Saturday, March 31, 2007

Baptists, bootleggers, and porn

CNET's Dawn Kawamoto reports that the .xxx registry will not be happening anytime soon:

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has rejected a controversial proposal to create a new .xxx domain suffix for adult Web sites.

ICANN on Friday voted 9-5 to deny an application from ICM Registry, which for the past several years has sought to be the registry for adult-content Web sites.

ICANN, which oversees domain names and Internet addresses, decided that ICM's proposal raised too many public-policy concerns and ultimately could change the role of the nonprofit organization.

"ICM's response does not address (the ICANN Government Advisory Committee's) concern for offensive content and similarly avoids the GAC's concern for the protection of vulnerable members of the community," ICANN stated in the meeting. "The board does not believe these public-policy concerns can be credibly resolved with the mechanisms proposed by the applicant."

In the New York Times, Thomas Crampton explains the interesting coalition of interest groups that opposed the .xxx registry:
ICM had argued that creation of the domain would enhance safety for young users by clearly defining .xxx sites as a no-go zone.

Described last week by Paul Twomey, Icann’s chief executive, as “clearly controversial, clearly polarizing,” the issue had been discussed among Internet enthusiasts and on blogs.

Some who objected to the proposal included companies in the sex-related entertainment industry as well as religious groups. The entertainment executives raised fears that use of the domain, although voluntary, could open the way for governments to isolate sex-oriented Web sites into a single part of the Internet.

Religious groups expressed concern that creation of the .xxx domain would serve only to encourage creation of more sex-related content.

Others warned that the move would create a bonanza for ICM Registry, since companies with existing Web sites would be compelled to buy .xxx domain names to prevent someone else from creating sites using their company names.

Political scientists talk about "baptist-bootlegger coalitions" to explain occasions when groups on opposite sides of an issue support the same policy for very different reasons (baptists: naive expression of preferences; Bootleggers: rent-seeking).

In this case, however, the baptists refused to side with the powerful bootlegger.

posted by Dan at 08:46 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Latest trade tidbits

1) Remember the hints of a trade deal that came out earlier this week? Over at US News and World Report's Capital Commerce blog, James Pethokoukis has more juicy details about the how this may or may not play out. As a general rule, if Dave Sirota is this exercised about it, then it must be a good thing for trade liberalization.

2) A point in the Democrats' favor -- a new Survey about trade and regulatory standards:

Strong majorities in developing nations around the world support requiring countries that sign trade agreements to meet minimum labor and environmental standards, a multinational poll finds. Nine in 10 Americans also support such protections.
Sounds good, but the survey question seems awfully vague ("Overall, do you think that countries that are part of international trade agreements should or should not be required to maintain minimum standards for working conditions?")

3) Brad DeLong links to subscriber-only stories about heterodox economic takes on trade, so I don't have to. First, there's Dani Rodrik's Financial Times op-ed:

Which is the greatest threat to globalisation: the protesters on the streets every time the International Monetary Fund or the World Trade Organisation meets, or globalisation's cheerleaders, who push for continued market opening while denying that the troubles surrounding globalisation are rooted in the policies they advocate? A good case can be made that the latter camp presents the greater menace. Anti-globalisers are marginalised. But cheerleaders in Washington, London and the elite universities of north America and Europe shape the intellectual climate. If they get their way, they are more likely to put globalisation at risk than the protesters they condemn for ignorance of sound economics.

That is because the greatest obstacle to sustaining a healthy, globalised economy is no longer insufficient openness. Markets are freer from government interference than they have ever been.... [N]o country's growth prospects are significantly constrained by a lack of openness in the international economy. Even if the Doha trade round fails, poor countries will have enough access to rich country markets to achieve what countries such as China, Vietnam and India have been able to do....

Globalisation's soft underbelly is the imbalance between the national scope of governments and the global nature of markets. A healthy economic system necessitates a delicate compromise between these two. Go too much in one direction and you have protectionism and autarky. Go too much in the other and you have an unstable world economy with little social and political support from those it is supposed to help. If there is one lesson from the collapse of the 19th century version of globalisation, it is that we cannot leave national governments powerless to respond to their citizens. The genius of the Bretton Woods system, which lasted for about three decades after the second world war, was that it achieved such a compromise. Some of the most egregious restrictions on trade flows were removed, while allowing governments freedom to run independent macroeconomic policies and erect their own versions of the welfare state. Developing countries were free to pursue their own growth strategies with limited external restraint. The world economy prospered like never before.

I'm unpersuaded There are two huge difference between the 19th century version of globalization and the cuurrent era: there was much more labor mobility back then, but the size of government -- and welfare policies in particular -- were vastly smaller. As much as peopole like to fret about their disappearance, at best the growth of these measures are slowing. As Tyler Cowen implicitly points out here, the growth of markets has led to a corresponding growth in government. So even if I accepted Rodrik's premise, I think we're a long way from where he thinks we are.

4) DeLong also links to a Wall Street Journal front-pager from yesterday about Alan Blinder's fears about offshoring:

Mr. Blinder... remains an implacable opponent of tariffs and trade barriers. But now he is saying loudly that a new industrial revolution -- communication technology that allows services to be delivered electronically from afar -- will put as many as 40 million American jobs at risk of being shipped out of the country in the next decade or two. That's more than double the total of workers employed in manufacturing today. The job insecurity those workers face today is "only the tip of a very big iceberg," Mr. Blinder says....

Mr. Blinder's job-loss estimates in particular are electrifying Democratic candidates searching for ways to address angst about trade. "Alan, because of his stature, provided a degree of legitimacy to what many of us had come to feel anecdotally -- that the anxiety over outsourcing and offshoring was a far larger phenomenon than traditional economic analysis was showing," says Gene Sperling, an adviser to President Clinton and, now, to Hillary Clinton. Her rival, Barack Obama, spent an hour with Mr. Blinder earlier in this year....

Mr. Blinder says he agreed with Mr. Mankiw's point that the economics of trade are the same however imports are delivered. But he'd begun to wonder if the technology that allowed English-speaking workers in India to do the jobs of American workers at lower wages was "a good thing" for many Americans. At a Princeton dinner, a Wall Street executive told Mr. Blinder how pleased her company was with the securities analysts it had hired in India. From New York Times' columnist Thomas Friedman's 2005 book, "The World is Flat," he found anecdotes about competition to U.S. workers "in walks of life I didn't know about."....

At the urging of former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Mr. Blinder wrote an essay, "Offshoring: The Next Industrial Revolution?" published last year in Foreign Affairs. "The old assumption that if you cannot put it in a box, you cannot trade it is hopelessly obsolete," he wrote. "The cheap and easy flow of information around the globe...will require vast and unsettling adjustments in the way Americans and residents of other developed countries work, live and educate their children."... In that paper, he made a "guesstimate" that between 42 million and 56 million jobs were "potentially offshorable." Since then he has been refining those estimates, by painstakingly ranking 817 occupations, as described by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to identify how likely each is to go overseas. From that, he derives his latest estimate that between 30 million and 40 million jobs are vulnerable.

He says the most important divide is not, as commonly argued, between jobs that require a lot of education and those that don't. It's not simply that skilled jobs stay in the US and lesser-skilled jobs go to India or China. The important distinction is between services that must be done in the U.S. and those that can -- or will someday -- be delivered electronically with little degradation in quality. The more personal work of divorce lawyers isn't likely to go overseas, for instance, while some of the work of tax lawyers could be. Civil engineers, who have to be on site, could be in great demand in the U.S.; computer engineers might not be.

Mr. Blinder's warnings, and his numbers, are now firmly planted in the political debate over trade.

DeLong believes that Blinder "has very smart things to see about 'outsourcing.'" I think Blinder is unbelievably smart, but if he's basing his numbers on the same logic he applied in his Foreign Affairs essay, then with all due respect I don't think he has very smart things to say about outsourcing. In the FA essay, Blinder assumed that any job that could be done over the electronic transom:
a) Will be done electronically;

b) Will be done electronically by someone living outside the United States;

c) This job shift will happen incredibly quickly;

d) The U.S. economy will fail to create new jobs or job categories in response.

Yeah, I got problems with just about all of these assumptions. Greg Mankiw, on the other hand, simply believes that Alan Blinder has been turned by the dark side of the force... which converts Greg into Luke Skywalker.

UPDATE: Tyler Cowen's take on Blinder: "When our economists start preaching that we should look to economists and higher educators to predict the new, growing economic sectors, I again think that the Chinese are not the major problem."

posted by Dan at 04:12 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Defying the new bloggingheads business plan

My latest bloggingheads segment is up -- this time with Henry Farrell. Much to Robert Wright's disappointment, neither of us gets really angry.

Topics include:

The fallout from the last bloggingheads episode;

My book, All Politics Is Global. And hey, have I mentioned recently that you can buy it at (act now -- Amazon says they only have a few copies left in stock)??

Our favorite social science strawmen;

The future of the European Union;

The future of libertarianism

Go check it out!!

posted by Dan at 04:26 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

An odd, optimistic moment on trade policy

The Financial Times' Eoin Callan reports that with deadlines on the horizon, suddenly Congress and the President are getting serious about trade policy:

Hank Paulson, Treasury secretary, on Tuesday intervened in negotiations with Congress over US trade policy in a bid to save President George W. Bush’s economic agenda for his last two years in office.

The direct involvement of the Treasury secretary is a sign that the White House is escalating its efforts to broker a consensus on trade with Democrats.

The Bush administration has until Saturday under the president’s fast-track trade promotion authority to notify Congress that it has finalised outstanding Latin American trade deals and completed negotiations with South Korea.

Democratic leaders on Tuesday unveiled a set of proposals on reforming US policy that they said brought them to the “brink” of an agreement to advance new trade agreements....

Charles Rangel, chairman of the ways and means committee in the House of Representatives, said the personal involvement of Mr Paulson was instrumental in creating a last-minute opening for a consensus on trade.

“We could not have got here without him,” Mr Rangel said.

The former head of Goldman Sachs joined the administration with a mandate from the president to lead economic policy.

His involvement will put pressure on Susan Schwab, the US trade representative, to concede Democrats’ demands.

Ms Schwab on Tuesday welcomed the Democratic proposals as “a good faith effort in a continuing dialogue” but did not endorse them.

The reforms are intended to act as a “basic boiler template” for pending and future trade deals and call for “a fair balance between promoting access to medicines and protecting pharmaceutical innovation in developing countries”.

You can access the Democrat talking points here (link courtesy of Salon's Andrew Leonard).

Most of it screams "boilerplate" -- the question is how much of it will come to fruition and whether it represents a shift in the Democrats' bargaining position. Leonard believes that,"most of it is a restatement of the American labor agenda." but Chris Nelson takes a dissenting view his latest Nelson Report:

Notice that this very clearly does not call for “passage into law all of the basic ILO conventions”...something which has been a standard part of Democratic and Labor rhetoric for years.
If Nelson's read of the language is correct, I suspect a deal will be done. This is now less about trade and a lot about politics. With the administration and Congress deadlocked on Iraq, the U.S. attorneys, and just about every other policy imaginable, the poll ratings for both branches of government are below 40%. Both the administration and the Congress need to look like they're actually governing. If they can sign a deal on something -- anything -- then they can counter this deadlock perception.

Ordinarily, this desire to cut a deal just to get something done is anathema to me, because what usually gets done is some God-awful piece is legislation that everyone regrets a few months later. It also feeds the bias that action is always better than inaction in politics. Ironically, however, this could actually lead to something constructive accomplished on trade policy.


posted by Dan at 09:12 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Score one point for Cass Sunstein

One of the arguments that Cass Sunstein makes in is that the Internet allows people to filter their information flows so that they buttress to their prior ideological beliefs. Blogs call this "cocooning." The extent to which this effect is more concentrated in online activity than offline activity is open to debate, but it's an interresting argument.

I believe Ann Althouse's divalog exchange with Garance Franke-Ruta on qualifies as a data point for Sunstein's argument. Click here to see the video, in which I think it's safe to say that Ann gets angry.

That's not the main point of this post, however. Compare and contrast the comments on Ann's words and behavior at the bloggingheads site with the reactions at Althouse's blog post. Everyone watched the same video -- but the reactions are very, very different (on the backstory for what sparked this in the first place, click here).

[You're treading on veeeerrrry dangerous ground here!--ed. Oh, relax.]

UPDATE: In comments here, Althouse points out one source for this disparity in comments: "I moderate and delete really insulting comments on my blog. That's skewing that data." I hope it's not skewing it too much.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Lots and lots of blog reactions -- and Franke-Ruta posts her take here. One additional note -- if you watch the video, I think it's clear that Garance was genuinely startled by Ann's anger. This has the effect of making Ann's outburst seem... disproportionate. In fairness to Althouse, however, it should be pointed out that when taping a bloggingheads segment, the participants cannot see each other. I suspect if Ann had been able to see Garance, her reaction might have been different.

posted by Dan at 09:13 AM | Comments (29) | Trackbacks (0)

Strange things are afoot at the CRS

Last week I noted that the director of the Congressional Research Service was issuing some odd directives, limiting the flow of information coming from the CRS.

This week, the Wall Street Journal's John Fund points to another odd CRS decision:

Nothing highlighted Congress's spending problem in last year's election more than earmarks, the special projects like Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere" that members drop into last-minute conference reports leaving no opportunity to debate or amend them. Voters opted for change in Congress, but on earmarks it looks as if they'll only be getting more smoke and mirrors.

Democrats promised reform and instituted "a moratorium" on all earmarks until the system was cleaned up. Now the appropriations committees are privately accepting pork-barrel requests again. But curiously, the scorekeeper on earmarks, the Library of Congress's Congressional Research Service (CRS)--a publicly funded, nonpartisan federal agency--has suddenly announced it will no longer respond to requests from members of Congress on the size, number or background of earmarks. "They claim it'll be transparent, but they're taking away the very data that lets us know what's really happening," says Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn. "I'm convinced the appropriations committees are flexing their muscles with CRS."

Indeed, the shift in CRS policy represents a dramatic break with its 12-year practice of supplying members with earmark data. "CRS will no longer identify earmarks for individual programs, activities, entities, or individuals," stated a private Feb. 22 directive from CRS Director Daniel Mulhollan....

When I asked a CRS official if the new policy stemmed from complaints by appropriations committee members, she refused to answer the question, citing "confidentiality" concerns.

But other CRS staffers are happy to talk privately about the political pressure members often exert, despite Mr. Mulhollan's new directive that all employees inform management within 24 hours of any contacts with the media. "The director operates out of fear members will get upset," says Dennis Roth, a CRS labor economist who is president of a union representing 250 CRS workers. "The groundhog doesn't want to see his shadow, so he stays in the dark hole so he won't."....

CRS's independence appears to have declined since Gilbert Gude, a former member of Congress from Maryland, departed as director in 1985. Mr. Mulhollan was appointed by the librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, in early 1994, before the Republican takeover of Congress. So far Mr. Billington hasn't spoken out on Mr. Mulhollan's new earmark policy.

Today squeeze plays on CRS are not uncommon, and they have come from both parties. In the 1990s, GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey was so angry with a CRS report questioning the workability of a flat tax that he temporarily zeroed out the agency's budget. Rep. Henry Waxman, as a member of a Democratic minority, demanded and got revisions to CRS reports on how prescription drug pricing rules in his bills would work. "Everyone expects Waxman and others to be even more insistent on getting what they want now [that he's in the majority]," says another CRS staffer.

posted by Dan at 08:51 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, March 26, 2007

A few online tomes about Hillary Clinton

Ron Brownstein argues in the Los Angeles Times that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination because of her appeal to white, blue collar Democrats.

Michael Crowley argues in The New Republic that Hillary Clinton's foreign policy hawkishness is not a form of political calculation, but rather what she actually believes. This part does ring true:

[I]t's clear that the Clintonites left office deeply frustrated at the unsolved problem of Iraq and perhaps believing that some final reckoning was inevitable. "President Clinton recognized, as did I," Albright writes in her memoir, "that the mixture of sanctions, containment, Iraqi defiance, and our own uncertainty about Saddam's weapons couldn't go on indefinitely."

Bush's approach was clearly blunter than what Clintonite foreign policy would have dictated. But, even as the "smell of gunpowder" turned into a stench, the foreign policy experts to whom Hillary was closest remained supportive of war with Iraq. "Most of the top [Clinton] national security team had sympathy for what Bush decided, in the broadest terms," says a Democratic foreign policy analyst.

The most hawkish among them was former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, with whom Clinton conferred that fall. "If all else fails, collective action against Saddam is, in my view, justified by the situation and the record of the last decade," Holbrooke told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in September 2002. Holbrooke's standard for "collective" seemed to include only the British and perhaps a handful of other allies. And Holbrooke made clear that a war to topple Saddam was unlikely to be easy and that U.S. forces might have to spend years in a postwar Iraq. Nor was Holbrooke alone. Varying degrees of support for the Bush resolution came from the likes of Rubin, former Defense Secretary William Perry, and former Deputy National Security Advisor Jim Steinberg. And, though she raised red flags about the war's risks, Hillary's close friend Albright ultimately concluded that Bush "should have this authority."

posted by Dan at 11:22 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Is the U.S. more cosmopolitan.... or just bigger and more powerful?

On his Financial Times blog, Gideon Rachman suggests that Americans are more cosmopolitan than Brits:

We are all familiar with the clichés about American insularity: the number of Congressmen who don’t have a passport, the number of Americans who have never left the US – and so on.

But, as I come to the end of a week in Washington, my overwhelming impression is how incredibly outward-looking intellectual life is in this city compared with London – despite the fact that London flatters itself that it is now the world’s most international city.

On Monday I went to a speaker-meeting at the New American Foundation – one of the plethora of DC-based think tanks, dealing with world affairs. The subject was the future of Pakistan and the speaker was a prominent Pakistani journalist. The room was packed. By contrast, I remember going to a speaker-meeting in London about a year ago with a much more obviously star-studded cast – Bill Kristol, a key neoconservative thinker; Tariq Ramadan, a central figure in the debate about Europe and Islam; and Phil Gordon, one of the leading experts on US foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. The meeting attracted maybe 30 people. You could get more people than that to turn up and listen to the deputy head of the OSCE, in Washington.

Nor is this American interest in the outside world an entirely Washington-based phenomenon. There is a Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and a Los Angeles World Affairs Council; I haven’t noticed their equivalents in Birmingham or Edinburgh.

Or take book sales: Edward Luce, the FT’s Washington bureau chief, recently published a much-acclaimed book on India. You might expect it to do best in Britain - given that Luce is a Brit and given the historical connections between India and the UK. Not at all – “In Spite of the Gods” has sold about 5,000 copies in Britain and almost 30,000 in the US.... Perhaps this is because Britain used to be an imperial power -- while America is still enjoying its imperial moment.

Much as I like the back-slapping of America, a few obvious points of caution are warranted. The most obvious is this one: the United States has roughly five times the population of Great Britain. It shouldn't be that surprising, therefore, if a book sells better five times here or a foreign policy event attracts a much larger crowd.

Second, cosmopolitan implies more than just a keen sense of foreign policy interest -- there are cultural dimensions as well. The U.S. might stack up well in that department as well, but it's not a part of Rachman's post.

Now, that said, assuming that Rachman's point is still correct, is this because "America is still enjoying its imperial moment." Well, right now I would use neither the word "imperial" nor "enjoying."

That said, what the U.S. does have in place is a foreign policy infrastructure that's second to none at this point. Beyond the official organs of the federal government, there are a host of quasi-governmental organizations, think tanks, NGOs, foundations, and yes, God forbid, universities with a vested interest in thinking about the world and America's place in it. Sixty years of superpower status will have that effect.

The interesting question to ponder is how long it will be before another country -- or supranational institution -- matches American investments in this area. There is a lag between the acquisition of power and the development of domestic and international institutions to convert that power into authority.

posted by Dan at 09:35 AM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

My gloomy prediction of the day

The Associated Press has some good news to report in the Middle East:

An international diplomatic drive for Mideast peace gained momentum Monday, with Israel welcoming the idea of a regional peace summit and Saudi Arabia suggesting it would consider changes in a dormant peace initiative to make it more acceptable to Israel.

Senior U.S. and U.N. officials confirmed they were trying to bring Israelis and Arabs together in a wide push for peace, but acknowledged the idea is still at an early stage.

The new developments came at a time of high-profile diplomacy, with the U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice both in the region for talks with Israeli and Arab leaders.

The international officials are trying to break an impasse following formation of a Palestinian unity government that includes the Hamas militant group.

Immediately after the government was formed, Israel ruled out peace talks with the Palestinians until Hamas explicitly recognizes the Jewish state.

But on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he "wouldn't hesitate" to take part in a regional summit. Palestinian officials cautiously endorsed the idea.

Any such meeting — especially if Saudi and Israeli officials were to publicly meet — would be a huge symbolic breakthrough. Saudis and Israelis are believed to have held private meetings in the last year.

If this gains any momentum at all, I predict there will be an attack in Israel or the occupied territories. The attack will be designed to inflame the Israeli political establishment or wreck the Palestinian coalition govenment. There are simply too many armed groups in the region with a vested interest in maintaining the festering status quo.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum is unimpressed with my bold prognostication: "It looks to me like Dan is trying to get some bonus oracle points for predicting that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow." Hey, I also scored a perfect 4-for-4 in my NCAA bracket! [Yeah, that's not so impressive either--ed.]

posted by Dan at 09:29 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Dan Shaughnessy has blog envy

As predicted in this space, Curt Schilling has taken to the blog format as quickly as Britney Spears checks out of rehab clinics. Schilling reported on his blog that Jonathan Papelbon would be the Red Sox's closer before the Red Sox officially announced it. A few of the local papers' have quoted from the blog for their stories. Others have referred to Schilling's prodigious output of blog posts in the two weeks since Schilling started 38 Pitches (and we can all breathe easier knowing that fellow blogger Mark Cuban is cool with it).

Now, however, comes the first crucial test of whether Schilling can balance his blog and his day job. Today, Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy takes on Schilling's blog. Here's how he opens the column:

Getting a little tired and bored here in the final week of the Grapefruit League circuit so I thought I'd take the day off and let Curt Schilling do the work. Schill started writing his own blog a few weeks ago, so today he fills the space with his latest Q & A session with fellow bloggers.

(Note: This is an abridged text. Because of space limitations, we are unable to reprint the entire posting, which was approximately the same length as Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals.")

You'll have to read the column to see where he goes from there. It's safe to say he's not a fan (though he really detests Schilling's blog commenters).

Why the blog envy? Last week Schilling told Alex Belth on that he started the blog in part so he could articulate his public statements in a way that would be hard to misinterpret. There was also this passage:

There is the potential to change the way people get their news. Fast-forward this to Opening Day. It's a 2 p.m. game, hopefully I'll pitch great and we'll win. Sometime around 7 or 8 o'clock that night I'll sit down -- I'm on the road, I'm by myself -- I'll blog out the game, pitch-by-pitch in some instances, inning-by-inning, I'll go into minutia ... By 9 o'clock that night I'll have a post up. I'll give you numbers. In the seven days my blog's been up, I've had 398,156 viewers. Those people will know about things they could never read about [in the newspapers], 12 hours before the newspapers ever come out.
If blogs can beat newspapers to the punch in reporting inside information, what is their comparative advantage? Three possibilities: 1) better analysis; 2) better writing; and 3) better controversy.

I've read enough of Shaughnessy's baseball analysis to know that's not his strength (Rob Bradford demonstrates more baseball knowledge in a single story than Shaughnessy does in an entire season). He's an OK writer, but there are plenty of Red Sox beat writers and bloggers who are better (note to Globe sports editor: give Amalie Benjamin her own full-time Sox blog). No, Shaughnessy's specialty is using his acid pen to ignite public feuds with Shaughnessy.

Which leads me back to Schilling, and some free advice from a Red Sox fan. Curt, as someone who's been involved in more than one blog feud in my day, a word to the wise -- don't swallow the bait. Pissing matches like these are little more than a massive time suck and an occupational hazard for daily bloggers. For those of us who do our day jobs out of the public glare, that can be aggravating but not debilitating. Your day job commands a little more attention, and you don't have the luxury of being distracted. The blogger in me might want to grab the popcorn and watch the carnage of a full-on online feud between the lead sports columnist and the ace of the pitching staff. The baseball fan in me fears this more than a Ted Lilly start against the Red Sox.

You want to respond? Flick off a few short rhetorical jabs and walk away. Don't escalate, and for God's sake don't forget Shaughnessy's motivation.

UPDATE: At least one Red Sox blogger liked the column. Another sports blogger does not.

My favorite take, however, is this from a blog devoted exclusively to critiquing Shaugnessy's column:

One sarcastic joke repeated six times. Dan will never be confused with Mark Twain....

Just know this: If you are interested in how Curt's changeup is going along, or any other aspect of Curt's pitching, you are a sycophantic, loser who lives in your Mom's basement. To be more successful, be like Dan. Give up any particular interest in the little things that make baseball great and just worry about which player to irrationally bash in order to coverup your increasing irrelevancy.

FINAL UPDATE: Schilling responds:
The only response I have to the Curly Haired Boyfriend is this.

“First they ignore you, then they mock you, then they fight you, then you win”

Putting his inherent ’toolness’ on display for all the world to see did far more than I could ever hope to do by trying to explain what a dope he is.

posted by Dan at 08:44 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Same planet, different European Unions

The European Union, in celebration of it's 50th anniversary, released its Berlin Declaration over the weekend. For an EU document, it's delightfully brief. It also contains this paragaph:

We have a unique way of living and working together in the European Union. This is expressed through the democratic interaction of the Member States and the European institutions. The European Union is founded on equal rights and mutually supportive cooperation. This enables us to strike a fair balance between Member States’ interests.
That's certainly one way of interpreting the nature of EU institutions.

Writing at Foreign Policy's web site, historian Alan Sked offers a slightly different interpretation:

Today’s EU resembles a sort of undemocratic Habsburg Empire. Its legislation is proposed by a Commission of unelected bureaucrats who have now apparently lost control of their own staffs and who themselves are usually political outcasts from their national political systems. Decisions on whether to adopt their often bizarre initiatives are then taken in total secrecy by the Council of Ministers or the European Council, before being rubber-stamped by the federalist parliament and imposed on the citizens of member states, whose national legislatures can do absolutely nothing to alter their directives or regulations. Indeed, 84 percent of all legislation before national parliaments, according to the German Ministry of Justice, now simply involves implementing Brussels diktats. All this makes European politics undemocratic at all levels, and opinion polls reflect the public’s growing disillusionment.

posted by Dan at 09:48 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

South Africa is a normal country

Pssst.... hey, IR grad students. looking for an interesting paper topic? Michael Wines' New York Times front-pager on South Africa's foreign policy would be a good start.

Wines asks why a regime that relied on international support to end apartheid seems... let's say "indifferent".... to human rights abuses in countries near and far:

Modern South Africa came about, historians agree, in part because of the United Nations’ unrelenting stance against apartheid. The United Nations affirmed that South African racism was not merely an internal political problem, but a threat to southern Africa. It banned arms shipments to South Africa. It demanded fair treatment of black dissidents.

It worked. This month a democratic South Africa sits as president of the United Nations Security Council. It was a remarkable, even poignant affirmation of the power of morality in global diplomacy.

Or so it might seem. After just three months as one of the Security Council’s nonpermanent members, South Africa is mired in controversy over what could be its great strength: the moral weight it can bring to diplomatic deliberations.

In January, South Africa surprised many, and outraged some, when it voted against allowing the Security Council to consider a relatively mild resolution on human rights issues in Myanmar, whose government is widely seen as one of the most repressive on earth.

Last week the government again angered human rights advocates when it said it would oppose a request to brief the Security Council on the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, where the government is pursuing a violent crackdown on its only political opposition. South Africa later changed its stance, but only after dismissing the briefing as a minor event that did not belong on the Council’s agenda.

This week South Africa endangered a delicate compromise among nations often at odds — the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany — to rein in Iran’s nuclear program.

The major powers agreed on an arms embargo, freezing of assets and other sanctions against Iran, but South Africa proposed dropping the arms and financial sanctions and placing a 90-day “timeout” on other punishments, which critics said would have rendered the sanctions toothless.

“I’m not gutting the resolution,” Dumisani S. Kumalo, South Africa’s ambassador to the United Nations, told news agency reporters this week. “I’m improving it.”

Why is South Africa acting this way? Wines gets at some possibilities at the end of the article:
Apartheid, the South African government contends, was a crime against humanity. In contrast, it argues that human rights abuses in Myanmar do not fall within the mandate of the Security Council. Indeed, the South African government says, the Council’s encroachment on issues better left to lesser agencies like the Human Rights Council undermines the organization’s global nature.

Seasoned scholars may and do differ, but to many analysts here the real question is why, given its standing as a beacon of human rights, South Africa has taken such positions at all. Perhaps nobody outside Pretoria knows, but there are plenty of theories.

One, advanced by a committed advocate of Burmese freedom, is that South Africa is feathering its strategic relationship with China, which largely controls Myanmar, supports Zimbabwe’s authoritarian government and has assiduously courted President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa. China has big investments, a decent-size immigrant population and great ambitions in South Africa. South Africa has a similarly close relationship with Iran, an oil supplier.

But even during its struggle for liberation, the African National Congress, or A.N.C., now the governing party, maintained ties to supporters with questionable human rights records, like the Soviet Union, China and Libya.

Another explanation is that South Africa is playing the role of bad boy on the Security Council to underscore its demand that the Council be overhauled to reflect new global realities.

South Africa and many other developing nations deeply resent the great powers’ veto over major United Nations actions, often against developing countries like Zimbabwe and North Korea. They want the emerging Southern Hemisphere to have more sway in the body’s policies and actions.

“South Africa wants reform of the Security Council, come hell or high water,” said Thomas Wheeler, a longtime diplomat for South Africa who now is chief executive at the South Africa Institute of International Affairs, a research group. “And they’re using practically any means to do it. They’ve got almost a bee in their bonnet — that this is the way to go, to force the issue in this way.”

A third theory, a hybrid of those two, is that South Africa’s leaders have yet to decide whether they are democrats or the revolutionaries of two decades ago, railing against seemingly immovable establishments on behalf of seemingly lost causes. The powers in those days were the United States and Britain, powers inimical to the Communists who were the financiers of black liberation movements in the 1980s.

“What you have here is the continuing, ongoing tussle over whether the A.N.C. is still a protest movement or the governing party of a responsible member of the international community,” said a retired American diplomat with decades of Africa experience. “They’re reflexively against anything we’re for — we in the States, we and the British, we in the North. It’s more Chinese than the Chinese.”

Let's knock down the third theory first -- I suspect this is not about reflexive anti-Americanism. The ANC has been perfectly willing to tolerate Washington Consensus-style economic policies for more than a decade now. This is not about the doctrinaire implementation of a militant ideology.

I'm not sure I buy the Security Council reform argument either. South Africa's obsteperous behavior at the UN is not a sufficient roadblock to Security Council action -- and if, anything, their positions on some issues are likely to alienate rather than persuade the United States and other western governments on U.N. reform. Plus, if it was just about UN reform, one would expect to see South Africa adopt a tougher position vis-a-vis human rights abusers in their bilateral relations -- and there's been zero evidence of that happening.

Me, I buy a variant of the first hypothesis -- South Africa is becoming a normal country pursuing a realpolitik foreign policy. If this means coddling dictators in Harare and accomodating rising powers in East Asia, so be it. It should also be pointed out that they're not the only country in the Southern African region to be acting this way.

From an IR theory perspective, however, post-1994 South African foreign policy might represent an ideal test of the power of ideas and norms to influence a middle power's foreign policy -- and the test suggests that ideas don't count for a lot. However, that's just my take based on a very surface-level scan of Pretoria's behavior. A proper, in-depth case study might turn up a different explanation..

Grad students, why are you wasting your weekend reading this blog? Get to it!!

UPDATE: I've now created a new blog category, "thesis ideas," devoted to these kind of research questions prompted by an interesting news story.

posted by Dan at 08:14 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Cheap talk is fun!!

The Financial Times' Guy Dinmore reports that unilateralist Democrats are pissed off that the Bush administration is acting so darn multilateral when it comes to Iran:

Senators urged the Bush administration on Wednesday to get tougher with Iran but senior Treasury and State Department officials resisted demands to punish European and Asian companies investing in Iran’s energy sector.

”You’ve got to get a lot tougher,” declared Chris Dodd, Senate banking committee chairman, brandishing charts showing $126bn of foreign investment in Iranian oil and gas fields.

Senator Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said: ”We talk tough and act like a pussycat.”

Nicholas Burns, under-secretary of state, and Stuart Levey, Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, replied that imposing US sanctions on foreign investors in Iran would damage the international coalition that the US was trying to keep together to isolate Iran over its nuclear programme.

The US wanted to put pressure on Iran, not its allies, Mr Burns said.

Mr Levey warned of a “backlash” against the US if it imposed sanctions on European or Japanese companies. This risked destroying US efforts to pass sanctions resolutions at the UN Security Council, he added.

He also noted that the extra-territorial application of US law was a controversial issue that would be met with hostility by allies.

Now, let's be clear -- if either Chris Dodd or Robert Menendez was president, there's no chance in hell that they would implement the measures they profess to favor. This is just cheap talk.

You can do this on blogs as well. Try it yourself in the comments!

UPDATE: I wonder if this will satisfy Dodd and Menendez.

posted by Dan at 03:48 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

While Congress gets all high and mighty about executive privilege....

The Washington Post's Elizabeth Williamson reports that the Congressional Research Service is about to get very chary with their information:

This week, Congressional Research Service chief Daniel P. Mulhollan issued a memo to all staffers in the service, known as Congress's think tank. From now on, he wrote, CRS researchers will require a supervisor's approval before giving any CRS report to a "non-congressional."

Non-congressionals are, said CRS spokeswoman Janine D'Addario, usually fellow researchers in "U.S. government entities and nongovernmental entities, the media and foreign governments, like embassies."

The CRS works exclusively for Congress and is legendarily closefisted with its reports. For years, open-government groups and some members of Congress have fought unsuccessfully to put the reports online. Now it comes out that CRS researchers have been trading reports like baseball cards with these special non-congressionals, sharing knowledge on North Korean counterfeiting, wheat subsidies and other topics commissioned by Congress.

That can continue, according to Mulhollan's memo, but "prior approval should now be requested at the division or office level."

However: "Product requests can also originate from other non-congressional sources including individual researchers, corporations, law offices, private associations, libraries, law firms and publishers. The Inquiry Section typically declines these requests, and most often refers the caller to his or her congressional representative's office," Mulhollan wrote.

So let's review. All governmental, nongovernmental, foreign-governmental, media researcher-type non-congressionals -- and you know who you are -- can still have CRS reports, if a CRS supervisor approves.

For the rest of you non-congressionals, the rules have not changed. The answer is no -- go ask Congress.

Or.... you can click here.

posted by Dan at 10:44 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

The German Social Democrats party like it's 2002

One of the key points I was trying to make in my Foreign Affairs article was that the Bush foreign policy of 2007 looks somewhat different from the Bush foreign policy of 2002 -- it's more multilateral in both form and substance. This has been a common theme among foreign policy wonks across the ideological divide.

However, the word has yet to reach the German Social Democrats, as Judy Dempsey makes clear in this International Herald-Tribune story:

[T]he two parties in [Angela] Merkel's coalition appear more divided over the missile shield than other EU member states, which have been far less vocal or critical of the U.S. missile shield.

Kurt Beck, leader of the Social Democrats, said this week that the missile defense shield would lead to a new arms race and that it should be discussed within NATO, or even abandoned....

Inside NATO, other countries have been puzzled by the level of the debate in Germany, and particularly by the Social Democrats' newfound support for the alliance.

Over the past seven years, the Social Democrats have played down the importance of NATO as an alliance. Germany, France, Belgium and Luxembourg opposed any attempt by the alliance during the U.S.-led war in Iraq to assist the U.S. coalition forces.

"The mood in NATO is quite sanguine," said James Appathurai, a NATO spokesman. "We know what we have to do. We are preparing high-level talks next month which will be attended by experts."

Despite charges from Social Democrats and even from some in Merkel's party that Washington has not been talking to its allies or to Russian officials, there have been several high-level consultations at NATO headquarters and in Moscow led by Henry Obering, the U.S general in charge of the missile defense agency.

So far, in public at least, U.S. officials have not questioned the tone of any of the criticism from the German left, as was the case after Gerhard Schröder, the former Social Democratic chancellor, narrowly won re-election in 2002 after criticizing the Bush administration's actions toward Iraq.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has stressed that Russia has nothing to fear about the system. Speaking this week after talks in Washington with the German foreign minister, the Social Democrat Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Rice said: "Russia and the United States have a good working relationship in which very few would contemplate the notion of a nuclear exchange."

If you read the whole thing, one gets the sense that domestic political calculations are behind the SPD's thinking... much as it was back in 2002.

posted by Dan at 01:01 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (1)

Has Taro Aso ever met Condoleezza Rice?

According to Reuters, the Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso has offered up an interesting theory of how to build peace in the Middle East:

Blond, blue-eyed Westerners probably can't be as successful at Middle East diplomacy as Japanese with their "yellow faces", Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso was quoted by media as saying on Wednesday.

"Japan is doing what Americans can't do," the Nikkei business daily quoted the gaffe-prone Aso as saying in a speech.

"Japanese are trusted. If (you have) blue eyes and blond hair, it's probably no good," he said.

"Luckily, we Japanese have yellow faces."

Foreign Ministry officials were unable to comment on the report, which said Aso elaborated by saying Japan had never exploited the Middle East, started a war there or fired a shot.

Aso, seen in some circles as a contender to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe if the Japanese leader runs into trouble in a July election for parliament's upper house, is known for verbal gaffes.

He offended South Korea with remarks in 2003 that were interpreted in Seoul as trying to justify some of Japan's actions during its 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean peninsula.

He also drew criticism in 2001 when, as economics minister, he said he hoped to make Japan the kind of country where "rich Jews" would want to live.

Aso said then he had not intended to be discriminatory.

By Aso's criteria, of course, Japan's colonial legacy means it should not be included in the Six-Party Talks on North Korea because it involves several countries that were part of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. I sense, however, that this would be applying too much logic to the comment.

posted by Dan at 11:07 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Gender and low-wage jobs

Matt Yglesias links to a Washington Post op-ed by NYU political scientist Lawrence Mead on the withdrawal of low-income men from the workforce:

Why are low-skilled men withdrawing from work just when unskilled jobs appear plentiful and immigrants are flooding into the country to take them? One reason might be that the wages these men could earn have fallen, so, the thinking goes, why work for chump change? Yet these men failed to work more even in the 1990s, when wages for low-skilled jobs rose. It's more likely that male work discipline has deteriorated. Poor men want to work and succeed, yet many cannot endure the slights and disappointments that work involves. That's why poor men usually can obtain jobs yet seldom keep them.
Yglesias goes to town with this paragraph:
Frankly, one has to sympathize with this. Presumably NYU political science professors like Mead don't need to put up with the sort of slights experienced by people doing unskilled labor.
I can't shake the feeling that something else is going on here. Yes, low wage jobs can be humiliating and hard work.... but wasn't this also true in the past? Indeed, globally, one of the reasons so many people flock to so-called "sweatshop" jobs is because they still seem like a step up from the back-breaking tasks involved in agricultural labor.

What, then, explains the growing disaffection of male workers in this country? It might be that the composition of low-wage jobs has shifted from tasks that were commonly associated with men to tasks that have historically been associated as women's work. Low-wage jobs in the agricultural and manufactiuring sector involve the use of significant amounts of muscle far removed from the final customer. Low-wage jobs in the service sector often require the employee to wear nametags that say, "Hi! My name is ________!" while being as courteous as possible to the customer. My hunch is that a large swath of low-income men can deal with being dog-tired from moving around heavy things, but can't deal with the petty humiliations required to stay in the good graces of an obnoxious shopper. [So you're saying that women enjoy humiliation more?--ed. No, I'm saying that because many of these low-paying service-sector jobs were traditionally viewed as female, there's some path dependence at work here.]

This is just blog speculaion -- I have no idea if there's any empirical evidence to confirm if this is true. Commenters should feel free to shoot this down.

UPDATE: The Economist's Free Exchange has more on this point.

posted by Dan at 09:16 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

That's one way to get the ballcaps

From the Boston Herald's Clubhouse Insider blog, Jeff Horrigan details the extent to which ESPN's Dick Vitale will go to get a baseball cap:

ESPN basketball analyst Dick Vitale just threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to this afternoon’s game between the Sox and the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. His appearance in a Pirates cap and jersey reminds me of the time a few years back in Sarasota, where the local resident (he lives in Bradenton now) was visiting Ed Smith Stadium for a Cincinnati Reds spring game. Naturally, Vitale was wearing a Reds cap that day, telling everyone that he’s a lifelong Reds fan (just like he’s telling everyone today he’s a lifelong Pirates fan). Well, some of us happened to walk by his car in the players parking lot and noticed five or six different caps in his car for teams that play on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Since then, I have heard him tell fans and media at Devil Rays, Yankees, Phillies and Red Sox game that he (wearing the appropriate hat each time) has been a long-time fan of that home team.

posted by Dan at 09:12 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Who's leveraging who in Northeast Asia?

The Financial Times' Demetri Sevastopulo and Andrew Yeh explain the rather bizarre goings-on over the past three days involving North Korea, the financial sanctions against Banco Delta Asia, and the strange Treasury department statement that, "North Korea has pledged, within the framework of the Six-Party Talks, that these funds will be used solely for the betterment of the North Korean people, including for humanitarian and educational purposes."

What the heck happened? According to Sevastopulo and Yeh:

Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, orchestrated a significant shift in US policy towards North Korea by persuading the US Treasury to agree to Pyongyang’s demands to release $25m frozen in a Macao bank since 2005.

Current and former officials say Christopher Hill, the chief US negotiator on North Korea, convinced Ms Rice that the US should sacrifice the issue of the frozen funds to push forward the broader goal of implementing last month’s six-party accord on denuclearising the Korean peninsula.

Several people familiar with the debate said Hank Paulson, Treasury secretary, agreed to overrule officials responsible for terrorism financing, who objected to the move, after Beijing warned that a failure to return the North Korean funds would hurt the Sino-US strategic economic dialogue....

Many experts, and some White House officials, were dismayed when Daniel Glaser, the Treasury deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, said in Beijing on Monday that the US and North Korea had agreed on a mechanism to refund all the money. Critics also derided the explanation that Pyongyang had vowed to use the money for humanitarian purposes.

Gordon Flake, a Korea expert who heads the Mansfield Foundation, said the Treasury shift angered even supporters of the broader nuclear disarmament accord. He said Treasury had insisted for 18 months that the move against BDA was a “law enforcement action” that was not linked to the nuclear talks. But he said the statement in Beijing clearly showed there was a political link.

“We have traded away the pressure we had on them,” said Mr Flake.

Full disclosure: I worked with Glaser during my stint at Treasury, and he always exuded competence.

Beyond that, Flake's statement seems internally inconsistent. The financial sanctions cannot be both a strict law-enforcement matter and a source of leverage. It's one or the other. Clearly, it appears that they were leverage.

The sentence in the story that bothers me is China's linkage of this move to the SED. If that's what tipped the scales, then Beijing better be making some concessions in those negotiations that no one knows about.

posted by Dan at 11:26 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Socrates' teaching evaluations
This class on philosophy was really good, Professor Socrates is sooooo smart, I want to be just like him when I graduate (except not so short). I was amazed at how he could take just about any argument and prove it wrong....

Socrates is a real drag, I don't know how in hell he ever got tenure. He makes students feel bad by criticizing them all the time. He pretends like he's teaching them, but he's really ramming his ideas down student's throtes. He's always taking over the conversation and hardly lets anyone get a word in....

I learned a lot in this class, a lot of things I never knew before. From what I heard from other students, Professor Socrates is kind of weird, and at first I agreed with them, but then I figured out what he was up to. He showed us that the answers to some really important questions already are in our minds.

Click here to read the rest of them.

posted by Dan at 09:13 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

You have to hand it to the Iranian leadership

Another day, another country Iran manages to alienate with its nuclear policy. From yesterday's New York Times:

Russia has informed Iran that it will withhold nuclear fuel for Iran’s nearly completed Bushehr power plant unless Iran suspends its uranium enrichment as demanded by the United Nations Security Council, European, American and Iranian officials say.

The ultimatum was delivered in Moscow last week by Igor S. Ivanov, the secretary of the Russian National Security Council, to Ali Hosseini Tash, Iran’s deputy chief nuclear negotiator, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because a confidential diplomatic exchange between two governments was involved.

For years, President Bush has been pressing President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to cut off help to Iran on the nuclear power plant that Russia is building at Bushehr, in southern Iran. But Mr. Putin has resisted. The project is Tehran’s first serious effort to produce nuclear energy and has been very profitable for Russia.

Recently, however, Moscow and Tehran have been engaged in a public argument about whether Iran has paid its bills, which may explain Russia’s apparent shift. But the ultimatum may also reflect an increasing displeasure and frustration on Moscow’s part with Iran over its refusal to stop enriching uranium at its vast facility at Natanz....

Russia has been deeply reluctant to ratchet up sanctions against Iran in the Security Council, which is expected to vote on a new set of penalties against the country within the next week.

But American officials have been trying to create a commercial incentive for Russia to put pressure on Iran. One proposal the Bush administration has endorsed since late 2005 envisions having the Russians enrich Iran’s uranium in Russia. That creates the prospect of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in business for Russia, and a way to ensure that Iran receives only uranium enriched for use in power reactors, instead of for use in weapons.

Iran has rejected those proposals, saying it has the right to enrich uranium on its own territory....

Mr. Ivanov... called on Iran to resolve outstanding questions with the agency about its nuclear program and to stop enriching uranium. The Russians have been pressing Iran to take some sort of pause in its uranium enrichment that might allow the Security Council sanction process to halt and bring Iran back to the negotiating table.

“The clock must be stopped; Iran must freeze uranium enrichment,” Mr. Ivanov said. “The U.N. Security Council will then take a break, too, and the parties would gather at the negotiating table.”

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, has also called for a “pause,” noting that even a brief suspension of enrichment would be enough to get the United States to the negotiating table with Iran under an offer that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made in May.

Two thoughts:
1) As I said last year, "never trust the Russians to be a dependable ally."

2) The fact that Ivanov and ElBaradei are not calling for a pause on enrichment does call into question whether Laura Rozen was right in her assessment of the U.S. negotiating strategy in her interesting Washington Monthly piece:

At the end of May (2006), Rice pushed the policy as far as she could. In the Ben Franklin Room of the State Department, she made her boldest announcement since becoming secretary of state: The United States would agree to join direct talks with Iran for the first time in twenty-seven years. Iran was given the summer to consider Rice’s offer, which was accompanied by pages of inducements from the West, including an international offer to build Iran a civilian nuclear power facility, and economic inducements such as WTO membership. Yet again, though, this wasn’t a pure victory for the behavior changers. Instead of offering unconditional negotiations, Rice’s proposal included a caveat palatable to the hard-liners that placed the prospect of ever getting to the negotiating table in doubt: Iran had to agree to suspend its uranium enrichment program for the duration of the talks.

posted by Dan at 08:56 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What is Europe's trajectory?

Andrew Moravcsik celebrates the European Union's 50th anniversary with a cover story in Newsweek's international editions. Contra the conventional wisdom, Moravcsik paints a rosy present and future for the EU:

American Alone. While Europe Slept. Menace in Europe. As the European Union celebrates the 50th anniversary of its founding Treaty of Rome, the pundits agree: Europe is in terminal decline. It is a continental-size museum dropping into the dustbin of history....

To most who live in Europe—or have visited lately—all this seems wrong, even absurd. As the European Union turns 50 this week, let us consider all that has been achieved. Europe arose from the ashes of the Great Depression and World War II to become whole and free. Half a century ago, only a utopian would have predicted that, today, one can traverse Europe from Sweden to Sicily without encountering a border control and—most of the way—using a single European currency. Or that a tariff-free single market would exist, cemented by a common framework of economic regulation.

Europe is now a global superpower of world-historical importance, second to none in economic clout. It has constructed one of the most successful systems of government—the modern social-welfare state, which for all its flaws has brought unprecedented prosperity and security to Europe's people. It is the single most successful advance in voluntary international cooperation in modern history. The original European Economic Community of 1957 has grown from its founding six members to 27, knitting together just under 500 million people from the western Aran Islands of Ireland through the heart of Central Europe to the Black Sea. Its values are spreading across the globe—far more attractive, in many respects, than those of America. If anything, Europe's trajectory is up, not down.

You'll have to read the whole thing to evaluate Moravcsik's case for yourself. I certainly agree with him about the present -- indeed, I'm pretty sure a book just came out arguing that the EU is America's equal when it comes to questions of economic regulation.

It's the future trajectory where Moravcsik loses me -- which is why I wrote what I wrote in Foreign Affairs this month. I'm simply more pessimistic about Europe's ability to alter its domestic institutions and overcome its long-term demographic decline. The EU has staved off this problem in part by increasing expansion, but the fact is they're going to be running out of viable countries soon.

Moravcsik and other EU-boosters will counter by pointing to economic aspects of the EU model that work very well -- France's total factor productivity is higher than America's, Scandinavia has combined a generous welfare state with high birthrates and flexible labor markets, etc. This is true, but it is, frankly, a bulls**t argument. You can't say that the entire European Union is on the upswing by pointing to a few regions of it that are doing well in certain metrics and implying that there will be a diffusion effect to the rest of the continent. Domestic institutions in Europe are pretty resistant to change. Indeed, for al the EU's successes, I would still wager that the diffusion of "successful" policy innovations would spread faster from American state to American state than between the different members of the EU. You also can't point to the best bits of the EU and compare it to the U.S. as a whole. Why include MIssissippi but not Greece or Bulgaria? How does French productivity stack up against California alone?

These are questions which I am sure will be answered by the commenters.

UPDATE: Here's a similar critique of the Moravcsik article... with, like, real data!!

That said, according to this survey, Moravcsik is correct about how the rest of the world views the EU.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I've revised this post slightly to correct for some atrocious grammatical miscues.

posted by Dan at 07:45 AM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, March 19, 2007

How HDTV affects campaign 2008

Megan McArdle explains:

The first thing you notice about HDTV is that some of the politicians look really awful. Studio makeup is not enough to cover up the sagging, cragging, and pitting of all those cruel years in Congress. Some of them look fine . . . John Kerry is positively handsome, if you like men who look kind of like a wrinkly old orange. (Can't his wife buy him a really convincing fake tan? Sigh. Yet another reason not to bother getting rich.) Others—and you know who you are, Senator Specter—not so much. Charles Schumer has a deep crease on the side of his forehead that looks like he slept on his glasses . . . on top of a lit stove. And Tim Russert seems to have a little rosacea problem....

Today, though, it suddenly occurred to me that this might have an impact on the 2008 election. Just as the introduction of television famously altered voter perceptions of the candidates in the 1960 election (those who listened to the debate thought that Nixon had won, but those who saw it on television overwhelmingly favoured the more telegenic Kennedy), HDTV could skew who we nominate and/or elect....

For example, though I've never met him, my understanding from those who have is that McCain's image of vitality is very carefully projected, and that when you actually meet him up close, he looks pretty frail. Will that come out on HDTV? How about Hilary? HDTV is least kind to older women; I'd bet it puts at least ten years on her. I suspect that Obama is the only candidate who will actually look good on HDTV; he's younger, and even light black skin ages better than caucasian.

I've seen Obama and met McCain -- Megan's conjectures seem sound to me.

That said, even on HDTV there are methods to conceal flaws -- see here for one example. It is possible, however, that makeup and/or other techniques to look good on HDTV would be too subtle to have an affect on normal televisions. This leads to an interesting tradeoff -- which television audience should a candidate target? Would the targeting shift between the primary season and the general election? Would it depend on the demographic being targeted by the candidate?

You known, you just know, that some candidates are going to spent a lot of money on consultants to answer this very question. And if you ask me, Megan deserves a 10% cut on all this swag to help defray her moving expenses.

posted by Dan at 12:02 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Has anyone at The American Prospect ever read Thucydides?

Via Daniel Nexon and Robert Farley, I see that The American Prospect has committed multiple sins against Thucydides.

The major sins are contained in this Thomas Geoghegan essay that blasts neoconservatives for being so besotted with Thucydides:

College kids write papers now on how we got into Iraq. Or so it is with my friend's daughter. She's supposed to write a paper on one of the neocons. Which one should she pick?...

If I had a kid, I'd make her do Thucydides (460? - 400? B.C) -- he's an honorary neocon in a way, and no one's doing him. Indeed, he's the darling of the neocons. They simply love this guy. Donald Kagan, the father of Robert and Fred, has written four or five volumes on The Peloponnesian Wars, all to illustrate how the neocons should see the world. And other neocons like Victor Hansen Davis make a big fuss over Thucydides, too. And what's the moral they draw from Thucydides? "No mercy," my old college teacher said. The strong will crush the weak. If ever there's a case for pre-emptive war, it is all there in Thucydides. It's a world in which there is no world opinion, or international law. That kind of thing's for sissies, the neocon's would say Set up those prisons in Guantanamo. They don't cry over these things in Thucydides. You focus on being strong.

Yet maybe one should say something in Thucydides' defense.

First,, he was writing in Fifth Century B.C. There was no such thing as world opinion. There was no mass media. There was no CNN, or UN, or anything like the Hague. We were not wired up to each other. And there were no roadside bombs. What the neocons miss is that things that the Spartans could get away with in The Peloponessian Wars, they wouldn't even try to get away with now. It's not that we're "soft" in the twenty-first century. But our hard power is so dependent on our soft power that there are things a "realist" would have done once that anyone with a sense of reality wouldn't do now.

But it's not much of a defense, because even back then, at least Herodotus knew better....

One big blustery super-power can't dominate the world. Actually, the kind of hegemony that neocons call for isn't even really found in Thucydides. Ultimately, as some scholars note, even in Thucydides, Sparta backs off too. But it's even clearer in Herodotus: there is not so much a clash of civilizations as a plethora of them. And even one based on Hollywood cannot subdue the world.

Indeed, that's why Herodotus is more important than Thucydides for Americans. We're the most blinkered because we don't do what Herodotus did and travel around the world.

In the interest of having a productive work day, I'll have to refrain from a detailed analysis of why this piece is so God-awful. Instead, I'll have to ask my informed readers to determine the biggest sin committed in this piece:
1) Geoghegan's moronic belief that Thucydides was some kind of war-monger -- indeed, it is ironic that Geoghegan basically accepts the neoconservative interpretation of Thucydides (for a conservative takedown of this neoconservative position, click here).;

2) Geoghegan's confusion of Sparta with Athens;

3) As Nexon put it, the ""everything I need to know about Thucydides I learned from the Melian Dialogue" problem in Geoghegan's article. Indeed, I'll put cash money on the table that Geoghegan has never read a single word of books six, seven, or eight in History of the Peloponnesian War;

4) The fact that the editors of The American Prospect pparently know as little about Thucydides as Geoghegan.

Debate away!

posted by Dan at 09:44 AM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

How is China's media reporting on Zimbabwe?

There's been a spot of trouble in Zimbabwe's autocracy as of late. I wonder how media outlets in non-democratic regimes are covering this trouble?

From the People's Daily Online:

The Zimbabwe government will not sit back and watch the opposition perpetrating "terrorist attacks" on innocent citizens while authorities are also geared to stamp out domestic violence, which accounted for 60 percent of Zimbabwe's murder cases, President Robert Mugabe has said.

Speaking at a ceremony to commemorate the International Women's Day in Harare on Saturday, Mugabe said authorities would not tolerate lawlessness and violence must stop, The Sunday Mail reported.

Mugabe was quoted by the newspaper as saying: "We have given too much room to mischief makers and shameless stooges of the West. Let them and their masters know that we shall brook none of their lawless behavior."

Mugabe made the remarks in the wake of acts of violence, which the opposition MDC unleashed, in different centers across the country last week.

I can only hope that the honorable people's government in Zimbabwe crushes the treacherous curs of the MDC to promote peace, order and social justice for all [Snap out of it!!--ed. C'mon, I don't get to use "treacherous curs" in daily parlance all that often.]

posted by Dan at 08:48 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, March 16, 2007

The fairest review I will ever receive

It's a busy day at the Drezner household -- I have to decide which of my children to ship to the Economist in gratitude for their review of my book All Politics Is Global (now available at and other fine online retailers!!!). It's subscription only, but here's the good parts version:

Daniel Drezner's “All Politics is Global” is too nuanced and academic for easy reading—but ultimately much more rewarding. Mr Drezner, an associate professor of international politics at Tufts University, focuses on the international institutions and accords that regulate trade. Such regulation, though seemingly arcane at first, in fact determines “how to treat workers, how much to pollute, what can go into our food, what can be accessed on the internet,” and “how much medicine will cost”.

...Mr Drezner believes that what really matter are the domestic preferences of powerful governments: “States make the rules.” This directly contradicts Thomas Friedman's flat-world notion that globalisation has emasculated the state. Mr Friedman's ideas—such as that capitalists worldwide now form an “electronic herd” that tramples down borders—are, according to Mr Drezner, “simple, pithy and wrong”. As evidence, Mr Drezner provides case studies ranging from internet protocols to anti-retroviral drugs. He shows that “great powers cajole and coerce those who disagree with them into accepting the same rulebook.”

....Mr Drezner does not call for the end of such international accords. Rather, he finds that the challenges of the future will be increasingly transnational. As globalisation intensifies, the rewards for co-ordination will increase as well. To achieve success, it is essential not to eliminate international institutions but rather to understand their utility. They are at heart a means for great nations to exert their will in concert. The key to their success lies in convincing the leading governments of the gains from acting in co-operation, rather than isolation, in a volatile but interconnected world—a message that surely applies well beyond the esoteric world of trade regulations.

Hmmmm.... the boy is toilet-trained but the girl has dimples. It's gonna be tough to figure out which one to give away.

posted by Dan at 02:17 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Hey, it's been two years -- let's talk about gender and op-eds again

One of the assignments for my Stafecraft class this term is that the students must draft a cogent op-ed submission on a policy issue they care about. "In this case,"cogent" not only means well-written, but written in such a way that would actually pique the interest of an op-ed page editor.

With this assignment in mind, I see via Tom Maguire that the New York Times' Patricia Cohen is writing about seminars designed to encourage female participation on the op-ed pages:

Uproars over the sparse numbers of women in newspapers, or on news programs, in magazines, and on best-seller lists regularly erupt every couple of years. A doozy occurred in 2005, after the liberal commentator Susan Estrich and Michael Kinsley, then editor of The Los Angeles Times’s opinion pages, got into a nasty scuffle over the lack of female columnists. That dustup is what motivated Ms. [Catherine] Orenstein to take her op-ed show on the road, which she has done with support from the Woodhull Institute, an ethics and leadership group for women.

“It’s a teachable form,” Ms. Orenstein said recently over coffee and eggs. “It’s not like writing Hemingway. You show people the basics of a good argument, what constitutes good evidence, what’s a news hook, what’s the etiquette of a pitch.”....

Over the past 18 months several hundred women and men (though in fewer numbers) have taken the seminar, which can cost a group up to $5,000, Ms. Orenstein said (although she has also donated her services). She has not kept records, but said about two dozen former students have sent her clips of their published essays to say thank you. Suzanne Grossman at Woodhull didn’t have comprehensive statistics but said that the first pilot session for a dozen women at a Woodhull retreat produced 12 op-ed articles. (Some participants wrote more than one.)

“I try to convey the idea that there is a responsibility,” she said. “Op-ed pages are so enormously powerful. It’s one of the few places open to the public. Where else is someone like me going to get access? It’s not like I can call up the White House: ‘Hello?’ ”

About 30 women who also are not in the habit of calling up the White House gathered Monday evening for one of Ms. Orenstein’s seminars....

Ms. Orenstein asked: Could every woman at the large rectangular table name one specific subject that she is an expert in and say why? The author of “Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale,” Ms. Orenstein began by saying, “Little Red Riding Hood” and writing the words in orange marker on an oversize white pad.

Of the next four women who spoke, three started with a qualification or apology. “I’m really too young to be an expert in anything,” said Caitlin Petre, 23.

“Let’s stop,” Ms. Orenstein said. “It happens in every single session I do with women, and it’s never happened with men.” Women tend to back away from “what we know and why we know it,” she said.

Next she asked the participants why they thought it important to write op-ed articles. Women shouted: “Change the world,” “shape public debate,” “offer a new perspective,” “influence public policy.”

“You are all such do-gooders,” Ms. Orenstein said laughing, “I love this.” She then proceeded to create another kind of list that included fame, money, offers of books, television series and jobs.

The Rev. Dr. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, an Episcopal priest and the executive director of Political Research Associates in Boston, frowned. “It’s not why I do it,” she said.

That, Ms. Orenstein declared, is a typically female response: “I never had a man say, ‘That’s not why I do it.’ ”

“What I want to suggest to you,” she continued, is that the personal and the public interests are not at odds, and “the belief that they are mutually exclusive has kept women out of power.” Don’t you want money, credibility, access to aid in your cause? she asked.

Cristina Page, a spokeswoman for Birth Control Watch in Washington, leaned forward. “I’ve never heard anyone say that before,” she said. “What you’ve just said is so important. It’s liberating.”

Two thoughts. First, after describing the assignment to my Fletcher School students -- who are generally perceived as a group of idealistic, altruistic overachievers -- their immediate reaction to the prospect of publishing an op-ed was, "How much do we get paid for it?" I might add that this query transcended gender. Small sample issues aside, I'm very dubious about the notion that women don't seek out the things that Orenstein says they don't seek out.

Second, think about that "Little Red Robin Hood" line in the excerpt, as well as this paragraph:

A bunch of women joined together on one side of the table to discuss an op-ed piece by Ms. Orenstein that appeared in June 2004 in The New York Times on the remake of the movie “The Stepford Wives.”
Orenstein's expertise raises a question about the ways in which women seek to get op-eds published. Is the problem that women write on topics similar to men but face a glass ceiling at the op-ed desk? Is it that women do not write about "hard news" issues that are generally discussed in op-ed pages (politics, economics, foreign policy, social policy, ec.)? Or is the problem that what is defined as appropriate for the op-ed essays overly gendered? I tend to think it's the middle one (does Orenstein seriously think that op-eds about Little Red Riding Hood or the Stepford Wives will influence any White House?), but I'm open to suggestions from the readers.

posted by Dan at 09:43 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Is it the idea or the execution of the idea?

If someone pointed a gun to my head today and demanded that I say who I think will be the president in 2009:

1) I'd be pretty annoyed, because I thought I had moved to a safe neighborhood;

2) I'd say Barack Obama

This hunch -- and that's all it is -- makes me want to know how Obama thinks about foreign policy. Which leads me to Michael Hirsh's cover story in the Washington Monthly about this very question:
There’s no doubt that Obama has the intellectual curiosity and self-confidence—not to mention the ideal public persona—to fundamentally reconsider American foreign policy. But at this point, for all his promise, he’s still, in some sense, a cipher. After eight years in the Illinois Senate and two in Washington, his foreign policy thinking, unsurprisingly, remains largely unformed. That [Obama advisor Samantha] Power and [Anthony] Lake—both hard-bitten political veterans, not starstruck newcomers—each found themselves gravitating toward Obama on the basis of a speech, a dinner, or a phone call suggests the level of despair to which both had sunk. Bush, it appeared, had so destroyed what was left of the existing system of international security that both Power and Lake, through their separate journeys, had reached a point where they sought a leader who might offer not a return to that system—as John Kerry cautiously did in 2004—but a wholesale reimagining of it.

In this impulse, they are far from alone. The last year has seen a slew of efforts by foreign policy thinkers, academics, journalists, policy wonks, and politicians to envision a new international security system, and a new U.S. foreign policy to go along with it. These varied proposals often have little in common except the assumption that, through some combination of the end of the cold war, the new threat of stateless terror, and the failures of the Bush years, the old system is dead, and an entirely new one must now be created. Intellectually, like the Khmer Rouge, we’re back at the year zero.

And yet, by assuming the need to go back to basics, many of these efforts, though not stinting in their condemnation of Bush’s unilateralism, unwittingly accept the underlying premise of his foreign policy. That premise, during the first term, was that the postwar system of international relations—a system that, since 1945, has helped give the world unprecedented peace and prosperity—was no longer an effective tool for dealing with the world of the twenty-first century, in particular the post-9/11 world. But what if that premise was just plain wrong? If so, then perhaps the international system, though already weakened when Bush took office, appears to be beyond salvation now not because of its own fundamental flaws, but because of the serious damage done to it by the unprecedented radicalism of Bush’s foreign policy.

In other words, it may be that what is most broken today is not the international system, but American stewardship of it. And that, at this pivotal moment for the nation and its place in the world, what’s needed is not an entirely new vision but, rather, something simpler: a bit of faith. Faith that with time, committed diplomacy, and—perhaps most important—some basic good judgment about the use of American force, the essential framework of international relations that got us through the cold war—and that almost any president other than Bush would also have applied to the war on terror—can be repaired.

Read the whole thing. As Kevin Drum points out, "He's actually making one of the most difficult kinds of argument of all, an argument that the current system is fine and doesn't really need big changes [except the people running the show]." Of course, this bears more than a passing resemblance to the argument made by many neocons that the ideas underlying Operation Iraqi Freedom were equally sound, but the Bush administration botched the execution.

I agree with Kevin that it's worth checking out -- but I'm less sanguine with Hirsch's argument that because the system worked well in the past, a recommitment to its structures means it will work well in the future. As I pointed out recently, some difficult adjustments are going to be necessary.

[Hey, aren't there parts of Hirsh's essay that bear an awfully strong resemblance to your Washington Post essay from December 2006?--ed. Well, it seems like that to me, but that could just be an incipient sign of overbearing egotism. Besides, Hirsh's underlying thesis is dissimilar from mine, so I'm willing to let it slide.]

UPDATE: I'm fascinated that some of the commenters to this post infer that because I think Obama will win implies that I think Obama should win. Let's just say that I reserve some doubts about Obama as the candidate for me.

posted by Dan at 03:26 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

The thousand nations of the Persian empire are pissed off about 300

Via Matthew Yglesias, I see IRNA reporting that the government of Iran is not pleased with the movie 300:

Government spokesman, Gholam-Hossein Elham said Tuesday that the movie called `300' insults the culture of world countries.

The statement was made in response to the question raised about the anti-Iran movie dubbed `300'.

The government spokesman referred to the movie as part of the extensive cultural aggression aiming to degenerate cultures of world states.

Elham noted that the Iranian nation and those involved in cultural activities will respond to such a cultural aggression....

The movie has fabricated the history with depicting a war between Iran and Greece, whereas, no Greek king dared to stand up to the Persian Empire or the Emperor Xerxes.

Though Sparta's King Leonidas cherished such a dream, but, he lost his head and Iranian fighters threw his head before Emperor Xerxes's feet and told him that he had attempted a suicide attack to Persian Army.

Though Matt and I have had some differences on Iran, I agree with correct lesson he from this tidbit of information:
It's interesting that even Iran's contemporary theocrats regard themselves as the heirs to all the pre-Islamic Persian empires. Which goes to show how misleading it is to frame US-Iranian disputes as part of an apocalyptic struggle with "Islamofascism" rather than a sort of banal (but not unimportant!) situation issue where the government of Iran is seeking to assert its interests in the neighborhood where governments of Iran have traditionally sought to assert themselves.
UPDATE: Azadeh Moaveni suggests in Time that ordinary Iranians are equally ticked off about the movie.

posted by Dan at 03:15 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Nothing to do but scream?

Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been diagnosed with a cracked skull from a government beating, according to his spokesman. According to the Washington Post's Craig Timberg, this might be the trigger that actually unifies Zimbabwe's opposition movement:

Two harrowing days in police custody have left Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai with serious physical injuries but also renewed standing as head of an anti-government movement that is showing more energy than it has in years....

"If they ever wanted to boost Morgan Tsvangirai's popularity, they've done it," said David Coltart, an opposition lawmaker who is not aligned with Tsvangirai, speaking from Helsinki, where he was observing an election. "Whether Morgan intended this or not, this thing has been thrust upon him, and probably emboldened him."

At the gathering Sunday, police shot dead one anti-government activist, rounded up 50 others and beat many of them severely, opposition officials said. Those arrested appeared in court together Tuesday, wearing casts, bandages and bloodied, dirty clothing, and won both access to their attorneys and the right to medical care at a Harare clinic, news reports said....

[Tsvangirai's] harsh treatment left many people concluding that Mugabe, attempting to maintain control after 27 years in power, regards Tsvangirai as his most serious threat....

Despite his personal popularity, Tsvangirai was not able to turn discontent into effective demonstrations after tainted elections in 2000, 2002 and 2005 or during a brutal slum-clearance campaign in 2005 that left 700,000 Zimbabweans without homes or jobs. His party split later that year, and he has struggled since to regain his stature.

Even with the party fractured, opposition to Mugabe's rule began rising again late last year as inflation topped 1,000 percent and persistent shortages of gas and food affected millions of Zimbabweans. Trade union activists and several civic groups, such as the National Constitutional Assembly and Women of Zimbabwe Arise, increasingly drove this new activism. The breakaway faction of the Movement for Democratic Change grew more aggressive, issuing a flier for Sunday's rally that declared, "It is defiance or death."

But the events of recent days have altered the chemistry of opposition politics again.

John Mw Makumbe, a political analyst at the University of Zimbabwe, said Mugabe had blundered badly in mistreating Tsvangirai. "He has really raised Morgan's profile beyond his wildest imagination," Makumbe said, speaking from Harare, the capital. "This time, Morgan is almost being viewed as the president."....

Attention now is focused on what Tsvangirai will do with his enhanced stature when, and if, he is freed from jail. "We'll wait to see if Morgan will really rise to the occasion when he's recovered," Makumbe said.

The problem is that a unified opposition will be insufficient for Mugabe's government to fall. The regime has repeatedly displayed a willingness to use its coercive apparatus to maintain power -- a unified opposition will have little effect on that apparatus so long as they are willing to kill.

There need to be members of the ZANU-PF government who are willing to turn their back on Mugabe -- and that will not happen until Zimbabwe's neighbors demonstrate a willingness to ostracize the country and its leadership.

So why don't they? Alec Russell has an excellent analysis of the regional situation in the Financial Times:

Just two days before Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested, the Zimbabwean opposition leader delivered a trenchant ultimatum to the region’s leaders over their policy of “quiet diplomacy” towards President Robert Mugabe.

“When your house is on fire you depend on your neighbours to put it out,” he said in answer to a question from the Financial Times when on a fleeting visit to Johannesburg. “We cannot afford to have a failed state.”

Mr Tsvangerai, who was arrested on Sunday and accused of holding an illegal political rally, should not, however, hold out his hopes for the regional “firemen” to come soon....

In South Africa politicians are deeply exercised by the prospect of a Zimbabwean implosion, despite the callous impression given by their lack of statements of concern.

“Countries are concerned,” said Dr Jackie Cilliers, head of Pretoria’s Institute for Security Studies. “They see and feel the effect [of the crisis]. But that doesn’t translate into let’s go and do something.

“The analysis is that power resides in Zanu-PF [Mr Mugabe’s ruling party] and that the MDC is not a realistic alternative.”....

South Africa’s relations with the US are strained; it has long disagreed with the EU over how to confront Mr Mugabe and Pretoria is wary of acting unilaterally and so fuelling SADC partners’ concerns that it is seeking regional hegemony.

The government is under fire from the opposition and sections of the media over the apparent failure of its “softly softly” policy. Officials respond that condemnation will only entrench Mr Mugabe in his defiance.

To those who argue for economic sanctions, and even a reduction of the electricity supply, they counter that such tactics would hurt ordinary people most.

With South Africa facing its own succession battle this year, as African National Congress heavyweights vie for the party leadership, it is unlikely to risk provoking a bruising debate on foreign policy by changing tack on Zimbabwe, analysts say.

Zambia has indicated it may be keen to take a more forthright stance when it becomes chairman of the SADC in August.

Last week its foreign minister, Mundia Sikatana, made headlines when he said: “We should not pretend that all is well in Zimbabwe.”

But Zimbabwe still has allies in SADC, in particular Namibia. And Mr Sikatana’s follow-up comment that “ostracising Zimbabwe will not help solve the problems there” may be more significant than his more prominently reported opening gambit.

Western diplomats accept that the only meaningful diplomatic pressure can come from Mr Mugabe’s peers in southern Africa, but they are not optimistic. “We have seen a move from defending him to silence,” said one diplomat. “We’d like to see a move to expressing concern for the situation. But that’s not the African way.”

Dr Cilliers said that the realpolitik assumption of the region was that “stability comes before democracy. If it is a question of principles, then stability comes first.” So what if Zimbabwe is in such turmoil that the argument of stability no longer applies? That is the nightmare scenario for South Africa but analysts, diplomats and officials agree that the only way it would intervene would be with the approval of the rest of SADC.

The probability of joint SADC action is low. This leads Fletcher student Drew Bennett to despair:
I was in Zimbabwe a little less than a year ago and saw first hand that the political and economic elite in Zimbabwe, though a miniscule cabal, managed their portfolios just fine in a surreal economy dominated by the black market. Clearly, there are ways around sanctions when the international community has abandoned you.

But I'm not sure what those of us outside of Zimbabwe can do other than scream. It's our duty to condemn human rights violations and support those being violated, but beyond that, we're resigned to waiting this thing out.

So, to review -- a unifiying opposition, but little effect on government power without regional action, which is highly unlikely.

Developing.... in a very uncertain way.

UPDATE: Reuters reports that Mugabe is now resorting to unusual epithets:

President Robert Mugabe on Thursday told Western countries to "go hang" after international outrage over charges his government assaulted the main opposition leader in police detention.

posted by Dan at 09:18 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gideon Rachman, security risk

Over at his FT blog, Rachman points out that excessive regulation for admitting both foreigners and foreign capital is posing some problems for the United States:

[T]he survey for the Discover America partnership – a group of big businesses that seeks to promote tourism – also suggested that 39 per cent of regular travellers rate the US “worst” for immigration and entry procedures; the Middle East came second on 16 per cent. Discover America complains of a “climate of fear” and a “travel crisis”. It cites a “near 20 per cent drop in the United States share of overseas travellers since 2000” and claims that this has cost 200,000 jobs and $93bn in revenue.

There is always a slightly spurious precision about figures like these. But it is not just the tourism industry that is complaining. A McKinsey report into America’s financial services industry, also published in January, warned that New York risks losing its status as the “financial capital of the world” within 10 years. The first two problems it cited were over-regulation and fear of litigation. But problem three was “US immigration restrictions which are shutting out highly skilled workers”. Getting foreign businessmen into the US for one-off meetings can be a problem. Long-term work visas are an even bigger issue. One financial service executive is quoted as complaining: “It is much easier to hire talented people in the UK – I couldn’t hire the team I need in the US and I wouldn’t bother trying.”

The McKinsey report says Wall Street is still the best place to find talent. But the City of London is catching up, as it benefits from free movement of workers within the European Union and the fact that Britain does not have a quota-limit on work visas, even for non-Europeans.

Testifying before Congress last week, Bill Gates of Microsoft argued that US computing companies are also suffering from a severe skills shortage and that: “America’s immigration policies are driving away the best and brightest, precisely when we need them most.” Mr Gates sees an interlocking set of problems. A smaller proportion of international students are now studying at American universities, partly because it is made so hard for foreign graduates to then get a job in the US.

In 2001, the US issued 200,000 H-1B visas for highly skilled workers. That figure has now shrunk to about 65,000 a year. A big increase is promised, if and when a new immigration act is finally passed. But in the meantime Mr Gates complains that American companies are shifting research and development work overseas.

Presenting an unwelcoming face to the world has political as well as economic implications. Surveys regularly show that foreigners who have actually visited the US have a much more favourable impression of the country. The same report that uncovered widespread fear of American immigration procedures reported that 72 per cent of visitors had a “great” experience inside the US.

The good news for the US is that so far the damage is at the margins. American universities, investment banks and computing companies are still clearly the world leaders. The American government has shown that it is keen to improve immigration procedures. The annual number of student visas issued for the US, after falling for some years, rose in 2006. The number of business visas issued for the US also rose. The waiting time to get a visa interview in India, which used to be notorious, has been cut back to a few days. Tourist numbers are also going up again. A lot more needs to be done. But at least there is an awareness of the problem.

You'll have to read his whole post to understand the title of this post.

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

A conversational waltz with Garance Franke-Ruta

My latest duet is up -- this one is with The American Prospect's Garance Franke-Ruta (who has her own blog, as well as a detailed explanation of the origins of her name).

Topics include whether Barack Obama and John McCain would pursue similar interventionist foreign policies; why GOP candidates are "Hollywood whores"; the death of neoliberalism; and how liberal journalists are coping with this.

Go check it out.

UPDATE: One small note: if it seems like I did not pick up on every point Garance made, this had to do with our phone connection. I could not completely hear all of her points.

posted by Dan at 11:03 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Open U.S. Attorneys thread

I've been remiss in not posting about the brewing brouhaha about the role that Republican members of Congress, as well as the White House, played in the removal of several U.S. Attorneys in December 2006. Comment away.

If this New York Times story is accurate, then this story has the perfect storm of tidbits to fuel numerous news cycles: Harriet Miers, Karl Rove, White House overreaching, and the kind of investgation that promises regular tidbits of new information.

UPDATE: Ah, the Washington Post's Dan Eggen and John Solomon feed the storm:

The White House suggested two years ago that the Justice Department fire all 93 U.S. attorneys, a proposal that eventually resulted in the dismissals of eight prosecutors last year, according to e-mails and internal documents that the administration will provide to Congress today.

The dismissals took place after President Bush told Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in October that he had received complaints that some prosecutors had not energetically pursued voter-fraud investigations, according to a White House spokeswoman.

Gonzales approved the idea of firing a smaller group of U.S. attorneys shortly after taking office in February 2005. The aide in charge of the dismissals -- his chief of staff, D. Kyle Sampson -- resigned yesterday, officials said, after acknowledging that he did not tell key Justice officials about the extent of his communications with the White House, leading them to provide incomplete information to Congress.

Lawmakers requested the documents as part of an investigation into whether the firings were politically motivated. While it is unclear whether the documents, which were reviewed yesterday by The Washington Post, will answer Congress's questions, they show that the White House and other administration officials were more closely involved in the dismissals, and at a much earlier date, than they have previously acknowledged.

posted by Dan at 11:51 PM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)

Does Zimbabwe support or weaken the smart sanctions argument?

Last week Michael H. Cognato blogged at Passport about the fact that smart sanctions seemed to be having an effect in Zimbabwe:

[The International Crisis Group] found that targeted sanctions have played an important role in undermining Mugabe's support:
Targeted EU and U.S. sanctions on senior regime figures are working. ZANU-PF leaders cite their personal financial situations as motivation for wanting Mugabe out. “We have businesses which we worked hard over years to set up which are collapsing. It is about time we change course”, said a senior politburo member.
The possible implications stretch far beyond Zimbabwe. Targeted sanctions, which limit the activity of specific regime members, rather than the entire country, are a relatively recent innovation. The hope has been that they would better pressure a target government while sparing its citizens needless suffering. Officials in Sudan, Iran, and North Korea are currently on the receiving end of these appeals to their unenlightened self-interest. The news out of Zimbabwe is reason to hope they might be similarly persuaded.
Sounds promising... until we get to more recent events. Like today's AP report:
Top opposition leaders were assaulted and tortured by police who broke up a prayer meeting planned to protest government policies, colleagues of the activists said Monday.

One protester was shot dead by police in Sunday's unrest in the outskirts of the capital and scores of others were arrested. Journalists trying to cover the events also were arrested.

In a statement, organizers of the prayer meeting, an alliance of opposition, civic, church leaders and student and anti-government groups, said lawyers who visited the detainees Monday reported the main opposition party leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, fainted three times after being beaten by police.

The alliance, called the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, said another opposition leader, Lovemore Madhuku, was taken to the main Harare hospital early Monday after collapsing from police assaults.

At least four other opposition and civic leaders were beaten and tortured in custody, the campaign said.

``The police thoroughly assaulted leaders of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign while in custody,'' the group said.

The alliance said lawyers were still trying to establish the whereabouts of all those picked up by police, saying some were denied food or legal advice.

No comment was immediately available from police on Monday.

There are two ways to interpret this kind of repression. One way is that this is the last gasp of a dying regime. You can find this interpretation in this Washington Post story by Craig Timberg:
[Former member of parliament Roy] Bennett, speaking in Johannesburg after consulting with other opposition figures by phone, said Sunday's gathering was the beginning of mass protests against Mugabe's government under a newly formed Save Zimbabwe Coalition.

"This is what everybody's been building up to," said Bennett, who fled Zimbabwe a year ago. "It's the beginning of the end."....

Tafadzwa Mugabe, from the group Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said from Harare that attorneys were denied access to Tsvangirai and the others who were arrested. Judges at the High Court of Harare declined to hear the case Sunday night but scheduled a hearing for Monday morning.

Mugabe, who is not related to the Zimbabwean president, said there had never been such a broad crackdown on opposition figures there. "In terms of magnitude and profile, I'd safely say it's unprecedented," he said.

Zimbabwe has been in economic decline for seven years. It has inflation of more than 1,700 percent, unemployment exceeding 80 percent and chronic shortages of such basics as gasoline, bread and cooking oil. Mugabe, who has been Zimbabwe's ruler since the end of white-supremacist rule in 1980, has become increasingly authoritarian, sharply limiting political freedoms....

The International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution organization based in Brussels, reported last week that the crisis in Zimbabwe was nearing its conclusion because of deepening splits in Mugabe's ruling party, but warned that spontaneous violence could erupt.

The opposition has been severely split as well. There are now two rival factions of the Movement for Democratic Change, the group Tsvangirai helped found. The leader of the other faction, Arthur Mutambara, also was arrested Sunday, as was Lovemore Madhuku, head of the National Constitutional Assembly, which also opposes Mugabe's rule.

The thing is, the Save Zimbabwe Campaign has been around for six months now, and prior efforts to mobilize have not panned out.

So there's another, gloomier possibility: smart sanctions are insufficient, and the state's ability to repress will not be tamed anytime soon.


posted by Dan at 03:30 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

A subtle look at the academic bias question

I normally do not like to dredge up the academic bias question unless I'm reviewing books, but Cathy Young has a fine piece in Reason that takes an appropriately nuanced approach. Some highlights:

While the HERI [Higher Education Research Institute] does an annual survey of incoming college freshmen that includes questions about political beliefs, no one has tried tracking changes in student political beliefs over the college years. One interesting glimpse is provided by HERI's 2004 report on political attitudes among freshmen and college graduates. In 1994, 82 percent of students in the class of 1998 agreed that "the federal government should do more to control the sale of handguns" and 61 percent agreed that abortion should be legal. In 1998, these opinions were held by, respectively, 83 percent and 65 percent of college graduates in that cohort.

Thus, while college-educated Americans appear to be much more liberal than the general population-at least on certain issues-they also seem to hold those views before they first enter a college classroom....

What is difficult either to deny or to quantify is that, especially at the more prestigious colleges and universities, the social climate fosters a strong presumption of liberal like-mindedness and a marginalization of dissent. Being left of center is the norm, and it is freely assumed that other people around you, be they students or faculty members, will share in your joy at the Democratic victories in Congress or your dismay at the passage of a ballot initiative prohibiting racial preferences in college admissions. This can translate into not only a chilly climate for conservatives but in some cases outright hostility.

If a student doesn't subscribe to the campus orthodoxy, the likely effect is not to convert her but to alienate her from intellectual life. Others learn only about a narrow range of ideas. One woman, a Ph.D. student in the social sciences at a Midwestern university, told me recently that when she started reading conservative, libertarian, or otherwise heretical blogs, "it was a whole perspective I had never been exposed to before in anything other than caricature."

When that's the norm, the harm is less to dissenters than to the life of the mind. It's not good for any group of people to spend a lot of time listening only to like-minded others. It is especially bad for a profession whose lifeblood is the exchange of ideas.

posted by Dan at 10:20 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

There's lazy reporting and then there's lazy Sunday analysis

Over the past few years, the Boston Globe Ideas section has generally been considered one of the best treats of theirs or any Sunday paper. Which is why I was surprised when I read this Matt Steinglass article on the intellectual trendiness among economists of preaching capital controls:

When the Shanghai stock index dropped 9 percent on Feb. 27, touching off sharp slides in markets across the globe, many were quick to recall the Asian financial crisis of 1997. That crisis was triggered not by a drop in stock prices, but by a collapse in the value of the Thai baht, brought on by currency speculators. But the reason the crash of '97 spread from one country to the next, savaging the economies of Indonesia, South Korea, the Philippines, and ultimately non-Asian countries like Russia, was a broad loss of investor confidence in such so-called "emerging markets."

Investors were excited by these economies' high growth rates, but suspicious of regulatory environments that were far from transparent and governments prone to corruption. As they lost confidence in the countries' currencies and securities, investors pulled their money out en masse. Last week, there were concerns that a dramatic drop in Asian stock values might provoke a similar loss of confidence and capital flight....

[Unlike the Wall Street Journal editorial page,] many economists drew precisely the opposite lessons [from the Asian financial crisis]: That open capital markets sometimes behave like irrational mobs, and that government-imposed capital controls can be essential tools for developing countries to preserve stability.

The most famous exponent of this view is the Nobel Prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz, former chairman of President Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisors, who was the World Bank's chief economist during the crisis. Interviewed last week on the risks to Asian markets today, Stiglitz said capital controls are widespread in emerging markets, and in many cases, that's a good thing....

[D]espite the persistence of these laissez-faire views, a quiet shift may be taking place. Economists and financial analysts today are more likely than they were 10 years ago to accept the need for certain capital controls. Some are even willing to admit it. (emphasis added)

Now, the bolded sentence is clearly supposed to be the takeaway point of the piece, so I was curious which economist or economists Steinglass found to echo Stiglitz's views on capital controls. It turns out that the economist Steinglass found was.... Joe Stiglitz:
In the decade since the crisis, many economists have come to share these views -- including some within the IMF itself. "In 2003 their chief economist came to the conclusion that the empirical evidence did not show that capital market liberalization worked," Stiglitz says. "It did not lead to more growth, it did not lead to more stability. They still believe it's true, but what they now say is they can't prove it." In some cases, the IMF is actually telling countries that "soft" capital controls, such as tax measures and banking regulations, may be a good idea.
Stiglitz might be correct in his assertion, although in 2003 at least one chief IMF economist was pretty disparaging of capital controls.

Still, that's not the point. If Steinglass' assertion is correct, one should expect to see a quote from at least one other economist. Hell, Steinglass probably could have raided Brad DeLong's archives and probably found something useful.

We don't get either of those things, however. Instead, we get Stiglitz and more Stiglitz. This is insufficient for the assertion that's made in the essay.

Bad Ideas section. Bad, bad, bad.

posted by Dan at 11:33 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

That's some powerful biofuels agreement

Peter Baker reports in the Washington Post that the United States and Brazil have announced a new biofuels initiative:

President Bush announced a new energy partnership with Brazil on Friday to promote wider production of ethanol throughout the region as an alternative to oil, the first step in an effort to strengthen economic and political alliances in Latin America.

The agreement, reached as Bush kicked off a six-day tour of the region, was crafted to expand research, share technology, stimulate new investment and develop common international standards for biofuels. The United States and Brazil, which make 70 percent of the world's ethanol, will team up to encourage other nations to produce and consume alternative fuels, starting in Central America and the Caribbean.

The new alliance could serve not only to help meet Bush's promise to reduce U.S. gasoline consumption but also to diminish the influence of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, the fiery leftist who has used his country's vast oil reserves to build support among neighbors. Analysts have called it the beginning of a new OPEC-style cartel for ethanol makers, a characterization U.S. officials dispute because they say they want to expand, not control, production.

Sounds pretty ambitious... until we get to this snippet of this New York Times story by Jim Rutenberg and Larry Rother:
[D]espite the agreement, some strains were visible between Mr. da Silva and Mr. Bush.

Mr. da Silva is hopeful that the United States will reduce its tariff of 54 cents a gallon on Brazilian ethanol, which is made primarily from sugar cane — a trade barrier that protects the American farmers who produce corn for ethanol.

But when Mr. da Silva was asked about the possibility of eliminating the tariff, Mr. Bush jumped in. “It’s not going to happen,” he said, noting that it is congressionally mandated through his term.

Mr. da Silva joked: “If I had that capacity for persuasion that you think I might have, who knows? I might have convinced President Bush to do so many other things that I couldn’t even mention here.”

You can read more in the White House transcipt of Bush and Lula's press conference. It contains this accurate Lula summary of the state of play in the Doha talks:
I learned from my Minister, Celso Amorim, that if we draw a triangle, we could show you what the difficulties are in the negotiations we have. What do countries want from the European Union? They want it to facilitate access to their agricultural market for poorer countries to export to them, including the U.S. wants to export to them.

What do we want from the U.S.? We want them to reduce subsidies that they pay in their domestic market. And what does the U.S. and the European Union, what do they want from us Brazilians and other countries in the G20? That we have greater flexibility and access to markets for industrial products and services. That's what's at stake. That's what's in the game.

If we are intelligent enough and competent enough to pull out of our vest pockets the numbers that are still held secret, as top state secrets, then we will find a common ground. Don't ask me what the number is. If I knew, I wouldn't tell you, because if I knew, then I'd establish a paradigm, and he'd say that I should back off a little bit. So that's why these numbers are held back, though, as a soccer player, when they're going to kick a penalty goal, they never say which corner they're going to try to kick into. But things are happening. They're underway.

posted by Dan at 09:50 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, March 9, 2007

Why I won't be blogging this weekend

From the Associated Press:

Next up for Salma Hayek is a wedding -- and a baby carriage.

The 40-year-old actress is engaged to businessman Francois-Henri Pinault and is pregnant with their first child, her spokeswoman, Cari Ross, said Friday in a statement. No further details were provided....

Pinault is chairman and chief executive officer of the luxury goods company PPR SA, which owns high-end labels such as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Stella McCartney.


Give me 48 hours, and I'll be fine.

posted by Dan at 09:12 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Exporting university education?

Via Greg Mankiw's rave, I see David Ignatius has column in the Washington Post talking about the global power of American Universities:

America's great universities are in fact becoming global. They are the brand names for excellence -- drawing in the brightest students and faculty and giving them unparalleled opportunities. This is where the openness and freewheeling diversity of American life provide us a huge advantage over tighter, more homogeneous cultures. We give people the freedom to think and create -- and prosper from those activities -- in ways that no other country can match.

This "education power" may be the best long-term hope for dealing with U.S. troubles abroad. Global polls show that after the Iraq debacle, the rest of the world mistrusts America and its values. But there is one striking exception to this anti-Americanism, and that is education. American-style universities, colleges and schools are sprouting up around the world....

What worries... university presidents is that at a time when the world's best and brightest are still hungry for an American education, U.S. immigration regulations are making it too hard for students to come here. That's shooting ourselves in the foot.

Pentagon generals are always bragging about their "smart bombs," which sometimes go wide of the target. American education is a smart bomb that actually works. When we think about the foreign outreach efforts by these university presidents and dozens of others, we should recognize that they are a national security asset -- making the world safer, as well as wiser.

I hope Ignatius is correct -- but as a useful corrective, one should check out William Brody's "College Goes Global" in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. Brody, the president of Johns Hopkins, has some experience in exporting American education, and offers some sobering advice:
Since the end of World War II, the United States has been recognized as the world leader in higher education. It has more colleges and universities, enrolls and graduates more students, and spends more on advanced education and research than any other nation. Each year, more than half a million foreigners come to the United States to study. A widely cited article written by researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University that looked at the academic ranking of universities worldwide based on faculty quality and research output found that more than half of the top 100 universities in the world -- and 17 of the top 20 -- were in the United States.

It would also seem that higher education is a market ripe for globalization and that U.S. universities -- by right of their acknowledged achievements, outstanding reputations, and considerable advantages in size and wealth -- are predestined to take on the world in the way that Boeing, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft have done within their respective industries. But as the president of a U.S. university that has operated one campus in China for two decades and another campus in Italy for more than half a century, I can say that consolidating U.S. dominance in international education will not be as easy or as likely as it seems....

The loosening of the affiliation between faculty and universities is an inevitable consequence of the globalization of knowledge. In the quantum physics model, faculty obey a kind of uncertainty principle: you may know where a professor is at any given time or you may know his institutional affiliation. But the more you try to ascertain the former, the less sure you may be about the latter, and vice versa. This phenomenon prompted the former president of Boston University, John Silber, to actually propose taking roll call to see whether faculty members were on campus. But such a measure would go against the grain of how knowledge is generated and diffused in today's information-sharing environment, and Silber's proposal unsurprisingly has come to nothing.

One consequence of these changes is that the relationship between faculty and universities has become more and more one-sided. Tenure provides a lifetime, no-cut contract for faculty. But professors' and researchers' allegiance is linked to their research, and they have no requirement to stay until retirement with the university that granted them tenure. At the same time, faculty whose field of study becomes obsolete or is no longer within the primary purview of the university's mission cannot be removed. This is a potential Achilles' heel for world-class universities bent on remaining relevant in an environment that places a premium on research and development and evolves at a rapid pace....

Drucker, Friedman, and others may have observed that the power of the nation-state has withered, but by no means has it disappeared. Universities and the nations they call home exist in an extremely close and elaborately constructed symbiosis. Every nation in one way or another makes significant financial contributions to its resident universities and demands considerable returns in exchange -- both in numbers of qualified graduates and in terms of the economic benefits that the education and research carried out by the universities provide. Also, credentialing -- always a vitally important part of the educational process -- is exclusively defined and controlled by the host nation, and it would behoove the soothsayers to remember that few nations are willing to adopt a laissez-faire attitude toward the teaching, beliefs, and activities on their campuses.

Finally, as is so often the case, the advent of the Global U really comes down to a question of money. Plato would not have had his Academy but for the generosity of friends who helped him buy the land it was built on. It was supported, according to a medieval account, by rich men who "from time to time bequeathed in their wills, to the members of the school, the means of living a life of philosophic leisure." That model of the university survives to this day. The only thing that may have changed is the question of degree. Ancient and medieval universities were expensive hobbies of the rich and the royal; today's modern research universities are several orders of magnitude more costly to run and sustain. Virtually every great university today depends on government funding, student tuitions (each of which covers only a portion of the cost of an education), alumni support, and the outstanding generosity of philanthropists to make ends meet. Even so, financing is always a struggle, and the price of a university education in the United States has marched determinedly ahead of the rate of inflation for decades now. To be successful -- and even to stay in business -- a global university would somehow have to garner consistent and dependable financial support from many different nations simultaneously.

posted by Dan at 03:30 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Talk about addiction to cheap oil

The Financial Times' Gareth Smyth reports that Iran is starting to tighten its belt in anticipatio of serious economic sanctions. Of course, one person's "belt-tightening" is another person's "pitiful reduction of massively inefficient subsidy.":

Iran’s parliament this week set May 22 as the day when the country’s 15m motorists lose access to unlimited cheap fuel.

Pump prices, frozen for three years at 80 tomans (or 9 cents) a litre, have boosted consumption far beyond the capacity of Iran’s oil refineries and meant that 40 per cent of petrol has had to be imported.

With Iran facing further UN sanctions over its nuclear and missile programmes, politicians have opted to dampen demand by a combination of rationing and higher prices.

Parliament decided on Wednesday to limit annual petrol subsidies to $2.5bn, and Iranian news wires have reported the new rationed price will be 100 tomans (11 cents) a litre, with extra fuel sold at a higher price.

Deputies left the government to decide by April 20 on ration quantity, the price of un-rationed petrol, and the method of rationing, likely to be the use of ‘smart cards’.

The price of petrol has been regarded as politically sensitive, especially as many Iranians run cars as unofficial taxis to supplement low incomes or survive unemployment.

Basic commodities – like bread, electricity, gas and medicines – are subsidised by the government, and with Iran sitting on the world’s second highest oil reserves, many Iranians see cheap petrol as a birth-right.

Mahmoud Abtahi, a deputy, warned a 25 per cent increase would bring a “severe shock because petrol is the life blood of the economy” and urged parliament to support low-income groups.

posted by Dan at 10:14 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

Born to blog

The Opening Day starter for the Boston Red Sox, Curt Schilling, now has a blog. In his first week, he's already moved down the learning curve, following David Pinto's advice and introducing much-needed line breaks into his posts.

Sports fans love or hate Schilling. To the haters, he's an egomaniac who cannot and will not shut up -- particularly if he's talking about himself. To the admirers, Schilling has always walked the walk (see: sock, bloody) in pressure situations, a very rare commodity in professional sports. Perusing his posts to date, I would advise non-sports fans and even casual sports fans to ignore it. However, for baseball fanatics, there's lots of good stuff.

From his first post, I have a hunch that Schilling intuitively gets the blog thing:

I’ve never been a yes/no kind of guy, which probably hasn’t been received well by some. I don’t know that I’ll be changing my style, but I do know that getting ripped for something I say here will be getting ripped for something I actually said–with the entire contents of my comments included.

That’s not to say I’ll be preaching from the pulpit–far from it. Being a major league baseball player does not give me keen insight into politics, education, or anything else for that matter. It does give me insight and knowledge about baseball, about being part of a team, about excelling at something not many people can. Beyond that my thoughts and beliefs are my own and for the most part pretty normal.

The truth is, I’ve been wrong as many times, if not more, than I’ve been right in my life. I guess that’s part of the human package, something that makes me every bit as prone to mistakes as anyone. Like every other male on the planet I think I’m well informed on a lot of things, which usually lasts until I run into someone else who thinks he’s well informed but has a different opinion.

Fortunately, I have zero problems being wrong. I don’t intend to make mistakes but it happens, which is part of the learning curve of life. I’m prone to having quick reactions which, in the world of baseball and media coverage–even when you might be right–can make you wrong.

Unless you're willing to be wrong -- really, badly wrong -- you'll never make it as a blogger.

UPDATE: Seth Mnookin also thinks Schilling has the chops to blog.

posted by Dan at 09:57 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

So you want to write for a wider audience

David Damrosch has a thoroughly accessible essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the difficulties scholars face when they try to write for a wider audience. This paragraph in particlar explains why academics generally don't do this all too well:

The problem isn't that academics "can't write," as is often claimed, but that we are typically engaged in what scholars of the Renaissance know as coterie writing. In 16th-century England, for instance, small groups of aristocrats such as Sir Philip Sydney, his sister Mary Herbert, and their circle would compose poems for their mutual entertainment, circulating them privately from one country estate to another. Scholars today may reach a somewhat larger circle, but most academic writing is part of a continuing conversation among a coterie of fellow specialists with common interests and a shared history of debate. Even for scholars who are elegant prose stylists, it isn't an easy matter to make the transition from writing for Milton's "fit audience, though few" to a larger but less fit readership.
Damrosch then discusses his own efforts to write an accessible book that doesn't feel "dumbed down." He runs into an editor at Holt who provides the way:
Not only did the people at Holt want the book I wanted to write — antiquity and all — but they also suggested ways I could revise my sample chapters to better effect. The "Aha!" moment came when John Sterling, Holt's publisher, pointed to the opening of my first chapter. I had begun with a flourish, emphasizing the excitement created when a young curator at the British Museum first deciphered the Gilgamesh epic, with its seeming confirmation of the biblical story of the Flood: "When George Smith discovered the Flood story in the Epic of Gilgamesh in the fall of 1872, he made one of the most dramatic discoveries in the history of archaeology." Sterling ran his pen along these lines, but instead of praising this bold beginning, he tapped the page and asked, "Couldn't you make this opening just a bit more dramatic?"

He was right. I had told the reader that George Smith had made a dramatic discovery, but I had failed to dramatize the scene at all. Rewriting my opening, I placed Smith at the long trestle tables where he worked amid the watery sunlight coming in through the museum's windows. I went on to detail his awkward social position: Never having gone even to high school, he had been apprenticed as a bank-note engraver. Brilliant and ambitious, he had taught himself Akkadian and begun to haunt the museum's Near Eastern collections during his lunch hours, making his way up from Fleet Street through the press of carriages, pedestrians, and hand-drawn carts full of cabbages and potatoes.

With the scene now set, Smith was on his way, and so was my book. I could still make my central cultural and political points, but they had to be carried by a strong narrative line, built around intriguing characters and fleshed out with a judicious use of telling detail. An ominous mongoose, for instance, made an effective lead-in to a chapter on the Assyrian empire, "After Asurbanipal, the Deluge." The mongoose's sudden appearance beneath King Esarhaddon's chariot led to a revealing exchange of anxious correspondence between the king and his chief scribe, who tried to reassure the king that the mongoose was not a warning sign from heaven but merely a bit of imperial roadkill.

The lesson I would draw from my Goldilocks experience is that it is neither necessary nor desirable to dumb our projects down when writing for a general audience. At the same time, we need to write quite differently when we want to reach beyond the comforting confines of our disciplinary coteries. It is good to have a clear and vivid style, but equally, we have to retrain ourselves to write for readers who don't already know what we're talking about, and who need to be shown why they should care about the things we know and love so well. The trade market can bear an impressive degree of scholarly substance if we can teach ourselves to reach out to a substantial nonscholarly clientele.

posted by Dan at 09:21 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Dealing with the hysterics and the humorless

Let's surf the net to see if anyone's saying something about me that's worth repeating.

Hmmm....well, this person really didn't like my "New New World Order" essay:

Since I am about as far away as any intelligent and rational American can get from the politics of any proposals for a "new world order," let alone a new new world order, my attention was drawn to a " New New World Order" article (my emphasis on "New New"). After reading it, my suspicions about where our local, state and federal politicians are trying to take us was confirmed. That is, We The People of the United States of America appear to be destined -- by our own political leaders, as well as other power-and-money-seeking political leaders of nations throughout the world -- to be a part of their dictatorial grand scheme, i.e., We The People would no longer be living in an independent, sovereign nation under a Constitutional Federal Republic.
You know, you can accuse George W. Bush of a lot of things, but surrendering American sovereignty to some supranational order is not one of them.

UPDATE: Another negative reaction to "Drezler's article" can be found here.

Meanwhile, Amitai Etzioni is upset about how I characterized his organ donation scheme:

I am sorry to see that Mr. Drezner finds this issue a source of “amusement.” Thousands of people die each year needlessly and many more suffered a great deal, because not enough organs are donated, and because the market has been allowed to intrude into the ways they are allocated. (For instance there is a shortage of donated skin for burn victims because skin is sold to plastic surgeons who pay a high fee to use it to make the hyper rich look younger). One person’s donations can improve the life of twenty others, if on death organs are made available....

Sadly I fear that we here face the business model of blogging. Some bloggers sell stuff, anything from diapers to baseball cards to soft porn (in Drezner’s case). In order to make money they have to bring buyers to their sites. And those bloggers that succeed in kicking up a fuss, seem to draw a much larger crowd than the reasoned ones, that is make much more money. Is there some other way to finance blogging? Do we need a NPR and PBS for blogging, to ensure civil dialogue?

OK, for the record, I do take the question of organ donation seriously -- which is why I will refer to I thoughtful posts by Kieran Healy and Virginia Postrel on the matter (and click here for why I don't think harangues work all that well on the American psyche).

Amitai Etzioni attacking bloggers for self-promotion? As someone who has been on the receiving end of a steady, unremitting barrage of Etzioni press releases, brochures about Etzioni, and actual Etzioni publications, no, I'm afraid I can't take that criticism seriously at all.

[What about the soft porn allegations?--ed. I can only assume that Professor Etzioni read this post from a few years ago. Repeatedly.]

posted by Dan at 10:56 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

What I learned at the nonproliferation conference

For the past 36 hours I've been attending the Burkle Center's conference on ""Nuclear Weapons in a New Century: Facing the Emerging Challenges." (Also, I got to use Ron Burkle's bathroom. But let's stay focused for once).

The following is a short list of what I learned:

1) Former SecDef William Perry believes that if Iran and North Korea manage to develop/keep their nukes, "the dam has burst" on the nonproliferation regime.

2) In April 2006, when Iran announced that they had managed to enrich uranium at Natanz, there were female dancers at the announcement holding up vials of the stuff.

3) There was a general consensus that the best way to ensure the continued tenure of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's president would be to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities.

4) The best way to induce a lunch coma is to have someone rattle off the Bush administration's accomplishments on nonproliferation for 45 minutes.

5) The general consensus was that on nonprolferation, the Bush administration deserved credit for Libya and for the Proliferation Security Initiative. They deserve blame for not talking to Iran or North Korea for too long. Oh, and Iraq was a bad idea too. There was no consensus on the India deal.

6) Despite this assessment, Wesley Clark said someone complained to him that there was "not enough Bush bashing" at the conference. Of course, this was before Joseph Cirincione spoke.

7) The Clinton people, by the way, count North Korea and the former Soviet states as successes -- but they also acknowledge that Pakistan and India were big failures on their watch.

8) At a conference that is open to the public, never, under any circumstances, call on someone wearing a hat to ask a question.

A final point. Mark Kleiman asks:
What I've heard about Iranian politics, from people that I believe know what they're talking about, is that the Guardian Council is somewhat hostile to Ahmadinejad, who isn't very controllable, and that various important power players within the country are nervous about provoking a confrontation with us and the Israelis. I've also heard that the Guardian Council is both faction-ridden and corrupt. How much would it cost for the anti-Ahmadinejad, non-anti-US politicians in Iran to bribe enough Guardians to get their candidates through the next selection round? I don't know, but I doubt it's any substantial fraction of the cost of keeping a CBG on station for a month.
The problem with this analysis is the assumption that a Rafsanjani is a better option than Ahmadinejad. At this point, I'm not so sure. Most of the conservative clerics want the nuclear program as well -- they're just craftier about it. Paradoxically, Ahmadinejad is such a loon that he makes it easier for the U.S. to organize multilateral action against Iran. If the mullahs replaced him with someone who was cagier, it will be next to impossible to get Russia and China to buy into any further action.

posted by Dan at 10:19 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

"Feh" to globalization

That's the conclusion of Pankaj Ghemawat in this Foreign Policy essay. He makes a convincing case:

In truth, the world is not nearly as connected as these writers would have us believe. Despite talk of a new, wired world where information, ideas, money, and people can move around the planet faster than ever before, just a fraction of what we consider globalization actually exists. The portrait that emerges from a hard look at the way companies, people, and states interact is a world that’s only beginning to realize the potential of true global integration. And what these trend’s backers won’t tell you is that globalization’s future is more fragile than you know....

One favorite mantra from globalization champions is how “investment knows no boundaries.” But how much of all the capital being invested around the world is conducted by companies outside of their home countries? The fact is, the total amount of the world’s capital formation that is generated from foreign direct investment (FDI) has been less than 10 percent for the last three years for which data are available (2003–05). In other words, more than 90 percent of the fixed investment around the world is still domestic. And though merger waves can push the ratio higher, it has never reached 20 percent. In a thoroughly globalized environment, one would expect this number to be much higher—about 90 percent, by my calculation. And FDI isn’t an odd or unrepresentative example....

[T]he levels of internationalization associated with cross-border migration, telephone calls, management research and education, private charitable giving, patenting, stock investment, and trade, as a fraction of gross domestic product (GDP), all stand much closer to 10 percent than 100 percent. The biggest exception in absolute terms—the trade-to-GDP ratio shown at the bottom of the chart—recedes most of the way back down toward 20 percent if you adjust for certain kinds of double-counting. So if someone asked me to guess the internationalization level of some activity about which I had no particular information, I would guess it to be much closer to 10 percent—the average for the nine categories of data in the chart—than to 100 percent. I call this the “10 Percent Presumption.”

More broadly, these and other data on cross-border integration suggest a semiglobalized world, in which neither the bridges nor the barriers between countries can be ignored. From this perspective, the most astonishing aspect of various writings on globalization is the extent of exaggeration involved. In short, the levels of internationalization in the world today are roughly an order of magnitude lower than those implied by globalization proponents.

Read the whole thing. This paragraph helps explain to me why my editor at Princeton made me remove the world "globalization" from the title of All Politics Is Global:
According to the U.S. Library of Congress’s catalog, in the 1990s, about 500 books were published on globalization. Between 2000 and 2004, there were more than 4,000. In fact, between the mid-1990s and 2003, the rate of increase in globalization-related titles more than doubled every 18 months.

posted by Dan at 05:44 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, March 5, 2007

Movie stars. Swimming pools. Loose nukes.

Blogging will again be light this week because I'm going to Los Angeles for a UCLA conference entitled "Nuclear Weapons in a New Century: Facing the Emerging Challenges."

As I have to say something about this in 48 hours, readers are strongly encouraged to proffer any bright ideas they might have about how to deal with this issue.

posted by Dan at 02:07 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

Reflections on the International Studies Association

Another conference in the books. Some thoughts:

1) No, I do not miss Chicago weather from late February or early March.

2) My most surreal moment had to be when a non-conference person, upon finding out what I did for a living, went on to say, "Now let me ask you something -- I've read this somewhere.... do you think it's true that some Jews in government have had divided loyalties? Is that why we invaded Iraq?" What made this moment extra-surreal -- it happened in the hotel jacuzzi.

3) Bob Wright will be very happy to learn that book publishers do, in fact, watch

4) A warning shot across ISA's bow: the number of panels at your conference is well beyond the point of diminishing returns. I know that most panels are accepted because that allows people to receive travel funds to attend the conference in the first place. At this point, however, there are simply too many panels per session -- and too many paper presented per panel. The wheat-to-chaff ratio has gone way down, and there are too many panels where the presenters outnumber the audience. If this trend continues, it will not surprise me if senior people abandon the conference all together (unless it's back in Honolulu) in favor of smaller, more narrowly focused conferences.

posted by Dan at 01:16 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, March 4, 2007

How offshore outsourcing continues to devastate the tech sector

Robert Weisman reports today in the Boston Globe on how the local IT job market is doing three years after offshore outsourcing devastated the tech sector:

Five years after the dot-com bust ravaged the technology industry, erasing tens of thousands of jobs in Massachusetts, the "Help Wanted" signs have been pulled out of storage. State figures released Thursday show several high-tech job categories growing at more than triple the rate of overall employment over the past 13 months.

The job market hasn't returned to the feverish state of the 1990s, and fields such as telecommunications have been slower to recover. But multiple job offers are no longer rare for managers and consultants, software developers, researchers, website designers, marketing and sales professionals -- even newly minted college graduates -- knocking on the doors of resurgent high-tech companies. Especially hot are Internet businesses riding the new wave of digital commerce.

And, on the flip side, employers are struggling for the first time in years to hire technology talent. Many are paying signing bonuses ranging from $15,000 to $40,000, often structured as tuition forgiveness, to lure masters in business administration graduates from top schools.

More junior employees are finding themselves in demand, too. Internet consulting firm Molecular Inc. offered a job to a woman who interviewed at its offices in the Arsenal on the Charles River last month. She is a software engineer relocating to Boston from Alabama.

"She flew up for a few days, interviewed with three companies, all referrals from friends, and had job offers from all three the next week," Molecular managing director Patrick Heath reported in an e-mail last month to Ralph Folz , chief executive officer of the Watertown company. Heath concluded the e-mail, which Folz shared with the Globe, by observing, "The market is crazy right now." (Late last week, the coveted software engineer accepted Molecular's offer.)

New data from the Massachusetts Department of Workforce Development show the number of non-farm jobs in the state increased 1.2 percent since the start of 2006. At the same time, employment grew 3.7 percent in computer systems design, 4.5 percent in technology management and consulting, and 4.9 percent in research and development, fields encompassing many of the employees being snapped up by Internet companies. "The hiring market is tougher than it's been since 1999 or 2000," said Folz, recalling the last boom.

posted by Dan at 07:06 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Best bloggingheads ever

Just click and watch. It helps if you are/were a fan of Iron Chef.

posted by Dan at 09:03 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, March 2, 2007

Defining public intellectuals down

The passing earlier this week of Arthur Schlesinger Jr. caused some gnashing of teeth at Tapped about where the next generation of public intellectuals will be found. Ezra Klein writes:

So who takes their place? Will Sean Wilentz or Michael Kazin be remembered as Arthur Schlesinger is, because I don't think Doris Kearns Goodwin or Stephen Ambrose possess the grand moral compass necessary to claim the mantle. The Clinton administration had a Kennedy-esque aura of intellectual ferment, but the public intellectuals it furnished are Paul Begala and James Carville. Ira Magaziner, it turned out, lacked star power. I guess the bright spot on the horizon is Barack Obama's campaign, which boasts a glittering orbit of policy advisors and public thinkers whom the Obama camp has taken a Kennedyesque approach to, encouraging them to retain their public profiles. Hence, the world has not lost Samantha Power or Karen Kornbluh, but they are in the inner circle of a presidential candidacy. Maybe that will elevate them. Or maybe we're just done with public intellectuals, and cable news has time for little but public personalities. (underline added)
Then there's Marc Schmitt:
Obviously, there's no factory for creating new Schlesingers or Galbraiths (although those two families do pretty well) but anything that can be done to change the system of incentives for young academics or would-be academics so that there are rewards to making relevant contributions to public life, rather than incrementally advancing some narrow question within their field, would be good.
I've occasionally been accused of falling into the "public intellectual" category, so a few thoughts on this matter:
1) I recognize that there's a Potter-Stewart-"I know it when I see it"-quality to defining a public intellectual, but applying that label to either Begala or Carville is just wrong. They are were sharp political operatives, and God knows they're public about it. That's different from advocating or promoting abstract policy or political ideas to a larger audience.

Ezra Klein is a smart blogger. The fact that he's even positing these guys tells me more about the declining state of the public intellectual than his original post. Also, a friendly warning to Klein -- Benjamin Barber might be coming after you with a large baseball bat.

2) Contrary to Schmitt's claim, there actually are factories for public intellectuals. In the past five years a few degree programs have sprouted up to offer training as a public commentator or public intellectual. It's just that no one seems to pay attention to these factories -- except in news articles commenting on their existence.

3) Schmitt and Klein seem particularly worried about the liberal side of the public intellectual ledger. To which I will reply: Cass Sunstein. Jacob Hacker. George Lakoff. Anne-Marie Slaughter. Thomas Franck. Those names took me less than a minute to recall. As I pointed out recently, the Republic will stand with the current crop of public intellectuals.

4) Here's a subversive thought -- given the performance of public intellectuals in the Kennedy/Johnson years -- not to mention the Bush administration -- maybe this category of thinker does better when not affiliated with the U.S. government.

posted by Dan at 05:10 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Why suicide terrorism is different in Afghanistan

Spencer Ackerman explains:

While Iraqi suicide bombers target civilians and soft targets in order to sow destabilization and provoke/respond to sectarian violence, nearly all Taliban suicide bombings -- and in Afghanistan, resistance to the presence of foreign forces and the Karzai government is overwhelmingly Taliban -- are focused on Afghan or U.S./NATO security forces. The two researchers assess that unlike the Iraqi insurgents, al-Qaeda or Shiite militias, the Taliban has to cleave the population away from the Karzai government, but in the process must "avoid losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the Afghan people by needlessly killing civilians."

The trouble is that it works. Members of the International Security Assistance Force have in some cases balked at taking up operations in suicide-bomb-heavy territory. Worse still, Williams and Young find that freaked-out ISAF forces have responded by upping their tolerance for collateral damage. Little is more provocative in Afghanistan than civilian deaths at foreign hands; in that sense, the Taliban gambit does show some success.

posted by Dan at 11:15 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)