Wednesday, January 31, 2007
I've gone to the bad place again
Really, I was going to do some work tonight.... but then I kept thinking about this Brad DeLong post about canonical Star Trek episodes. That led to some web surfing, and before I knew it found this at Youtube:This was bad enough, but then it led to this clip, and then that led to this clip, which led to this bit, and, then, well this intrigued me but I just couldn't really enjoy it, and then, finally, oh dear God, there was this extract from my 13-year old id.
I'll post again once I've regained some equilibrium.
UPDATE: Ah, a Youtube video that brings me (sort of) back to the real world.
Are we moving towards apolarity?
Fareed Zakaria frets about this possibility in Newsweek after going to Davos:
We are certainly in a trough for America—with Bush in his last years, with the United States mired in Iraq, with hostility toward Washington still high almost everywhere. But if so, we might also be getting a glimpse of what a world without America would look like. It will be free of American domination, but perhaps also free of leadership—a world in which problems fester and the buck is endlessly passed, until problems explode.A few thoughts:
1) It's fascinating to contrast Zakaria's column with Gideon Rachman's take on Davos. Zakaria is gloomy because of the absence of U.S. policymakers; Rachman is (somewhat) more optimistic because of the optimish of American businessmen.[Er... what about the point on global governance structures?--ed.] I'll have a lot more to say about that in the near future.
Raul Castro... reformer?
Anthony Boadle writes a story for Reuters suggesting that Cuba under Raul Castro is somewhat different than Cuba under Fidel:
Six months after Cuba's sick leader Fidel Castro handed over power provisionally to his brother Raul, signs of an opening in public debate are emerging in the communist-run country.Calling for greater criticism of economic shortcoming might be a sign of greater openness -- or it might be a clue for how Raul plans to consolidate his political position. Much as China's central government highlights the daily demonstrations that take place within China as a motivation for greater government centralization, Raul might be highlighting economic difficulties to lay the groundwork for steps that consolidate his own political position.
Mind you, Raul Castro might actually be going for perestroika rather than abertura. But I'm not holding my breath.
I want more prizes
David Leonhardt has a near-excellent column in the New York Times today on why prizes are 1) A great way to foster innovation, but; 2) far less popular than grants or other compensation schemes:
in the 1700s, prizes were a fairly common way to reward innovation. Most famously, the British Parliament offered the £20,000 longitude prize to anyone who figured out how to pinpoint location on the open sea. Dava Sobel’s best-selling 1995 book “Longitude” told the story of the competition that ensued, and Mr. Hastings mentioned the longitude prize as a model at that meeting back in March.A much smarter approach than Leonhardt's smarter approach would simply be for the government to simply offer large prizes -- we're talking in the billions -- for innovations that would reduce global warming. In return, the innovator would have to relinquish all intellectual property rights for the invention.
Beyond global warming, this approach should be used far more frequently for health care as well. Indeed, this is one of those tasks where government intervention might improve upon the market -- because the government has sufficient resources to withstand the inherent budgetary uncertainty that comes with the prospect of awarding prizes in the billions or tens of billions.
If the federal government can offer $25 million for capturing Osama bin Laden, why can't it offer a $10 billion prize for an AIDS vaccine?
I look forward to readers explain why I'm wrong.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Davos vs. Herzliya
Gideon Rachman attended two conferences last week, and writes about the resulting conceptual whiplash:
I went to two international conferences last week. The Herzliya security conference took place on the Israeli coast and the World Economic Forum was held in the Swiss mountains. It felt as if they were taking place on different planets....Read the whole thing. And then, for fun, check out Rachman's description of his "brainstorm" nightmare at Davos on his blog.
Why doesn't the EU have an OFAC?
Steven Weisman has a story in the New York Times evaluating the transatlantic effort to squeeze Iran. There have been a few bumps in the road:
European governments are resisting Bush administration demands that they curtail support for exports to Iran and that they block transactions and freeze assets of some Iranian companies, officials on both sides say. The resistance threatens to open a new rift between Europe and the United States over Iran.I suspect that most of the rift on this issue is related to the difference in economic interdependence between the US and EU when it comes to Iran. However, the lack of an institutional infrastructure on the EU side is not insignificant. The Europeans have never had the equivalent of OFAC -- the Office of Foreign Assets Control that oversees the nitty-gritty implementation of U.S. sanctions.
The question is.... why? Economic sanctions have been a popular policy tool for the past fifteen years or so. Economic power is the primary means through which the EU tries to exert its influence in world politics. A EuroOFAC would, one hopes, allow the Europeans to implemebnt sanctions more quickly, while at the same time allowing for more precise in their targeting.
So why hasn't it happened yet? Two possible reasons:
1) European countries are less sanctions-happy than the United States. This is true, but there's a chicken-egg problem with this story -- the EU doesn't sanction as often because the tools aren't there;I'm sure there are other reasons -- and I'mm sure my readers will inform me at great length about them.
This is part and parcel of a larger question, however -- to what extent does the EU really want to be seen as a great power? Is it willing to develop the traditional tools of statecraft that befit the moniker?
Monday, January 29, 2007
Remembering Milton Friedman
Only 20 minutes left for Milton Friedman day, so here are a few salient links:
1) At Open U., Richard Stern reports on the memorial service at the University of Chicago:
The euro disconnect
There's something a bit odd about the contrast between a) economists debating the prospect of the euro supplanting the dollar as the world's reserve currency, and b) the fact that Europeans don't like the euro all that much. The Financial Times' Ralph Atkins explains:
An overwhelming majority of citizens in the big eurozone countries believe the euro has damaged their national economies, highlighting the popular scepticism that still surrounds Europe’s eight-year-old monetary union.UPDATE: Henry Farrell provides an explanation for the oddity.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
The lack of campaign chatter about foreign policy
Over at America Abroad, Earnest Wilson tells everyone what he knows about the foreign policy positions of the major Democratic candidates for president:
I don’t know. Other bloggers, journalists, policy wonks and usually talkative political pundits don’t know either. We have to assume the candidates know where they stand on the Big Issues. Maybe. But maybe not. They almost certainly don’t know all they really need to know on foreign affairs. (Except Biden. But he probably doesn’t know the other things.)I don't have much objection to the first few paragraphs his post, but I'm not convinced Wilson is correct on his last point. Bush's foreign policy instincts in the 2000 campaign were a mixture of diffidence and indifference -- a far cry from how he has approached foreign policy since then.
Tell me, informed readers: which presidential aspirant -- from either party -- seems the most well-grounded on matters of foreign policy?
Friday, January 26, 2007
Move over, Oprah
“Russian Thinkers,” a 1978 collection of essays on 19th-century Russian intellectuals by the philosopher Isaiah Berlin, has virtually disappeared from bookstores across the city, including Barnes & Noble, Labyrinth Books and Shakespeare & Company. The Internet is not much help either: the book is sold out on bn.com, and though it can be ordered from Amazon, the order won’t be shipped for two or three weeks.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Nationalism, globalization, China and Starbucks
Favorite quote that will cause rioting in London:
[What] about a Starbucks inside Buckingham Palace[?]. For all I know there may be one, years since I was there, but certainly there should be one. It wouldn't make much money inside the private quarters, I doubt the Queen does many skinny lattes, but in the Royal Gallery, which is the visitable part of the palace, a Starbucks would be an excellent fit.
Back in the day, they didn't have blogging scholarships
Student-bloggers, take note -- there's now a Political Blogging Scholarship:
Do you maintain a political weblog and attend college? Would you like $2,000 to help pay for books, tuition, or other living costs? If so, read on.Click here to find out all the details. I do like this description of what the winner and losers get:
The Winner Gets:[The kids today, with their podcasts and their American Idol idolatry..... we didn't have blogging scholarships when we started out, did we?--ed] Yes, but they also don't have annoying editorial voices either.What Happens to the Losers? Concession Speech!
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
I'm intrigued -- does that means he's doomed?
Many moons ago, my wife and I were roped into a focus group that was viewing a proposed television pilot. At the end of the half hour, we were asked to fill out some demographic information, including education level.
At that point, my wife and I looked at each other, knowing that because we had post-graduate degrees, our reactions were not going to matter one whit -- we're not exactly the target demographic of profitable shows.
This memory came to mind when someone e-mailed me this Fortune story by Nina Easton on Newt Gingrich's quixotic run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008:
[T]his year, as he throws warm-up pitches for a 2008 presidential campaign, hoping that his big ideas, combined with his grass-roots popularity, will produce a "draft Newt" movement, even his most ardent loyalists doubt he can pull it off. "He's a better Moses, leading the party out of the wilderness, than he is a King David, running the show," says Frank Lavin, a veteran of Republican administrations who now serves as commerce undersecretary.Gingrich intrigues me -- he's far more complex and interesting a thinker than the nineties stereotype of him suggested. And if Hillary Clinton can remake herself as someone who's learned from past mistakes, I see no reason why Gingrich can't as well.
However, I can't shake the feeling that because I'm so interested in a Gingrich, he's doomed to fail. Can someone who scores well in the blogger wonk demographic really develop mainstream appeal?
Readers, help me out here.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Open SOTU -- oh, hell, I'm bored already
Comment on the content of Bush's State of the Union address if you'd like.
Me, I don't see the point. With a 28% approval rating and both houses of Congress controlled by
1) Bush's domestic policy proposals are immaterial, since they are DOA unless they provide an opportunity for Democrats to toss some lard at their favored interests (see: energy policy, ethanol subsidies).UPDATE: The Democratic response is by James Webb.
The generation gap on jobs
Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Bob Kimmitt has an interesting op-ed in the Washington Post on the growth in job churn, and why it's a good thing:
More than 55 million Americans, or four out of every 10 workers, left their jobs in 2005. And this is good news, because there were over 57 million new hires that same year.Now I suspect that many blog readers will heap scorn and outrage upon this trend, because they are nostalgic for the days of company men.
I also wonder, however, whether there is a generation gap in the reaction to this trend. My hunch is that the younger workers Kimmitt identifies in the piece already have accepted this new status quo, and will find objections to it puzzling.
This blog post brought to you by Peyton Manning
My latest diavlog -- with Matthew Yglesias -- is now online. Obsessive fans of danieldrezner.com will delight in the fact that my "studio" has moved to my Fletcher office.
Among the topics discussed -- Iraq, what we thought about Iraq in 2003, Iran, Bush's grand strategy, the 2008 campaign, and the inevitable Peyton Manning endorsement for bloggingheads.
Monday, January 22, 2007
A letter to the blog from the UN Global Compact
In my Los Angeles Times op-ed on the Davos forum, I wrote the following passage:
[Davos] is a useful place for politicians to launch new, grandiose initiatives that never quite live up to their billing. Former Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched the U.N.'s Global Compact there in 1999. The U.S. proposed a Middle East Free Trade Zone in 2003. And British Prime Minister Tony Blair used Davos in 2005 as the platform to launch the G8's climate-change initiative.It now appears that the op-ed has irked someone other than its author.
The following is a letter sent to the LA Times and myself from George Kell, the executive director of the UN Global Compact. I don't know if the LAT is running it, but it seems appropriate to run it here:
We take serious issue with Daniel Drezner’s characterization of the United Nations Global Compact as one of several “new, grandiose initiatives that never quite live up to their billing” (Davos’ downhill slide, 21 January 2007). What began as a call to action to global business leaders gathered in Davos eight years ago, has since grown to become the world’s largest voluntary corporate citizenship initiative with more than 3,000 participants in over 100 countries. The UN Global Compact has made a significant contribution to the emergence of corporate responsibility not only (and rightly so) as a moral obligation, but also as a management imperative. Every day, corporations around the globe are leading by example, aligning their strategies and operations with the Global Compact’s universal principles while driving value for their business and developing new opportunities.UPDATE: To defend my position just a little, I based my statement on two facts -- 1) The low rate of participation in the Global Compact by companies in two countries that kind of matter -- the United States and China Click here for more -- though a point for them for getting Microsoft to sign on. Second, as the Global Compact itself acknowledges, an awfu lot of companies appeared to sign on and then did nothing for quite a while.
A post in which I suck up to my employers
It may not have been on purpose, but the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy – the oldest graduate school of international relations in the US – has suddenly found itself in the executive education business.Note to self: put "educated global leader" somewhere on cv. [Since you have made exactly zero contribution to these programs, is that justified?--ed. Hey, all's fair in love and resumes.]
UPDATE: More good financial news for Tufts.
Vote early and (reasonably) often
Pajamas Media is conducting a thoroughly unscientific but nevertheless intriguing online Presidential straw poll. You are allowed to vote once a week.
Again, Rudy Giuliani is showing surprising strength (as is Barack Obama). The names that intrigue, however, are the ones in second place -- Dennis Kucinich and Newt Gingrich.
As I said, onlinew straw polls like this one don't have a lot of scientific value -- but I have to wonder if the first thing the nascent campaign staffs of all the candidates do in the morning is go to sites like this to boost their candidates' standing. Typical early morning list:
1) Make coffeeOf course, at this stage of the campaign there's another competition that matters greatly. The New York Times' Patrick Healy and Jeff Zeleny do a good job of covering the money race among the Dems.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Davos screws me over yet again
I have an essay in today's Los Angeles Times about the World Economic Forum -- otherwise known as the Davos forum. In the essay,I ask whether Davos is really significant, or whether it has jumped the shark:
Since Swiss business professor Klaus Schwab launched the forum in 1971, it has become the ne plus ultra of elite meetings, eclipsing such challengers as Renaissance Weekend, the British-American Project and the Trilateral Commission.Read the whole thing, but you should know that I submitted a different byline than the one they used.
The byline reads -- online at least -- as "Daniel W. Drezner is associate professor of international politics at Tufts University's Fletcher School and the author of "All Politics Is Global." He maintains a blog at danieldrezner.com/blog/."
Which is great, but the byline I submitted to them was, "Daniel W. Drezner is associate professor of international politics at Tufts University's Fletcher School and the author of "All Politics Is Global." He has never been invited to Davos, but is not bitter about that fact in the slightest."
I think I'd be less upset if I didn't fear that the deleted sentence was the best line in the piece.
Want to read more about Davos? You can check out the David Rothkopf's diary from last year's conference here. A precis of the polling results discussed in the piece can be found in this story. And here's a link to the official web site.
Finally, given that I was gently mocking it in the piece, I feel I owe a link to the one scholarly piece I found on Davos: Jean-Christophe Graz, "How Powerful are Transnational Elite Clubs? The Social Myth of the World Economic Forum." New Political Economy, Vol. 8, No. 3, November 2003. If you can get past the sections when Graz gets trapped in his own jargon, he makes an interesting argument about the inherent limits of these kind of fora.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
I'm away from my blog right now....
And on my way to the Mershon Center for International Security Studies to present a paper, "Regime Proliferation and World Politics: Is There Viscosity in Global Governance?" I already realize I made one mistake in this version -- I forgot to thank Eli Wallach in the acknowledgements.
Talk amongst yourselves. Here's a topic: exactly what does it mean when the North Koreans say they've reached "a certain agreement" with U.S. negotiators?
My black mark on Iraq
Today I received the following in an e-mail:
Since you seem to have been wrong about everything you wrote in support of the invasion... no WMDs, no Al Queda before the war, no connection to 9/11, took troops and reconstruction money away from where real battle was in Afghanistan... now have more Al Queda and no success in either Afghanistan or Iraq... in other words a completely counter-productive disaster as some did predict... I was wondering if you had issued an apology to everybody who did get it right (and for the right reasons)... including Al Gore?Well, this seems like a good time to address the big blog topic for the week.
There have been a boatload of blog posts, op-eds, and magazine articles that discuss how and whether people who supported the Iraq war in 2002-3 should have their pundit's license removed, and whether those who opposed the war deserve promotions to pundit first class.
This Radar Magazine story by Jebediah Reed kicked things off, followed quickly by Jonathan Chait, Mark Thoma, Megan McArdle, Julian Sanchez, Kevin Drum (follow-up here), Daniel Davies, Scott Lemieux, Obsidian Wings (here and here), and Eric Rauchway.
You can read the above links for their thoughts on the matter now, and their thoughts on their thoughts back in 2002-3. One grand irony is that back in April 2003 it was the pro-war people who basked in their successful prediction, and anti-war activists who pointed out that, as Michael Kinsley put it then: "victory in the war is not victory in the argument about the war":
The serious case [against the war] involved questions that are still unresolved. Factual questions: Is there a connection between Iraq and the perpetrators of 9/11? Is that connection really bigger than that of all the countries we're not invading? Does Iraq really have or almost have weapons of mass destruction that threaten the United States? Predictive questions: What will toppling Saddam ultimately cost in dollars and in lives (American, Iraqi, others)? Will the result be a stable Iraq and a blossoming of democracy in the Middle East or something less attractive? How many young Muslims and others will be turned against the United States, and what will they do about it?Given the current answers to Kinsley's questions, I'm going to indulge in a bit of painful navel-gazing below the fold....
I supported the war going in, and if I could go into the way-back machine and do it all over again, I'd say "HELL, NO!" as loudly and as firmly as possible. I was pretty critical of the occupation phase from day one, and got more critical very quickly. That said, it's a useful exercise to look back and figure out where I screwed up in my pre-war logic.
The main blog posts where I articulated my own arguments in favor of war -- and against those who opposed military action -- can be found, in chronological order, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. There was also this TNR Online piece.
Summing up, I had three major reasons for favoring war in 2002-3:
1) I wanted U.S. troops out of Saudi Arabia, because that was a major irritant for devout Muslims, a great talking point for Al Qaeda, and seemed to be destabilizing the Saudi regime in a bad, bad way. That was not going to happen until Saddam was deposed or otherwise removed from power.Note that my e-mailer was in error -- my support for the war was not based on Iraq having WMD, or Iraq being connected to Al Qaeda (indeed, click here for my thoughts in March 2003 on this point).
My major screw-up was both simple and profound -- at the time, with regard to foreign policy, I thought the Bush administration could walk and chew gum at the same time (i.e., fight Al Qaeda and Iraq), when it turned out that they couldn't even chew gum unaided.
I also implicitly assumed that if administration officials -- many of whom had displayed a fair amount of competence in the Bush 41 prosecution of Gulf War I -- discovered that their initial plans did not go, er, according to plan, that they would recognize this fact and adopt contingency plans. I did not think that their response would boil down to something like "stay the course" for close to four years, followed by a surge proposal.
In making this mistake, I didn't just make an ass out of you and me: two-and-a-half of my three reasons for the war got vitiated. Pulling out of Saudi Arabia was still a good move, and the Saudi experts I talk to say this has helped reduce Al Qaeda sympathies on the Arabian peninsula. Of course, compared to the cluster f**k in Iraq, this is small beer. For the Iraqis, this has been a humanitarian disaster by any metric as compared to the pre-war sanctions regime. And I simply cannot believe that an eroding UN sanctions regime, bad as it would have been, compares to what exists now.
In fact, the sanctions might not ever have eroded. In retrospect, it's heartbreaking to contemplate what would have happened had the administration halted its plans to invade Iraq after the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed Resolution 1441. Through that resolution, the Bush administration had a dramatic effect on Iraqi compliance just with the threat of military force. Had Bush stopped there, a lot of treasure and no small amount of blood would have been spared.
Re-reading these posts also reminds me that I do, in fact, owe an apology to Al Gore, who by supporting the 1991 Gulf War and opposing the 2003 war is batting a rare 2 for 2 in Middle East conflicts. He wasn't just right on the outcome: he was right in (much of) his reasoning as well:
I vividly remember that during one of the campaign debates in 2002 Jim Lehrer asked then Governor Bush whether or not America, after being involved in military action, should engage in any form of nation building. And the answer was, and I quote, "I don't think so. I think what we need to do is to convince people who live in the lands they live in to build the nations."Sorry, Al.
So, dear readers, I definitely erred in the arguments I made in 2002 and 2003. I have and will try to do better. Bear in mind, however, that when it comes to foreign policy prognostications, better is a relative term.
Um.... isn't this how incentives work?
Fiona Harvey, the Financial Times' environment correspondent, reports that environmentalists are irked about the way carbon emissions trading is working out:
Factories in China and carbon traders are exploiting a loophole in climate change regulations that allows them to make big profits from greenhouse gas emissions trading.Now this is a story that the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have also carried this story, and each time I read it I'm confused. Reading the articles, I get that CO2 and methane are the big contributors to global warming in the aggregate -- but I also get that per unit of emission, HFC is far, far worse, and far cheaper to correct. Doesn't it make sense that a market mechanism would focus on the low-hanging, cheapest fruit first?
The implication in these articles is that the carbon market is not working to reduce greenhouse gases, but from what I'm reading, it's working pretty well (though Chinese firms are reaping a large windfall). Greg Mankiw or someone else in the Pigou Club needs to explain all the hubbub to me. I understand if environmentalists want to increase incentives to cut greenhouse gas emissions even further; I don't understand why they think the current focus on HFC emission should be dealt with through direct regulation instead of the current set of arrangements.
It should benoted that there are other ways that the carbon trading scheme is imperfect. The focus on HFC can, perversely, undercut the Montreal Protocol's efforts to reduce CFC emissions (click here for more on that). The primary thrust of these articles, however, is that the market is not working -- and I don't see that.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Anne Applebaum kind of agrees with me
Back in November I argued for outright drug legalization, in part because of the benefits to U.S. foreign policy:
Because of current policies regarding narcotics, the United States is stymied in promoting the rule of law in Afghanistan and several Latin American countries because farmers in those countries keep harvesting products that American cunsumers demand. Because this activity is crminalized, the bulk of the revenues from this activity enriches criminal syndicates and terrorist networks. All for a supply-side policy that does nothing but act as a price support for producers.In Slate, Anne Applebaum makes a more moderate argument with respect to Afghanistan:
[B]y far the most depressing aspect of the Afghan poppy crisis is the fact that it exists at all—because it doesn't have to. To see what I mean, look at the history of Turkey, where once upon a time the drug trade also threatened the country's political and economic stability. Just like Afghanistan, Turkey had a long tradition of poppy cultivation. Just like Afghanistan, Turkey worried that poppy eradication could bring down the government. Just like Afghanistan, Turkey—this was the era of Midnight Express—was identified as the main source of the heroin sold in the West. Just like in Afghanistan, a ban was tried, and it failed.I still like my idea better -- but Applebaum does have the advantage of proposing something that seems politically possible in the current universe.
UPDATE: Ilya Somin weighs in.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
A question that will haunt protectionists and free traders alike
The Financial Times' Richard McGregor notes that China is making somewhat louder noises about continued appreciation of the renminbi:
The Chinese ministry responsible for promoting exports has backed a further appreciation of the renminbi, removing one of the last remaining institutional lobbies in Beijing against a stronger currency.Six percent is not a lot, but clearly it's trending in the right direction. Which leads to an interesting thought -- if the renminbi continues to appreciate, but the bilateral deficit is not seriously affected, what does this mean for trade politics in this country?
Protectionists will be robbed of the easy crutch that the U.S. runs a large trade deficit because of China's unfair trading practices.
But free traders will be robbed of the argument that letting exchange rates float maes it easier to correct for current and capital account imbalances (see this Brad Setser post for more on the oddities of current global investment trends).
Where the foreign tourists are
Virginia Postrel has a great column in the Atlantic Monthly about the decline and fall of airline glamour. Go check it out -- if for no other reason than to admire a writer's ability to justify someone paying for her to fly from Los Angeles to London in Virgin Atlantic’s “Upper Class” cabin.
In a follow-up post, however, Postrel makes a rather curious assertion:
I suspect that The Guardian's audience is not as well traveled as they think they are. Outside the major cities in the United States, for instance, the only foreign tourists you usually find are Germans, who will go just about anywhere and rent RVs to do it. How many Guardian readers have driven through the desert Southwest or the Blue Ridge?I've traveled a fair amount in the United States, and my casual empiricism suggests that you'll find quite a lot of foreign tourists in the Southwest. They might not be driving RVs, but they will go there to take in one of the features of the United States that is not quite as common in Europe -- jaw-dropping natural vistas like the Grand Canyon, Garden of the Gods, or Zion National Park. In fact, in my experience, I've bumped into foreign tourists more often at non-urban destinations than urban ones.*
This could be a perceptual bias, so I'd be curious to hear from readers if this is their experience as well.
*If the dollar continues to fall in value, this will change, as even more tourists come to the U.S. for lower consumer prices.
Monday, January 15, 2007
Personally, I'm voting for option A
What does it mean that, when I contemplate the fact that today is Martin Luther King Day, I can't stop thinking about the first three minutes of this clip from Blazing Saddles?:A) I have bizarre sense of humor;
B) It underscores Seth Mnookin's point that, "[It's] twenty-nine years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr…and we still can’t talk openly and honestly about race." UPDATE: Wow, I am old. it's been thirty-nine years since the MLK assassination.
C) All of the above
D) None of the Above
The blog wheel has turned
Between 2002 and 2006, I noticed a meta-narrative that appeared in the blogosphere every so often:
1) Policy X is promulgated;I bring this up because, once the Democrats took power in Congress, I had a hunch that we might see the inverse of this passion play in the blogosphere: Republicans bashing Dems for bad policy, and Dems responding by pointing out that some Republicans embrace the policy as well.
For Exhibit A, see this Mark Thoma post about protectionist Republicans. His basic point:
There has been attempt after attempt to portray the trade issue as an area where Democrats are deeply divided, and there has been much written about how Democrats will stifle trade and hurt the economy now that they are in power.Read the whole thing. Thoma is correct about protectionist Republicans (though I think they're more significant on immigraton than trade). That said, he overlooks the fact that if the Democrats hold majorities in both houses of Congress, then it is appropriate that they shoulder the majority of criticism for their protectionist wing.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
The truest sentence I will read this weekend
People rarely watch their language when they’re about to be eaten by a giant crocodile or shot in the head by a glowering thug.Parental warning accomanying A.O. Scott's New York Times review of Primeval.
Friday, January 12, 2007
A question about Somalia
Over at Across the Aisle, Eugene Gholz is puzzled about U.S. policy in Somalia:
[T]he most interesting choice, from my perspective: as Kenya sealed its border with Somalia to prevent the escape of the Islamic Courts fighters (at the request of the interim government and the Ethiopians), the U.S. used naval forces off the Somali coast to try to block Islamic Courts fighters’ escape by sea....Read the whole thing. The only point where I might differ with Eugene is that he downplays the Islamic Courts' belligerent attitude towards Ethiopia (an attitude that Ethiopia reciprocated in full). Click here for more background info on this from the Economist.
One last point -- the problem right now with U.S. policy is not that it's tried to strike at Al Qaeda suspects in Somalia, which is perfectly justified. The problem with U.S. policy is that this action is taking place after three years of Abu Ghraib revelations, four years of futile war in Iraq, five years of revelations about faulty U.S. intelligence, five and a half years of internments in Guantanamo, and nearly six years of bellicose rhetoric from the Bush administration. In this context, even justifiable military actions come with terrific amounts of blowback.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
The thing about credible commitment....
The masses ain't too thrilled with the surge option. This has little to do with the actual merits and demerits of the option. According to Mystery Pollster:
[T]he data above suggest that general assessments of President Bush- both among speech watchers and other Americans - are driving judgments about the troop surge. Since the majority of Americans are skeptical of Bush, they are also skeptical of this new proposal.So what about the actual plan? Over at NRO, John Derbyshire confronts the paradoxes of the latest Bush plan on Iraq:
The central and most glaring contradiction is the implied threat to walk away... Yoked to the ringing declaration that, of course, we can't walk away. We seem to be saying to the Maliki govt.: "Hey, you guys better step up to your responsibilites, or else we're outa here." This, a few sentences after saying that we can't leave the place without a victory. So-o-o-o:Tom Maguire offers a valiant attempt to bail out the syllogism:
However, it *may* be that Bush is simply greasing the skids for something resembling an "acceptable" US defeat. Increasing our troops shows our commitment and gives the lie to Osama and others who took from Vietnam, Beirut and Somalia that the US lacked the stomach for an extended fight.Even Tom knows this is weak beer, but it's worth pointing out one empirical flaw in Maguire's reasoning: what Bush is proposing now is exactly what happened in Vietnam, Beirut and Somalia.
In each case:
1) The United States suffered a pivotal attack that altered their perception of the enemy (the Tet Offensive, the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, and the 1993 Black Hawk Down incident);I see very little reason to go through this charade again.... but I'm willing to listen to commenters who disagree. To them, I must ask -- how with the surge option be anything other than a more grandiose version of the Clinton administration's response to the Somalia bombings?
[So you're saying that no matter what we do, our credibility is damaged for the future?--ed.] Not necessarily. In Calculating Credibiliy: How Leaders Assess Military Threats, Daryl Press argues that the past is not a significant factor when leaders assess the credibility of other states' actions.
Opinio Juris scores a (perfectly legal) coup
The international law blog Opinio Juris announces what I believe to be a first -- an executive branch official openly participating in a blog:
Opinio Juris is very pleased to announce that John Bellinger will be guest blogging with us for the week of January 15. As our readers well know, Bellinger is the State Department Legal Adviser, the top lawyer at the Department of State. In that capacity he is the principal adviser on all domestic and international law matters to the Department of State, the Foreign Service, and the diplomatic and consular posts abroad. Full details of his bio are available here.UPDATE: Another first for bloggers.
This post is dedicated to my brother....
Two years ago, I was the best man for my suspicious-looking yet disgustingly affluent I-banker of a brother at his wedding in in Hawaii. A few minutes before the ceremony started, he turned to me and, with a sheepish look, said: "Hang onto this, and don't tell [the bride]. She told me I couldn't bring this to the ceremony."
Then he gave me his Blackberry.
I bring this up (with the permission of my happily married brother), because for some reason I thought of him when I saw this story in The Onion (WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE):
Sheryl Gay Stolberg owes me big time!!
Daniel Drezner, "Open Surge Thread," January 10, 2007:
Since November, President Bush has received an electoral rebuke, the Iraq Study Group report, a statement from his own Defense Secretary, and a whole lot of other free advice saying essentially the same thing: the current policy is not working, and it's simply too late for putting more troops on the ground. A surprisingly large number of people who work for him agree with this assessment. In response, Bush has shuffled around his high command and proposed a surge. Is is possible to draw any conclusion other than, "George W. Bush is a stubborn ass?"Lead paragraphs for Sheryl Gay Stolberg, "Bush’s Strategy for Iraq Risks Confrontations," New York Times, January 11, 2007:
By stepping up the American military presence in Iraq, President Bush is not only inviting an epic clash with the Democrats who run Capitol Hill. He is ignoring the results of the November elections, rejecting the central thrust of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and flouting the advice of some of his own generals, as well as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq....[Um... wasn't that the obvious way to frame it?--ed. Hey, I found that $20 bill on the sidewalk first, dammit!]
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
"The next year of the war could be bloody"
Comment away here on the President's speech tonight, in which, according to the Washington Post's Michael Abramowitz and Robin Wright, "President Bush will announce this evening that he is sending 21,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq and will warn Americans that the next year of the war could be bloody as U.S. and Iraq forces confront sectarian militias and seek to quell the Sunni Muslim insurgency."
I've filed this under "politics" rather than "foreign policy" for reasons proffered earlier today.
You have to have AAFTA
The Wall Street Journal op-ed page is currently the Beltway bulletin board on trade. A few days ago, former USTR and deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick wrote an essay proposing that the United States consolidate our trade diplomacy in the region:
This year President Bush and the Democratic-led Congress should launch a new Association of American Free Trade Agreements (AAFTA). The AAFTA could shape the future of the Western Hemisphere, while offering a new foreign and economic policy design that combines trade, open societies, development and democracy. In concert with successful immigration reform, the AAFTA would signal to the Americas that, despite the trials of war and Asia's rising economic influence, U.S. global strategy must have a hemispheric foundation.I'm curious to see how Democrats like Sherrod Brown would react to this, since in many ways, Zoellick is simply proposing a political trade with our FTA partners -- deeper economic integration in return for adding on stringent labor and environmental standards. Nominally, at least, this is what populists like Brown claim to want.
However, I confess that the real point of the post, if you've read this far, is to see how Lou Dobbs covers this sort of proposal:The answer seems to be, "very, very poorly."
Thank you, Mr. President
The Boston Globe's Marcella Bombardieri and Maria Sacchetti report that Harvard has narrowed its shortlist for the presidency position. There's some good news -- for me, at least:
Harvard University has narrowed its hunt for a president to a handful of candidates, including three Harvard administrators and a Nobel Laureate who heads a scientific research institute, according to people familiar with the search.[So, what, you bucking for an endowed chair or something?--ed. No, a better parking spot. That's like gold in academia. Gold!!!]
UPDATE: The Harvard Crimson's Javier Hernandez and Daniel Schuker report that, "the [search] committee may not yet have ruled out Tufts University President Lawrence S. Bacow." Damn you, Harvard!!!
I am so going to hell for this link
Pssst..... hey, you, the IR grad students who furtively read this blog.... want to waste a few hours?
If you are not an IR grad student, then this link will not interest you.... unless you like fantasy sports, in which case you'll have a good chuckle.
Open surge thread
I've been mute about the proposed surge in U.S. troops as a way to achieve some semblance of victory in Iraq. That does not mean my readers have to be mute as well. So, comment away.
To stack the deck a little, however, surge proponents need to answer three questions for me:
1) How would a surge of only 20,000 troops make any difference, when even the proponents of such an option were talking about 50,000 troops in the fall? Is anyone going to claim that Iraq is more stable now than then?
The energy follies, continued
I might need to create a new category for the blog: file under Utterly Stupid Moves by Energy-Abundant Regimes.
First, there's Venezuela. Simon Romero and Clifford Krauss explain in the New York Times:
Investors reacted with alarm here and in markets in the United States and throughout Latin America on Tuesday as they measured the impact of the plan by Mr. Chávez to nationalize crucial areas of the economy. Memories of past nationalizations during another turbulent era, in places like Cuba and Chile, helped drive down the Caracas stock exchange’s main index by almost 19 percent....Then there is Russia. [For forcing Belarus to pay higher prices for energy?--ed.] No, and let's be clear about this -- as with Ukraine last year, Russia is perfectly justified in switching to market rates for their energy exports. It's the way in which they go about trying to do this that's so wrong-footed. In the International Herald-Tribune, Judy Dempsey and Dan Bilefsky explain why Europe is so ticked off:
Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday publicly rebuked Russia for not consulting its European partners before suspending oil shipments destined for Poland and Germany in a dispute with Belarus.I don't understand the lack of consultation on this one. It's not like the European Union is going to be upset about squeezing the Belarusian leadership -- and with sufficient preparation, this could have been handled much more smoothly. Why not consult?
Finally, we have Iran. As the United States ratchets up its own sanctions, the Iranian leadership seems surprised that, like, they have alienated a lot of countries. In the Financial Times, Daniel Dombey and Gareth Smyth explain the confusion in Tehran:
[T]he new UN regime - which took months to negotiate in New York - appears to have surprised parts of Iran's leadership, with differences emerging on how best to respond. After a period in which Iran saw its regional influence increase at relatively little cost, Tehran now faces greater isolation....Even the Nelson Report observes that, "there’s no question that, along with the EU, Washington and Beijing are simultaneously taking a tough line on Iran. And the implicit 'message' of the arrival in China of Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, today, is clear to all concerned."
Tuesday, January 9, 2007
How will the Olympics affect China?
When historians debate what caused the decline and fall of the Soviet Union, there is occasionally a mention of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. As the narrative goes, the Soviets invested enormous sums to turn Moscow into a showcase for the international media -- and bankrupted themselves in the process.
I bring this up because the Economist's Asia.view column reports on how China is, temporarily, changing its laws for the 2008 summer games in Beijing:
China wants to show that its relations with the foreign media are in line with those of other countries that have hosted the games in the past 20 years. It does not want its Olympics marred by the sort of boycotts and tensions that spoilt the 1980 games in Moscow―the only other communist capital to have hosted the event.Sounds like the 2007 Beijing leadership is savvier than the 1980 Moscow leadership. It will be interesting to see whether the cental government manages to stay ahead of whatever adverse developments emerge over the next 18 months. As the column concludes:
It remains to be seen, however, how local governments respond. They have long been adept at ignoring central directives they dislike. Some have deployed thugs to keep unwanted visitors at bay.
Monday, January 8, 2007
This is every academic's secret nightmare
After reading the headline, "Gas-Like Odor Permeates Parts of New York City," I was convinced that my secret fear had come true.
You see, at this very moment I have an article manuscript that's being edited by someone in New York City. Clearly, I thought (OK, not so clearly), my work has become so bad that the metaphorical has become literal. It's my fault!! MINE!!.
[Get your head out of your narcissistic ass!--ed. Thank you, I needed that.]
Surfing the web on the story, the most interesting tidbit I found was in Nathan Thornburgh's story at Time.com:
New York, of course, has had its share of mystery aromas, big and small. In 2005, an odd maple syrup smell overcame parts of Manhattan and New Jersey. Last August, an unidentified odor sent people to the hospital in Staten Island and Queens.I kind of like the idea of maple syrup wafting through my town.
Next year, I'm putting my money on Latvia
Russia, accusing Belarus of stealing oil from a major pipeline, has shut off oil exports to its western neighbour, halting supplies to Poland and Germany and threatening wider disruptions in central Europe.What's odd about this dispute is that Belarus backed down last week when faced with similar Russian pressure on natural gas. Lukashenka agreed (he wasn't thrilled, obviously, but he agreed) to a ramp up in Gazprom's natural gas price.
Writing in the Financial Times, Arkady Ostrovskyin reports that Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko has backed himself into a corner:
Speaking for the first time since Belarus succumbed to Russia's demands to double gas prices and take control of half of its pipeline infrastructure, Mr Lukashenko said he had instructed his government to propose to Moscow that it pay for everything "they are getting here for free, from military objects to transit of oil".The big question here is whether Western Europe will force Russia to turn the oil tap back on before Lukashenka is ousted by someone not stupid enough to annoy Belarus' only ally. From a human rights perspective, it would seem hard to believe that anyone in Belarus could be worse than Lukashenko. On the other hand, it's not clear that a replacement would be much better, either -- and there's the pesky problem of heating homes and such.
My prediction: If this kind of standoff lasts more than a week, Lukashenko is gone. But I suspect European pressure will force an agreement before Lukashenko is ousted.
Readers are invited to speculate which country will be the focus of next year's energy squeeze.
UPDATE: The Economist's Democracy in America blog thinks the target of this cutoff isn't Belarus -- it's Germany and Poland.
So that's why tenure is such a big deal
In my day, I have read many a rant about how the tenure system in academia is merely a con job that ivory tower types have used to hoodwink the lumpenproletariat not privileged enough to sit in on the mind-numbing minutiae that are facult meetings. Academics usually trot out the importance of "academic freedom," but this is dimissed by most as unimportant.
I will now refer these ranters to this Inside Higher Ed piece by Elia Powers:
Elena Kagan, dean of Harvard Law School, lowered her spectacles and, as if addressing a group of students, presented her audience with a case study.Read the whole thing to see Kagan's explanation of this seeming paradox.
Then again, Stanley Fish does not hold that capacious a view on academic freedom more generally:
[I]s academic freedom worth protecting? Only when one applies a limited definition, Fish argued. Worthy of protection: a professor’s ability to introduce material and equip students with analytical skills.I have to assume that Fish was limiting his remarks about protecting academic freedom within the context of a classroom setting. Because if he's saying that research topics and research output should not be protected, then dear God, keep that man away from my campus. One also wonders what Fish's views would be about blogging....
UPDATE: Only tangentially connected, but it seems appropriate here to say goodbye to Michael Berube's blog -- he hung up his blogging spurs today. He makes a valid point in his last post:
[L]et me try to answer the most serious question I’ve gotten about this decision: why not just cut down? Post something under 2000 words for a change? Post once a week or once a month, instead of maniacally posting every weekday?....
A few good trade links
A few if the saner things written about trade in the past few weeks:
1) William Overholt, "Globalization's Unequal Discontents," washingtonpost.com, December 21, 2006:
Some manufacturing workers in the United States -- such as those who labored in huge factories making basic steel -- have suffered as they've seen their jobs leave America for low-wage countries. But for workers as a whole, the truth about globalization and inequality is the opposite of what the protectionists claim. There are three caveats to the steel worker's story and two larger perspectives on inequality.2) Jagdish Bhagwati, "Technology, not Globalisation, Drives Wages Down," Financial Times, January 3, 2007:
Lou Dobbs of CNN, the labour groups’ think-tank Economic Policy Institute and nearly all the Democrats newly elected to Congress believe that globalisation has much to do with the economic distress of the working and middle classes. Therefore they have coherence on their side when they want to lean on the door – even to close it – on trade with poor countries and occasionally on unskilled immigration from them.One slight cavil -- that last paragraph by Bhagwati strikes me as a bit of a stretch. I have to think that globalization is one of the drivers for greater technical change.
3) Susan Aaronson, "Labor Rights Not Optional," TomPaine.com, January 5, 2007:
[Both] the Democratic alternative and the current Bush administration approach do little to bolster the demand in developing countries for strong labor protections. Neither approach facilitates the ability of citizens in our trade partners to participate in and monitor labor rights enforcement. In countries such as Oman, a U.S. free trade partner, workers cannot easily influence their government or obtain due process in administrative procedures. In addition, some of America’s free trade agreement partners do not provide their citizens with full information about their labor rights under the law. As a result, it is difficult for activists to monitor their government and hold it accountable.UPDATE: Brad Setser protests in the comments about the Overholt piece -- which reminds me that I should have linked this post of his from last week.
Friday, January 5, 2007
Taking exception to American exceptionalism?
I have an article in the January/February issue of The National Interest entitled, "Mind the Gap." It's an extended review of two books on public opinion and international relations. The first is Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes' America Against the World -- which compares and contrasts the attitudes of Americans and other nationalities, relying primarily on the Pew Global Attitudes project. The second is Benjamin Page and Marshall Bouton's The Foreign Policy Disconnect, which compares and contrasts the attitudes of Americans and foreign policymaking elites.
In detailing the patterns and gaps between the American public and others, these books nicely complement and occasionally contradict each other. Both The Foreign Policy Disconnect and America Against the World will add grist to the mill for those who profess faith in the wisdom of crowds and doubts about the judgment of foreign policy experts. After cogitating on both books, it would be difficult for the informed reader to believe that Americans hold irrational or flighty views about foreign policy. Most Americans, on most issues, articulate what George W. Bush characterized as a “humble” foreign policy during the 2000 campaign. They want a prudent foreign policy based on security against attacks and threats to domestic well-being—though American attitudes about multilateralism remain an open question. The gaps between American attitudes and the rest of the world are overstated; the gaps between Americans and their policymakers might be understated. The biggest question—which neither of these books answers satisfactorily—is to what extent these views, and gaps between views, matter.Read the whole thing.
Thursday, January 4, 2007
The devil is in Max Baucus' details
I've received more than one query about what to make of Max Maucus' Wall Street Journal op-ed on trade policy(subscription only). Here's an excerpt:
Some think that the new Democratic congressional majority will be bad for trade policy. While it is true that some candidates criticized trade in their campaigns, I believe that the new Congress will have both the desire and opportunity to renew U.S. trade policy, with a unifying purpose that Americans can understand and support. Through trade, we must bolster the nation's innovative economy in an increasingly global marketplace. At the same time, we must tackle with equal vigor the negative domestic consequences of globalization, from trade deficits to job losses.There are three ways to interpret this essay:
1) Baucus, representing pro-trade Democrats, is laying down a marker against protectionist Democrats. For Sherrod Brown, Byron Dorgan, James Webb, etc., he's saying, "It's great that you won your elections with economic populism, but now you have to actually try and craft policy that does not trigger trade wars, runs on the dollar, global recessions, economic development, etc. We agree that cushioning the losers is important, and we're with you on bolstering labor and environmental standards, but let's play like grown ups, shall we?"I'll be charitable and say that the op-ed is 40% of (1), 25% of (2), and 35% of (3).
One last point -- Baucus embrace of a service pact with the EU, coming so soon after Angela Merkel's quasi-TAFTA proposal, makes me wonder if the Bush administration will become more enthusiastic about the proposal -- or run away, scared it's an EU-Blue State conspiracy.
More bloggingheads goodness
1) Gerald Ford's "when I die" interviews (in which Eric and I confuse the Pueblo and Mayaguez debacles);Adults over 21, here's a fun drinking game to play while watching -- take a shot whenever Eric or I pimp our own work!! [Why can't they take a shot every time you say "you know"?--ed. Because their livers would explode.]
Condoleezza Rice's powers of persuasion
After Condoleezza Rice became Secretary of State, she (well, not only she) convinced Robert Zoellick to leave the U.S. Trade Representative's position to take the Deputy Secretary of State position. In the hierarchy of Washington positions, this was viewed by many as a step down in rank.
Since Zoellick left last July, the position had been vacant... until now. Condi's found a replacement, according to the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has persuaded John D. Negroponte to leave his post as director of national intelligence and come to the State Department as her deputy, government officials said last night.Over at the New York Times, Mark Mazzetti explains why this move is so puzzling: "On paper, the director of national intelligence outranks the deputy secretary of state, raising questions about why the White House would seek — and why Mr. Negroponte would agree to — the shift."
Maybe there are hidden perks to the dSoS position. Possibilities include:
1) A sweeter parking spot;That last one is suggested by Kessler:
Rice gave Zoellick wide berth as her deputy. He had primary responsibility for relations with China, the crisis in Sudan, Latin America, economic affairs and Southeast Asia. In a first for a deputy secretary of state, he frequently allowed reporters on his plane when he traveled abroad.Whoa! Talking to the press!! Where do I sign up for this job?!
The likely reason Cabinet level people like Zoellick and now, Negroponte, will take a Deputy slot is because, in reality, they know they will often be serving as quasi-Secretaries of State given how weak their boss has proven (Zoellick on Sudan, China etc, Negroponte on a to be determined portfolio, very likely to include Iraq). Sorry to be so plain about it, but there it is, no?Ed Morrissey thinks this is more about Negroponte than the vacant dSoS position: "The change reflects a possible loss of confidence in Negroponte, especially given his proximity to the President and the obvious opportunity to influence his decisions on policy on a whole range of issues."
UPDATE: More speculation from James Joyner, related to point #5 above -- it's not that dSoS is so great, it's that DNI is so bad a position.
ANOTHER UPDATE: The Nelson Report proffers this answer:
Negroponte’s immediate past includes Ambassador to Baghdad, and it is within the context of the Administration’s total immersion in the Iraq situation that his acceptance of the job must be seen, our sources argue.
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
Do hawks have a psychological edge?
In the January/February issue of Foreign Policy, Daniel Kahneman and Jonathan Renshon make a very provocative argument -- as a species, humans are too damn hawkish:
National leaders get all sorts of advice in times of tension and conflict. But often the competing counsel can be broken down into two basic categories. On one side are the hawks: They tend to favor coercive action, are more willing to use military force, and are more likely to doubt the value of offering concessions. When they look at adversaries overseas, they often see unremittingly hostile regimes who only understand the language of force. On the other side are the doves, skeptical about the usefulness of force and more inclined to contemplate political solutions. Where hawks see little in their adversaries but hostility, doves often point to subtle openings for dialogue.Foreign Policy also invited Matthew Continetti and Matthew Yglesias to comment on the piece. Yglesias is enthusiastic about the finding, and goes even further:
Kahneman and Renshon actually end up being unduly generous to the hawkish point of view. Sometimes, of course, war is necessary. But since there are two sides to every conflict, hawks won’t always be right. Even in a case where an American president is rightly listening to his hawkish advisors (George H.W. Bush in the first Gulf War, say, or Bill Clinton over Kosovo), a foreign leader (Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic) is making a serious miscalculation in listening to his hawkish advisors.Continetti is less sanguine:
[W]hy do only the fundamental attribution errors of hawks lead to “pernicious” effects? Doves share the same bias; it just works in different ways. If hawks treat hostile behavior at face value when they shouldn’t, so too do doves treat docility. Those who championed the 1973 accords ending the Vietnam War saw them as a chance for the United States to leave Vietnam while preserving the sovereignty of the south. But to North Vietnamese eyes, the cease-fire was merely an opportunity to consolidate their forces for the final seizure of the south, which happened a mere two years later.I love this article -- in fact, it's going in my Statecraft course for this semester!!
However, I love it in part because it's simultaneously clear, provocative, and way overblown as a hypothesis. That is to say, even if one acknowledges the individual-level cognitive biases discussed in the piece, it's a stretch to then conclude that foreign policies are more belligerent than they should be because of hawk bias.
If I have more time today, I'll try to fill out these cryptic points, but for now, here are my issues with the argument:
*Yes, this applies with almost equal force to Republicans, but Yglesias is defending the thesis here, so I'm using his side as an example.
A reluctant tip of the cap to Brian Cashman
[Yeah, that'll show the Yankees!!--ed.] Er..... perhaps not. I must duly link and quote this Seth Mnookin post from last week here:
Suddenly, the Yankees are shedding payroll like they’re the Marlins, and [Yankees GM] Brian Cashman looks determined to pick up young prospects and jettison the senior citizens collecting outrageous paychecks.It gets worse, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale:
The Arizona Diamondbacks expect to complete a deal with the New York Yankees by the end of the week to bring back pitcher Randy Johnson, a high-ranking Diamondbacks official familiar with the negotiations told USA TODAY.Hat tip to David Pinto, who also makes the Marlins comparison:
[T]he Yankees are just tired of old pitchers trying to stay ahead of a great offense. Depending on the pitchers in this deal, the Yankees will end up picking up quality pitching prospects like the Marlins did last year while still remaining a playoff contender.I can take some comfort that ESPN's Keith Law thinks the Red Sox had a good offseason as well, and that Boston got the better Japanese import. I can also take some comfort in the fact that, well, the season hasn't started yet, so this is all just so much idle chat. As Peter Gammons notes on his ESPN blog:
What we do know about 2007 is that we don't know much. Hit the rewind button back a year, and tell us you thought the opening matchup of the World Series would pit Anthony Reyes against Justin Verlander, and that the Series would be closed by Adam Wainwright. Or that the Marlins would win one less game than the Braves, or that Chien-Ming Wang would lead the majors in wins, Aaron Harang would lead the National League in wins and strikeouts, Barry Zito would be worth $126 million to the Giants and Daisuke Matsuzaka would be worth $103 million to the Red Sox, and that Jason Marquis could have a 6.02 ERA, lead the NL in losses, runs allowed and gopher balls and be worth $7 million a year to the Cubs.But I can't shake the feeling that over the past six months, Cashman has done as good a job, if not better, than Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. And unlike the last time I compared the two franchises, the Yankees farm system doesn't look so barren now.
Developing.... in a worrisome way.
UPDATE: SI.com's Jon Heyman thinks the Red Sox improved themselves more than the Yankees this offseason, but if Heyman's numbers turn out to be correct, it's not enough for them to catch the Yankees.
Also, given the cost of pitching this offseason, I do like this move by Theo Epstein.
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
The mother of all economic integrations
Three months ago I discussed German enthusiasm for a transatlantic free trade area. Well, now Bertrand Benoit and Quentin Peel report in the Financial Times that Angela Merkel is planning on taking the next step -- not TAFTA exactly, but defintely liberalizing:
Angela Merkel, German chancellor, will this month launch a sweeping initiative for the harmonisation of US and European legislation to boost investment flows and trade between the world’s largest economic blocs.Merkel talks about this in an interview with the FT's Quentin Peel. Some excerpts:
At the forthcoming EU-US summit we want to talk about ever-closer economic co-operation. Our economic systems are based on the same values. The EU and the US have sophisticated patent legislation. We have regulatory mechanisms governing our financial markets. We should be looking for ways to keep developing these together at a transatlantic level. We must watch out that we do not drift apart, but instead come closer together, where there are clear advantages for both sides.Now I'm beginning to wonder if John O'Sullivan knew something I did not 18 months ago. I hope so -- for one thing, I could then look forward to Sherrod Brown complain about Polish plumbers.
How protectionism causes bad traffic
My Fletcher colleague John Curtis Perry, with Scott Borgerson and Rockford Weitz, have an op-ed in today's New York Times that explores America's decline as a maritime shipping nation. Apparently, it has something to do with protectionism:
In 1948, more than a third of the world’s merchant fleet flew the stars and stripes; today that figure is down to 2 percent. Half a century ago, America built more ships than any other nation, and New York City could boast that it was the world’s busiest seaport. Sliding from the top since the 1980s, New York now barely ranks among the top 20.UPDATE: Tyler Cowen unearths this great Walt Whitman quote about protectionism:
The profits of "protection" go altogether to a few score select persons--who, by favors of Congress, State legislatures, the banks, and other special advantages, are forming a vulgar aristocracy full as bad as anything in the British and European castes, of blood, or the dynasties there of the past
Monday, January 1, 2007
Merry New Year!!
Three thoughts to welcome in 2007:
1) It's good to be near the focal point. New Year's has never been high up there on my holiday list, but I always enjoyed it less when I wasn't in the Eastern time zone when Auld Lang Syne was sung. I have to conclude that this is because the dropping of the ball in Times Square means something more when I'm in the same time as New York. Why this is true is beyond me.