liberal themes, the movie is actually more libertarian . Indeed, without giving Serenity's plot away, the information you discover about the Reavers negates one of the anti-libertarian critiques present in Firefly.

So go see the goram movie.

UPDATE: Jacob Levy saw the same screening I did, and blogs an excellent review. This paragraph captures the film well:

This is not a genre-buster like Matrix or even a genre-redefiner like Blade Runner. It's more of an ante-raiser like Alien: "See? This thing that we've gotten used to seeing done badly can be done really, really well." For Alien, it was making a monster movie genuinely suspenseful, scary, and visually compelling. For Serenity, it's making space opera morally serious and centered on complete characters with convincing relationships and first-rate dialogue. I predict that it will make watching Star Wars or Star Trek movies harder to do without cringing.

Matthew Yglesias also liked it -- though I don't agree with Yglesias' assertion that Whedon painted "the Alliance as a cartoonishly evil empire."

[Dude, don't you and everyone else are overreading a sci-fli flick?--ed. You don't know Whedon. From the Toronto Star's Marlene Arpe:

Whedon's work is studied in universities, it's the subject of academic conferences and about a dozen books in print.

[Whedon says,] "Who's gonna feel bad about that? I've worked enormously hard on every episode of every show I've ever done, not just to have it be interesting, but to have a very specific reason to put it on ... And so there's been, with my writers, a great deal of discussion about philosophy and politics and message and structure, so to have it be a field of study, feels like we actually communicated.... Language is my drug."

So there.]

ANOTHER UPDATE: In Reason, Julian Sanchez has a link-rich, spoiler-rich essay on the philosophical roots of Serenity -- and makes a persuasive case for the role of Camus as well as Hayek. In Slate, Seth Stevenson likes Serenity but thinks Joss Whedon's comparative advantage is in the long narrative arcs of episodic television. Salon's Stephanie Zacharek agrees:

I still feel some anxiety that "Serenity" will be viewed by audiences unfamiliar with Whedon's work as just another sci-fi-geek enthusiasm. My problem, I think, is that "Serenity" dredges up some of the same feelings I have when a movie adaptation of a book I love just doesn't measure up. I'm so used to "reading" Whedon in the long form -- so used to riding the rhythms of his television series, rhythms he sustains beautifully week after week, season after season -- that "Serenity," as carefully worked out as it is, feels a bit too compact, truncated. That's less a failing on Whedon's part than a recognition of the way TV, done right, can re-create for us the luxury of sinking into a good, long novel. I hope Whedon makes many more movies (and there's the enticing possibility that "Serenity," if it does well, will be the beginning of a franchise). Faced with a big screen, Whedon knows exactly what to do with it. But the small one needs him, too. Of all the pleasures TV watching has to offer, he has perhaps tapped the greatest one: that of waiting on the docks, anxious to find out what happens next.

posted by Dan at 12:47 AM | Comments (27) | Trackbacks (7)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Finding Serenity

As promised last week, I got to preview Serenity. I'll review it in the next post -- for this one, a few interesting tidbits about the logistics of the whole enterprise after the jump:

1) Joss Whedon fan Dori Smith wondered last week:

Okay, here's something that's been puzzling me since yesterday: you've got Joss Whedon, who's a well-known Hollywood liberal type and John Kerry supporter. He's got a new movie coming out next week, name of Serenity.

So why on earth is Whedon, or the studio, or the PR folks, only working with rightwingers to plug the movie?

Maybe it's 'cause there aren't any progressive bloggers who are long-time fans of the show?

I seriously doubt the latter is true, but I do have a partial explanation for Smith: the motto of Grace Hill Media -- the PR firm tasked with the blogger promotion -- is "Helping Hollywood Reach People of Faith." I wonder if there's another PR firm to hype the event for liberal blogggers.....

2) And I wonder if they're better than Grace Hill Media, because I must agree with this blogger's complaint about the confirmation e-mail they sent to everyone. Juuuust a bit too bossy.

3) As someone who was captain of my high school math team, I can say with some certainty that I know from geeks. With that background knowledge, I must confirm what one of my moviegoing compatriots said: "I've been to Star Wars and LOTR openings, but this was easily the geekiest moviegoing audience I've ever seen."

3) Universal studios showed one preview before Serenity -- Doom, starring The Rock. From an audience primed for Joss Whedon quips, it provoked a... bemused reaction.

4) Despite the high fan-to-nonfan ration, there were enough interested outworlders such that the preview accomplished what Whedon said was the marketing strategy in this New York Times interview:

The idea was always that if the fans got excited enough, made enough noise, somebody fan-adjacent would go, "What's that noise?" And somebody near him would go, "What's that noise?" It was about those people, the people who don't know where to look, but then they start to see it or hear about it.

posted by Dan at 11:55 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (2)

How to try Saddam

How do you try a dictator for crimes committed while in office? The question is not an easy one to answer. The best treatment I've seen of this problem, ironically, is fictional: Julian Barnes' The Porcupine.

This question will rear its head again when Saddam is put on trial in three weeks. Gary Bass -- author of Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals -- has a non-Times-Select op-ed in the NYT expressing concerns about how the Iraqi government is handling the matter:

The Iraqi war crimes tribunal's first case against Mr. Hussein, which opens Oct. 19, charges him with the 1982 massacre of at least 143 men and boys from the village of Dujail. This was meant to be a test case of manageable scope and strong evidence. Unfortunately, Laith Kubba, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, says that once the court has reached a guilty verdict in the Dujail case, the near-certain sentence of death "should be implemented without further delay."

But if Mr. Hussein is executed for the Dujail killings, he will never be called to account for the larger atrocities on which he was arraigned in July 2004: killing political rivals, crushing the Shiite uprising in southern Iraq in 1991, invading Kuwait in 1990, and waging the genocidal Anfal campaign against the Kurds in 1988, including gassing Kurdish villagers at Halabja.

If this sounds trivial, Bass is correct to point out that the treatment of Saddam's past affects Iraq's political future:

[T]he Iraqi tribunal would do well not to rush Mr. Hussein to the gallows. A hasty execution would shortchange Mr. Hussein's victims and diminish the benefits of justice. Baathists would be all the more likely to complain about a show trial. Kurds would rightly feel that they were denied their day in court for the Anfal campaign. Shiites in the south would also be deprived of a reckoning.

A thorough series of war crimes trials would not only give the victims more satisfaction but also yield a documentary and testimonial record of the regime's crimes. After Nuremberg, the American chief prosecutor estimated that he had assembled a paper trail of more than five million pages. A comparably intensive Iraqi process would help drive home to former Baathists and some Arab nationalists what was done in their names. The alternative is on display in Turkey, where the collapse of a war crimes tribunal after World War I paved the way for today's widespread Turkish nationalist denial of the Armenian genocide.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 11:34 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (1)

Spammers, please help the Chinese government out...

Reuters reports that the Chinese government has issued some new rules about how the news can be reported on the Internet (link via Drudge):

China set new regulations on Internet news content on Sunday, widening a campaign of controls it has imposed on other Web sites, such as discussion groups.

"The state bans the spreading of any news with content that is against national security and public interest," the official Xinhua news agency said in announcing the new rules, which took effect immediately.

The news agency did not detail the rules, but said Internet news sites must "be directed toward serving the people and socialism and insist on correct guidance of public opinion for maintaining national and public interests."

Another Xinhua report has this priceless tidbit:

Online news sites that publish stories containing fabricated information, pornography, gambling or violence are facing severe punishments or even shutdown.

These new measures were part of a new regulation on online news services, jointly introduced yesterday by the State Council Information Office and the Ministry of Information Industry.

"We need to better regulate the online news services with the emergence of so many unhealthy news stories that will easily mislead the public," said a spokesman with the information office at a press conference yesterday.

Services that provide online news stories, that have bulletin board systems (BBS) or have the function of sending short messages containing news contents to individual mobile phones are all subject to the regulation....

The public will help information departments at all levels supervise news sites. Anyone who finds unhealthy online stories can visit and report.

Isn't this sort of request exactly the kind of useful activity that spammers could engage in instead of bothering me?

posted by Dan at 01:36 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (4)

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Wild Portuguese cigar orgies in Vatican!!!

Well, no, not exactly. But the AP's Nicole Winfield does have some new information on the conclave that eleated Cardinal Ratzinger to Pope Benedict XVI:

A cardinal has broken his vow of secrecy and released his diary describing the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, revealing in a rare account that a cardinal from Argentina was the main challenger and almost blocked Benedict's election.

Excerpts of the anonymous diary, published Friday, show the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, led in each of the four ballots cast in the Sistine Chapel during the April 18-19 conclave. But Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a Jesuit, was in second place the whole time.

Most accounts of the conclave have said that the retired Milan archbishop, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, was the main challenger to Ratzinger, who became Benedict XVI after his election, and that a Third World pope was never realistically in the running.

While Bergoglio never threatened Ratzinger's lead--and made clear he didn't want the job, according to the diary published in the respected Italian foreign affairs magazine Limes--his runner-up status could signal the next conclave might elect a pope from Latin America, home to half the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics.

The diary of the anonymous cardinal also shows that Ratzinger didn't garner a huge margin--he had 84 of the 115 votes in the final ballot, seven more than the required two-thirds majority....

offers other colorful insights of what went on behind the scenes during the two days the 115 cardinals were sequestered in the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican's Santa Marta hotel.

Because the hotel prohibits smoking, Portuguese Cardinal Jose da Cruz would sneak outside for an after-dinner cigar, the diary says. And Cardinal Walter Kasper shunned the mini-buses that shuttled cardinals to the Sistine Chapel, preferring to walk by the Vatican gardens instead.

Wow, that last paragraph had some spicy info, let me tell you.

This is one of those stories where the news is not in the content but in the fact that someone made it public. [What about the prospect of a Latin American pope?--ed. Possible, but prior second-place finishers are far from guaranteed to be viable candidates in the next round of voting. That said, I'm sure Andrew Sullivan or Stephen Bainbridge could parse out further meaning.]

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey is saddened at this news, believing that, "[this] comes as a sad commentary that even the princes of the church cannot be trusted with secrets any longer, except those which specifically benefit themselves."

Hmmm... as someone who occasionally studies closed-off regimes, I can't say I agree.

posted by Dan at 03:13 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

What's the end game on Iran?

It looks like the IAEA will pass a resolution on Iran -- what happens after that is unclear. Here's the gist from the New York Times' Mark LandlerRaising the stakes in the West's confrontation with Iran, Britain formally proposed Friday that the Iranian government be reported to the United Nations Security Council for its failure to comply with treaties governing its nuclear program.

But in a sign of the deepening rift over Iran on the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Britain submitted the weaker of two draft resolutions, which leaves open the timing of such a report to the Council.

After a rancorous debate over when to vote on the measure, the 35-member board agreed to reconvene on Saturday. Diplomats here said they expected it to be passed by a solid majority, though Russia, China, and several other countries have signaled they were likely to oppose it. [NOTE: John Ward Anderson reports in the Washington Post that the minority might try to deny a quorum vote today--DD]

The resolution, drafted by Britain, France and Germany, and endorsed by the United States, said there was an "absence of confidence that Iran's nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes."

Under the circumstances, the resolution said, the issue should be taken up by the Security Council....

Russia's likely opposition, as well as China's, sets up a confrontation on the Security Council, where both hold permanent seats.

The European nations' aggressive move reflects their frustration with Iran, which announced last month it would abandon an earlier pledge to suspend its conversion and enrichment of uranium. Iran had agreed to halt such activity while it tried to negotiate a settlement with Britain, France and Germany.

The goal of reporting Iran to the Security Council is not to impose sanctions, said diplomats involved in the negotiations.

"Our goal is not to punish Iran, but to put further pressure on Iran," said a Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the talks. "We have no intention of sanctioning Iran; we recognize that sanctioning Iran would hurt Russia and China."....

Iranian officials did not speak during Friday's board meeting, but diplomats here said they showed two unsigned letters to some board members. In one, the Iranian government said that if the resolution were passed, Iran would resume uranium enrichment at a plant in Natanz.

In the second, Iran said it would withdraw from a set of agreements with the atomic energy agency that provide for more intrusive inspections....

The agency's board has passed seven resolutions on Iran since June 2003, all unanimously, which chided Iran for its concealment and urged it to grant inspectors unfettered access.

By early this month, when the agency's director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, issued his latest report, patience was running thin.

Departing from the agency's usual tone of studied neutrality, the report said, "In view of the fact that the agency is not in a position to clarify some important outstanding issues after two and a half years of intensive inspection and investigation, Iran's full transparency is indispensable and overdue."

Still, officials at the agency viewed this resolution with chagrin. The debate over the vote on the measure was as vitriolic as some here could recall, and they said it could harm efforts to seek consensus on Iran.

Mr. ElBaradei is said to be reluctant to report Iran to the Security Council now, according to officials familiar with his position, who said the director general believes the Europeans and the Americans do not have a strategy for managing the issue before the council. (emphasis added)

Count me in with ElBaradei here. I think I know what the endgame is for this, but it's not clear to me if the risk is worth the reward.

If sanctions are off the table, and force is clearly out of the question, what is left for the Security Council to do? Presumably, passing some kind of resolution that upbraids Iran and threatens more punitive action down the road. Except, given Russia and China's opposition, it's far from clear the Security Council would even agree to that. So, one of two things will happen -- either the U.N. Security Council will look fractured, or they'll pass a toothless resolution. Either way, the Iranians have made clear what they will do if the issue goes to the Security Council.

So what's the benefit of going to the UN? If the consensus is that Iran is actually further away from developing a nuke than we previously thought, why make them accelerate their timetable?

I'm not saying that a move to the Security Council won't make sense at some point. But given the oil market at present, Iran has more economic leverage than they might in the future.

Readers are invited to submit their endgames in this latest standoff.

posted by Dan at 12:37 PM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (2)

Friday, September 23, 2005

For those who care....

For those of you in the audience who care about the political economy of intellectual property rights, global civil society, or global governance -- yes, you sitting in the Pick Hall computer lab, I'm looking right at you -- check out my revised APSA paper, "Gauging the Power of Global Civil Society: Intellectual Property and Public Health."

[Isn't this the one you were fretting about in August?--ed. Yes, but I'm pleasantly surprised with how it came out.]

posted by Dan at 09:58 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Define first -- then vote

Via Tyler Cowen, I see that the UK's Prospect magazine and Foreign Policy would like you to vote for the world's top public intellectuals.

Glancing at the list, I kept thinking that some of these names did not belong with others. Foreign Policy's explication of the criteria doesn't make me feel any more sanguine:

What is a public intellectual? Someone who has shown distinction in their own field along with the ability to communicate ideas and influence debate outside of it.

Candidates must have been alive, and still active in public life (though many on this list are past their prime). Such criteria ruled out the likes of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Milton Friedman, who would have been automatic inclusions 20 or so years ago. This list is about public influence, not intrinsic achievement.

Is it my imagination, or do the underlined portions fail to completely agree with each other? Doesn't the first underlined section imply public influence and intrinsic achievement?

To be fair, this can be like arguing about the Most Valuable Player award in baseball. But, using both influence and achievement as my criteria -- and picking those closer to my intellectual predilections in case of a tie -- here are my five:

Francis Fukuyama
Jürgen Habermas
Richard Posner
Amartya Sen
Zheng Bijian

If you're wondering who the heck Zheng is, click here. There's no question that the U.S. government is familiar with him.

Commenters are encouraged to report back on their choices.

posted by Dan at 05:00 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (5)

A genuine blogging perk

Lomgtime readers of are aware of my fondness for mocking goofy blogging perks.

However, Glenn Reynolds posts about a really sweet perk:

The PR folks for the forthcoming Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, etc.) science fiction movie Serenity are inviting bloggers to advance screenings. (List of cities here via an Excel document that didn't quite format right, but it's legible). It's free, and all they ask is that you blog something, good or bad, about it. If you're interested, email 'em at and they'll put you on the list.

Glenn's Excel spreadsheet is pretty hard to read -- better yet, click over to's Blogger Screening page (link via the very shiny Alina Stefanescu)

As for why Serenity is worth seeing, click here.

[Won't real members of the media giggle that you're at the screening?--ed. As a member of Chicago's media elite, I expet them to respect my authoriti, thank you very much.]

UPDATE: The people at Grace Hill Media have been kind enough to e-mail me Serenity's synopsis so I don't have to:

Joss Whedon, the Oscar® - and Emmy - nominated writer/director responsible for the worldwide television phenomena of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE, ANGEL and FIREFLY, now applies his trademark compassion and wit to a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future in his feature film directorial debut, Serenity. The film centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family –squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal.

posted by Dan at 01:23 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (2)

You can't handle the budget cuts!!

So I'm glad that the Porkbusters meme is catching on and all, and that there's some small-government criticism of this administration -- even on the Wall Street Journal's op-ed page.

This would not be, however, unless I was disenchanted with something [And pining over Salma Hayek!!-ed.]. So it's worth pointing out that Virginia Postrel is correct:

I'm all for taking pork out of the federal budget, with or without Katrina, but the big money is elsewhere. How about delaying the Medicare prescription drug benefit?

Oh, while we're at it, let's kill Amtrak too -- and the f@$%ing moondoggle as well. UPDATE: Damn!! I forgot about the farm subsidies!

I would like to think that outrage over the ballooning size of government will lead to some of this steps, but the political scientist in me is hugely skeptical. Budget cuts always sound great in the abstract, but as a policy it's identical to trade liberalization -- the benefits of fiscal stringency are diffuse and indirect, while the costs of budget-cutting are tangible and obvious. True, it's tough to get maudlin about bridges to nowhere, but I can easily picture media accounts demonstrating the tragic losses from cutting Amtrak or the space program, all to shave a quarter of a point off the interest rate. This would be even easier to do with the prescription drug benefit. And while it's OK to scorn government spending that doesn't affect you, once budget-cutting affects your bread and butter, suddenly the public trough looks mighty tasty.

To paraphrase A Few Good Men:

Jessep: You want budget cuts?

Kaffee: I think I'm entitled to them.

Jessep: You want them?

Kaffee: I want the cuts!

Jessep: You can't handle the cuts! Son, we live in a world that needs quasi-public goods. And those needs have to be funded by men in Congress. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for small government and you curse the ballooning deficit. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that big government, while tragic, probably enriched some lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, enriches some lives...You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want big government. You need big government.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum is equally cynical:

[L]et's face it: none of these cuts are very likely to happen — and even if they did pass, everyone knows the whole thing would die in the Senate. Getting on the anti-pork bandwagon is sort of a freebie that makes you look good with only a small risk of actually having to follow through.

ANOTHER UPDATE: On second thought, maybe I'm being too pessimistic. If AEI's Veronique de Rugy is correct, then Bush has expanded nondefense discretionary spending by the greatest percentage since LBJ (link via Andrew Sullivan and Nick Gillespie). Maybe, just maybe, there's so much execrable spending that cuts are politically viable.

posted by Dan at 11:14 AM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (1)

Hey, Beijing -- wanna be a stakeholder?

This evening, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick gave a speech outlining what the U.S. would like to see from China:

For the United States and the world, the essential question is – how will China use its influence?

To answer that question, it is time to take our policy beyond opening doors to China’s membership into the international system: We need to urge China to become a responsible stakeholder in that system....

There is a cauldron of anxiety about China.

The U.S. business community, which in the 1990s saw China as a land of opportunity, now has a more mixed assessment. Smaller companies worry about Chinese competition, rampant piracy, counterfeiting, and currency manipulation. Even larger U.S. businesses – once the backbone of support for economic engagement – are concerned that mercantilist Chinese policies will try to direct controlled markets instead of opening competitive markets. American workers wonder if they can compete.

China needs to recognize how its actions are perceived by others. China’s involvement with troublesome states indicates at best a blindness to consequences and at worst something more ominous. China’s actions – combined with a lack of transparency – can create risks. Uncertainties about how China will use its power will lead the United States – and others as well – to hedge relations with China. Many countries hope China will pursue a "Peaceful Rise," but none will bet their future on it....

China has gained much from its membership in an open, rules-based international economic system, and the U.S. market is particularly important for China’s development strategy. Many gain from this trade, including millions of U.S. farmers and workers who produce the commodities, components, and capital goods that China is so voraciously consuming.

But no other country – certainly not those of the European Union or Japan – would accept a $162 billion bilateral trade deficit, contributing to a $665 billion global current account deficit. China – and others that sell to China – cannot take its access to the U.S. market for granted. Protectionist pressures are growing.

China has been more open than many developing countries, but there are increasing signs of mercantilism, with policies that seek to direct markets rather than opening them. The United States will not be able to sustain an open international economic system – or domestic U.S. support for such a system – without greater cooperation from China, as a stakeholder that shares responsibility on international economic issues....

All nations conduct diplomacy to promote their national interests. Responsible stakeholders go further: They recognize that the international system sustains their peaceful prosperity, so they work to sustain that system. In its foreign policy, China has many opportunities to be a responsible stakeholder.

Read the whole thing to see what the U.S. wants China to do.

I'll be very curious to see how the Chinese react to this speech -- it's pretty blunt about China's need to change its foreign economic policy in order to avoid a protectionist backlash in the U.S. Blaming this on Chinese mercantilism is a deft maneuver that happens to be partially true.

UPDATE: On the other hand, Sam Crane thinks Zoellick's speech was not terribly Confucian.

posted by Dan at 01:25 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (4)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Feelng the café buzz in Hyde Park...

Lots of current and former Hyde Park residents reacted to this post about my neighborhood allegedly becoming the "next hot restaurant zone." Whatever the merits of the claim, it cannot be sustained unless neighborhood residents actually frequent the places that open up.

I would therefore encourage those in the area to stop by just-opened the Istria Café. They have wi-fi (yes, I'm blogging from here right now), good coffee.... and gelato.

It's located at E. 57th St. & Lake Park Avenue, right under the Metra tracks. If you're in the area, go check it out. Oh, and ask the manager about the myriad hoops City Hall requires people to jump through in order to open up such an establishment -- it's quite a tale.

posted by Dan at 11:24 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

U.S. calm, blogosphere worked up on North Korea

David Adesnik has an excellent round-up of blogospheric discussion of the proposed North Korea accord.

Meanwhile, Steven Weisman's latest report in the New York Times makes me feel just a smidgen better about the accord:

The Bush administration on Tuesday brushed off a demand from North Korea for a light-water nuclear reactor, saying that the accord announced Monday in Beijing left it clear that the North must abandon its nuclear weapons program before such a matter can be discussed.

"I think we will not get hung up on this statement," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, referring to a comment from North Korea that it would continue to insist on getting a reactor up front, as a price for agreeing to the Beijing deal. "We will stick to the text of the Beijing statement, and I believe we can make progress if everybody sticks to what was actually agreed to," Ms. Rice added at a news briefing with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. Mr. Lavrov said that "we shouldn't rely on oral statements" from North Korea or others.

In recent talks, North Korea had demanded, for its energy needs, a light-water reactor, of the sort promised in 1994 in return for an earlier agreement to freeze its nuclear programs. In 2002 the United States discovered that the North had reneged on that deal, and the Bush administration refused to supply such a reactor in any future arrangement.

The stalemate was resolved at the last minute over the weekend by China, which called on the United States to agree to discuss providing the North with a light-water reactor "at an appropriate time." Such a reactor is less efficient in producing weapons-grade fuel than a regular reactor.

Christopher R. Hill, the chief negotiator in the talks, said Tuesday that he was not surprised by North Korea's continued insistence on getting the reactor up front, but that the North understood that the American timetable for discussing the reactor was shared by the other countries in the talks.

"The North Koreans will make odd statements at their leisure, but they know precisely what the deal is," Mr. Hill said in an interview. "The deal with five other countries is that they have to get out of the nuclear business, and at an appropriate time to have discussions on a light-water reactor."

Lavrov and Hill's statements are reassuring -- they indicate that the other four members of the six-party talks agree with the American interpretation of the Beijing agreement.

And -- again -- this was the point of the six-party talks; they insured that all the major players in the region were on the same page.

posted by Dan at 10:16 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (1)

Greetings, disenchanted conservatives

It's no secret that I've been disenchanted with President Bush for some time now. Recently, it seems, a lot of conservatives have joined the club.

Shailagh Murray and Jim VandeHei report in the Washington Post that Congressional Republicans are less than thrilled with the Bush administration:

Congressional Republicans from across the ideological spectrum yesterday rejected the White House's open-wallet approach to rebuilding the Gulf Coast, a sign that the lockstep GOP discipline that George W. Bush has enjoyed for most of his presidency is eroding on Capitol Hill.

Trying to allay mounting concerns, White House budget director Joshua B. Bolten met with Republican senators for an hour after their regular Tuesday lunch. Senators emerged to say they were annoyed by the lack of concrete ideas for paying the Hurricane Katrina bill.

"Very entertaining," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said sarcastically as he left the session. "I haven't heard any specifics from the administration."

"At least give us some idea" of how to cover the cost, said Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), who is facing reelection in 2006. "We owe that to the American taxpayer."

The pushback on Katrina aid, which the White House is also confronting among House Republicans, represents the loudest and most widespread dissent Bush has faced from his own party since it took full control of Congress in 2002. As polls show the president's approval numbers falling, there is growing concern among lawmakers that GOP margins in Congress could shrink next year, and even rank-and-file Republicans are complaining that Bush is shirking the difficult budget decisions that must accompany the rebuilding bonanza.

Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) said he and other fiscal conservatives are feeling "genuine concern [which] could easily turn into frustration and anger."

Congressional Republicans are not arguing with Bush's pledge that the federal government will lead the Louisiana and Mississippi recovery. But they are insisting that the massive cost -- as much as $200 billion -- be paid for. Conservatives are calling for spending cuts to existing programs, a few GOP moderates are entertaining the possibility of a tax increase, and many in the middle want to freeze Bush tax cuts that have yet to take effect.

The conservative blogosphere is not really thrilled with the administration either:

Orin Kerr blasts the new anti-porn crusade. Ed Morrissey concurs.

Michelle Malkin looks at a new DHS appointee and says, "Oh, give me a ^*&%$# break and a half!" The Power Line concurs.

And most conservatives -- Glenn Reynolds most prominently -- are as concerned as some in Congress (well, Tom Delay excepted) about the pork that should be cut to help with Katrina relief.

So it was definitely amusing to read Pandagon's Jesse Taylor write: "I find the conservative blogosphere to be one of the most closed-minded, insular, circular pits of denial I've ever encountered."

UPDATE: In Slate, John Dickerson thinks Bush might actually listen to fiscal hawks this time, but depresses me the likelihood of any long-term impact on either party:

The problem that always bedevils the fiscal conservatives is that they are directly targeting the horse-trading that makes government go. Start pulling out earmarks and you unravel support for the whole bill. Deny seniors their prescription-drug bill and you anger a bloc of voters far larger and more influential than those watching the pennies. When social conservatives balk, they represent massive organized blocs of voters who have shown their willingness to stay home. When fiscal conservatives balk, only a few thousand ornery Republicans in New Hampshire and Arizona abandon the party.

Can the Democrats grab this angry constituency? Not likely. The Democratic Party hasn't shown bristling accounting leadership recently. "After the Democrats' obstructionist approach to Social Security reform, it is more difficult for them to claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility," says Maya MacGuineas of the Committee for a Responsible Budget. John Kerry and John Edwards both gave speeches Tuesday calling for a new era of leadership to address the challenges posed by the hurricane and the poverty that it exposed, but neither called for sacrifice or any painful tradeoffs.

After days of weighty speeches on the topics of race and poverty in America, lawmakers from both parties have reverted to the familiar evasions. The bucks are passing, the deficit will keep growing, and the fiscal conservatives will stay very, very angry.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Man, you get linked by Andrew Sullivan, the National Journal, and Howard Kurtz, and suddenly it's a party. So, a few corrections, responses, and extensions:

1) To Howard Kurtz: er... I didn't write what you quoted me declaring -- that was Josh Yelon. I'm always grateful for a link, but next time please click through Andrew's link to confirm attribution.

2) Hugh Hewitt thinks this Bush's dip in the polls just temporary:

It is the sort of thing I recall from the 1986 Iran-Contra period in the Reagan years, when the Gipper's approval rating hit 46%. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1989. So, it is more than premature to be dancing on W's political grave.

Hey, I made this point eighteen months ago. And if Iraq turns out OK and Al Qaeda collapses, Hewitt is 100% correct. I'm just a bit more dubious about the odds of this happening than Hewitt.

3) More thoughts on small-government conservatism here.

posted by Dan at 12:40 AM | Comments (81) | Trackbacks (5)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

"The streets were full of miniskirts"

Last Thursday was Costa Rica's independence day. According to Jacqueline Paisley, the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Education put some constraints on how the day should be celebrated:

The Ministerio de Educación Público promised to suspend for up to 30 days any marcher who wore a miniskirt, defined as anything with the hem above the knees. The streets were full of miniskirts Thursday all over the country, in part because such skirts were part of the uniforms schools have purchased....

Each year the ministry decrees against miniskirts, and each year tons of female marchers wear them.

posted by Dan at 02:07 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Mohamed El Baradei speaks a bit too soon

Daniel Dombey and Gareth Smyth report in the Financial Times that the head of the IAEA is very excited about the proposed settlement on North Korea's nuclear ambitions:

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, yesterday hailed the six-party deal as a potential model to defuse the crisis over Iran's nuclear ambitions, as a US-European attempt to censure Tehran encountered further problems.

Mr ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, hailed "a balanced package that addresses both the security needs of North Korea as well as theconcerns of the international community about North Korea´s nuclear activities".

He added that for Iran, "not unlike North Korea, there are security issues, there are nuclear issues, there are trade issues. So what is needed again is a comprehensive settlement in my view that can only be obtained through negotiation."

Well, turns out there are a few problems with this model:

1) According to RFE/RL, the North Koreans are interpreting the six-party statement somewhat differently than the other five:

just one day after the historic agreement, North Korea has put the deal in jeopardy. In a Foreign Ministry statement, Pyongyang demanded that it first be given civilian nuclear reactors before moving to eliminate its atomic weapons program.

The United States said North Korea's statement did not match the agreement it signed. Japan called it unacceptable, while Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang urged all sides to fulfill their promises.

“We really hope that each party could have the attitude of respect for each other to push forward the six-party talks. As far as I know, the agreement that has been reached is that in early November we are going to have the next phase of the six-party talks, I don't think I have heard that anything has changed,” Qin said.

The six countries had agreed to a set of principles on ending Pyongyang's nuclear program in return for security guarantees, oil, energy, and aid and recognizing its right to civilian nuclear energy. The six agreed to discuss providing a light-water reactor "at an appropriate time."

U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli interprets that phrase as meaning once North Korea has ended its atomic arms program.

"The parties agreed to talk about the civilian light-water reactor in the future, at an appropriate time. What we make clear in our statement -- and, I would underscore this, what the other parties made clear in their statements as well -- is that an appropriate time means once North Korea has returned to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and once they are in compliance with all IAEA safeguards," Ereli said.

2) According to AFX, Iran also seems to be drawing a lesson from North Korea -- though not necessarily the one El Baradei wanted to see:

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani warned that Tehran could quit the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) if it is subjected to the 'language of force' in a stand-off over its nuclear programme.

Responding to European efforts to haul Iran before the UN Security Council over 'breaches' of international atomic safeguards, Larijani also said Tehran would link its oil business and other economic trade with individual countries based on whose side they took in the dispute....

He was later asked if this meant countries like Japan -- which recently signed a major contract to develop Iran's Azadegan oil field -- could lose contracts in Iran.

'It is not only Japan but other countries that are concerned. We will examine their attitude,' Larijani said, adding that the future of the Azadegan contract 'depends on their (Japan's) conduct'.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only and that civilian nuclear fuel work is a right enshrined in the NPT....

'The Europeans keep telling us of this big giant -- the UN Security Council. But this will not mean the end of the Iranian people,' he said.

'I remind them of the North Korean case: after two years they accept North Korea's right to enrichment. They should do the same with us.

The scary thing is that Larijani might be correct. According to Reuters, there is little support within the IAEA to refer Iran to the Security Council -- so it's far from clear to me what other options exist.

No wonder Iran and North Korea are getting along so well.


UPDATE: El Baradei wasn't the only one to jump the gun -- today's spectacularly premature New York Times editorial on the six-party deal declares that, "Diplomacy, it seems, does work after all." Lee Feinstein makes a similar point in America Abroad.

I certainly hope that today's outburst from Pyongyang dies down and the statement turns into an actual agreement -- because it's the least bad option in a universe of realy, really bad outcomes. But it seems to me that there are a hell of a lot of people inside the beltway and the blogosphere who are counting on this agrement before it's been signed.

Meanwhile, North Korea has decided to kick out all humanitarian NGOs by the end of the calendar year.

posted by Dan at 11:35 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (3)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Think tanks and the media

A week ago I posted some (half-formed) thoughts on think tanks. There have been a few responses.

Virginia Postrel has been all over this -- triggering responses from Fabio Rojas, Tim Kane, and Will Wilkinson. All three observe that think tanks are a more diverse ecosphere than perhaps Postrel or I observed (see the Rojas post in particular).

See Arnold Kling's defense as well.

Tyler Cowen offers some quote-worthy points as well:

Some think tanks simply are markers or beacons for the ideologically faithful. I do object to the hypocrisy involved, and to the quality of their policy outputs. That being said, they are providing real services, just as churches do.

I view the interaction between blogs (and other decentralized information and opinion sources) and think tanks as a key question for the future. Will blogs "smack down" the rot of lower-quality think tank outputs, thereby leading to intellectual improvements? Or will blogs push think tanks out of serious policy discourse altogether, making them more like churches? Will blogs amplify the influence of some kinds of think tanks, at the expense of others? On these questions, all bets are off.

Note that scholars no longer need think tanks to take their ideas to larger audiences. The think tank sector has yet to absorb the import of this fact. Could Google -- and not universities -- be the real competitor to policy think tanks?

Well.... scholars still need operate within the mediasphere to get attention, and the constraints on that sphere remain formidable. It's far from clear to me whether an academic with a politically unclassifiable idea -- like, say, this suggestion for how to better assist the disabled and the elderly -- could get the necessary oxygen. Consider this missive from economist Bruce Bartlett:

Once again, I just got off the phone with a booker for one of the cable news channels who wanted me to play the role of the knee-jerk Bush supporter and I had to decline. Although I am a conservative who generally supports Republican policies and generally opposes those that come from Democrats, I am uncomfortable being locked into that position. I also don’t think it makes for very good television.

I understand that news shows want to show both sides -- or perhaps I should say two sides -- to controversial issues, lest they appear biased towards one position. But why must this always take the form of a debate? Why can’t they interview a person with one position separately and then interview someone else with another position in another segment? Wouldn’t this be a better way of achieving balance than by always having a debate?

It’s hard enough to make one’s point in sound-bite form without being distracted by the debating tactics of one’s opponent. And, unfortunately, everyone is now trained to know that when one has the camera and microphone they are pretty much free to say what they like, even if it is totally off topic and even untrue. On one occasion, my opponent called me a liar on air at the end of the segment, so that I could not respond. Afterwards, off camera, he conceded that I was right. But no one watching the exchange ever knew that....

Although I haven’t discussed this matter with friends in the Washington policy community, I am sure most -- if not all -- would agree with me. I suspect that it is why it is less and less common to see widely respected policy people on cable news programs and why one more and more often sees total nobodies labeled as “consultants” to one party or the other. Such people know absolutely nothing except how to memorize talking points and disagree vigorously with their opponent, regardless of the facts or logic of the case. I don’t see how this does anything to enhance public discourse or even attract viewers.

The fact is -- and everyone knows this -- that few issues are black-and-white. There are always nuances that are impossible to discuss in a debate format. But the debate format creates the illusion that there is always a simple answer to every complex problem and encourages average television viewers to assume that those of us in the Washington policymaking community are all idiots totally beholden to our party, without a lick of common sense or integrity.

I believe that the news channel that adopts the approach I am suggesting will gain both in the quality of its guests and the quality of its programming, thereby gaining a competitive edge.

I am more skeptical than Bartlett. I've had the same experience with bookers that he has had. Worse, there is only one show that I remember appearing on in which I was allowed to voice all the nuances of my position -- Gretchen Helfrech's Odyssey on Chicago Public Radio.

Naturally, Odyssey has been cancelled.

UPDATE: More from Postrel here and here.

posted by Dan at 05:06 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (4)

A nuclear-free Korea?

CNN reports that the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons programme have produced a breakthrough. The key parts of the joint statement:

1) The six parties unanimously reaffirmed that the goal of the six-party talks is the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning at an early date to the treaty on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons (NPT) and to IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards.

The United States affirmed that it has no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and has no intention to attack or invade the DPRK with nuclear or conventional weapons.

The ROK (South Korea) reaffirmed its commitment not to receive or deploy nuclear weapons in accordance with the 1992 joint declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, while affirming that there exist no nuclear weapons within its territory.

The 1992 joint declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula should be observed and implemented.

The DPRK stated that it has the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

The other parties expressed their respect and agreed to discuss at an appropriate time the subject of the provision of light-water reactor to the DPRK.

2) The six parties undertook, in their relations, to abide by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and recognized norms of international relations.

The DPRK and the United States undertook to respect each other's sovereignty, exist peacefully together and take steps to normalize their relations subject to their respective bilateral policies.

The DPRK and Japan undertook to take steps to normalize their relations in accordance with the (2002) Pyongyang Declaration, on the basis of the settlement of unfortunate past and the outstanding issues of concern.

3) The six parties undertook to promote economic cooperation in the fields of energy, trade and investment, bilaterally and/or multilaterally.

China, Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Russia and the U.S. stated their willingness to provide energy assistance to the DPRK. The ROK reaffirmed its proposal of July 12, 2005, concerning the provision of 2 million kilowatts of electric power to the DPRK.

Even though the Bush administration signed on, U.S. officials are still acting very cautiously -- and rightly so, given the average lifespan of an agreement with North Korea.

CNN's follow-up also highlights this fact:

The World Food Program has said that North Korea is headed toward the worst humanitarian food crisis since the mid 1990s, when an estimated 1 million North Koreans died. WFP says 6.5 million North Koreans desperately need food aid.

Naturally, the Norh Koreans now say they don't need any food aid.

Readers are invited to speculate on how likelihood of the six-party statement being implemented.

posted by Dan at 10:09 AM | Comments (22) | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

What I've been up to this weekend...

I've been playing host to a small conference on the political power of blogging. Although some of the participants got a bit stressed prepping for the conference, on the whole it led to some very stimulating discussions

Ethan Zuckerman has a round-up of some of the papers. And those interested in international relations should check out his blog anyway.

UPDATE: Laura McKenna has some kind words -- "it was quite excellent talking to people whose blogs are part of my daily consumption and who are just as freakishly obsessed as I am."

Kevin Drum reacts to some of Jay Rosen's comments at the conference.

And Eszter Hargittai has pictures!

posted by Dan at 09:31 PM | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, September 16, 2005

The subfield split on the dollar

Brad DeLong has a very good post up detailing the split among economists at a Jackson Hole conference (poor Brad) about what will happen when the dollar falls in value:

My conversations quickly exposed a deep fault among the conference attendees. Those who analyzed or forecast the U.S. domestic macroeconomy agreed that a steep decline in the value of the dollar sometime in the next five years was overwhelmingly likely, but by and large they did not think that such a decline would pose a big problem for the U.S. economy. (They agreed that it might well pose a very big problem for some of America's trading partners.) By contrast, those who analyzed or forecast the international economy as a whole were typically terrified by the prospect of a steep (30% or more, perhaps much more) decline in the value of the dollar: they thought a severe U.S. recession was a definite possibility, and that the situation would require exceptionally skillful handling to keep from becoming a serious economic problem....

Martin Feldstein said something very smart just after we had both taken off our shoes at Jackson Hole airport. He said that the domestic-side economists were keying off the past experience of the U.S. after 1985 and of Britain after 1982, and so were saying "no big deal"; while the international finance economists were keying off of the experiences of developing countries that had run large current-account deficits--Mexico 1994, East Asia 1997, Argentina 2001. Each side had its own preferred models that functioned very well at explaining the past historical cases that they focused on. But there was no way right now of settling, empirically, whether a model built to explain the U.S. in 1985 or Korea in 1998 was more applicable to the U.S. in 2006--you had to make a bet, either that continuities in U.S. economic structure were important, or that financial globalization was important, in choosing your model and your terms of analysis.

It was very interesting. And very disturbing. Brilliant economists, thinking hard, unable to reach even the beginnings of analytical agreement about how to model the distribution of possible futures.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 11:57 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Follow up on the commercial peace -- Gartzke replies to Rummel

Erik Gartzke sends along his reponse to R.J. Rummel's critique of his chapter "Economic Freedom and Peace" in Cato's 2005 annual report on Economic Freedom in the World. (click here and here for my previous blog posts on this topic.

I've put Gartzke's reply after the jump, because it's on the longish side and may bore non-IR types. I will, say, however, that the reply addresses many of the concerns I had about the study.

[So did you send it out for external review?--ed. Alas, no -- Erik can't count this as a refereed publication. It should count for something, though.]

UPDATE: Rummel replies here.


by Erik Gartzke

In a recent blog post titled “The CATO Institute Gets It All Wrong” posted on his webpage, Dr. R.J. Rummel presented some rather intense criticism of my recent chapter “Economic Freedom and Peace” in the 2005 edition of Economic Freedom of the World. I offer this note as a reply.

Dr. Rummel claims that I am wrong to write that “researchers have found that democracies are less likely to fight each other, while being no less ready to use force generally.” This is what other researchers have found. In fact, it is what most proponents of the democratic peace claim to show. Dr. Rummel knows that the majority of studies by democratic peace proponents do not support the assertion that democracies are generally less warlike (Rousseau, et al. 1996). Indeed, he has advocated the strong claim that democracies are generally pacific, in opposition to other proponents of the democratic peace. This difference of views within the democratic peace research community is not made clear in Dr. Rummel’s comments and may confuse his readers.

The comment that Dr. Rummel objects to thus simply summarizes the dominant view among democratic peace researchers. As Huth and Allee put it “patterns of military conflict between democracies and non-democracies are not very different from patterns of military conflict among non-democracies” (page 1, 2002). Bruce Russett, the dean of quantitative democratic peace researchers acknowledges that there is “little systematic evidence” in support of the claim that democracies are generally less warlike (page 11, 1993). Together, Russett and his research partner John Oneal, state that, “Our analyses clearly reveal the separate peace among democratic states” (page 288, 1997). There are many other examples. I quote the wikipedia encyclopedia:

Democratic peace theorists make two possible connections between democracy and war:

Babst, Singer, Rummel and Doyle claimed that democracies, properly defined, have never made war on each other; such DPTs face the difficulty that Ted Gurr classes both Spain and the United States as democracies in 1898, the year of the Spanish-American War.

Most more recent studies assert that two democracies are less likely to make war on each other than other pairs of states.

Thus, even if one admires Dr. Rummel’s research, it is simply not correct for him to suggest that I have mischaracterized the literature. Further, he does not make clear why I should adhere to his version of democratic peace when he has failed, despite vigorous efforts, to persuade other democratic peace researchers to do so. As a critic, I must address the most widely used version of an argument, or risk being attacked for setting up a “straw man.” In fact, by using the special dyadic claim of democratic peace, I am able to acknowledge that the study in question does not directly contradict the claims of dyadic researchers, though of course my findings also do not support the assertions of those who make the strong claim that democracies are generally more peaceful. (In other research, my results seem to show that even the weaker, dyadic version of democratic peace is not sustained when any of several measures of capitalist development and market integration are included in the analysis, but this is a discussion for another time.)

Dr. Rummel argues that I am doing democratization injustice by using the term “impose.” He suggests no alternative term, but references another blog post titled “Unchaining Human Rights, Not Imposing Democracy.” Certainly, “unchaining” sounds more affirmative, just as “freedom fighter” sounds more affirmative than “terrorist.” By “imposed,” I meant situations like Iraq, where democracy has not evolved endogenously. In Iraq, for example, unless democratic peace exists and is general (monadic), there can be no robust effect of democratization because other states in the region (besides Israel and Turkey) are not democracies. Research by Hegre (2004) shows that increasing democracy when few states are democratic tends to increase, not decrease, conflict. Even many advocates of democratic peace doubt that democratization in the Middle East will lead to peace in anything but the very long run. This, of course, also requires that we assume that US efforts to democratize Iraq will succeed, a debatable claim in its own right.

Dr. Rummel takes my study to task because I point out that the democratic peace observation has recently been limited to prosperous states. Here again, I am simply reporting the evolving consensus of democratic peace researchers themselves. Mousseau (2000) and Hegre (2000) report that an interaction term between variables for democracy and economic development leads the democracy term to become no longer statistically significant. In a newer study, John Oneal himself collaborates with Mousseau and Hegre in further substantiating this conclusion. As the result makes clear, democratic peace, if it exists, is conditioned by economic development. My view is that it is development itself, along with economic liberalization, that explains the peace.

Dr. Rummel claims that my assertions are falsified in my own data. As evidence, he argues that there are no “wars” between democracies. The specific claims that I make, and the data that I use involve militarized interstate disputes (MIDs), a broader category of conflict behavior. Wars are very rare. There are just 44 state participations in wars beginning in 1970, the earliest date for which the Index of Economic Freedom supplies data. Less than 1% of state years (think “man hours”) involve a war. For this reason, democratic peace researchers and others studying conflict among nations have overwhelmingly preferred in recent years to examine MIDs.

Still, it is not difficult to have a look. I examined the Correlates of War project listing of wars (conflicts involving at least 1000 battle deaths per year per participant). I find no statistical relationship between either the index of economic freedom, or the democracy variable, either separately or together, using these data. The effect of capitalism is either more subtle, reducing conflicts only over a lower intensity, or the sample of wars is too small, or both. In any case, democracy does not have the effects Dr. Rummel claims in these data, even when it is left by itself in the regression. As a further check on these findings, I also examined data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). These data report conflicts involving at least 25 fatalities. Thus, they are clearly conflicts involving “violence.” Using SIPRI conflicts as the dependent variable, I am again unable to find a statistically significant relationship linking democracy and peace. I can, on the other hand, find weak support for the suppression of major violence by the economic freedom variable. This variable is just short of the 5% significance threshold in a quick statistical comparison of democracy and capitalism as determinants of peace.

So, to summarize, Dr. Rummel’s critique that I should look at wars seems unfounded, though it did not hurt to check. The claim that democracy generally causes peace is again unsupported.

Dr. Rummel claims I am using the wrong data and that my study “confounds nonviolence with violence.” I am not sure what this means. Every Correlates of War Project MID involves threats or acts of a militarized nature, almost all of which involve violence (the threshold for inclusion in the dataset is high, resulting in relatively few threats and more “uses of force”). Again, I rely on the same data as democratic peace researchers, the most widely used and referenced data, in fact, in the quantitative study of international relations. For Dr. Rummel to claim that the MIDs data are not an appropriate framework for testing the democratic peace is to reject most studies of democratic peace out of hand, something I, and most other researchers, are unwilling to accept.

Still, it would be nice to establish that my findings do not depend on a particular kind of data source. MIDs, COW wars, and the SIPRI data code conflict behavior of a given intensity level or higher. The Interstate Crisis Behavior dataset, on the other hand, examines crises. This can be useful because some conflicts, even relatively violent ones, do not involve direct leadership decisions. Suppose some sergeant decides to lob mortar shells at the enemy, perhaps because he is tired, irritated, or afraid. This would be a MID, and possibly a SIPRI conflict, depending on casualties, but it would not be an ICB crisis if the actions of the sergeant were not initiated by national leaders. The ICB data have also been used in studies that support the democratic peace (Hewitt and Wilkenfeld 1996), and potentially better reflect some of the arguments made about why democracies should be more peaceful. If democracies are more peaceful in any context, it should be in situations where decision making is explicit, conscious, deliberate, and not the result of accidents on the front lines. Results using the ICB dataset, however, are largely the same as those I report for MIDs in my chapter in the 2005 edition of Economic Freedom of the World.

Dr. Rummel argues that collinearity between economic freedom, other variables, and democracy interfere with the effect of democracy on militarized disputes. As Dr. Rummel almost certainly knows, but did not explain to the reader, multicollinearity is not a severe problem in multivariate analysis until correlations are quite high, on the order of 0.9 (he argues they are 0.7. I find that the two key variables correlate at 0.4135). Similarly, the idea that democracy creates capitalism is, I think, questionable. Few, if any, of the archetypal laissez faire economies of nineteenth century Europe would be considered democratic by contemporary standards, though they became democratic in time. Similarly, in South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and elsewhere in recent decades, capitalism and development gave rise to pressures to democratize, not the other way around. Rather than treat democracy as a gift of the gods or something that landed from outer space, it seems more reasonable to recognize that democracies formed out of the same soup as did contemporary capitalism and economic development. In any event, the claim that capitalism and democracy are correlated does not obviously lead to the conclusion that democracy should be given preference (or deference) as the key contributor to liberal peace. If the two processes are related, then why treat one as if it is important and the other as if it does not exist?

Yet, again to be safe, I remove all of the variables from the regression model, except democracy. Democracy is not remotely statistically significant, even with no competitors (P value 0.448). Maybe economic freedom gets “help” from the other variables? I ran the regression model with just democracy and the freedom index, and find that economic freedom is statistically significant (P value 0.001), while democracy is insignificant. The claim about sampling is debatable, and is debated, in the literature. Whether we observe all possible states of the world, or just the ones that came to pass in this iteration of history hinges on issues outside the realm of the knowable. Democratic peace researchers have consistently used the statistical significance of democracy as evidence of the validity of their claims. How else can I challenge the conventional wisdom?

At several points, Dr. Rummel notes that “there are NO (zero) wars between democracies over almost two-centuries.” This sounds persuasive, but note that the claim treats as a conclusion that which is presumably the subject of this debate. Is it democracy that makes peace or something closely associated with democracy? Dr. Rummel emphasizes that capitalism is correlated with democracy, but refuses to treat seriously the possibility that it is capitalism that causes peace. The “two-centuries” claim is also misleading. Democratization is a recent phenomenon in world affairs. How many two-centuries old democracies are there? Indeed, we can also say that over the same period, no advanced free market economies have gone to war with each other, either.

Dr. Rummel asks “How could CATO let such a poor study into their prime report?” Clearly, this is a rhetorical question, but let me answer it as honestly as I can. The study conforms as closely as possible to the state of the art in democratic peace research. Rather than being “incompetent,” I adopted the same variables and evaluation standards, and a similar research design to those of the most widely cited research program on the democratic peace. That this happened to be the approach of Oneal and Russett and not Rummel is unfortunately a consequence of the greater popularity of the former among researchers and the wider public. Dr. Rummel does not like the choices I made in my analysis, but he does not like the choices made by other democratic peace researchers either. Differences between Dr. Rummel’s views and those of the larger democratic peace research community were not made clear in his comments, a possible source of confusion.

At the same time, I do not claim that my findings are definitive. They are a cautionary tale that gives some backing to those who are concerned that enthusiasm for the democratic peace has exceeded good judgment. No doubt this is not the end of the debate, though I hope Dr. Rummel and other interlocutors will cease from impugning my professional reputation every time I offer evidence that differs from their conclusions. Science is a perpetual learning process, in which we gradually whittle away at uncertainty. The fervor with which researchers on the subject hold to their respective visions of democratic peace should itself lead intelligent observers to caution.

Let me add in closing that, while the study Dr. Rummel critiques does not directly contradict the dyadic version of the democratic peace, my other research does. I have replicated the major dyadic studies of Oneal and Russett and others, using several indicators of capitalism, including but not limited to, the Index of Economic Freedom. I find that democracy does not sustain a dyadic effect on conflict either (there is not even a special peace among democracies), when appropriate measures of global market integration and economic development are introduced. I have shared these findings with democratic peace researchers (John Oneal, Bruce Russett, Erik Weede, Patrick James, James Lee Ray, to name a few), and expect that they will soon be available in print. Of course, I will also provide copies to Dr. Rummel, if he wishes.

posted by Dan at 10:34 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (2)

The Wrath of Tribble

Three months ago I and many others blogged about Ivan Tribble's Chronicle of Higher Education essay on blogging and academic hiring. Shorter Tribble: "Don't blog, because it's kind of strange, my colleagues and I don't quite get it, and your online self might come off as an unstable git."

Tribble responded to his critics yesterday in the Chronicle. He appears a touch miffed:

A lot can happen when you try to help some people land tenure-track jobs....

While not a scientific sampling by any means, what I saw suggested a trend worth warning others about. The ensuing outcry against my words of warning -- both on The Chronicle's discussion forums and on some blogs -- gave me pause. Clearly I had offended a number of bloggers and hurt some feelings. For that I offer my apology to any who will accept it.

But I still stand by my basic point....

As my original column made clear (and many amid the outcry reiterated) when it comes to blogging, I just don't "get it." That's right, I don't. Many in the tenured generation don't, and they'll be sitting on hiring committees for years to come.

If that's bad news, I'm sorry. But would it really be better if no one bothered to mention it? Shooting the messenger may make some feel better, but heeding the warning might help them get jobs.

Read the whole thing. My biggest disappointment in the piece is this section:

I stated that several committee members had reservations about hiring a blogger, which many respondents dismissed as irrational. I can't speak for every committee member's reasons, or every blogger's good judgment.

This revives the point that the issue is not the medium itself, but how it is used.

That's funny, because what what truly annoyed me in Tribble's initial essay were the motivations he assigned his committee members -- and the concern then was pretty much the medium itself:

The content of the blog may be less worrisome than the fact of the blog itself. Several committee members expressed concern that a blogger who joined our staff might air departmental dirty laundry (real or imagined) on the cyber clothesline for the world to see. Past good behavior is no guarantee against future lapses of professional decorum (emphasis added)

I'll just repeat what I said back in June, because it echoes Tribble's last few paragraphs:

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.

For a more positive outlook, check out Henry Farrell and Brian Weatherson.

posted by Dan at 04:54 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

My only post about the Roberts confirmation

On Monday, I has assumed that Dahlia Lithwick was probably overreacting in her Slate appraisal of the first day of John Roberts' Supreme Court confirmation hearing day. After all, weren't the Senators getting some of their questions from the blogosphere?

Then I actually heard some of the hearings.

To be specific, it was Tom Coburn's spiel about looking at Roberts' body language -- "[Using] my observational capabilities as a physician to know that your answers have been honest and forthright as I watch the rest of your body respond to the stress that you're under." As Ann Althouse put it, "I'm under some stress over here, listening to this nonsense."

Admittedly, it's Tom "Schindler's List is obscene" Coburn, so you have to grade it on a curve. But still....

So I was all set to write a wildly satirical post about the bloviating capabilities of the Senate Judiciary Committee. But I don't think I could top what David Brooks wrote in his column today. Killer quote: "We're not here to argue among ourselves and ignore the nominee. We're here to deliver 30-minute speeches disguised as questions and ignore the nominee."

posted by Dan at 10:43 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (3)

"Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Northwestern!!"

The title of this post was my lovely wife's reaction upon reading that the University of Chicago is one of the Seven Wonders of Chicago -- at least, according to readers of the Chicago Tribune

The other six are the Lakefront, Wrigley Field, the "L", the Sears Tower, the Water Tower, and the Museum of Science and Industry.

I explained to my wife that Northwestern is, technically, in Evanston. She continues to insist that they smoke it.

posted by Dan at 10:03 AM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

Virginia Postrel shows me the way of the world

Virginia Postrel responds to my post about the value-added of think tanks:

Well, Dan, let me tell you the way of the world. For the most part, think tank donors (especially individuals, as opposed to foundations or corporations) are completely uninterested in original research and unable to evaluate its quality. On the whole, individuals give to think tanks for the same reason they give to religious organizations--to demonstrate commitment to a belief system and to support the people they believe will spread the word. They want to hear the same messages over and over and over again, and they financially reward those who give them what they want. While generally nice, generous people, donors are on the whole indifferent to originality, bored by wonky policy proposals, and annoyed by any think tank employee who challenges their political cathechisms. Boards of trustees tend to reward executives not for doing or supporting important work but for raising money.

Since you can't do the work without money anyway, think tankers who want to do good, significant work eventually either flee or give in to the system's preference for superficiality. Making the system even worse are media bookers who want predictable, preferably partisan views. Dan worries about op-eds. Op-eds are philosophy tomes compared to TV, and as Nicole Kidman aptly observed in To Die For, you're nobody in America if you're not on TV. That goes double for public policy circles.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 09:51 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A good news post about New Orleans

Kirsten Scharnberg and Mark Silva provide today's latest on New Orleans in the Chicago Tribune:

As military helicopters circled overhead and rescue teams combed New Orleans' flooded neighborhoods in search of remaining survivors, Mayor C. Ray Nagin stood in historic Jackson Square in the city's fabled French Quarter and announced that air and water testing conducted throughout the city by the Environmental Protection Agency had yielded much more optimistic results than expected.

Tests showed that at least four of the city's neighborhoods-- the French Quarter, the Central Business District, Uptown and Algiers--would soon be safe to occupy again. Those neighborhoods escaped much of the flooding that had covered 80 percent of the city.

"If I had to guess, I'd say by Monday we can open parts of the city," said Nagin, adding that such a move would be possible only if a written EPA report was as positive as a briefing he had received over the phone earlier in the day.

The city's death toll from the disaster jumped sharply Tuesday as body-recovery teams began finding some of the hidden victims that officials had been fearing....

Elsewhere in the New Orleans area, officials were sounding upbeat as they permitted more business owners into the city center to begin damage assessments and cleanup work, and contractors and utility workers swarmed the streets to reconnect power and water lines.

Nagin said he hoped many residents would be allowed to return to the city soon. Unlike officials in surrounding cities, who so far have allowed residents back in for only brief periods to assess damage and retrieve essential personal items, Nagin said residents of the cleared New Orleans neighborhoods would be allowed back permanently, with a curfew likely after nightfall.

All the neighborhoods that may be reopened are suffering from power outages, but energy officials were predicting power would be restored by next week. Nagin said water, too, would once again be running, though probably not yet safe to drink.

I hope in the ensuing days and weeks there are more stories containing this kind of good news.

posted by Dan at 11:33 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Is the U.S. losing out on science and math education?

The FT article in the previous post is based on the OECD's Education at a Glance 2005. Here's a link to the OECD's press release. The data on Korea's educational progress is truly astounding:

In recent years, some countries have shown spectacular improvements in schooling performance. In Korea, for example, a striking 97%, of people born in the 1970s have completed upper secondary education, putting Korea in top place for this age group ahead of Norway with 95% and Japan and the Slovak Republic with 94%. By comparison, only 32% of Koreans born in the 1940s have upper secondary qualifications.

And what about the U.S.? We're constantly fretting about the decline in our educational system -- does the OECD data support this anxiety?

Yes and no. If you rifle through the executive summary of Education at a Glance, you come away with three observations about the U.S. performance:

1) In science and math, the U.S. is ahead of only the really poor OECD countries -- Turkey, Mexico, etc. So yes, there is reason to worry.

2) The poor performance is not because of a downward trend -- in fact, if you look at chart A7.1 ("Differences in mean performance of eighth-grade students from 1995 to 2003"), you discover an interesting fact: the United States showed the greatest improvement in science and math scores of the sample -- including Korea.

3) The poor performance isn't because of a dearth of funds -- table B1.1 shows that, Switzerland excepted, the United States spends the most amount of money per student in the OECD. You get a similar result if the metric is education spending as a percentage of GDP. Indeed, the OECD comments:

Lower expenditure cannot automatically be equated with a lower quality of educational services. Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands and New-Zealand, which have moderate expenditure on education per student at the primary and lower secondary levels, are among the OECD countries with the highest levels of performance by 15-year-old students in mathematics.

posted by Dan at 05:32 PM | Comments (34) | Trackbacks (3)

Is the U.S. losing out on foreign students?

Jon Boone writes in the Financial Times that the United States and United Kingdom have competitors in the global marketplace for university education:

The market share of lucrative international students enjoyed by British and US universities has dropped sharply as Australia, Japan and New Zealand become increasingly popular destinations, according to an international comparison of education systems published on Tuesday....

The Paris-based [OECD] reported that US market share fell 2 per cent between 2002-3 while the UK suffered the fastest decline among OECD members, falling from 16.2 per cent in 1998 to 13.5 per cent in 2003....

According to the report the international complexion of US campuses has changed strikingly in the years since September 11 2001. The country’s universities have seen decreases of between10-37 per cent of students from the Gulf states, North Africa and some Southeast Asia countries. The decline was partially compensated for by a 47 per cent increase in students from China and a 12 per cent increase in students from India.

UPDATE: Hello, Instapundit readers -- you might want to check out this post on U.S. education as well.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmmm.... maybe the decline in foreign student enrollment is because the American academy in general -- and the University of Chicago in particular -- is staffed by nutjobs.

posted by Dan at 05:18 PM | Comments (33) | Trackbacks (1)

Is George Will reading Megan McArdle?

Megan McArdle, "The poor really are different," Asymmetrical Information, September 9, 2005:

If poor people did just four things, the poverty rate would be a fraction of what it currently is. Those four things are:

1) Finish high school
2) Get married before having children
3) Have no more than two children
4) Work full time

These are things that 99% of middle class people take as due course.

George Will, "A Poverty of Thought," Washington Post, September 13, 2005.

[T]hree not-at-all recondite rules for avoiding poverty: Graduate from high school, don't have a baby until you are married, don't marry while you are a teenager. Among people who obey those rules, poverty is minimal.

What's interesting is that McArdle and Will end up at somewhat different places with the same basic starting point.

Other reads relevant to this conversation for today: Jon Hilsenrath's Wall Street Journal piece on what economists think about rebuilding New Orleans. Money quote from urban economist Ed Glaeser: "Given just how much, on a per capita basis, it would take to rebuild New Orleans to its former glory, lots of residents would be much [better off] with $10,000 and a bus ticket to Houston."

Then there are these Washington Post poll numbers:

Attitudes toward Bush and the government's overall response to Hurricane Katrina fracture along clear racial lines. Nearly three in four whites doubted the federal government would have responded more quickly to those trapped in New Orleans if they had been wealthier and white rather than poorer and black, the poll found. But an equal share of blacks disagreed, saying help would have come sooner if the victims had been more affluent whites.

More than six in 10 blacks -- 63 percent -- said the problems with the hurricane relief effort are an indication of continuing racial inequity in this country, a view rejected by more than seven in 10 whites, according to the poll.

posted by Dan at 01:04 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (0)

Is Enron responsible for weak job growth?

Tyler Cowen links to this informative Daniel Gross article in the New York Times about possible explanations for the relatively weak job growth the economy has experienced over the past few years:

Mystified economists have pointed to various possible culprits: outsourcing, competition from China, high health care costs and lower work-force participation, to name a few. But there's one force that so far has managed to avoid blame for the sluggish pace of job growth: Enron.

Until now. In 2000 and 2001, as the bull market imploded, there was a spike in accounting problems - a mix of outright fraud, earnings manipulation and more benign restatements necessitated by changes in business conditions. Clearly, investors were burned by earnings restatements at Enron and WorldCom, and at hundreds of smaller and less infamous companies. "Nobody had actually explored the real consequences of earnings management, as opposed to the financial ones," says Thomas Philippon, assistant professor of economics at New York University's Stern School of Business.

Gross then summarizes an NBER working paper by Philippon and his colleague Simi Kedia. Their abstract:

We study the consequences of earnings management for the allocation of resources among firms, and we argue that fraudulent accounting has important economic consequences.... We first show that periods of high stock market valuations are systematically followed by large increases in reported frauds. We then show that, during periods of suspicious accounting, insiders sell their stocks, while misreporting firms hire and invest like the firms whose income they are trying to match. When they are caught, they shed labor and capital and improve their true productivity. In the aggregate, our model seems able to account for the recent period of jobless and investment-less growth.

I agree with Tyler: "It is too early to evaluate this research, and let us not get carried away by monocausal theories, but today I felt I learned something."

posted by Dan at 11:32 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Let's see, where can I publish next?

This week marks my third blogging anniversary. [Three years??!! So when do you plan on going back to just pointless, incessant barking?--ed]

And, by a freakish coincidence, I have two articles on the web today. In either case, I doubt I would have been approached were it not for the blog.

The first, in honor of the United Nations' 2005 World Summit (and, gee, those preparations are going swimmingly) is a review in the Wall Street Journal of Pedro Sanjuan's The UN Gang: A Memoir of Incompetence, Corruption, Espionage, Anti-Semitism and Islamic Extremism at the UN Secretariat . My varnished opinion:

In 1984, Vice President George H.W. Bush nominated Mr. Sanjuan to be the director of political affairs in the U.N. Secretariat, the massive administrative core of the institution. Mr. Sanjuan's real job was to spy on the Soviet spies working for the secretary-general. This was not an easy task: "I was one against 274 of them at the time of my arrival." "The UN Gang" is Mr. Sanjuan's memoir of his U.N. experience. It does not present a pretty picture of the United Nations -- or, by the end of the book, of the author himself....

On his Web site, Mr. Sanjuan states that he has a "penchant for the bizarre and the absurd." That phrase perfectly summarizes the U.N. -- and "The UN Gang."

My unvarnished opinion -- after reading this book, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that there's something a little bit loopy about Mr. Sanjuan.

Remember when Robert Reich published his memoir Locked in the Cabinet, and then Jonathan Rauch discovered that Reich had either made up or exaggerated certain events and quotes? Reich’s defense was that this was how he viewed the events at the time. The UN Gang suffers from the same defect.

Let's put it this way -- if I was a lawyer trying to indict the UN, there is no way in hell I would call Sanjuan as a reliable witness.

If you think I'm exaggerating, either buy the book or check out Sanjuan's web site (the quote from the review comes from this page) and draw your own psychological profile about Sanjuan's world view.

One last little irony about The UN Gang. Sanjuan continually (and justifiably) lambasts the UN Secretariat for being a hothouse of nepotism. All well and good -- but his editor at Doubleday was Adam Bellow, the accomplished author of... In Praise of Nepotism (though, to be fair, after reading this precis, Bellow would probably classify the UN as an example of "old nepotism" and not the "new nepotism" that is the subject of Bellow's praise).

The second piece is a companion essay to WNET's Wide Angle documentary on how offshore outsourcing is affecting Indian society, entitled "1-800-INDIA" -- which will be aired this evening. I was asked to provide a background briefing -- entitled "Offshore Outsourcing: Perceptions and Misperceptions."

Go check them out!!

posted by Dan at 09:37 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, September 12, 2005

What's the value-added of think tanks?

There's another international relations blogger out there -- R.J. Rummel, one of the godfathers of quantitative research in international relations. Rummel is also a persistent and oft-published voice arguing for the monadic version of the democratic peace -- in other words, it's not merely that democracies don't fight each other, but that democracies are generally less war-prone than other states. [How much evidence is there for this version of the democratic peace?--ed. Rummel -- as well as Paul Huth -- have generated some interesting findings, but it's not the majority position of the field, and there are a lot of studies out there arguing that Rummel is wrong.]

Rummel is also a libertarian and therefore one would expect him to be sympathetic to Cato's latest study on economic freedom and conflict. However, he is far from keen on the study -- go check out his scathing assessment of the Cato report. He closes with this assessment of Cato: "After reviewing the one study on what I know something about and finding it so poor, it provokes a questioning of their other studies in areas I know less about."

Without signing on to all of Rummel's critique, it opens the door to a larger question about the value-added of think tanks. This past Friday I was at a meeting in DC on how academics can better transmit foreign policy-relevant ideas to those in the government. One obvious transmission belt is think tanks -- the experts who staff these institutions can consume academic research and then generate more policy-specific research based in part on that more abstract research.

However, several participants enmeshed in the think tank culture argued that this wasn't the direction thik tanks were going. Instead, several of them -- and Heritage, Cato and the Center for American Progress were the leading examples -- had switched their focus from churning out deep policy proposals in favor of op-eds. Indeed, the staffing at many think tanks had shifted, with the communications and PR sides receiving a much larger share of the pie relative to the policy wonks.

Anyone who knows anything about organizations recognizes that all bureaucracies like to use quantifiable metrics, and surely op-eds would be one example. And it would be insane to argue that think tanks should forswear the op-ed. But the overall point was that the cost of this change in direction for think tanks was fewer in-depth monographs or books, and more output devoted to the 24-hour news cycle. Some would like this trend to accelerate -- one of Matt Yglesias' themes is that think tanks need to blog more.

There was no real discussion about whether this is something that can or should be fixed -- so I'll leave that to the commenters.

UPDATE: Yglesias e-mails the following:

For the record, what I had in mind was that blogging would be a good substitute for all the op-ed writing and press release releasing that think thanks do, not hoping that more blogging would crowd out more in-depth research.

On the general subject, my unsupported assertion would be that the shift in the wonk/hack balance isn't endogenous to the think tanks themselves but reflects the development of more disciplined political parties in congress. America's historically weak party system opened up an unusual amount of space for policy entrepreneurship that's being killed off as the congressional leadership has grown in importance.

posted by Dan at 11:32 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (7)

China 1, Yahoo! 0

As China holds its annual "Internet summit" today, it's worth reflecting that last week Reporters Without Borders broke a story revealing that Yahoo! provided information to China's government that helped them to identify and detain a dissident reporter (link via Rebecca McKinnon).

In today's Chicago Tribune, Evan Osnos provides a recap of what's happened, including Yahoo!'s response:

Yahoo Inc. co-founder Jerry Yang acknowledged over the weekend that his company gave Chinese authorities identifying e-mail information about reporter Shi Tao, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for messaging a U.S. Web site about a Communist Party directive. Speaking Saturday at an Internet conference in this eastern city, Yang said his company was legally ordered to cooperate.

"To be doing business in China, or anywhere else in the world, we have to comply with local law," Yang said.

But Yahoo's handling of the case, first detailed last week by media-rights advocate Reporters Without Borders, has emerged as a showcase of the debate among Internet executives, China analysts and human-rights advocates over tech firms' obligations in the world's largest communist country.

"This would be a difficult problem for virtually any company," said Jonathan Zittrain, who holds the chair in Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University. "It is one thing to give a regime the steel, another to give it bullets, and another to be the executioner--and each company must draw their own line."

At issue is not only whether U.S. businesses should disclose e-mail information, but also whether they should provide technology that helps authorities filter Web logs, chat rooms and search engines for terms such as "democracy" or "human rights."

In recent months, Microsoft and Google have come under scrutiny for agreeing to ban sensitive political talk from their Web sites in China, while Cisco Systems has been criticized for providing equipment that can automatically block certain words and pages.

The controversy is rooted in the broadening battle over China's nearly 100 million Internet users, a market second only to the United States'. U.S. businesses are moving fast. In the largest foreign investment ever in a Chinese tech company, Yahoo agreed last month to pay $1 billion for a 40-percent share of e-commerce firm Alibaba. Likewise, Google, eBay and Amazon have spent millions for shares in Chinese companies.

China poses a particular dilemma for Internet companies founded in the name of democratizing the world's access to information. They now find themselves in the awkward position of cooperating with China's network of thousands of official Web-watchers--a censorship system described by the non-profit OpenNet Initiative as the "most sophisticated effort of its kind in the world."

But tech executives echo a common argument: The benefits of expanding the Internet into China outweigh the concessions.

McKinnon argues that Yahoo! did have a choice:

Yahoo! had a choice. It chose to provide an e-mail service hosted on servers based inside China, making itself subject to Chinese legal jurisdiction. It didn't have to do that. It could have provided a service hosted offshore only. If Shi Tao's email account had been hosted on servers outside of China, Yahoo! wouldn't have been legally obligated to hand over his information.

Well, this New York Times story by David Barboza suggests that Yahoo! did tie its hands when it agreed to invest in, because "as part of the deal, Yahoo even agreed to hand over its Yahoo China operations" to Alibaba.

The larger problem is that this falls under the "China contradicting the liberal paradigm" [And don't forget Singapore!!--ed.] I've said before that after weighing the scales the liberal side still wins in the long run -- but everyone should check out Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and George Down's essay "Development and Democracy" in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. They argue that, "savvy autocrats have learned how to cut the cord between growth and freedom, enjoying the benefits of the former without the risks of the latter."


posted by Dan at 12:50 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (4)

Katrina is all Alan Greenspan's fault

No, I'm just kidding. But as much of the blogosphere is focused on the New York Times autopsy of what went wrong with Katrina. However, for sheer weirdness, Tina Susman's account in Newsday has better anecdotes. Consider this snippet, for example:

When troops arrived in numbers large enough to fan out across the city, their roles at times seemed questionable. Some adopted a warlike demeanor, adding to tensions among the rattled population.

On Friday, a group of heavily armed Federal Reserve police officers, rifles on their shoulders, made their way down St. Charles Avenue, the one in the rear spinning around and stalking backward as if on a commando mission. They took up combat positions as they moved toward the Federal Reserve building to install the flag, even though their nearest companions were stray dogs, journalists and pigeons. (emphasis added)

Bizarre as it sounds, this job description does in fact mention that, "Federal Reserve Police Officers may also serve on our emergency response or emergency medical teams."

Anyway, read both accounts and then see if anyone deserves to be removed from -- or added to -- Belle Waring's list of shame.

posted by Dan at 12:08 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Koizumi wins in Japan

Both the exit polls and the early returns suggest that Japanese PM Junichiro Koizumi has won a handy victory in parliamentry elections -- reversing a decade-long decline in the fortunes of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and paving the way for privatization of the postal savings system, which has been a corrupt albatross on the Japanese economy.

From a U.S. perspective, this is a huge win. A staunch U.S. ally has been re-elected, and if Koizumi's proposed reforms are implemented, then Japanese growth could finally escape its 15-year doldrums. Since Japan is a natural market for U.S. exports, a growing Japanese economy would be a very good thing.

Some reporters will credit Koizumi's charismatic leadership as the key to victory.

I choose to credit the lipstick ninjas.

posted by Dan at 12:40 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

The New York Fed tackles offshore outsourcing

The following is excerpted from Erica L. Groshen, Bart Hobijn, and Margaret M. McConnell, "U.S. Jobs Gained and Lost through Trade: A Net Measure" in the August 2005 edition of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Current Issues in Economics and Finance:

In the aftermath of the 2001 recession, the perception has grown that vast numbers of U.S. services jobs are being relocated to India, China, and other developing countries. Anecdotes abound of companies using overseas call centers, computer programmers, help desk workers, and accountants while closing down whole departments here. The alleged surge in relocations after 2001 coincided for some years with a sluggish job recovery, prompting many to conclude that the “offshoring” of jobs accounted for much of the persistent weakness in the U.S. labor market. While concerns about job relocations were fueled by the slow job growth during the recovery, the belief that U.S. workers are losing jobs to foreign competition has a much longer history: Indeed, the current concerns echo those voiced in many earlier periods about the impact of international trade on domestic workers.

In this edition of Current Issues, we explore the relationship between trade and job creation in the United States....

[W]e find no evidence to support the claims that a surge in offshoring played a large role in the jobless recovery. Jobs embodied in net imports did not grow at an accelerated pace after the 2001 recession. In fact, the increase in U.S. jobs sent abroad has averaged about 30,000 per month since 2001—a deceleration from the monthly average increase of 45,000 jobs during the period from 1997 to 2001.

More broadly, our results show no clear or necessary relationship between a pickup in jobs lost to trade and weakness in the U.S. labor market. A case in point is the 1997-2001 acceleration in offshoring, which occurred when U.S. payrolls were expanding steadily.

This is the part I found of particular interest:

[One common] assumption is that sectors that are heavily or increasingly exposed to trade suffered disproportionate job losses during the recession and recovery. To test this assumption, we examine job growth rates in this period relative to growth rates during the 1990s expansion for both trade-sensitive and trade-insensitive industries. Starting with goods-producing industries, we find that manufacturing—one of the sectors most exposed to trade—did indeed lose a disproportionate share of jobs during the downturn and subsequent recovery. However, mining and natural resources, another heavily traded industry, performed better in this period than in the preceding expansion, while the nontraded construction industry experienced disproportionate job losses.

Turning to services, we find that the results are even more mixed. Business services—an industry in which outsourcing is believed to have taken a large toll on domestic jobs—saw above-average job losses during the recession and recovery. However, finance, insurance, wholesale trade, and management and engineering jobs did relatively well, despite often-voiced concerns about outsourcing. Moreover, a number of services industries that are not exposed to trade incurred above-average employment losses; the leisure and hospitality trades, for example, do not transfer jobs to overseas workers but still experienced heavy payroll shortfalls relative to the preceding period.

The absence of any consistent pattern in the fortunes of individual industries suggests that while trade-related competition may have driven job losses in some sectors, layoffs in many other sectors occurred for reasons unrelated to trade. Indeed, in a number of industries, forces such as technological change, investment overhangs, and changing consumption behavior are much more likely to have caused job losses.

posted by Dan at 12:27 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, September 9, 2005

Post-Katrina American foreign policy

Last week I talked about the future foreign policy costs of Katrina.

In Slate, Richard Haass talks about the current foreign policy costs of Katrina:

It will be no easier to cordon off U.S. foreign policy from the effects of Hurricane Katrina than it has been to protect New Orleans from the waters of Lake Pontchartrain.

That a purely domestic event should have profound consequences for American foreign policy is not in and of itself new. U.S. prestige suffered a blow in 1992 when the Los Angeles riots were broadcast around the world. By contrast, Ronald Reagan's firm handling of the air-traffic controllers strike a decade before communicated resolve and firmness.

The initial federal and local reactions to Hurricane Katrina, however, have sent the opposite message. The images seen around the world communicated a lack of competence and considerable chaos and suffering. The dominant overseas reaction has been sympathy mixed with shock and horror at what was seen by many as evidence of racism and a reminder of the extreme poverty in which many Americans live. America's enemies indulged in schadenfreude. Hugo Chávez could not resist the chance to taunt President Bush; North Korea radio linked the U.S. "defeat" in Iraq with its "defeat" by Katrina; jihadists celebrated what had happened and the possibility the price of oil would soar even higher. The world's only remaining superpower appeared to be anything but. In an era of 24-hour satellite television and the Internet, public diplomacy is about who Americans are and what they do, not just what they say. Unlike Las Vegas, what happens here does not stay here.

The global impact goes beyond impressions. A priority of this administration's foreign policy is to promote democracy around the world. But the attractiveness of the American model, and the ability of the United States to be an effective advocate for more democratic, capitalist societies, which had already been weakened by the disarray in Iraq, is now weaker still as a result of the disarray at home. It will be more difficult to make the case for free markets and more open societies if the results of such reforms come to be associated with the disorder seen in New Orleans.

Read the whole thing. And then, go read this Economist summary of the past week.

UPDATE: One thing I'm hoping about Katrina -- like what happened after 9/11 -- is that the estimated body count turns out to be less than originally expected. This AP report (link via Instapundit) offers some hope that this will also happen post-Katrina.

ANOTHER UPDATE: James Joyner thinks Haass is overstating his case -- particularly on the energy angle:

I agree that we don't have much of an energy policy. He's flat wrong, though, that substitutes forms of energy and diversifcation won't work. When oil was cheap and plentiful--which is to say, all but a few months in the history of the country--there was little incentive to develop those alternatives. Now that the price appears to be permanently higher owing to increased demand from surging economies abroad and other factors, that's likely to change.

Andrew Sullivan takes a gloomier view: "What the response to Katrina has done is make the U.S. super-power look a lot less credible, a lot less fearsome, a lot less capable. Ditto, of course, with regard to the inept conduct of the war in Iraq."

posted by Dan at 11:44 PM | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (1)

Thursday, September 8, 2005

The commercial peace?

The Cato Institute has come out with their 9th annual Economic Freedom of the World report. According to Cato's press release, this edition has one particularly intriguing finding:

Economic freedom is almost 50 times more effective than democracy in restraining nations from going to war. In new research published in this year’s report, Erik Gartzke, a political scientist from Columbia University, compares the impact of economic freedom on peace to that of democracy. When measures of both economic freedom and democracy are included in a statistical study, economic freedom is about 50 times more effective than democracy in diminishing violent conflict. The impact of economic freedom on whether states fight or have a military dispute is highly significant while democracy is not a statistically significant predictor of conflict. (emphasis added)

I know Erik, and I know that Erik knows a lot about the causes of war, so this tidbit definitely piqued my interest.

You can read Gartzke's paper by clicking here. His policy conclusions are provocative. For example:

The results here suggest that efforts to promote peace in the Middle East and in other regions dominated by autocratic governments through democratization are of particularly questionable worth. Whether Iraq, for example, can achieve stable democracy remains to be seen; but even success in such ventures appears unlikely to yield a meaningful reduction in interstate conflict unless it is paired with substantial and successful economic reform. Given finite resources, the attentions of developed nations are best directed upon reinforcing and propagating the free-market principles and practices that lead to peace over much of the northern hemisphere. The United States in particular has used its status as hegemon to champion capitalism and to encourage economic development. This effort should not be allowed to falter now that terrorism and the end of the Cold War have shifted US focus from containment of the Soviet Union to a more pro-active international policy. Democracy should be encouraged but the evidence suggests that democracy alone will not yield peace, while popular rule appears unstable in the absence of some degree of prosperity. In short, to achieve the goals of peace and freedom, the developed countries of the world cannot afford not to sponsor the extension of capitalist institutions and practices.

I'd really like for Gartzke's theoretical conclusions to be true, and he makes a persuasive case in the paper. I have three small cavils, however:

1) What, exactly, makes governments decide to increase economic freedom in their own countries? One possibility is that democracies are more likely to do this than non-democracies. For example, Helen Milner and Keiko Kubota argue in "Why the Rush to Free Trade? Democracy and Trade Policy in the Developing Countries" that:

Rising international trade flows are a primary component of globalization. The liberalization of trade policy in many developing countries has helped foster the growth of these flows. Concurrent with this rush to free trade, there has been a global movement toward democracy. We argue that these two trends are related: democratization of the political system reduces the ability of governments to use trade barriers as a strategy for building political support.... We provide empirical evidence to support our claim through econometric analysis of the developing countries from 1970-1999. Democracy seems to be associated for these countries with trade liberalization. Globalization may be fostered by democratization.

In other words, it's possible that the best way for countries to promote economic freedom is to promote political freedom as the antecedent.

2) That said, the other thing that worries me about Gartzke's finding is that trade openness is not significant in any of the regression results (though, as the appendix makes clear, trade metrics are included in the economic freedom score, so this could just be multicollinearity at work). Again, it could be that trade openness leads to more economic freedom across the board, which then leads to less violent behavior. But if that's not the case, it's profoundly disturbing, since besides democracy promotion, trade diplomacy is the primary engine through which the United States promotes economic freedom in the rest of the world.

3) One last musing -- the economic freedom score is a composite of a series of measures, including rule of law (which is correlated with democratic regimes) low inflation (which is correlated with economic development) and low tariffs (which is correlated with economic openness). How much of the empirical results are driven by multicollinearity between the explanatory variable and the the control variables?

Again, I still think Gartzke is onto something. Plus, I can't pass up mentioning Gartzke's observations about offshore outsourcing:

To avoid development creating a tinderbox of the southern hemisphere, it is necessary that increasing prosperity coincide with a relative decline in the value for territory and with growing dependence on global capital. The advantage of late-industrializing countries is that they may skip the most dangerous stages of industrialization. Early industrialization creates the need for natural resources and the where-with-all to acquire them through force. Labor costs are low, allowing the staffing of occupying armies. More important, valuable assets and resources remain “lootable” through conquest. Knowledge industries call for heavy investments of capital and human ingenuity but little that can be ransacked by an invader. The “outsourcing” of services, telemarketing, and software industries, while vexing to many in the developed world, helps to create economies in the developing world that are less inclined toward war. The Indo-Pakistani conflict has regularly erupted in warfare but leaders in both countries have recently come to accept that their more open economies suffer greatly from active hostilities. The growing dependence on international capital and the declining value of disputed territory relative to technological innovation means that the impetus to make peace has increased and the value of war has declined.

Check out Cato's web page on economic freedom for more (here's a link to the executive summary)

posted by Dan at 09:31 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (6)

Helping the homeless from Katrina

Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution relays an excellent policy proposal from the University of Virginia's Ed Olsen on how best to find housing for those displaced by Katrina. I'm reprinting it below in its entirety:

By Edgar O. Olsen

What the people displaced by Hurricane Katrina need most now is housing. Hundreds of thousands of families are now living in temporary housing and shelters, sometimes little more than tents, throughout the south central region. These families cannot wait for new housing to be built.

Fortunately, new construction is not necessary to solve the immediate problem. Enormous numbers of vacant units in the region are available for immediate occupancy by families with the ability to pay rent — and a simple expansion of HUD’s largest housing program would provide even the poorest families with the means to rent these units.

The rental vacancy rate in the United States is at a historically high level. For all metropolitan areas as a group, it is over 10 percent. The largest metropolitan areas in the south central region have some of the highest vacancy rates – 15.6 percent in Houston, 14.4 percent in San Antonio, 12.8 percent in Dallas, 12.2 percent in Memphis, 13.1 percent in Birmingham and 18.5 percent in Atlanta. Vacancy rates for smaller metropolitan areas and non-metropolitan areas are also at historically high levels. In short, many rental units in the south central region and throughout the country are available for immediate occupancy by people with the ability to pay the rent.

Fortunately, no new federal program is required to match families suddenly needing housing with an existing stock of vacant apartments. The United States government already operates a program that would enable low-income families to pay the rent for these units. The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program currently serves about two million families throughout the country. It enables participants to occupy privately owned units renting for up to, and somewhat above, the local median rent. Enormous numbers of vacant units could be occupied immediately by families with these housing vouchers.

Congress could show its bi-partisan resolve to respond to this emergency housing crisis by acting promptly to authorize a sufficient number of additional Section 8 vouchers to serve the poorest hurricane victims.

Since many victims have had to travel quite a distance to obtain temporary shelter and many will have to move further from New Orleans to obtain permanent housing within a reasonable time, these vouchers should be available to any public housing agency in the country to serve families displaced by the hurricane. To avoid delays in getting assistance to these families, the vouchers should be allocated to housing agencies on a first-come-first-served basis and any low-income family whose previous address was in the most affected areas should be deemed eligible. We should not take the time to determine the condition of the family’s previous unit before granting a voucher.

Getting the poorest displaced families into permanent housing is an urgent challenge. It requires bi-partisan support for Congress to act promptly, quick action by HUD to generate simple procedures for administering these special vouchers, and housing agencies in areas of heavy demand to add temporary staff to handle the influx of applications for assistance. Even with the best efforts of all parties, the proposed solution will not get all the low-income families displaced by Hurricane Katrina into permanent housing tomorrow. However, it will be much faster than building new housing for them. And it will show them that the federal government cares about their plight and is working to do what it can to help.

I'd like to think that there actually would be bipartisan support for such a proposal. As Megan McArdle points out, "Section 8 vouchers, while certainly not perfect, have been a big improvement over the failed government housing projects they replaced." They use Republican-friendly means to achieve Democrat-friendly ends. And, since Congress is currently not doing much of use with regard to Katrina, maybe they could act on this. And this proposal is much better than some of the other ideas that are floating around. [That's a bad, bad pun--ed.]

Let's see if someone notices.

Assignment to Mickey Kaus: what would be the secondary and tertiary effects of such a proposal?

posted by Dan at 02:33 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

"Katrina is not the Worst Case Scenario"

Amy Zegart --'s resident expert on homeland securit and intelligence reformy -- e-mailed me these thoughts on Katrina's lessons for defending against terrorist attacks:

The devastation from Hurricane Katrina is not the worst case scenario. The worst case scenario is a man made disaster with no warning: a catastrophic terrorist attack with a nuclear or biological agent. Make no mistake. The question is not whether such an attack will occur, but when.

What can we do? Start by facing reality. It is not too soon to begin assessing what went wrong with emergency response in New Orleans and what makes terrorism different from natural disasters. Some initial thoughts:

1. The keystone cops response in New Orleans stems, in part, from a flawed model of how to train for disaster.

Training drills almost never prepare officials for the worst. New Orleans conducted disaster exercises in 2000 and 2004 for hurricanes, but these drills did not include the possibility of a levee failure. In Los Angeles, a major port security exercise, Determined Promise 2004, tested a new mobile radio patch unit that enables different emergency response agencies to talk to each other. Surprise surprise: the system worked well. Of course it did. When everyone knows disaster will begin at noon on Monday, they miraculously remember to bring the right radios and brush up on instructions about how to use them properly. Even worse, not only do many exercises avoid facing truly disastrous scenarios, they define success by how smoothly everything goes. This gives a false sense of comfort, or to use a technical term, it's STUPID. Instead, we need to drill into officials that the right measure of success is how much they learn. If things do not go wrong in a drill, then the exercise was not useful.

2. At every level of government, elected officials work from a fictional premise: that they can, and should, protect everyone from every possible disastrous event. But the truth is hurricanes will hit. Terrorists will strike. Prevention will be far lower than 100%. If you start by acknowledging, rather than avoiding, this reality, you get a different approach: concentrate funding, planning, and efforts on potential events that would bring catastrophic consequences, rather than spreading resources too thin. Hurricane hits Florida, bad. Hurricane hits New Orleans rendering the entire city uninhabitable, catastrophe. Suicide bombs at shopping malls, bad. Nuclear bomb blasting a major U.S. city into oblivion, unacceptable. The goal should be to ensure that government is best prepared to prevent and respond to the worst possible outcomes rather than splitting time and money between an endless array of possibilities.

Politicians hate thinking like this because it's scary and it's politically unattractive: they actually have to make choices about what ranks high on the priority list and what does not. And that is guaranteed to piss off more people than it pleases. In the three years after 9/11 Congress distributed roughly $13 billion in homeland security funding to the states using a formula that redefines crazy: 40% of the funds went to every state, regardless of population or terrorist targets. Rural areas with no major targets got a disproportionate share of the funds, while the most likely terrorist targets, like Los Angeles, got the shaft. Note to self: move back to Kentucky soon.

Zegart also has a sobering reminder -- it is easier to cope with natural disasters than terrorist attacks:

Natural disasters are obvious when they occur. Many types of terrorist attacks (biological attacks, radiological contamination) are not. If you think the slow pace of response to Katrina is bad, imagine the outbreak of an infectious disease, where fast diagnosis is all that stands between a few deaths and national tragedy. Natural disasters often come with warning. Terrorist attacks do not. This difference is huge. It is easy to forget, amidst the desperate struggle for survival by New Orleans residents, that many thousands more did successfully evacuate before the hurricane hit. In a massive terrorist attack, the likely scenario would be mass panic.

posted by Dan at 12:37 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (3)

Take that, Lincoln Park!!

Residents of Hyde Park are keenly aware that although our neighborhood possesses many fine qualities -- ample bookstores, nice housing, diversity of residents -- one quality it does not possess is a surfeit of great restaurants.* For that, you have to go up to the downtown, the West Loop, or the North side.

In today's Chicago Tribune, restaurant critic Phil Vettel says this may be changing:

Where is Chicago's next hot restaurant zone? We've already seen the Miracle on Randolph Street, West Division's dining surge, the South Loop's gradual buildup. What's next?

Would you believe ... Hyde Park?

Don't scoff. Or, go ahead and scoff. No one saw Randolph Street coming either.

But Hyde Park, a largely well-to-do neighborhood (bounded by 44th Street, 60th Street, Cottage Grove Avenue and the lake) that for years has been underserved by the restaurant community, is poised to become, within a year or three, a legitimate dining destination.

"I love that area," says restaurateur Jerry Kleiner. "There are 50,000 people here [44,700, according to the neighborhood's Web site], you've got the university and the hospital, and the city has been fixing up Lake Shore Drive. I thought this would be a good opportunity."

And so in spring 2006, Kleiner is opening a 160-seat, 4,000-square-foot restaurant in the heart of Hyde Park.

What has the dining community giddy with anticipation is the fact that Kleiner is regarded as something of a culinary pied piper. Where he goes, other restaurateurs quickly follow.

More to the point, Kleiner has a track record of launching successful restaurants in neighborhoods others regard as "iffy."

Read the whole article, if you care about such things. I've heard this kind of talk about Hyde Park many times since I've been here, but Kleiner's track record makes me more optimistic than usual. Look out, Lincoln Park -- in, say 20 years, we will have closed the restaurant gap!

Of course, this section of Vettel's piece brings me back to reality. It quotes Mary Mastricola, the owner of La Petite Folie, the one high-end restaurant in the area:

"The one shocker was not being able to find kitchen employees," she says. "You can get students to work in the dining room, but we ran ads looking for kitchen workers and we had kids responding who wanted $2 an hour extra because we're south. They'd rather work in higher-visibility places."

Left unspoken in the piece is why Mastricola doesn't just hire neighborhood residents beyond the student population.

And don't get me started on the supermarket situation around here.....

*Yes, devotees of Dixie Kitchen, or Medici, or Pizza Capri, there are some lovely places to eat around here. But a neighborhood of this size needs more than just a handful of good eateries.

posted by Dan at 10:03 AM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (2)

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Whither Egyptian democracy?

Egypt's first multi-candidate presidential elections were held today, and much of the press coverage echoes this London Times account by Richard Beesron: "the experiment in democracy risked being seriously compromised by intimidation, electoral abuse and widespread voter apathy."

Dan Murphy's account in the Christian Science Monitor includes corruption among the sins of this elecvtion:

The bus is rolling through the narrow dirt roads of Dar El-Salam, a down-at-heel Cairo neighborhood, and men and women are running to catch it, afraid they'll miss voting in Egypt's first presidential election.

The man with well-oiled hair cramming them into the rusty machine - festooned with portraits of President Hosni Mubarak - isn't collecting fare. Instead, he's gathering ID cards to be checked against voter rolls. Those will be returned, with 20 Egyptian pounds ($3.20), after his riders cast their votes - for the incumbent.

Sounds rather depressing. However, Steven Cook writes on Foreign Policy's web site that in the long term, Hosni Mubarak may get more reform than he originally planned:

[J]ust because the election was a sham, doesn’t mean that it was meaningless. The constitutional amendments that were instituted to make the election possible may just open the door for real democracy in Egypt....

Influential elements of Egyptian society are already mobilizing to push Mubarak’s changes further than he anticipated. Approximately 3,000 members of Egypt’s Judges Club, for instance, are insisting that they be given full authority to supervise the presidential elections to ensure polling is conducted freely and fairly. One astute Egyptian observer puts it this way: “Egyptian judges now know the power of making collective, public demands, buoyed by the admiration and support of pro-democracy forces and the glare of the international and domestic media.” Other groups are following suit, including journalists, human rights activists, Islamists, and even Egypt’s sclerotic opposition parties. All are signaling to Mubarak and his regime that business as usual is no longer acceptable. Mubarak’s appointed successor, whoever it is, will likely not be able to waltz through the 2011 elections by believing merely that his patronage network will be enough to trump these reform-minded forces.

While immediately unsatisfying, Mubarak’s constitutional amendments could make a significant impact on Egyptian politics in the middle to long term. Sure, the changes seem like yet another gambit to reinforce Egypt’s existing political order under the guise of reform. But they nevertheless have the potential—in combination with continued internal and external pressure for change—to provide the basis for significant moves toward real democracy. The status quo in Egypt is slowly slipping away. And by 2011, Egypt may have a president who is neither a military officer nor a civilian with the last name Mubarak.


UPDATE: The AP's Maggie Michael reports that Egypt's regime might be feeling some blowback earlier than he had anticipated:

More than 3,000 people marched through downtown Cairo at midafternoon -- by far the largest crowd ever drawn by the opposition group Kifaya, or "Enough" in Arabic. Police watched from a distance, despite government vows that protests would not be allowed.

posted by Dan at 04:46 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

So how's the transatlantic divide going?

The German Marshall Fund of the United States -- in concert with Italy's Compagnia di San Paolo -- has just released the results of their latest transatlantic survey over at

Some of the more interesting results highlighted in the press release:

  • Interestingly, the nexus of President Bush’s foreign policy agenda — democracy promotion — is widely supported among both Europeans and Americans, but receives much higher marks from Europeans (74% EU9 vs. 51% U.S.). As to how to actually promote democracy, Europeans and Americans both strongly prefer soft-power options — only 39% of Americans and 32% of Europeans (EU9) support the use of military force.

  • Regarding what most worries Americans and Europeans, both Americans and Europeans’ cite economic downturn as the threat most likely to personally affect them. More Americans cite international terrorism as a likely personal threat than do Europeans (71% vs. 53%). Europeans see themselves as more likely to be personally affected by global warming (73% to 64% Americans). Across the board, Americans are more afraid of every threat asked, except global warming.

  • While 54% of Americans believe the partnership between the U.S. and EU should become closer (down 6 points from 2004), 55% of Europeans (EU9) believe the EU should take a more independent approach to security and diplomatic affairs (up 5 points).

  • Europeans differ on what being a superpower means: 26% of those that want the EU to become a superpower believe that the EU should concentrate on economic power and do not favor increased military spending, 35% value both military and economic power and are willing to pay for increased military spending.

  • “We found that, despite major efforts to repair relations, there is still a rift in how we view each other and the world," said Craig Kennedy, President of the German Marshall Fund. “Leaders on both sides of the Atlantic need to build upon areas where Americans and Europeans do agree, like democracy promotion, to pave the way forward for transatlantic relations."
  • Click here to view all of the topline results. One interesting finding that should temper concerns about a European desire for superpower status: when asked whether "a more powerful European Union should compete or cooperate with the US," 80% of Europeans in the big seven countries say "cooperate" -- and those numbers are higher in France and Germany. [Yeah, but don't forget to mention that only a bare plurality of Americians believe that a European superpower actually would cooperate--ed.]

    posted by Dan at 11:12 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

    IISS weighs in on Iran's WMD program

    When we last left the Iranian WMD saga, it turned out that U.S. and U.N. intelligence were downgrading the likelihood of Iran developing nuclear weapons anytime soon.

    In this week's installment, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) weighs in. Reuters provides the summary:

    Iran, threatened with referral to the U.N. Security Council over its atomic ambitions, could develop bomb-making capability in as little as five years but a 15-year timeframe is more likely, a think tank said on Tuesday....

    "If Iran threw caution to the wind and sought a nuclear weapon capability as quickly as possible, without regard for international reaction, it might be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a single nuclear weapon by the end of this decade," said John Chipman, director of London's International Institute for Strategic Studies.

    He said technical problems could prolong the process and that given international pressure, the Islamic state was more likely to try to accumulate the capability over 10 to 15 years.

    The evaluation by the influential think tank comes two weeks before the U.N. atomic watchdog (IAEA) will discuss whether to send Iran to the Security Council, possibly prompting sanctions.

    The assessment is in line with British estimates, although U.S. intelligence reports have been more conservative, with a study last month putting the date for a bomb at 2015.

    "Our assessment is technical," Gary Samore, editor of the IISS report, told reporters.

    "The most interesting discussion is about political calculations and how Iran weighs the risks and benefits of acquiring nuclear weapons capability."

    Samore said Iran appeared to be less worried about possible U.S. military action than two years ago, partly due to what he described as "the mess" in Iraq.

    Click here to read Chipman's press release.

    posted by Dan at 12:50 AM | Trackbacks (0)

    Tuesday, September 6, 2005

    The perils of teaching in Italy

    Reuters reports on a potential case of discriminatory hiring and firing practices in Italy:

    Was it her looks or lifestyle that led the Roman Catholic Church to cause a minor media frenzy by firing an Italian religion teacher this year?

    Caterina Bonci said Church authorities decided she was just too attractive and dressed too sexy to teach religion after 14 years on the job.

    The Church says it sacked the 38-year-old blonde from the central Adriatic city of Fano because she is divorced.

    Even Italy’s leading newspaper, Corriere della Sera, gave readers a break from pages of stories about scandal at the Bank of Italy and government bickering with the teasing headline:

    “Teacher in mini-skirt fired by diocese.”

    Bonci said she separated from her husband in 1995 and divorced in 2000 and that both events had not affected her job or raised eyebrows from her employers at the time.

    She said reports that fathers accompanied their children to religion classes so they could look at her meant little to her as long as the children came to class.

    As a public service for readers of, below is a photo of Ms. Bonci.


    Readers can judge for themselves.

    posted by Dan at 06:03 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

    I'd blog more if it wasn't for that darn Jacuzzi-tusion

    In honor of the the 10-year anniversary of Cal Ripken's breaking Lou Gehrig's iron-man streak in baseball, Jayson Stark has an amusing column at on his "favorite injuries, calamities or miscellaneous excuses for missing games during Ripken's fabled streak."

    Go check them out -- my two favorites:

  • [Atlanta Braves pitcher] Pascual Perez missed a start because he couldn't find the stadium, drove 100 miles on a loop freeway around Atlanta, circled the city two hours, missed his exit five times.

  • Reds pitcher Johnny Ruffin hurt his knee watching television.
  • I was convinced that last one had to be a misprint, but I stumbled across this fine Peter Gammons column on Ripken that mentioned the same injury:

    Cincinnati’s Johnny Ruffin was unavailable to pitch when he sat down on a couch in the players' lounge to watch television and his knee popped out of joint.

    posted by Dan at 04:21 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

    September's anti-Book of the Month

    The topic of Slate's Book Club this week is Barbara Ehrenreich's Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream . The book is about Ehrenreich's efforts to create a fictional persona and land a job in "media/public relations work." Along the way, the career self-help industry is mocked.

    Let's see how the reviewrs went for it. Hmmmm.... Tyler Cowen didn't like it very much:

    Our sleuth makes a mistake analogous to the one that marred Nickel and Dimed. In that earlier experiment, she entered life as a low-income worker, yet without many support systems. She had no church, no family, and no reliance on friends for financial or even moral aid. It is no wonder she found life so tough and capitalism so demoralizing. She lived an ordinary "lower class" life, yet with upper-middle-class, modern, academic morals and methods.

    This time she cuts herself off from networks and personal contacts. She does recruit some friends to lie for her and back up her vita, should anyone call and ask about her past. But there is not a single voice to spread the word about her. Nor can she fall back on accumulated experience and contacts, for that would reveal her identity. So, she stalks the job world as a paper ghost. Alan, I wonder what would you—as a rational employer—make of a 60ish-year-old woman who appears out of nowhere and has no pre-existing contacts, offers, or networks? And what job is more a matter of personal contacts than public relations?

    Ehrenreich is clueless when it comes to job searching. The book jacket describes her "series of EST-like boot camps, job fairs, networking events, and evangelical job-search ministries. She is proselytized, scammed, lectured, and—again and again—rejected." The reader is never sure if she goes through all this to express her contempt for the participants in those enterprises, or if she truly believes this is the best way to look for a job. At one point she visits a Web site and pays $200 an hour for a weekly phone consultation; she is then told to fantasize about her ideal job. A worthy anecdote, yes, but should I assume this very smart woman was doing her best?

    Nor was Ehrenreich a model interviewee. For one meeting she was late. She was asking for salaries of $60,000-$70,000, and at least once she asked for $100,000. Her (phony) résumé is stacked with a long succession of short-term contracts, none showing much commitment. One interviewer tells her she seems "angry."....

    On the topic of practical experience with a process, let me offer mine. Through my work in my university, I have been involved in interviewing, hiring, and working with a media and PR person. First, we knew people who knew the hire; personal recommendations were an important signal of quality. Second, had a candidate behaved as Ehrenreich did, she would not have made the first cut.

    Well, one would have expected Cowen, a free market economist, to dislike Ehrenreich. Surely Alan Wolfe, the other reviewer, who believes that capitalism, "cause[s] needless suffering to far too many innocent people," has a more positive take?

    He does not:

    Dear Tyler:

    No, actually, I cannot muster much, if any, enthusiasm for Bait and Switch. If anything, you may be too kind to Ehrenreich. The least of her problems is her cluelessness about what it takes to find work. I found even more disturbing her tendency to lecture those who lack her presumably superior understanding of how the world works.

    Do not read the whole thing.

    UPDATE: Kieran Healy weighs in on Ehrenreich and suggests an intriguing alternative read.

    posted by Dan at 03:06 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

    I guess protecting Iraq's border isn't really that important

    Ellen Knickmeyer and Jonathan Finer report the following for the Washington Post:

    Fighters loyal to militant leader Abu Musab Zarqawi asserted control over the key Iraqi border town of Qaim on Monday, killing U.S. collaborators and enforcing strict Islamic law, according to tribal members, officials, residents and others in the town and nearby villages.

    Residents said the foreign-led fighters controlled by Zarqawi, a Jordanian, apparently had been exerting authority in the town, within two miles of the Syrian border, since at least the start of the weekend. A sign posted at an entrance to the town declared, "Welcome to the Islamic Republic of Qaim."....

    The report from Qaim, about 200 miles west of Baghdad, marked one of insurgents' boldest moves in their cat-and-mouse duels with U.S. Marines along the Euphrates River. U.S. forces have described border towns in the area as a funnel for foreign fighters, arms and money into Iraq from Syria.

    Insurgents have occasionally made similar shows of force, such as the takeover of a Baghdad neighborhood for a few hours late last month by dozens of gunmen. They then slipped away, having made the point that they can muster men as well as plant bombs. The weekend takeover of Qaim extended already heavy insurgent pressure on the people there and came after the U.S. military said it had inflicted heavy bombing losses on foreign-led fighters....

    Capt. Jeffrey Pool, a Marine spokesman in Ramadi, capital of the western province that includes Qaim, said he had no word of unusual activity in Qaim. Marines are stationed just outside the town, and no Iraqi government forces are posted inside, Pool said.

    Witnesses in Qaim said Zarqawi's fighters were killing officials and civilians whom they consider to be allied with the Iraqi and U.S. governments or anti-Islamic. On Sunday, the bullet-riddled body of a young woman dressed in her nightclothes lay in a street of Qaim. A sign left on her corpse declared, "A prostitute who was punished."

    Zarqawi's fighters have shot and killed nine men in public executions in the city center since the start of the weekend, accusing the men of being collaborators with U.S. forces, said Sheik Nawaf Mahallawi, a leader of the Albu Mahal, a Sunni Arab tribe that had clashed earlier with the foreign fighters.

    Dozens of families were fleeing Qaim every day, Mahallawi said.

    For local fighters now, "it would be insane to attack Zarqawi's people, even to shoot one bullet at them," the tribal leader said. "We hope the U.S. forces end this in the coming days. We want the city to go back to its normal situation."

    Many of the towns along the river have been subject to domination by foreign-led fighters, despite repeated Marine offensives in the area since May. Residents and Marines have described insurgents escaping ahead of such drives, and returning when the offensives end. (emphasis added)

    Read the whole thing.

    Given the bolded portion, either one of two things is happening:

    a) A large number of Iraqis are playing one heck of a prank on Knickmeyer and Finer; or

    b) The Marines need to do a little better on intelligence gathering.

    UPDATE: Greg Djerejian has a nice pre-Katrina round-up of what to read around the blogosphere about Iraq.

    posted by Dan at 11:29 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

    The revenge of ham radio

    Among those debating the relative influence of the blogosphere in American politics, the facile question has always een whether blogs will become "talk radio or ham radio?" The obvious implication is that talk radio is now a permanent feature of the media ecosystem that covers politics, while ham radio was a fad that remains sustained only be true enthusiasts. Blog enthusiasts tend to favor the former comparison over the latter.

    After reading this Wall Street Journal story by Christopher Rhoads on what ham radio has done in the wake of Katrina, perhaps the blogosphere should become more comfortable with the latter comparison as well:

    With Hurricane Katrina having knocked out nearly all the high-end emergency communications gear, 911 centers, cellphone towers and normal fixed phone lines in its path, ham-radio operators have begun to fill the information vacuum. "Right now, 99.9% of normal communications in the affected region is nonexistent," says David Gore, the man operating the ham radio in the Monroe shelter. "That's where we come in."

    In an age of high-tech, real-time gadgetry, it's the decidedly unsexy ham radio -- whose technology has changed little since World War II -- that is in high demand in ravaged New Orleans and environs. The Red Cross issued a request for about 500 amateur radio operators -- known as "hams" -- for the 260 shelters it is erecting in the area. The American Radio Relay League, a national association of ham-radio operators, has been deluged with requests to find people in the region. The U.S. Coast Guard is looking for hams to help with its relief efforts.

    Ham radios, battery operated, work well when others don't in part because they are simple. Each operator acts as his own base station, requiring only his radio and about 50 feet of fence wire to transmit messages thousands of miles. Ham radios can send messages on multiple channels and in myriad ways, including Morse code, microwave frequencies and even email.

    Then there are the ham-radio operators themselves, a band of radio enthusiasts who spend hours jabbering with each other even during normal times. They are often the first to get messages in and out of disaster areas, in part because they are everywhere. (The ARRL estimates there are 250,000 licensed hams in the U.S.) Sometimes they are the only source of information in the first hours following a disaster. "No matter how good the homeland-security system is, it will be overwhelmed," says Thomas Leggett, a retired mill worker manning a ham radio in the operations center here. "You don't hear about us, but we are there."

    posted by Dan at 10:48 AM | Trackbacks (0)

    Good news about Chernobyl

    Peter Finn reports in the Washington Post that twenty years after the disaster at Chernobyl, the health effects have been much less than prior estimates would have suggested:

    The long-term health and environmental impacts of the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, while severe, were far less catastrophic than feared, according to a major new report by eight U.N. agencies.

    The governments of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, the three countries most affected by radioactive fallout from Chernobyl, should strive to end the "paralyzing fatalism" of tens of thousands of their citizens who wrongly believe they are still at risk of an early death, according to the study released Monday.

    The 600-page report found that as of the middle of this year, the accident had caused fewer than 50 deaths directly attributable to radiation, most of them among emergency workers who died in the first months after the accident. In the wake of the world's largest nuclear disaster, there were numerous predictions of mass fatalities from radiation.

    The report said that nine children had died of thyroid cancer, but that the survival rate among the 4,000 children in the region who had developed thyroid cancer has been 99 percent. An expected spike in fertility problems and birth defects also failed to materialize, the study found....

    Officials said that the continued intense medical monitoring of tens of thousands of people in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus is no longer a smart use of limited resources and is, in fact, contributing to mental health problems among many residents nearly 20 years later. In Belarus and Ukraine, 5 percent to 7 percent of government spending is consumed by benefits and programs for Chernobyl victims. And in the three countries, as many as 7 million people are receiving Chernobyl-related social benefits.

    "The monitoring of people with incredibly low doses uses huge amounts of resources and does more psychological harm than good," said Fred Mettler, a professor of radiology at the University of New Mexico who chaired one of three health groups in the study, titled "Chernobyl's Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts."

    Here's a link to the World Health Organization's press release on the report -- compare and contrast with this media assessment from a decade ago.

    Environmentalists will likely not appreciate the irony of Finn's closing paragraphs:

    The abandonment of large tracts of land, combined with a ban on hunting, has led to a dramatic increase in wild animals and birds, including wolves, elk, wild boars, white-tailed eagles, owls, cranes and black storks.

    "Without a permanent residency of humans for 20 years, the ecosystems around the Chernobyl site are now flourishing," the report said. "It looks like the nature park it has become."

    posted by Dan at 12:48 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (1)

    Sunday, September 4, 2005

    Underreaction and overreaction on Katrina

    President Bush appears to have figured out that the federal government's first response to Katrina was pretty pathetic (though not just the feds -- see this Glenn Reynolds post and this jaw-dropping Brad DeLong post), and is now working overtime to correct that first impression, for political reasons if nothing else.

    A White House official told me Friday night that, after fumbling around for days, practically every White House agency was getting involved in coping with Katrina. As this New York Times story by Adam Nagourney and Elizabeth Bumiller suggests, Bush has revamped his schedule this month to respond to Katrina.

    This readjustment is clearly necessary to a point. But here's the thing -- the criminally slow underreaction from last week could lead to a criminally big overreaction in the next few weeks. As this Knight-Ridder story by Warren Strobel points out, the President has other things on his plate this fall:

    Bush and Rice have planned an aggressive fall season of foreign policy, beginning with a summit of 170 world leaders at the United Nations next week. Also on tap are the launch of a public diplomacy initiative to improve the U.S. image in the Muslim world and a possible Rice trip to the Middle East.

    Bush had planned to host Chinese President Hu Jintao in Washington this week, but the White House asked that the meeting be rescheduled to take place during Bush's trip to the United Nations, so he could concentrate on hurricane relief.

    Add to those things the WTO ministerial in Hong Kong.

    Let's be clear -- I'm not saying that the president should not be devoting a healthy fraction of his attention to rebuilding the Gulf Coast. My point is that by screwing up in one direction last week, the administration will now screw up in the other direction for the next several weeks, and I guarantee you that a year from now we'll be bemoaning some foreign policy crisis that would have been defused if everyone had kept their eye on the ball in the present.

    UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias makes a similar point.

    posted by Dan at 11:34 PM | Comments (41) | Trackbacks (4)

    Saturday, September 3, 2005

    William Rehnquist, R.I.P. (1924-2005)

    CNN is reporting that the Chief Justice has died at the age of 80.

    My thoughts about Rehnquist can be found here. My only addendum is that while there will undoubtedly be a focus on Rehnquist's ideology as a justice, his greatest legacy for the Court might be his management skills -- he was a vast improvement over both Burger and Warren in that capacity.

    Earlier this summer, Charles Lane wrote an informative article about Rehnquist for Stanford magazine. I'm sure SCOTUSblog will have more tomorrow.

    Comment away.

    posted by Dan at 11:28 PM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (1)

    Milton Friedman, meet Robert Reich

    Milton Friedman introduced the idea of a "negative income tax" in his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom. The idea behind it was a way to provide welfare in the most efficient and least welfare-distorting manner possible.

    In the New York Times today, Robert Reich drives this point home by looking at the deleterious effects of the alternative policy possibilities -- protectionism and pork-barrel spending:

    Oil shocks, hurricanes and housing bubbles aside, consumers who are worried about their jobs and wages will be reluctant to buy goods and services, thereby dampening any recovery. But the new insecurity is undermining our national interest in other, less predictable ways by setting off political resistance to economic change, with negative repercussions that ripple beyond the economy.

    Forty years ago, free-trade agreements passed Congress with broad backing because legislators recognized that they helped American consumers and promoted global stability. But as job and wage insecurity have grown, public support for free trade has declined. The North American Free Trade Agreement, which passed by 34 votes in 1993, was a hard sale for the Clinton administration. But the recent Central American Free Trade Agreement, embracing a far smaller and less populous area, was an even harder sale for President Bush. Despite Republican control of Congress, the trade deal cleared the House in July by just two votes, and then only after heavy White House pressure.

    The increasing insecurity of ordinary workers also imperils our national defense by handcuffing the Pentagon. It can't shift the defense budget to fighting terrorism because of local fears that well-paying jobs will be lost. Contrast this with the comparative ease by which the Pentagon downshifted from fighting World War II to the cold war, more than 50 years ago. Its recent base-closing recommendations ignited a political firestorm, causing even the apolitical Base Closure and Realignment Commission to retreat. The commission's chairman justified its decision to save the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, for example, by noting that the base "is the second-largest employer in western New York."

    Consider, finally, the pork that's been larded into the federal budget. Republicans may collectively oppose wasteful spending, but as individual legislators they've created more pork than any Congress in history. The new $286 billion transportation act is bloated with 6,371 "special projects" with a price tag some $30 billion more than the White House wanted. The president reassured the nation that it would, at the least, "give hundreds of thousands of Americans good-paying jobs." The new $12.3 billion energy bill cost twice what the White House sought because it's laden with what Senator Pete Domenici, the New Mexico Republican who ushered it through Congress, defends as measures to create "hundreds of thousands of jobs." According to the conservative watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste, pork programs have risen from fewer than 2,000 a year in the mid-1990's to almost 14,000 this year.

    Read the whole thing -- Reich proposes a number of policy possibilities, including the expansion of the modern-day equivalent of the negative income tax, the earned income tax credit.

    I'm not sure I buy all of Reich's proposed package, but his analysis of the political economy of the status quo is dead on.

    posted by Dan at 09:11 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (1)

    Attack of the lipstick ninjas

    In the Washington Post, Anthony Faiola reports that Japanese PM Junichiro Koizumi is pulling out all the stops in the run-up to parliamentary elections in Japan:

    Armed to the teeth with blood-red lipstick and a killer smile, Yuriko Koike stormed the streets in a working-class neighborhood here with rapid-fire handshakes and a brigade of young campaign aides wearing hot-pink T-shirts and waving rose-colored flags. One of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's hit squad of female "assassins," the former anchorwoman vowed to take no prisoners in Japan's nationwide elections a week from Sunday.

    "This is a ground battle for reform!" Koike, 53, shouted through a bullhorn to her giddy audience. "Let's change Japan!"

    Koike joined a star-studded cast of female candidates sent out on the campaign trail this week by Koizumi, who has vowed to resign if his fractured Liberal Democratic Party fails to win control of Japan's lower house on Sept. 11. The women -- now ubiquitously referred to in the national media as Koizumi's assassins -- also include Satsuki Katayama, a model-turned-bureaucrat, and Makiko Fujino, Japanese television's version of Martha Stewart. Their mission: to take out the prime minister's political enemies in the old boys' network that long held sway over the LDP.

    The women embody Koizumi's strategy of putting a new face on the stodgy, conservative party that has ruled Japan for most of the post-World War II era. In a country where only a small percentage of elected officials are female and women are still expected to pour tea for male co-workers and defer to their husbands, Koizumi's "new LDP" is fielding a record 26 women in the upcoming race, more than double last year's number.

    More important, Koizumi, 63, chose Koike and eight other well-known, successful women to run in key races. They are opposing the powerful hard-liners whom Koizumi effectively purged from the party after they voted against his bill to privatize Japan's massive postal service, the centerpiece of his plan to reform the world's second-largest economy. Rejection of that bill in August led Koizumi to angrily dissolve the lower house and put his job on the line by calling new elections in which he has vowed "to change or destroy" the LDP....

    Koizumi's popularity is soaring ahead of the vote -- particularly among such nontraditional LDP voting groups as younger people and urbanites.

    "There's no way around it," said Yasunori Sone, a professor of political science at Keio University in Tokyo. "Koizumi is a political genius. His creation of the assassin candidates has captured the public's imagination."

    Indeed, Koizumi's daring approach has surprised a nation used to consensus politics, titillating the press and jolting many Japanese out of their state of political apathy. Public opinion polls indicate heightened interest in the elections.

    posted by Dan at 12:44 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (1)

    Friday, September 2, 2005

    Will the Saints go marching back in?

    In Slate, Josh Levin mourns the loss of his hometown city:

    New Orleans seems more like a scene out of 28 Days Later than a place where people ever lived and worked and raised their families.

    A little more than 48 hours after Katrina strafed the city, I'm starting to mourn a place that's not quite dead but seems too stricken to go on living.

    Also in Slate, Daniel Gross posits that the national economic effect of Katrina could be more devastating than the 9/11 attacks. Kieran Healy has two posts worth reading about the magnitude of the social disaster.

    If there is any comfort that can be taken at this point from Katrina's aftereffects, it's in this story by Michael Phillips and Cynthia Cossen in the Wall Street Journal: cities beset by catastrophic attacks refuse to fade away:

    At the close of World War II, American bombers incinerated the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic weapons. Within two decades, both cities had been rebuilt, and their populations had surpassed prewar levels.

    The lesson, according to economists who have studied the question, is that, while it may take years, cities are resilient and usually bounce back from the worst natural or man-made devastation. "Even nuclear bombs and fire bombing of cities was not enough to change the level and nature of economic activity," says Columbia University economist Donald R. Davis, who studied Japanese reconstruction. "People don't abandon their cities, and indeed industries don't abandon the cities they're in."

    Such large-scale disasters are rare, of course, but a look back at four of them in the U.S. -- as New Orleans copes with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina -- reinforces that conclusion: Americans are loath to surrender their cities despite the threat of an array of biblical plagues.

    Read the whole thing.

    posted by Dan at 12:55 AM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)

    Thursday, September 1, 2005

    September's Books of the Month

    This month's general interest book is in response to the question I get asked on occasion -- "So what's the University of Chicago really like?" The work that I've seen best capture the spirit of the place is actually a play -- Proof, by David Auburn. The drama won a Pulitzer and some Tonys, and has been made into a movie that will be released this month (click here to see the trailer).

    The movie's director, John Madden, was smart enough to shoot the film on location on campus and in Hyde Park, and even in the trailer you get a strong sense of place. Ordinarily I'd say more about it, but I'd rather not give away important plot details (as an aside, kudos to Madden and Miramax for not revealing these details in the trailer).

    Proof is quite short, so I'll counterbalance by recommending a mammoth of an international relations book -- S.E. Finer's three-volume The History of Government. Finer -- an Oxford Professor of Government -- decided to write about the development of government from Sumeria to modern times as his retirement project. After surviving a massive heart attack, he devoted the next six years to the project and managed to almost finish it (34 out of 36 chapters). Some polishing by his colleagues and former students led to three volumes that the Economist raved as the best political science book ever when it came out in 1997.

    [So you've read it then?--ed. Er, no. But this year I've agreed to join a small book club (only one other member) devoted to tackling this tome over the rest of the academic year. With September upon us, I look forward to cracking the spine -- especially since I just finished Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steeland I'm intrigued about whether Finer will buttress or refute some of Finer's assessments about the ancient world. So, you just finished a 1998 book and are now tackling a 1997 book. You are so cutting edge.--ed.]

    posted by Dan at 07:27 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

    The diplomatic aftereffects of Gaza

    According to the Associated Press, Israel is reaping some diplomatic fruit from its Gaza pullout:

    The foreign ministers of Israel and Pakistan, a Muslim country that has long taken a hard line against the Jewish state, met publicly for the first time Thursday, a diplomatic breakthrough that follows Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

    The meeting in Istanbul was at the initiative of Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and was expected to be followed by confidence building measures, such as a relaxation of Pakistan's ban against travel to the Jewish state, an Israeli official said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject....

    Pakistan was encouraged by Israel's evacuation of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, which was completed last week, and set up the meeting, Israeli officials said.

    ``There is no conflict whatsoever between Israel and Pakistan and no logical reason why the two countries could not have a constructive and positive bilateral relationship,'' Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said in Jerusalem.

    Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and his Pakistani counterpart, Khursheed Kasuri, informally met Wednesday night at a dinner in Istanbul, Israeli officials said.

    Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in the Indian subcontinent, has been gradually moving toward conciliation with Israel, despite the influence of a powerful Islamic radical party in Pakistan.

    The Pakistani president accepted an invitation to address an interfaith conference this month organized by the Council for World Jewry while he is in New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly.

    posted by Dan at 07:07 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (1)