Friday, June 29, 2007

The most intriguing sentence I read today
[P]artisans of both stripes tend to take their baseball more seriously than do political independents.
From Christopher Zorn and Jeff Gill, "The Etiology of Public Support for the Designated Hitter Rule.Quarterly Journal of Political Science 2:189-203.

Hat tip: the Political Science Weblog.

posted by Dan at 09:35 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hey, what happened at those EU negotiations?

Henry Farrell answers this question over at Crooked Timber.

The depressing part comes with Nikolas Sarkozy's success at "moving market competition from the list of the EU’s main goals." Henry is undoubtedly less concerned about this than I am, but even he concludes:

I suspect that the main beneficiaries of these changes will be powerful semi-monopolies and national champions with good political connections, which can by no means necessarily be expected to act in the public interest.

posted by Dan at 10:03 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Open family jewels thread

Comment away on anything interesting contained in the CIA's family jewels, released yesterday.

In the New York Times, Mark Mazzetti and Tim Weiner sum up the document dump:

Known inside the agency as the “family jewels,” the 702 pages of documents catalog domestic wiretapping operations, failed assassination plots, mind-control experiments and spying on journalists from the early years of the C.I.A.

The papers provide evidence of paranoia and occasional incompetence as the agency began a string of illegal spying operations in the 1960s and 1970s, often to hunt links between Communist governments and the domestic protests that roiled the nation in that period.

Yet the long-awaited documents leave out a great deal. Large sections are censored, showing that the C.I.A. still cannot bring itself to expose all the skeletons in its closet. And many activities about overseas operations disclosed years ago by journalists, Congressional investigators and a presidential commission — which led to reforms of the nation’s intelligence agencies — are not detailed in the papers.

The Times has also set up a blog by intellligence experts -- including's Official Go-To Person for All Things Intelligent, Ms. Amy Zegart.

Another contributor, Philip Taubman, concludes:

Reading through the litany of C.I.A. domestic spying abuses and other questionable activities during the cold war years, including plots to assassinate foreign leaders, it’s hard not to wonder what the men and women of the C.I.A. (mostly men, in those days) were thinking as they wandered far afield from the C.I.A.’s own charter.

posted by Dan at 09:38 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Henry Farrell creates a poli sci public good

Ezra Klein believes that there is a poli sci gap in the blogosphere.

In response, Henry Farrell decides to create a public good to partially address this issue.

The result won't be more poli sci blogs, but it will provide some connective tissue between political science and the blogosphere.

Henry explains:

Welcome to the political science papers blog, which seeks to serve as a rough-and-ready guide to political science papers which are likely to have some appeal to a general audience (as measured by the editor’s idiosyncratic notions of ‘appeal’). As currently constituted, the blog will post entries consisting of the abstracts of the papers, bibliographic details, and, where available, links to the papers in question. Where the editor has something additional to say about the paper, and time to say it, he’ll include this too. To submit papers for consideration, send the details (including URL, cut-and-pastable abstract and bibliographic details please) to henry at the domain name henryfarrell with the suffix .net. If the paper is available outside a journal’s paywall, this is obviously likely to make non-academics more likely to read and download it.

posted by Dan at 07:09 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

China Inc. is developing a bad brand image

The growth of health and safety concerns about Chinese imports is not fading away into the night.

The Wall Street Journal's Timothy Aeppel reports that tires are the latest product to raise concerns:

A fatal auto accident in Pennsylvania has stirred concerns about another potentially hazardous Chinese product in wide use in the U.S.: tires.

About 450,000 Chinese-made tires sold in the U.S. -- and possibly many more -- may lack an important safety feature, according to federal regulators and the U.S. distributor that helped design them. But the task of identifying who bought the defective tires and getting them off the road has been complicated by litigation and holes in the nation's product-recall system.

The tire defect comes in the wake of several other high-profile safety problems involving Chinese products, including the discovery of lead paint on children's toys and hazardous materials in Chinese-made toothpaste and in wheat gluten used in pet food.

"As imports grow -- and China is the largest exporter to the U.S. -- it's essential" that all manufacturers comply with U.S. safety regulations, said Daniel Zielinski, a spokesman for the Rubber Manufacturers Association, the tire industry's main trade group....

The fatal wreck occurred last August, when the tread allegedly separated on a steel-belted radial on a cargo van carrying four passengers. The driver lost control and crashed, killing two passengers and injuring the other two -- one severely. The driver was also hurt.

Tread separations are particularly hazardous when they involve vans and SUVs, which have a higher center of gravity and are more prone to tip over than passenger cars. Tread-separation problems sparked a massive nationwide recall of Firestone tires in 2000.

An official at NHTSA said the agency is aware of the defect and that the U.S. distributor is ultimately responsible for a recall. The agency generally doesn't test tires independently, unless a manufacturer or distributor fights NHTSA's conclusion that its tires are defective....

In its lawsuit, filed after FTS itself was sued in the wake of the fatal accident, the company accuses the tire maker of removing the safety feature -- a 0.6-millimeter layer of rubber, known as a "gum strip," which is added between the steel belts to give the tires added durability -- without notifying the distributor.

Shi Xinbo, an official at Hangzhou Zhongce, said, "We are confident in our quality. Our products certainly meet the safety standards of foreign countries. This is just a commercial dispute. We are not aware of any official investigation by the U.S. government." He declined to comment on the gum-strip issue.

As a country develops and moves up the consumer supply chain, they generally acquire a reputation for making high-quality goods (think Japan and South Korea). What's interesting is that China seems to be moving in the opposite direction.

I have no doubt that U.S. industry associations will hype consumer health and safety fears to serve their own interests. This doesn't mean they're wrong, however.

posted by Dan at 09:14 AM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

Following up on Finkelstein

In Reason, Cathy Young follows up on Norman Finkelstein's tenure denial. Young's conclusion: "one may legitimately ask if the real political bias lay not in the denial of tenure to Finkelstein, but in the political science department's support for his tenure bid." I'm not quite as sanguine about the case as Young, but she may well have a point here.

Meanwhile, Alan Dershowitz reports the following in FrontPage Magazine:

According to a news story in today’s Chicago Sun-Times, a report filed against his tenure by three members of the Political Science faculty “claims that Finkelstein allegedly called a female staff member a ‘bitch.’” The report also claimed that Finkelstein “shunned” colleagues who disagreed with him and that his boorish conduct extended to “dramatically closing his office door when his colleague arrives.” In addition to describing his abusive sexist behavior toward a subordinate, the report characterized Finkelstein as “mean spirit” and as “unprofessional.”

This negative report was suppressed by Finkelstein supporters who leaked other, more favorable assessments.

I tried to find this story at the Sun-Times web site and couldn't find it. Props to anyone who can find this story.

UPDATE: Ask and you will receive. Props to Martin.

posted by Dan at 08:42 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, June 25, 2007

This week I'll be thinking about China

I'll be an occasional contributor to this week's book club at TPM Cafe. The book du semaine is Josh Kurlantzick's Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power Is Transforming the World.

The flavor of Josh's book can be captured in his tablesetting post -- particularly his first two paragraphs:

While the US has been focused on Iraq, it has ignored a subtle – but enormous – change in the world. Since only the early 2000s, and under the US radar, China has changed from a country that barely interacted with the world into a growing foreign power. In fact, China savvily has amassed significant “soft power” around the world through aid, formal diplomacy, public diplomacy, investment, and other tools. Here in Washington, where China’s image is not great, it’s hard for us to understand how popular China has become in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Even China’s model of development, of state-ordered economic liberalization and minimal political liberalization, has significant appeal. In particular, it has appeal to elites in nations in the region – and in other places like Africa – alienated by the Washington Consensus and American intervention around the world.

No one amassed chits with other nations for no reason. Now, China can begin to use its soft power. It will be able to utilize its popularity in regions where the US and China have potentially competing interests in resources. China is already trying to draw upon its charm to push back against American power in Asia. In the future, China could prod countries like the Philippines or Thailand, which are already using China as a hedge, to downgrade their close relations with the United States. Beijing continues to support authoritarian regimes, stemming from its vow of noninterference. This, too, weakens US diplomacy. Though their interests sometimes overlap, fundamentally the United States and China still do not agree on how diplomacy and international affairs should be conducted. And though Beijing can be persuaded to support better governance in places, like Burma, with limited resources and such horrendous regimes that they breed instability in China, it is much harder to persuade China to act against terrible governments with oil, like Sudan, or whose policies have no direct impact on China itself, like Zimbabwe. In the future, China’s ability to support its friends will only grow stronger as China builds its global soft power.

I'll be commenting on this a bit later, but for now I'll be curious to hear from readers. Is Chinese soft power a real source of concern?

Before you answer, be sure to check out Danna Harman's story in the Christian Science Monitor about how the Sudanese perceive China after a few years of foreign direct investment. Let's just say I think one needs to parse out Chinese economic power from Chinese soft power.

posted by Dan at 08:26 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

Laugh, cry, take your pick

In Der Spiegel, Marco Evers writes about the President of Gambia, ruled one 41-year-old Yahya Jammeh. He's quite the Renaissance man:

Jammeh -- a military officer who staged a successful putsch in 1994 -- is not just the president. He's also a healer on a divine mission. In January of this year, he summoned a number of his acolytes together with foreign diplomats and revealed to them that he had made an extraordinary discovery. He announced that, in addition to asthma, he was now capable of healing Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) -- the epidemic that ravages sub-Saharan Africa like no other region of the world. More than 15 million Africans have already died of AIDS, and a further 25 million are infected with the HIV virus which causes the disease.

On Thursdays -- Jammeh's healing powers are only available to him on that day of the week he says -- the president frequently allows Gambian television to film him as he defeats AIDS: Patients lie flat on their backs as the president whirls around them and mumbles verses from the Koran. He slaps green sludge onto their skin, sprinkles liquid from an old Evian bottle over them and gives them a brown broth to drink. A quick banana snack completes the therapy.

That's it. Thanks to the power of the Koran and seven secret herbs this treatment, repeated over the course of several weeks, leads to the patient being cured of the lethal virus "with absolute certainty," as Jammeh says. But two requirements need to be met for it all to work. First: His patients have to renounce alcohol, tea, coffee and sex for the duration of their treatment -- as well as theft. And second: Whoever is taking anti-viral medication has to stop doing so immediately, according to Jammeh.

Even more disturbing is that the Gambian minister of health supports his president -- despite being a trained gynecologist educated in Ukraine and Ireland. The country's other institutions, including the parliament, are doing the same. And on the streets of the Gambia, demonstrations can sometimes be seen -- not against Jammeh, but in support of him.

Lest one think that Gambia has the monopoly on this sort of behavior among African leaders, Evers points out some more examples:
[South Africa's] former vice president, Jacob Zuma, has had unprotected sex with a woman who was HIV positive at the time. There was hardly any risk of infection, Zuma said publicly, since he showered immediately after having sex. It's astonishing that Zuma isn't more knowledgeable about the spread of HIV; he was, after all, previously the director of a national AIDS organization.

And the South African minister of health, a med-school graduate, advises those infected not to take anti-viral medication in favor of a mixture of garlic, lemon, potatoes and red beet. That's better, she says, because the side effects are less severe. "Dr. Red Beet," as she is mockingly called, also sympathizes with German miracle healer Matthias Rath, who sells vitamin drinks in South Africa as an alleged alternative to established HIV medication.

Writing in Passport, Preeti Aroon laments:
Speaking seriously, though, this "cure" for AIDS highlights the misinformation that surrounds the disease in many countries. In Africa, many aren't aware that condoms protect against HIV infection. Even if they are told, they also face anti-condom messages: Condoms are a conspiracy by whites to lower African birthrates; condoms are tainted with HIV to decrease the African population. On top of it all, traditional healers, tribal leaders, and the Catholic Church warn against using condoms. What is one to believe?

posted by Dan at 12:06 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, June 22, 2007

My moral midgetry

Following a link at Fairer Globalization, I came across this Moral Sense test at Harvard.

It's an eight question test in which an action is described and then you are asked to award damages.

In the scenarios I was given, I awarded an average of $129 in fines. The average response of all test takers was approximately $72,000.

So, clearly, I'm a heartless bastard. [And you also like to make fun of short people!!--ed.] Or, I'm more willing to blame fortuna than people when bad but (largely) accidental things happen.

Take the test and let me know how moral you are.

UPDATE: Well, after reading the commentary, I do feel better about my moral standing. Well, except for Mike Munger's reaction, which just makes me want to grab a baseball bat, apply it to Munger, and then see whether the tort system really works.

posted by Dan at 06:28 PM | Comments (61) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Name this blog phenomenon!

Apparently the Encyclopedia Brittanica now has a blog. Michael Gorman is using it to harumph at the myriad ways in which the Internet has destroyed all that is great and good in scholarship and high culture. His first post opens with "The life of the mind in our society suffers, in many ways, from an increase in credulity and an associated flight from expertise." You get the drift -- this is not the first time Gorman has done this.

Over at Inside Higher Ed, Scott McLemee critiques Gorman's critique. He closes with this point:

What really bothers the neo-Luddite quasi-Mandarin is not the rise of digitality, as such. The problem actually comes from “the diminished sacredness of authority,” as Edward Shils once put it, “the reduction in the awe it evokes and in the charisma attributed to it.”

But it’s not that all cultural authority or critical intelligence, as such, are vanishing. Rather, new kinds are taking shape. The resulting situation is difficult and sometimes unpleasant. But it is not exactly new. Such wrenching moments have come repeatedly over the past 500 years, and muddling through the turmoil does not seem to be getting any easier.

Plowing similar ground, Henry Farrell asks:
I can see why the Encyclopedia Britannica has an urgent interest in pushing this line, but I don’t understand why the intellectual standards of argument among its appointed critics is so low (and they aren’t an aberration; I understand that they’ve made somewhat of an effort to publicize these pieces and get them talked about).
To answer Farrell's question, you need to recognize the phenomenon of Bigthink Online Criticism (BOC), which proceeds as follows:
1) Pre-existing cultural institution finds itself under threat of being ignored/devalued/losing cultural cachet in relation to online substitutes;

2) To stave off irrelevance, said institution commissions BOC essay;

3) BOC essay, to roil the waters, overstates to a greater or lesser degree the various flaws that online substitutes possess;

4) BOC essay is posted on the net, while various online and offline commentators are alerted to its presence;

5) Online community reacts with outrage, linking and critiquing the BOC essay repeatedly, making it the topic du jour.

6) For a brief moment, declining cultural institution staves off slide towards irrelevance.

7) The more Manichean the BOC, the longer the boomlet of attention.

I humbly request my readers to name this gambit.

UPDATE: Brittanica's Tom Panelas e-mails the following:

If nothing else you should be aware of the fact that Gorman's posts are part of a larger forum on the Web 2.0 movement generally, and that it includes people who disagree sharply with him, such as Clay Shirky, danah boyd, and Matthew Battles, as well as others who disagree with him by degree, such as Nicholas Carr. If you and Henry think Britannica is "pushing a line" by publishing Gorman's opinions under his name on our blog, it follows then that we are also pushing the lines of these other people. Since Clay Shirky's posts, among other things, have some strong criticisms of Britannica, we are therefore pushing criticism of ourselves. What our motives for this might be I’ll leave it to you to divine, but you might consider an alternative explanation: that we’re simply having a debate among people with different views.

By the way, if you really think the intellectual standards are low, please take a look at what Shirky, Battles, and Carr have written. (danah hasn’t posted yet; she’ll be with us next week.) If, after that, you still think the level of discourse is substandard, please feel free to raise it by adding your own comments.

posted by Dan at 03:16 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

How should I feel about Fred Thompson in 2008?

Gideon Rachman went to hear Fred Thompson give a big foreign policy speech in Lodon and came away unimpressed:

I'm afraid that what he had to say was utterly platitudinous.

The US is "an inspiration for all those who seek freedom"; Tony Blair is a "gallant friend" of America; the uncoupling of the Atlantic alliance would be a bad thing. Winston Churchill was a great man; Neville Chamberlain was not so great. We should worry about Iran because - "If we know anything from modern history, it is that when fanatical tyrants pledge to wipe out an entire nation, we should listen." He even had the nerve to quote that Harold Macmillan line about the biggest problem in politics being "events, dear boy, events." Haven't heard that one before.

Admittedly, he was marginally more interesting in the q&a. He thinks it would be a good idea to blockade Iran, which he describes as a "very, very serious threat." He still thinks it was right to invade Iraq and that there is some evidence that the surge is working. But he is clearly worried that American politicians are going to pull the plug prematurely - "We have a multi-year plan, which the political process might give only weeks or months."

As for the goal in Iraq - "We need to do everything possible to avoid the appearance of utter weakness." And America needs to strive to leave the country in something "better than terrible conditions." That, at least, struck me as a fairly realistic assessment of what is achievable.

I find it hard - or perhaps just alarming - to imagine Fred Thompson as president. He seemed to me to be not terribly bright.

Click here to read Thompson's speech and judge for yourself. After reading it, I'd say two things:
1) His sense of humor is better developed than his policy recommendations for the Middle East.

2) You ain't gonna find a lot of difference between this speech and Mitt Romney's Foreign Affairs article.

What do you think?

posted by Dan at 02:12 PM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How should I feel about Bloomberg in 2008?

So Michael Bloomberg has left the GOP, and is enticing media hordes about the prospect of a 2008 campaign (though Howard Kurtz dissents). He's the Time "action hero" of the week.

Should I be interested in him? Matt Yglesias thinks so:

From a Reason magazine perspective, it seems to me that a Bloomberg Administration is likely to be substantially more libertarian than either a Democratic or a Republican one would be. Bloomberg, however, is specifically identified with a brand of trivial nanny-stating -- indoor smoking ban, trans fat ban -- that seems to be to aggravate libertarians in a manner that's out of proportion to the actual significance of the policy issues.
Over at Lawyers, Guns & Money, Scott Lemieux advises libertarians to be cautious: "there is a serious reason libertarians should be skeptical of Bloomberg: the appalling string of arbitrary detentions with no serious justification during the 2004 GOP convention."

What do you think?

posted by Dan at 01:59 PM | Comments (13) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My latest bloggingheads throwdown

My latest bloggingheads diavlog was supposed to be with the lovely Megan McArdle, in which we revealed various clothing and other indiscretions from our past. Scandalous information about the both of us was revealed.

Alas, there was a technical glitch, and so that diavlog will now not be seen again until Bob Wright releases the DVD version of "Bloggingheads: The Lost Tapes."

As a substitute, go check out my diavlog with Bob Wright. Topics include:

1) Should a blogginghead be monogamous or play the field?

2) The depressing situation in Palestine;

3) The depressing situation talking about Palestine in the United States;

4) How can the U.S. regulate Chinese industries?

5) What will technology do to China?

6) The globalization of American sports

7) Why everyone will like Knocked Up and why no one should see the Fantastic Four sequel.

Oh, and along the way Bob cajoles me into issuing a public challenge.

posted by Dan at 01:52 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Outsourcing to Jonathan Rauch on immigration

Your humble blogger has been mute about the immigration bill that is either dead or not dead -- I can't rememberwhich iteration we are at right now.

In the interest of economy, and in improving the debate on this subject, I will simply outsource my position on this to the National Journal's Jonathan Rauch:

[T]he Senate bill was worse than it needed to be. On the legal side of the immigration equation, there are easy trade-ups to be had. In fact, even a National Journal columnist with no apparent qualifications could write a better bill.

And what might that look like? Glad you asked.

  • First, raise the number of legal immigrants by about 50 percent, to about 1.8 million a year. That meets the economy's demonstrated demand for workers.

  • Second, provide pathways to permanence. Bring in these 1.8 million people on temporary visas, say for three to five years, with the promise of permanent legal residency (a green card) if they stay out of trouble, pose no security risk, and work or get a college degree.

  • Third, don't micromanage who gets in. Allocate visas using a simple three-way formula that gives about equal weight to family, work, and education: 600,000 family visas for close relatives of citizens and green-card holders; 600,000 work visas for people who are sponsored by an employer and have less than a bachelor's degree; 600,000 education visas for people who hold a bachelor's degree or higher, with first call going to those who also have employer sponsorships or family ties.
  • There is no chance, at the moment, that this plan will be adopted. But there is some chance that making the case for it might help clarify what the country should be shopping for in an immigration reform measure.

    The most basic decision any immigration bill needs to make is this: How many immigrants does the country need and want? Bizarrely, this was the one question that the debate over the Senate bill did not seem to concern itself with. Even finding estimates for total immigration under the Senate reform proved dauntingly difficult until the Congressional Budget Office published some projections last week.

    Hat tip: Virginia Postrel.

    posted by Dan at 07:57 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

    Monday, June 18, 2007

    You be Newsweek's guest editor!

    I find little to cavil about Newsweek's sympathetic profile of Angelina Jolie ("look, she's gone from Billy Bob Thornton's ex to being good at acting, adopting and international public diplomacy!")

    Well, OK, there is this rather odd section:

    Earlier this month Jolie was invited to join the Council on Foreign Relations, the elite club for the American foreign-policy establishment. It's no room for lightweights. Her fellow members include Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Jimmy Carter, Diane Sawyer and Bill Clinton.
    To my dying day, I will be vexed by one of two possibilities:
    1) Reporter Sean Smith sees Diane Sawyer as a foreign policy heavyweight;

    2) An editor at Newsweek read Smith's draft and though,"not enough heavyweights... better add Diane Sawyer."

    posted by Dan at 11:55 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

    A&W sells me on MacDonald's

    While engaging in my monthly hotel workout regimen, I caught a new ad by A&W restaurant. The gist of the ad was that McDonald's was not to be trusted because... wait for it... they used beef from New Zealand. As opposed to A&W, which only uses American beef.

    Having been to New Zealand,, that ad actually made me want to go out a buy a Big Mac. Because New Zealand grass-fed beef tastes much, much better than American corn-fed beef.

    posted by Dan at 11:29 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

    The rise of trans-Pacific regulatory conflict

    In the past two days there have been two stories in the press suggesting that the U.S. will be butting heads with China and India over a variety of regulations.

    On Sunday, the Washington Post's Marc Kaufman writes that the growth of pharmaceutical imports is triggering health and safety concerns:

    India and China, countries where the Food and Drug Administration rarely conducts quality-control inspections, have become major suppliers of low-cost drugs and drug ingredients to American consumers. Analysts say their products are becoming pervasive in the generic and over-the-counter marketplace.

    Over the past seven years, amid explosive growth in imports from India and China, the FDA conducted only about 200 inspections of plants in those countries, and a few were the kind that U.S. firms face regularly to ensure that the drugs they make are of high quality.

    The agency, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of drugs for Americans wherever they are manufactured, made 1,222 of these quality-assurance inspections in the United States last year. In India, which has more plants making drugs and drug ingredients for American consumers than any other foreign nation, it conducted a handful.

    Companies based in India were bit players in the American drug market 10 years ago, selling just eight generic drugs here. Today, almost 350 varieties and strengths of antidepressants, heart medicines, antibiotics and other drugs purchased by American consumers are made by Indian manufacturers.

    Five years ago, Chinese drugmakers exported about $300 million worth of products to the United States. Eager to meet Americans' demand for lower-cost medicines, they, too, have expanded rapidly. Last year, they sold more than $675 million in pharmaceutical ingredients and products in the U.S. market.

    After the pet food scandal that triggered fears over the safety of human and animal foods imported from China, experts say medicines from that country and from India pose a similar risk of being contaminated, counterfeit or simply understrength and ineffective.

    "As the manufacturing goes to China and India, the risk to human health is growing exponentially," said Brant Zell, past chairman of the Bulk Pharmaceuticals Task Force. The group represents American drug-ingredient makers that filed a citizen's petition with the FDA last year asking the agency to oversee foreign firms more aggressively.

    "The low level there" of follow-up inspections, "combined with the huge amount of importing, greatly increases the potential that consumers will get products that have impurities or ineffective ingredients," he said.

    FDA officials say that they are not aware of any health problems caused by drugs imported from India or China and that the American companies that import them usually do their own quality and safety testing. But the agency acknowledges that it is virtually impossible for it to know whether poor-quality or contaminated drugs from lightly regulated Asian plants have caused patients to get sicker or remain ill, especially because patients and doctors are unlikely to suspect poorly manufactured drugs as a problem.

    Meanwhile, in USA Today, Jayne O'Donnell reports about another brewing regulatory problem -- lead levels in childrens' jewelry:
    The Chinese government opposes a proposed U.S. standard limiting the amount of lead allowed in bracelets, necklaces and other jewelry sold for children.

    All but three of more than 30 Consumer Product Safety Commission recalls for lead in children's jewelry since 2003 were for China-made items. The others were made in India.

    The Chinese government said in comments to the CPSC that it's not necessary to limit the lead content to the proposed 0.06% by weight because much of the lead wouldn't seep out of jewelry so would "do little harm for children." China's comments are the only ones opposing the CPSC proposal. A final regulation is likely by early 2008.

    CPSC says 20,000 children were treated in emergency rooms from 2000 to 2005 after swallowing jewelry. The number doesn't include choking incidents. A 4-year-old boy died last year after swallowing a charm that was 99% lead.

    CPSC is concerned that children can ingest unsafe levels of lead after putting necklaces and other jewelry in their mouths, even briefly. If they are also exposed to lead in their homes or drinking water, there can be a cumulative risk. Lead poisoning can lower the IQ, cause learning disabilities and lead to kidney or liver disease.

    Along with being the target of nearly all of the lead jewelry recalls, China-made products have made up half of CPSC's overall recalls for at least two years, says acting Chairman Nancy Nord. Recalls of China-made products have been steadily increasing since 2003.

    "It is absolutely imperative that all manufacturers understand that if they are going to sell products in the U.S., consumer protection has to be one of their main concerns," she says.

    In the comments, Guo LiSheng, a deputy director general in China's Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, said the agency agrees with the U.S. that children's health and safety need to be protected but believes putting warning labels on the jewelry "may be more efficient than setting the limit of lead content."

    If you read both articles, these two cases are not identical. There appears to be a strong justification for ratcheting up the lead regulations, while problems with pharmaceutical imports remain more hypothetical than real.

    Going forward, it will be interesting to see whether affected domestic industries will be lobbying for regulatory barriers rather than more overt forms of protectionism. The thing about regulatory barriers is that they are not always protectionist in motivation. And that's precisely what makes them more attractive for import-competitive sectors.


    UPDATE: Thanks to Nicholas Weaver for sending me this New York Times story by Walt Bogdanich on Chinese resistance to regulatory investigations. Definitely worth a read.

    posted by Dan at 08:07 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (1)

    Friday, June 15, 2007

    Cato Unbound, part deux

    The Cato Unbound debate about All Politics Is Global continues with response essays:

    1) Ann Florini, "Globalization Is Transformative."

    2) Jeremy A. Rabkin, "While Great States Sleep."

    3) Kal Raustiala, "Globalization and Global Governance."

    My response to the critiques can be found here.

    posted by Dan at 09:42 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

    The massive disincentive to blog about Israel/Palestine

    The following is a typical e-mail I've received in the wake of posting about Norman Finkelstein:

    Anyone questioning the intellectual scholarship of Mr. Finkelstein really needs help. to simply say that he is accomplished does not do service to his record of superior scholarship which is there for everyone to see. Were he not a critic of Zionism he would be feted from on high for his academic achievements. I was not surprised that a Catholic Priest made a mealy mouth decision not to grant tenure on such a political decision and then lied in my opinion making matters even more suspicious by saying that ouside influence had no...who makes up these lies? Father H.'s phone lines are still blazing with threats from ADL Mr. D., Foxman, considering the Blackmail that Zionism has put on the Catholic Church for their so-called non assistance to the Jews in peril and their perceived coziness with the Nazis during the second W.W. However the Zionist have no quarter from which to truly attack Finkelstein on and they are now in helter skelter mode drunkenly flailing at any thing that Finkelsteins, ala J. Carter. Finally for the record and for sometime now ANTI-SEMITISM has not intimidated the investigators or human beings from observing what Israel is doing in Palestine and condemning them for what it is, genocide. a legitimate personage has "pulled the covers" off that cat(Zionism/Racism)and Zionist apologist are schreeeching to high heaven at being exposed. Dan's bullshit piece about Finkelstein is just another attempt at cover. he admits that he dosen't know what he's talking about when it comes to Finkelstein. I suspect that he really does but has no response to the truth thats printable. If he believed that Finkelstein got a raw deal then he should have stated that instead of listing all the negatives in his text about Finkelstein which makes Dan suspect to the reader. Israels murderous policy of theft of land,lies,targeted killings,walls, racist highways,killing of international observers,and unjust occupation against the Palestinian(short list) People is an international crime in the exact same way that the German Administration under Adolph Hitler and what he did to European Jewry was a crime. Liars such as Dershowitz and loonies such as David Horowitz only expose the Israeli desperate attempt to promote transparent false propaganda. The arrogance of how one should criticize newish people what words one can say and not say is a first in the history of mankind and will not stand. And now comes Dan, with a kinder gentler "objective" detachment The People of the world are united in their condemnation of Zionist blackmail by accusatory designation and use of the term anti-semitism to try and stop the debate concerning the Palestinian genocide committed by Israel since 1948 and continuing. The truth will be told whether Zionist like the way it is told to them or not. The world must unite to bring all the mass killers from the U.S. and Israel to the world court of Justice for their mortal sins against humanity.

    posted by Dan at 09:37 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (0)

    I want to believe the Zagats -- I really do

    Nina and Tim Zagat have an op-ed in today's New York Tmes about why Chinese food in the United States is substandard. I should sympathize with their argument:

    Twenty years ago, American perceptions of Asian food could be summed up in one word: “Chinese.” Since then, we have developed appetites for Korean, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese fare. Yet while the quality of the restaurants that serve these cuisines, particularly Japanese, has soared in America, Chinese restaurants have stalled. For American diners, the Chinese restaurant experience is the same tired routine — unimaginative dishes served amid dated, pseudo-imperial décor — that we’ve known for years....

    There is a historic explanation for the abysmal state of Chinese cuisine in the United States. Without access to key ingredients from their homeland, Chinese immigrants working on the Central Pacific Railroad in the 1860s improvised dishes like chow mein and chop suey that nobody back in their native land would have recognized. To please the naïve palates of 19th-century Americans, immigrant chefs used sweet, rich sauces to coat the food — a radical departure from the spicy, chili-based dishes served back home.

    But today, getting ingredients is no longer an issue. Instead, the principal obstacle to improving Chinese fare here is the difficulty of getting visas for skilled workers since 9/11. Michael Tong, head of the Shun Lee restaurant group in New York, has said that opening a major Chinese restaurant in America is next to impossible because it can take years to get a team of chefs from China. Chinese restaurateur Alan Yau planned to open his first New York City restaurant last year but was derailed because he was unable to get visas for his chefs.

    If Henry Kissinger could practice “Ping-Pong diplomacy,” perhaps Condoleezza Rice could try her hand at “dumpling diplomacy”? China and the United States should work together on a culinary visa program that makes it easier for Chinese chefs to come here.

    Hmm.... reducing barriers to exchange, increasing globalization of cuisine... I should be on this proposal like white on rice.

    Except that the Zagats' policy solution does not explain their policy conundrum. Immigration barriers should have a roughly equal effect on all Pacific Rim cuisines, not just China's. Why would it be the case that Chinese cuisine in the U.S. is particularly disadvantaged by vsa restrictions?

    Three possibilities:

    1) Because China has a larger internal market, there is more innovation and competition at home, leading to more frequent innovations. Without a reliable transmission mechanism (i.e., migrating chefs), Chinese cuisine in China will improve at a faster rate than in the U.S.A.

    2) Law of averages. There are 41,000 Chinese restaurants in the U.S., but only 9,000 Japanese restaurants. If quality is a function of quantity, then the average Chinese restaurant will simply be of poorer quality than other cuisines.

    3) Innovation in a different direction. As this Washington Post story from last year suggests, American restaurants tend to innovate by using new cooking styles to present more traditional foods. Indeed, as the Zagats observe, this tendency is strongest in cuisines that have been here for a while -- like Chinese. This roils devotees of "pure" national cuisine, but deights everyone else.

    I'm willing to endorse more culinary trade as a matter of principle, but I'd still like a good explanation for this conundrum.

    Take it away, Tyler Cowen!

    posted by Dan at 09:06 AM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

    This is my brain when it's cranky

    Matthew Rojansky has a post at Across the Aisle on energy independence that caused me to bang my head against the wall in sheer frustration for a few moments.

    Rojansky reacts to a DC panel on energy, the environment and national security at a Center for American Progress/Century Foundation conference. After all of the panelists politely point out that the goal of energy independence is neither possible not worthwhile. Rojansky replies:

    Alright, I see their point. It’s not immediately clear that even the optimal combination of conservation and alternative energy technologies can keep pace with growing demands for energy, meaning we will continue to need energy imports to fuel the US economy. Cutting off foreign energy sources would, by that reasoning, make us less competitive, and more “isolated” in a negative sense.

    But there’s another side to that coin.

    Energy is a zero sum game. Unlike trading technologies or other complex goods, trading energy commodities does not create value. In fact, the immutable laws of physics dictate that transmission of oil, gas or any other store of potential energy costs more energy the farther it has to travel. At some point, in fact, you could expend more energy to transmit a gallon of gas than you could ever get out of that gallon, resulting in a net energy loss.

    Thus, importing energy from abroad only works as long as that energy is both cheaper to extract and transport than it would be to generate here at home, and–here’s the real key–as long as the governments that control the resources are willing to sell them to us.

    OK, to put this as simply as possible -- trading energy commodities creates value in the same way that trading any other kind of good creates value. The reason we import energy from other countries is that, as Rojansky observes, "is both cheaper to extract and transport than it would be to generate here at home." As a society, the U.S. gains value by having the market take resources that might have (inefficiently) gone into energy extraction and reallocating them into producing goods and services in which the United States has a comparative advantage (indeed, one of those goods and services might be, you know, a new innovative technique to more efficiently extract energy resources). Trade, in this sense, has the same effect as a technological innovation -- it widens the variety of efficient means through which a society can obtain goods.

    Trading energy is not a zero sum game.

    This doesn't mean policymakers should necessarily let the market operate in an unfettered manner. There are clear non-economic reasons to intervene (Rojansky argues that foreign suppliers might decide one day not to sell their energy to the U.S. That's a red herring, because any move in that direction hurts them more than us). Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will likely require investment in alternative forms of energy. The political externalities of high energy prices are also undesirable. However, even factoring in the political externalities, the U.S. should not aim for energy independence. Why waste resources on eliminating that last drop of imported oil, when perfectly stable and friendly economies like Canada, Mexico, Norway, and Great Britain are willing to seel their energy to us?

    Rjansky closes his post with the following critique:

    The experts I cited above object to the energy independence slogan only because they perceive it as a red herring. They would argue it is a distraction from broader conservationist goals that will, in reality, have the same important impact in reducing our dependence on foreign oil, while combating global climate change by reducing carbon emissions. Certainly, climate change is very important, and a preoccupation with energy independence for security’s sake alone might lead us to transition to US-sourced fossil fuels, like coal and oil from ANWRA, that produce just as much harmful carbon as Middle Eastern oil and gas. But to call energy independence a bad idea destroys the only common ground in this debate, and hence the best chance for meaningful progress on both national security and climate change.

    Policymaking is 10% reasoned argument and 90% political compromise, as I’ve been very recently reminded, and I am surprised that such an impressive group of Washington insiders would be so short-sighted about our national interest.

    Policymaking is also a bit about being trapped by slogans. The slogan on this issue should be energy diversification, not energy independence. The former is both economically feasible and politically desirable. The latter is neither.

    posted by Dan at 08:16 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

    Thursday, June 14, 2007

    A pop quiz for Senators Baucus, Graham, Grassley, and Schumer

    The Financial Times' Eoin Callan, Krishna Guha, and Richard McGregor report on a bipartisan effort to introduce a bill aimed at punishing China for currency manipulation:

    China came under increased pressure to revalue its currency on Wednesday as a bipartisan group of US senators introduced legislation designed to push the Bush administration towards a full-blown trade dispute with Beijing.

    The bill would send exchange rate disputes to the World Trade Organisation by treating them as unfair export subsidies and includes a range of sanctions. The move will increase pressure on the White House to toughen its stance on Beijing.

    Lawmakers say China’s fixed exchange rate subsidises its exports and has contributed to a record annual bilateral US trade deficit of $233bn (£118bn)....

    The legislation has gathered momentum in the Senate and would allow US companies to appeal for anti-dumping duties on Chinese goods based on the distorted value of the currency.

    The bill was introduced by Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate finance committee, and co-sponsored by Charles Grassley, ranking Republican on the committee. It is also backed by Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham, who previously proposed a unilateral 27.5 per cent US tariff on Chinese goods that would have violated WTO rules. A tougher version of the bill is being prepared by a bipartisan group in the House of Representatives.

    Mr Schumer said: “This breakthrough proposal is like nothing else because it’s tough, wide-reaching and WTO-compliant. The previous legislation got China’s attention; the purpose of this legislation is to force change.”

    David Christy, a lawyer at Miller and Chevalier, said any attempt by the US to apply anti-dumping duties against Chinese goods based on the value of the country’s currency could fall foul of WTO rules.

    The US Treasury, meanwhile, again shied away from branding Beijing a currency manipulator in its semi-annual currency report to Congress.

    Meanwhile, Chris Nelson reports on how hearings on the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement went earlier this week. Nelson is usually respectful in his language, so this passage is particularly telling:
    Deputy USTR Karan Bhatia and [Assistant Secretary of State] Chris Hill spent the morning being whipped, insulted, and generally abused, on a bipartisan basis, by the House Foreign Affairs' subcommittee on trade and terrorism - an interesting combination of jurisdictions.

    If this trend continues, and if the Administration cannot organize a fact-based presentation which manages to offset the emotional, fundamentally fact-bereft bombs being thrown, KORUS is a dead letter....

    The Members came armed to the teeth with attack questions prepared by the Auto Caucus, and Chairman Brad Sherman let them make their opening statements unedited for the first 47 minutes.

    Bhatia and Hill were then given 5 minutes - timed to the milisecond - to summarize their testimonies. So absurdly out of balance was the process that Sherman actually banged his gavel to interrupt Bhatia's testimony as it sought to answer the key auto questions already thrown at him.

    Hill had on the table with him a copy of the book "The Power of Faith and Fantasy", and one suspects it took all his diplomatic gravitas to refrain from flinging it at Manzullo, when he was bitterly insulted for the sin of helping Chrysler organize a display of certain products on his embassy residence's lawn, while serving as US Ambassador in Seoul....

    The impassioned speeches also offered brilliant insights such that the Administration's claims for good jobs being created by FTA's could not possibly be true, because when you have a trade deficit, that means there has to be a big job loss.

    We're not making this up. In fact, on one level, this hearing was an insult to the intelligence of Congres.

    However, on the political level, this hearing was serious as a heart-attack, as it shows that until or unless the US business interests which would benefit from KORUS get organized and step foward - services, banking and investments, etc. - that the Auto Caucus can win by bullying and the Big Lie.

    And in fairness to the Members who unwittingly embarrassed themselves this morning, they are at least honestly reflecting the pervasive angst over globalization which political America is wrestling with these days.

    Clearly, Congress is upset about U.S. trade policy. And when congressmen are upset, stupid policies usally follow.

    Here's a multiple-choice question to the proposers of the new China bill:

    The American economy is experiencing rising interest rates and worries about rising inflation. Neither of these trends bodes well for average Americans.

    What's the best way for Congress to exacerbate this trend?

    A) Subpoenaing White House aides.

    B) Getting mired down over earmark reform.

    C) Fret about Congress' low standing in public opinion.

    D) Raise the price and increase uncertainty of import flows?

    I'm sure Chuck Schumer, eminent economist, will figure out the correct answer.

    Meanwhile, James Pethokoukis worries that Congress is partying like it's 1929.

    posted by Dan at 08:54 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

    My soft spot for the Stassenites

    Over at Slate, John Dickerson has story that crops up every four years -- the indefatigable, perennial and completely obscure presidential candidate:

    While covering the Republican and Democratic debates last week, I thought I might have a shot at eating a late breakfast at the Merrimack candidate-free. John Cox, the Republican superlongshot, has an office above the restaurant, but I knew he was away, trying to wangle his way into the Republican debate. So, I knew I wouldn't run into him. I thought I was in the clear. I sprinted toward the door, then slowed down briefly to pull the handle. "Are you a reporter?" asked a man standing on the sidewalk. He was typing on a laptop he'd perched on one of the newspaper machines. Busted.

    His name was Robert Haines, and he was running for the GOP nomination. He'd been shaking hands on the corner since early in the morning. "I usually get the first spot," he said, pointing to his maroon Mazda 626. In the window was a small laminated sign that read, "Robert Haines for President." He explained his parking strategy. "In the first spot people can see the side of your car from the road. These other candidates wouldn't know something like this, but I know the ins and outs. I know what it takes. I've been running here since 1992." Haines once lived in Denver but moved to New Hampshire with his family so that he could get pole position....

    Haines didn't "want to get into" what he does when he's not running for president but stressed that he has a master's degree in applied solar energy and other educational qualifications that made him an expert on energy issues. A social and fiscal conservative, he opposes amnesty and—surprise—favors a strong national defense. He objects to all presidents named George Bush. He even ran against the current president in the 2004 Republican primaries, when most of us in the media thought Bush ran unopposed. "I came in fifth in the 2004 New Hampshire primary," he said, taking off his sunglasses to wipe them. (He got 579 votes. I looked it up.) "These other candidates didn't have the guts to run. You follow me?" He finished a lot of sentences with this question.

    I find something unbelievably charming about the Harold Stassens of the world, but I honestly don't know why. In theory, these kind of people should repel me. If you think about it, what's endearing about a guy whose ego is so out of proportion to reality that he thinks he should be president?

    I think what I find endearing is that, deep down, these guys know their odds and yet they persist anyway, election cycle after election cycle. That requires a mixture of optimism, faith in one's abilities, and partial self-delusion that is quintissentially American.

    posted by Dan at 08:37 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

    Tuesday, June 12, 2007

    How's the economy going, Mahmoud?

    The Financial Times' Najmeh Bozorgmehr and Gareth Smyth report that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, if left to his own devices, will succeed in running the Iranian economy into the ground:

    Some 60 economists this week wrote to Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad criticising his government for putting “short-term welfare above long-term sustainable development”.

    Almost half way through his first four-year term, the letter underlines the acute dilemmas faced by the president in delivering short-term welfare promises as he manoeuvres to bolster political support.

    The government’s indecision over two major issues – the price of petrol and bank lending rates – is a particular source of confusion.

    More than three weeks after the lapse of the original date for petrol rationing – designed to curb a $5bn (€3.75bn, £2.5bn) bill for importing 35m of the 75m litres Iran consumes daily – the government is still groping its way around any decision it fears might be unpopular. Officials have this week made differing statements over when and how rationing – which was to begin tomorrow – will start....

    Private bankers wrote to the economy minister last week demanding a freeze on loan rates to “make survival of private banks possible”.

    But even with inflation officially at 13.6 per cent last year, Mr Ahmadi-Nejad is battling with the central bank over his insistence on a 12 per cent lending rate, down from the current 14 per cent in state-owned and 17 per cent in private banks. The Guardian Council, a constitution watchdog, is due to rule this week on a compromise.

    “What the government describes as economic policies do not match any professionally-known theories, but are rather populist political policies,” said Mohammad Tabibian, former deputy head of the Management and Planning Organisation, a cross-governmental co-ordination body....

    Many observers doubt official figures of 14 per cent inflation and 12 per cent unemployment. One economist told the FT that inflation was above 20 per cent, while unemployment was 25 per cent among university graduates.

    A depressing parlor game to play: which economy will implode the fastest, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, or Iran?

    The smart money would have to be Zimbabwe, but don't underestimate the economic incompetence of either Hugo Chavez or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    UPDATE: Congatulations to Venezuela and Zimbabwe for making this list.

    posted by Dan at 10:49 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (1)

    There's something about Putin

    The last time I was in Europe, reliable sources told me an interesting tale.

    Angela Merkel apparently has a fear of dogs. Vladimir Putin is aware of this fact. Therefore, whenever Putin meets with Merkel in Moscow, he makes sure his pet dogs are in the room. [UPDATE: Foreign Policy's Blake Hounshell confirms this tale.]

    Sound absurd? Consider that Putin has had some odd moments in his personal interactions with Westerners. There was the day he walked away with the Super Bowl ring, and of course the "I was able to get a sense of his soul" moment with George W. Bush.

    All of this pales, however, before Putin's effect on new French President Nikolas Sarkozy. After a lunch with Putin, Sarkozy gave a press conference. The opening of it can be seen here:

    For non-French speakers, here's the gist of it:
    reporter: I would like to show you the beginning of the press conference held by french president Nicolas Sarkozy at the end of the summit. He just had lunch with the russian president Vladimir Putin and it seems that he had more to drink than water.

    Sarkozy: Ladies ad Gentlemen, I apologize for my lateness, dued to the length (smiles) of the dialogue I just had with Mr Putin (smiles again)(pause). How do you want to procced, do I answer your questions? So have you got any question? (smiles). Go ahead. Yes, yes. Well, um.

    Still, give Sarkozy credit -- at least the man did not lose his watch.

    posted by Dan at 01:35 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Regarding Norman Finkelstein

    I've acquired a passing interest in Chicago-based professors of political science who are denied tenure, so I've been reading up on DePaul's decision to reject Norman Finkelstein's tenure case.

    Here's what I think I think....

    1) Finkelstein and his supporters are crying "outside interference" in the form of Alan Dershowitz's jihad against Finkelstein. As someone who has been on the receiving end of a tenure denial, and been told by many, many people that idiotic reason X must be the key explanatory factor, I have to take this kind of charge with a whopping grain of salt. The decision-making process looks a bit odd (more on this below), but the official DePaul letter by President Dennis Holtschneider to Finkelstein explicitly stated that:
    I am well aware of the outside interest in this decision, and the many ways in which the university community was 'lobbied' both to grant and to deny tenure. Examining the written record, I am satisfied that the faculty review process maintained its independence from this unwelcome attention. As much as some would like to create the impression that our process and decision have been influenced by outside interests, they are mistaken.
    DePaul's press statement quoted its president again on this point: "Over the past several months, there has been considerable outside interest and public debate concerning this decision. This attention was unwelcome and inappropriate and had no impact on either the process or the outcome of this case."

    Are they speaking the whole truth? Maybe, maybe not. Nevertheless, to issue such statements indicates that at the very least the officials involved believe it to be true. This makes me very skeptical that outside influence was the paramount factor here.

    2) Finkelstein's supporters do not help his case by overpraising him. The final paragraph of the Guardian story on Finkelstein reads,"Mr Chomsky said before the announcement that the dispute was "outrageous. [Finkelstein] is an outstanding scholar. It's amazing that he hasn't had full professorship a long time ago."

    Well now. Looking at a cached cv and Finkelstein's Wikipedia entry, a red flag for me is the fact that Finkelstein has been in the field for twenty years and apparently has never published a single peer-reviewed article. I looked on multiple search engines and the only journal articles I found were book reviews. Sorry, Noam, no one deserves a full professorship with that record. [Dude, he's published five books!!--ed. Yes, but I haven't heard of his primary book publisher, and peer-reviewed articles remain the gold standard in our field. DePaul ain't a top-20 institution, but it's good enough that this should have been an issue.]

    3) If Finkelstein's supporters and detractors agree on one thing, it's that he's a nasty sparring partner. He likes to characterize the ADL as "Nazis." on his web site. His biggest boosters allow that he has a "polemical" writing style -- you can guess what his detractors think. [UPDATE: For an interesting conceptual exercise, read Henry Farrell's post on how to debate David Horowitz and try to apply that logic to Finkelstein.]

    4) Despite all of this, DePaul's decision is really, really troubling to those of us who like academic freedom. The political science department voted 9-3 to grant him tenure, and they also exonerated him of academic misconduct charge that were levied against him. I would have understood if the department or the university had denied him because of holes in his scholarly record, but that was clearly not their reasoning. Indeed, in his letter to Finkelstein, DePaul's president him as "a nationally known scholar and public intellectual, considered provocative, challenging, and intellectually interesting." That's an "above-the-bar" description.

    Instead, both the academic Dean and the President cited a lack of collegiality in Finkelstein's responses to his critics. The President quoted from the University Board on Tenure and Promotions [UBPT] report:

    Notwithstanding the strength of some aspects of Dr. Finkelstein's record, the [UBPT] expressed several concerns touching upon his scholarship, specifically what they consider the intellectual character of his work and his persona as a public intellectual. The [UBPT] acknowledges that Dr. Finkelstein is a controversial author, provocative and challenging. Yet, some might interpret parts of his scholarsip as "deliberately hurtful" as well as provocative more for inflammatory effect than to carefully critique or challenge accepted assumptions. Criticism has been expressed for his inflammatory style and personal attacks in his writing and intellectual debates. These concerns are relevant to the [UBPT] in the recognition that an academic's reputation is intrinsically tied to the institution of which he or she is affiliated.
    No question, there's the whiff of being "deliberately hurtful" in some of the record (Finkelstein accused Dershowitz of plagiarism in writing The Case For Israel). Style is not the same thing as substance, however, and DePaul's political science department found the substance worthy of tenure and promotion and the critiques of style not to rise to the level of character assassination.

    Crudely put, you cannot and should not deny tenure to someone just because they've been an asshole in print. If you rigorously applied that criteria to the academy, you'd have to kick out a lot more people than Finkelstein.

    The American Association of University Professors, in a statement on collegiality, observed the following:

    Historically, “collegiality” has not infrequently been associated with ensuring homogeneity, and hence with practices that exclude persons on the basis of their difference from a perceived norm. The invocation of “collegiality” may also threaten academic freedom. In the heat of important decisions regarding promotion or tenure, as well as other matters involving such traditional areas of faculty responsibility as curriculum or academic hiring, collegiality may be confused with the expectation that a faculty member display “enthusiasm” or “dedication,” evince “a constructive attitude” that will “foster harmony,” or display an excessive deference to administrative or faculty decisions where these may require reasoned discussion. Such expectations are flatly contrary to elementary principles of academic freedom, which protect a faculty member’s right to dissent from the judgments of colleagues and administrators.
    I've never met Norman Finkelstein, I've never read any of Finkelstein's work, and based on the reviews, I suspect I'm none the poorer for it. I also suspect I wouldn't like him very much. There might well be valid reasons for having denied him tenure. But reading the paper trail on this case, it's hard not to conclude that DePaul did not use a valid reason. Indeed, it's hard not to conclude that Finkelstein got a raw deal.

    posted by Dan at 09:41 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

    Monday, June 11, 2007

    Drezner gets interesting results from Vladimir Putin

    Hey, remember that Foreign Affairs essay I wrote called "The New New World Order?" If you don't, that's OK -- but it appears that Vladimir Putin has been reading it. From the Financial Times' Neil Buckley and Catherine Belton:

    Russian president Vladimir Putin called on Sunday for a radical overhaul of the world’s financial and trade institutions to reflect the growing economic power of emerging market countries – including Russia.

    Mr Putin said the world needed to create a new international financial architecture to replace an existing model that had become “archaic, undemocratic and unwieldy”....

    His speech on financial institutions suggested that, along with an aggressive recent campaign against US “unilateralism” in foreign policy, he was also seeking to challenge western dominance of the world economic order.

    Mr Putin said 50 years ago, 60 per cent of world gross domestic product came from the Group of Seven industrial nations. Today, 60 per cent of world GDP came from outside the G7.

    “The interests of stable economic development would be best served by a new architecture of international economic relations based on trust and mutually beneficial integration,” Mr Putin said.

    The Russian president said there was increasing evidence that existing organisations were “not doing a good job regulating global economic relations”.

    “Institutions created with a focus on a small number of active players sometimes look archaic, undemocratic and unwieldy. They are a far cry from recognising the existing balance of power,” he said.

    What's interesting about this speech is that Putin is correct in describing the state of the world, but not necessarily correct in his belief that "a new architecture of international economic relations" is going to serve Russia's interests.

    Consider that Russia is already a member of one powerful club -- the G-8. Any realistic reform of global economic governance is going to give China and India more power than Russia relative to the status quo, because Russia still has the great power trappings it inherited from the Cold War. Indeed, unless we're talking about energy or nuclear weapons, Russia would be a less powerful actor after any reform effort.

    Putin probably does not believe this, given sustained interest in the Russian economy and the comfort of high oil prices. Russia, however, should be very wary of what it wishes for -- it might just get it.

    UPDATE: Brad Setser offers up a different new new world order:

    This new international order is just dominated by big national institutions -- SAFE and the PBoC, the Bank of Russia, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and the like -- not big international institutions. The international financial institutions of the old international economic order -- the IMF for example -- are still around. But they don't have as much influence as they once did.

    posted by Dan at 10:19 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (2)

    Sunday, June 10, 2007

    Final Sopranos predictions

    I haven't blogged too much about the Sopranos over the years, but it's been one of the few shows that both the Official Blog Wife and I watch religiously.

    In eager anticipation of the show's series finale tonight, and blog efforts to predict the show's denouement, here's what I think will happen:

    1) No one in Tony's immediate family dies;

    2) No one else in Tony's crew will die either;

    3) Melfi takes Tony back (I found that part of last week's show unconvincing);

    4) Regardless of how/whether Tony's feud with Phil Leotardo is resolved, the show will end with Tony still in charge, bereft of any competent underling to take over, depressed at the prospect of having to soldier on in charge, acutely aware that his eventual death will likely not be a peaceful one (this search for a successor has been at the heart of this last season, and for the past few seasons if you think about it);

    5) Despite his best efforts, James Gandolfini will never find a role that makes people forget either Tony Sorprano or this song.

    Readers are encouraged to offer their own predictions/postmortems.

    POST-EPISODE UPDATE: Wrong on Melfi, but I think the rest of it holds up pretty well.

    posted by Dan at 04:21 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

    Friday, June 8, 2007

    Bad productivity numbers, or just bad numbers?

    Last onh I blogged about the puzzling housing sector -- despite output slowing to a crawl, employment in that sector had not abated. Indeed, I made the following half-assed suggestion:

    This seems like a peculiar inverse of what was happening in the economy circa 2002-3 -- astounding productivity gains that were not matched by wage or employment growth. One wonders if this means that, for the next year, the U.S. economy will observe the obverse of marginal productivity increases but robust wage and employment growth.
    Economically, this makes little sense, but it did seem to be happening.

    In today's FT, Krishna Guha looks a little closer at this puzzle:

    A conundrum in construction lies at the heart of a US jobs market puzzle that continues to baffle economists – including officials at the Federal Reserve.

    After a year of sub-par growth unemployment is a mere 4.5 per cent. With jobs growth strong but output growth weak, productivity looks very poor....

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics payroll survey shows total construction employment and residential construction employment down just 2 per cent year on year in May, the latest month for which figures are available.

    The absence of the expected drain of net job losses in construction is the single biggest reason why overall job gains remain so strong – 157,000 in May – and unemployment remains so low....

    There are a number of possible explanations.

    One is that companies are hoarding labour in expectation of a rapid rebound in the housing market. This looks increasingly implausible as the housing correction drags on.

    Another is that there is a time lag in construction and big job losses are just around the corner.

    There may be some truth to this. But the slowdown has already been under way for a long time.

    New home starts peaked in May 2005. The 12-month rolling average (new starts over the preceding 12 months) peaked at 2.1m in March 2006 and has since fallen to 1.6m.

    If it all fails to add up, the answer may be that the official statistics are not accurately capturing what is taking place in an industry that employs both a large number of small subcontractors and a large number of illegal immigrants. Specialty trade contractors – who work for small subcontracting firms – account for nearly two-thirds of all construction jobs. These workers tend to belong to small, often informal businesses.

    The payroll survey is likely to understate the extent to which these workers have switched from the residential sector to fast-growing commercial construction....

    The separate BLS household survey does show a 300,000 increase in the number of people working part-time for economic reasons over the past year.

    The labour market statistics may also be missing a big decline in work by illegal migrants, who make up perhaps 20 per cent of the construction workforce.

    posted by Dan at 06:20 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

    Thursday, June 7, 2007

    June's books of the month

    The book selections for June had to pass a very stringent set of criterion. Namely: which books would actually manage to engage me when I was in a distant Caribbean isle, lounging on the beach, with naptime beckoning?

    The general interest book is Tyler Cowen's Creative Destruction: How Globalization Is Changing the World's Cultures. Cowen's book considers the various arguments about globalization leading to a withering of cultural diversity. Cowen takes these arguments seriously, but points out the hidden ways in which globalization can enhance cultural diversity within and across nations (one obvious effect -- globalization widens the diversity of material and ideational imputs for artists). He also performs a public service in debunking Mohandas K. Gandhi's theory of swadeshi.

    Creative Destruction was a particularly fun book to read on vacation in the Caribbean, as one could literally see Cowen's arguments at work.

    The international relations book is Robert Kagan's Dangerous Nation. The book is a history of American foreign policy from the colonial era to the Spanish-American War. Kagan's thesis is clear: contrary to perceptions that the United States pursued isolationism until the 20th century, the U.S. was actually an active, aggressive player in world politics. Furthermore, its foreign policy was not based on realpolitik but rather infused with liberal idealism (with a tragic dollop of pro-slavery policies). In essence, Kagan is arguing that neoconservatism is not some 21st century creation, but rather deeply rooted in American history. Kagan is particularly sharp when he places major foreign policy addresses (Washington's farewell address, John Quincy Adams' July 4th speech, the Monroe Doctrine) into their sociopolitical context.

    Kagan's thesis will lead to more than a few readers squirming in their seat. As David Kennedy pointed out in his Washington Post review of Dangerous Nation, "Europeans and others wary of America's motives and influence may find that it confirms their deepest dreads; some neoconservatives may wonder if Kagan has decamped to the Chomskyite, America-bashing left." I'm not entirely convinced of Kagan's thesis -- the role of ideas waxes and wanes throughout American history, and the isolationist impulse is not quite as small as Kagan believes -- but this book is lively and well-researched.

    Go check them out!

    posted by Dan at 10:45 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

    Citation protocol

    In a strange confluence of blog streams, Ross Cameron and Brian Weatherson debate the propriety of posting papers online with the "Do not cite without author's permission" caution. The comment thread on Weatherson's post is particlarly interesting, and does highlight a growing problem. Since working paper versions of published journal articles are often easier to access online, they might generate citations when the final paper is an improved version.

    At the same time, Eric Rauchway and Brad DeLong discuss the fears of non-blogging academics that anything they do or say on the web will come back to haunt them. DeLong believes the fear of having one's ideas stolen from an online paper is vastly exaggerated (this is a phobia that seems particularly concentrated among graduate students).

    I agree with DeLong, but Rauchway makes an interesting point about disciplinary divides:

    I expect [DeLong's belief] derives from the difference in scholarly discourse between History-Department historians and Economic-History historians: History-Department historians tend to operate individually, cooking up ideas slowly over time, until we can publish a book bristling with defenses, counterarguments, and qualifications; Economic-History historians tend to work with each other, to toss ideas out in working papers, conference papers, and articles long before they get committed to books (if indeed they ever do). Ideas in the latter form of discourse enjoy a more experimental status; one need not fully commit oneself to their defense; one can even play with them, scattering them like paper boats to test the wind and currents.

    In this respect, History-Department historians, and practitioners of other disciplines that emphasize books over articles, may be especially unsuited to derive benefits from blogging. We don't do brisk give-and-take. We lay the keels of large vessels slowly, load them with our ideas and evidence, and launch them deliberately. Thus projected, they rarely meet direct objection. A review cannot supply a counterargument of sufficient weight to scuttle them (and, perhaps acknowledging this, few reviews really try for a fair fight). Other historians' books follow their own paths, and normally avoid direct contact; engagements if inevitable usually occur briefly and inconclusively.

    With one possible exception, political scientists tend to fall in with the economists when it comes to sharing work -- we get a lot out of workshops, conferences, and the like (if you doubt this, consider the following hypothetical -- if Mearsheimer and Walt had actually presented the academic-y version of their "Israel Lobby" paper at a few public and private conferences, how many subsequent errors, omissions, and brushfires would have been avoided?).

    The possible exception is political theory, and here's why. In my experience, political theorists devote the greatest amount of energy to making their prose as precise as possible in their written work. For example, when theorists present their papers to an audience, they tend to read the actual text rather than riff from notes -- a practice shared by historians but not by other political science subfields. With these kind of practices, it would not be surprising that theorists act more like historians when it comes to questions of online publishing activities.

    posted by Dan at 09:08 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

    Wednesday, June 6, 2007

    What the f$%& is Kevin Martin thinking?

    Via Jonathan Adler, I see that while I was away FCC chairman Kevin Martin did not react well to the Second Court of Appeals decision to strike down the FCC's policy governing "fleeting expletives". The court characterized the policy -- designed to make the network liable when someone unexpectedly swears during a live broadcast.-- as "arbitrary and capricious."

    Martin's response -- on the FCC's web site, no less -- contains the following:

    I completely disagree with the Court’s ruling and am disappointed for American families. I find it hard to believe that the New York court would tell American families that “shit” and “fuck” are fine to say on broadcast television during the hours when children are most likely to be in the audience.

    The court even says the Commission is “divorced from reality.” It is the New York court, not the Commission, that is divorced from reality in concluding that the word “fuck” does not invoke a sexual connotation.

    A few questions:
    1) Did Martin write this himself or did people with actual training in press relations whip this statement up?

    2) By the FCC's interpretation, is Martin is obnoxiously hitting on erveryone who reads his statement?

    3) Am I obviously encouraging rape and bestiality when I say, "F#$% Kevin Martin and the horse he rode in on?" or could I have a different intent in mind?

    4) As Adler asks, "Given the Second Circuit's ruling, could a network air Martin's remarks without fear of federal sanction?"

    posted by Dan at 02:46 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

    The topic of this month's Cato Unbound is.....

    Why, hey, what do you know, the topic of June's Cato Unbound will be All Politics Is Global: Explaining International Regulatory Regimes!!!

    My lead essay, "The Persistent Power of the State in the Global Economy," is now up. Response essays will be written by Jeremy Rabkin, Ann Florini, and Kal Raustiala.

    Go check it out.

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

    Score one against the Blinder-Friedman hypothesis

    One of the difficulties with the Blinder-Friedman hypothesis is that it can't really be tested right now (though perhaps this is where Blinder and Friedman disagree. Friedman already thinks the world is flat, whereas Blinder just thinks it will be much, much flatter over the next few decades).

    Nevertheless, one would expect the industrial organization of call centers to closely resemble the future according to Blinder and Friedman. These were the jobs that everyone was yammering about disappearing a half-decade ago. Does this sector look flat?

    Thanks to Cornell University's Industrial and Labor Relations school, we now have some data... and most of it does not support the Blinder-Friedman hypothesis. From the press release:

    Contrary to what many people think, most call centers serving U.S. customers -- service centers in remote locations that handle telephone and Web-based inquiries -- are operated in the United States, not in India or other overseas locations.

    So said Rosemary Batt, the Alice H. Cook Professor of Women and Work and professor of human resource studies at Cornell's ILR School (industrial and labor relations) and a lead author of a report on the largest-scale study to examine call center management and employment practices in Asia, Africa, South America, North America and Europe, covering almost 2,500 centers in 17 countries.

    The study, "The Global Call Center Report: International Perspectives on Management and Employment," was a collaborative effort involving more than 40 scholars from 20 countries....

    The large majority of centers around the world -- except India -- serve their own domestic markets and consumers. There is no common global face to call centers, since they tend to take on the character of their respective countries and regions based on that country's or region's laws, customs and norms....

    Two-thirds of all call centers are in-house operations, serving a firm's own customers. Subcontractors operate the remaining one-third of centers. In-house centers across all countries have lower turnover rates and higher quality jobs than subcontracted ones.

    From the executive summary:
    The mobility of call center operations has led many to view this sector as a paradigmatic case of the globalization of service work. And we find that the call center sector looks quite similar across countries in terms of its markets, service offerings, and organizational features. But beyond these similarities, we find that call center workplaces take on the character of their own countries and regions, based on distinct laws, customs, institutions, and norms. The ‘globalization’ of call center activities has a remarkably national face....

    Call centers typically serve national rather than international markets. Eighty-six percent serve their local, regional, or national market.

    If the world is getting flatter, it's happening at a rather glacial pace.

    posted by Dan at 09:18 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

    Tuesday, June 5, 2007

    Obama says potato, Romney says potato....

    Last year I blogged about how, despite clams claims of growing partisan and ideological divides, there wasn't a whole hell of a lot separating the leading presidential candidates.

    This year, we'll continue this theme by doing an ol' compare and contrast of the foreign policy visions of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney -- courtesy of Foreign Affairs.

    Here's the game. I'm going to name the issue, then put forward statements by the two candidates. See if you can guess which is which!


    Candidate A: "I will work to finally free America of its dependence on foreign oil -- by using energy more efficiently in our cars, factories, and homes, relying more on renewable sources of electricity, and harnessing the potential of biofuels."

    Candidate B: "[T]he United States must become energy independent. This does not mean no longer importing or using oil. It means making sure that our nation's future will always be in our hands. Our decisions and destiny cannot be bound to the whims of oil-producing states....

    We need to initiate a bold, far-reaching research initiative -- an energy revolution -- that will be our generation's equivalent of the Manhattan Project or the mission to the moon. It will be a mission to create new, economical sources of clean energy and clean ways to use the sources we have now. We will license our technology to other nations, and, of course, we will employ it at home. It will be good for our national defense, it will be good for our foreign policy, and it will be good for our economy."

    Candidate A: "We should expand our ground forces by adding 65,000 soldiers to the army and 27,000 marines. Bolstering these forces is about more than meeting quotas. We must recruit the very best and invest in their capacity to succeed. That means providing our servicemen and servicewomen with first-rate equipment, armor, incentives, and training -- including in foreign languages and other critical skills. "

    Candidate B: "[W]e need to increase our investment in national defense. This means adding at least 100,000 troops and making a long-overdue investment in equipment, armament, weapons systems, and strategic defense."

    Candidate A: "As China rises and Japan and South Korea assert themselves, I will work to forge a more effective framework in Asia that goes beyond bilateral agreements, occasional summits, and ad hoc arrangements, such as the six-party talks on North Korea. We need an inclusive infrastructure with the countries in East Asia that can promote stability and prosperity and help confront transnational threats, from terrorist cells in the Philippines to avian flu in Indonesia. I will also encourage China to play a responsible role as a growing power -- to help lead in addressing the common problems of the twenty-first century. We will compete with China in some areas and cooperate in others. Our essential challenge is to build a relationship that broadens cooperation while strengthening our ability to compete."

    Candidate B: "A critical part of the economic resurgence and peace of postwar Europe was the United States' support for a unified market and U.S. engagement in cross-country ties. Today, we must push for more integration and cross-border cooperation in the Middle East. As a group of experts working on the Princeton Project on National Security noted recently, 'The history of Europe since 1945 tells us that institutions can play a constructive role in building a framework for cooperation, channeling nationalist sentiments in a positive direction, and fostering economic development and liberalization. Yet the Middle East is one of the least institutionalized regions in the world.'"

    Candidate A: "To see American power in terminal decline is to ignore America's great promise and historic purpose in the world."

    Candidate B: "We are a unique nation, and there is no substitute for our leadership."

    Answer key is below the fold:

    Candidate A is Obama, candidate B is Romney.

    So, what are the differences between them? There's a few:

    1) The Middle East. Romney thinks the problem is radical jihadism; Obama thinks the problem is a failure to solve the Israeli/Palestinian problem. For the record, I think both answers are facile (though Americans like hearing the latter answer).

    2) Iraq. Obama wants to withdraw; Romney does not.

    3) Nuclear proliferation. Obama devotes a fair amount of space to this issue; Romney does not.

    4) Reorganizing the foreign policy chain of command. Obama doesn't say much about this; Romney makes an interesting proposal on this front: "Just as the military has divided the world into regional theaters for all of its branches, the work of our civilian agencies should be organized along common geographic boundaries. For every region, one civilian leader should have authority over and responsibility for all the relevant agencies and departments, similar to the single military commander who heads U.S. Central Command. These new leaders should be heavy hitters, with names that are recognized around the world. They should have independent objectives, budgets, and oversight. Their performance should be evaluated according to their success in promoting America's political, military, diplomatic, and economic interests in their respective regions and building the foundations of freedom, democracy, security, and peace."

    Check out both speeches, and tell me if I'm missing anything.

    Having read them, I feel a little better about Romney than I did before. His Iraq position is wrong, but the civilian proconsul idea is at least intriguing. This might be because my expectations of Romney were low to begin with.

    I feel a bit worse about Obama than I did before. He focuses in the Israel/Palestine problem, blasts the Bush administration for inaction, and then suggests, "we must help the Israelis identify and strengthen those [Palestinian] partners who are truly committed to peace, while isolating those who seek conflict and instability." Ummm...... how is this different from current U.S. policy? Again, however, this might be due to elevated expectations.

    See Matthew Yglesias for more.

    UPDATE: Check out my colleague Jeff Taliaferro in the comments -- he wants to see more realist content in these proposals.

    posted by Dan at 09:19 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

    Friday, June 1, 2007

    A very important post about.... getting the hell away from all of you

    Starting this morning, my wife and I will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary in grand style -- going on vacation for five days and four nights to a small Caribbean isle that will remain anonymous. The children will not be accompanying us, as their grandmothers will be here to take care of them.

    None of you will be coming either.

    So,until my return, here's a few links that should be worthy of comment... in descending order of seriousness:

    1) In the next issue of Foreign Affairs, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have articles articulating their foreign policy visions. Go check them out. I'll be particularly curious to see just how much overlap there is between them.

    2) Megan McArdle reads the Social Security Trustee Reports so you don't have to -- and in the process addresses the liberal meme of "every day, in every way, Social Security is getting better and better."

    3) James Pethokoukis has a nice survey of expert opinions on the extent to which the Chinese and American economies are intertwined, and what a hard landing in Beijing would mean to the United States.

    4) ABC had a hard-hitting story on.... appropriate cleavage in the workplace. Best. Topic. Ever. Hat tip: Ann Althouse, who informs us, "Women know what their breasts look like in their clothes. It doesn't just happen. "Breast power" is real. We can pretend we don't know, but we do." I knew I'd been manipulated all these decades.

    That is all.

    posted by Dan at 07:57 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)