Tuesday, October 31, 2006
John Kerry reminds us why he lost in 2004
From David Stout, "Kerry and G.O.P. Spar Over Iraq Remarks," New York Times, October 31, 2006:
Debate over the Iraq war seemed to reach a new intensity today, with President Bush and other Republicans accusing Senator John Kerry of insulting rank-and-file American troops and Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, lashing back at some of his critics as “assorted right-wing nut jobs.”[OK, on a gut level this is pretty offensive to someone in the military. But is Kerry right about a lack of education being correlated with military enrollment?--ed.]
The evidence seems mixed. Consider this Terry Neal summary in the Washington Post from last year:
David R. Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organizations at the University of Maryland, said contrary to conventional wisdom both the poorest and the wealthiest people are underrepresented at the bottom of the military ranks, for completely different reasons. This trend held for both from the conscription years of Vietnam through at least the late 1990s.Also of note: Jerald G. Bachman, Peter Freedman-Doan, Patrick M. O'Malley, "Should U.S. Military Recruiters Write Off the College-Bound?" Armed Forces & Society 27 (July 2001): 461 - 476:
This article examines trends and relationships involving high school seniors' military service plans, their college plans, and their actual entry into military service. Cross-sectional and longitudinal data from the Monitoring the Future project show that, although individuals planning to complete college are less likely than average to plan on military service, the upward trend in college plans cannot account for many of the year-to-year changes in military propensity. Moreover, it now appears that the majority of young men expecting to enter military service also expect to complete a four-year college program. Most important, planning for college does not reduce enlistment rates among high propensity males, although for some of them it may delay entry by several years. These findings suggest that educational incentives for military service are now particularly important, given the high proportions of potential recruits with college aspirations.And, finally, Meredith A. Kleykamp, "College, Jobs, or the Military? Enlistment During a Time of War," Social Science Quarterly 87 (June 2006):
This article questions what factors are associated with joining the military after high school rather than attending college, joining the civilian labor force, or doing some other activity. Three areas of influence on military enlistment are highlighted: educational goals, the institutional presence of the military in communities, and race and socioeconomic status.Tim Kane, "Who Are the Recruits? The Demographic Characteristics of U.S. Military Enlistment, 2003–2005" Heritage Center for Data Analysis:
[I]t is commonly claimed that the military relies on recruits from poorer neighborhoods because the wealthy will not risk death in war. This claim has been advanced without any rigorous evidence. Our review of Pentagon enlistee data shows that the only group that is lowering its participation in the military is the poor. The percentage of recruits from the poorest American neighborhoods (with one-fifth of the U.S. population) declined from 18 percent in 1999 to 14.6 percent in 2003, 14.1 percent in 2004, and 13.7 percent in 2005....Anyway, although I do like the description of Rush Limbaugh as "doughy," perhaps it would be best for the Dems if they took Kerry and locked him in a closet for the rest of the week.
UPDATE: Here's Kerry's explanation in fuller detail:
My statement yesterday -- and the White House knows this full well -- was a botched joke about the president and the president's people, not about the troops. The White House's attempt to distort my true statement is a remarkable testament to their abject failure in making America safe.OK, so the line as Kerry says he intended it is not as offensive as the New York Times story suggests. YouTube has video of Kerry making the quote in context.
The title to this post still stands, however -- this is a classic replay of Kerry's "global test" statement during the 2004 presidential debates. As Andrew Sullivan puts it: He
may not have meant it the way it came out. That doesn't matter. It's wrong to talk about the military that way - wrong morally, empirically and ethically. And the way he said it can be construed as a patronizing snub to the men and women whose lives are on the line. It's also dumb politically not to kill this off in one news cycle. Is Kerry not content to lose just one election? Does his enormous ego have to insist on losing two?
The Chinese tightrope walk on North Korea
Many commentators are also giving the credit to China for this breakthrough. Michael Moran at cfr.org points out:
China’s actions merit most attention. Susan Shirk, an Asian affairs specialist at the University of California, says “the North Korean nuclear test, by driving China to become part of the solution and averting conflict between China and Japan, shifted strategic ground in Northeast Asia” (YaleGlobal). More than ever, agrees CFR Vice President Gary Samore, China is in the driver’s seat.This leads to an interesting question -- why did North Korea agree to jaw-jaw? I suggested earlier this month that Chinese economic pressure was the source for DPRK moderation. This New York Times report by Joseph Kahn does little to change my mind on this point:
China cut off oil exports to North Korea in September during heightened tension over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, Chinese trade statistics show.What's really interesting about this is that the Chinese are denying any efforts at economic pressure.
I'd deny if I were them too -- because successful Chinese coercion opens up a can of worms Beijing does not want to see open. The moment that Chinese economic pressure against North Korea is perceived as successful, the question becomes, "When will China use its economic lever to put the squeeze on the DPRK regime?" Indeed, this was the point Anne Applebaum made a few weeks ago in Slate. If Chinese pressure turns out to have worked, then it becomes that much tougher for China to take a backseat to the United States on this issue.
The thing is, China -- and South Korea -- want the impossible. They want a declawed but intact DPRK to act as a buffer between Beijing and Seoul. If this were possible, then China wouldn't need to worry about the long-term regional threat posed by a unified Korea, and Seoul wouldn't have to worry about the costs of bankrolling North Korea's transition.
It's not possible, however, because this regime wants absolute domestic control, and that's incompatible with the kind of reforms that would be necessary to survive.
I don't have a great answer to this problem, by the way -- but Beijing doesn't either.
Beware the reverse Michael Moore effect!!
Does everyone remember how the release of Fahrenheit 911 triggered a debate about whether its huge box-office success presaged Bush's downfall in the 2004 election?
I bring this up because of this Reuters report by Steve Gorman:
The provocative film "Death of a President," which imagines the assassination of George W. Bush, bombed at the North American box office with a meager $282,000 grossed from 143 theaters in its first weekend.
Congress gets body-slammed in Foreign Affairs
Neither Peter Beinart nor Matthew Yglesias will make libertarians feel all that sanguine about how a Democratic takeover would affect U.S. foreign economic policy. Beinart fears, correctly, that any Democrat taking their economicpolicymaking cues from Lou Dobbs is going to wind up having to embrace a full-throated economic nationalism that in the end won't do much but lower economic growth. Yglesias fears, correctly, that Democrats have not properly appreciated the way in which trade policy helps advance U.S. security interests.
So I'm not feeling good -- and then I stumble across Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann's "When Congress Checks Out" in Foreign Affairs:
One of Congress' key roles is oversight: making sure that the laws it writes are faithfully executed and vetting the military and diplomatic activities of the executive. Congressional oversight is meant to keep mistakes from happening or from spiraling out of control; it helps draw out lessons from catastrophes in order to prevent them, or others like them, from recurring. Good oversight cuts waste, punishes fraud or scandal, and keeps policymakers on their toes. The task is not easy. Examining a department or agency, its personnel, and its implementation policies is time-consuming. Investigating possible scandals can easily lapse into a partisan exercise that ignores broad policy issues for the sake of cheap publicity.That Ornstein and Mann wrote this in Foreign Affairs is telling for two reasons.
First, Ornstein and Mann are about as mainstream as you can get in the world of congressional analysis. We're not talking partisan hacks here. To quote Joe-Bob Briggs, "These guys are the feedlot." For Mann and Ornstein to co-author this kind of article at this point is telling.
Even more telling -- that it ran in Foreign Affairs. I say this because if there's one thread that runs through most foreign policymaker wannabes, it's a desire to have Congress butt out of foreign policy. No one who works in the executive branch on foreign policy ever wants to deal with Congress on anything -- because it's a colossal pain. The natural inclination of most foreign policymakers is to work for the executive branch. And yet, this argument gets the Foreign Affairs imprimatur.
I don't like seeing U.S. foreign economic policy shift in a more populist direction, and I look forward to bashing Pelosi and company if that happens. But if forced to choose, I'll trade that off for greater congressional oversight.
UPDATE: Bruce Bartlett offers his support for gridlock as well.
Monday, October 30, 2006
The good, the bad, and the ugly books I have read recently
Longtime readers of danieldrezner.com have made their displeasure known to me about my lack of monthly book recommendations. When we last left off, I had posted my summer book recommendations -- and let's face it, we're pretty much past indian summer as well as the real thing. For this, I offer my profuse apologies and no good explanation, beyond the fact that I've been traveling a lot.
However, sitting around in airports waiting for planes has allowed me to read a fair number of books in recent weeks. So, without further ado, here are the good, the bad, and the ugly books I have read over the past six weeks:
THE GOOD:That should tide you all over for the month.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Bill Parcells makes me very, very sad
As a New York Giants fan, I'll always harbor a soft spot for Bill Parcells.
However, after Parcells receives the Michael Lewis treatment in this long story for the NYT's new venture, Play Magazine, I feel mostly sadness and disgust for this man:
Right now he is living alone in what amounts to a hotel room in Irving, Tex., whose sole virtue is that it is a 10-minute drive to both the Cowboys’ practice facility and Texas Stadium. It’s just him and whatever it is that keeps him in the game. For the longest time he pretended that he didn’t need it. He walked out of two jobs without having another in hand, and he has played hard-to-get with N.F.L. owners more times than any coach in N.F.L. history. After he quit the Jets, in 1999, he said at a press conference: “I’ve coached my last football game. You can write that on your little chalkboard. This is it. It’s over.” Now, even as his job appears to be making him sick, he has abandoned the pose. “As you get older,” he says, pointing to a screen, where the play is frozen, “your needs diminish. They don’t increase. They diminish. I need less money. I need less sex. But this — this doesn’t change.”Note to self: no matter how successful you might be as a blogger, never have Michael Lewis write the following paragraph about you:
Right now he is living alone in what amounts to a hotel room, whose sole virtue is that it houses the ultimate blogging computer. It’s just him and whatever it is that keeps him in the blogging game. For the longest time he pretended that he didn’t need it. He walked out of two group blogs without having another in hand, and he has played hard-to-get with Rupert Murdoch more times than any blogger in history. After he quit Open University, he said at a press conference: “I’ve written my last blog post. You can write that on your little chalkboard. This is it. It’s over.” Now, even as his job appears to be making him sick, he has abandoned the pose. “As you get older,” he says, pointing to a screen, where the text is frozen, “your needs diminish. They don’t increase. They diminish. I need less money. I need less sex. But this — this doesn’t change.”
Is it just me or did the earth move for everyone?
Ever since Bush and Cheney went to the Vietnam analogy well in talking about Iraq, it strikes me that the political ground has shifted.
From a policy perspective, it's good to see that the president is starting to think about other alternatives to simply staying the course. From a political perspective, however, my hunch is that this shift in rhetoric will be a disaster.
Why? For the past five years, Democrats have been vulnerable on national security issues. Bush and the Republicans projected a clear image of taking the war to the enemy, and never yielding in their drive to defeat radical Islamists. The Democrats, in contrast, projected either an antiwar position or a "yes, but" position. The former looked out of step with the American people, the latter looked like Republican lite. No matter how you sliced it, the Republicans held the upper hand.
The recent rhetorical shift on Iraq, however, has flipped this phenomenon on its head. If Bush acknowledges that "stay the course" is no longer a statisfying status quo, he's acknowledging that the Republican position for the past few years has not worked out too well. If that's the case, then Republicans are forced to offer alternatives with benchmarks or timetables or whatever. The administration has had these plans before, but politically, it looks like the GOP is gravitating towards the Democratic position rather than vice versa.
If this is what the political optics look like, then the Republicans will find themselves in the awkward position of being labeled as "Democrat lite" in their positions on Iraq. And in elections, lite never tastes as good as the real thing.
If these midterms really function as a referendum on U.S. foreign policy, then the GOP is in big trouble.
Of course, my political prognostications should be taken for what they are worth -- which is very little.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
How bad off is Generation Debt?
Earlier this year I blogged about whether twentysomething were genuinely facing tougher economic times than their predecessors -- or whether they were just whiners (click here for the latest example).
There's been a few reports issued this month that touch on this issue... and the evidence ranges from mixed to favorable.
This report on asset accumulation and savings among young Americans by Christopher Thornberg and Jon Haveman suggest a worrisome trend -- Generation Y doesn't save as much as prior generations:
In 1985, about 65 percent of Americans aged 25 to 34 owned some form of savings instrument... including traditional savings, money market accounts, certificates of deposit, and other financial investments, such as stocks and bonds, Keogh, IRA, and 401(k) accounts. Between 1985 and 2000, the proportion of this population that owned one or another of these savings instruments fell from 65 percent to 59 percent, a decline of just under 6 percentage points. Between 2000 and 2004, the decline accelerated, when it fell another 4 percentage points, a pace two and a half times faster than in the previous 15 years.Sounds bad. However, Thornberg and Haveman dig into the reasons why young Americans aren't saving as much, and comes up with some interesting partial answers:
Contributing to the decline in median net worth are changes in demographic patterns among these young individuals. In particular, there are significant changes in three categories that are highly correlated with median net worth. Between 1985 and 2004, the proportion of the population aged 25-34 that was married declined by 8 percentage points, the proportion of whites declined by 17 percentage points, and the proportion with education beyond high school increased by 13 percentage points (Table 4). The decline in marriage rates and the increasing share of the population made up of people of color have contributed to the declines in net worth while increasing levels of education offset these declines. Taken together, these demographic shifts are responsible for just over one-quarter of the change in median net worth among young Americans.Assets are only one side of the equation, however -- what about debt? Here the answer is more positive. The MacArthur Foundation has funded a study of Generation Y debt by Ngina Chiteji that suggests the Anya Kamenetz/Generation Debt thesis doesn't hold up:
Ngina Chiteji in her chapter in The Price of Independence takes a careful look at debt in young adulthood, finding that, contrary to popular perception, most of today’s young adults are not carrying an unusual or excessive amount of debt, at least not by historical standards or given their time in life, just starting out. The fraction of indebted young adult households age 25 to 34 has barely changed in 40 years, and while, in general, young households carry more debt than the population at large, this is consistent with the predictions of economic theory and most young adults appear to have manageable debt loads....Given that the data suggests --
a) More young Americans are buying homes;-- I confess to remaining unpreturbed about the state of Generation Y's finances.
Question for Gen Y readers -- which report better conforms to you personal experiences and those of your cohort?
Blegging for stapler advice
In the process of moving to Fletcher, I received the standard allotment of office supplies -- printer paper, binder clips, highlighters.... and a f*&@ing stapler that can't seem to staple more that fifteen f#$%ing pages together without self-destructing!!!!
Sorry. This has been an ongoing problem for me -- I need a stapler that can reliable staple up to 40 pages with a miimum of fuss.
Sophisticated market research suggests that readers of danieldrezner.com work in an office environment, and therefore might be able to help me.
So, please, before I turn into this guy -- what's the best stapler out there?
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
The trade implications of the midterm elections
I received the following in an e-mail today:
Given your vast knowledge of international and domestic politics, I am shocked that you have not blogged on the possible repercussions on future free trade agreements as a result of this election. In this election, in the battleground states (Rhode Island, even Ohio, Montana, Missouri, and Virginia) the Republican incumbent in each state has a very good/ excellent record on free trade, while the Democratic challenger is advocating protectionist policies. Senator DeWine in Ohio is likely to lose in part because of his past support of trade agreements. Unfortunately in these states and in general, free trade has almost no constituency while the anti-trade movement has a large number of volunteers....The e-mailer has a point. Over at NRO, Jonathan Martin has a column about the trade implications of the midterms:
Democrats only need six seats to gain a majority in the Senate, but the election of five new Democrats and one independent in particular would have even greater ramifications. Should seats currently held by free-traders in Ohio, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Rhode Island, and Missouri go to “fair traders” — and should the sour environment for Republicans prevent them from gaining any seats from Democrats — the bipartisan commitment to free trade in the Senate would almost certainly end, torpedoing the prospects for any significant legislation in President Bush’s final two years and perhaps longer while fundamentally altering the character of the upper chamber.After the midterms it's likely that both chambers of Congress will likely be more protectionist. This should matter to those crucial swing-libertarian voters.
Here's the thing, though -- it's not clear to me that it matters. Doha is at a standstill, and the FTAA has been in a coma for years. The only promising bilateral trade agreement is with South Korea, but I suspect that it's a dead letter as well -- because there's no chance in hell that the U.S. will accept goods from Kaesŏng. The president's Trade Promotion Authority is expiring in June of next year, and I don't think the president is willing to invest whatever political capital he's got left to have it renewed. Regardless of what happens in the Senate, I can't see Nancy Pelosi agreeing to anything that gives the executive branch more authority in Bush's final two years.
In other words, I'd rather not see the Senate go protectionist -- but a trade-friendly Senate will have only a marginal effect on U.S. trade policy over the next two years.
Diamond interdependence in the Middle East
In the interest of posting some good news about the Middle East, I found this AP story about the diamond trade between Israel and Dubai to be pretty interesting:
As Israelis and Arabs emerge from the war in Lebanon, a booming diamond exchange in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE,) 1,300 miles away, is hard proof that some Arab-Israeli ties have survived despite the region's tensions.The bolded section suggests that trade can trump enduring rivalries -- but it also suggests that trade won't cause enduring rivalries to go away, either.
[I thought this was a good news post!!--ed. Sorry,I failed to stay the course.]
Sports protectionism in Russia
It would seem that Russian President Vladimir Putin's hostility to certain forms of foreign investment extends to.... soccer. RIA Novosti explains:
The Russian president said Wednesday he was concerned over the large number of foreign nationals playing for Russia's soccer clubs.Now it should be noted that MajorLeague Soccer also has caps on the number of foreign players allowed per team -- though those rules were liberalized recently.
As a general principle, however, this kind of policy strikes me as absurd. Imagine, for a second, imposing caps on the number of Dominican baseball players allowed into Major League Baseball, for example. The best way to have quality American ballplayers is to have them face the toughest competition imaginable. UPDATE: here's a report to back up this assertion.
Question to readers: is there an infant industry logic to protectionism in sports?
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Affordable housing.... good schools
ESTHER: Mordechai?I bring this up because a) I still think it's funny; and b) Laura McKenna has a post up on "how parents can choose a good school for their kids." She has some fun words for opponents of school vouchers:
It's mildly amusing that strong voucher opponents argue against the notion of choice in schools, because truthfully the middle class and wealthy already have that choice. They choose their schools every time they decide which community to live in. The more money you have, the more choice you have. The wealthiest can even choose to send their child to a private school.More here.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Those fools.... those tenured, bureaucratic fools
This leads to an interesting question... where shall we find the mature Dr. Jones? As Andy Bryan discovers in McSweeney's, Indy's antics don't play so well with the straightlaced academic crown of archaeologists:
January 22, 1939You'll have to click on the link to see the case against Dr. Jones in full.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Maybe blogs and diplomacy don't mix too well
The chief United Nations envoy for Sudan has been kicked out of the country because of what he's said on his blog. Warren Hoge explains in the New York Times:
Sudan’s government ordered the chief United Nations envoy out of the country today, saying he was an enemy of the country and its armed forces.Here's the relevant section of Pronk's blog that raised the ire of the Sudanese government:
[The Sudanese Armed Forces] has lost two major battles, last month in Umm Sidir and this week in Karakaya. The losses seem to have been very high. Reports speak about hundreds of casualties in each of the two battles with many wounded and many taken as prisoner. The morale in the Government army in North Darfur has gone down. Some generals have been sacked; soldiers have refused to fight. The Government has responded by directing more troops and equipment from elsewhere to the region and by mobilizing Arab militia. This is a dangerous development. Security Council Resolutions which forbid armed mobilization are being violated. The use of militia with ties with the Janjaweed recalls the events in 2003 and 2004. During that period of the conflict systematic militia attacks, supported or at least allowed by the SAF, led to atrocious crimes.I confess to mixed feelings about all of this.
On the one hand, it seems morally repugnant to blame Pronk for writing a blog that exposes Sudanese duplicity and moral depravity. Later in his story, Hoge observes, "commenting on the international campaign that has arisen to try to end the violence in Darfur, [Sudan’s president Omar Hassan al-Bashir] said, 'Those who made the publicity, who mobilized the people, invariably are Jewish organizations.'" And as the Independent points out: "Observers says Pronk's direct style may have been a contributing factor in naming him the UN envoy to Sudan. He is often credited with keeping the crisis there high on the international agenda." It certainly seems like diplomats are shooting their mouths off with increasing regularity these days.
And yet, I'm pretty sure that one of the primary jobs of a diplomat is not to needlessly piss off an actor who has a seat at the negotiation table. By blogging about such a sensitive matter, Pronk gift-wrapped the Sudanese an excuse to expel him and delay dealing with the United Nations Security Council. How does this help anyone in Darfur?
This is not an issue to which I've paid a great deal of attention, so I'm issuing a bleg: for those who have been keeping tabs on Darfur, was Plonk's blog post a necessary or counterproductive action?
There are certain jobs that would not seem to agree with blogging at all, and being a diplomat might be one of them.
Your sexy sex quote of the day
I have to assume that Reuters reporter Claire Sibonney has sacrificed her first-born child to the hounds of hell, because the following is the kind of quote that would cause most reporters to agree to human sacrifice in order to obtain:
"It's not sexy sex sex, where we're talking about whips and chains, but we will talk about whips and chains," said graduating student Robbie Morgan, 33, who left her job teaching sex education in Chicago to attend the [University of Toronto's] Sexual Diversity Studies program, one of the largest of its kind in North America.Sibonney, "Sex ed gets a lot sexier at Canadian university"
Friday, October 20, 2006
Why Nancy Pelosi is the cure for all that ails us
1) Why everything Hugo Chavez touches turns to ashes (SIDE NOTE: How bad is Chavez's streak? He's losing to bloggers!!);Am I serious about Pelosi? You'll have to click and see!!
Among the exciting visual changes -- I move to a comfy chair and change my beverage of choice.
I might add that Professor Althouse, who is a generation older than I, looks about five years my junior in the video. No wonder she's constantly getting her picture taken for brochures.
So you think you know something about world politics
Foreign Policy has a killer eight-question quiz to test your "global knowledge."
Go check it out. I only got six out of eight correct, and I confess that I guessed on more than one of them.
North Korea says they don't need no stinking tests
Despite reports earlier this week that North Korea had been planning three more nuclear tests, there are fresh reports that North Korea is saying there will be no more tests. From the Korea Times:
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il told a ranking Chinese envoy that his country has no plan to conduct additional nuclear tests, the Yonhap News Agency reported on Friday (Oct. 20).Reacting to the news, Glenn Reynolds asks: "Is it because diplomacy worked? (Yay, Condi!) Or is it because his scientists told him there was no chance of a pulling off a successful test any time soon?"
I'd say the answer is "none of the above." I'd have to go with "threats of Chinese economic coercion":
China is weighing tough measures to curb North Korea's nuclear ambitions, with government experts calling for the reduction of critical supplies of oil and food that have helped sustain its isolated, impoverished neighbor.I shiuld confess that I have a theoretical stake in this answer -- but I don't think eirther diplomacy alone or Kim's worries about technical screw-ups are sufficient to explain this climbdown. Indeed, on the latter moltivation, one of the reasons to conduct nuclear tests is to figure out how to prevent mistakes in the future. The DPRK's first test -- which was a partial failure -- increased the incentive to conduct more tests.
Whether the DPRK returns to six-party talks remains to be seen.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Does losing Tom Friedman mean losing middle america?
It seems that a lot of people in the Bush administration read Tom Friedman's Tuesday column, which characteizes recent Iraqi insurgency tactics to, "the jihadist equivalent of the Tet offensive."
ABC reports that this came up in Bush's interview with Georege Stephanopolous:
Stephanopoulos asked whether the president agreed with the opinion of columnist Tom Friedman, who wrote in The New York Times today that the situation in Iraq may be equivalent to the Tet offensive in Vietnam almost 40 years ago.Meanwhile, in a Time interview, Dick Cheney brings up the analogy on his own:
The other thing that I'd mention, too, not really in response to your question: I'm struck by the fact that what's being attempted here is to break our will. (New York Times columnist Thomas) Friedman has got an interesting piece today on it, talking about the extent to which the enemy in this stage in Iraq aim very much at the American people... (they) use the media to gain access through technical means that are available now on the Internet and everything else to create as much violence as possible, as much bloodshed as possible and get that broadcast back into the United States as a way to try to shape opinion and influence the outcome of our debate here at home. And I think some of that is going on, too.The U.S. military also seems obsessed with Tet, as Michael Luo reports in the New York Times (link via Kevin Drum):
The American military’s stepped-up campaign to staunch unrelenting bloodshed in the capital under an ambitious new security plan that was unveiled in August has failed to reduce the violence, a military spokesman said today.While it's interesting that the administration is now embracing Vietnam analogies, there's a problem with comparing Iraq now to the Tet Offensive. The two ostensibly share the efforts by insurgents to affect the domestic political landscape of their adversary. Today's New York Times front page spells that out.
However, Tet, was a military reversal of the first order for the Viet Cong and NVA. Is there any evidence, any metric out there, that shows the insurgency in Iraq to be weakening in any way? Even Cheney allows in his interview, "I expressed the sentiment some time ago that I thought we were over the hump in terms of violence, I think that was premature. I thought the elections would have created that environment. And it hasn't happened yet."
Question to readers: given current trends, is there any evidence that it will ever happen?
It's my virtual idea!! Mine!! Mine!!
It's been quite the week for news coverage of virtual world. Today the New York Times dogpiles on, with this story by Richard Siklos about how corporations are making their presence known in Second Life:
This parallel universe, an online service called Second Life that allows computer users to create a new and improved digital version of themselves, began in 1999 as a kind of online video game.If corporations are moving into virtual worlds, it's just a matter of time before there are virtal anti-corporate protestors. And when that happens, well, then there's an opportunity for virtal professors of global political economy to enter the scene!!
Fletcher had better watch out. If I'm offered a virtual endowed chair, with the ability to mutate into any animal on earth, and a virtual Salma Hayek catering to my every whim... [You're going to the bad place again--ed.]
Somewhat more seriously, the growth of virtual worlds suggests an entirely new testing arena for social scientists. For example, the highlighted section suggests an intriguing experiment for a marketing professor: what is the power of branding independent of economies of scale?
An even more interesting meta-question -- does the virtual nature of the world remove ethical constraints that exist in real-world testing? Could someone run a virtual version of the Milgram study?
Question to international relations scholars who know something about these virtual worlds -- what IR hypotheses, if any, could be tested in these virtual worlds?
UPDATE: In related virtual news, the Joint Economic Committee has fired a warning show across the bow of the IRS on the question of taxing virtual profits. In related real news, further progress has been made towards an invisibility cloak.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
From now on, when you hear "Drezner," think of strength, security... and minty freshness!!
After three years of blogging, it's time to do a major rethink. With the blogging "market" increasingly crowded, the model of an eclectic, general interest blog is a less viable one. Perhaps more importantly, I'm just getting tired of the punditry style of blogging. I'm not enjoying writing that style as much; for that matter, I'm not enjoying reading other punditry blogs very much these days....I've always admired Bainbridge's blog, but this last sentence led to a Scrubs-like daydream:
BAINBRIDGE: So I'm thinking of doing more niche-blogging in business law and economics.Seriously, for me, half of the fun of this blog is that I can talk about anything that comes into my head. Any thoughts I had to branding the blog disappear when I flash back to some advice Eszter Hargittai once gave me when I was thinking about bringing in guest-bloggers, which went something like: "Your blog is an expression of your identity -- why would you want to dilute or confine it?"
On the other hand, maybe I'm not taking this seriously enough. Writing in to Bainbridge, Bruce Bartlett adds:
I know that there are many blogs I used to read regularly that I now seldom read. The growth of partisanship is part of the reason, but there has also been a decline in substantive discussion.... The reason is simple: it’s hard work to be substantive. After a few months of blogging, most bloggers simply use up their substantive knowledge and must either rehash old hash or venture into areas where their knowledge is lacking.To mildly disagree with Bruce two posts in a row, I don't think he's got the whole story. Sure, some blogs burn out and fade away, while others become pale imitations of what they once were. Rather than think of these kind of inexorable trends, however, I suspect that blogs, like much of life, are cyclical. Attentive readers can surely point to days or weeks where it's clear that blogging has not been at the top of my priority list. This doesn't mean that I'm fading away... it (hopefully) means I'm acquiring new forms of substantive knowledge that trickle down onto the blog. That or I'm tickling my children.
Blogging doesn't get old for me because the world stays interesting. Taxes on virtual reality? Hugo Chavez suffering yet another diplomatic reversal? Mel Gibson following the path I've laid before him? I'm there!!
That said, maybe I'm wrong. A (dangeous) question to readers: which blogs do you think started out great but have devolved?
What if the Dems take over the Congress?
Bruce Bartlett has an op-ed in today's New York Times that spells out what will happen should the Democrats take over one or both houses of Congress. Bartlett's answer: not much:
As a Republican, I have a message for those fearful of Democratic control: don’t worry. Nothing dreadful is going to happen. Liberals have much less to gain than they believe....Bartlett's take is correct as far as it goes, but it's a bit incomplete.
It is undoubtedly true -- as it was in 1994 -- that a political party can't really execute an ambitious governing strategy from the legislative branch. However, a Democratic Congress would alter the political and policy playing field in one certain and one uncertain way.
The certain way is that the Democrats would get some agenda-setting power. Even if Bush can veto a bill, the Democrats can send up bills that might be politically popular as a way to make Republicans look bad. This is one reason why everyone inside the Beltway believes that a Democratic takeover will lead to a hike in the minimum wage. Hearings will be an even cheaper way of doing this -- and the staffing issue that Bartlett raises seems pretty minor to me.
The uncertain way is that a Democratic takeover gives Nancy Pelosi an effective veto over anything Bush wants/needs from the Congress. What's uncertain about this is the effect it will have on actual policy. Will the Dems act as deficit-cutters beyond refusing to extend some of the Bush tax cuts?
I dunno -- I'll ask the Dems in the crowd to give their provisional answers.
UPDATE: Harold Meyerson's Washington Post column addresses this topic as well.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
What do Boston and Bangalore have in common?
The demand for trained IT workers is having some interesting effects in both India and Massachusetts.
India first -- Somini Sengupta reports in the New York Times that skills shortages could act as a bottleneck for the Indian service sector:
As its technology companies soar to the outsourcing skies, India is bumping up against an improbable challenge. In a country once regarded as a bottomless well of low-cost, ready-to-work, English-speaking engineers, a shortage looms.[Oh, sure, all this outsourcing to India means demand for jobs there, but not in the U.S.A.!!--ed.] Au contraire, my italicized friend -- the Boston Globe's Robert Gavin reports on what's happening to the tech sector in Massachusetts:
Massachusetts' economic recovery has gathered momentum in recent months, and there's a good reason: The technology sector is back....This war for talent appears to be a global phenomenon -- be sure to check out the Economist's recent survey for more. Bloggers are mentioned.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Nice try, Hugo
The BBC reports that Hugo Chavez's efforts to win himself a rotating seat on the UN Security Council do not look like they are going to succeed:
A crucial fight for one of Latin America's UN Security Council seats remains deadlocked.It is true that Guatemala would likely be a more pliant U.S. ally than, say, Costa Rica or other compromise candidates. However, the gap between those countries and Venezuela on the UNSC is much, much larger.
So, in this case, the U.S. wins so long as Venezuela loses -- and that looks pretty much certain at this point.
For more on those who did win seats at the UNSC, click here.
UPDATE: Oh, I forgot to mention -- the Chavez-backed candidate for the Ecuadorian presidency suffered a bit of a setback yesterday. Here's the AP report by Monte Hayes:
A Bible-toting banana magnate who favors close ties with the U.S. defied expectations by narrowly outpolling an admirer of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in the first round of Ecuador's presidential election.Because of Noboa's showing, Ecuador's benchmark bond had its biggest gain in at least six years.
UPDATE: Bloomberg reports that Guatemala still leads Venezuela after the 10th ballot -- though Venezuela caught up to Guatemala in the 6th round.
The economics of worlds colliding
However, for some reason I'm in the middle of one of those punctuated equilibrium in which I become inundated with information about a phenomenon that I was only dimly aware of before the equilibrium was achieved.
So I'm going to inflict all these links on you.
Users of online worlds such as Second Life and World of Warcraft transact millions of dollars worth of virtual goods and services every day, and these virtual economies are beginning to draw the attention of real-world authorities.2) Indiana University's Joshua Fairfield and Edward Castronova have a draft paper entitled, "Dragon Kill Points: A Summary Whitepaper.":
This piece briefly describes the self-enforcing and non-pecuniary resource allocation system used by players in virtual worlds to allocate goods produced by a combination of player effort (the effort required to organize a group and overcome challenges) and the game itself (which “generates the good” – the input here is the time of the design staff).3) Finally, I stumbled upon the South Park take on the whole World of Warcraft phenomenon. I got to see the entire episode before it was deleted for copyright reasons. This clip provides a nice precis of the show, however: That is all.
Maudissez cette culture américaine séduisant!
In the International Heald-Tribune, Eric Pfanner reports that despite rising anti-Americanism in Europe, American television has actually become more popular, not less:
In the Parliaments and pubs of Europe, the United States may wallow in least-favored-nation status. But on European television, American shows have not been as popular since the 1980s heyday of "Dallas," "Dynasty" and "The Dukes of Hazzard."It would appear that American television producers have pulled off the same feat as other American multinationals -- marketing their wares to anti-American publics.
My favorite quote from the story: "As recently as 1999, Zeiler said, the only American fare shown during prime time on RTL in Germany was reruns of 'Quincy.'"
The Lancet study -- the sequel
I've been traveling quite a bit recently, so I'm quite late to the party on the eight page study published in The Lancet which concludes the following:
Pre-invasion mortality rates were 5·5 per 1000 people per year (95% CI 4·3–7·1), compared with 13·3 per 1000 people per year (10·9–16·1) in the 40 months post-invasion. We estimate that as of July, 2006, there have been 654 965 (392 979–942 636) excess Iraqi deaths as a consequence of the war, which corresponds to 2·5% of the population in the study area. Of post-invasion deaths, 601 027 (426 369–793 663) were due to violence, the most common cause being gunfire.This is a follow-up to a 2004 study that raised a small ruckus prior to the presidential election claiming that the post-war mortality rate in Iraq was higher than the pre-war rate.
The boys at Crooked Timber, as well as Tim Lambert, have been vigorously defending the study against conservative critics. Megan McArdle is more skeptical, has a raft of posts that critique the study.
This post by Echidne of the Snakes is sympathetic to the study but also cognizant of its flaws, and is worth quoting on two points:
Nobody is happy about the study findings, of course. Let me repeat that: Nobody is happy about the study findings; nobody wants to imagine that many horrible deaths and the suffering that goes along with those or the effect on the survivors....I have only one observation at this juncture. The problem with journalistic coverage of statistical analyses is that they tend to focus on the "headline number," ascribing a weight to it that it sometimes does not deserve. In this study, the 655,000 figure is much less important than the fact that the authors can claim with 95% certainty that at least 392,000 people have died in Iraq since the war started. That's the sobering fact.
Readers are hereby invited to comment.
UPDATE: Tyler Cowen posts on The Lancet study as well -- and highlights another important fact that explains a large part of my disenchantment with the Bush administration:
[T]he sheer number of deaths is being overdebated. Steve Sailer notes: "The violent death toll in the third year of the war is more than triple what it was in the first year." That to me is the more telling estimate.ANOTHER UPDATE: The folks at Iraq Body Count are skeptical.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Finally, I get to play Mousetrap
In today's New York Times Magazne, Neal Pollack has an amusing essay about how three-year olds play games:
Soon after coming into his Hungry Hungry Hippos stash, Elijah had a friend over. He was very excited to share with his friend, whom I’ll call Cinderella to protect her identity.The whole essay is pretty funny, but I was struck by this passage about why today's parents buys these games: "This generation of parents, after all, is obsessed with reviving the pop-cultural experience of its own collective childhood."
Speak for yourself, Neal. I buy games for my children for a completely different reason -- I finally get to play the games I was denied as a youth for some reason or another. And as the title of this post suggests, Mousetrap is friggin' awesome.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Robert D. Kaplan's exaggeration of the day
Robert D. Kaplan, "When North Korea Falls," The Atlantic Monthly, June 2006.
UPDATE: Just to clear up any confusion, Kaplan is talking about being deployed in South Korea.
Boy, my tribe can be dumb sometimes
Michael Powell has a story in the Washington Post about how Tony Judt got prevented from speaking at the Polish Consulate last week:
Two major American Jewish organizations helped block a prominent New York University historian from speaking at the Polish consulate here last week, saying the academic was too critical of Israel and American Jewry.I might think Tony Judt is wrong about the Israel Lobby, and I think his one-state solution to the Israel/Palestinian problem borders on delusional, but if the ADL and AJC did what Powell implies, their behavior is absurd, counterproductive, and, frankly, un-American.
If they think Judt is wrong, say so, protest his talk, critique his arguments, the whole megillah -- but preventing him from speaking merely provides fodder for Judt's claim about the stifling of debate in this country.
UPDATE: Suzy Hansen has more background on what happened in the New York Observer. After reading the story, the extent of ADL and AJC pressure is still not clear to me.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Hey, this Jew really does control Mel Gibson
From my August 1, 2006 blog post, "Dogpiling on Mel Gibson," here's the beginning of my predicted narrative arc for Gibson:
1) Gibson repeatedly issues contrite apologies -- oh, wait, that's already happened.From ABC News, "Mel Gibson Says He Feels 'Powerless Over Everything'":
In an exclusive interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, Mel Gibson talks about his recent D.U.I. arrest, his battle with alcoholism and his anti-Semitic remarks.I'm not right about a lot, but I was right about J. Lo, and now Mel comes through for me as well.
I'm elsewhere in the blogosphere
If blog posts are light this week, it's for two reasons:
1) I'm trying to debug the comment spam problem (and tech-savvy readers, feel free to e-mail me advice on this one).Go check them out!
So how's the Kyoto Protocol working out?
I'm shocked, shocked at this Associated Press report that some industrialized nations might not be living up to their Kyoto Protocol obligations:
With few exceptions, the world’s big industrialized nations are struggling to meet the greenhouse gas reductions they committed to in the embattled Kyoto pact on climate change. Europe is veering off course, Japan is still far from its target and Canada has given up.Hat tip: Jonathan Adler at the Volokh Conspiracy.
The report does observe that the EU as a whole could achieve its target -- provided that they "make full use of carbon credits for investing in clean technology projects in developing countries." However, another AP report by Charles Hanley points out the pitfalls of trading scheme as implemented:
As the world grows warmer, poorer nations are helping the rich by reining in heat-trapping gases in a multibillion-dollar "carbon trade" that is outrunning its U.N. overseers and founding principles, and spawning conflicts of interest and possible abuse....UPDATE: Ah, it appears that the EU has devised a new way to ensure countries honor their commitments to halt global warming. Sounds like some commissioners must have been talking to Joe Stiglitz.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
China, China... what to do about China?
Cfr.org is hosting a debate between Stephen Roach and Desmond Lachman on "Is China Growing at the United States' Expense?" The (somewhat hyperbolic) overview:
The Chinese economic boom could change the global order and lift Beijing above Washington in economic might and influence. The United States is worried about China's tactic of undervaluing its currency to boost exports, but Beijing has resisted repeated calls to raise the yuan's value. The result has been a boost for U.S. consumers buying low-cost Chinese goods, as well as what some say is a severe trade imbalance. In addition, the overheating of the Chinese economy would have worldwide repercussions. The U.S. Congress has entertained threats of trade retaliation, but administration policymakers have adopted a more cautious approach.Go check it out.
Monday, October 9, 2006
Are economic sanctions an option for North Korea?
Now that North Korea has conducted a nuclear test, and now that China and North Korea are actually upset about it, what is the appropriate policy response?
First, let's acknowledge that a military strategy is not terribly viable. I suspect that North Korea's military, as in other communist societies, is not quite as fearsome as defense analysts assert. This suspicion includes whether their nuclear test was really as successful as they claimed. That said, I have every confidence that the DPRK could rain a hellfire of conventional missiles and artillery shells upon Seoul -- so there's no point going there.
When it comes to sanctions, the Guardian's Ewen MacAskill suggests that the UN Security Council will be reluctant to go all-out because it's haunted by the Iraq sanctions:
Negotiations between the council members will centre on a draft resolution prepared by the US that sets out punitive measures including a trade ban on military and luxury items, authorising the inspection of all cargo entering or leaving the country, and freezing assets connected with its weapons programmes. Mr Bolton last night distributed the document listing a broad range of sanctions.This problem is pretty much a red herring, because of a grisly fact -- the DPRK leadership has essentially been sanctioning its own people for the past fifteen years. The only North Koreans who benefit from the current structure of the DPRK economy are the elite. Assuming that China and South Korea buy in, sanctions against North Korea would actually have a powerful effect.
Perhaps too powerful -- a point that Aditya Tiwathia raises ove at Passport:
So what can be done? Deepening its isolation, as Ian Bremmer points out in his book, The J-Curve, only shores up the regime. Even if sanctions succeed in regime collapse, that's the last thing that neighbors China and South Korea want. As Ivo H. Daalder points out, this would flood them with millions of destitute refugees and destabilize the region. That explains their minimal enthusiasm for Washington's hardline approach in the six-party talks.Tiwathia's positive analysis is correct, but her normative assessment is not. Given the history of the DPRK, regime collapse is the best policy outcome. An eventual DPRK metamorphosis into a peaceful, capitalist-friendly state would be the best outcome.... in Fantasyland. Here on the planet Earth, that's just not going to happen.
So, how to get China and South Korea to favor regime colapse? Ralph Cossa makes some good suggestions in the International Herald-Tribune:
Beijing should also note that economic sanctions imposed as a result of a nuclear test will be accompanied by an "open border" policy and the establishment of UN-sponsored refugee camps on the Chinese side of the Yalu River. China, at North Korea's insistence, presently forces most refugees to return, where they meet a most unpleasant fate. This policy must change.Now it might be more cost-effective to pay off the DPRK periodically rather than pay to reconstruct the North. Given the DPRK's willingness to proliferate, however, I say sanction them. Sanction them now. And sanction them with the Security Council's imprimatur.
Open North Korea test thread
Comment away on North Korea's decision to see whether the rest of the world will pay attention to it now that it's apparently conducted a nuclear test. According to the official DPRK statement, "[The test] was carried out under scientific consideration and careful calculation.... It will contribute to defending the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the area around it." Oh, so there's nothing to worry about then.
The DPRK [North Korea] ignored universal opposition of the international community and flagrantly conducted the nuclear test on October 9. The Chinese government is resolutely opposed to it.We'll see if the South Koreans are equally perturbed.
More later if possible -- I have discivered my hell on earth and it is being trapped in the Miami International Airport waiting five hours with the kids for a flight for which we only have standby status.
UPDATE: Comments appear to be down. I'll try to get Movable Type on the case.
In the mean time, because Amos Bitzan took the time to e-mail me his comment, it goes in the post:
The Chinese may be pissed off but there is nothing they or the South Koreans can really do. Neither country wants the NK regime to collapse right now. They are just going to have to increase the shipments of food and energy to Pyongyang. In any case, it's another MASSIVE failure for the Bush administration. The US should have been at the table with North Korea, carrying out bilateral talks, a long time ago. I think the South Koreans will be more perturbed by further Bush bungling or by Japanese plans to beef up their military (or, God forbid, go nuclear themselves) than by the North Korean test. In any case, a military solution is simply not in the cards. If only Bush had not been so insistent on linking North Korea to Iran. Now there...that's a real problem. And now he's put himself in the position where a concession to NK also means a victory for Iran because - hey - they're both part of the Axis of Evil.
Sunday, October 8, 2006
What is the utility of price stability?
In the Detroit Free Press, Alejandro Bodipo-Memba has an odd story about OPEC's declining influence over oil prices -- and why this might be a bad thing:
But as the price of crude oil -- the feedstock for gasoline -- creeps back up on news that several members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries plan production cuts, it's clear that the cartel no longer wields the power over fuel costs that it once did.This is an odd story for a few reasons.
First, the claim that "OPEC's use of production controls... often benefited U.S. consumers" is certainly an interesting one. Saudi Arabia was certainly responsible for whatever downward pressure there was on oil prices during this period -- but claiming that OPEC kept oil prices low during this period is certainly an interesting one.
Second, if you look at the OPEC statement cited in the story, it becomes clear that OPEC's motives might differ somewhat from what Bodipo-Memba ascribes to them:
The reasons for this protracted volatility are, by now, familiar to OPEC Bulletin readers and relate to an unusual convergence of factors: the exceptionally strong world economic growth and, in turn, oil demand growth, especially in developing countries; the slow-down in non-OPEC supply growth, although this is picking-up again; tightness in the downstream sectors of major consumer countries; geopolitical concerns; major natural disasters; and heightened levels of speculative behaviour....This assessment has some truth.... but it's also a way for OPEC to say, "Don't blame us for the high prices that are enriching our members."
Finally, Bodipo-Memba overlooks the obvious angle for why Michiganders would benefit from price stability, even if the price of oil is relatively high -- it provides a set of stable expectations for car manufacturers as they plan production for the future.
This raises a few interesting questions:
1) For which commodities is price stability a particular virtue?
Friday, October 6, 2006
Matthew Yglesias drinks wine; I drink pink lemonade
My latest bloggingheads diavlog -- with Matthew Yglesias -- is now available online. Matt's beverage of choice is wine -- mine is lemonade.
The topics covered include:
And, as I said in the diavlog, everyone reading this blog should go online and check out the pilot episode of Friday Night Lights. The entire show is shockingly good -- particularly Connie Britton
Let's stop the hyperventilating about Hugo Chavez
Far from being a pariah, Venezuela is increasingly in step with the world. Thanks to deep wells of anti-Americanism and Chávez's dogged diplomacy among the developing world, he's managed to build a large, loose coalition of states aligned not just against the United States, but against the liberal world order that is the real bedrock of American hegemony. Chávez's goal is not to destroy the American economy--cutting off our supply of oil from Venezuela would do more harm to Caracas than to us--so much as to replace the structures by which we hold sway over the world economic community. And while it makes headlines to talk about Chávez's military (and paramilitary) aspirations, his real successes--and his real threats--exist in the economic, rather than the military, realm....Look, I can doom-and-gloom the demise of freer trade with the best of them, but in the thinking about existential threats to the world trading system, Hugo Chavez does not come to mind.
The key facts about Chavez's policy initiatives are as follows: 1) Sure, Chavez has signed a lot of trade deals -- but most of them are of the pissant variety. $200 million? Big whoop.
2) Sure, Chavez wants to diversify his imports and exports away from the United States -- but he's not going to succeed.
3) Sure, Chavez wants Mercosur to do his bidding -- but he can't, since Brazil is the key veto player in that trading bloc. Lula might not be America's biggest fan, but he's not really anti-American either.
Hugo Chavez is an irritant, but it's silly to paint him as the big bad wolf of the global political economy.
Thursday, October 5, 2006
So what's going on in Ukraine?
Crooked Timber's Maria Farrell went on a study tour organised by the 21st Century Trust and the John Smith Memorial Trust to see what's going on in Ukraine nearly two years after the Orange Revolution. The group decided to create their own blog to record their thoughts on the trip.
If you're interested in the country, go check it out.
Wednesday, October 4, 2006
The most interesting spin control of the year
Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) has come up with an interesting line of argumentation to protect himself from the Foley fallout: From Ray Long's story in the Chicago Tribune:
The Illinois lawmaker who oversees the Congressional page program said Wednesday that teens who participate are "safer in our program than in a lot of homes."Am i reading this incorrectly, or is Shimkus actually claiming that large numbers of parents of being so negligent that they'd be more likely to overlook a sexual predator than the United States Congress?
So much for Ahmadinejad's soft power.
While President Mahmud Ahmadinejad is busy running a high-voltage campaign against the United States and its policies, Iranians are wondering whether he will ever make good on election promises to crack down on corruption and distribute Iran's vast oil revenues more equitably.Other polls seem to generate similar results: "Last year Ahmedinejad’s approval rating was 60%. Now it is down to 35%."
These findings suggest to me two things: 1) Fareed Zakaria might be onto something.
2) If push comes to shove, the administration is wrong to reject gasoline sanctions. Those sanctions would bite the precise segment of the population that benefits from Ahmadinejad's regime.
The quickest way to dynamite the WTO out of existence
The Center for Global Development's Lawrence MacDonald blogs about Joe Stiglitz's new idea to
Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz urged at a CGD event that U.S. trade partners ask the WTO for authority to impose countervailing duties on exports of U.S. steel and other energy-intensive products that benefit unfairly from Washington’s refusal to join the Kyoto Protocol limiting carbon and other greenhouse gasses....For a full transcript of Stiglitz's talk, click here. For an article-length treatment by Stiglitz, click here.
Stiglitz's proposal probably would improve the global warming situation -- but not the way he thinks. Assuming the WTO Appellate Body was willing to destroy itself, here is the chain of events that would improve the environment:
1) The WTO rules against the U.S.A.;I'm thinking that there are better ways to solve the global warming problem.
This, by the way, is one of the basic problem I find with the parts of Making Globalization Work that I've read. There is a decent diagnosis of some of the ills caused by globalization -- but for a man who spent the past decade and a half in policymaking circles, he seems oddly oblivious to the massive political externalities many of his proposals would create.
UPDATE: My colleague Joel Trachtman explains why Stiglitz's plan is a legal non-starter.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Greg Mankiw critiques another of Stiglitz's policy prescriptions.
Tuesday, October 3, 2006
My one post about Mark Foley
It's time for this blog to stop talking about sexy topics like trade policy and move to the serious, weighty, and potentially boring question of whether former U.S. Rep Mark Foley committed the legal act of pedohpilia or was just plain creepy.
UPDATE: Oh dear, this AP story is close to Hastert's worst nightmare:
A senior congressional aide said Wednesday he told House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office in 2004 about worrisome conduct by former Rep. Mark Foley with teenage pages -- the earliest known alert to the GOP leadership.Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.
What I asked the USTR
Alas, I was unable to access the internet this morning, and so had no opportunity to view the range of questions that I could relay one to the USTR (it would have been Zathras'). However, the following exchange did take place:
ME: There seems to be a catch-22 on reviving Doha. Other countries won't negotiate seriously with the United States unless they believe that we can get TPA renewed. At the same time, the only way that TPA is likely to be renewed is if Congressmen seen the outline of a Doha deal. How does one escape this conundrum?So, call me skeptical on the odds of Doha being completed anytime soon. I should stress that this isn't Schwab's fault... it's the hand she was dealt.
One last thought: As David Kane has observed, both Schwab and I are graduates of Williams College. When I was intriduced to the ambassador, I mentioned that we shared the same alma mater. And, for just a brief second, the wised-up, cautious face of a politician was replaced by the joyful look of recognition when one Eph recognizes another Eph.
Monday, October 2, 2006
Submit your question to the U.S. Trade Representative!!
Tomorrow I'll be a panelist for an AEI symposium, "The World Trading System after the Collapse of Doha: The WTO, Developing Countries, and Regionalism." The highlight will be a speech by the Honorable Susan C. Schwab, U.S. Trade Representative.
Other panelists include former under secretary of Commerce Grant D. Aldonas, AEI's Claude E. Barfield, former undersecretary of State Alan P. Larson, And Georgetown law professor Daniel K. Tarullo.
I believe I'll be dining with the USTR before her speech. So, readers are encouraged to submit concise, issue-appropriate, and polite questions to pose during the lunch hour.
UPDATE: OK, the lunch is over -- I'll be posting an after-action report later this evening.
Sunday, October 1, 2006
Does America have a social policy deficit?
I just noticed that Francis Fukuyama sorta joined the blogosphere -- he's occasionally posting over at The American Interest's blog.
In this post from last month, he issues a provocative question that remains relevant:
What is it that leaders like Iran’s Ahmedinejad, Hezbollah’s Nasrullah, and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez have in common that vastly increases their local appeal? Anti-Americanism and an aggressive foreign policy are of course components. But what has really allowed them to win elections and cement their support is their ability to promise, and to a certain extent deliver on, social policy—things like education, health, and other social services, particularly for the poor. Hugo Chavez has opened clinics in poor barrios throughout Venezuela staffed with Cuban doctors; Hezbollah has offered a complete line of social services for years and is now in the business of using Iranian money to rebuild homes in the devastated south of Lebanon. Hamas in Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and Evo Morales in Bolivia all have active social agendas. Organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas do not merely lobby the government to provide social services; they run schools and clinics directly while out of power.I do think Frank is overstating the problem here. First, it shouldn't be that shocking that local leaders have the ability to craft social policies that resonate better in the short run than the United States.
Second, all you have to do is read Bill Easterly to become immediately wary of anything that smacks of a "Wasington Consensus" on health and education in the developing world. I'm pretty confident that such an animal does not exist.
Third, and most important, the one element that would belong in anything resembling a Washington Consensus on social development would be an intensive focus on educating women and providing them with greater health choices. How many conservative societies in the developing world are going to be truly receptive to that kind of program?
Finally, one of the few Bush administration policy innovations that does get kudos across the ideological spectrum is the Millennium Challenge Corporation. No one pays attention to it, however. Why? Well, it's been a bit slow in dispensng aid, and, oh, yes, there's Iraq.
That's the thing about big foreign policy screw-ups -- unfortunately, all the soft power in the world can't erase them.
The CPI bias at work in Burger King
For the past six weeks or so there' been an egaging, intermittent blog debate about CPI bias. That is, to what extent has technological innovation improved standards of living so much that the effects are understated in measuring year-to-year or decade-to-decade comparisons of the U.S. economy -- and whether, concomitantly, inflation measures lke the Consumer Price Index are overstated.
The debate is less about whether CPI bias exists, but how big it is, whether its effect diffuses across all income strata within the economy, and its political implications. See this Megan McArdle post for the libertarian take, and this Brad DeLong post for the social democratic take.
My take is similar to Megan's, but I haven't blogged about it because it can be very difficult to articulate the extent to which technology has converted what used to be luxury goods into normal goods.
And the I opened my son's BK Kids Meal....
The toy in my son's meal was an Open Season-themed radio. Not just an ordinary radio, but one that hooked around the ear, making it look like a kids version of a cell phone earpiece. The battery is included. You can take a gander at it by clicking here and then clicking on "Toys".
Thirty years ago, when I was a child, this would have been a $20 ($68.71 in 2006 dollars) birthday gift that would have made me the coolest kid on the block. It is now an afterthought, a free, promotional gift as part of a $4.00 kids meal that is affordable to 99% of all American households.
If that seems hard to grasp, here's another way of looking at it -- I predict that by the time my son is my age, Burger King will include the equivalent of an IPod Nano in every kids meal.
Does the CPI incorporate some of the effects discussed in this parable? Certainly it does, in the form of the declining cost of radios. Does it incorporate all of them? No -- the increasing sophistication of the toys contained within kids meals is not included.
Readers are invited to submit other examples on a par with my son's kids meal as examples of how previously exotic technologies have become practically throwaway commodities.