Thursday, March 30, 2006

What's the purpose of the quasi-popular IR book?

I don't catch The Daily Show very often, so this might be a small-N observation -- but it seems to me that he and Stephen Colbert have a much higher ratio of book authors on their show. Not potboilers, either -- Michael Mandelbaum was on Jon Stewart's show plugging The Case for Goliath.

Over at Duck of Minerva, I see that Daniel Nexon caught Mandelbaum's appearance as well -- but this leads him to ask a different question:

I haven't read Mandelbaum's book yet, but based on his comments and the editorial reviews at Amazon, it looks like a pretty standard retread of hegemonic-stability theory as applied to contemporary US foreign policy....

A lot of academics, particularly in the Washington foreign-policy cloud, write these sorts of books. I have no idea about the specific quality of Mandelbaum's book -- for all I know, it is the best example of this kind of argument for a semi-popular audience -- but I'm not sure what to make of this particular subgenre of professorial writings.

So, my question to you all: how should we assess books like Mandelbaum's? I know there is a real role for journalists and academics to take academic theories and bring them to bear on contemporary foreign policy debates, but at what point does derivative work become simply superfluous?

A few replies:
1) Think of the audience. Taking the Mandelbaum book as an example, I seriously doubt that most policymakers have the time or inclination to read the original theoretical work on hegemonic stability theory (Kindleberger, Krasner, Keohane, Lake, Snidal, etc.... well, maybe Kindleberger). Furthermore, HST was generally devoid of normative implications -- which is cdertainly not true of Mandelbaum.

Hayek called popularizers of abstruse ideas "second-order intellectuals." There's a value-added to this project -- though it also carries a danger when the ideas are badly translated.

2) Sometimes fuzzy is better. The advantage of peer-reviewed discourse is that it forces everyone involved to think in a rigorous and analytical fashion, discarding hypotheses or theories that are insufficiently developed. A more popular book can allow more creativity in thinking about how the world works. If these ideas catch on, they force academics to think more seriously about them, even if they would have been discarded if first presented in an academic setting. One example of this is Joseph Nye's "soft power" concept. I have my problems with this idea -- but I can't deny that Nye hit on something ineffable in international affairs that merits further discussion.

3) Don't knock down the strawmen!!. Popular IR books almost inevitably overstate the academic thesis they're propounding. This is great for IR scholars, because it creates a "strawman" version of the hypothesis that authors can cite and then knock down, demonstrating that they've grappled with contending hypotheses. I, for one, am happily citing Mandelbaum's book (among others) as sources for the argument that U.S. hegemony translates into U.S.-preferred international regulatory regimes -- which I then knock down in All Politics is Global.

4) There's money in them thar books. 9/11 and Iraq have amped up the demand for bigthink IR books and the quality of the supply is uncertain. Every author thinks they're going to hit the motherlode. And who are we to begrudge them the effort?

UPDATE: Nick Borst posts another excellent reason in the comments: they're the gateway drug for more rigorous IR scholarship. To cranky codgers like Nexon and I, it is easy to detect when a popular book is riffing off of a scholarly idea. If you're in high school or an undergraduate, however, every idea seems new. It wil be far easier for your average 18 year old to absorb IR theory from Mandelbaum than from those expressly writing for a scholarly audience.

posted by Dan at 10:36 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (0)

While there's a debate over immigration....

I've beeen jamming on a paper I need to finish within the week, which means I haven't been able to cover the whole immigration debate as thoroughly as Mickey Kaus.

[So what's your position?--ed. I think guest worker programs make little economic or political sense. I'd rather vastly expand the legal flows of immigrants who want U.S. citizenship, while simultaneously investing more in border security schemes -- though I'm pessimistic about the latter working terrbly well.]

That said, I can link to this interesting Financial Times story by Richard Lapper on the extent to which Latin America relies on worker remittances as a source of capital inflows:

Migrant workers from Latin America and the Caribbean sent home $53.6bn to their families last year, an increase of 17 per cent on 2004.

The rise – documented in a survey to be announced on Thursday by the Inter-American Development Bank – confirms Latin America’s position as the biggest market in the world for remittances.

For the third consecutive year, remittances to the region exceeded the combined flows of direct foreign investment and overseas economic aid....

An estimated 25m-27m Latin Americans are living and working abroad, 22m of them in the developed markets of North America, Eur-ope and Japan. Mr Terry said migrant workers from the region now made up more than 20 per cent of the labour force in Madrid, Spain’s capital. In the US, Latin American and Caribbean workers constitute an average of 12 per cent of the labour force. “Family by family, worker by worker, migrants are redrawing the map of global labour markets,” Mr Terry said.

Improvements in techniques used to monitor the flows of remittances in part accounted for the sharp rise last year. Many migrants continue to use informal channels, and the total could be more than $59bn.

Countries nearest the US have seen the biggest flows, with Mexico drawing some $20bn of foreign exchange earnings from remittances. The five countries of Central America and the Dominican Republic received $11bn.

Brazil got $6bn, Colombia $4bn and the four other Andean economies a total of $9bn.

Here's a link to the actual IADB report.

posted by Dan at 10:23 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

Academics really need this device

David Pescowitz at Boing Boing alerts the hardworking staff here at about a new device that wiould be of great use in the academy:

MIT Media Lab researchers are building a device to help autistic people determine if they're boring or annoying the person they're talking to. The "emotional social intelligence prosthetic device" is a camera that clips on eyeglasses and feeds images to a small computer that uses image recognition software to characterize emotions. If the listener doesn't seem to be engaged, the device vibrates to alert the wearer.
Autistic people should not be the only ones who benefit from this breakthrough. I know more than one colleague who really needs this device.

Click here for more info.

posted by Dan at 10:49 AM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

Kurt Anderson has no beef

Kurt Anderson has an essay in New York magazine entitled, "Celebrity Death Watch." The subhead says, "Could the country’s insane fame fixation maybe, finally—fingers crossed—be coming to an end? One hopeful sign: Paris Hilton."

Intrigued, I read the first paragraph:

On a scale of one to ten, one being the least possible interest in famous entertainers qua famous entertainers, and ten being the most, I’m about a six. Until I recently gorged for days on end, it had been years since I had touched a copy of People or Us Weekly. I skipped the Tonys and Grammys and Emmys. But I do skim three or four New York newspaper gossip columns most weekdays, and I watched E!’s Golden Globes red-carpet preshow, and, of course, I tuned in to the Academy Awards telecast. For years, I’ve thought that the intense fascination with famous people must be about to end—and I’ve been repeatedly, egregiously mistaken. But now—truly, finally—I believe that we are at the apogee, the zenith, the plateau, the top of the market. After 30 years, this cycle of American celebrity mania has peaked. I think. I hope.
So I read on, eager to see what evidence Anderson had compiled to support his argument. But it wasn't until the third-from-the-last paragraph that I found the evidence, such as it is:
The Nielsen ratings for this year’s Oscars were down 8 percent, and for the Grammys 11 percent. During the last half of 2005, the Enquirer’s newsstand sales were down by a quarter and Entertainment Weekly’s by 30 percent. The American OK! is said to be unwell, the magazine Inside TV was launched and killed last year, and a magazine called Star Shop was killed before it launched.
That's it???!!! Good Lord, this kind of evidentiary base makes the Israel Lobby argument look like top-notch social science!!

Even the facts that Anderson presents are bogus. Declining newsstand sales of some celerity mags are meaningless, because of the proliferation of other celebrity mags, like In Touch, Us Weekly, and In Style. Failed magazines are meaningless, since new magazines fail most of the time anyway. Oscar ratings, like Super Bowl ratings, have experienced a secular decline in recent years. And to my knowledge no one has ever cared about the Grammys.

I look forward with bated breath to Anderson's future proclamations of the death of blogs (I beat him to that!!) and why porn has jumped the shark.

posted by Dan at 12:12 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Now this is provocative scholarship

So let's talk about the provocative article written by two academics that has a whole country's foreign policy community in a lather.

No, not that article -- the authors are still ducking the open debate they claim to want. I'm talking about the one that has exercised the entire Russian military-industrial complex.

In the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs, Keir Lieber and Daryl Press make a startling claim about the balance of nuclear terror:

For almost half a century, the world's most powerful nuclear states have been locked in a military stalemate known as mutual assured destruction (MAD). By the early 1960s, the nuclear arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union had grown so large and sophisticated that neither country could entirely destroy the other's retaliatory force by launching first, even with a surprise attack. Starting a nuclear war was therefore tantamount to committing suicide....

This debate may now seem like ancient history, but it is actually more relevant than ever -- because the age of MAD is nearing an end. Today, for the first time in almost 50 years, the United States stands on the verge of attaining nuclear primacy. It will probably soon be possible for the United States to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike. This dramatic shift in the nuclear balance of power stems from a series of improvements in the United States' nuclear systems, the precipitous decline of Russia's arsenal, and the glacial pace of modernization of China's nuclear forces. Unless Washington's policies change or Moscow and Beijing take steps to increase the size and readiness of their forces, Russia and China -- and the rest of the world -- will live in the shadow of U.S. nuclear primacy for many years to come....

Since the Cold War's end, the U.S. nuclear arsenal has significantly improved. The United States has replaced the ballistic missiles on its submarines with the substantially more accurate Trident II D-5 missiles, many of which carry new, larger-yield warheads. The U.S. Navy has shifted a greater proportion of its SSBNs to the Pacific so that they can patrol near the Chinese coast or in the blind spot of Russia's early warning radar network. The U.S. Air Force has finished equipping its B-52 bombers with nuclear-armed cruise missiles, which are probably invisible to Russian and Chinese air-defense radar. And the air force has also enhanced the avionics on its B-2 stealth bombers to permit them to fly at extremely low altitudes in order to avoid even the most sophisticated radar. Finally, although the air force finished dismantling its highly lethal MX missiles in 2005 to comply with arms control agreements, it is significantly improving its remaining ICBMs by installing the MX's high-yield warheads and advanced reentry vehicles on Minuteman ICBMs, and it has upgraded the Minuteman's guidance systems to match the MX's accuracy.

Even as the United States' nuclear forces have grown stronger since the end of the Cold War, Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal has sharply deteriorated. Russia has 39 percent fewer long-range bombers, 58 percent fewer ICBMs, and 80 percent fewer SSBNs than the Soviet Union fielded during its last days. The true extent of the Russian arsenal's decay, however, is much greater than these cuts suggest. What nuclear forces Russia retains are hardly ready for use. Russia's strategic bombers, now located at only two bases and thus vulnerable to a surprise attack, rarely conduct training exercises, and their warheads are stored off-base. Over 80 percent of Russia's silo-based ICBMs have exceeded their original service lives, and plans to replace them with new missiles have been stymied by failed tests and low rates of production. Russia's mobile ICBMs rarely patrol, and although they could fire their missiles from inside their bases if given sufficient warning of an attack, it appears unlikely that they would have the time to do so.

The third leg of Russia's nuclear triad has weakened the most. Since 2000, Russia's SSBNs have conducted approximately two patrols per year, down from 60 in 1990. (By contrast, the U.S. SSBN patrol rate today is about 40 per year.) Most of the time, all nine of Russia's ballistic missile submarines are sitting in port, where they make easy targets. Moreover, submarines require well-trained crews to be effective. Operating a ballistic missile submarine -- and silently coordinating its operations with surface ships and attack submarines to evade an enemy's forces -- is not simple. Without frequent patrols, the skills of Russian submariners, like the submarines themselves, are decaying. Revealingly, a 2004 test (attended by President Vladimir Putin) of several submarine-launched ballistic missiles was a total fiasco: all either failed to launch or veered off course. The fact that there were similar failures in the summer and fall of 2005 completes this unflattering picture of Russia's nuclear forces.

Compounding these problems, Russia's early warning system is a mess. Neither Soviet nor Russian satellites have ever been capable of reliably detecting missiles launched from U.S. submarines. (In a recent public statement, a top Russian general described his country's early warning satellite constellation as "hopelessly outdated.") Russian commanders instead rely on ground-based radar systems to detect incoming warheads from submarine-launched missiles. But the radar network has a gaping hole in its coverage that lies to the east of the country, toward the Pacific Ocean. If U.S. submarines were to fire missiles from areas in the Pacific, Russian leaders probably would not know of the attack until the warheads detonated. Russia's radar coverage of some areas in the North Atlantic is also spotty, providing only a few minutes of warning before the impact of submarine-launched warheads....

To determine how much the nuclear balance has changed since the Cold War, we ran a computer model of a hypothetical U.S. attack on Russia's nuclear arsenal using the standard unclassified formulas that defense analysts have used for decades. We assigned U.S. nuclear warheads to Russian targets on the basis of two criteria: the most accurate weapons were aimed at the hardest targets, and the fastest-arriving weapons at the Russian forces that can react most quickly. Because Russia is essentially blind to a submarine attack from the Pacific and would have great difficulty detecting the approach of low-flying stealthy nuclear-armed cruise missiles, we targeted each Russian weapon system with at least one submarine-based warhead or cruise missile. An attack organized in this manner would give Russian leaders virtually no warning.

This simple plan is presumably less effective than Washington's actual strategy, which the U.S. government has spent decades perfecting. The real U.S. war plan may call for first targeting Russia's command and control, sabotaging Russia's radar stations, or taking other preemptive measures -- all of which would make the actual U.S. force far more lethal than our model assumes.

According to our model, such a simplified surprise attack would have a good chance of destroying every Russian bomber base, submarine, and ICBM. [See Footnote #1] This finding is not based on best-case assumptions or an unrealistic scenario in which U.S. missiles perform perfectly and the warheads hit their targets without fail. Rather, we used standard assumptions to estimate the likely inaccuracy and unreliability of U.S. weapons systems. Moreover, our model indicates that all of Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal would still be destroyed even if U.S. weapons were 20 percent less accurate than we assumed, or if U.S. weapons were only 70 percent reliable, or if Russian ICBM silos were 50 percent "harder" (more reinforced, and hence more resistant to attack) than we expected. (Of course, the unclassified estimates we used may understate the capabilities of U.S. forces, making an attack even more likely to succeed.)

To be clear, this does not mean that a first strike by the United States would be guaranteed to work in reality; such an attack would entail many uncertainties. Nor, of course, does it mean that such a first strike is likely. But what our analysis suggests is profound: Russia's leaders can no longer count on a survivable nuclear deterrent.

Needless to say, this article has roiled the Russians just a bit.

How much? Former Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar has an op-ed in today's Financial Times scolding Lieber and Press:

America is a free country and what these two authors wrote in their article, entitled "The Rise of US Nuclear Primacy", is their business. The trouble is, when addressing such a delicate issue, it would be good to understand the responsibilities that go with it....

There are plenty of Russians who have a similar global vision and believe that the US is preparing its capability for a nuclear strike against Russia. However, the publication of such ideas in a reputable US journal has had an explosive effect. Even Russian journalists and analysts not inclined to hysteria or anti-Americanism have viewed the article as an expression of the US official stance. As China is more closed, it is harder to gauge the authorities' reaction, although I fear it may be similar.

Since Soviet times, I have disliked the word "provocation". But if someone had wanted to provoke Russia and China into close co-operation over missile and nuclear technologies, it would have been difficult to find a more skilful and elegant way of doing so. Soviet military planning rested on the concept of the "return-counterstrike". That meant if a threat from an enemy arose, a Soviet nuclear strike would follow. The chances of a comeback for this doctrine are stronger now - which will hardly help strengthen global security.

Over the past few years, I and many colleagues have fought for Russia to maintain a sound economic policy amid high oil prices. Russia's Stabilisation Fund, into which windfall oil taxation revenues have been paid, constituted one element of that struggle. Now I fear the battle is lost. It is not hard to guess where the resources from this fund will now be directed. (emphasis added)

I'm pretty sure that if Lieber and Press were actually the official voice of the U.S. government, this essay would never have seen the light of day. That last thing the DoD would want would be to publicly advertise nuclear primacy, for precisely the reasons Gaidar elaborates.

No, Lieber and Press are doing what academics are supposed to do: generating hypotheses, testing them, and publishing the results,* no matter how uncomfortable the implications. And this implication is particularly disturbing:

Is the United States intentionally pursuing nuclear primacy? Or is primacy an unintended byproduct of intra-Pentagon competition for budget share or of programs designed to counter new threats from terrorists and so-called rogue states? Motivations are always hard to pin down, but the weight of the evidence suggests that Washington is, in fact, deliberately seeking nuclear primacy. For one thing, U.S. leaders have always aspired to this goal. And the nature of the changes to the current arsenal and official rhetoric and policies support this conclusion.
Read the whole thing.

* Even though Foreign Affairs is not peer-reviewed, it should be noted that Lieber and Press the FA essay is an abridged version of a forthcoming scholarly article: "The End of MAD? The Nuclear Dimension of U.S. Primacy," International Security 30, no. 4 (Spring 2006).

UPDATE: Leiber and Press respond to Gaidar in this letter to the editor:

Mr Gaidar believes that these issues should not be discussed openly. We disagree. The wisdom of American, Russian and Chinese nuclear policies should be debated. But doing so requires a clear appreciation of the dramatic new realities of the strategic nuclear balance.

posted by Dan at 11:14 AM | Comments (46) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

My one post about the Card resignation

So Andy Card bows out.... and Josh Bolten bows in.

Over at, Dan Froomkin repeats today's conventional wisdom --- Bush's poll ratings and miscues on Katrina, Dubai, etc., forced him into this move. But this overlooks the deeper cause -- these jobs are just exhausting.

The hours are killer. In this administration at least, White House staffers only get in the news when they've screwed up. There's a reason why, prior to this administration, people had only served an average of two years in high-ranking positions. Time's Mike Allen points out that Card knew this as well:

A wily veteran of Massachusetts politics, Card has been predicting his own departure since Nov. 1, 2001, when he told a Boston audience, "The half-life for a chief of staff is two years... There are very few people who had the experience I am having that survived very long, and that is appropriate. There is no security. I will not vest in the pension system at the White House."
What's amazing to me is not that Card has resigned -- it's that there are so many people who have been working at high levels in this administration for six years and show no signs of leaving.

That said, readers are invited to guess who will be the next high-ranking Bush official to leave.... my money would be on this guy.

Meanwhile, the Salon letters on this topic have taken on a decidedly repugnant tone.

posted by Dan at 08:45 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Why are American firms doing so well?

Sebastian Mallaby has a fascinating column in the Washington Post about why U.S. firms have been outperforming other global firms over the past decade:

Despite all the nostalgia for the era when GM dominated the world's car industry, the heyday of American business may actually be now.

The dawn of this heyday came in 1995. In the two preceding decades, the productivity of American workers had grown more slowly than that of Japanese and European competitors. But in the decade since 1995, U.S. labor productivity growth has outstripped foreign rivals'. Meanwhile U.S. firms' return on equity -- that is, the efficiency with which they manage the capital entrusted to them -- has pulled away from that of Japan, France and Germany, according to data provided by Standard & Poor's Compustat.

Other measures tell a similar story.... The (British) Financial Times publishes an annual list of the world's most respected companies. In 2004 and again in 2005, no fewer than 12 of the top 15 slots were occupied by American firms.

Or consider the database on management quality constructed by Nick Bloom and John Van Reenen of Stanford University and the London School of Economics. This duo organized a survey of 732 medium-sized American and European companies and measured their management procedures against benchmarks of best practice. The result: American firms, including the subsidiaries of American firms in Europe, are simply better managed than European rivals. In fact, superior American management accounts for more than half of the productivity gap between American and European firms....

Competition and meritocracy cannot explain all of America's superiority, however. The U.S. economy has always had these advantages but hasn't always trounced overseas rivals. Nor is it enough to say that Americans work harder than Europeans, since the productivity numbers show that Americans are boosting what they achieve per hour. And anyone who explains America's superiority by saying that the country is more "dynamic" or "creative" is merely relabeling the mystery we're trying to solve.

The best guess about the "X factor" is that America's business culture is peculiarly well-suited to contemporary challenges. American business is not especially good at coaxing productivity out of factory workers: The era when this was all-important was the heyday of Germany and Japan. But American business excels at managing service workers and knowledge workers: at equipping these people with technology, empowering them with the right level of independence and paying for performance. So the era of decentralized "network" businesses is the American era.

Moreover, America's business culture is perfectly matched to globalization. American executive suites and MBA courses are full of talented immigrants, so American managers think nothing of working in multicultural firms. The immigrants have links to their home countries, so Americans have an advantage in establishing global supply chains. The elites of Asia and Latin America compete to attend U.S. universities; when they return to their countries, they are keener to join the local operation of a U.S. company than of a German or Japanese one.

posted by Dan at 07:45 PM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (0)

Hello, I'm the one-eyed king of my NCAA pool

I'd like to thank the Florida Gators for beating the Villanova Wildcats yesterday. This clinched my victory in my family March Madness pool.

[Uh... aren't there some more games to be played?--ed.] Yes, but because everyone (including myself) had number one seeds like UConn, Duke, or Villanova winning the Final Four games, no one can earn any more points. I didn't do great in my predictions, but as the saying goes, in a land of blind men, the one-eyed man is king.

I do take comfort from the fact that according to, there are very few two-eyed people out there right now:

The Final Four looks nothing like the users of's Tournament Challenge predicted.
More than 1.5 million people participated and of the more than 3 million entries submitted only four -- that's right, four -- picked a Final Four including Florida, George Mason, LSU and UCLA before the tournament started. Over 66 percent of entries had none of the Final Four teams correct and better than 29 percent had exactly two teams correct.

As you probably guessed, George Mason is the team that busted the most brackets. The Patriots were picked in 1,853 entries to make the Final Four, with only 677 putting them in the championship game and only 284 predicting George Mason winning the national championship. UCLA, on the other hand, got the most support -- more than 24 percent of all entries have the Bruins advancing to Indianapolis.

This result also confirms that I know next to nothing about either health care reform or the quadrennial defense review.

UPDATE: It turns out that one of those four correct predictions was an accident -- the person confused George Mason with George Washington.

posted by Dan at 05:55 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The trouble with job retraining

Louis Uchitelle has a must-read excerpt from his forthcoming book The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences in the Business section of the Sunday New York Times. The article covers the fallout of union militancy at a United repair shop in Indianapolis, and what happens when United started outsourcing the work to non-union shops elsewhere in the United States.

Read the whole thing, but here's one section that might give readers some pause:

[J]ob training is central to employment policy. It has been since 1982, when Congress passed the Job Training Partnership Act at the urging of President Ronald Reagan. President Bill Clinton took job training even further, making it available to higher-income workers — including the aircraft mechanics in Indianapolis.

Saying that the country should solve the skills shortage through education and training became part of nearly every politician's stump speech, an innocuous way to address the politics of unemployment without strengthening either the bargaining leverage of workers or the federal government's role in bolstering labor markets.

But training for what? The reality, as the aircraft mechanics discovered, is painfully different from the reigning wisdom. Rather than having a shortage of skills, millions of American workers have more skills than their jobs require. That is particularly true of college-educated people, who make up 30 percent of the population today, up from 10 percent in the 1960's. They often find themselves working in sales or as office administrators, or taking jobs in hotels and restaurants, or becoming carpenters, flight attendants and word processors.

The number of jobs that require a bachelor's degree has indeed been growing, but more slowly than the number of graduates, according to the Labor Department, and that trend is likely to continue through this decade. "The average college graduate is doing very well," said Lawrence F. Katz, a labor economist at Harvard. "But on the margin, college graduates appear to be more vulnerable than in the past."

The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics offers a rough estimate of the imbalance in the demand for jobs as opposed to the supply. Each month since December 2000, it has surveyed the number of job vacancies across the country and compared it with the number of unemployed job seekers. On average, there were 2.6 job seekers for every job opening over the first 41 months of the survey. That ratio would have been even higher, according to the bureau, if the calculation had included the millions of people who stopped looking for work because they did not believe that they could get decent jobs.

So the demand for jobs is considerably greater than the supply, and the supply is not what the reigning theory says it is. Most of the unfilled jobs pay low wages and require relatively little skill, often less than the jobholder has. From the spring of 2003 to the spring of 2004, for example, more than 55 percent of the hiring was at wages of $13.25 an hour or less: hotel and restaurant workers, health care employees, temporary replacements and the like.

That trend is likely to continue. Seven of the 10 occupations expected to grow the fastest from 2002 through 2012, according to the Labor Department, pay less than $13.25 an hour, on average: retail salesclerks, customer service representatives, food service workers, cashiers, janitors, nurse's aides and hospital orderlies.

As Mark Thoma points out, "the article is more successful at identifying the problems than it is at finding a recipe for solving the displaced worker problem."

posted by Dan at 11:15 PM | Comments (31) | Trackbacks (0)

A belated book review

Ten days ago I reviewed William Easterly's The White Man's Burden for the Wall Street Journal. I would have linked to it, but the subscription firewall proved fierce.

Luckily, the University of Chicago likes it when their professors write in the public domain. [All the time?--ed. Well, there are no current links to the London Review of Books, if that's what you're asking.] So here's a link to the review. The key paragraphs:

The foreign-aid community, according to Mr. Easterly, is mostly composed of Planners. They think of development as a technical engineering problem and generate ambitious plans to eliminate the causes of poverty in a multi-pronged intervention. But Planners are embedded in and beholden to rich donors -- large institutions in the West. Thus they lack real-life, on-the-ground feedback, and they lack accountability, both of which would allow them to improve their policies over time. Mr. Easterly prefers what he calls Searchers -- those who learn through trial and error in the field. They can't achieve the ambitious goals set out by Planners, but they can deliver at least some results.

"The White Man's Burden" is one long exercise in demonstrating why the Planners' mentality is wrong and why a little humility is in order: "The West cannot transform the Rest. It is a fantasy to think that the West can change complex societies with very different histories and cultures into some image of itself. The main hope for the poor is for them to be their own Searchers, borrowing ideas and technology from the West when it suits them to do so."

Mr. Easterly shows why many of the development fads of the past 50 years -- the big push, donor coordination, shock therapy -- failed to do much good. He does a nifty job of disproving Jeffrey Sachs's claim that the real problem with Africa is that it is stuck in a "poverty trap" -- i.e., so poor that it cannot generate economic growth on its own. The real problem is bad governance. Aid institutions have not helped matters by doling out grants and loans to corrupt and thuggish regimes....

Lest one think that Mr. Easterly is generalizing unfairly, it is worth noting that he has done something that very few people do: He has actually read the reams of reports churned out by the development community year after year. Déjà vu begins to set in after seeing Mr. Easterly quote from the failed projects of decades ago -- the problems and "solutions" repeat themselves miserably. He has great fun, too, interpreting this turgid prose for the layman. A war is relabeled as a "conflict-related reallocation of resources"; corrupt leaders who raid public coffers create "governance issues."

Be sure to check out Virginia Postrel's review of Easterly from last Sunday's New York Times Book Review. Virginia had a few more hundred words to play with than I did -- and she used them very wisely.

posted by Dan at 09:24 AM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Jacques Chirac doesn't like capitalism that much

Another month in France, another excuse for mass protests. This month, the justification has been a law proposed by French prime minister Dominique de Villepin that would make it easier for employers to fire younger workers. The thinking is that this would encourage firms will hire more workers. Needless to say, the French unions disagreed.

The Financial Times' Martin Arnold reports that de Villepin is ready to cave:

Dominique de Villepin will hold talks with trade unions “with no strings attached” on Friday over his unpopular employment law, a move widely interpreted as a climbdown by the embattled French premier....

The meeting could happen on Friday. But the offer for it came only after a long and reportedly heated meeting with President Jacques Chirac, fuelling rumours that the prime minister was ordered to back down.

The new law, which allows companies to fire people aged under 26 in the first two years of their contract without reason, has sparked widespread protests by students and workers which erupted into violence in central Paris yesterday....

Unions want the law withdrawn. François Chérèque, leader of the moderate CFDT union, said: “If the prime minister does not respond positively to our demand to withdraw the first job contract, we will end the conversation.”

Critics suspect Mr de Villepin has fallen into the same trap as his hero Napoleon Bonaparte, ousted after leading France to military defeat at Waterloo.

Analysts, opposition Socialists and members of his own centre-right UMP party said he had tried to push reform too far, too fast, in pursuit of his personal ambitions.

“President Chirac has told him to back down as he was leading the country to the wall,” said Dominique Moisi, a senior adviser at France’s Institute for International Relations. “He tried to convince himself he could be France’s Margaret Thatcher, but forgot he was only the number two.”

Chirac's hostility to any idea with a whiff of Anglo-Saxon provenance is also demonstrated in this FT story by George Parker and Chris Smyth:
Jacques Chirac, French president, defended his walkout on Thursday night from the EU summit – after a French industrialist began addressing leaders of the bloc in English – saying he had been “profoundly shocked to see a Frenchman express himself in English at the (EU) Council table”.

Mr Chirac and two senior French ministers walked out in protest at the decision of Ernest-Antoine Seillière, head of the Unice employers organisation, to make a plea for economic reform in what he called “the language of business”.

Mr Chirac’s boycott reflected the tensions surrounding the two-day economic summit, which comes against a backdrop of French street protests over labour market reform and claims that Paris is engaged in protectionism of its energy market. The French president was not in the room to hear Mr Seillière urging leaders to “resist national protectionism in order to avoid a negative domino effect”.

He returned after Mr Seillière had finished speaking.

posted by Dan at 10:14 AM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Comments are down

The good folks at are experiencing technical difficulties which make it impossible for comments to be posted right now. Profound apologies, and I hope to have this problem fixed soon.

UPDATE: Comments should now be working.

posted by Dan at 06:35 PM

It's not easy to catch avian flu

Scientific American's David Biello reports on a important finding: why, so far, the H5N1 avian flu virus has not passed from human to human yet:

A virus's ability to spread is the key to its ability to create a pandemic. New research shows that this bird flu currently lacks the protein key to unlock certain cells in the human upper respiratory tract, preventing it from spreading via a sneeze or a cough.

Virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin and University of Tokyo and his colleagues tested strains of H5N1 isolated from respiratory tissue in the noses, throats and lungs of infected humans. Although regular human flu viruses bound easily with the receptors found in the nose and throat cells, H5N1 strains attached only to those receptors on cells found in the deepest regions of the lungs.

"Deep in the respiratory system, receptors for avian viruses, including avian H5N1 viruses, are present," Kawaoka explains. "But these receptors are rare in the upper portion of the respiratory system. For the viruses to be transmitted efficiently, they have to multiply in the upper portion of the respiratory system so that they can be transmitted by coughing and sneezing."

....the findings suggest one way in which H5N1 must mutate if it is to become a highly contagious virus, the researchers argue in their paper in today's Nature. It also reveals a way to monitor for the emergence of such a strain. "Identification of the H5N1 viruses with the ability to recognize human receptors would bring us one step closer to a pandemic strain," Kawaoka says. "Recognition of human receptors can serve as molecular markers for the pandemic potential of the [isolated strains]."

Here's the link to the article abstract in Nature.

posted by Dan at 04:59 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

The new axis of evil

I refer, of course, to the New York Yankees and trademark lawyers.'s Darren Rovell has an amusing story about one lone financial planner's fight to the death against these forces of evil:

Mike Moorby hates the Yankees. And except for the fact that they haven't won the World Series for five straight seasons (Moorby loves that about them), the Yankees keep giving him reasons to hate them.

Now, they're messing with a little bit of his livelihood.

Moorby, a 38-year-old financial advisor from New Jersey, proudly admits that he feels as good when he sees the Yankees lose as he did when he saw the Red Sox win it all in 2004. In fact, he hates the Yankees so much that he started a side business, creating memorabilia for other pinstripe haters. Inspired by the pain of Aaron Boone's home run that prevented his Red Sox, yet again, from reaching the World Series in 2003, Moorby drew up a logo that features the interlocking letters "YH" (Yankee Hater) with devil horns.

The fledgling enterprise (Moorby's Yankee Hater company is called Rebel Forces LLC) sent a bunch of hats with the YH logo to then-Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar early in 2004; and in April of that year, a Boston Herald photographer shot a picture of the team's new ace, Curt Schilling, wearing one of them at a Boston Bruins' game. It was an immediate credibility boost.

Without a single piece of advertising, Moorby soon was selling hats from his Web site to people in all 50 states, and a handful of orders were coming from Europe and Asia. By now, business isn't quite as brisk, but Moorby says he gets at least one order a day.

Not surprisingly, the baseball establishment in New York didn't take kindly to Moorby's Yankee Hater merchandise. He says staying in business has meant tearing up a cease-and-desist letter from Major League Baseball; and he claims he has spent all his profits, appropriately, fighting the Yankees themselves, who opposed his trademark application that used the stylized Yankees "Y" in it. If things stay on schedule, final proceedings concerning the merit of Moorby's trademark will go before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board before the end of the year.

"I'm not going to go out with a whimper," says a defiant Moorby. "Plus, how many times in life do you actually get to play against a team that you hate so much? Who would imagine that [he] would ever go face-to-face with the beast? Well, I am doing that right now."

I think I might just have to order myself a hat.

posted by Dan at 04:45 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Where's the open debate? I want to see an open debate!!

One of the arguments that Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer made in "The Israel Lobby" was that the first rule of the Israel Lobby is that you can't talk about the Israel Lobby:

The Lobby doesn’t want an open debate, of course, because that might lead Americans to question the level of support they provide. Accordingly, pro-Israel organisations work hard to influence the institutions that do most to shape popular opinion.
Alas, this story in the Forward by Ori Nir suggests that the reaction to their LRB essay might vindicate this portion of their hypothesis (link via Scott Johnson):
In the face of one of the harshest reports on the pro-Israel lobby to emerge from academia, Jewish organizations are holding fire in order to avoid generating publicity for their critics.

Officials at Jewish organizations are furious over "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," a new paper by John Mearsheimer, a top international relations theorists based at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, the academic dean of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. In their report — versions of which appear on the Kennedy School Web site and in the March 26 issue of the London Review of Books — the scholars depict "the Israel lobby" as a "loose coalition" of politicians, media outlets, research institutions, Jewish groups and Evangelical Christians that steers America's Middle East policy in directions beneficial to Israel, even if it requires harming American interests.

Despite their anger, Jewish organizations are avoiding a frontal debate with the two scholars, while at the same time seeking indirect ways to rebut and discredit the scholars' arguments. Officials with pro-Israel organizations say that given the limited public attention generated by the new study — as of Tuesday most major print outlets had ignored it — they prefer not to draw attention to the paper by taking issue with it head on. As of Wednesday morning, none of the largest Jewish organizations had issued a press release on the report.

"The key here is to not do what they probably want, which is to have this become a battle between us and them, or for them to say that they are being silenced," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. "It's much better to let others respond."

Pro-Israel activists were planning a briefing for congressional staffers to be held Thursday. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are considering releasing a letter in response to the new paper, congressional staffers said.

So, score one point for Walt and Mearsheimer.... but wait!!! Later in the story, there's this:
Mearsheimer and Walt also seem to be resisting further publicity.

"I don't have an agenda in the sense of viewing myself as proselytizing or trying to sell this," Mearsheimer told the Forward. "I am a scholar, not an activist, and I am reticent to take questions from the media because I do believe that this is a subject that has to be approached very carefully. You don't want to say the wrong thing. The potential for saying the wrong thing is very great here."

Mearsheimer was hosted on National Public Radio Tuesday for a full hour, to talk about Iraq, but did not make any mention of the controversial paper he co-authored. "To have a throwaway line or two on public radio to promote yourself is a bad idea," he told the Forward, following his NPR appearance. "I prefer to take the high road, although that is not always easy." Since publication, Mearsheimer added, he and Walt also turned down offers from major newspapers, radio and television networks to lay out their thesis.

Indeed, this appears to be true. Earlier in the week, Walt told the Sun's Meghan Clyne: "'I have discussed your inquiry with my co-author, Professor Mearsheimer,' he told the Sun. 'We appreciate the invitation to respond to the comments, but prefer not to.'"

So let me get this straight: the authors have written and published a paper because they want to provoke an open debate -- and then decide not to respond to any of the critiques made of the paper? [But some of those critiques are just ad hominem attacks labeling them as anti-Semites!--ed. Yes, but other responses, from Dennis Ross, Ruth Wisse, Jeffrey Herf & Andrei Markovits, and Alan Dershowitz, are devoid of that charge and are coming from people with comparable reputations to Walt and Mearsheimer. This editorial by the Forward provides the most comprehensive shredding of their hypothesis, but all Mearsheimer can say is that they have to be careful about what they say.]

New policy here at if the authors of a study refuse to engage in the open debate they claim to want, then I see no reason to take the study seriously.

posted by Dan at 10:32 AM | Comments (34) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

ISA blogging

Blogging will be light for the next few days, as I attend and present at the International Studies Association meeting in San Diego.

I mocked ISA last year for their dress tips, but this year I see that the conference has its very own blog. So clearly, the International Studies Association has officially jumped the shark.

Here's a fun time-waster for loyal and truly geeky readers -- flip through the conference program and tell me which panel I simply must attend on Friday and why. The winner will be chosen arbitrarily by me and will receive a serio-comic summary of what transpired at the panel.

posted by Dan at 07:01 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

The U.S. hedges its bets on the Doha round

Until 2006, the Bush administration's policy of "competitive liberalization" in trade had been pretty much symbolic. FTA's with Bahrain, Morocco, or even the CAFTA countries were economically insignificant. Neither the EU nor India was going to feel compelled to move on Doha because of CAFTA.

This year, however, there have been annoucements to negotiate FTAs with Malaysia and South Korea. Competitive liberalization has a bit more teeth to it.

Alan Beattie points this out in the Financial Times:

It’s always wise to have a Plan B. As the US urges progress in the “Doha round” of trade talks, it is also chasing bilateral trade deals across east Asia. These proposed pacts, which include South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand, will act as insurance for a disappointing round. They also put down a marker for future US influence in the region.

The US has for several years pursued a policy of “competitive liberalisation”, pursuing both multilateral and bilateral liberalisation. This irks many trade experts who say bilateral deals do more to divert and complicate trade than advance it.

But the US strategy is clear. William Rhodes, senior vice-chairman of Citigroup and chairman of the US-Korea business council, says: “Because the Doha round has been moving so slowly...there will be more of these bilateral FTAs like that being negotiated between the US and Korea.”

The bilateral talks have a sense of urgency. The US’s “trade promotion authority” – the White House’s right to submit entire trade agreements to Congress for a Yes-No vote – expires in the middle of 2007.

While the expiration of this authority sets a hard deadline for Doha, it will also close the window for the US to sign bilaterals. Karan Bhatia, deputy US trade representative with responsibility for Asia, says: “TPA is concentrating our focus on making sure we lock down agreements that we believe can and should be achieved before that deadline. We are pushing forward aggressively with Korea and Malaysia to try to close those before the time expires.”

The $64 billion dollar question is whether these propoed FTAs will convince the EU to relent on ag subsidies and India and Brazil to relent on non-agricultural market access.

At a minimum, the European Commission is making noises about more FTAs in Asia.

Developing.... at least until TPA expires.

posted by Dan at 12:05 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A follow-up on the Israel Lobby

Well, I see the blogosphere has generated a welter of resposes to the Walt/Mearsheimer hypothesis that "The thrust of the U.S. policy in the [Middle East] is due almost entirely to U.S. domestic politics, and especially to the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby.'"

Interestingly, mainstream media reaction has been very muted. True, James Taranto discussed it in Opinion Journal's best of the Web, and the New York Sun has reported it to death. So far, however, the Israeli press has covered this more diligently than the American media. [UPDATE: ah, I missed both the UPI coverage and the Christian Science Monitor's Tom Regan -- though neither of these stories include any response from critics.]

So far, the best straight reporting story I've seen comes from the Harvard Crimson's Paras D. Bhayani and Rebecca Friedman -- which includes this priceless paragraph:

In their piece, the authors savaged those on both the political Left and Right, calling groups as diverse as the Brookings Institution and American Enterprise Institute, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal editorial boards, and Sen. Hillary R. Clinton, D-N.Y., and World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz members of the “Israel Lobby.”
On the one hand, it's a shame that this isn't being debated more widely in the mainstream press. On the other hand, it might be good if the mainstream media didn't cover it, if this New York Sun editorial is any indication:
It's going to be illuminating to watch how Harvard handles the controversy over the decision of its John F. Kennedy School of Government to issue a "Faculty Research Working Paper" on "The Israel Lobby" that is co-authored by its academic dean, Stephen Walt. On page one this morning we report that Dean Walt's paper has been met with praise by David Duke, the man the Anti-Defamation League calls "America's best-known racist." The controversy is still young. But it's not too early to suggest that it's going to be hard for Mr. Walt to maintain his credibility as a dean. We don't see it as a matter of academic freedom but simply as a matter of necessary quality control.
This is an absurd editorial -- just about any argument out there is endorsed by one crackpot or another, so that does not mean the argument itself is automatically invalidated. As for Walt's sympathies towards David Duke, in the very story they cite, Walt is quoted as saying, "I have always found Mr. Duke's views reprehensible, and I am sorry he sees this article as consistent with his view of the world."

I didn't say this explicitly in my last post, but let me do so here: Walt and Mearsheimer should not be criticized as anti-Semites, because that's patently false. They should be criticized for doing piss-poor, monocausal social science.*

To repeat, the main empirical problems with the article are that :

A) They fail to demonstrate that Israel is a net strategic liability;

B) They ascribe U.S. foreign policy behavior almost exclusively to the activities of the "Israel Lobby"; and

C) They omit consderation of contradictory policies and countervailing foreign policy lobbies.

As an example of the latter, consider this fascinating cover story Liel Leibovitz in the February issue of Moment magazine on the battle to endow Middle Eastern chairs at American universities. The highlights:
[W]hen Columbia announced that an endowed chair would be named in honor of Said—who died of leukemia in 2003—there was outrage in some quarters of the Jewish community. That outrage intensified in March 2004 when, after a long delay, the university revealed that the Edward Said Chair of Modern Arab Studies and Literature had been funded in part by the United Arab Emirates. A few influential Jews demanded that the university return the gift, suspend the establishment of the chair, or both.

Columbia did neither. Instead, at a black-tie dinner a year later, Columbia trustee Mark Kingdon announced that he and his fellow trustees had raised $3 million to endow an Israel studies chair in order to expand the breadth of coverage in the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures department.

It was hard not to see the endowment of the new Israel chair as tit-for-tat for the creation of the Said chair and perceived pro-Palestinian sensibilities on campus. Professor Michael Stanislawski, head of the search committee entrusted with appointing a professor to the Israel studies chair, insisted that the trustees’ decision predated the controversy, although he added, “It would be naïve to think that there’s a ‘Chinese wall’ between the two.”

At universities across North America, endowed chairs have become another weapon in the campus battle between supporters of the Palestinian cause on one side and Israel on the other. And while the struggle involves a tiny fraction of American academics, the battle of the chairs could well change the face of American scholarship and upset the delicate balance between knowledge and money....

Said himself was a complex figure. He was a Palestinian nationalist who was not above occasional vitriol. Yet he also embarked on joint projects to increase understanding between Jews and Arabs with his friend, the Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim. The young, liberal academics who adopted his theories sometimes took a less nuanced approach: By the 1980s, Israel had become the bête noire of the American left and thus a topic of fierce debate on college campuses.

The new passion for the Palestinian cause coincided with an influx of oil money from the Arab world, and beginning in the 1980s, Persian Gulf royalty began to endow chairs and centers across America. The Saudi royal family alone established the King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud Chair of Islamic Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Adjunct Professorship of Islamic Studies at Harvard University, as well as the King Fahd Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies at the University of Arkansas and the Sultan Program in Arab Studies at the University of California at Berkeley.

Concerned that these new chairs would cause an irreversible shift towards pro-Palestinian sensibilities, large swaths of the Jewish community leapt into action. One obvious solution: Endow academic chairs that would offset the balance.

There’s a key difference between the Israeli chairs and their Arab counterparts, says one board member of a foundation that recently endowed an Israel chair, who asked not to be identified. “Look at who their donors are,” he says. “They’re not wealthy Arab Americans. They don’t match the profile of our donors, who tend to be private people who made their fortunes in business.”

By way of example, the board member mentions that the three currently filled Israel chairs in the United States were endowed respectively by Seagram heir Charles Bronfman, plastic surgeon William Schatten and outsourcing entrepreneur Henry Taub. Of the two Israel chairs in Canada, one, at the University of Toronto, was also endowed by the Bronfman family, while the other, the Kahanoff Chair at the University of Calgary, was funded by the estate of Sydney Kahanoff, a Canadian Jewish oilman. Middle East studies chairs, the board member added, are endowed by “countries, principalities, kingdoms. That makes the whole thing more political, more susceptible to claims of trying to buy influence.”....

In 2004, Helen Diller, the wife of real estate magnate Sanford Diller and a University of California Berkeley alumna, was moved to donate $5 million to Berkeley’s Center for Middle East Studies to fund research grants and sponsor a series of visiting Israeli scholars. “You know what’s going on over there,” she told the San Francisco Jewish newspaper, J. “With the protesting and this and that, we need to get a real strong Jewish studies program in there.... Hopefully, it will be enlightening to have a visiting professor and it’ll calm down over there more.”

An academic committee at Berkeley chose Oren Yiftachel, a professor of geography at Ben-Gurion University, as the first Diller Visiting Professor. Yiftachel is one of the Israeli academics most critical of his country’s policies. In a 2001 article, his words echoed those of Said: “The actual existence of an Israeli state (and hence citizenship) can be viewed as an illusion. Israel has ruptured, by its own actions, the geography of statehood, and maintained a caste-like system of ethnic-religious-class stratification. Without an inclusive geography and universal citizenship, Israel has created a colonial setting, held through violent control.”

Needless to say, these were not the kinds of statements that Diller had envisioned to bring calm to the embattled campus. Still, having given the endowment, there was nothing she could do but wince. For his part, Yiftachel resents the criticism his lectures received in the Jewish press. “How can they come and criticize an Israeli for being critical of Israel,” argues Yiftachel, who has since returned to Ben-Gurion University, “when my life is here, my mother is here, my children are here? I work to improve this country, and they just bark from a distance.” The Diller endowment, he adds, is superb in that allows scholars of vastly different political persuasions to lecture at Berkeley.

Read the whole thing -- but the excerpted passage above suggests a few kinks in the causal chain that Walt and Mearsheimer propose. First, there are lots of groups trying to alter elite American discourse through a variety of means. Second, if Walt and Mearsheimer want to claim that the Israel lobby has bought up public intellectuals, they're going to have to explain why those intellectuals are more powerful than the ones bought for by Arab states -- at present, countervailing pressures simply do not exist in their argument. Third, the Berkeley example demonstrates the process tracing problem that Walt and Mearsheimer need to address. It's one thing for lobbies to throw money around to influence U.S. foreign policy; it's another thing entirely to demonstrate that the money actually influenced foreign policy decisions.

Full disclosure: Moment is "the largest independent Jewish magazine in North America... committed as ever to being an independent forum, in which disparate opinions and ideas are addressed in provocative ways." But I don't think it's part of the Israel lobby.

* This is not to deny that a pro-Israel lobby affects U.S. foreign policy, just as Cuban emigres undoubtedly have an effect on U.S. policy towards Cuba. It's just that Walt and Mearsheimer say that the lobby "almost entirely" explains U.S. policy. My contention is that they vastly overestimate both pro-Israel lobby's causal role -- and their uniformity of opinion and motivation.

UPDATE: Via Glenn Greenwald, I see that Michael Kinsley had the brains to bring up this subject before the Iraq war even started. Go check it out -- I'm far more comfortable with his version of the argument than Mearsheimer or Walt.

posted by Dan at 09:58 AM | Comments (43) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, March 20, 2006

I always suspected this was true
As the bookie commissioner of an illegal gambling operation the TAP March madness pool.... it seems there is an inverse correlation between NCAA clairvoyance and grasping the minutiae of US health care policy.
Well, at least among liberals, anyway. Among conservatives, I suspect there's an inverse correlation between performance in baseball rotisserie leagues and comprehension of the Quadrennial Defense Reviews.

[So how are you doing in your March Madness pool, smart guy?--ed. My correct upset predictions (Montana over Nevada, and Georgetown over Ohio State) have kept me in the running despite some excessive loyalty to the Land of Lincoln (F#$%ing Salukis; should have picked Bradley instead). I'm told that if my prediction of Florida making it to the Final Four comes true, I'll be sitting pretty.]

posted by Dan at 09:24 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Don't expect Orange Revolution II

Belarus had a presidential "election" over the weekend, which current president Aleksandr Lukashenko won handily.. I use quotations because the OSCE reported:

The Belarusian presidential election on 19 March failed to meet OSCE commitments for democratic elections, despite the fact that voters were offered the potential for a genuine choice between four candidates.

Arbitrary use of state power and widespread detentions showed a disregard for the basic rights of freedom of assembly, association and expression, and raise doubts regarding the authorities' willingness to tolerate political competition.

The full text of the OSCE report can be found here.

There have been some protests in Minsk because of the outcome, but as I've written before, I'm not expecting a Orange revolution in Belarus anytime soon. This Times of London report by Jeremy Page doesn't make me feel any more sanguine:

President Lukashenko of Belarus declared yesterday that he had thwarted a Western plot to overthrow him, pouring scorn on the thousands who protested against his election victory.

About 5,000 opposition supporters protested again last night, setting up a dozen tents in central Minsk, after Western observers said that Sunday’s presidential poll had failed to meet international standards.

The US, which has branded Mr Lukashenko “Europe’s last dictator”, denounced his victory and backed opposition calls for a new election. The EU said that it would impose more visa bans on Belarussian officials.

But President Putin of Russia quickly congratulated Mr Lukashenko, highlighting the Kremlin’s determination to prevent another revolution in a former Soviet state. “The results of the election testify to the fact that the voters trust in your course,” he said.

Mr Lukashenko brushed aside his critics at a two-hour celebratory news conference. “The revolution that was so much talked about, and so much prepared for, failed. It couldn’t be otherwise,” he began, prompting applause from the 600 audience members — mostly state officials.

He derided the 10,000 people who demonstrated on Oktyabrskaya Square on Sunday night despite driving snow and a threat from the KGB chief that they could face the death penalty. “You saw the people who went on to the square. They were good-for-nothings.” He even suggested that God had intervened by sending a blizzard at the height of the protest. It was a vintage performance by the former collective farm manager who has resurrected Soviet-style economic and political controls since he was elected in 1994.

He sat alone beneath a giant plastic model of the Soviet-era national emblem, which he revived after taking power. A map of Europe showed Belarus to be about the size of France.

In one particularly stage-managed exchange, Sergei Gaydukevich, a candidate in the election who was widely regarded as a stooge, stood up to congratulate Mr Lukashenko. The President responded that he had voted for Mr Gaydukevich. “I have a tradition that I don’t vote for myself,” he said.

A Serbian woman asked if she could kiss Mr Lukashenko, on behalf of all Serbian women, for travelling to Belgrade while it was being bombed by Nato. When a French journalist asked about his threat to “break the neck” of anyone organising protests, he responded: “Is your neck broken?”

One thing I love about British papers, however, is that they can be much more blunt than comparable American papers. Take this paragraph:
Shown on national television, the conference was sure to appeal to his supporters in the countryside and the elderly. However, it only reinforced his image among younger Belarussians and most Westerners as a deluded megalomaniac.
UPDATE: A Fistful of Euros has more... including a link to a this fake Belarusian news blog, which is apparently being used as part of a policy simulation exercise for University of Kentucky's Patterson School of Diplomacy.

posted by Dan at 06:16 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The most interesting fact I learned today
Short [sperm] donors don't exist; because most women seek out tall ones, most [sperm] banks don't accept men under 5-foot-9.
Jennifer Egan, "Wanted: A Few Good Sperm" New York Times Magazine, March 19, 2006.
posted by Dan at 11:21 AM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

The Economist surveys Chicago

This week's Economist has its first survey of Chicago since 1980. As John Grimond writes, there have been a few changes during those years:

Appearances often deceive, but, in one respect at least, the visitor's first impression of Chicago is likely to be correct: this is a city buzzing with life, humming with prosperity, sparkling with new buildings, new sculptures, new parks, and generally exuding vitality. The Loop, the central area defined by a ring of overhead railway tracks, has not gone the way of so many other big cities' business districts—soulless by day and deserted at night. It bustles with shoppers as well as office workers. Students live there. So, increasingly, do gays, young couples and older ones whose children have grown up and fled the nest. Farther north, and south, old warehouses and factories have become home to artists, professionals and trendy young families. Not far to the east locals and tourists alike throng Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile, a stretch of shops as swanky as any to be found on Fifth Avenue in New York or Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Chicago is undoubtedly back.

Back, that is, from what many feared would be the scrapheap. In 1980, when The Economist last published a survey of Chicago, it found a city whose “façade of downtown prosperity” masked a creaking political machine, the erosion of its economic base and some of the most serious racial problems in America. There followed an intensely painful decade of industrial decline and political instability during which jobs, people and companies all left Chicago while politicians bickered and racial antagonisms flared or festered. Other cities with similar manufacturing economies, similar white flight and similar problems of race and class looked on in dismay. If Chicago, the capital of the Midwest, the city of big shoulders, the city that works, that toddlin' town (few places have generated so much braggadocio), were to descend into rust-bound decay, what chance was there for Pittsburgh, Cleveland, St Louis, Detroit and a score of smaller places?

Chicago's revival should not be judged merely by the manifest sparkle of the Loop and such districts as River North, the Gold Coast and Streeterville. A more telling indicator is the growth of population recorded in the most recent (2000) census: an increase of 4.0% for the city since 1990 (compared with 3.9% for Minneapolis, and losses of 5.4% for Cleveland, 7.5% for Detroit and 9.6% for Pittsburgh). Other signs of economic vigour include the arrival of Boeing, which moved its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago in 2001, the growth of the futures and derivatives markets embodied in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Board of Trade, and the decision to expand O'Hare to ensure it keeps its place as the busiest (depending on the measurement) airport in the country....

So Chicago seems to have weathered its period of deindustrialisation and emerged looking pretty robust. Other cities still groping for life after manufacturing death and trying to restore hope to their citizens and to the benighted neighbourhoods in which they live would do well to see what they can learn from Chicago's experience. This survey will try to do the work for them. It will examine an American success story. Is it as good as it seems? How much of it depends on Chicago's peculiar circumstances? How much could be repeated elsewhere

The survey suggests four reasons for Chicago's rebirth:
1) Geographical advantages unique to Chicago (Lake Michigan, being the largest city in the Midwest);

2) Immigration:

Though Latinos are individually poorer than other Chicagoans, their collective household income of $20 billion a year makes up nearly 10% of the six-county area's total. The sales-tax revenues generated in the shops of Little Village's 26th Street are, it is said, greater than those of any other retail corridor in Chicago but Magnificent Mile. Latinos are also a driving force in the region's property market.

Since 1990, the growth in the number of Latino workers has just about matched the growth in jobs in the region. And the numerical match has paralleled a geographical one: many Latinos go straight to the jobs, which are mostly in the suburbs, bypassing the inner city altogether. Thus one person in five in the six-county area is now a Latino, making a living, likely as not, as a gardener, labourer, office cleaner or waiter. In the 1990s, the Latino population doubled in each of the five suburban counties around Chicago.

3) Civic-minded businessmen:
Too much can be made of planning in Chicago: in many ways the city is a monument to the creativity of chaos. But the influence of business is hard to exaggerate. The people who run the place could, and sometimes do, fit into one room. Some are politicians; some are academics; some are heads of museums or hospitals or outfits like the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations or the MacArthur Foundation. But most are in business.

Indeed, if you are the boss of a big business anywhere in the Chicago area, you are expected to take an active part in the civic life of the city. Accordingly, the same names appear over and over again on the boards of universities, hospitals, museums, orchestras, opera companies and local charities. More to the point, business is almost always an active participant in any public endeavour, from school reform to the creation of Millennium Park, the brand new $475m park-cum-auditorium-cum-ice-rink-cum-fountain-cum-you-name-it just north of the Art Institute.

4) Richard Daley's focus on public housing, schools, and greenery.
Go check it out. Grimond makes way too much of Chicago's success at landing corporate eadquarters' like Boeing -- and I was surprised he never mentioned Ed Glaeser's work on the economics of Northern cities. Still, it's interesting reading.

posted by Dan at 09:18 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Trying for the full Huntington

As I've said before, I've greatly admired Samuel Huntington's career. Huntington's gift as an academic is that he has been unafraid to make the politically incorrect argument, regardless of the consequences. This doesn't always mean he is right -- but it does mean he's usually interesting.

I suspect that John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt are trying to copy the Huntington template in their essay, "The Israel Lobby" for the London Review of Books: Here's how it starts:

For the past several decades, and especially since the Six-Day War in 1967, the centrepiece of US Middle Eastern policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering support for Israel and the related effort to spread ‘democracy’ throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardised not only US security but that of much of the rest of the world. This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state? One might assume that the bond between the two countries was based on shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, but neither explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the US provides.

Instead, the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby’. Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical.

Well, that argument certainly won't rub anyone the wrong way.

Interested readers should be sure to check out the longer, footnoted paper which is archived at the Kennedy School of Government.

So do Mearsheimer and Walt achieve the full Huntington? No, not really.

"The Israel Lobby" is the academic equivalent of waving a big red cape at one's ideological opponents, hoping they'll foam at the mouth and act stark raving mad because the authors cited Chomsky or CommonDreams, or because, "the Fatah office in Washington distributed the article to an extensive mailing list." [Or maybe they're pissed that they didn't crack the 100 Most Dangerous Professors in America!!--ed.]

So let's avoid that bait. Reading the essay, I can conclude the following:

1) Mearsheimer and Walt make a decent case of arguing that interest group lobbying is responsible for some aspects of U.S. policy towards the Greater Middle East.

Now this asssertion alone is enough to make people very uncomfortable at cocktail parties and other venues. Whenever I bring up ethnic lobbying in my American foreign policy class and mention Israel, everyone in the room tenses up. So kudos to Mearsheimer and Walt for speaking the taboo thought.

2) Shot through these papers are an awful lot of casual assertions that don't hold up to close scrutiny [Which makes it eerily similar to some of your blog posts!!--ed. True that.]. The authors assert that, "If Washington could live with a nuclear Soviet Union, a nuclear China or even a nuclear North Korea, it can live with a nuclear Iran. And that is why the Lobby must keep up constant pressure on politicians to confront Tehran." I'm pretty sure that there's more to U.S. opposition to Iran possessing nuclear weapons than the protection of Israel.

From the longer Kennedy paper, Mearsheimer and Walt make a fascinating logical assertion: "[T]he mere existence of the Lobby suggests that unconditional support for Israel is not in the American national interest. If it was, one would not need an organized special interest group to bring it about. But because Israel is a strategic and moral liability, it takes relentless political pressure to keep U.S. support intact." What's fascinating about this quote are the implicit assumptions contained within it: i) the only interest group in existence is the Lobby, and; ii) in the absence of the Lobby, a well-defined sense of national interest will always guide American foreign policy. It would be very problematic for good realists like Mearsheimer and Walt to allow for other interest groups -- oil companies, for example -- to exist. This would allow for a much greater role for domestic politics than realists ever care to admit.

Finally, they argue that the U.S. invaded Iraq only primarily because Israel and the Lobby -- in the form of neoconservatives -- wanted it. I wrote my take on this argument three years ago:

The notion that such a conspiracy exists rests on the belief that the administration's foreign policy principals--Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, and Bush himself--have somehow been duped by the neoconservatives into acting in a manner contrary to their beliefs. But while critics have never lacked for accusations against these officials, being weak-willed is not among them. In the end, it's far more likely that Bush is exploiting the neoconservatives' ideological arsenal to advance his preferred set of policies than vice versa.
3) There are sins of omission as well as commission. Walt and Mearsheimer assert that Israel has been a "strategic burden." They do a good job of cataloging why that's the case -- but omit important examples of Israel being useful, such as the 1981 Osirik bombing. They also go into depth on the Bush administration's policy towards the Palestinian Authority, but never mention the arms shipment that Arafat lied to Bush about as a causal factor behind Bush's decision to freeze out Arafat.

4) The evidence is pretty thin in some sections. To demonstrate the current political power of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, they cite a 1984 election where AIPAC was allegedly curcial. They argue that the Israeli-Palestine problem is at the root of Al Qaeda's beef with the United States -- which is funny, because I was pretty sure it was the presence of U.S. forces near the holy shrines of Mecca and Medina. They claim the Lobby is responsible for U.S. policy towards Syria, but that policy amounts to little more than some empty sabre-rattling.

After finishing the article, I began to wonder whether the paper is simple a massive exercise in explaining away a data point that realism can't cover. Most realists opposed the Iraq War, and Mearsheimer and Walt were no exception. They can and should take some normative satisfaction in being proven right by what happened after the invasion. However, I suspect as positive social scientists they are bothered by the fact that the U.S. invaded Iraq anyway when realism would have predicted otherwise.

When realists are confronted with contradictory data, they tend to fall back on auxiliary hypotheses -- the cult of the offensive, the myth of empire -- that have very little to do with realism. Explaining away Iraq on The Lobby might have a whiff of the Paranoid Style, but it's certainly consistent with the literature.

In the end, I think Mearsheimer and Walt get to the full Huntington -- but alas, it's the Huntington of Who We Are? rather than The Soldier and the State.

There's more I could write about, but I'm eager to hear what others think.

UPDATE: OK, I should have said, "I'm eager to hear what others think... after they read the article."

Two final thoughts. First, I'm surprised and disappointed that the article has gotten zero coverage from the mainstream media in the United States. I completely agree with Walt and Mearsheimer that this is a topic that needs more open debate.

Second, there's one non-event that keeps gnawing at me after reading the piece. If "The Lobby" is as powerful as Walt and Mearsheimer claim, why hasn't there been a bigger push in the United States for more fuel-efficient cars, alternative energy sources, and the like? After all, the only strategic resource that Israel's enemies possess is large quantities of oil. If "The Lobby" is so powerful and goal-directed, wouldn't they have an incentive to reduce the strategic value of their advesaries?

ANOTHER UPDATE: See this follow-up post on the Walt/Mearsheimer paper as well.

posted by Dan at 12:27 PM | Comments (109) | Trackbacks (0)

Open National Security Strategy thread

I'm crashing on a few projects today, but that shouldn't prevent readers from commenting on the 2006 National Security Stategy that the White House released yesterday. From the introduction:

Our national security strategy is founded upon two pillars:

The first pillar is promoting freedom, justice, and human dignity – working to end tyranny, to promote effective democracies, and to extend prosperity through free and fair trade and wise development policies. Free governments are accountable to their people, govern their territory effectively, and pursue economic and political policies that benefit their citizens. Free governments do not oppress their people or attack other free nations. Peace and international stability are most reliably built on a foundation of freedom.

The second pillar of our strategy is confronting the challenges of our time by leading a growing community of democracies. Many of the problems we face – from the threat of pandemic disease, to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to terrorism, to human trafficking, to natural disasters – reach across borders. Effective multinational efforts are essential to solve these problems. Yet history has shown that only when we do our part will others do theirs. America must continue to lead.

The general thread of media commentary is that this is a more realist strategy than the 2002 document. I'll leave it to my readers to judge the accuracy of that assessment.

posted by Dan at 09:28 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

In honor of March Madness....

As the NCAA men's basketball tournament gets under way, I'm glad to see that the Chicago Tribune's Julia Keller brings up a fascinating phenomenon among both sports fans and many of my friends -- an irrational hatred of Duke:

As Duke University begins the 2006 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament as the overall No. 1 seed -- meaning those pesky Blue Devils stand a fair chance of hanging around as the bracket unravels to the fortunate quartet -- it is time, clearly, to answer the question looming over the college sports world like a freeze-frame of a jump hook:

Why do so many of us hate Duke?

Is it the fact that they've been astonishingly successful, year after year, or that many referees seem curiously reluctant to whistle fouls on Duke personnel?

Is it the fact that Duke is an inarguably fine school with a sterling academic reputation -- enough to turn those of us from less august institutions a sickly shade of pea-green from sheer envy?

Is it the antipathy that seems naturally to accrue to Duke's consonant-enriched Coach Mike Krzyzewski?

For me, it's all of the above -- plus the perennial assumption that Duke players are philosopher-kings and Coach K is a Plato with a pate enhanced by Grecian Formula.

Lest one think this problem only occurs among laymen, sportswriter Bomani Jones confesses, while watching the ACC tourney, "I nearly got an ulcer sitting at that [press] table not rooting against Duke."

Anyone else out there feel this way? UPDATE: Yes, apparently Abu Aardvark does.

posted by Dan at 11:18 AM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Now the circle is almost complete....

I'm just gonna reprint this UPI report in its entirety and not say anything:

"Sex and the City" star Sarah Jessica Parker and "Jack & Bobby" writer Vanessa Taylor are developing a new HBO comedy based on "Washingtonienne."

Parker and Taylor will executive produce the half-hour comedy based on the steamy novel by Jessica Cutler, Daily Variety reported Wednesday. Cutler will act as a consultant to the project.

Parker is not expected to appear on the show, the first from her Pretty Matches Productions, Variety said.

Although the show is in its very early stages, Taylor told Variety to expect "a morally ambiguous" and "controversial character."

[You're really not going to say anything?--ed. Nothing.... except to ponder when Ana Marie Cox's novel will get optioned into a TV movie starring Alicia Witt. Then thecircle will be truly complete.]

posted by Dan at 09:35 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Has Ahmadinejad jumped the shark?

Michael Slackman writes in the New York Times that both Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are catching some flak for their handling of the nuclear negotiations:

Some people in powerful positions have begun to insist that the confrontational tactics of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have been backfiring, making it harder instead of easier for Iran to develop a nuclear program.

This week, the United Nations Security Council is meeting to take up the Iranian nuclear program. That referral and, perhaps more important, Iran's inability so far to win Russia's unequivocal support for its plans have empowered critics of Mr. Ahmadinejad, according to political analysts with close ties to the government.

One senior Iranian official, who asked to remain anonymous because of the delicate nature of the issue, said: "I tell you, if what they were doing was working, we would say, 'Good.' " But, he added: "For 27 years after the revolution, America wanted to get Iran to the Security Council and America failed. In less than six months, Ahmadinejad did that."

One month ago, the same official had said with a laugh that those who thought the hard-line approach was a bad choice were staying silent because it appeared to be succeeding.....

Average Iranians do not seem uniformly confident at the prospect of being hit with United Nations sanctions.

From the streets of Tehran to the ski slopes outside the city, some people have begun to joke about the catch phrase of the government — flippantly saying, "Nuclear energy is our irrefutable right."

Reformers, whose political clout as a movement vanished after the last election, have also begun to speak out. And people with close ties to the government said high-ranking clerics had begun to give criticism of Iran's position to Ayatollah Khamenei, which the political elite sees as a seismic jolt.

Now, this might be a case of wishful thinking reporting. Much like the hope a few years ago that Iran's regime would be overthrown in a democratic revolution, reports of a regime crack-up are intoxicating because we so desperately want them to be true.

That said, Slackman has a source who explains why Iran has found itself in the pickle it's in -- like Saddam Hussein before them, the Iranians counted on the Russians way too much:

[O]ne political scientist who speaks regularly with members of the Foreign Ministry said that Iran had hinged much of its strategy on winning Russia's support. The political scientist asked not to be identified so as not to compromise his relationship with people in the government.

The political scientist said some negotiators believed that by being hostile to the West they would be able to entice Moscow into making Tehran its stronghold in the Middle East. "They thought the turn east was the way forward," the person said. "That was a belief and a vision."

The person added, "They thought, 99 percent, Russia would seize the opportunity and back the Iranian leaders."

And herein provides a lesson that I might add to my small compendium of Princess Bride-level maxims of international relations that I plann on publishing in my dotage:
1) Never get involved in a land war in Asia;

2) All French diplomacy is predicated on maximizing the self-importance of France;

3) Never trust the Russians to be a dependable ally.

posted by Dan at 10:48 AM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)

A follow-up on income inequality

A quick follow-up to a post on income inequality from earlier this month.

Part of the concern that some bloggers/economists have voiced about the rise in inequality is that it's a secular trend that shows no sign of stopping. Which brings us to an interesting fact -- in recent years, income inequality in the United States has been falling. Geoffrey Colvin explains in Fortune:

Rising income inequality has settled comfortably into America's big economic picture as a reliable--and much lamented--megatrend. Starting around the late 1960s, U.S. incomes started to become more disparate. The trend was remarkably steady. Recessions might slow it down or briefly reverse it, but mostly it just marched on....

But now it appears just possible--based on the latest research available--that the whole chain of causation is falling apart. Wait before you cheer.

The evidence is in a new Fed study of family finances, the latest in a triennial series. It shows modest but clear signs of incomes converging rather than diverging. Between 2001 and 2004 (the most recent year for which data are available), incomes of the poorest 20 percent of families increased while incomes of the richest 20 percent fell. Basically, the poorest families' share of total incomes grew, and the richest families' share shrank. Incomes became just a little less unequal.

What explains this? Colvin proposes... wait for it... offshore outsourcing:
What could that trend reversal mean? The most obvious explanation seems highly counterintuitive: The skill premium, the extra value of higher education, must have declined after three decades of growing. The Fed researchers didn't pursue that line of thought, but economists Lawrence Mishel and Jared Bernstein at the Economic Policy Institute did, and they found supporting evidence in the new Economic Report of the President, issued within days of the new Fed survey. It cited Census Bureau data showing that the premium had indeed fallen sharply between 2000 and 2004. The real annual earnings of college graduates actually declined 5.2 percent, while those of high school graduates, strangely enough, rose 1.6 percent.

That is so contrary to the conventional view of this major economic trend that it demands explanation. One possibility is that it's just a blip. Could be, but remember that 2004, when the readings started going haywire, was a year of strong economic growth, low unemployment, and rising productivity, offering no obvious reason to expect weird results.

The other main possibility is that something unexpected and fundamental is changing in the way the U.S. economy rewards education. We don't yet have complete data, but anyone with his eyes open can see obvious possibilities. Just maybe the jobs most threatened by outsourcing are no longer those of factory workers with a high school education, as they have been for decades, but those of college-educated desk workers.

Perhaps so many lower-skilled jobs have now left the U.S.--or have been created elsewhere to begin with--that today's high school grads are left doing jobs that cannot be easily outsourced--driving trucks, stocking shelves, building houses, and the like. So their pay is holding up.

Now, this would certainly be a reversal of course. Most economists allow that trade is responsible for a small increase in income inequality (though it's not all that important compared to other factors).

I'm pretty dubious of this assertion, since it's my understanding that IT salaries have been increasing again ever since demand for IT went up. So mu hunch is that Colvin is over-extrapolating from the reduction in income inequality that came with the brief 2001 recession.

Still, I eagerly await my reader's reaction to the offshoring hypothesis.

posted by Dan at 09:50 AM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

When conservatives populate the earth....

Thanks to the redesigned Real Clear Politics, I see that Philip Longman has a USA Today op-ed and an essay in Foreign Policy on how conservatives tend to breed more than liberals. From the op-ed:

What's the difference between Seattle and Salt Lake City? There are many differences, of course, but here's one you might not know. In Seattle, there are nearly 45% more dogs than children. In Salt Lake City, there are nearly 19% more kids than dogs.
This curious fact might at first seem trivial, but it reflects a much broader and little-noticed demographic trend that has deep implications for the future of global culture and politics. It's not that people in a progressive city such as Seattle are so much fonder of dogs than are people in a conservative city such as Salt Lake City. It's that progressives are so much less likely to have children.

It's a pattern found throughout the world, and it augers a far more conservative future — one in which patriarchy and other traditional values make a comeback, if only by default. Childlessness and small families are increasingly the norm today among progressive secularists. As a consequence, an increasing share of all children born into the world are descended from a share of the population whose conservative values have led them to raise large families.

Today, fertility correlates strongly with a wide range of political, cultural and religious attitudes. In the USA, for example, 47% of people who attend church weekly say their ideal family size is three or more children. By contrast, 27% of those who seldom attend church want that many kids....

Why couldn't tomorrow's Americans and Europeans, even if they are disproportionately raised in patriarchal, religiously minded households, turn out to be another generation of '68? The key difference is that during the post-World War II era, nearly all segments of society married and had children. Some had more than others, but there was much more conformity in family size between the religious and the secular. Meanwhile, thanks mostly to improvements in social conditions, there is no longer much difference in survival rates for children born into large families and those who have few if any siblings.

Tomorrow's children, therefore, unlike members of the postwar baby boom generation, will be for the most part descendants of a comparatively narrow and culturally conservative segment of society. To be sure, some members of the rising generation may reject their parents' values, as often happens. But when they look for fellow secularists with whom to make common cause, they will find that most of their would-be fellow travelers were quite literally never born.

This is one of those arguments that sounds ineluctable when first proposed... but then I begin to wonder whether it will hold as strongly as Longman believes. Other factors beyond politics affect fertility rates. Labor market institutions still have a powerful effect as well.

Assuming Longman is correct, gowever, the interesting question is, why is this phenomenon taking place? Longman implicit assumption is that it's because of the waning of patriarchy among liberals:

Throughout the broad sweep of human history, there are many examples of people, or classes of people, who chose to avoid the costs of parenthood. Indeed, falling fertility is a recurring tendency of human civilization. Why then did humans not become extinct long ago? The short answer is patriarchy.

Patriarchy does not simply mean that men rule. Indeed, it is a particular value system that not only requires men to marry but to marry a woman of proper station. It competes with many other male visions of the good life, and for that reason alone is prone to come in cycles. Yet before it degenerates, it is a cultural regime that serves to keep birthrates high among the affluent, while also maximizing parents’ investments in their children. No advanced civilization has yet learned how to endure without it.

Through a process of cultural evolution, societies that adopted this particular social system—which involves far more than simple male domination—maximized their population and therefore their power, whereas those that didn’t were either overrun or absorbed. This cycle in human history may be obnoxious to the enlightened, but it is set to make a comeback....

Patriarchy may enjoy evolutionary advantages, but nothing has ensured the survival of any particular patriarchal society. One reason is that men can grow weary of patriarchy’s demands. Roman aristocrats, for example, eventually became so reluctant to accept the burdens of heading a family that Caesar Augustus felt compelled to enact steep “bachelor taxes” and otherwise punish those who remained unwed and childless. Patriarchy may have its privileges, but they may pale in comparison to the joys of bachelorhood in a luxurious society—nights spent enjoyably at banquets with friends discussing sports, war stories, or philosophy, or with alluring mistresses, flute girls, or clever courtesans.

Women, of course, also have reason to grow weary of patriarchy, particularly when men themselves are no longer upholding their patriarchal duties. Historian Suzanne Cross notes that during the decades of Rome’s civil wars, Roman women of all classes had to learn how to do without men for prolonged periods, and accordingly developed a new sense of individuality and independence. Few women in the upper classes would agree to a marriage to an abusive husband. Adultery and divorce became rampant.

Often, all that sustains the patriarchal family is the idea that its members are upholding the honor of a long and noble line. Yet, once a society grows cosmopolitan, fast-paced, and filled with new ideas, new peoples, and new luxuries, this sense of honor and connection to one’s ancestors begins to fade, and with it, any sense of the necessity of reproduction. “When the ordinary thought of a highly cultivated people begins to regard ‘having children’ as a question of pro’s and con’s,” Oswald Spengler, the German historian and philosopher, once observed, “the great turning point has come.”

Developing... over many generations.

UPDATE: Kieran Healy takes the time and effort I lacked to demonstrate why Longman's hypothesis is likely wrong.

posted by Dan at 11:10 PM | Comments (22) | Trackbacks (0)

Getting lectured to by the Chinese

John Thornhill reports in the Financial Times that China doesn't like the way people are bitching about globalization:

Long Yongtu, the diplomat who negotiated China’s entry into the World Trade Organisation, has urged western governments to stop politicising trade and start telling their voters the truth about globalisation.

He said that some politicians in Europe and North America had been blaming China for problems in their own economies that they had failed to tackle themselves.

“There are many misconceptions about globalisation in Europe and North America,” he said. “Governments should not deliberately politicise trade and economic matters.”

China and other developing nations in Asia did not like to be a scapegoat, he said on Saturday at the World Deauville Conference in France, which is designed to strengthen relations between Asia and Europe. “We have to have more public education to understand that globalisation is unavoidable.”

To which I say -- it would be a hell of a lot easier not to politicize trade with China if the government didn't a) intervene on a continuous basis to keep the yuan undervalued; and b) try to create companies that are global competitors but happened to be state-owned.

[You're saying that these things are a big deal?--ed. I'm much less troubled than most of my readers on China's state interventions -- it's their inefficient policies, not ours. However, to ask Western governments to keep politics and economics separate when the Chinese state can't seem to do the same thing is a bit rich.]

UPDATE: Based on other FT stories, I'd have to conclude that this exhortation has had exactly zero impact on either the United States or the European Union.

posted by Dan at 12:18 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, March 13, 2006

What is the state of the intellectual in politics?

Over at The American Interest's web site, Francis Fukuyama and Bernard-Henri Lévy have a fascinating exchange on the relative merits of Lévy's American Vertigo. The part I found particularly fascinating comes near the end:

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA: The idea that an intellectual must always speak truth to power and never compromise means for ends seems to me a rather naive view of how intellectuals actually behave, and reflects in many ways the powerlessness of European intellectuals and their distance from the real world of policy and politics. Of course, the academy must try to remain an institutional bastion of intellectual freedom that is not subject to vagaries of political opinion. But in the United States, to a much greater degree than in Europe, scholars, academics and intellectuals have moved much more easily between government and private life than in Europe, and are much more involved in formulating, promoting and implementing policies than their European counterparts. This necessarily limits certain kinds of intellectual freedom, but I'm not sure that, in the end, this is such a bad thing.

I myself worked for more than ten years at the RAND Corporation, the original "think tank" satirized in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove that did contract research for the U.S. Air Force and Defense Department. Obviously, one cannot be a free thinker in a place like that (Daniel Ellsberg tried to be and he was fired), and that is one of the reasons that I eventually left to go to a university. But overall, I believe that a democracy is better off having intellectuals pay systematic attention to policy issues, even if it is occasionally corrupting. Having to deal not with ideal solutions but with the real world of power and politics is a good discipline for an intellectual. There is a fine line between being realistic and selling one's soul, and in the case of the Iraq war many neoconservatives got so preoccupied with policy advocacy that they blinded themselves to reality. But it's not clear that virtue necessarily lies on the side of intellectuals who think they are simply being honest....

BERNARD-HENRI LÉVY: That's it. I think we have come to heart of what divides us....

The problem lies with the definition of what you and I call an intellectual, and beyond its definition, its function. Unlike you, I don't think an intellectual's purpose is to run the RAND Corporation or any institution like it. Not because I despise RAND, or because I believe in Kubrick's burlesque portrayal of it. No, I just think that while some people are running RAND, others no more or no less worthy or deserving should be dealing with, shall we say, the unfiltered truth. A democracy needs both, imperatively and absolutely both—"realistic" intellectuals and "idealistic" intellectuals. Both types and the functions they embody have recognizable places inside society, even if some societies value one type more than the other. America needs intellectuals with a selfless concern for sense, complexity and truth. This is just as essential to its equilibrium (possibly even to its moral fiber and therefore to its good health) as the existence of universal suffrage or the separation of powers à la Montesquieu.

I suspect that Fukuyama would not disagree with Lévy's express desire for both kinds of intellectuals. I do wonder, however, about the health of the institutions that support both sets of intellectuals in the United States. [What about Europe?--ed. Oh, Lord know, the situation is probably worse there -- but that's not my concern here.] The trouble with think tanks and the like is a seasonal topic of conversation in the blogosphere. As for the academy, well, let's just say that many of my colleagues make Hollywood seem politically grounded by comparison.

Is the system broken? If so, can it be fixed? If so, how?

posted by Dan at 10:00 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

So what was Saddam thinking?

In the New York Times, Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor get their hands on a classified United States military report on what Saddam was thinking before and during the Second Gulf War. And it turns out that Saddam was petrified of insurgencies more than the U.S. Army:

As American warplanes streaked overhead two weeks after the invasion began, Lt. Gen. Raad Majid al-Hamdani drove to Baghdad for a crucial meeting with Iraqi leaders. He pleaded for reinforcements to stiffen the capital's defenses and permission to blow up the Euphrates River bridge south of the city to block the American advance.

But Saddam Hussein and his small circle of aides had their own ideas of how to fight the war. Convinced that the main danger to his government came from within, Mr. Hussein had sought to keep Iraq's bridges intact so he could rush troops south if the Shiites got out of line.

General Hamdani got little in the way of additional soldiers, and the grudging permission to blow up the bridge came too late. The Iraqis damaged only one of the two spans, and American soldiers soon began to stream across.

The episode was just one of many incidents, described in a classified United States military report, other documents and in interviews, that demonstrate how Mr. Hussein was so preoccupied about the threat from within his country that he crippled his military in fighting the threat from without.

Foreign Affairs has published an extract from the actual report by Kevin Woods, James Lacey, and Williamson Murray for U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM). From the report, it appears that Saddam Hussein's theory of international relations had a lot in common with Norman Angell and Woodrow Wilson:
Judging from his private statements, the single most important element in Saddam's strategic calculus was his faith that France and Russia would prevent an invasion by the United States. According to Aziz, Saddam's confidence was firmly rooted in his belief in the nexus between the economic interests of France and Russia and his own strategic goals: "France and Russia each secured millions of dollars worth of trade and service contracts in Iraq, with the implied understanding that their political posture with regard to sanctions on Iraq would be pro-Iraqi. In addition, the French wanted sanctions lifted to safeguard their trade and service contracts in Iraq. Moreover, they wanted to prove their importance in the world as members of the Security Council -- that they could use their veto to show they still had power."

Ibrahim Ahmad Abd al-Sattar, the Iraqi army and armed forces chief of staff, claimed that Saddam believed that even if his international supporters failed him and the United States did launch a ground invasion, Washington would rapidly bow to international pressure to halt the war. According to his personal interpreter, Saddam also thought his "superior" forces would put up "a heroic resistance and . . . inflict such enormous losses on the Americans that they would stop their advance." Saddam remained convinced that, in his own words, "Iraq will not, in any way, be like Afghanistan. We will not let the war become a picnic for the American or the British soldiers. No way!"

Go check it all out.

posted by Dan at 12:57 AM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Los Angeles Times on the conservative crackup

The Sunday Current section of the Los Angeles Times has three articles on how George W. Bush has betrayed conservatism.

Jeffrey Hart writes how Bush is too much of an ideologue to be a conservative in the Burkean sense.

Bruce Bartlett writes how Bush is too much of a spendthrift to be a conservative in the fiscal sense

And your truly writes how Bush has been too inconsistent and too incompetent to be a conservative in the foreign policy sense:

[D]octrinal disputes aside, Republicans like me are angry at Bush because he has frittered away one of the party's greatest assets — the belief that when it came to international relations, the GOP was the party of competence. Between 1965 and 2000, analysts gave Republican presidents better grades than Democrats in managing American foreign policy.

The latest public opinion polls, however, give congressional Democrats a new edge on national security issues. Which is not surprising given the administration's failures at matters that should be routine — interagency cooperation, contingency planning, congressional consultations, alliance management and so on.

In the eyes of his party, Bush's biggest foreign policy sin is not his aims, or even his means. It's that he has done the improbable — he's made the Democrats look like a credible alternative.

Enjoy your conservative crackup!!

posted by Dan at 09:47 AM | Comments (33) | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The dumbest economic policy of the year

Longtime readers of might believe that, given my rantings on the scuttled ports deal, that I would say this is the stupidest economic policy implemented this year.

You would be wrong.

No, when it comes to ass-backward economics, I'm afraid that not even the United States Congress can compete with Argentinian president Nestor Kirchner. Patrick McDonnell explains in the Los Angeles Times:

Argentine President Nestor Kirchner has a plan to fight rising inflation and escalating food prices: Let them eat beef.

In an extraordinary decision, the government this week announced a six-month ban on most beef exports from the world's third-largest purveyor of the meat.

In Argentina, prime beef is a cultural icon, rivaling tango, soccer and the late Eva Peron. Argentines are voracious beefeaters, consuming 143 pounds per capita annually.

But consumers here have been grumbling about beef prices for months, and Kirchner — a left-leaning populist often at odds with big business — presented the ban as a way to protect his people from export-driven price hikes.

The government hopes that meat targeted for overseas sale will now stay at home. Increased supplies will reduce domestic prices, which skyrocketed 20% last year, surpassing the worrisome inflation rate of more than 12%.

"It doesn't interest us to export at the cost of hunger for the people," Kirchner declared.

The president's edict took effect Friday. Delighted shoppers rushed to butcher shops to inquire whether prices had dropped yet from the $2 or so a pound for the prime cuts that can go for 10 times as much in the United States and Europe.

"The president's move was absolutely necessary in the moment we are living," said Hector Polino, who heads a consumer group that is critical of rising prices.

What will the effects of an export ban be? McDonnell summarizes this nicely:
[C]attlemen said Kirchner's move would kill the golden calf. Beef exports earn vital foreign exchange for Argentina and amounted to a record $1.4 billion last year. Foreign sales rose 24%.

Cattle farmers say the export ban will probably reduce supplies in the long term, cost them hundreds of millions of dollars and throw thousands of people out of work.

"The plants will begin to shut down," Carlos Oliva Funes, president of Swift Armour Argentina, a large meat producer, told the conservative daily paper La Nacion.

"This is like telling Colombia it cannot export coffee," said Javier Jayo Ordoqui, who heads a rancher's association outside Buenos Aires, the capital. "This is cattle country."

Indeed, on Friday, prices were reported to have plunged as much as 20% at Liniers, the country's largest live cattle market. Economists predicted that modestly lower prices would eventually trickle down to consumers.

Kirchner will lower beef prices -- in the most damaging, inefficient way possible.

posted by Dan at 10:55 AM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (0)

A new twist on Fight Club

The first rule of watching Fight Club -- try not to think about the plot holes in Fight Club.

Naturally, I violated this rule the first and only time I watched it. The thing that kept running through my head was, "Gee, all of the people who supposedly hold these degrading jobs seem to be Anglos. I'm pretty sure in the real world a large fraction of these jobs would be taken by immigrants."

I raise this because of the front page of the Chicago Tribune this morning:

In a show of strength that surprised even organizers, tens of thousand of immigrants poured into the Loop Friday, bringing their calls for immigration reform to the heart of the city's economic and political power.

What started as a word-of-mouth campaign, then spread through the foreign language media, grabbed the attention of the entire city by midday, as a throng 2 miles long marched from Union Park on the Near West Side to Federal Plaza.

Police estimated the crowd as large as 100,000, making it one of the biggest pro-immigrant rallies in U.S. history, according to national advocates.

Observers said the turnout could galvanize both sides in the immigration debate, launching a grass-roots pro-immigrant movement while provoking a backlash among those who want stricter controls.

The trigger for the rally was a controversial federal bill that would crack down on those who employ or help illegal immigrants. But the broader message--carried mostly by Mexicans, but also by a smattering of Poles, Irish and Chinese--was that immigrants are too integral and large a part of Chicago to be ignored.

This was the part that reinded me of Fight Club:
As they transformed the Loop with their presence, immigrants made a powerful statement elsewhere by their absence.

Without his immigrant employees, a Northwest Side body shop owner gave up and closed for the day. An Italian restaurant in Downers Grove relied on temps to cook and managers to bus tables. High school students walked out en masse....

Whole shifts of workers left their jobs to underscore the importance of immigrant workers. One server from an Italian restaurant came in his work tie and apron, draped with a U.S. flag. Construction workers, still wearing hardhats, came straight from their job sites. Clerks from the El Guero market in Aurora piled into the store's delivery van, riding on produce boxes.

Alex Garcia and about 10 co-workers from a Joliet commercial sign company rode a Metra train to Chicago's Union Station, walked out to Union Park, and then retraced their steps as they marched back to the Loop.

"Most people don't realize how much work we do, but it's part of their daily lives," he said. "We are putting up all the buildings and cooking all the food. Today, they'll understand."

With Congress already set to enhance its ability to block foreign direct investment, I, for one, look forward to a reasoned, rational debate on immigration policy.

posted by Dan at 09:33 AM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, March 9, 2006

March's Books of the Month

The theme of this month's books is that they're both about how the policy hangover left by the Bush administration.

The international relations book is Francis Fukuyama's America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy. This short book provides a nice summary of Fukuyama's take on neoconservatism, why he parted ways with other neocons on the war with Iraq, and where to go from here. I've only gotten through the first chapter so far, but the book does an excellent job of providing an intellectual history of neoconservative thought. Like Matt Yglesias, I'm not exactly sure how Fukuyama's "realistic Wilsonianism" is different from "just regular old liberal internationalism," but I haven't finished the book yet, so give me time. UPDATE: Well, now I've finished it, and it turns out Fukuyama thinks the same thing on p. 215: "What I have labeled realistic Wilsonianism could be alternatively described as a hard-headed liberal internationalism."

The general interest book for this month is Bruce Bartlett's Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy. Publisher's Weekly has a concise symmary:

Bartlett's attack boils down to one key premise: Bush is a shallow opportunist who has cast aside the principles of the "Reagan Revolution" for short-term political gains that may wind up hurting the American economy as badly as, if not worse than, Nixon's did. As part of a simple, point-by-point critique of Bush's "finger-in-the-wind" approach to economic leadership, Bartlett singles out the Medicare prescription drug bill of 2003— "the worst piece of legislation ever enacted"—as a particularly egregious example of the increases in government spending that will, he says, make tax hikes inevitable. Bush has further weakened the Republican Party by failing to establish a successor who can run in the next election, Bartlett says. If the Reaganites want to restore the party's tradition of fiscal conservatism and small government, he worries, let alone keep the Democrats out of the White House, they will have their work cut out for them.
How damning is the book? The Bush administration could not send anyone rebut Bartlett at a Cato forum on Bartlett's thesis.

Impostor really should be read with Hacker and Pierson's Off Center, because the two make for a very interesting comparison. Hacker and Pierson don't like Bush because they think he and his Congressional allies have shifted policy in a dramatically rightward direction. Bartlett doesn't like Bush because he thinks Bush and his allies have shifted policy in a dramatically Nixonian direction. The chapters in both books on Bush and regulation make for very interesting reading. [SIDE NOTE: Hacker and Pierson have written a response to my Forum book review. University types can access it here. I may respond to their response if I find the time.]

Go check them out!!

posted by Dan at 09:40 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Well, I feel much safer

I, for one, feel much safer that Dubai Ports World won't be operating port terminals at six American ports. Yes, even though shipping experts and homeland security experts agreed that there was little risk in having DPW take over P&O, I'm glad an American company will be running things.... even if U.S. capital might be more efficient at doing something else.

I feel particularly safe because even though DPW has pledged to divest its ownership of American operations, Knight-Ridder reports that Congress isn't taking any chances:

Senate Democrats pressed ahead with attempts to block DP World's takeover, and House leaders weighed whether to proceed as well.

Critics of the original deal weren't backing away from congressional action.

"I'm skeptical," said Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla. "I'd prefer (legislation) go through because it gives us a safeguard."
Likewise, Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said he didn't intend to remove the ports provision from an emergency spending bill for hurricane relief and the war in Iraq.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., added: "Congressional plans are to move forward with the appropriations language next week which kills the transaction. Just to make sure."

And might I finally add that I feel ultrasafe upon hearing word that the US Trade representative is planning to postpone talks for a USA-UAE free trade agreement. We sure sent the proper signal to foreign investors -- and it's not like the UAE could retaliate or anything.

With just a little more effort, I'm convinced that U.S. lawmakers can convince everyone in the Middle East that it doesn't matter how much you try to buy into the U.S.-promoted liberal economic order, no one will really trust you.

[Snarked out yet?--ed.] Yes, that felt good.

Whatever you think of the ports deal, this has been a major foreign policy f$%#-up. The UAE is the closest thing we have to a reliable, stable, Westernized ally on the Arabian peninsula, and both official Washington and the American public just pissed on their leg.

There is a lot of blame to go around here on this one, but I must reluctantly conclude that the Bush administration should shoulder most of it. Bizarrely, this is a case where I think they got the policy right but royally screwed up the politics. Both the failure to keep Congress in the loop after the CFIUS approval and the veto threat without consultation guaranteed a Congressional revolt.

I can't blame Congressmen too much for acting like short-sighted glory hogs driven by electoral considerations -- that's their job. So I'll join the crowd and blame Bush.

posted by Dan at 08:45 PM | Comments (31) | Trackbacks (0)

The state of the Democratic party leadership

Jacob Weisberg -- come on down and tell us how you really feel about the Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Howard Dean: Since assuming their positions, the three of them have shown themselves to be somewhere between useless and disastrous as party leaders. Individually, they lack substance and policy smarts (Pelosi); coherence and force (Reid); and steadiness and mainstream appeal (Dean). Collectively, they convey an image of liberal elitism, disarray, and crabbiness. Of the three, I think Pelosi comes off the worst:

To understand [Pelosi's] politics, think Huffington Post without the flashes of wit. Here is a typical Bush-bashing, cliché-ridden quote of hers: "The emperor has no clothes. When are people going to face the reality? Pull this curtain back!" Pelosi dismisses people who disagree as hoodwinked or stupid. She's not exactly Hillary Clinton herself, though. A five-minute interview is usually sufficient to exhaust her knowledge on any subject.
I certainly hope that in his next essay Weisberg will stop sugar-coating and tell us what he really thinks.

posted by Dan at 12:21 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Guess who wrote this report?

A major organization has just released its report on the U.S. human rights record in 2005. The report does not paint a pretty picture:

There exist serious infringements upon personal rights and freedoms by law enforcement and judicial organs in the United States.

Secret snooping is prevalent and illegal detention occurs from time to time. The recently disclosed Snoopgate scandal has aroused keen attention of the public in the United States. After the Sept.11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S. President has for dozens of times authorized the National Security Agency and other departments to wiretap some domestic phone calls. With this authorization, the National Security Agency may conduct surveillance over phone calls and e-mails of 500 U.S. citizens at a time. It is reported that from 2002 through 2004, there were at least 287 cases in which special agents of FBI were suspected of illegally conducting electronic surveillance. In one of the cases,a FBI agent conducted secret surveillance of an American citizen for five years without notifying the U.S. Department of Justice. On Dec. 21, 2005, the U.S. Senate voted to extend the Patriot Act,a move that aroused keen concern of public opinion. The law makes it easier for FBI agents to monitor phone calls and e-mails, to search homes and offices, and to obtain the business records of terrorism suspects.... the U.S. Defense Department had been secretly collecting information about U.S. citizens opposing the Iraq war and secretly monitoring all meetings for peace and against the war. According to a report of the New York Times, in recent years, FBI had been collecting information on large numbers of non-governmental organizations that participated in anti-war demonstrations everywhere in the United States through its monitoring network and other channels. The volume of collected information is stunning.

Now, guess who wrote this report?
Is it: 1) Amnesty International
2) Human Rights Watch
3) Freedom House
4) American Civil Liberties Union
5) The State Council of the People's Republic of China
You can find out the answer by clicking on the links.... or read after the jump.

Obviously, the only interesting answer is China.

Here's my question -- although some of the facts asserted in the report don't ring true ("the income level of African American families is only one-tenth of that of white families"), on the whole the report is about as well sourced as your typical NGO.

So, why was my instinct to automatically reject it? Because it's more than a bit rich for China's government to lecture the United States about surveillance techniques it carries out on a routine basis. However -- and here's the disturbing question -- if the U.S. engages in these practices as well, then what is the external validity of its own human rights report?

posted by Dan at 11:29 PM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)

Virginia Postrel is my hero

Click here and here for why.

And it's nice to see that her writing talents are also getting their due.

posted by Dan at 09:14 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

The House of Representatives engages in reasoned debate

Looks like the House of Representatives doesn't want to wait for the results of a 45-day review of the port deal, according to the Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman:

Efforts by the White House to hold off legislation challenging a Dubai-owned company's acquisition of operations at six major U.S. ports collapsed yesterday when House Republican leaders agreed to allow a vote next week that could kill the deal.

Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) will attach legislation to block the deal today to a must-pass emergency spending bill funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A House vote on the measure next week will set up a direct confrontation with President Bush, who sternly vowed to veto any bill delaying or stopping Dubai Ports World's purchase of London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steamship Co.

"Listen, this is a very big political problem," said House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), explaining that he had to give his rank-and-file members a chance to vote. "There are two things that go on in this town. We do public policy, and we do politics. And you know, most bills at the end of the day, the politics and the policy kind of come together, but not always. And we are into one of these situations where this has become a very hot political potato."

Ron Bonjean, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), said GOP leadership is "endorsing the viewpoint of our members and Chairman Lewis that we do not believe the U.S. should allow a government-owned company to operate American ports."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said last night that the administration is "committed to keeping open and sincere lines of communication with Congress." She added, though, that "the president's position is unchanged."....

The House is still boiling. Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), with bipartisan support, introduced legislation yesterday that would scuttle the deal; mandate that the owners of "critical infrastructure" in the United States, including ports, highways and power plants, be American; and demand that cargo entering U.S. ports be screened within six months of passage.

Hey, you ask me, Hunter is being too conservative. Why not require all employees as "critical infrastructure" facilities to be red-blooded Americans? Why aren't airports and airlines included? Why, do you realize that, even as I type this, there are foreign-born pilots flying state-owned airliners within a few miles of our major cities???!!!

And, you know, there are lots of products that make up America's "critical infrastructure" beyond transportation and tilities? What about oil and energy firms? Steel? Automobiles? Will wool and mohair be next? UPDATE: Bill Harshaw makes an excellent point in the comments -- we shouldn't let foreign governments intervene in our financial markets either! Surely such a law wouldn't affect America's economic position. Oh, wait.... ]

If the House had proposed this after the 45-day review, I could believe that some serious thought was going into this bill, even if I disagreed with it. What's going on now, however, is just protectionist bulls$%t.

posted by Dan at 08:37 AM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Blegging for help when the web works against me

I'm having two difficulties with the blog right now, and I'm appealing to the techies in the crowd for help:

1) The comment spam has become unbearable since upgrading my Moveable Type software, because it required me to get rid of MT-Blacklist. It's been suggested that the only way for me to fix this is to use Typekey, but I'd rather not foce my commenters to register. Is there an anti-spam plug-in I can use?

2) The New York Times' Opinionator has apparently linked to my post on income inequality, but since I don't subscribe, I have no friggin' clue what they've said. Will someone with a subscription please post what was said in the comments?

I bleg you, good people -- help out this poor, befuddled blogger.

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone for the assistance. Tthere may be some technical difficulties as I try to install some of these spam blockers.

posted by Dan at 09:09 AM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

How IR theory becomes OBE

There is a constant refrain for IR scholars to study "the real world," to analyze real world problems, generate policy-relevant theory, create work that speaks to the here and now. And, in truth, although the field can be faddish, there are ways in which, like many other disciplines, it moves slowly.

I bring this up because of Chris Gelpi, Peter Feaver, and Jason Reifler have an article in the Winter 2005/2006 issue of International Security entitled "Success Matters: Casualty Sensitivity and the War in Iraq." The nut of their argument:

In this article, we argue that the public will tolerate signiªcant numbers of U.S. combat casualties under certain circumstances. To be sure, the public is not indifferent to the human costs of American foreign policy, but casualties have not by themselves driven public attitudes toward the Iraq war, and mounting casualties have not always produced a reduction in public support. The Iraq case suggests that under the right conditions, the public will continue to support military operations even when they come with a relatively high human cost.

Our core argument is that the U.S. public’s tolerance for the human costs of war is primarily shaped by the intersection of two crucial attitudes: beliefs about the rightness or wrongness of the war, and beliefs about a war’s likely success. The impact of each attitude depends upon the other. Ultimately, however, we find that beliefs about the likelihood of success matter most in determining the public’s willingness to tolerate U.S. military deaths in combat.

Our findings imply that the U.S. public makes reasoned and reasonable judgments about an issue as emotionally charged and politically polarizing as fighting a war. Indeed, the public forms its attitudes regarding support for the war in Iraq in exactly the way one should hope they would: weighing the costs and benefits. U.S. military casualties stand as a cost of war, but they are a cost that the public is willing to pay if it thinks the initial decision to launch the war was correct, and if it thinks that the United States will prevail.

This thesis caused quite a sir a few months back, when Bush was outlining the "National Strategy for Victory In Iraq." I wrote then:
The assumption underlying Feaver and Gelpi's hypothesis is so simple that it's never stated in the article -- if a sufficiently large majority opposes an ongoing military intervention, any administration will have to withdraw regardless of the strategic wisdom of such a move. This is why, I suspect, the administration reacts so badly whenever it deals with domestic criticism about the war -- it recognizes that flagging domestic support will translate into a strategic straitjacket....

The Feaver/Gelpi solution to this conundrum is to have the President spell out a clear definition for victory. And my suspicion is that they're right -- so long as that definition contains criteria that can be verifiable by non-governmental sources.

Three months ago, the Feaver/Gelpi thesis was politically controversial. Now it's OBE -- overtaken by events. Given the current state of affairs in Iraq, public opinion has already rendered its judgment on what's happening there. I don't think the administration will succeed in translating those peceptions into any definition of victory that I'm familiar with.

So, In between the new story on this article, and the widespread availability of the article itself, the real world has moved on.

This does not mean, by the way, that thesis contained in the paper is wrong. It's just that it's no longer politically salient.

posted by Dan at 12:48 AM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, March 6, 2006

I get around...

One of the virtues of driving cross country several times is that you can produce this map:

create your own visited states map

[Yeah, but you study international relations. What about the rest of the world?--ed.] Then you get this map:

create your own visited countries map

One of my goals in life is to color in a lot of the white space south of the equator.

Hat tip: Daniel Nexon.

posted by Dan at 12:57 PM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Your Oscar predictions for 2006

Continuing an annual tradition here at since 2003, let's get right to our Independent Spirit Academy Award predictions for this Sunday night's event.

In contrast to last year, I'm pleased to report that my lovely wife and I were able to see almost all of the major films nominated this year. Naturally, it seems that this was unnecessary, since a lot of the races appear to be mortal locks of one kind or another. There isn't even a lot of controversy this year. [What about the Boston Globe op-ed by Michael Kalin asserting that Oscar host Jon Stewart is bad for the body politic?--ed. Oh, you mean the op-ed that presented an absurd thesis and provided exactly zero empirical evidence to support the argument? No, the only controversy is whether a) Kalin used compromising photos of someone on the Globe's editorial staff to crack the op-ed page (this would explain a lot of bizarre editorial decisions at major newspapers); and b) whether any of my readers can dig up an even dumber op-ed published this calendar year.]

As always, the hardworking staff here at provides two lists -- who will win and who should win.

Best Supporting Actor
Will win: George Clooney, Syrianna
Should win: Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man

Clooney was a triple threat this year, he's been a bankable movie star for five years, he put on 40 lbs. to play the role, and he gets under the skin of Bill O'Reilly. Is there any doubt?

Giamatti wins it in my book for degree of difficulty. He's in a cliche-ridden movie (Erika and I always have a good laugh when one of us looks at the other and says, "You're the champion of my heart" in our best faux-Jersey accent) playing a stock character of long-suffering but loyal sidekick. He still makes the guy compelling. That's acting.

Best Supporting Actress
Will win: Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener
Should win: Catherine Keener, Capote and The 40-Year Old Virgin

Weisz has picked up all the pre-Oscar awards, so she seems to be a lock for this one and can I just say I don't get it? I mean, OK, she's perfectly serviceable in the role, and Lord knows, she's easy on the eyes. Unlike Giamatti, however, she never seemed to add anything unique or interesting to the stock role of passionate crusader. Michelle Williams was much more compelling in Brokeback Mountain.

Keener, however, deserves the Oscar for playing two wildly divergent parts. She's all quite and stillness in Capote -- but I'd rather she win for The 40-Year Old Virgin. It's the toughest part in the movie to play (well, next to Steve Carrell), and yet she completely pulls off the "hot grandma" role.

Best Actor:
Will win: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
Should win: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote

Drezner's First Law of Oscar: Whenever there's a close race between two actors -- neither of whom has won an Oscar before -- the award will always go to the guy with the longer and better track record. Between Hoffman and Heath Ledger, this means Hoffman [Does this law hold for actresses?--ed. No, that's Drezner's Second Law of Oscar: whenever there's a close race between two actresses -- neither of whom has won an Oscar before -- the hotter actress wins. I'm not saying it's right -- I'm saying that's the way it is.]

In this case, Hoffman's win will be well-deserved. For me, the scene that clinched it was his diatribe at the bar to Harper Lee at the opening of To Kill a Mockingbird. That scene was Capote at his most loathsome, a harbinger of the dissolute, drnk narcissist he would become after In Cold Blood was released. Hoffman is willing to make his character completely unlikeable to service the movie.

In the end, it comes to this: I can see Hoffman playing Ledger's character in Brokeback -- whereas I can't see Ledger playing Capote.

Best Actress
Will win: Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
Should win: Maria Bello, A History of Violence

On Witherspoon, see what I wrote about George Clooney, and add the fact that she's a comedienne playing a dramatic role. Unless you're Jim Carrey, that's Oscar gold, baby.

I still can't believe Bello did not score a nomination -- and I didn't even like A History of Violence. You could argue that Bello had a supporting role, but given the weak field this year in the best actress category, I think she belongs here.

Best Director
Will win: Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
Should win: Tie, Lee and Bennett Miller, Capote

Ang Lee directing Brokeback was the perfect marriage of style to material, and he does a fine job. However, for my money MIller does something remarkable in Capote. Visually, the movie grabs your attention in the first half, especially in the contrast between the New York skyline and the flat Kansas landscape. As you begin to identify and understand the characters, however, Miller starts using more close-ups, focusing your attention on the people rather than the place. It's an arresting piece of work.

Best Picture
Will win: Brokeback Mountain
Should win: Tie, Capote and The 40-Year Old Virgin

I liked Brokeback a lot -- though to give Mickey Kaus some ammo, when I told my hetero friends that I was going to see it they almost instinctively recoiled in horror. And I'll confess that my affection for Capote might not be generalizable. However, as someone who gets paid to be a detached observer of real-world events, I found the theme of Capote to be much more interesting.

As for The 40-Year Old Virgin, look, it's just the funniest movie of the year.

Enjoy the show!! I'll be sure to post a post-awards update.

POST-AWARDS UPDATE: A few quick thoughts:

1) Worst. Montages. Ever. (except for the cowboy one -- that was quite funny). Grease is an epic???!!! The Day After Tomorrow is on par with All The President's Men??!! Thank God Jon Stewart said, "And none of those problems ever occurred again. Hooray for us."

2) I'm glad an American-sounding name won Best Actress.

3) Jon Stewart was great, George Clooney does self-deprecating well, and Reese Witherspoon veered awfully close to Sally Field-territory. The entire show had an off-kilter feel to it... in that Stewart gently mocked how out of touch Hollywood might be with the rest of the country, while the rest of the show seemed dedicated to proving that Stewart was understating his case. Most bizarre moment -- the slow-motion dance sequence during Kathleen's York's performance of the Crash theme.

4) I was batting 1.000, and then we get to Best Picture. Jack, I swear...

When Nicholson said Crash won Best Picture, it seemed so absurd to me that I was expecting Nicholson to say, "just kidding!" a second later. I dare my readers to name a worst Best Picture winner in the past 25 years. Crash will always be a testament to the effect that good actors can have on a one-dimensional, badly-plotted, didactic pile of Brechtian crap that passed for the script. What the f$%@? Hmmm..... I wonder if Hollywood still has a homophobia problem. [Or Capote and Brokeback split the pro-gay vote!!--ed. No, it looks like Kaus was right, but picked the wrong substitute winner. See also Tyler Cowen.]

5) They should create an Oscar for Best Hair just so Salma Hayek can win it.

LAST UPDATE: James Wolcott concludes: "The true theme of tonight's broadcast: boobies!" Er... I thought that was the theme every year.

posted by Dan at 10:09 AM | Comments (29) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, March 3, 2006

Academic flotsam and jetsam

The following items of interest will only be of interest to academics and academic wanna-bes:

A) Hey, grad students -- go check out Mary McKinney's excellent essay "Academic AWOL" for Inside Higher Ed. It's about how professors and graduate students fall into the black hole of procrastination, and the ways to get out. It's nothing revolutionary, but it might help some to know they're not the only ones suffering from missed deadlines.

McKinney's first three bits of advice are particularly trenchant:

1. Realize that your absence weighs heavier on your mind than the other person’s. Advisors are not losing sleep over late dissertation proposals and journal editors aren’t agonizing over missing manuscripts. The project is more important to you than anyone else.

2. Remember, when you do get in touch, the person is unlikely to be angry and punitive. We tend to be much harsher about our own tardiness than we are about other people’s delays. Advisors know it is difficult to write dissertation drafts. Journal editors are accustomed to academics who take a long time to turn around R&R manuscripts.

3. Lower rather than raise your standards when you’re running late. Don’t try to make your work more polished to make up for taking so long. Just try to get something sent out for feedback. End the cycle by chanting to yourself “A done dissertation is a good dissertation” or “A published paper is the only paper that counts.”

Read well, grad students, or you will learn very quickly the power of Newton's First Law of Graduation.

B) Frau Doktor Professor Eszter Hargittai has a post up on the oddity of being addressed as "Mrs. Hargittai" in correspondence and at conferences:

On occasion, I get emails in which people address me as Mrs. Hargittai. I’m not suggesting that people need know my personal history or preferences. However, if you are going to contact someone in a professional context and they have a Ph.D. and they teach at a university (both of which are very clear on their homepage where you probably got their email address in the first place), wouldn’t you opt for Dr. or Professor?
For the record, as the son of an M.D., I can't stand using "Dr." "Professor" can also sound odd when first addressing a colleague. If I need a gender-specific honorific, however, I use "Ms."

C) Henry Farrell and David Bernstein have posts about whether Universities and academic departments can use the lessons of "Moneyball" as a means of moving up the academic ranks. Within the social sciences, there are certainly examples of this. Rochester's political science department catapaulted into the top ten because there was a time when they were the only ones willing to hire rational choice scholars, for example.

Henry thinks a Moneyball philosophy could move hiring markets away from "winner-take-all" outcomes where two or three people soak up all the extant offers, but doesn't think it will work because academia doesn't have the same quantitative measures as sabremetricians do to measure quantity and quality of output. I think Henry's right on the second point, but for the wrong reason. The problem is not measuring academic productivity. It's that unlike in baseball, academic contracts come in only one of two forms -- six year contracts with an option for a lifetime extension, or just a lifetime contract. Not even Billy Beane would be all that risk-loving in a world where very few professors can be cut, and no professors can be traded.

D) Social scientists should have a field day picking apart the holes in William Stuntz's essay at TNR Online about how the fall of Larry Summers presages the fall of American universities in the global education marketplace. In the essay, what does Stuntz erroneously assume?

1) His experience at Harvard can be generalized to the rest of academia;

2) All academic departments function like the humanities;

3) "Those who go through the motions" in terms of teaching will, for some reason be "more likely to attend the meetings and write the memos and vote on the motions of no confidence?" In my experience, those two facts tend to be negatively rather than positively correlated.

4) Market competition won't work within the United States, but mysteriously, will fuction at the global level -- because other countries have much less government intrusion into the education marketl;

5) All of the above?

Have some fun and dig up some other fallacies of your own!!

E) International Studies Perspectives is like most other academic IR journals, with one quirky exception. On their back cover they publish "PIeces on Our Craft," a humor essay on the absurdities of academia. The targets might be obvious -- a jargon-filled poli sci interpretation of Green Eggs and Ham, for example -- but they're still funny.

If you're at a university, click over to James H. Lebovic's "The Academic Conference: An Irreverent Glossary of Terms." Here's Lebovic's definition of "chair":

The chair is the ringmaster for the festivities. The chair's job is to mispronounce the names of the panelists, keep time, and struggle to stay awake. There are no apparent qualifications for the position of chair, other than owning a watch. Chairs enjoy all the prerogatives of the discussant, and more: chairs can comment on the papers without the pretense of having read them. Still, chairs must justify their existence by warning panelists that time has expired using notes of increasing urgency, knowing that it would be easier to stop a speeding train.
F) If you're at the U of C, pick up the Winter 2006 issue of 1000 Typewriters, published by the Society for Undergraduate Poetry. There's a very amusing poem by one Tobie Harris called "The Economist's Lorax." Here's a snippet from the poem:
Now chopping one tree at a time was too slow
So I quickly invented my Super-Ax Hacker
Which whacked off four Truffula trees at a smacker.
We were making Thneeds four times as fast as before.
And the Lorax?... Pretty soon he was back at my door.
"You fool!" he berated. "Can't you just understand?
Your supply is too high, it exceeds your demand.
It makes no fiscal sense to deforest this land!
My boy, what you need is a good fiscal plan.
If the market you glut, then you lower your price.
Four times as fast may sound awfully nice,
But you'd do a lot better if you heeded some facts,
And started using your brain, instead of an ax.
You've got a monopoly, making these Thneeds.
A larger supply is the last thing you'll need.
You don't need more Thneeds, they're fine as they are
What you need, my boy, is some brand new PR!
UPDATE: Thanks to the commenter who ppinted out that Ms. Harris has posted the entirety of the poem on her blog.

G) Finally, hearty online congratulations to my soon-to-be-former colleague, Jacob Levy (sniff!), for accepting a tenured, endowed chair at McGill University.

That is all.

posted by Dan at 12:18 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

Most interesting sentence of the day
I haven’t encountered any awkward situations yet running around public bathrooms snapping photos, but I can imagine eventually I may get some curious glances.
Eszter Hargittai at Crooked Timber. You'll have to click on the link to see her perfectly innocent explanation.
posted by Dan at 09:35 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Will the India gambit be worth it?

MSNBC is reporting that India and the United States have reached a nuclear deal:

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Bush on Thursday announced an agreement on a landmark nuclear deal, a breakthrough for the Bush administration as the president made his first visit to India.

Under the accord, elusive until the last minute, the United States would share American nuclear know-how and fuel with India to help power its fast-growing economy. The move represents a major policy shift for the United States, which imposed temporary sanctions on India in 1998 after it conducted nuclear tests. India insists it has been a good steward of nuclear material for decades; that there has never been one incident of proliferation from it.

The pact marks a major breakthrough for New Delhi, long treated as a nuclear pariah by the world, as it allows it to access American atomic technology and fuel to meet its soaring energy needs — provided the U.S. Congress gives its approval.

Although India did not agree to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty — which met with nationalist resistance in the massive South Asian nation — it did agree to oversight of its civilian program.

Here's a link to the White House's fact sheet on the Indo-American strategic partnership. To be honest, it's not clear to me from the reportage how this is different from what was reported back in July plus a repackaging of pre-existing commitments.

Fred Kaplan is not thrilled with the deal, mostly because he thinks Bush is steamrolling a lot of foreign policy actors in the process:

One could make a case that the trade-off is worth it—that the benefits of a grand alliance with India more than compensate for the costs of exempting India from the NPT's restraint clauses. India is not going to disarm, anyway; it has agreed, as part of the deal, to open its civilian reactors (though not its military ones) to international inspectors and safeguards; it's better, one could say, to impose some controls than none at all.

But a few things are worth noting. First, the United States has no authority to grant such an exemption on its own. The NPT is a treaty signed by 187 nations; it is enforced by the International Atomic Energy Agency; and it is, in effect, administered by the five nations that the treaty recognizes as nuclear powers (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France). This point is not a legal nicety. If the United States can cut a separate deal with India, what is to prevent China or Russia from doing the same with Pakistan or Iran? If India demands special treatment on the grounds that it's a stable democracy, what is to keep Japan, Brazil, or Germany from picking up on the precedent?

Second, the India deal would violate not just international agreements but also several U.S. laws regulating the export of nuclear materials.

In other words, an American president who sought to make this deal would, or should, detect a myriad of political actors that might protest or block it—mainly the U.N. Security Council, the Nuclear Suppliers' Group, and the U.S. Congress. Not just as a legal principle but also as a practical consideration, these actors must be notified, cajoled, mollified, or otherwise bargained with if the deal has a chance of coming to life.

The amazing thing is, President Bush just went ahead and made the pledge, without so much as the pretense of consultation—as if all these actors, with their prerogatives over treaties and laws (to say nothing of their concerns for very real dilemmas), didn't exist.

I still think that this is the right deal to make. If I had to make Bush's case to the rest of the world, I'd say, "Look, there's no way India is going to renounce their weapons, and if you lived in their neighborhood you wouldn't either. That said, they've agreed to open up their civilian nuclear program up to outside oversight, and they haven't aided or abetted anyone else's weapons program. So this deal acknowledges that the genie is out of the bottle in New Delhi, but keeps the bottle closed for everyone else."

I'll entertain objections to this position in the comments.

posted by Dan at 02:30 PM | Comments (52) | Trackbacks (0)

Who's the proudest country of them all?

The University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center just released a cross-national survey to find who had the greatest degree of pride in their countries.

Guess who did well? The results may partially surprise you:

Among 33 nations surveyed, the United States was the nation with the leading score in pride over specific accomplishments and Venezuela was the leading nation in the general national pride portion of the survey....

The researchers asked a series of questions related to general national pride that asked people to what extent they agreed with such statements as, “I would rather be a citizen of my country than any other country in the world,” and “Generally speaking, my country is a better country than most countries.”

A second set of questions about national pride in specific areas, such as the nation’s achievements in science and technology, the arts, sports and political influence in the world.

On the general pride measure, people in Venezuela had a score of 18.4 (out of a possible 25), while people in the United States had a score of 17.7. Other top leaders in that category were Australia (17.5), Austria (17.4), South Africa (17), Canada (17), Chile (17.1), New Zealand (16.6) and Israel (16.2).

In the domain-specific category, the United States led with a score of 4 followed by Venezuela (3.6), Australia (2.9), Austria (2.4), South Africa (2.7), Canada (2.4), Chile (2.6), the Philippines (2.3) and Israel (2.3).

The countries at the bottom of the list are generally established nations in Europe. “It could be that those nations are experiencing a response to globalism, particularly among young people. Many identify as much as being Europeans as they do as being citizens of their own country. In some European nations, the concept of strong patriotism also has negative connotations,” Smith said.

The bottom 10 nations in the survey, beginning with the last, were the eastern portion of Germany, Latvia, Sweden, Slovakia, Poland, the western portion of Germany, Taiwan, France, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic.

Click here to see the full paper. The paper distinguishes between the general pride and domain-specific measures as follows:
The domain-specific measure assesses positive feelings towards national accomplishments in specific areas, but is not overtly nationalistic, imperialistic, nor chauvinistic. The general national pride measure has a much harder edge to it..... [put] another way, the domain-specific, national pride scale is nationally affirming without being necessarily hegemonic, but the general, agree-disagree, national-pride scale places one's nation above other countries.
For a variety of reasons, I'm not surprised about the U.S. results -- they're pretty consistent with both the 1995/96 results and the "American exceptionalism" thesis underlying those responses.

Venezuelan pride does surprise me a bit. General Social Survey director Tom Smith observed that the top two countries "formed their national identities through conflicts that bound their people together and created a national story that resonates with citizens." That could be it. Supporters of Hugo Chavez no doubt would credit his policies.

Based on no scientific evidence whatsoever, I would posit that a key source of Venezuelan pride can be found here, here, and here -- though this factor appears to annoy UNESCO no end.

posted by Dan at 12:36 AM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

The European Commission's tough test

The European Commission has lost a lot of big battles over the past few years -- the growth and stability pact and the constitutional referendum, to name two. One could easily debate the virtues of either proposal, but the key political science fact is that the Commission was unable to get its way.

Tobias Buck reports in the Financial Times that the next big test is coming -- preventing a beggar-thy-neighbor policy on mergers and acquisitions:

Just over four months ago, Charlie McCreevy raised eyebrows when he warned of a “strong wind of protectionism” blowing through the European Union.

Today, that wind has turned into a storm that is threatening to tear apart some of the principles on which the Union is founded.

Within the past few weeks, the EU internal market commissioner has seen governments in Madrid, Paris, Warsaw and Luxembourg hardening their opposition to foreign takeovers.

Stung by France’s move to fend off a possible bid from Italy’s biggest energy group, the government in Rome this week also ratcheted up its protectionist rhetoric.

More trouble could be in store. On Tuesday the Commission began examining French justification for its decision to protect 11 sectors from foreign takovers.

Even though Commission officials stress that some countries may be violating the spirit rather than the letter of the law, the hostility to foreign takeovers is raising serious doubts over whether the 25 EU members are committed to the idea of a borderless, open and competitive market.

Mr McCreevy said on Tuesday: “Some...hanker after protectionist barriers not only on the Union’s external borders but internally as well. Such an attitude strikes at the very heart of the freedoms enshrined in the treaties and I will never accept it.”

The architects of the internal market have watched recent developments with growing dismay. While protectionism has never really been defeated, attacks on the free market have become more numerous and aggressive, they say.

Karel van Miert, who served as a European commissioner for transport and competition between 1989 and 1999, told the Financial Times on Tuesday : “The vehemence we have seen recently in the Mittal case, in Spain and in Poland is indeed something new and rather worrying.”

The report suggests that the Commission is fighting against some awfully powerful structural forces:
[S]ome point to a more sinister reason for the rise in hostility towards foreign suitors. “One factor is clearly the current economic malaise gripping Europe. In times when the macroeconomic conditions are less favourable, protection is always on the rise,” said Jean-Pierre Casey, research fellow and financial policy expert at the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies.

High levels of unemployment in western Europe have hampered efforts to open the European services market to more cross-border competition. The centrepiece of those efforts – the services directive – now looks certain to take effect only in a heavily diluted version. Much of the hostility towards the services directive has fed on fears that workers in countries such as Germany and France would be swept aside by an influx of cheap service providers from the new EU member states in eastern Europe.

EU enlargement may also have fuelled protectionist sentiment. The EU of today is, after all, a less cosy and less homogenous place than it used to be. But perhaps the most worrying reason for recent developments is that protectionist measures in one country appear to trigger protectionist responses in other EU member states....

“There is a risk that over time this dynamic triggers a series of tit-for-tat reactions,” said Mr Casey. “That is precisely how the great depression started: one country after the other erected barriers and finally free trade just ground to a halt.”


posted by Dan at 06:06 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)