Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Open SOTU thread
Post away your own comments on the State of the Union.
[What about your thoughts?--ed. I'm afraid I have some books to complete -- I'll catch the transcript later.]
UPDATE: This is funny -- at least to me, as my son is now old enough so that we do Mad Libs together.
It's quite the day for multilateralism
The U.S. scored two multilateral victories yesterday. First, the Quartet (the United States, European Union, Russian Federation, and the United Nations) issued a statement on the Palestinian elections:
[T]he Quartet concluded that it was inevitable that future assistance to any new government would be reviewed by donors against that government's commitment to the principles of nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap.Meanwhile, the permanent five members of the Security Council and the European Union adopted a common position on what to do with Iran for now. Kevin Sullivan and Dafna Linzer explain in the Washington Post:
The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- along with Germany, agreed Monday night to report Iran to the Security Council over its nuclear program.Judging by Iran's reaction to the news, I think that's a safe estimate (here's a link to the formal statement by the P-5)
Readers are formally invited to speculate about which multilateral entreaty will work better. My money is on the Quartet -- they have far greater leverage in sanctioning the Palestinian Authority than the United Nations has over Iran. At thesame time, though, this FT story by Daniel Dombey , Harvey Morris and Roula Khalaf suggests the EU might buckle on Hamas before the Chinese and Russians do on Iran.
Who gets the Roger this year?
The Academy Award nominations were announced this morning -- click here for the full list.
Last year, I blogged about "a new interactive feature -- who did work that merited a nomination at the very least but got completely shut out." So, who gets a Roger this year???
The hardworking staff here at danieldrezner.com has perused the list and.... well, we're having an admittedly tough time dredging anything up. The most glaring omission was Maria Bello as Best Supporting Actress for A History of Violence -- but then again, I wasn't that huge a fan of the movie. Sin City didn't get nominated for anything -- I would have thougt it merited a technical nomination or two, and if you ask me Elijah Wood was far scarier in that flick than William Hurt was in A History of Violence. I would have liked to have seen The Aristocrats nominated for Best Documentary, but I can't get too worked up about that -- especially with Murderball getting a nod.
So, I'll leave it to the readers -- who merits a Roger?
UPDATE: Entertainment Weekly's Popwatch blog has generated a list of its own -- including Joan Allen for The Upside of Anger. Having just seen that movie last night on DVD -- and being a big Joan Allen fan -- I'd argue that she'd have had a better chance if the movie had something resembling a coherent theme or plot.
Monday, January 30, 2006
The conservative take on Off Center
The editors of The Forum -- Berkeley Electronic Press' online-only journal of applied research in contemporary politics -- had an interesting idea for how to review Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson's Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy. They asked the few Republican political scientists they knew what they thought of the book, with the idea that Hacker and Pierson would reply.
While a nice idea, I suspect many people -- including Hacker and Pierson -- got too busy to participate. [UPDATE: Pierson writes in to say that their reply is coming soon!!] Still, you can read my review. And you can read John J. Pitney's as well. They actually complement each other quite nicely.
Here's the key paragraph of my review -- which picks up on a point that Henry Farrell made about the book last fall:
Hacker and Pierson are attempting something unusual and even laudatory in political science (and I say this as a Republican). They are trying to use the tools and data of political science to make an explicitly political argument. This is refreshing, for the dirty little secret of our profession is that there is not a whole lot of politics in the academic study of political science. Most scholarship is written with the attitude of the detached observer; concepts like “blame” or “responsibility” – or even “good” and “bad” – rarely appear in our professional discourse. By injecting normative factors back into their analysis of the body politic, Hacker and Pierson have written a polemic that is light years better than anything Michael Moore or Sean Hannity could ever dream of publishing. This does not mean that their analysis is correct – indeed, Off Center suffers the flaws of most polemics, topped off with a few even bigger flaws. But this is a book that cannot and should not be ignored by either political scientists or pundits.
Hey, I actually do know Jack
Fifteen months ago, Dana Milbank had a Washington Post story that touched on the tension that existed between David Addington, Vice President Cheney's longtime lawyer and new chief of staff, and other national security lawyers in the administration:
Even in a White House known for its dedication to conservative philosophy, Addington is known as an ideologue, an adherent of an obscure philosophy called the unitary executive theory that favors an extraordinarily powerful president....I dredge this up because Daniel Klaidman, Stuart Taylor Jr. and Evan Thomas have written a much fuller account (and some regretfully overripe language) of this tension within the administration for Newsweek (link via Orin Kerr):
James Comey, a lanky, 6-foot-8 former prosecutor who looks a little like Jimmy Stewart, resigned as deputy attorney general in the summer of 2005. The press and public hardly noticed. Comey's farewell speech, delivered in the Great Hall of the Justice Department, contained all the predictable, if heartfelt, appreciations. But mixed in among the platitudes was an unusual passage. Comey thanked "people who came to my office, or my home, or called my cell phone late at night, to quietly tell me when I was about to make a mistake; they were the people committed to getting it right—and to doing the right thing—whatever the price. These people," said Comey, "know who they are. Some of them did pay a price for their commitment to right, but they wouldn't have it any other way."Read the whole thing. I have nothing to add but this -- I've known Jack Goldsmith for many years from his time at the University of Chicago. If you think that Goldsmith is either a RINO or a squishy "must kowtow to all forms of international law" kind of guy, well, then you don't know Jack.
The fact that Addington, Cheney, and by extension Bush managed to force out people like Goldsmith and Comey means that the legal consensus within the administration is way, way outside the legal mainstream.
Oh, and one other thing: Henry Farrell is right. Those who criticized Goldsmith's appointment to Harvard Law School on ethical grounds (click here for one example) have a hell of a lot of crow to consume.
What is it that blogs do?
There's been another spasm of output on whether the blogosphere does anything better or different than the mediasphere.
Arnold Kiling believes that blogs function well as a distributor of information across the ideological spectrum:
Certain information is more valuable to me than it is to others. We can represent this concept by thinking of everyone as being located at different points on a circle. The points closest to you in the circle are people with similar interests. They might be workers in nearby cubicles, or they could be people located at a great physical distance but working in the same field.Meanwhile, Henry Farrell thinks the importance of blogs is not just as a provider of information, but as part of a conversation -- a fact that journalists have yet to comprehend:
The point is that they have very different – and clashing – notions of where authority and responsibility come from. Each newspaper article has the form of a discrete statement, which is supposed to be as authoritative as possible on its own ground. Each blogpost has the form of an intervention in an ongoing conversation – the blogger’s authority rests in part on her willingness to respond to others and engage in argument with them. A blogger who doesn’t respond to good counter-arguments is being irresponsible (of course many bloggers are irresponsible in this way; there isn’t much in the way of formal policing of this norm). These forms of authority are difficult to reconcile with each other, because the latter in large part undermines the former. If journalists start systematically responding to their critics, and getting drawn into conversations about whether or not they were right when they made a particular claim, then they’re effectively admitting that the articles they have written aren’t all that authoritative in the first place. They’re subject to debate and to revision. Thus, in part, the tendency for journalists like Jack Shafer to dismiss criticism from bloggers and their commenters as “organized riots” and lynch mobs. It’s a fundamental threat to their notions of where journalistic authority comes from.Shafer, meanwhile, has a column in Slate suggesting that while journalists might not get the conversational aspect of bloggers, they do recognize the existential threat posed by the blogosphere:
Like the long-gone typesetters, today's newspaper guild members believe that their job is somehow their "property," and that no amateur can step in to perform their difficult and arduous tasks. On one level, they're right. John Q. Blogger can't fly to Baghdad or Bosnia and do the work of a John F. Burns. But what a lot of guild members miss is that not everybody wants to read John F. Burns, not everybody who wants to read about Baghdad is going to demand coverage of the quality he produces, and not everybody wants Baghdad coverage, period. If you loosely define journalism as words and graphics about current events deliverable on tight deadline to a mass audience, the price of entry into the craft has dropped to a few hundred dollars. Hell, I can remember renting an IBM Selectric for $100 a month in the late 1970s just to make my freelance articles look more "professional" to my editors.
Seven different ways of looking at Dog Days
Flying back from a conference today, I finished Ana Marie Cox's Dog Days. Here are my seven different ways of looking at the book:
1) It is the perfect airplane book -- provided you don't have a prurient ten-year old reading over your shoulder;
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Those trade ministers mean business!!
Wow, some real progress was made at the Davos Economic Forum for pushing the Doha round of trade talks towards completion. Why, Alan Beattie reports for the Financial Times that trade ministers have agree to.... a new deadline:
Ministers on Saturday set themselves a tight new deadline of the end of April to come up with a framework deal under the faltering Doha round of global trade talks.Well, thank God -- the real problem with this round of trade talks had been the lack of deadlines.
Seriously, Bloomberg's Rich Miller provides some detail on what needs to be done:
Among their goals are resolving 33 differences over agricultural subsidies and 15 questions on industrial products by April 30th. "We've got a big number of topics to be addressed,'' Pascal Lamy, director general of the WTO, told reporters in Davos. ``Most of that has to be done in the first half of this year.''Portman is correct about the need for cross-issue linkage -- but until the ministers in Nath's camp acknowledge this fact, I'm not holding my breath waiting for progress.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Tom Friedman faux pas watch!
David Rothkopf is blogging about the Davos Economic Forum for Foreign Policy's web site. I bring this up because Rothkopf caught the ultimate moderator faux pas earlier this week:
Late this afternoon, there was a packed session chaired by Tom Friedman that included Queen Rania of Jordan, Pakistan’s President Musharraf, Afghanistan’s President Karzai, and Hajim Alhasani, President of the Iraqi National Assembly. The topic was Muslim societies in the modern world, but the discussion was wide ranging. There was a uniformly negative reaction to Iran getting nuclear weapons—UPDATE: Turns out Foreign Policy was in error, and it was Karzai and not Friedman who made the faux pas. See here for more.
Open Hamas thread
I'm at a conference all day today, which means I conveniently do not have the time to post deep thoughts on Hamas' electoral victory in Palestine. So I'll let me readers comment instead. Go to it!!
But click here and here if you want an inkling of what I think. And click here for Esther Pan's concise summary of the situaion at cfr.org.
Optimists argue that Hamas' participation in mainstream Palestinian politics will spur the group to moderate its radical goals and terrorist tactics. But history shows that political participation co-opts militants only under very specific conditions -- and almost none of those exist in the Palestinian Authority today.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
So what do people think about rebuilding New Orleans?
Some of my colleagues here at the University of Chicago have been conducting some veeery interesting public opinion research on post-Katrina New Orleans. Here are some snippets from the press release:
The process of deciding how to rebuild New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is undermined by sharp racial gaps between blacks and whites about what should be done, according to new research by political scientists at the University of Chicago.
Is the world really getting more pacific?
The report's main exhibit, Figure 1.1, is a graph showing the numbers of wars—international, civil, and colonial—from 1946-2002. The authors summarize this graph as follows:This sounds like a nice debunking, but it's pretty unconvincing to me, for two reasons:It reveals that the number of armed conflicts increased steadily decade by decade throughout the Cold War. Then in the early 1990s, a steep decline started that continues to this day.First, yes, the number of armed conflicts has declined since 1992—from 50 to 30. But this merely puts the world at the same level of turmoil as in 1976. I don't remember anybody thinking of that era as particularly tranquil.
1) If you look at the figure, it seems like the world was more peaceful 60 years ago -- but that's only because the total number of states in the system was much smaller than today. It's not surprising that the number of intrastate conflicts increased from 1946 to 1991 -- that's because the number of states in the system increased as well. What's interesting about the post-1991 system is that it's gotten more peaceful even as the number of states has increased. True, a lot of these new countries are microstates like Tonga -- but they also includes the former Soviet and Yugoslav republics.Kaplan is correct to point out that the current downturn in armed conflict might not be permanent -- but it's still a downturn.
UPDATE: Andrew Mack -- Director of the Human Security Centre at UBC and the one responsible for the report that's being debated -- has taken the time and trouble to post his response to Kaplan in the comments section. Go check it out.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Legalizing domestic surveillance
Mike Allen repots at Time.com that the Bush administration is looking to gain Congressional approval of its warrantless wiretapping
Even as the White House launches a media blitz to portray its controversial wiretapping program as a perfectly legal weapon in the war on terror, administration officials have begun dropping subtle hints—without explicitly saying so—that President Bush could go to Congress to seek more specific authority to listen in on U.S. citizens who are suspected of entanglement with terrorists. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales added to such speculation Tuesday by asserting during a series of television interviews that the law setting up an apparatus requiring warrants for such eavesdropping—the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA—might be outmoded. "I think we all realize that since 1978, when FISA was passed, there have been tremendous changes in technology," he said on CBS's "The Early Show." "We are engaged in a debate now, a conversation with Congress about FISA and about these authorities."Three thoughts on this:
1) If I were a Bush political advisor, I'd advise him to ask for congressional approval. It's the smart political move, because it engages in political jujitsu -- it ends the debate about the legalit of what happened in the fall of 2001 and refocuses attention on the merits of amending FISA. The liberal bloggers I read have allowed that amending FISA to allow what the NSA is currently doing might be appropriate. Like the House vote on Murtha's withdrawal proposal a few months ago, this kind of vote forces Bush critics to put up or shut up.UPDATE: The initial title to this post was a misnomer -- apologies.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!
Following Professor Ignatieff's lead, there is no reason whatsoever why we in America cannot elect academics to Congress. Indeed, now that Daniel Drezner will be decamping to Massachusetts, and given the fact that Ted Kennedy will be up for re-election this year . . .Which is what inspired the title to this post. And also this link to a William Tecumseh Sherman quote.
[You're afraid of all the rumors involving you, Salma Hayek, and the butterscotch toppng, aren't you?--ed.] No, I've met politicians, and I know I'm not one of their breed.
I don't say this in a haughty, superior way, but rather with a sense of awe at the drive required to run for elected office in modern America. A few years ago I spent some time with a guy who was planning on running for Congress a year later. This guy wasn't a political legacy or anything, just someone who wanted to be a politician. What I remember about him was the focus, energy, and almost-animal appetite he brought to the task. He reveled in he things about campaigns that I would find infuriating. I found the experience akin to being in a room with the biggest, baddest alpha dog you've ever seen.
Sure, once you get elected, the advantages of incumbency are pretty powerful. But to get to that point, you not only have to desire the office, you have to desire making the journey as well. That's not me.
And so I teach instead....
[Wow, that was deep.... so what you're really afraid of are all the rumors involving you, Scarlett Johansson, and the buttersco--ed. Oh, give it up.]
A typology of glory walls
Slate's John Dickerson dissects the photos of George W. Bush with Jack Abramoff reported so breathlessly in Time. Far more important, however, is Dickerson's useful anthropological report about the hierarchy of Washington's "glory walls":
Are the photos the meaningless trinkets given out to big contributors? Or are they the meaningful trinkets that are a crucial part of the dance of influence between the White House and the lobbyists it uses to promote its agenda?
No more "buy American"
What with Ford planning to lay off a few people over the next few years, there's going to be a lot of navel-gazing this week about the state of the U.S. auto sector.
Rick Popely and Deborah Horan have a story in today's Chicago Tribune that points out one big problem GM and Ford have -- the "Buy American" campaign doesn't work at crunch time anymore:
When domestic automakers had their backs to the wall 25 years ago, they could count on a "Buy American" sentiment to keep some customers from defecting to fuel-efficient foreign cars.It's not only price that matters, though, as the story points out later:
Though domestic brands get on the shopping lists of two-thirds of car buyers, Spinella said 20 percent of those people wind up buying an import because of better styling, a lower price or a unique feature.
Michael Ignatieff.... elected official
Ten days ago I blogged about Harvard professor Michael Ignatieff's quixotic campaign for parliament seat in Canada, as a member of the Liberal Party..
Well, the elections were yesterday, and the Liberals didn't do so well, according to the Chicago Tribune:
Canadian voters, saying they were fed up with financial scandals and ready for a change, ended the 12-year run of the ruling Liberal Party on Monday, ousting Prime Minister Paul Martin in favor of a Conservative Party likely to steer a path closer to the United States.While this is bad news for the Liberal party, CTV reports that Ignatieff weathered the backlash against the party and is now an elected official:
Liberal Michael Ignatieff, touted as a potential future party leader, passed his first political test Monday, shaking off a campaign marred by accusations of opportunism and ethnic slurs to win a west Toronto riding.Ignaieff must now suffer the cruel fate of having political scientists talk about him in the media. [Could be worse..... could be bloggers!--ed.]
Monday, January 23, 2006
Bill Clinton is responsible for the Iran mess
Back in the George H.W. Bush administration the end of the Cold War broke the mold of world politics, and made new modes and orders of world affairs possible. George H. W. Bush and his advisors worked like dogs to establish two principles:Let's clear some brush here:1. Aggression and conquest across national borders would be rolled back by the world community.With these two principles in place, there was sound hope--well, some hope--that nonproliferation policy would succeed: diplomats could point out to countries thinking of developing nuclear programs that such programs (a) were expensive, (b) increased the chances that their citizens and cities would suffer thermonuclear death (are Pakistani and Indian citizens safer now that both have nuclear weapons? I do not think so), and (c) did not add to their national security--unless their government thought that it was so despicable and tyrannical that the entire Security Council would agree on its overthrow.
1) DeLong's principle number 2 has not and likely never will be a cardinal element of American foreign policy, and anyone who tells you differently is selling you something.There's a lot of blame to pin on the Bush administration for a whole bunch of policy sins. There's no need to invent nonexistent foreign policy doctrines for the administration to violate in the process.
UPDATE: Brad responds in good humor with this post. His key piece of evidence is a quotation from pp. 489-90 of Bush and Scowcroft's A World Transformed:
Trying to eliminate Saddam [Hussein in 1991], extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in 'mission creep,' and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs.... We would have been forced to... rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, there was no viable "exit strategy".... Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish...To which I must reply -- look at p. 356, Brad!!:
We would ask the [Security] Council to act only if we knew in advance we had the backing of most of the Arab bloc and we were fairly certain we had the necessary votes. If at any point it became clear we could not succeed, we would back away from a UN mandate and cobble together a independent multinational effort built on friendly Arab and allied participation. The grounds for this would be the initial UN resolution condemning Iraq, the subsequent resolutions, and Article 51, along with a request from the Emir of Kuwait. In the end, if sanctions failed and it came to using force, [Richard] Haass and [Bob] Kimmitt reminded us that our ability to rally the necessary political support, with or without UN endorsement, would be enhanced significantly if we were seen to have tried hard to make diplomacy work [with Hussein].I fear this intervention is turning into a quagmire for Professor DeLong :-)
That's some interesting Islam in Morocco
Der Spiegel's Helene Zuber has an interesting story about how Morocco's government recent efflorts to fuse Islam, modernization, and civil rights. So far, it seems to be working:
Religion is making a comeback in Morocco, and more and more young, well-educated Moroccans are devouring the Koran. The new piety, no longer limited to the mosque or prayers at home, is evident in full public view. More and more women are wearing headscarves, even in Casablanca's western fashion enclaves and Rabat's gleaming shopping centers. The designers of expensive caftans -- creations of brocade and silk, embellished with gold thread -- are now selling their products as luxury couture for the next party, and their clientele is no longer limited to wealthy tourists.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
The state of Afghan public opinion
The Program on International Policy Attitudes commissioned a survey in Afghanistan on how they feel about things. The results are pretty overwhelming:
A new WorldPublicOpinion.org poll of the Afghan public finds an overwhelming majority opposes al-Qaeda and the Taliban, endorses the overthrow of the Taliban and approves of the US military presence in Afghanistan.Click here for the topline results a a brief note on methodology.
Friday, January 20, 2006
Cuba gets to play ball
The Bush administration is letting Cuba play ball.One slightly bizarre aspect to this was the reasoning the Bush administration gave for rejecting the first application back in December:
"The president wanted to see it resolved in a positive way," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "Our concerns were centered on making sure that no money was going to the Castro regime and that the World Baseball Classic would not be misused by the regime for spying. We believe the concerns have been addressed."I understand the concern about profit. But spying? Even if there are Cuban spies, what are they going to find in Puerto Rico?
I, for one, welcome Cuban participation -- because I want to see them get whipped by the capitalist teams. Scanning the team rosters and the schedule of games, I'm fairly confident that if they're very, very lucky, the Cubans will get creamed in the semifinals by the Dominican team.
Man, the DOJ has some strange lawyers
Mike Hughlett reports in the Chicago Tribune that the Justice Department would like to access Google's records:
Google Inc. is refusing to obey a Justice Department demand that it release information about what people seek when they use the popular search engine, setting up a possible battle with broad implications for Internet privacy rights.Oddly, Google has issued no official comment. [UPDATE: check out this San Jose Mercury News story, however.]
I'm not competent to comment on the legality of the request, but the thing that struck me is that the DOJ is being unbelievably lazy.
The DOJ wants to show that online searches lead to inadvertent stumbles into porn. It is true that the best way to show this would be to retrieve a sample of searches. However, almost as good would be for the DOJ to commission some social scientist to do the research for them. It would not be hard for a researcher to run an experiment to gather this kind of data, and the results would be just as useful to the Department of Justice.
There's something else that disturbs me about this request. If Yahoo! and other search engines have already complied, then the DOJ doesn't really need Google's data. All of the search algorithms are pretty much identical -- which means that Justice already has a sufficiently large sample. Even if the differences are more important than I think, the companies cooperating with the DOJ already represent a larger combined market share than Google, so it's not clear that their cooperation is really necessary for the DOJ to make its evidentiary argument.
So why continue to press Google?
I see one of two possibilities:
1) The data they have doesn't support the administration's supposition, and they're hoping Google will bail them out;Readers are encouraged to try and diving what the DOJ is thinking.
UPDATE: One other quick thought -- although I doubt they acted for these reasons, this is brilliant PR for Google. Their spectacular growth and ever-increasing range of activities had threatened to turn cultural perceptions against the firm. By resisting the Bush administration -- in contrast to Yahoo's capitulation -- Google will look very, very good to all the syberlibertarians oiut there.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Say it's so, Theo!!!
Three an a half months ago Theo Epstein left the Red Sox. And while I haven't been gnashing my teeth as much as other Red Sox fans, I admit I was a bit concerned about the long-term direction of the club.
So it's nice to say that Theo's back, baby!!!
Principal Owner John Henry, Chairman Tom Werner, President/CEO Larry Lucchino and Epstein issued the following joint statement:Here's a link to the AP story as well.
So is he going to be somewhere between Lucchino and the co-GM's? Will he get a seven-figure salary? Are the differences smoothed over? Join us next week for another episode of As the Sox Turn.UPDATE: For those of you who know about sabremetrics, this is pretty funny: "You had me at VORP."
Is Al Qaeda acting generous or desperate?
Is it my imagination or does this AP report by Lee Keath suggest that Osama bin Laden is getting desparate?:
Al-Jazeera on Thursday broadcast portions of an audiotape purportedly from Osama bin Laden, saying al Qaeda is making preparations for attacks in the United States but offering a possible truce to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan.Now, if you click over to the Al Jazeera version of the story -- which has longer excerpts from the tape -- bin Laden says he's making this offer out of the goodness of his heart:
"This message is about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how to end those wars," it began.That is just so generous of Al Qaeda.
I'm very wary of sounding triumphalist, but this sounds much more like bad spin control and concern about losing the war than an act of benevolence.
I'll trust the readers to judge for themselves.
UPDATE: Fox News has a partial transcipt.
The BBC obseves that taped Al Qaeda messages are receiving less coverage from the Arab media -- and what coverage there is has become decidedly more negative.
Meanwhile, Time's Tony Karon thinks bin Laden has surfaced because he's worried about his own standing among the jihadists:
The message — relatively "moderate" by Jihadist standards, in that it appeared to stake out a hypothetical negotiating position and the prospect of coexistence with the U.S. at the same time as warning of new violence — was notable less for its content than for the fact that it was released at all. Despite directly addressing Americans, its primary purpose may nonetheless be to remind Arab and Muslim audiences of his existence, and to reiterate his claim to primacy among the Jihadists.... in the year of Bin Laden's silence, he has begun to be supplanted as the media face of global jihad by Musab al-Zarqawi, whose grisly exploits in Iraq grab headlines week after week.Idunno... this sounds like international relations analysis using the mindset of a Hollywood publicist.
LAST UPDATE: Greg Djerejian articulates a few points that had been knocking around in my head as well: [W]hen I hear the word "truce" emit from UBL's lips (or, perhaps, whatever impersonator is doing a stand-in on his behalf), I conclude that we are winning the battle against al-Qaeda....
[A] U.S. attack would be a plus for al-Qaeda strategically, no doubt, if for no other reason than it would re-assert its ability to shed blood on American shores. Fine, no argument there. But now UBL has raised the ante, again, and he risks becoming the Boy Who Cried Wolf one time to often. If he can't execute a major attack in the relatively near future, even despite his explications regarding long operational cycles (it has now been over four years and counting since 9/11), his credibility continues to erode. If he pulls it off, yes his credibility is enhanced in terms of his showcasing continuing operational capability far from his current base, but still, however, he will not achieve his desired goal of dividing the U.S. public so as to precipitate a US withdrawal from Mesopotamia....
Ultimately, however, one is left thinking what a sad life bin Laden leads trafficking in human misery, or, of late, reduced to threatening mass carnage via episodic videotapes basically dumped in front of Al-Jazeera's offices. So I guess I disagree somewhat with Muhammad Salah, Cairo bureau chief for the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat, who says to the NYT: "The fact that he was able to record the message, deliver it and broadcast is in itself a victory for him". Well, yeah, maybe. But that's really defining victory down quite a damn lot, isn't it? It increasingly smells of desperation, of a man espying a tightening noose.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
The reorganization of foreign aid, continued
Last month I posted on subterranean rumblings about a reorganization of foreign aid.
Guy Dinmore reports in the Financial Times that the first public step in this reorganization starts tomorrow:
The Bush administration is expected to announce on Thursday a controversial restructuring of its foreign aid system under Randall Tobias, a retired pharmaceuticals executive who currently heads the US global Aids programme.I'll hold off on commenting until I see more of the proposal. What interests me about Dinmore's story is what comes next:
Ms Rice was expected to announce the changes on Thursday, officials said, following a keynote speech to Georgetown University on Wednesday in which she sketched out a “sweeping and difficult” transformation of US diplomacy and its institutions.Here's a link to Rice's speech. I still need to digest all of it, but I do like the reallocation of diplomatic personnel towards the large developing countries.
Drezner's Third Law of Blog Motion
[With profuse apologies to Sir Isaac Newton--ed.]
UPDATE: In the interest of preventing a similar kind of reaction to this blog, do check out this post as well.
Will the Pakistani airstrike be worth it?
So there was an airstrike in Pakistan over the weekend that was intended to kill Al Qaeda #2 Ayman Al-Zawahiri -- but the strike missed the target. This caused thousands of Pakistanis to protest the airstrike the next day. The Pakistani press has also been up in arms.
With goodwill earned in-country from the earthquake relief, it seems as though a single airstrike could vitiate the shift in public opinion. The Council on Foreign Relations has a web page declaring, "MISSILE STRIKE PUTS U.S. ON DEFENSIVE."
Which leads us to this tidbit of information from ABC News:
ABC News has learned that Pakistani officials now believe that al Qaeda's master bomb maker and chemical weapons expert was one of the men killed in last week's U.S. missile attack in eastern Pakistan.There is no word on whether Mursi was also Al Qaeda's number three official.
Question for readers -- assuming this information is accurate and becomes common knowledge in Pakistan, will it blunt the downturn in public opinion?
[What do you care? The bad guys are dead!!--ed. Yeah, but I want the whole megillah.]
The Bush administration wants to be like France
Marc Perelman has a piece on Foreign Policy's web site comparing and contrasting the American and French approaches to homeland security. One big difference is how the problem was viewed prior to 9/11:
In 1988, the FBI invited Alain Marsaud, then France’s top antiterrorist magistrate, to speak about terrorism to the bureau’s new recruits at its academy in Quantico, Virginia.Then there are the differences in approach now. It turns out the Bush administration wishes the U.S. system was more like the French:
In the French system, an investigating judge is the equivalent of an empowered U.S. prosecutor. The judge is in charge of a secret probe, through which he or she can file charges, order wiretaps, and issue warrants and subpoenas. The conclusions of the judge are then transmitted to the prosecutor’s office, which decides whether to send the case to trial. The antiterrorist magistrates have even broader powers than their peers. For instance, they can request the assistance of the police and intelligence services, order the preventive detention of suspects for six days without charge, and justify keeping someone behind bars for several years pending an investigation. In addition, they have an international mandate when a French national is involved in a terrorist act, be it as a perpetrator or as a victim. As a result, France today has a pool of specialized judges and investigators adept at dismantling and prosecuting terrorist networks.The problem is that the French system doesn't fit very well with American traditions -- so I don't think grafting this system onto the American Constiution is going to work all that well.
Assisted suicide and the war on terrorism
Orin Kerr has a good post up explaining why the Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling in Gonzales v. Oregon favor of Oregon's assisted suicide law could be a harbinger for how the Court will rule on NSA surveillance or other executive-legislative disputes.
UPDATE: Stephen Bainbridge has a good post up on what the ruling reveals about Scalia's jurisprudence.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Trade law and cyber-realism
My future colleague Joel Trachtman has a new blog on international trade law that is worth checking out.
[What could possibly be interesting about an international trade law blog?--ed.] Well, Joel was smart enoough to link to this Christopher Shea piece in the Boston Globe about Jack Goldsmith and Timothy Wu's forthcoming book on national regulation of the Internet:
[F]orget all that talk about a borderless utopia and about blogs dissolving dictatorships-or at least tamp it down. When it comes to the Internet, ''The story of the next 10 years will be one of rising government power," says Tim Wu, a former marketing executive for a Silicon Valley company who now teaches law at Columbia. While some countries are committed to a fundamentally ''closed" Internet, others want it open. Since technology permits both approaches, Wu adds, ''I wouldn't be surprised if we saw an Internet version of the Cold War."Go check it all out.
Liberal absurdities on Iran
Perusing the liberal blogosphere over the past week, I see a lot of skepticism regarding U.S. policy towards Iran.
Josh Marshall -- with strong endorsements from Brad DeLong and Matthew Yglesias -- believes the Bush administration is too incompetent to handle Iran:
The prospect of a nuclearized Iran seems far more perilous to me than anything we faced or seemed likely to face with Iraq. But for those of us trying to think through how to deal with this situation, we have to start from the premise that there is no Iran Question, or whatever you want to call it. There's only how to deal with Iran with this administration in place.Now, I certainly have had my doubts about this administration's foreign policy competence in the past few years. Gven the administration's policy to date on Iran, however, this line of argument strikes me as pretty much bulls**t.
Consider what the U.S. has done vis-à-vis Iran:
1) Deferring to the EU-3 on negotiations towards Iran;The approach the Bush administration has pursued towards Iran -- multilateralism, private and public diplomacy, occasionally deferring to allies -- is besotted with the very tropes that liberals like to see in their American foreign policy. I'm still not sure what the end game will be with regard to Iran, but to date I can't see how a Kerry administration would have played its cards any differently than the Bush team.
Just to annoy Atrios, let's close with something Peter Beinart observed in a TNR essay on the Democrats and national security:
Kos and MoveOn have conveniently convinced themselves that the war on terrorism is a mere subset of the struggle against the GOP. Whatever brings Democrats closer to power, ipso facto, makes the United States safer. That would be nice if it were true--but it's clearly not, because, sometimes, Bush is right, and because, to some degree, our safety depends on his success. National security will never be reducible to the interests of the Democratic Party.Kevin Drum thinks liberals need to think seriously about what the appropriate policy should be towards a noncompliant Iran. I think he's right.
[But don't the opportunity costs of Iraq show that the Bush administration can't handle Iran?--ed. For this to be true, you'd have to convince me that:
a) If we hadn't invaded Iraq, Iran would not have tried to develop a nuclear weapons program;I don't buy any of these suppositions.]
UPDATE: To avoid making blanket statements about liberals and Iran, I should point out that Brad Plumer provides an interesting and liberal analysis of Iran. Plumer recommends engagement:
Would security guarantees and real economic incentives from the United States convince the Iranian government to give up its nuclear program—or, at the very least, outsource its uranium enrichment to Russia? Maybe. Maybe not. What I don't understand is why this isn't worth trying. The United States would have to negotiate directly with Iran, which would contradict the Bush administration's longstanding preference not to "appease rogue regimes," true, but a little loss of face is about the worst that would come of trying. If it fails, then move on to step two. But the upsides to a serious attempt at engagement are very high.There is also this op-ed by Dariush Zahedi and Omid Memarian in last week's New York Times. Zahedi and Memarian think sanctions would hurt Iran more than I do:
[T]he plummeting Iranian economy will only worsen if the United States succeeds in referring Iran's nuclear file to the Security Council, whether or not meaningful sanctions follow. Such a referral would accelerate capital flight, deal a blow to the country's already collapsing stock market, devastate its hitherto booming real estate market, and wipe out the savings of a large part of the middle class. It would also most likely result in galloping inflation, hurting Iran's dispossessed, whom the Ahmadinejad administration claims to represent.The problem with this logic is that the group most affected by sanctions is also the strata of society with the least amount of influence over the Iranian government.
On the other hand, Zahedi and Memarian suggest an alternative pressure strategy:
Just as Iran can use the Shiite card to create mischief in the region, the United States could manipulate ethnic and sectarian tensions in Iran, which has significant, largely Sunni, minority populations along its borders.Developing....
LAST UPATE: Stratfor's George Friedman (subscription required) has an interesting view on both the rationality of Ahmadinejad and a surprising take on how Iran is doing in Iraq:
One of the ways to avoid thinking seriously about foreign policy is to dismiss as a nutcase anyone who does not behave as you yourself would. As such, he is unpredictable and, while scary, cannot be controlled. You are therefore relieved of the burden of doing anything about him. In foreign policy, it is sometimes useful to appear to be insane, as it is in poker: The less predictable you are, the more power you have -- and insanity is a great tool of unpredictability. Some leaders cultivate an aura of insanity.
The Chivas Regal of board games?
Major in economics in college, and you'll likely hear the story about Chivas Regal, a brand that was struggling back in the seventies and hired a consultant to diagnose its ills. The consultants came back with two recommendations: change the label, and raise the price of a bottle of whiskey by 20%. The logic was that consumers would take the higher price as a signal of higher quality, and demonstrate a willingness to pay. Sure enough, the strategy worked.
I bring this up because Mary Umberger has a front-page story in the Chicago Tribune about a new board game that makes the Chivas Regal price change look miniscule:
"OK, everybody, grab a rat," announced an organizer who had brought a dozen aspiring property magnates together.So, is the game worth the coin? I haven't played it, so I can't say for sure. Snippets from the Tribune story make me skeptical, however:
Cashflow also departs from routine games through the detailed accounting each player must do. The object of the game, like Monopoly, is to make money through investments. But players must keep meticulous financial statements, updating them constantly as they flip apartment buildings, negotiate complicated partnerships and juggle debt....For the past five years -- the period of Kiyosaki's fame -- real estate investment was a pretty shrewd move. However, anyone who banks their retirement income on property in Belize is much more comfortable with risk than I am.
To be fair, if you root arounf Kiyosaki's web site, he's quite aware of the real estate bubble. However, this letter suggests to me that his financial success seems based on the Chivas Regal argument:
Presently, although Kim and I are still buying real estate, we are also selling our "junk" real estate. Eight months ago, Kim put on the market a small apartment house valued at $1 million, for $1.4 million. People complained and no one bought it. So four weeks ago, she raised the price to $2.0 million and it sold in one day for full price.Hmmmm.... maybe my belief in the power of incentives is misplaced, but I just don't buy this. I can accept that the Chivas Regal effect works for... Chivas Regal. Maybe I can accept the idea that it works for an overpriced board game. But the idea that someone was able to sell a piece of real estate only after jacking the price up by $600,000 doesn't pass my smell test.
For anyone curious about Kiyosaki's current investment strategy:
I am getting rid of my U.S. dollars. As you may know, the U.S. dollar has lost nearly 40% of its value against other currencies in the last four years. That means if you have $10,000 in savings in the year 2000, it is worth about $6,000 in purchasing power. Rather than holding cash in the bank, Kim and I have been holding our excess cash in gold and silver bars. Why? Because you will know that the dollar is falling because the price of gold and especially silver will begin to rise. When silver goes higher than $8.50 an ounce and gold reaches $500 an ounce, you will know the end is near. When the crash comes, the currency of many countries will go down in purchasing power as the price of these two precious metals rise in value.
Monday, January 16, 2006
It's been a busy day for Iran-watchers
Let's see what's been going on with regard to Iran for the past day or so, in order from tragedy to farce:
1) The BBC reports that Britain, France and Germanyt will request an extraordinary session of the IAEA in order to refer Iran to the UN Security Council.If Iran keeps this up -- making news, kicking out competitors -- they're going to exhaust that poor AP guy based in Tehran.
Major league baseball has some bad, bad lawyers
The Associated Press reports that Major League Baseball is about to get into a legal war with fantasy baseball:
A company that runs sports fantasy leagues is asking a federal court to decide whether major leaguers' batting averages and home run counts are historical facts that can be used freely or property that can be sold.I find it hard to believe that MLB could win this in court -- and the PR backlash from going after fantasy baseball operators isn't going to win them any plaudits either.
IP lawyer Kent Goss is quoted as citing an interesting 2001 case in which MLB themselves claimed that player names and statistics were (as far as I can interpret) both in the public domain and free for others to profit from, and the California Court of Appeal upheld MLB's right to use the names and stats of historical players. "A group of former players sued MLB for printing their names and stats in game programs, claiming their rights to publicity were violated," Goss said. "But the court held that they were historical facts, part of baseball history, and MLB had a right to use them. Gionfriddo v. Major League Baseball, 94 Cal. App. 4th 400 (2001)."In other words, five years ago MLB was making the opposite argument of what it's saying now.
This leads me to a question I can't answer -- what on earth prompted baseball to adopt such a hard-line position on an issue it knows it probably can't win in the courts?
Sunday, January 15, 2006
How public corruption and 9/11 are linked
Timothy J. Burger has a short item in Time on why the FBI has had such success in recent years at nailing high-profile public corruption targets, such as Jack Abramoff. Turns out that 9/11 had something to do with it, in a roundabout sort of way:
Since 2002, the FBI has engineered a surge of more than 40% in public-corruption indictments, with 2,233 cases pending nationwide, compared with 1,575 four years ago.
Anatomy of an unbelievable scene
The New York Times' Arts section has three articles by three Times movie critics "looking deep inside three of the year's most haunting scenes."
Until the staircase sex, Mr. Cronenberg has encouraged us to look at Tom the way Edie sees him, to believe the image she has unquestioningly accepted of the good father, the loving husband, the Everyman and the hero. "You are the best man I have ever known," she whispers to Tom after their first lovemaking. Through her ignorance and slow awakening, Edie has served as our surrogate, but in this scene she becomes something else, something other. In a story of blood and vengeance, Mr. Cronenberg asks us to look at those who pick up guns in our name, protectors who whisper they love us with hands around our throats. And then, with this scene, he goes one better and asks us to look at those who open their hearts and bare themselves to such a killing love.Dargis does a lovely job of deconstructing the scene, showing how details like Edie's wardrobe act as a harbinger for what's about to happen. And I suspect that Dargis' interpretation of what Cronenberg is going for are perfectly accurate.
There's just one thing -- that scene completely destroyed my willing sense of disbelief in the movie. Until that point, Maria Bello as Edie acts as our emotional barometer for the events that take place, and I found her responses completely believable -- indeed, they're the best thing in the film.
The idea, however, that at that particular moment on the staircase her character was going to find the violence and identity switches a turn-on was pretty damn ludicrous. Critics might have liked it because it touches on the theme of violence's hidden role in the American heartland, but as a resident of said heartland, the scene looked like pure Hollywood tripe. Edie's first reaction to the discovery of her husband's true identity -- in the hospital room -- was far more convincing.
The staircase moment in the film might have been perfectly staged, brimming with craftsmanship, and well acted -- but without the emotional resonance, it was impossible to be as invested in the characters for the rest of the flick. I think Maria Bello deserves an Oscar nomination -- for everything she did but that scene.
Everyone reacts to movies in different ways, so I'll ask the readers -- particularly the (five or so) women who read this blog and have seen A History of Violence. Did that scene make sense to you?
Saturday, January 14, 2006
And the dumbest thing said by a Senator is.....
The hardworking staff here at danieldrezner.com would like to thank the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for their performance this past week. They provided a lot of grist for contest-entrants and commentators alike.
It's telling that the week ended with numerous pieces on how to improve the confirmation process -- even though Alito proved relatively forthcoming in his answers. Dahlia Lithwick reminds Democratic Senators that members of the Federalist Society are not teeming with hate and rage; T.A. Frank suggested at TNR Online that the way to rescue the dignity of the hearings is to remove television from the equation.
My one good government suggestion -- give both the majority and minority counsel for the Judiciary Committee an hour or two to question the nominee. That'll never happen, of course, but it might actually generate some useful back-and-forth.
Now, on to the contest -- on Monday, readers were encouraged to submit "the single dumbest thing a Senator says during the hearings." A lot of very worthy entrants were submitted. In the end however, there can be only one.
And the Senator who said the dumbest thing is.....
Congratulations to Senator Diane Feinstein of California for this exchange with Alito:
FEINSTEIN: So if I understand this, you essentially said that you wanted to follow precedent, newly established law in this area. And you left a little hedge that if Congress made findings in that law, then that might be a different situation.Feinstein had some tough competition -- The Kennedy/Specter exchange over mail delivery, Tom Coburn's auto accident metaphor, anything that came out of Chuck Schumer's mouth, and what I can only figure was Joe Biden's attempt to win a bet in which he could use the word "Princeton" in every sentence he used for an hour. And I confess I might be biased in favor of Feinstein because of her runner-up status during the Roberts confirmation. Let me stress that dumber things might have been said this week -- but the folks here at danieldrezner.com could only judge the submissions we received.
In the end, Feinstein's ability to deny the existence of a hypothetical in her question about... a hypothetical was what swayed the judges. To be fair, Feinstein was talking about a counterfactual, but I think it's safe to say that counterfactuals were included in Altio's definition of hypotheticals.
Congratulations to Millers Time for being the first to submit the winning entry! [What's his prize?--ed. What all bloggers desire -- links and attention! Plus, you gotta check out this other post of his -- it's the funniest blonde joke I've ever seen.
Friday, January 13, 2006
Why are Americans better at FDI?
Matthew Higgins, Thomas Klitgaard, and Cédric Tille have an article in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's December 2005 edition of Current Issues in Economics and Finance on net flows in international investment income. Given the fact that foreigners currently have a net claim on $2.5 trillion in U.S. assets, onme would expect the U.S. to be paying out a lot more in interest, dividends, and profits to foreigners than Americans would receive from their investments.
The weird thing is that, so far, this hasn't been true. Last year the U.S. earned $36 billion more on their foreign investments than foreigners earned in the United States. The question is, why?
Higgins et al have a simple answer and a more complex answer. The simple answer is that foreigners are investing heavily in fixed-income, interest-bearing assets, while Americans concentrate their outflows in riskier but more rewarding areas -- foreign direct investment and foreign portfolio investment. This result is actually consistent with a point I was trying to make before about the comparative advantage Americans hold in risk attitudes.
What really intrigues me, however, is this fact -- even if one limits the discussion to FDI, Americans do better abroad than foreigners do here:
[T]he rate of return on U.S.FDI assets has consistently been higher than that on FDI liabilities (Chart 4). Since 1982, the rate of return on FDI assets has, on average, exceeded that on FDI liabilities by 5.6 percentage points, and not once during this period has the differential dropped below 3.2 percentage points. Surprisingly, perhaps, there is no consensus about the reason for this large and persistent difference in rates of return....This puzzle is pretty damn important. The gap in returns is significant enough so that Harvard economists Ricardo Hausmann and Federico Sturzenegger talking about this as "dark matter", explaining why the U.S. has been able to run a persistent current account deficit without any decline in the U.S. surplus on investment income.
Higgins et al proffer some possible explanations -- tax differentials, less experienced foreign investors, U.S. firms are better governed and more efficient, or the U.S. market is just more competitive and so profits will be lower here. Only the last argument persuades me much.
Higgins et al also don't think this situation will persist. Haussman and Sturzenegger, on the other hand, push the argument that US has a comparative advantage in FDI very hard:
Imagine the construction of EuroDisney at the cost of 100 million (the numbers are imaginary). Imagine also, for the sake of the argument that these resources were borrowed abroad at, say, a 5% rate of return. Once EuroDisney is in operation it yields 20 cents on the dollar. The investment generates a net income flow of 15 cents on the dollar but the BEA [Bureau of Economic Analysis] would say that the net foreign assets position would be equal to zero. We would say that EuroDisney in reality is not worth 100 million (what BEA would value it) but four times that (the capitalized value at our 5% rate of the 20 million per year that it earns). BEA is missing this and therefore grossly understates net assets. Why can EuroDisney earn such a return? Because the investment comes with a substantial amount of know-how, brand recognition, expertise, research and development and also with our good friends Mickey and Donald. This know-how is a source of dark matter. It explains why the US can earn more on its assets than it pays on its liabilities and why foreigners cannot do the same. We would say that the US exported 300 million in dark matter and is making a 5 percent return on it. The point is that in the accounting of FDI, the know-how than makes investments particularly productive is poorly accounted for....They might be right -- but they don't have any evidence that this is true beyond the persistence in the gap between U.S. and foreign rates of return in FDI.
This is a really, really interesting puzzle, however -- and I'm very surprised some B-school professor hasn't written something so definitive on the topic that the book is a must-read. Maybe I'm out of it, but I haven't seen any book like this.
In lieu of a tome, commenters are free to figure out and post on this puzzle for themselves.
I'm asserting that you should read this
The Project for Excellence in Journalism, an institute affiliated with Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has released its State of the News Media 2005 online.
Here's a link to the executive summary, in which five trends are delineated. Here are two of them:
There are now several models of journalism, and the trajectory increasingly is toward these which are faster, looser, and cheaper. The traditional press model—the Journalism of Verification—is one in which journalists are concerned first with trying to substantiate facts. It has ceded ground for years on talk shows and cable to a new Journalism of Assertion, where information is offered with little time or attempt to independently verify its veracity. Consider the allegations by the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,” and the time lag of weeks required in reporting to find the claims were unsubstantiated. The blogosphere, while adding the richness of citizen voices, expands this culture of assertion exponentially, and brings to it an affirmative philosophy: publish anything, especially point of view, and the reporting and verification will occur afterward in the response of fellow bloggers. The result is sometimes true and sometimes false. Blogs helped unmask errors at CBS, but also spread the unfounded conspiracy theory that the GOP stole the presidential election in Ohio. All this makes it easier for thoseI'll leave the assertive responses to this report to the commentators.
The unasked question about Mexican expatriates
Lurking among the many fears of anti-immigration advocates -- and Sam Huntington -- is the fear that the large influx of Mexican immigrants into this country will have divided loyalties -- or worse, develop no sense of American identity. Another fear is that this is a conscious policy of the Mexican government in order to wield influence in the United States.
This brings me to a story by Oscar Avila and Hugh Dellios in the Chicago Tribune about Mexican government efforts to get expats to vote in Mexican elections. Apparently it's not going so well:
At a registration drive in Pilsen, radio host Javier Salas tried to energize his countrymen about their historic opportunity to vote in Chicago for their homeland's next president. "Let's hear it!" he shouted into his microphone Thursday. "Viva Mexico!"The story blames cumbersome bureaucratic procedures for the low turnout, but I have to wonder -- how much of this is due to the fact that Mexicans coming to the United States don't really care about Mexican politics any more?
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Should Cuba play in the World Baseball Classic?
I wrote about the World Baseball Classic back in July, so I suppose I should comment on the recent low-level decision to ban Cuba from participating in the 16-game tournament, and whether this is the right thing to do or not. Short answer -- yes, let the Cubans play even if they make a buck off of it.
This is a post of obligation, however, because it requires me to talk about one of my least favorite topics -- the Cuba embargo.
Some background: for the "Yes, let's ban them," go check out Roberto González Echevarría's op-ed in the New York Times from earlier this week (hat tip to David Pinto, who's been keeping close tabs on the issue). For the "let 'em play" argument, check out prett much any sportswriter you can find -- Sports Illustrated's Frank DeFord is serviceable enough here.
Those who want to ban Cuba have a leg to stand on. There's no question that the Castro regime is pretty thuggish. And there's some evidence that denying them opportunities like participation in the World Baseball Classic could have a negative effect on the Castro regime. There's a scholarly literature out there that argues the apartheid regime in South Africa lost its base of support once they were banned from various sporting events, including the Olympics.
The thing is, the World Baseball Classic is just getting started, so I don't think preventing Cuba from participating will have much of an effect on the regime -- whereas it would have a deleterious effect on the tournament itself. The International Baseball Federation is threatening to pull its imprimatur from the event, which could trigger the withdrawal of other countries.
More importantly, denying them from participating is a self-inflicted wound. The WBC is a rare opportunity to highlight the common sports heritage the U.S. shares with Latin America and the Pacific Rim. It's an opportunity to popularize a sport that originated in the United States. It's even, dare I say, a chance for the United States to build up a little soft power -- if our pitching holds up.
This is particularly true with regard to Cuba. Consider:
1) While their best players might be good enough for Olympic gold medals in baseball, they're going to face American and Dominican squads stacked with all-stars if they participate in the WBC. My hunch is that they won't do so well in the standings.Let the Cubans play ball -- and let them get their butts whipped.
Michael Ignatieff.... politician
David Sax has an essay on Foreign Policy's web site about Harvard Professor Michael Ignatieff's quixotic move towards politics. Ignatieff is the flip-side of all the anti-war/anti-Bush protestors who threatened to move to Canada and then didn't; he supported the war but has decided to move to Canada... and run for Parliament:
Canadians normally don’t get fired up about foreign policy in their parliamentary elections. Then again, Michael Ignatieff is not a normal candidate. Last fall, the professor left his post as director of Harvard University’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy to run for parliament in his native Canada. His new office is in a bare-bones campaign headquarters on an industrial corner in suburban Toronto, where he prepares for the January 23 election. Ignatieff, a Liberal Party candidate who is considered by many to be one of the best minds Canada has ever produced, wants Canada to assume a greater role in world affairs....Ignatieff is in a can't lose situation. Wither he wins and climbs the ladder of Liberal Party politics -- or he loses and writes a book that's excerpted in the New York Times Magazine about what it's like to be a candidate who speaks truth to power.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
The good news about avian flu
There have been a series of avian flu cases reported in Turkey over the past week, and oddly enough there's been some good news from this development.
World Health Organisation (WHO) officials said that the 14 cases of avian flu recently discovered in Turkey were contracted through contact with infected animals and that there is absolutely no evidence that human-to-human transmission is occurring.Link via Glenn Reynolds, who has more here about US preparedness. I remain convinced that calling for the US to engage in crash preparedness can lead to more harm than good.
Second, Elizabeth Rosenthal of the International Herald-Tribune reports on a very interesting development among some of the avian flu diagnoses -- they're not getting sick:
Two young brothers, aged 4 and 5, are being closely watched at the gleaming new Kecioren Hospital here, a police car at the entrance guarding a potential scientific treasure. Though both boys have tested positive for the H5N1 virus after contact with sick birds, neither has any symptoms of the frequently deadly disease.Here's a link to the medical study abstract cited in the article. Their conclusion is a touch more neutral: "Our epidemiological data are consistent with transmission of mild, highly pathogenic avian influenza to humans and suggest that transmission could be more common than anticipated, though close contact seems required. Further microbiological studies are needed to validate these findings."
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
A very important post about.... how I wasted an hour today
So I stumbled across MyHeritage.com today -- which claims to have a face recognition program that lets you upload a photo and tells you which celebrities you look like.
Of course, I couldn't resist. After uploading the picture on the front of the web site, here's the list of celebs I was told I resemble:
Matt LeBlancIf you've managed to contain yourself to this point, well, you have better self restraint than I.
Needless to say, their technology appears to be heavily dependent upon the angle of the face in the photo, hair length, facial hair, the presence of eyeglasses, etc. In other words, it's pretty much rubbish. When I uploaded a Salma Hayek photo, the program declared her to be only a 74% match with... Salma Hayek.
So this was a waste of time..... until I realized that I could upload pictures of other bloggers and see who they resembled. The resulting lists of names are pretty friggin' funny.
Ward CunninghamVirginia Postrel:
KajolAndrew Sullivan -- no matches. I tried two different photos, and Andrew stumped the computer.
Leonardo DiCaprioTyler Cowen
Boris TrajkovskiAna Marie Cox:
Annette BeningMegan McArdle:
Katie HolmesOh, and as a final check, I uploaded this photo of Henry Farrell and myself:
George ClooneyFor myself: Henry
Monday, January 9, 2006
Those young, whiny whippersnappers
I'm roughly the same age as Daniel Gross, and I'm not surprised to see that I had roughly the same reaction as he had in Slate to the latest Generation Y laments about how hard it is to find a financially rewarding job:
The economic jeremiad written by a twentysomething is a cyclical phenomenon. People who graduate into a recessionary/post-bubble economy inevitably find the going tough, which compounds the usual postgraduate angst. And with their limited life experience and high expectations, they tend to extrapolate a lifetime from a couple of years. I know. Back in the early 1990s, when my cohort and I were making our way into the workforce in a recessionary, post-bubble environment, I wrote an article on precisely the same topic for Swing, the lamentable, deservedly short-lived David Lauren twentysomething magazine. If memory serves, the headline was something like "Generation Debt."....Lest one think Gross is being overly Panglossian about the economy, click on his blog. [But you're Panglossia about life in your thirties, right?--ed. No, families and potentially higher incomes do not come without their tradeoffs.] His larger point, however, is that people -- particularly educated people who try to write books in their twenties -- tend to make a significant move up the income chain when they hit their thirties.
UPDATE: Check out Gross' e-mail exchange with Kamenetz on the latter's blog. Kamenetz thinks she can "declare victory," after the exchange, but I don't find her response either persuasive or elegant.
One last point -- the crux of the issue appears to be the rising cost of college education. There is no doubt that the retail price of a 4-year college education at a private university has drastically risen over the past two decades. However, that overlooks a few key questions:
1) What percentage of college students pay the retail price? To what extent does student aid reduce the burden, even if there's been a shift towards "more loans and fewer grants"?
Senate Judiciary Committee contest!!!
When the hearings were held for John Roberts last year, there was a lot of silliness uttered by a lot of people -- mostly members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
So, the hard-working staff here at danieldrezner.com announces its first contest -- finding the single dumbest thing a Senator says during the hearings.
For example, my winner for the Roberts confirmation would have been Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who averred, "[I am 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." Diane Feinstein gave Coburn a run for his money, but this was stupidity in its purest form.
So, listen closely and post your nominations in the comments below. Be sure to provide a link to the source of the quotation for our legal staff here. [What does the winner receive?--ed. Hmmm.... suggest your own reward as well, and I'll see what the staff can whip up.]
To kick things off, consider this example from Patrick Leahy's opening statement:
Last October, the President succumbed to partisan pressure from the extreme right of his party by withdrawing his nomination of Harriet Miers. By withdrawing her nomination and substituting this one, the President has allowed his choice to be vetoed by an extreme faction within his party, before hearings or a vote. That eye-opening experience for the country demonstrated what a vocal faction of the Republican Party really wants: They do not want an independent federal judiciary. They demand judges who will guarantee the results that they want.Right. I'm pretty sure that:
a) Opposition to Harriet Miers was across the board;This should be an easy one to top -- get to it, readers!!!
UPDATE: Click here to find out who won!
Sunday, January 8, 2006
Talk about reviewer whiplash
So do I go buy Ana Marie Cox's novel Dog Days? The dearly departed Wonkette has already cost me a great deal of money when I made the mistake of letting her order the menu at the dinner after our APSA blog panel from 2004. Should I plunk down an additional $17.00?
In "Dog Days," Cox's brisk, smart, smutty, knowing and very well-written first novel, the 28-year-old protagonist Melanie Thorton, a Democratic presidential campaign staffer, diverts media attention from her candidate's political troubles - and her own romantic ones - by creating a fictitious blog supposedly written by a local libertine calling herself Capitolette. (Yes, rhymes with toilette.)Sounds promising.
Washington's pretensions, blown so large in skins so thin, should produce bursts of hilarity when poked with the dullest of tools, and Dog Days is that....Well, this is a quandry. Furthermore, if you read both reviews, you'll find many positive nuggets contained within O'Rourke's pan and quite a few backhand compliments contained in Buckley's thumbs-up.
In the end, I suspect I'll grab a copy, because a) The excerpts I've seen do match Cox's spicy wit; and b) The last political novel I recall O'Rourke panning was Primary Colors -- which wasn't a great work of literature but is an extraordinary read and remains, in my opinion, the piece of writing that best captures Bill Clinton (and this includes his memoirs). So, I'm going to judge Buckley's acumen as slightly more on target than O'Rourke.
That said, P.J. does have a paragraph that goes a good way towards explaining why there are so few good novels set inside the beltway:
The problem is that fiction, especially comic fiction, concerns why people do what they do. The more unlikely or bizarre the reasons the heart has, the better. Why people do what they do in Washington is so obvious that a beginner novelist would be advised to take up a subject that involves more complex motivations. Breathing, for example.This might answer the question Chrisopher Lehmann raised a few months ago in The Washington Monthly about the state of American political fiction.
Lehmann, of course, is Ana Marie Cox's husband.
Ah, now the circle is complete.
Saturday, January 7, 2006
January's Books of the Month
This month's general interest book is by my colleague Eric Oliver -- Fat Politics: the Real Story Behind America’s Obesity Epidemic. The real story, according to Oliver, is that there is no such thing as an obesity epidemic -- rather, this appears to be a whopping case of medical experts confusing correlation with causation.
This write-up in the U of C Chronicle does a fair job of providing a precis:
Oliver contends there is no scientific evidence to suggest that people who are currently classified as “overweight” and even most Americans who qualify as “obese” are under any direct threat from their body weight.Read the whole thing -- Oliver's deconstruction of the body mass index (BMI) as the basic metric for determining obesity is particularly useful. The one mystery that remains for me is why powerful economic sectors -- like processed food services and restaurant owners -- haven't fought harder against the obesity myth.
Oh, yes, in case you were wondering, Eric didn't write this as a massive justification for his own body tpe -- he's quite svelte.
The international relations book is Michael Mandelbaum's The Case for Goliath: How America Acts as the World’s Government in the Twenty-First Century. There's a book excerpt in the January/February 2006 issue of Foreign Policy in which Mandelbaum spells out his basic hypothesis:
The gap between what the world says about American power and what it fails to do about it is the single most striking feature of 21st-century international relations. The explanation for this gap is twofold. First, the charges most frequently leveled at America are false. The United States does not endanger other countries, nor does it invariably act without regard to the interests and wishes of others. Second, far from menacing the rest of the world, the United States plays a uniquely positive global role. The governments of most other countries understand that, although they have powerful reasons not to say so explicitly....Mandelbaum's thesis is, in many ways, an updating an old warhorse in international relations scholarship, hegemonic stability theory (HST).
The funny thing about HST is that almost no one in the discipline would claim to buy the whole argument. Realists don't buy it because the theory posits that a hegemonic actor provides global public goods even though it knows that other states, by free riding off those goods, will catch up in terms of relative power. Liberals don't buy it because the evidence that international regimes collapse when a hegemon is in decline turns out to be pretty meager. Constructivists don't buy it because the root of the theory is a state's material power and not its power over norms is what drives the model. Rationalists don't buy the hegemon's motivations -- why provide public goods and tolerate free riding when an actor can coerce others into chipping in?
That said, the model is still around when academics talk about policy, because at some level there's a ring of truth to it. It's the difference between pure theory and policy-relevant scholarship -- which is a topic too big for this blog post.
Friday, January 6, 2006
There is no engineering gap
Last year there was a lot of hysteria among the business press over the fact that China and India were allegedly graduating hundreds of thousands of engineers a year, while the U.S. could only muster around 70,000 or so.
I blogged last October about how even outsourcing critics were skeptical of these numbers. Now, courtesy of Duke University's Engineering Management Program, there are some harder numbers on this subject -- and it turns out there's not much reason to panic (link via the Wall Street Journal's Carl Bialik). Here's the report abstract:
The effect of the dynamics of engineering outsourcing on the global economy is a discussion of keen interest in both business and public circles. Varying, inconsistent reporting of problematic engineering graduation data has been used to fuel fears that America is losing its technological edge. Typical articles have stated that in 2004 the United States graduated roughly 70,000 undergraduate engineers, while China graduated 600,000 and India 350,000. Our study has determined that these are inappropriate comparisons. These massive numbers of Indian and Chinese engineering graduates include not only four-year degrees, but also three-year training programs and diploma holders. These numbers have been compared against the annual production of accredited four-year engineering degrees in the United States. In addition to the lack of nuanced analysis around the type of graduates (transactional or dynamic) and quality of degrees being awarded, these articles also tend not to ground the numbers in the larger demographics of each country. A comparison of like-to-like data suggests that the U.S. produces a highly significant number of engineers, computer scientists and information technology specialists, and remains competitive in global markets.And this is from the text of the report itself:
The outsourcing debate has been complicated due to conflicting definitions of the engineering profession....So, to conclude, offshore outsourcing will take place when the tasks can be segmented into discrete, simple and rote tasks, and does not pose a threat to engineers at the B.S. level or above.
Damn, that sounds familiar.
"Unassisted human intuition is a bomb"
1) Experts are really bad at making predictions; andToday, Carl Bialik -- the Wall Street Journal's Numbers Guy -- has a follow-up story that corrects one potential misperception about the utility of experts: they might not be great predictors, but they are still better informed than you are -- which means they are still better predictors.
The New Yorker's review of [Tetlock's] book surveyed the grim state of expert political predictions and concluded by advising readers, "Think for yourself." Prof. Tetlock isn't sure he agrees with that advice. He pointed out an exercise he conducted in the course of his research, in which he gave Berkeley undergraduates brief reports from Facts on File about political hot spots, then asked them to make forecasts. Their predictions -- based on far less background knowledge than his pundits called upon -- were the worst he encountered, even less accurate than the worst hedgehogs. "Unassisted human intuition is a bomb here," Prof. Tetlock told me.And that's your quote of the day.
And the dollar watch starts for 2006
The Financial Times has two reports that provide contradictory signals on what the Pacific Rim economies will be doing about the dollar.
China indicated on Thursday it could begin to diversify its rapidly growing foreign exchange reserves away from the US dollar and government bonds – a potential shift with significant implications for global financial and commodity markets.Here's a link to China's State Administration of Foreign Exchange, but damn if I can find the announcement in question.
On the other hand, Song Jung-a reports that South Korea is moving in exactly the opposite direction:
South Korea’s finance ministry said on Friday it would mobilise all possible means to curb the won’s recent sharp appreciation against the US dollar.China's dollar position is more significant than South Korea's, but my bet is that Beijing will move as slowly as possible in its diversification -- which means that South Korea's move in the opposite direction could leave the dollar pretty much where it is now.
This, by the way, is the dream scenario for China -- it can comply with U.S. requests, diversify away from an asset that will fall in the future, and still have the dollar be relatively strong against the yuan in the short term.
Thursday, January 5, 2006
Find the fool in the IAEA!!
Elaine Sciolino reports in the New York Times that those wachy Iranians are up to their old tricks on nuclear nonproliferation:
Iran threw negotiations over its nuclear program into disarray today, abruptly canceling a high-level meeting with the United Nations' nuclear monitoring agency in Vienna as the head of Iran's negotiating team was said to have returned home to Tehran.Those last two paragraphs nicely encapsulate the underlying question before us: is this a case of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad burning through what remains of his diplomatic capital, or is this an example of Iran calling the bluff of the IAEA, the EU, and the UN Security Council, confident that the rest of the world has no endgame strategy?
Of course, one possible answer is "all of the above."
What a difference a decade makes
Blogging over at Andrew Sullivan's web site, Julian Sanchez has a young riff about Doug Bandow's bravura final column in the wake of his admission that he took Abramoff money in exchange for writing op-eds favoring Abramoff's causes.
Why do I say young? In a counterintuitive analysis for a libertarian, Sanchez concludes that money is not his greatest corrupting fear as a rising policy wonk in DC:
[T]here is, as Bandow observes, a big gray area involving indirect support by way of institutions, or more tenuous links where a writer has previously done unrelated work from some party with an interest in a topic she later writes about.A few thoughts:
1) My all-too-brief interactions with Sanchez, combined with the very fact that he is worried about social conformity at all, suggests to me that he is unlikely to alter his views because of social pressure.[This means you've leased your pen out, doesn't it?--ed. No, I haven't, unless shilling for Pamela Anderson counts. But I am receiving more substantial offers, and it's something I'm going to need to guard against for the future.]
UPDATE: This Laura McKenna post does point out one small counter-trend to what I blogged about -- the guilt that comes with ever-increasing consumption. But I suspect that most wonks are not as angst-ridden about it as the ever-charming Ms. McKenna.
Wednesday, January 4, 2006
Kadima is doomed -- the sequel
It appears that Ariel Sharon has suffered from a massive, debilitating stroke -- Omri Ceren has the tick-tock on the latest medical news.
Looking a few steps ahead, this will leave Shimon Peres as the leader of Kadima -- which compels me to repeat what I blogged a few weeks ago:
I have only one thing to say about Shimon Peres' decision to leave the Labor party and join Ariel Sharon's brand-spanking new Kadima Party -- it can only mean Kadima is doomed to implode.
Will Rasmussen is 50% correct
Over at TNR Online, former Beirut Daily Star correspondent Will Rasmussen argues that Hezbollah's performance in the Lebanese government confounds predictions by democracy activists that Islamist movements will moderate once they get involved in governing:
Should radical groups in nascent democracies be allowed to participate in politics? This has long been a central dilemma in the Middle East; and as Islamist parties have demonstrated their electoral power in Egypt and Iraq, the question has only grown in importance. One common response to this quandary has been to argue that bringing radical groups into politics can serve to moderate them. In TNR, the Carnegie Endowment's Marina Ottaway has argued that "there is ample evidence that participation in an electoral process forces any party, regardless of ideology, to moderate its position if it wants to attract voters in large numbers and avoid a backlash." In a recent editorial, the Financial Times echoed this sentiment: "The Islamists are part of the future of the region and their participation in the political process remains the best hope of moderating their often radical views." The Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, published by the Middle East Forum and the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon, has asserted that there is "reason to believe that Islamist movements become more moderate when they are allowed opportunities to participate in a democratic political system."I'm pretty sure most democracy activists would dispute Rasmussen's characterization of their position. The argument isn't that democratic participation will cause radical Islamic movements to moderate - it's that radical Islamic movements will either moderate or lose their base of support.
Something that got pruned out of this piece is worth stating: no radical Islamic movement, upon taking office, has succeeded at the mundane tasks of governing. Iran's Ahmadinejad, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the Sudanese under Turabi -- they have all sucked at governing.
I suspect democracy activists are perfectly comfortable with the outcome in Rasmussen's piece.
There's money and then there's Abramoff money
Howard Fineman provides a pithy but accurate explanation in MSNBC on why Abramoff will be so damaging:
[T]he thing that jumps out at me is the figure $20,194,000. If I read the fed’s plea-agreement papers correctly, that’s the amount of cold cash that the Republican lobbyist siphoned from Indian tribes and stashed in his secret accounts.I don't buy Fineman's thesis that a third party movement will be born, but he's right about the money and the social mores of DC.
UPDATE: Brendan Nyhan really doesn't like Fineman's third party suggestion. He's probably right, but I think the term "insipd" is a touch overblown. To play devil's advocate, the current set of conditions -- massive deficits, disenchantment with Congress, official scandals, a Bush in the White House -- do evoke the environment that allowed Ross Perot to make a splash in 1992. That's a long way from a real third party, but it's not nothing either.
Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping....
In Newsweek, Mark Hosenball has obtained copies of the sildeshow senior White House officials saw connecting Al Qaeda with Saddam Hussein:
The White House slide, dated September 2002, cites publicized allegations from a post-9/11 Czech intel report that Atta met the April before 9/11 with Iraqi spy Ahmed al-Ani, and asserts the United States had "no other" intel contradicting the report. The slide offers purported details about Atta's activities in Prague (including two earlier, confirmed visits). It says that during one visit al-Ani ordered an Iraqi intelligence officer to "issue funds to Atta." The slide also includes previous unpublished allegations that Atta met the Iraqi Embassy charge d'affaires and that "several workers at Prague airport identified Atta following 9/11 and remember him traveling with his brother Farhan Atta."Here's a link to the actual slides.
After reading the report, Mickey Kaus is puzzled:
It's always hard to believe top government officials actually make big war/no war decisions based on these simplified slide show briefings, as opposed to drilling down and assessing the veracity of the underlying raw intelligence. Did Cheney (who stuck with the Atta-in-Prague story) really not want to learn of any possibly-inconvenient doubts about what the briefings told him? Or are briefings less important than reporters tend to think they are?My hunch is that there were two things going on. The first thing is that Kaus is partially correct: Cheney really, really wanted to believe that there was a connection, and the slide provided it.
The second thing is more mundane but nevertheless true -- the higher you go up the policy food chain, the less detail in the memos. The reason is that the most precious commodity of cabinet-level officials is time. They're scheduled to within an inch of their lives -- the last thing they have time for is "assessing the veracity of the underlying raw intelligence."
This is why stovepiping is so dangerous. Even with a decision as momentous as going to war, a president is rarely going to devote the time to assessing the accuracy rate of intelligence briefings. More likely, they'll assume that if it gets to their desk there must be something there there.
I'm not saying that there wasn't a willful blindness in parts of the White House about this intelligence. But never underestimate the cognitive limitations of policy principals that time crunches create.
Tuesday, January 3, 2006
Psst.... anybody interested in a dissertation topic?
Every once in a while a natural disaster has a significant impact on international relations. We've seen in the past year how U.S. humanitarian assistance can improve America's public image in the affected countries. The 1999 earthquake that affected Greece and Turkey -- and the outpouring of cross-border assistance -- led to a thaw between those two enduring rivals.
Of course, not every natural disaster has such an effect. The Bam earthquake in Iran, for example, led to no diplomatic thaw -- neither did the French heat wave of 2003 nor hurricane Katrina in 2005.
This leads to an interesting question for a dissertation -- under what circumstances will a truly exogenous shock lead to a lessening of international or internal conflicts?
The December 2004 tsunami presents an interesting comparative case study. In Indonesia, Nick Meo reports for the Australian on the budding peace in Aceh:
The head of the feared Indonesian military in Aceh was doing what was almost unthinkable only a year ago: telling its people that the war - one of Asia's longest and, until last year's tsunami, most intractable - was over.Thinks have not worked out quite as well in Sri Lanka, as the Economist observes:
One year on from the tsunami that devastated large parts of Sri Lanka, killing more than 30,000 there, the South Asian island’s people are facing another looming disaster: the revival of a brutal civil war that has killed around 65,000 since it began 22 years ago. A fragile ceasefire, brokered by the government of Norway three years ago, is close to breaking-point after a string of recent attacks by the Tamil Tiger rebels, who are fighting for an independent homeland in the north and east of the island.I have absolutely zero knowledge about either conflict, but I do find it interesting that the tsunami clearly pushed one case towards a more peaceful equilibrium while having no appreciable effect on the other case.
Looking at both cases, John Quiggin proposes a different dissertation topic:
It would be a salutory effort to look over the wars, revolutions and civil strife of the last sixty years and see how many of the participants got an outcome (taking account of war casualties and so on) better than the worst they could conceivably have obtained through negotiation and peaceful agitation. Given the massively negative-sum nature of war, I suspect the answer is “Few, if any”.
Monday, January 2, 2006
Talk about frozen in time
When I was living in Ukraine in the early nineties, Russia was trying to exploit Ukraine's dependence on Russian energy to extract economic and political concessions from that country -- minor things like control over key industrial groupings and the Black Sea Fleet. Russia and the government gas provider, Gazprom, would periodically threaten to shut off supplies.
While it sounds like Russia had all the leverage, there was one problem -- Russia exported much of its gas to Southern and Eastern Europe through the gas pipeline that ran through Ukraine -- and Russia could do very little to prevent Ukraine from siphoning off these supplies... except bluster a bit.
Now, back then, all of the involved parties would muddle through -- Ukraine would proffer some token concessions without making its economy more energy-efficient, Gazprom would punt on raising prices in the near abroad, and the crisis would be deferred for a year.
Let's see what develops this year.
UPDATE: Well, that was fast:
A heavily-criticised Russia on Monday promised to restore full gas supplies to Europe after Germany warned that its dispute with Ukraine over deliveries could hurt its long-term credibility as an energy supplier.
"We stress that the additional delivery of gas is not designed for Ukrainian consumers but is meant for transit through the territory of Ukraine for delivery to consumers outside the borders of Ukraine."