Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Talking with the divine Ms. Postrel
My latest bloggingheads exchange is with Virginia Postrel., who seems to have stolen the cerulean sweater first worn by Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada.
Topics range from Helen Mirren's dress to student confessions to privacy on the Internet to the new new world order. Just for kicks, Amitai Etzioni is mocked at several points.
Go check it out.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Blogging will range from intermittent to light over the next few days, as I will be attending the International Studies Association annual meeting in Chicago. [Chicago in February?--ed. Well, not all of us get invited to Firenze, like some other bloggers I know. Besides, the previous two years, ISA was in San Diego and Honolulu, so I've decided not to complain.]
Talk amongst yourselves. Here's a topic: Mark Harris complains in Entertainment Weekly that conservative characters on television are neither conservative nor nasty enough:
As a member of the self-deluding Eastern liberal politically correct media elite (so my reader mail tells me), I would like to learn more about the opposition. The problem is, they keep going soft on me. Last fall, TV promised us two conservatives: Kitty Walker on ABC's Brothers & Sisters, and Harriet Hayes on NBC's now-shelved Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Kitty was supposed to be a brash, Ann Coulter-like firebrand in a family of whole-grain blue-staters, and deeply religious Harriet was going to redress the injustices done to people of faith by godless showbiz types. As each series has unfolded, both women have been portrayed as multidimensional, sensitive human beings. Not incidentally, they seem to be turning into liberals....Question -- doesn't everyone become more ideologically flexible when politics becomes personal?
James Galbraith confuses me
The facts are clear: NAFTA is a done deal, and China is a success story we have to live with. Progressives need a trade narrative that moves past these two issues. Broadly, this means accepting manufactured imports and dropping the idea that we can control--or that it matters much--who assembles television sets or stitches shirts. Standards to guard against flagrant abuses such as child and prison labor are fine, but it's an illusion to think they will, or should, dent the flow of goods from China. A progressive trade agenda should focus, instead, on building stronger world markets for our exports, and in ways that do not trample on the needs and rights of poor people in poor countries. That should provide plenty of room for future fights with free-trade absolutists.Um... actually, no, Galbraith's formulation doesn't leave a lot of room for future fights -- not that there's anything wrong with that!! I wish all progressives shared the Galbraith position.
The problem is that there is plenty of room for division within Galbraith's forumlation of the progressive trade agenda: "building stronger world markets for our exports, and in ways that do not trample on the needs and rights of poor people in poor countries." The former requires enforcing intellectual property rights, because they are at the root of much of what the United States currently exports. Progressives, however, would no doubt argue that the latter requires dropping IPR enforcement altogether.
Given the current standards of trade discourse, however, I should shut up and just encourage all progressives to read Galbraith.
Your agricultural subsidies fact of the day
The WTO has just issued its latest Trade Policy Review for the European Union. This fun fact is found in the overview:
In value, export subsidies notified by the EC represent approximately 90% of all the WTO Members' notified export subsidies.Hat tip: Daniel Altman on the International Herald-Tribune's globalization blog.
Cheney hears boom
Vice President Dick Cheney was whisked into a bomb shelter immediately after a Taliban suicide bomber struck the main American military base he was visiting in Afghanistan on Tuesday.Given that Cheney wasn't supposed to be in Bagram at the time of the bombing, I find this statement pretty dubious.
However, for more details about Cheney's whirlwind worldwide tour, you would be hard-pressed to beat this diary by Newsweek's Holly Bailey. One fascinating vignette:
But shortly before his plane was to lift off, it began snowing. Reporters and aides who had been waiting on the tarmac for Cheney' arrival were escorted back to the base' firehouse, where they sat and waited. Within an hour came the word: the weather in Kabul made the trip too dangerous to carry on. Already considered the most risky portion of the trip— the road connecting the airport and Karzai's palace was covered in several inches of snow and would need to be cleared. The VP and his entourage would stay overnight at Bagram, in hopes of holding the meeting on Tuesday.
Monday, February 26, 2007
The new new world order
Controversies over the war in Iraq and U.S. unilateralism have overshadowed a more pragmatic and multilateral component of the Bush administration's grand strategy: its attempt to reconfigure U.S. foreign policy and international institutions in order to account for shifts in the global distribution of power and the emergence of states such as China and India. This unheralded move is well intentioned and well advised, and Washington should redouble its efforts.The slightly longer precis that explains the title:
[The growth of India, China, and other rising powers] will pose a challenge to the U.S.-dominated global institutions that have been in place since the 1940s. At the behest of Washington, these multilateral regimes have promoted trade liberalization, open capital markets, and nuclear nonproliferation, ensuring relative peace and prosperity for six decades -- and untold benefits for the United States. But unless rising powers such as China and India are incorporated into this framework, the future of these international regimes will be uncomfortably uncertain.Read the whole thing. I look forward to static from liberals because I have actually found an issue where the Bush administration has acquitted itself reasonably well. And I look forward to static from conservatives because the issue I've identified -- playing nice with China and India in multilateral settings -- is not something they would identify as a good thing.
Later today links on sources will be posted.
UPDATE -- SEVERAL DAYS LATER. OK, so I've been busy. Still, a few relevant links.
The genesis for this article was this blog post from August 2006 about the rejiggering of IMF quotas. The Treasury statement on this effort can be found here.
Condoleezza Rice's speech on transformational diplomacy can be found at the State Department web site; here's a link to Robert Zoellick's "responsible stakeholder" speech on China.
The vocabulary of international relations
I am considering for my introductory World Politics class in the Fall. I call it "IR Vocabulary," and the basic idea is to split students into pairs and have each pair go off and find consensus definitions of key IR terms, My intuition here is that in order to have a good discussion about world politics, there are some basic terms that we need to know; some of these terms are more or less empirical and refer to objects in the world, while others are more or less conceptual and refer to ways of making sense of those objects. [Yes, yes, this is an unstable distinction; yes, empirical terms are conceptual and vice versa . . . but there is still a difference, if only a difference of degree, between a term like 'the balance of power' and a term like 'the Security Council.']Click on over to give your answers. Of the top of my head, mine are below, split 50-50 between empirical and conceptual:
EMPIRICALUPDATE: I've fixed the Westphalia term, because there actually is no Treaty of Westphalia. I knew this, but was sloppy about it in the post. Apologies.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
"I wonder why this Council on Foreign Relations meeting is so well-attended?"
Jeremy Grant reports in the Financial Times that the Council on Foreign Relations has announced its latest batch of term members. One of them apparently has some prior experience as a U.N. ambassador:
The dead-pan world of the Washington policy wonk looks set for a dash of Hollywood glamour with the nomination of actress Angelina Jolie to join one of the most venerable think-tanks in the US.
Note to self: check immediately to ascertain if Salma Hayek would be interested in CFR membership. [Um.... don't you have to be an American citizen to belong to the Council?--ed. Hayek is now a U.S. citizen, to vdare's everlasting chagrin.]
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Your Oscar predictions for 2007!!
Well, the Academy Award ceremonies will be upon us in 24 hours, which means it's time for our fifth annual Oscar predictions. We will note that this year, we are wearing black armbands in protest at the brutal discrimination subjected against Salma Hayek in the acting categories. Don't those Academy fools realize that she won Best Nude Scene for 2006 from Mr. Skin for Ask the Dust?! [You'll always have this scene!!--ed. It's not enough. It's never enough.]
OK, same rules as always -- predictions of who will win followed by who should win. Surprisingly, given the move and everything, the wife and I got to see many of the top-nominated films:
Best Supporting Actor:
Eddie Murphy has made a ton of money for Hollowood over 25 years, and proved he can act. Hollywood will reciprocate accordingly -- despite his graceless acceptance speech at the Golden Globes -- because the alternative characters (heroin junkie grandpa, child molester) aren't as appealing.
It's great that Arkin got nominated, but Carrell stole the movie for me. Part of it is that he's playing against his "type" from Anchorman and The 40-Year Old Virgin. Part of it is that, as an academic, I had never seen an actor nail the self-seriousness that we all possess in great quantities better than Carrell.
Best Supporting Actress
Let me preface this by saying I did not see Dreamgirls, but by all accounts Slate's Judy Rosen is correct in asserting that Dreamgirls is "not really a movie, but a song, surrounded by 125 minutes of padding." Plus, Hudson is apparently the sweetest person on the face of the planet. Still, part of me does wonder why this logic did not apply to Queen Latifah's nomination for Chicago.
Adams played Sheila, Ronnie's date in Little Children. She doesn't have a lot of screen time (really, she would win Best Cameo if they had that category and Adams was more famous). I don't want to spoil the movie for the many of you that didn't see it but should rent it on DVD, so can't exactly say why I thought she deserved it. Let's just say that despite the fact that Kate Winslet was astonishingly good in this film, I couldn't stop thinking about the sorrow embedded within Adams' character for days after seeing the film.
My hunch is that if either Venus or Blood Diamond were better movies, Whitaker wouldn't be winning. I still think that DiCaprio has a decent shot at a major upset here. However, Whitaker's acting chops will not be denied.
For me, one of the absudities of Hollywood's value system is that someone who can sing or dance can win an Oscar for one show-stopping number, whereas stars in action films are thought to be tawdry and commercial. Craig was able to take a character and a franchise that defined "cartoonish" and actually make people care about James Bond again. For this, he wasn't even nominated. The really absurd thing is that Craig is not an action star but, by all accounts, a chameleon of an actor. Sorry, Daniel -- if it makes you feel any better, my wife and many of her friends would like to somehow make it up to you.
Look, if you don't think Helen Mirren is going to win, please e-mail me so I can take your money in an Oscar pool.
As for who should win, Mirren was extraordinary -- it's not just the makeup, it's every facial twitch and frown. That sais, Winslet accomplishes the same thing -- she makes us sympathize with a fundamentally unsympathetic character (an adulterer who neglects her child).
C'mon, you know that the Academy is to Martin Scorcese as Lucy is to Charlie Brown kicking the football. My hunch is that Eastwood gets brownie points for directing two superior films in a year and Scorcese gets docked a point for having that rat in the final shot.
Paradoxically, Mirren is so good in The Queen that she's been sucking all the oxygen from the other people that deserve praise. Frears, in particular, managed to pull off an improbable task -- he fit an Oscar-worthy dramatic performance into one of the driest comedy of manners ever made.
Babel is this year's Crash -- on a global scale!! I'm counting on the Academy's guilty liberal conscience to put it over the top. Besides, you know, it aimed high -- which is apparently what matters to Academy voters.
The Queen is the only movie I saw this year that was note-perfect (though Thank You For Smoking came close). Even though, as I said, it's fundamentally a comedy, the characters are never played for broad laughs (well, except Prince Philip). As I said, Mirren's performance has somehow crowded out the attention that it deserves for other reasons, including Michael Sheen's fascinating portrayal of Tony Blair.
Enjoy the show!!
POST-OSCARS UPDATE: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.... hmwa? It's over? Jesus, people, if you're going to read your acceptance speeches, how about outsourcing the thing to someone who can write in a concise and pithy manner? This awards ceremony actually made me nostalgic for the 3-6 Mafia.
[You're just bitter because you didn't do so well in your predictions!--ed. Alas, this is true. My sharpest observation of the evening occurred after Alan Arkin won for best supporting actor, when I said to my lovely wife, "I bet you Eddie Murphy leaves the building in the next five minutes." And he was never seen from again.]
The next class topic: how Woody Woodpecker promotes the Irish
This might be the most bizarre university lecture I have ever seen:Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan.
Friday, February 23, 2007
So I've decided that, contrary to my earlier Shermanesque pledges forswearing elected office, I shall run for President in 2008.
Drezner in 2008!!! Drez for Prez!! DREZ FOR PREZ!!! [DREZ FOR PREZ!!!-ed.]
No, wait, I've changed my mind, I don't think I can raise the money.
Think this post is absurd? Consider this Des Moines Register story by Thomas Beaumont:
Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack withdrew as a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination today, saying he could not raise enough money to compete with his nationally known rivals....I haven't seen a presidential run this brief since Jimmy James had to withdraw in 1996.
Open Iran thread
Can't really blog right now, but that shouldn't stop you from commenting!
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
The secrets of Sid Meier
The Weekly Standard's Victorino Matus has a cover story on Civilization and its creator, Sid Meier (I have previously documented how Civilization nearly crippled my academic career).
Read the whole thing, but here are two bits of interesting information:
Meier cites the strategy board game Risk as one of his major influences. "Conquer the world. All those cool pieces. You felt like you were king. It gave you a lot of power." What about the game Diplomacy? "You had to have friends to play Diplomacy so that kind of left me out."....UPDATE: Matus provides some more details in this Galley Slaves post.
So what do IR specialists think, redux
Two years ago I blogged about a survey of international relations scholars and their attitudes towards IR theory and U.S. foreign policy.
Dan Nexon summarizes many of the significant findings, impugning the reputation of my home institution in the process.
One finding I found particularly interesting:
Contrary to popular belief, international relations scholars are not doves. Most believe that military force is warranted under the right conditions. Unsurprisingly, given the daily reminder of the challenges of going it alone in Iraq, academics favor using force only when backed by the full weight of the international community. If a military confrontation with North Korea or Iran emerges over nuclear weapons, scholars demonstrate an extreme aversion to unilateral American action. If the U.N. Security Council authorizes force, however, approval for action skyrockets.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
One anti-offshoring advocate changes his mind
Via Greg Mankiw, I find this Andrew Cassel column in the Philadelphia Inquirer pointing out that, around or about three years ago, everyone was freaking out about offshore outsourcing. Yeah, what happened there?
[T]his month marks the third year since the Great Offshoring Scare of 2004.Gee, that sounds familiar....
UPDATE: Whoops!! The original title to this post read "anti-offhoring" rather than "anti-offshoring," which takes the conversation to places I do not want to go.
Your international law links for today
Over at the Council on Foreign Relations web site, Dan Ikenson and Robert E. Lighthizer are debating whether the WTO dispute settlement system is too robust for its own good.
Meanwhile, at the International Economic Law and Policy blog, my colleague Joel Trachtman discusses why Indonesia has decided to sell Baxter HealthCare exclusive access to its avian flu virus samples.
Monday, February 19, 2007
What Pakistan giveth, Pakistan also taketh away
Like everyone else, I found today's New York Times story by Mark Mazzetti and David Rohde very disturbing:
Senior leaders of Al Qaeda operating from Pakistan have re-established significant control over their once-battered worldwide terror network and over the past year have set up a band of training camps in the tribal regions near the Afghan border, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.It should be pointed out that this problem has been around for a couple of months now. Obviously, the Bush administration finds itself in a bind about what to do about Pakistan, as Mazzetti and Rohde document:
The concern about a resurgent Al Qaeda has been the subject of intensive discussion at high levels of the Bush administration, the officials said, and has reignited debate about how to address Pakistan’s role as a haven for militants without undermining the government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president....What's truly depressing about this is that there is evidence that Pakistan has cracked down on other terrorist groups. For example, this Christian Science Monitor story by Anuj Chopra points out that one reason today's train bombings will not derail the south Asian peace process is because India recognizes that Pakistan is cracking down on Kashmiri terrorist groups:
Sunday's bombings may represent a departure from the fragile diplomatic cycle between India and Pakistan that made peace talks between them so vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Unlike the response to the [July 2006] Mumbai bombings, the reaction to the attack on the Samjhauta Express underscored India's new reluctance to point fingers at Pakistani militants. Instead, Indian and Pakistani officials have denounced the act of terrorism and are hewing toward peace in a process that began in 2004.I don't know enough about Pakistan's domestic politics to understand why Musharraf is able to crack down on the Kashmiri groups while he's allowing Al Qaeda groups to fester. I'm sure my readers will enlighten me.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
A post in which I agree with the European Commission
Tobias Buck reports in the Financial Times that the European Commission has decided it wants the rest of the world to look more like Brusels:
Brussels wants the rest of the world to adopt the European Union’s regulations, the European Commission will say this week.The EU deciding to throw around its market weight? This sounds very, very familiar.
You be the ethicist!
Graduate Admissions Committee... is deciding whom to admit.... there is a website on which potential students gossip share information about the departments to which they are applying, and many do so anonymously. However, many such students say enough about themselves that if you are in possession of their file (as graduate admissions committee is) you can identify them with near, and in some cases absolute, certainty. One applicant to said department behaves on the website (under the supposed cloak of anonymity) like… well, very badly, saying malicious things about departments he has visited, raising doubts about whether he is honest and the kind of person it would be reasonable to want other students to deal with, and generally revealing himself to be utterly unpleasant.My take: yes, it's wrong. More precise information (how ironclad is the ID'ing of this applicant? How bad is the behavior?) might make it a tougher call. That said, it sounds like the only difference between this applican't behavior and 99% of all grad students I have known in my day is that this person put these things into print rather than speaking them at a party after several beers.
[So you're saying all grad students are utterly unpleasant?--ed. No, I'm saying that all grad students, like all professors, have a side to their personalities that is best shielded from public view. I think it's safe to assume that this applicant never thought that a GAC, armed with information from the file, would put two and two together on a web site. So what would you do?--ed. Assuming the person was admitted and came, if I were the GAC I'd probably have a closed-door meeting with the person to ascertain the truth, and then put a bit of a scare into him or her. That should be sufficient to deter future printed displays of bad behavior.]
What do you think?
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Yes, it's the golden age of 80's music-video spoofs
First, there was Justin Timberlake's "D**k in a Box" on Saturday Night Live:Now, there's Hugh Grant's "PoP! Goes My Heart" from Music and Lyrics: Clearly, this is the golden age of music video spoofs. Everyone just sit back and enjoy our cultural crest.
My only complaint is that so far this trend has only covered boy bands. I'd like to see someone like Sarah Silverman spoof a Madonna video (though this one comes close).
Things begin to fall apart in Venezuela
Simon Romero report in the New York Times about what happens when you combine price controls and the Dutch disease in Hugo Chavez-land:
Faced with an accelerating inflation rate and shortages of basic foods like beef, chicken and milk, President Hugo Chávez has threatened to jail grocery store owners and nationalize their businesses if they violate the country’s expanding price controls.It will be interesting to see whether Chavez will reverse course. His supporters repeatedly point to Chavez's apparent successes in poverty reduction as the hallmark of his administration (though those "successes" are more illusory than real). Inflation above 20%, however, is a guaranteed recipe for increasing economic inequality -- because only the rich can move their capital abroad or otherwise hedge against inflation.
UPDATE: Chavez is now on a goodwill tour in the Caribbean trying to buy more international support. According to the AP, "The crowd, however, did not respond with applause to the Venezuelan leader's vitriolic statements."
Friday, February 16, 2007
Does anyone tell the truth in the Greater Middle East?
The ABC News blog, The Blotter, reports that Al Qaeda has been reduced to aping what thousands of Americans did on America’s Funniest Home Videos -- staging reality:
An al Qaeda-produced video claiming to show how U.S. and Afghan forces were driven out of a heavily defended base in the last few weeks appears to be a phony.I swear, when you can't trust an Al Qaeda video, you know the world is going to hell in a handbasket.
It's just me, myself, and I
According to Pew's political typology test, I'm an... enterpriser:
Enterprisers represent 9 percent of the American public, and 10 percent of registered voters.So, in other words, I belong to a group that comprises only one percent of the ten percent of registered voters who agree with me -- roughly 0.1%.
Man, I am feeling that love right now.
In all seriousness, however, the test sucks. For example, you are asked which statement you agree with: "The best way to ensure peace is through military strength" or "Good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace." I'm pretty sure it's not an either-or distinction. Good diplomacy without military strength is largely ignored in world politics. Military strength without good diplomacy bears a strong resemblance to the Bush administration's first term. So, I voted for military strength, because it's more of a necessary condition -- but I wasn't happy about it.
Hat tip: Matthew Yglesias.
UPDATE: Headline Junky alerts me to this ABC Sunni-Shiite quiz. Readers concerned about whether I know what the hell I'm talking about whenever I blog about the Middle East may or may not be relieved that I aced it.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
The Republican Hillary Clinton
Is it just me, or does Rudy Giuliani seem to inspire antagonism levels on a par with Hillary Clinton? From this Kevin Drum post alone, I find Matthew Yglesias having all kinds of fun with Rudy:
One quirk of American politics is that leading presidential candidates normally go into the campaign with little if any foreign policy experience. Most, however, at least recognize this as a problem and try to study up as part of the campaign effort. Giuliani comes to us as a rare duck -- a candidate whose signature issue is national security but who doesn't know anything about national security, and therefore won't study. Result: Nonsense, combined with temperamental authoritarianism.Then there's David Freddoso in the National Review:
If Giuliani’s stances on babies, guns, and gay marriage do not sink him in the Republican primaries, he will probably suffer in a general election campaign from the fact that there is so much evidence in the public record that he is a total jerk....Kevin concludes, "At this rate, I give him a couple of months before he implodes completely."
It seems hard to dispue any of this, but then I look at the rest of the GOP field, and I'm not sure any of it matters. Romney, McCain, the rest of the Gilligan's Island castaways.... they all have whopping flaws too.
Question to readers: is Rudy Giuliani uniquely vulnerable?
In honor of baseball's Hamlet....
As pitchers and catchers migrate south, baseball watchers are obsessing about where Roger Clemens will pitch this year. It therefore seems fitting to remember the last time I saw Roger Clemens in a Red Sox uniform:This might also have been the last time I agreed with Keith Olbermann
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Where is your liberaltarian God now?
That's the question I ask Brink Lindsey in my latest bloggingheads.tv duet. Other topics covered include whether Barack Obama is the next Ross Perot, the inequality debate, the globalization of populism, and why trade talks are stalled.
Your amusing quote of the day
For Maoists, they’re very light-hearted.From a comment made at this Crooked Timber post by Scott McLemee.
So how's the global war on terror going?
The Center for American Progress, in concert with Foreign Policy magazine, has released survey results of "more than 100 of America's top foreign-policy hands" to see how they think the administration's anti-terrorism efforts are going. [Um... doesn't "they" includes "you"?--ed. Yeah, but I can't call myself a "top foreign-policy hand" without breaking into spontaneous giggles, so I think that just demonstrates a lack of bench strength in American foreign policy circles.]
As that top graph suggests, most of us aren't sanguine. Click here for the whole report. Or, if that whole reading thing bugs you, here is a YouTube video of CAP's Caroline Wadhams explaining it for you:[Yeah, but the CAP is a left-wing think tank!!--ed. If you click here and scroll down to "Survey Particpants", you can find a complete list of those surveyed -- judge for yourself whether the list is skewed.]
Must... resist.... looking back through rose-colored glasses
My son is very excited, because today is his very first snow day from school. I'm happy for him -- all children deserve at least one snow day a year. There's something much more enjoyable about an unplanned day of leisure (for the children -- this sort of thing is unbelievably inconvenient for the parents) than the expected weekend days.
That said, I can't shake the feeling, looking outside my window, that Massachusetts has gone unbelievably soft. There is, as I type this, less than an inch and a half of accumulation outside. Why, when I was a lad.... oh, hell, you know how the rest of that sentence will go.
This leads to an interesting question -- beyond the natural, likely erroneous belief that we were just physically hardier back in the day, what could explain this perception that schools call snow days with less weather now than they used to?
1) Media hype. Last night the spouse turned on the local news to catch a weather forecast, and the anchors looked positively orgiastic in their glee about the impending storm. The growth and sophistication of media marketing is greater now than a decade ago, and this affects expectations about the future;Parents, provide your guesses here.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
It's been an interesting news cycle for nonproliferation wonks
So, on the one hand, there appears to be a tentative deal with North Korea on its nuclear weapons program. The word "tentative" is stressed because, no matter what the administration claims, this deal looks awfully similar to the1994 Agreed Framework, and that was never fully implemented. Looking at the text, there is an awful lot that still needs to be filled in.
The Washington Post's Edward Cody ably summrizes the political roadblocks to seeing this deal be completed:
As part of the deal, the United States also agreed to help provide part of the fuel oil, along with China, South Korea and Russia, according to Hill. That meant President Bush will be obliged to seek Congressional approval, a possibly difficult exercise given the level of hostility toward North Korea among many U.S. lawmakers and within the administration itself.There is one big difference between 1994 and 2007, however -- the Democrats now control both houses of Congress. I'm not sure, therefore, whether conservative opposition will be as big of a problem as it was before. Of course, it's possible that the 8% of the Democratic caiucus in the Senate now running for president to use the deal as an opportunity for foreign policy posturing.
Meanwhile, according to the FT's Daniel Dombey and Fidelius Schmid, the European Union has come to a sobering conclusion about Iran:
Iran will be able to develop enough weapons-grade material for a nuclear bomb and there is little that can be done to prevent it, an internal European Union document has concluded.UPDATE: God bless the FT, they've made the full text of the EU paper available online.
Meanwhile, The National Interest online has an informative interview with Graham Allison on the contours of the DPRK deal. One excerpt:
This is a significant step for the Bush Administration into the reality zone, a strong departure from its previous failed approach and a good first step. So that’s the good news. The bad news is that this is four years, eight bombs’ worth of plutonium and one nuclear test after the Bush Administration departed from this point that it has inherited essentially from the Clinton Administration....Later on in the interview, he agrees with John Bolton... really, he does.
ANOTHER UPDATE: The International-Herald Tribune's Jim Yardley has some of the play-by-play that led to the DPRK deal.
On a Friday night, three days before Christmas, the tortuous three-year diplomatic effort to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program finally seemed dead. Two months earlier, the country had conducted its first nuclear weapons test. Five days of talks in Beijing had just ended in failure and acrimony.
Bring back the siesta!!
A little more than a year ago I mourned the slow disappearance of the siesta from Spain:
[I]t seems hard to dispute the notion that the siesta is a thoroughly inefficient way of inserting break times into the working day. So the economist in me accepts this as wise policy.It turns out there may be another negative externality associated with eliminating the siesta -- according to Stephen Smith of the Boston Globe:
In a study released yesterday, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and in Athens reported that Greeks who took regular 30-minute siestas were 37 percent less likely to die of heart disease over a six-year period than those who never napped. The scientists tracked more than 23,000 adults, finding that the benefits of napping were most pronounced for working men.Well, confirm them, for Pete's sake!
Monday, February 12, 2007
Your Rorschach Middle East story of the week
USA Today's Barbara Slavin reports on how Iran's perceived rise is causing some unusual movements Arab-Israeli relations:
Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, are making some of their most public overtures ever to Israel and American Jews in an effort to undercut Iran's growing influence, contain violence in Iraq and Lebanon and push for a Palestinian solution.Slavin's story comes out the same day Anthony Shadid analyzes rising Sunni-Shia tensions in the Washington Post (though do check out this Abu Arrdvark post to see whether the Sunni-Shia divide has been exaggerated.)
OK, time for your Rorschach test on international relations. What's the best way to interpret Slavin's story?
A) An exaggeration of a meaningless PR offensive;
I don't think this headline means what I think it means
From the front page of cnn.com:the enemy at home.
Ségolène Royal's democratic socialism
When the International Herald-Tribune characterizes an economic program as "far-left," it's time to click over and see what all the fuss is about:
Ségolène Royal, the presidential candidate of the Socialist Party, unveiled a long- awaited platform on Sunday, veering sharply to the left on economic policy while also stressing discipline and "traditional values."At this time, there is no official confirmation that Royal has also promised free ponies to all French children who asked for them.
I have enough of a soft spot for the old Athenian council of 500 to hope that the citizen jury idea could actually work. Beyond that, if Royal wins and actually tries to implement this, it will be the fiscal equivalent of Francois Mitterand's "Keynesianism in One Country" -- with the same results of massive capital flight, recession, and policy retrenchment.
UPDATE: Over at U.S. News and World Report,James Pethokoukis blogs about another prominent politician who's big into taxing profits.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
So that's how a competent Secretary of Defense acts
Yesterday Russian President Vladimir Putin went to town on the United States at the Munich Conference on Security Policy, according to the Financial Times:
Vladimir Putin threw down the gauntlet to the west in a confrontational speech on Saturday, attacking what he called “illegal” US unilateral military action and arguing it had made the world more dangerous.Indeed, Putin says the following in his speech:
Unilateral and frequently illegitimate actions have not resolved any problems. Moreover, they have caused new human tragedies and created new centres of tension. Judge for yourselves: wars as well as local and regional conflicts have not diminished.I wonder if any of Putin's advisors have the stones to tell him that, actually, he's wrong.
That's not what this post is about, however. No, this post is about how the Secretary of Defense responded to Putin's rhetorical blast. Here's the opening of Bob Gates's speech:
[A]s an old Cold Warrior, one of yesterday’s speeches almost filled me with nostalgia for a less complex time. Almost.Gates' deft deflection of Putin's charges seem to be going down well in the press.
It's been so long since an American official reacted so correctly to empty bluster that I'd almost forgotten how it should be done.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
It's easy to get old in the blogosphere
I was somewhat bemused to see a whopping big advertisement on the back of the bus in front of me for The Hill’s Pundit Blog... It made me feel pretty weird; it’s a very different blogosphere to the one that I started off in (I suspect the disconnect for the real old-timers is even bigger).As for a real old-timer, there's Eugene "My Finger Is Well Off the Pulse of the Blogosphere" Volokh, who observes the lack of reaction to an op-ed he had penned:
I had expected there'd be more attention from various blogs and radio programs that often cover radical Islam and the law. I figured the case that my story had uncovered had it all: The First Amendment; jihadism; parental rights; child welfare. Yet I've had much less original posts yield much more interest among blogs and radio programs, especially conservative ones.My example of wondering whether the blogosphere has passed me by has been the kerfuffle involving two bloggers for John Edwards that was reported in the New York Times and Time this week.
For the record, my take is pretty much in accord wth this Obsidian Wings post, but that's not the point -- the point is that, as much as I used to care about these intersections between the blogosphere and the real world, I can't get worked up about this kind of thing anymore. Who cares about campaign bloggers? They are little more than good PR stylists.
If you don't believe me, check out this Amanda Marcotte post on Edwards' health plan -- turns out she's happy that Paul Krugman likes it. Well, blow me down!
Perhaps the old fogies in the blogosphere get that way because, well, we stop taking the whole megillah so seriously. And we can't take it seriously because, well, this isn't our primary means of employment and never will be.
Once the blogosphere is run by sufficient numbers of people who are paid to blog, us enlightened amateurs just look semi-pro.
UPDATE: Just when I think the blogosphere has passed me by, I get this e-mail:
On Jewcy's blog, the Daily Shvitz, we run a periodic feature called Movable Snipe, wherein two writers spend a week reading and tweaking or adulating five blogs of our choosing. The good news is, we've chosen your blog for this week... This means either valentines or vivisections, depending on how our Snipers react to your content and, well, general demeanor.ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmmm.... maybe this is really a "lump of creativity" problem. Or it's a "hatred of phones" issue.
Gideon Rachman's last detail
Gideon Rachman blogs about his travels to Singapore and Beijing. You should read the whole thing, but I can't resist excerpting how he closes this post:
The question of how peaceful China’s rise will be was... the subject of our seminar in Singapore, organised by the Brookings Institution and the Lee Kuan Yew school of public policy. Generally speaking, the Americans were pretty wary, the Asians pretty sanguine and the Europeans faintly bemused....
Victory is mine!!
Opportunity cost of being in the Red Sox virtual waiting room to get single-game tickets: occasional looks of irritation from my extended family as I repeatedly check my laptop screen.
Monetary cost of four tickets: well over $100.
The knowledge that I was able to get four tickets for a Sunday game against the Yankees: priceless.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Your inequality readings for today
Brad DeLong posts a preliminary bibliography of what he thinks are salient readings about economic inequality in the United States.
Over at Cato Unbound, Alan Reynolds tangles with his critics over his assertion that inequality has not increased substantially since 1988.
Go forth and read.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Everyone plays hard-to-get before the Six-Party Talks
The last post of the day by the Temporary Turkmenbashi of the Blogosphere completes his tour of totalitarian states by taking a glimpse at North Korea's tango with the United States over its nuclear weapons program.
As the six-party talks get underway, there's always the pre-meeting vacillations that resemble nothing so much as a small high school, when all parties fluctuate between flirting with agreement and denying that they were ever interested in an agreement.
For example, on Tuesday Glenn Kessler reported in the Washington Post that the North Koreans ratcheted up their demands at the last minute:
North Korea has set tough terms for a freeze of one of its nuclear facilities, demanding that the United States exceed commitments made under a Clinton-era deal that the Bush administration previously derided as inadequate.Oddly enough, the Financial Times' Demetri Sevastopulo reports that the United States is acting all flirty this time:
The US would be prepared to start normalising relations with North Korea before it completes nuclear disarmament if that would persuade Pyongyang to move forward on a previous agreement to denuclearise the Korean peninsula.The FT goes on to observe that any deal will be a tough domestic sell. This is a major point in this Christian Science Monitor report by Howard LaFranchi as well:
Those kinds of small steps may be about all we can expect out of the Bush administration," says David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington. "They may just be looking to settle the situation down so they can focus their last two years on Iraq, Iran, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."Clearly, one other common denominator is that all the same experts get quoted.
So how's it going in Belarus?
The Temporary Turkmenbashi of the Blogosphere commands all who revere him to look in the direction of Belarus. When we last left things, Russia was putting the screws on the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko.
Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, stung by big rises in Russian energy prices, vowed on Tuesday to recover $5 billion in losses by making Moscow pay for vital transit traffic and military cooperation.Read the whole thing to get a sense of Lukashenko's foreign policy bind. He's not going to befriend the West anytime soon (and vice versa). This gives Russia something close to carte blanche to put the screws on its smaller, politically isolated neighbor.
It's worth keeping this fact in mind when reading about Belarus' recently announced intentions to build its first nuclear reactors.
We all have our passions... and side-hobbies to those passions
However, that also prompts the occasional side-hobby to fuel that passion. For me, that now includes egging Seth Mnookin on anytime I read something that contradicts Mnookin's excellent reportage in Feeding The Monster.
This is a roundabout way of linking to this Mnookin post to see his response to this Scott Boras interview in the Boston Herald. Let's just say Boras' account of Johnny Damon's departure from the Red Sox conflicts with Mnookin's account.
[Er... does Scott Boras really fit in with the other totalitarian dictators you're blogging about today?--ed] How dare you try to edit the Turkmenbashi of the Blogosphere!!
There's no partisanship in Turkmenistan!
The hard-working staff here at danieldrezner.com has demanded that your humble blogger be declared the Turkmenbashi of the Blogosphere by universal assent. I hereby accept that mandate for the day -- which makes it about as legitimate as the last guy to accept this title.
In honor of the old Turkmenbashi, I hereby decree to spend the day posting about the remaining totalitarian dictatorships in the world.
OK, so let's see....Zimbabwe? Yep, got that one. Hey, let's check up on Turkmenistan itself!
Of course, they're hold a presidential election, so they might fall from totalitarian status. However, if this report from Peter Finn of the Washington Post Foreign Service is any indication, it's a presidential election that warms the cockles of the Turkmenbashi's heart:
Six presidential candidates are barnstorming the country and holding public meetings to talk about improving education, reforming health care, ensuring adequate pensions and boosting agriculture.The Turkmenbashi of the blogosphere applauds the measures taken to eliminate the petty squabbles that come with partisanship and political competition.
Things fall apart in Zimbabwe
In the New York Times, Michael Wines chronicles the slow collapse of the state in Zimbabwe:
For close to seven years, Zimbabwe’s economy and quality of life have been in slow, uninterrupted decline. They are still declining this year, people there say, with one notable difference: the pace is no longer so slow.In it's darkest hour, however, Mugabe's government has come up with a brilliant plan to deal with the situation:
The central bank’s latest response to these problems, announced this week, was to declare inflation illegal. From March 1 to June 30, anyone who raises prices or wages will be arrested and punished. Only a “firm social contract” to end corruption and restructure the economy will bring an end to the crisis, said the reserve bank governor, Gideon Gono. (emphasis added)Read the whole thing. I have two questions after reading it:
1) Wines also reports the following: "Foreign journalists remain barred from the country under threat of imprisonment, and harassment of Zimbabwean journalists has sharply increased." OK then, Michael Wines, how did you pull this off then? That was just a big ol' raspberry to the Washington Post's Africa correspondent, wasn't it?!
2) One wonders whether South Africa has any kind of cintingency plan for what happens when the Mugabe government collapses.
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Are there limits to Chinese soft power?
China has begun to hit some constraints in its soft power offensive in Africa. According to the Economist, Africans are now treating the Chinese in ways that might strike a chors with Americans:
In Zambia, where China has big copper-mining interests, a candidate in last year’s presidential election promised, if elected, to chase out Chinese investors after lethal riots at a Chinese-controlled mine. In Nigeria, Chinese oil workers and engineers have joined Western counterparts in being kidnapped and ransomed by insurgents in the country’s Niger Delta region. And there have been protests in South Africa and Zimbabwe against cheap clothing imported from China. In Zambia and South Africa, both destinations on this trip, Mr Hu [Jintao] could face some unusually pointed questioning.China can respond by offering soft loans with no political conditions -- which ameliorates governments but not necessarily citizens. However, even those kind of loans have their limits -- as the Financial Times' Alec Russell points out:
President Hu Jintao of China arrives in South Africa on Tuesday for the most serious and frank exchange of ideas on his 12-day tour of Africa.Developing....
Monday, February 5, 2007
But... but.... but.... centralization should always work!!
The Financial Times' Mark Turner reports the the UN's new fancy-pants response fund to humanitarian crises suffers from -- wait for it -- just a little bit of the old excessive, power hungry bureaucracy:
A flagship UN emergency response fund established last year to speed assistance to people during humanitarian crises has failed to meet its goal, and in some cases even slowed down the flow of life-saving goods, according to aid agencies.Here's a link to the full report from Save the Children UK.
I reckon I enjoy mocking the UN more than the next man -- well, not more than this man -- but in all fairness it should be pointed out that Save the Children UK might have impure motives in making this allegation. As the last two paragraph in the FT story suggest, what this is about is who gets access to the money. As Save the Children said in their press release:
The fundamental flaw of the CERF mechanism is that non-UN aid agencies, like Save the Children, are not allowed to receive direct funding, despite the fact they are usually first on the ground and deliver more than half of all emergency relief.And developing countries want to restrict this access? Well, blow me down!
Sunday, February 4, 2007
Reflections on the Super Bowl
Super Bowl XLI is in the books, and the Colts won. A few thoughts on the game and broadcast:
1) It's déjà vu in reverse. This game was the mirror image of Super Bowl XXXIV (Rams-Titans). That game had a plodding first half and then an exciting ending. The first quarter of this game was blink-or-you'll-miss-it highlights, followed by the slow grinding of the Bears into inferiority.On the other hand, I though this ad was the best of the lot: Most important -- less than two weeks before pitchers and catchers report.
Saturday, February 3, 2007
Help me help APSA to help you
The American Political Science Association is putting together an edited volume on how to publish in political science. There will be an an overview of the current state of scholarly publishing, as well as how-to essays on writing university press books, textbooks, review essays, op-eds, converting dissertations into books, etc.
In their infinite wisdom, APSA has asked me to contribute a chapter on writing a political science blog.
So, a request for comments from other political science bloggers out there on the following questions:
1) What do you think are the do's and don'ts of poli sci blogging?[You don't have answers to these questions?--ed. Oh, I have answers, but I'd like to get some different views on this.]
Post a comment, e-mail me directly, or post on your own blog and link back. Remember, this is for APSA....
Friday, February 2, 2007
Worst Super Bowl journamalism yet
Over years, with focus and concentration, I have learned to tune out most of the Super Bowl press coverage. Every once in a while, however, something seeps through, and I must simply stand back and gape at what might be the lowest forms of sports literature known to man.
For exhibit A this week, I give you the following paragraphs from Time's Sean Gregory:
[W]hatever you think of Manning, I would argue that it's best to root against him in the Super Bowl. Yes, even among his fans. It's Manning's quest for that one missing part, that one imperfection, that will sustain our attention. "From a fan's perspective, the joy is in the conversation," says sports sociologist Jay Coakley, professor emeritus at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. "Peyton's longing for a Super Bowl keeps the conversation going, and if he wins, that conversation stops." In an age of sports parity, in which seven teams have won World Series titles this decade and about a dozen NFL teams were fighting for playoff spots during the last weeks of the season, we can use a dramatic story line.To answer his questions: yes, yes, and hell yes.
I'm rooting for a Super Bowl that has a meaningful fourth quarter. But part of me also wants Manning to either win it or lose valiantly in the way John McEnroe lost his first Wimbledon final to Bjorn Borg -- precisely so sports fans do not have to recycle the exact same conversation about Manning that has taken place for the last seven years.
Hat tip: Slate's Tommy Craggs
Is economic protectionism on the rise in China?
That's the topic of Ariana Eunjung Cha's story in today's Washington Post. It starts out with an odd example, however:
"I know you don't know that you don't know.""Gee," I thought, "That's an odd example. There's no government action there -- it's a marketing campaign."
To Cha and her editors' credit, they do make this very point at the end of the story:
Richard Ji of Morgan Stanley Hong Kong said some companies have used China's new rules as an excuse for their own marketing or strategic shortcomings. He said that in the cases of Google and eBay, the companies' challenges have had more to do with failure to tailor the content of their Web sites to Chinese tastes and needs.Read the whole thing. In between this vignette, there's some decent evidence that China is officially wigging out about certain forms of FDI.
UPDATE: Thanks to Mitchell Young for pointing to the Baidu commercial on YouTube:The ad is a good example of the difference between economic nationalism and economic protectionism. The ad is clearly nationalist, and designed to foster a "Buy China" mindset, in part through rational arguments that Baidu is better than Google, and in part through cultural tropes designed to make the Western character in the ad look uncool. However, it's not an example of protectionism -- it's not calling for government intervention or relief, it's just trying to beat Google.
Most bizarre man in the street interview ever?
Is it just me, or does this C.W. Nevius story in the San Francisco Chronicle -- about the public reaction to Mayor Gavin Newsom's admission of cuckolding one of his principal staff people -- contain the wierdest man-in-the-street reaction ever to appear in a major newspaper?
Although almost everyone we spoke to admitted to some disappointment, Newsom's firm and unqualified apology played to raves....
Thursday, February 1, 2007
Oops, je l'ai fait encore
Jacques Chirac has gotten himself into a bit of foreign policy hot water, according to the New York Times' Elaine Sciolino and Katrine Bennhold:
President Jacques Chirac said this week that if Iran had one or two nuclear weapons, it would not pose a big danger, and that if Iran were to launch a nuclear weapon against a country like Israel, it would lead to the immediate destruction of Tehran.Two thoughts. First, what exactly is "a neurological episode"? Is this like "a minor circulatory problem of the head"?
Second, the implication in the Times report is that Chirac made more sense in the second interview than the first. To me that's really disturbing, because in the second interview Chirac actually makes less sense to me.
Chirac is essentially correct in stating that Iran would not nuke Israel because it would invite immediate retaliation, and Tehran would be leveled. Assuming that the political status quo remains in Iran and Ahmadinejad doesn't have his finger on the button, this is true.
However, for this to be true, the threat of retaliation has to be pretty clear. And this is what Chirac appears to amend in his second interview. Consider this part:
He retracted, for example, his comment that Tehran would be destroyed if Iran launched a nuclear weapon. “I retract it, of course, when I said, ‘One is going to raze Tehran,’ ” he said.In the actual text of the interview, Chirac seems more conscious of how deterrence works. However, this is the one thing you do not want to water down.
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has an interesting theory for why Chirac seemed more lucid in the second interview