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.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Hey, what happened at those EU negotiations?
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.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Open family jewels thread
Comment away on anything interesting contained in the CIA's family jewels, released yesterday.
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 Times has also set up a blog by intellligence experts -- including danieldrezner.com'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.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Henry Farrell creates a poli sci public good
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.
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.
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.
A fatal auto accident in Pennsylvania has stirred concerns about another potentially hazardous Chinese product in wide use in the U.S.: tires.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.
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.
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.”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.
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.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.
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.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.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?
Friday, June 22, 2007
My moral midgetry
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.
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.”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;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.
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.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.What do you think?
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
How should I feel about Bloomberg in 2008?
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?
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?Oh, and along the way Bob cajoles me into issuing a public challenge.
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.Hat tip: Virginia Postrel.
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;
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.
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.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.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.
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."My response to the critiques can be found here.
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, et.al. 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.
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....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?
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.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!
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.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 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.
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.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.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.I'm sure Chuck Schumer, eminent economist, will figure out the correct answer.
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.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.
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”.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.
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.Still, give Sarkozy credit -- at least the man did not lose his watch.
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'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.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."
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.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.
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.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Final Sopranos predictions
1) No one in Tony's immediate family dies;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.
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.
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!
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.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.
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.A few questions:
1) Did Martin write this himself or did people with actual training in press relations whip this statement up?
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.
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.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....If the world is getting flatter, it's happening at a rather glacial pace.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Obama says potato, Romney says potato....
Last year I blogged about how, despite
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."THE MILITARY:
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. "PROMOTING MULTILATERAL INSTITUTIONS:
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."AMERICA'S UNIQUE PLACE 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."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).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.
UPDATE: Check out my colleague Jeff Taliaferro in the comments -- he wants to see more realist content in these proposals.
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.That is all.