Thursday, May 29, 2008

Monica Crowley's jet black pot

On her blog, Monica Crowley disapproves of Scott McClellan's new tell-all book:

[F]or someone who was once the president's confidante, someone he knew and trusted, someone who gave him the opportunity of a lifetime, to write a tell-all while that history is still being made, is not cool. There will be plenty of memoirs coming out of the Bush administration. Most will be cover-your-tushy affairs, as memoirs often are. Some will paint a glossy picture. Some will be critical. But their timing is crucial.

McClellan could have published this book in 8 months, when Bush was on his way out the door. But then, he wouldn't have sold as many books. Publishing now may make him a bit wealthier, but it's simply not cool to do to your former boss and your president. Not cool at all.

Crowley, of course, made her name by plagiarizing Paul Johnson writing two books about her experiences as a foreign policy aide for ex-president Richard Nixon. Here's an excerpt from Michiko Kakutani's New York Times review of Crowley's first book:
All this makes for some fascinating, if gossipy, reading. It also makes the reader question Ms. Crowley's assertion that ''through our conversations, Nixon was insuring that his message and his vision would live on after he was gone.''

Ms. Crowley writes that her account (which tends to read like a tape-recorded transcript) was based on ''a daily diary beginning in 1989, of which Nixon was unaware.''

''The quotes herein are the words of former President Nixon verbatim,'' she goes on. ''His professional and personal disclosures were made in confidence but with the implicit understanding that they would be eventually recounted.'' Would Mr. Nixon have wanted his petty, self-serving remarks about other politicians laid out in print? Would he have wanted his overheard phone conversations preserved for posterity? Would he have wanted his gloating interest in Mr. Clinton's problems exposed? It's hard to imagine that anyone would, least of all Mr. Nixon, with his compulsive desire to rehabilitate his reputation.

As near as I can figure, Crowley thinks it's OK to publish tell-alls once the person you have served has left the scene, or if you say only laudatory things about this person (since can't find Crowley berating Ari Fleischer for publishing his memoirs before Bush left office).

I'm just going to file thus under the "distinction without a difference" category and move on.

UPDATE: Can't resist one historical correction to Crowley's post. She writes, "George Stephanopoulos was the first high-ranking White House official to publish a tell-all while his president was still in office."

Actually, no. David Stockman's The Triumph of Politics beat Stephanopolous' All Too Human to it by more than a decade.

posted by Dan at 04:54 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Al Qaeda is losing

Last week, we sawquantitative evidence that terrorist tactics in general -- and Al Qaeda in partcular -- appears to be on the wane.

This week, there's some qualitative evidence that Al Qaeda is losing, and losing badly, among its core constituency -- Muslims sympathetic to the cause of jihad.

Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank make this point in The New Republic:

After September 11, there was considerable fear in the West that we were headed for a clash of civilizations with the Muslim world led by bin Laden, who would entice masses of young Muslims into his jihadist movement. But the religious leaders and former militants who are now critiquing Al Qaeda's terrorist campaign--both in the Middle East and in Muslim enclaves in the West-- make that less likely. The potential repercussions for Al Qaeda cannot be underestimated because, unlike most mainstream Muslim leaders, Al Qaeda's new critics have the jihadist credentials to make their criticisms bite. "The starting point has to be that jihad is legitimate, otherwise no one will listen, " says Benotman, who sees the Iraqi insurgency as a legitimate jihad. "The reaction [to my criticism of Al Qaeda] has been beyond imagination. It has made the radicals very angry. They are very shaky about it."

Why have clerics and militants once considered allies by Al Qaeda's leaders turned against them? To a large extent, it is because Al Qaeda and its affiliates have increasingly adopted the doctrine of takfir, by which they claim the right to decide who is a "true" Muslim. Al Qaeda's Muslim critics know what results from this takfiri view: First, the radicals deem some Muslims apostates; after that, the radicals start killing them. This fatal progression happened in both Algeria and Egypt in the 1990s. It is now taking place even more dramatically in Iraq, where Al Qaeda's suicide bombers have killed more than 10,000 Iraqis, most of them targeted simply for being Shia. Recently, Al Qaeda in Iraq has turned its fire on Sunnis who oppose its diktats, a fact not lost on the Islamic world's Sunni majority.

Additionally, Al Qaeda and its affiliates have killed thousands of Muslim civilians elsewhere since September 11: hundreds of ordinary Afghans killed every year by the Taliban, dozens of Saudis killed by terrorists since 2003, scores of Jordanians massacred at a wedding at a U.S. hotel in Amman in November 2005. Even those sympathetic to Al Qaeda have started to notice. "Excuse me Mr. Zawahiri but who is it who is killing with Your Excellency's blessing, the innocents in Baghdad, Morocco and Algeria?" one supporter asked in an online Q&A with Al Qaeda's deputy leader in April that was posted widely on jihadist websites. All this has created a dawning recognition among Muslims that the ideological virus that unleashed September 11 and the terrorist attacks in London and Madrid is the same virus now wreaking havoc in the Muslim world.

Lawrence Wright makes a similar argument in The New Yorker:
Zawahiri has watched Al Qaeda’s popularity decline in places where it formerly enjoyed great support. In Pakistan, where hundreds have been killed recently by Al Qaeda suicide bombers—including, perhaps, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto—public opinion has turned against bin Laden and his companions. An Algerian terror organization, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, formally affiliated itself with Al Qaeda in September, 2006, and began a series of suicide bombings that have alienated the Algerian people, long weary of the horrors that Islamist radicals have inflicted on their country. Even members of Al Qaeda admit that their cause has been harmed by indiscriminate violence. In February of this year, Abu Turab al-Jazairi, an Al Qaeda commander in northern Iraq, whose nom de guerre suggests that he is Algerian, gave an interview to Al Arab, a Qatari daily. “The attacks in Algeria sparked animated debate here in Iraq,” he said. “By God, had they told me they were planning to harm the Algerian President and his family, I would say, ‘Blessings be upon them!’ But explosions in the street, blood knee-deep, the killing of soldiers whose wages are not even enough for them to eat at third-rate restaurants . . . and calling this jihad? By God, it’s sheer idiocy!” Abu Turab admitted that he and his colleagues were suffering a similar public-relations problem in Iraq, because “Al Qaeda has been infiltrated by people who have harmed its reputation.” He said that only about a third of the nine thousand fighters who call themselves members of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia can be relied upon. “The rest are unreliable, since they keep harming the good name of Al Qaeda.” He concludes, “Our position is very difficult.”

In Saudi Arabia, where the government has been trying to tame its radical clerics, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Aal al-Sheikh, the Grand Mufti, issued a fatwa in October, 2007, forbidding Saudi youth to join the jihad outside the country. Two months later, Saudi authorities arrested members of a suspected Al Qaeda cell who allegedly planned to assassinate the Grand Mufti. That same fall, Sheikh Salman al-Oadah, a cleric whom bin Laden has praised in the past, appeared on an Arabic television network and read an open letter to the Al Qaeda leader. He asked, “Brother Osama, how much blood has been spilled? How many innocent children, women, and old people have been killed, maimed, and expelled from their homes in the name of Al Qaeda?” These critiques echoed some of the concerns of the Palestinian cleric Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, who is considered by some to be the most influential jihadi theorist. In 2004, Maqdisi, then in a Jordanian prison, castigated his former protégé Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the now dead leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, for his unproductive violence, particularly the wholesale slaughter of Shiites and the use of suicide bombers. “Mujahideen should refrain from acts that target civilians, churches, or other places of worship, including Shiite sites,” Maqdisi wrote. “The hands of the jihad warriors must remain clean.”

Finally, the Strategy Page reports on the abject collapse of Al Qaeda in Iraq:
Today, al Qaeda [in Iraq] has been shattered, with most of its leadership and foot soldiers dead, captured or moved from Iraq. As a result, al Qaeda attacks have declined more than 90 percent. Worse, most of their Iraqi Sunni Arab allies have turned on them, or simply quit. This "betrayal" is handled carefully on the terrorist web sites, for it is seen as both shameful, and perhaps recoverable.
Speculating about all of this, Andrew Sullivan makes an interesting point:
Maybe this will be history's judgment of the last few years: both the US and al Qaeda over-reached. But al Qaeda's over-reach was greater. And in this we see why democracies do actually do better in warfare in the long run: because our leaders have to be responsive to the people; because legitimate internal criticism and debate forces course correction and exposes self-defeating hubris. With the Bush administration, this process took much longer than it should have, and the Bushies did all they could to stamp out, rather than hear, criticism. But in the end, democracy adjusts to reality; religious extremism cannot.

posted by Dan at 01:07 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Speaking of karma....

Appropos of my last post, it's worth remembering that five years ago western investors were fretting about the implosion of China's financial sector.

In the here and now, you have this sort of gleeful comeuppance as reported by the FT's Jamil Anderlini:

Western governments must strengthen their oversight of financial markets and improve cross-border regulatory co-operation if they are to avoid future global financial crises, a senior Chinese banking regulator told the Financial Times on Tuesday.

“I feel the western consensus on the relation between the market and the government should be reviewed,” said Liao Min, director-general and acting head of the general office of the China Banking Regulatory Commission....

The majority of China’s financial sector is still owned by the state, and the government retains tight control over many aspects of the industry, including senior personnel decisions at the country’s largest banks, insurers and brokerages.

Thanks to China’s lack of integration with global financial markets as well as the cautious regulatory approach of the CBRC, Chinese banks have emerged relatively unscathed from the global credit crisis, which so far has caused nearly $380bn of losses at western financial institutions.

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

The blog post that writes itself

From the Hollywood Reporter's Karen Chu:

Sharon Stone, who last year was a guest of the Shanghai International Film Festival, now faces a boycott of her films in China after she suggested the devastating May 12 earthquake there could have been the result of bad "karma."

Stone's remarks, made Thursday at the Festival de Cannes, pondered a link between the earthquake -- which to date has taken the lives of more than 65,000 -- and China's treatment of ethnic Tibetans and their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, whom she called "a good friend."

"I'm not happy about the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans because I don't think anyone should be unkind to anyone else," Stone said in a brief red-carpet interview with Cable Entertainment News of Hong Kong. "And then this earthquake and all this stuff happened, and then I thought, is that karma? When you're not nice that the bad things happen to you?"

Her remarks triggered anger across the Chinese-language media and were called "inappropriate" by the founder of one of China's biggest urban cinema chains, who said his company would not show the Hollywood star's films.

You can click on the story to read more, but here are two ways in which it might have ended:
1) "Ng See-Yuen, founder of the UME Cineplex chain and the chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Filmmakers, denied that his decision to ban Ms. Stone's film had anything to do with Basic Instinct 2: "I said her comments were 'inappropriate,' not 'God-awful dreck from the dredges of hell.'"

2) "After making her comments about karma, Ms. Stone stepped into an elevator, which mysteriously stopped soon afterwards and began playing a uninterrupted loop of Catwoman on its video monitor for the next ten hours."

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

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What made me laugh today

If you read much about baseball on the web, you soon discover that Kansas City Star beat writer Joe Posnanski is someone who's worth reading.

Posnanski proves this today in a hysterically funny tirade against those who worship at the feet of Derek Jeter -- not Jeter himself, but rather those who deify him. In fact, he invents a word for it:

Jeterate (verb) meaning “to praise someone for something of which he or she is entirely unworthy of praise.”

Example: “The father could not but jeterate his daughter for coloring on the wall because she looked so cute.”....

See, the thing is Derek Jeter is such a good baseball player — I mean, we are talking about a no-doubt, first ballot Hall of Famer here — that people don’t need to jeterate him for his fielding. The guy sucks as a defensive shortstop, OK? He’s brutal out there. Every detailed defensive number shows it. He’s back near the bottom again in zone rating and range factor and, I’m sure, the Dewan plus/minus. Plus every scout who pays attention knows he can’t go two steps to his left and his arm is subpar. It’s OK! Really! He doesn’t have to be Mark Belanger. He’s a great hitter! He plays every day! He’s makes up for some of his flaws with his awareness and mental stamina! I wouldn’t be bothered by his defensive liabilities, I really wouldn’t, except, well, you know, so many people don’t think he HAS defensive liabilities. They give him freaking gold gloves. They knight him Sir Derek of Defensive Wizardry because 238 years ago he tagged Jeremy Giambi and jumped into the crowd on a foul ball.

This is not the part that made me laugh (well, OK, I'm enough of a Sox fan to admit to a cackle or two here). No, you'll have to click on the post and read Posnanski's imagined dialogue between the minds of Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu, and A-Rod to understand why I was laughing out loud.

Hat tip: David Pinto.

posted by Dan at 11:38 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Where should Hillary go?

The New York Times' Carl Hulse and the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray and Paul Kane file similar reports: the notion that Hillary Clinton will downshift from presidential candidate to Senate Majority Leader or a similarly high-ranking position is complete fiction.

To sum up: Clinton does not have a ton of seniority. All the high-ranking Dems show no signs of budging. Based on endorsements, it's not clear how many members of her caucus really like Clinton all that much. If the best post she can get is the chairmanship of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, we're not talking about a lot of plum advancement possibilities for Hillary Clinton.

Whither Hillary? There's been a lot of careless chatter about other career possibilities for Hillary Clinton -- vice president, governor of New York, Supreme Court Justice, etc. -- so as part of this blog's continuing dedication to careless chatter, the following are the top five jobs she should consider after losing the nomination:

1) Secretary of Defense. Following up on my bloggingheads debate with Megan McArdle, if Hillary Clinton truly wants to continue her trailblazing path, Obama shouldn't make her VP, he should give her this job. Given the current military state of play, it's not going to be a fun assignment. This has the added benefit of (relatively) sidelining Bill Clinton -- a cabinet spouse has a lower profile.

2) Buy and run The New Republic. Hey, campaign debts aside, she has the money. Marty Peretz, watch your back.

3) Give Oprah a run for her money. Hey, her numbers are down, and if Cinton started a talk show, she'd be able to deepen her bond with the very demographic she claims to command now. Plus, sticking it to Obama's chief celebrity endorser would have to be a fringe benefit.

4) Produce, direct, write and star in new documentary "An Inconvenient Campaign." Look, if Al Gore can go from world class stiff to possessing the World's Most Awesome Mantle Ever, I have every confidence that Hillary Clinton could start rubbing shoulders with environmental celebrity activists within two months of trying.

5) Enter Dancing with the Stars competition. Based on this video, I have to think she'd at least place in the top three:

Another possibility: replace Paula Abdul on American Idol.

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

Monday, May 26, 2008

There are crazy people everywhere

Lots of people are fretting about the persistent and mistaken belief of some Americans that Barack Obama is a Muslim. [Not that there's anything wrong with that!--ed.]

Over at his Politico blog, Ben Smith puts this 10% of mistaken Americans in perspective:

[L]arge minorities of Americans consistently say they hold wildly out-of-the-mainstream views, often specifically discredited beliefs. In some cases, those views should make them pretty profoundly alienated from one party or the other.

For instance:

22% believe President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance.
30% believe Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.
23% believe they've been in the presence of a ghost.
18% believe the sun revolves around the earth.

Smith makes an excellent point here -- but I think he's actually being too modest. It's not just minorities of Americans who hold out-of-mainsteam views -- minorities (or majorities) of every nationality hold strange beliefs. In Africa, the Congo has been gripped by outsized fears of penis theft; a few years ago, there was the great vampire frenzy in Malawi. Lots of Brazilians believe the United States is hell-bent on taking over the Amazon. And let's not get into Arab public opinion on who was behind 9/11.

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

Friday, May 23, 2008

Are authoritative public intellectuals extinct?

In his column today, David Brooks makes an provocative closing point:

People in the 1950s used to earnestly debate the role of the intellectual in modern politics. But the Lionel Trilling authority-figure has been displaced by the mass class of blog-writing culture producers.
Intriguingly, Brooks' observation echoes some of the reactions in the blogosphere to my public intellectuals paper.

Take Take Kevin Drum, for example:

I think I might argue that even if the overall PI scene is still vibrant, 40 years ago there were a small number of what you might call mega-intellectuals — people like Buckley and Chomsky and Galbraith and Friedman — who had a bigger influence on public discourse than any single public intellectual does today. Nobody on Dan's list really seems to compete on quite the same plane as some of those 50s and 60s superstars. This might just be the hindsight bias that he talks about earlier in his piece, but if you had to nominate someone to be as influential today as Buckley and Galbraith were in their time, who would you choose? No one really comes to mind.
Ezra Klein made similar points last week as well.

Let's take as given the assertion that today's public intellectual scene is robust in terms of number, but that there are fewer "giants" than there used to be (I don't, just as I don't think a lot of people in the fifties .were earnestly debating the role of the public intellectual, but whatever). Klein, Brooks and Drum all write about this with a tinge of regret.

I'd argue that the forces driving this are -- mostly -- healthy developments for public discourse....

One reason that public intellectuals might seem smaller than they used to be is that they don't wander as far off their area of specialization as in the past. While Galbraith might have been comfortable riffing about culture and Buckley could talk economics, this sort of thing is rarer today.

I'm with Richard Posner in thinking that this is a good thing, since as a general rule public intellectuals are less likely to have penetrating insights when they're talking about subject in which they have no extant knowledge. This doesn't vitiate the role of the public intellectual: as the specialization of knowledge has progressed, it becomes more difficult for the same person to flourish in their specialized field and make that knowledge accessible to the public. This does create a market niche, however, for “second order intellectuals” to emerge, bridging the gap between first order intellectuals and the informed public.

Another reason that public intellectuals might seem smaller than they used to be is that they can measure the response to their public musings more accurately than in the past. As I pointed out last week, blogs now play an important role in policing the thinking class. When public intellectuals generate shoddy work, bloggers are perfectly willing to cry foul. Consider, for example, the responses to William Kristol's columns, last year's reaction to Michael Ignatieff's mea culpa on Iraq, or disenchantment with Paul Krugman's robotic commentary on the Democratic primary.

Again, this is a good thing. The best public intellectuals (I'd put Brooks in this category, by the way) should be able to respond to criticism and improve their commentary; the worst should fade from view (As a personal aside, I know that my paper on this topic has profited from the blog responses to the initial draft).

One negative reason for a decline in mega-public intellectuals is the rise in partisanship. It has become tougher for someone like a Milton Friedman or a Michael Harrington to be accepted across the political spectrum as a legitimate authority because they have staked out a clear ideological position that is anathema to half the pundit class.

I'm less than thrilled with this trend, but it does get to an interesting tension between promoting democratic discourse and preserving the authority of expertise. The thing about public intellectuals is that they're trying to walk a tightrope between these two poles -- trafficking in their expertise to make a public intervention -- and this is tough to do in any era.

To conclude then -- if we're living in a world where there are more public intellectuals, but they're more responsive to criticism and less willing to venture way beyond their areas of competence -- well, then let me dance on the grave of "mega-public intellectuals."

posted by Dan at 09:22 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bloggingheads 911: Miami!!

What happens when has three planned diavlogs collapse at the last minute? Why, they break the glass and call on the most reliable media whore in the business -- and Megan McArdle!!

Go check it out. Topics discussed include the recent Israel-Syria negotiations, the uber-lame-duckness of George W. Bush, Black Lieutenant Syndrome, and the difficulties women can face trying to get the top job.

posted by Dan at 11:41 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

I'm huge in Ontario.... huge, I say

The Agenda with Steve Paikin is TV Ontario's equivalent of Charlie least, that's what they tell me.

Anyway, I participated in their show on "The International Order" earlier this week:

The search for a new international order at a time of profound global change: Is the global system established in the wake of WWII still working? Do organizations such as the UN, the World Bank and the IMF need to be reformed ... or replaced?
You can access the video by clicking here. Other participants include Janice Gross Stein, Richard Rosecrance, Alan Alexandroff, Patricia Goff, and David Rothkopf.

As an added treat, if you watch the whole thing, you'll catch the conversation about me and my eye-rolling.

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

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A powerful incentive to fix the comments feature on this blog

Longtime readers are likely aware that I've been relatively slow to fix the comments feature on the blog. Partly this was due to being distracted by the day job, partly because I enjoy the peace and quiet that comes with an end to comment spam.

It appears that John McCain has provided me with an incentive to fix the comments. According to Politico's Jonathan Martin:

John McCain's campaign is using their campaign website to encourage supporters to post supportive comments on political blogs, including the most well-known liberal site in the blogosphere. And to make things easier, they're including talking points with which sympathizers can use to get out the McCain message.

"Select from the numerous web, blog and news sites listed here, go there, and make your opinions supporting John McCain known," instructs the page.

McCain supporters are asked to send the details of their comment to the campaign, which in turn will verify it and then reward the supporter with "points" (assumedly to accumulate for McCain swag).

[Um... according to McCain's campaign site, the blogs of attention are Red State, DailyKos, and Jeff Emmanuel. Plus, it's the commenters getting paid, not you--ed. Ah, but I can delete their comments unless they hand over the McCain swag! Mmmmmmm..... swag!--ed.]

posted by Dan at 02:23 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

May the United States continue to be blessed with incompetent and stupid adversaries

The Human Security Brief has released its 2007 report. The headline findings:

Challenging the expert consensus that the threat of global terrorism is increasing, the Human Security Brief 2007 reveals a sharp net decline in the incidence of terrorist violence around the world.

Fatalities from terrorism have declined by some 40 percent, while the loose-knit terror network associated with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda has suffered a dramatic collapse in popular support throughout the Muslim world.

The Brief also describes and analyses the extraordinary, but largely unnoticed, positive change in sub-Saharan Africa's security landscape. The number of conflicts being waged in the region more than halved between 1999 and 2006; the combat toll dropped by 98 percent.

It should be noted that the 40 percent decline is based on excluding Iraq from the count:


The most interesting (and heartening) finding I've seen comes from Pakistan:
Wow, it's almost like once citizens experience terrorism, they become less tolerant of it as a political tactic. Who knew?

Seriously, what would be interesting would be if Pakistani support for terrorist tactics increased after the most recent drop in attacks.

Click here for more on the report.

posted by Dan at 12:40 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Hillary Clinton's remaining political argument for staying in

Over at The Plank, Josh Patashnik makes an argument about the limited appeal of both Obama and Clinton:

[W]hat's become clear at the end of this primary season is that neither Democratic candidate's appeal is as wide as Democrats would prefer. It's difficult to project what will happen in November from primary results or even general-election polling at this stage, so any such speculation should be taken with a major grain of salt. I think it's fair to say, though, that in general Obama appears to have a problem with working-class whites east of Illinois, and Clinton appears to have a problem with Westerners and more upscale independent-minded voters. This pattern has been remarkably consistent since the beginning of the primary season. My suspicion is that these weaknesses basically cancel each other out, which is why you see both candidates sporting approximately equal-sized small leads over John McCain in national polls.
There's one asymmetry that Patshnik doesn't discuss, however: every exit poll I've seen confirms that a larger fraction of Obama voters at this point are willing to vote for Clinton in November than vice versa.

Those numbers will fade somewhat once the heat of the primary season fades, but I suspect that they'll be more resistant to change among Clinton supporters. Despite McCain's presence as a reasonably attractive GOP candidate, I seriously doubt Obama's coalition of voters would vote for him. On the other hand, Clinton's "hard-working, white Americans" have voted for the GOP in the past and could easily do so in November.

There's been a lot of speculation in the press about why Hillary's staying, in, but this is the only politically viable argument I think she has left. Oddly enough, Saturday Night Live pretty much drove this point home in this sketch:

posted by Dan at 11:54 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Regarding Angelina Jolie, I'd like to deny the rough sex

Tirdad Derakhshani has an article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer on celebrity activism in politics in which I'm quoted. It's worth a read, but alas, it appears that my quote was sexed up a bit:

Drezner, whose 2007 book, All Politics Is Global, analyzes how globalization affects international power relations, said there's no better way to reinvent oneself in Hollywood than through good works.

"Just look at Angelina Jolie. Ten years ago her image was about tattoos, rough sex, and wearing vials of Billy Bob Thornton's blood around her neck," Drezner said. "Today. Jolie has royalty status because of her work with UNICEF and other international charities."

While I do not have a photographic memory, my New England upbringing has trained me to remember any and all times I say the words "rough sex" to anyone. I never said it to Derakhshani.

The basic thrust of the quote is accurate, but I just want to categorially deny that I alleged anything about Angelina Jolie's sex preferences during the interview.

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

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Your political quote of the day

Ed Rollins:

Today, if you’re not rich or Southern or born again, the chances of your being a Republican are not great.
From George Packer's New Yorker essay.

posted by Dan at 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Op-ed - actual research for op-ed = blogswarm

Further evidence that, "it might be the case that bloggers serve an even greater good by engaging in quality control of other public intellectuals."

Bill Kristol in today's New York Times:

On Tuesday night, while the G.O.P. Congressional candidate was losing in a Mississippi district George Bush carried in 2004 by 25 points, Barack Obama was being trounced in the West Virginia Democratic primary — by 41 points. I can’t find a single recent instance of a candidate who ultimately became his party’s nominee losing a primary by this kind of margin (emphasis added).
The blog reaction:
It took me all of 2 minutes to find what Kristol couldn’t find -

Utah Updated 11:02 a.m. EST, Feb 14, 2008

Romney 255,218 90%

McCain 15,264 5%

Paul 8,295 3%

Huckabee 4,054 2%

Politico's Ben Smith:
Arkansas 2008
Huckabee 61%
McCain 20%

Massachusetts 2000
McCain 64%
Bush 32%

West Virginia 1976
Byrd: 89%
Wallace 11%
Carter: 0%

posted by Dan at 04:10 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Because it's been a while since this blog really angered feminists....

Matt Yglesias approvingly links to this New York Times story by Lisa Belkin from a few days ago arguing that women ae shut out of science and engineering because of rampant sexism:

In the worlds of science, engineering and technology, it seems, the past is still very much present.

“It’s almost a time warp,” said Sylvia Ann Hewlett, the founder of the Center for Work-Life Policy, a nonprofit organization that studies women and work. “All the predatory and demeaning and discriminatory stuff that went on in workplaces 20, 30 years ago is alive and well in these professions.”

That is the conclusion of the center’s latest study, which will be published in the Harvard Business Review in June.

Based on data from 2,493 workers (1,493 women and 1,000 men) polled from March 2006 through October 2007 and hundreds more interviewed in focus groups, the report paints a portrait of a macho culture where women are very much outsiders, and where those who do enter are likely to eventually leave.

The study was conceived in response to the highly criticized assertion three years ago, by the then-president of Harvard, that women were not well represented in the science because they lacked what it took to excel there.

The purpose of the work-life center’s survey was to measure the size of the gender gap and to decipher why women leave the science, engineering and technology professions in disproportionate numbers.

Just to muck up that straightforward conclusion, however, the Boston Globe's Elaine McArdle reports on some alternative explanations:
[T]wo new studies by economists and social scientists have reached a perhaps startling conclusion: An important part of the explanation for the gender gap, they are finding, are the preferences of women themselves. When it comes to certain math- and science-related jobs, substantial numbers of women - highly qualified for the work - stay out of those careers because they would simply rather do something else.

One study of information-technology workers found that women's own preferences are the single most important factor in that field's dramatic gender imbalance. Another study followed 5,000 mathematically gifted students and found that qualified women are significantly more likely to avoid physics and the other "hard" sciences in favor of work in medicine and biosciences....

Rosenbloom surveyed hundreds of professionals in information technology, a career in which women are significantly underrepresented. He also surveyed hundreds in comparable careers more evenly balanced between men and women. The study examined work and family history, educational background, and vocational interests.

The results were striking. The lower numbers of women in IT careers weren't explained by work-family pressures, since the study found computer careers made no greater time demands than those in the control group. Ability wasn't the reason, since the women in both groups had substantial math backgrounds. There was, however, a significant difference in one area: what the men and women valued in their work.

Rosenbloom and his colleagues used a standard personality-inventory test to measure people's preferences for different kinds of work. In general, Rosenbloom's study found, men and women who enjoyed the explicit manipulation of tools or machines were more likely to choose IT careers - and it was mostly men who scored high in this area. Meanwhile, people who enjoyed working with others were less likely to choose IT careers. Women, on average, were more likely to score high in this arena.

Personal preference, Rosenbloom and his group concluded, was the single largest determinative factor in whether women went into IT. They calculated that preference accounted for about two-thirds of the gender imbalance in the field. The study was published in November in the Journal of Economic Psychology....

Starting more than 30 years ago, the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth began following nearly 2,000 mathematically gifted adolescents, boys and girls, tracking their education and careers in ensuing decades. (It has since been expanded to 5,000 participants, many from more recent graduating classes.) Both men and women in the study achieved advanced credentials in about the same numbers. But when it came to their career paths, there was a striking divergence.

Math-precocious men were much more likely to go into engineering or physical sciences than women. Math-precocious women, by contrast, were more likely to go into careers in medicine, biological sciences, humanities, and social sciences. Both sexes scored high on the math SAT, and the data showed the women weren't discouraged from certain career paths.

The survey data showed a notable disparity on one point: That men, relative to women, prefer to work with inorganic materials; women, in general, prefer to work with organic or living things. This gender disparity was apparent very early in life, and it continued to hold steady over the course of the participants' careers.

Benbow and Lubinski also found something else intriguing: Women who are mathematically gifted are more likely than men to have strong verbal abilities as well; men who excel in math, by contrast, don't do nearly as well in verbal skills. As a result, the career choices for math-precocious women are wider than for their male counterparts. They can become scientists, but can succeed just as well as lawyers or teachers. With this range of choice, their data show, highly qualified women may opt out of certain technical or scientific jobs simply because they can.

I don't think this is an either-or issue -- sexism and self-selection can be mutually reinforcing narratives.

Incidentally, the most awful sexist anecdote I read today came from Jodi Kantor's front pager in the New York Times:

Ms. [Elaine] Kamarck, 57, the Harvard professor and a longtime adviser to Democratic candidates, said she was still incredulous about the time her colleagues on Walter F. Mondale’s presidential campaign, all men, left for lunch without inviting her — because, she later discovered, they were headed to a strip club.

posted by Dan at 10:16 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

How John McCain is not George W. Bush

Matt Bai's lead essay on John McCain's foreign policy vision in the New York Times Magazine is worthwhile reading. In contrast to the Times story of a few weeks ago that inaccurately painted McCain as dealing with a tug-of-war between foreign policy advisors, Bai actually gets some face time with the senator.

The two passages I found revealing:

McCain has never been confused for an isolationist, but neither can he be confined to either of the other factions [realism and neoconservatism--DD]. One reason is temperamental; McCain just doesn’t like labels, and he isn’t very good at sticking to orthodoxies — a personality quirk he has tried hard to control during the campaign. “He’s not a guy who drinks Kool-Aid easily,” says Gary Hart, the former Democratic senator who was once close enough to McCain to have been a groomsman in his wedding. “He’s suspicious of any group who sees the world that simply.” Lorne Craner, a foreign-policy thinker who worked for McCain in the House and Senate in the 1980s, told me that McCain had a standing rule in his office then. All meetings were to be limited to half an hour, unless they were with either of two advisers: Jeane Kirkpatrick, the Reaganite idealist, or Brent Scowcroft, the former general who was a leader in the realist wing. McCain loved to hear from both of them at length.

It’s clear, though, that on the continuum that separates realists from idealists, McCain sits much closer to the idealist perspective. McCain has long been chairman of the International Republican Institute, run by Craner, which exists to promote democratic reforms in closed societies. He makes a point of meeting with dissidents when he visits countries like Georgia and Uzbekistan and has championed the cause of Aung San Suu Kyi, the imprisoned leader of the Burmese resistance. Most important, as he made clear in his preamble to our interview, McCain considers national values, and not strategic interests, to be the guiding force in foreign policy. America exists, in McCain’s view, not simply to safeguard the prosperity and safety of those who live in it but also to spread democratic values and human rights to other parts of the planet.

McCain argues that his brand of idealism is actually more pragmatic in a post-9/11 world than the hard realism of the cold war. He rejects as outdated, for instance, a basic proposition of cold-war realists like Kissinger and Baker: that stability is always found in the relationship between states. Realists have long presumed that the country’s security is defined by the stability of its alliances with the governments of other countries, even if those governments are odious; by this thinking, your interests can sometimes be served by befriending leaders who share none of your democratic values. McCain, by contrast, maintains that in a world where oppressive governments can produce fertile ground for rogue groups like Al Qaeda to recruit and prosper, forging bonds with tyrannical regimes is often more likely to harm American interests than to help them.

This strikes me as a spot-on assessment of McCain's foreign policy instincts -- a little less postmodern, "we create reality" than George W. Bush's, but nevertheless leaning quite heavily in the neocon direction.

It's this passage, however, where McCain mentions something I haven't heard from him before on foreign policy:

Most American politicians, of course, would immediately dismiss the idea of sending the military into Zimbabwe or Myanmar as tangential to American interests and therefore impossible to justify. McCain didn’t make this argument. He seemed to start from a default position that moral reasons alone could justify the use of American force, and from there he considered the reasons it might not be feasible to do so. In other words, to paraphrase Robert Kennedy, while most politicians looked at injustice in a foreign land and asked, “Why intervene?” McCain seemed to look at that same injustice and ask himself, “Why not?”

“I think we’ve learned some lessons,” McCain told me. “One is that the American people have to be willing to support it. But two, we need to work more in an international way to try to beneficially affect the situation. And you have to convince America and the world that every single avenue has been exhausted before we go in militarily. And we better think not a day later or a week later, but a year and 5 years and 10 years later. Because the attention span, unfortunately, of the American people, although pretty remarkable in some ways, is not inexhaustible.”....

McCain is relying on the same strategy to achieve success both in Iraq and in the November election. In each endeavor, McCain is staking everything on the notion that the public, having seen the success of a new military strategy, can be convinced that the war is, in fact, winnable and worth the continued sacrifice. Absent that national retrenching, McCain admits that this war, like the one in Vietnam, is probably doomed. Near the end of our conversation in Tampa, I asked him if he would be willing to change course on Iraq if the violence there started to rise again. “Oh, we’d have to,” he replied. “It’s not so much what McCain would do. American public opinion will not tolerate such a thing.”

The Bush administration's fundamental mistake was to believe that a generation-long project could somehow be pursued without the need for consensus by anyone outside the executive branch. McCain seems to get that.

After researching what the American people think about foreign military interventions, I'm pretty sure that the American people don't want us in Iraq regardless of how well the surge works (Bai makes this point later on in the article). I'm not sure, however, whether this will be the deciding factor in how they vote in November.

The paradox: for McCain to be a more prudent foreign policy president, he needs to have a hostile public constraining him. Of course, if that's the case, then it's entirely possible he won't be elected president in the first place.

posted by Dan at 09:40 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A nice word for Mike Huckabee

I've made it pretty clear that I'm not Mike Huckabee's greatest fan. That said, I do think he's a decent human being, and liked this apology:

During my speech at the NRA a loud noise backstage, that sounded like a chair falling, distracted the crowd and interrupted my speech. I made an off hand remark that was in no way intended to offend or disparage Sen. Obama. I apologize that my comments were offensive, as that was never my intention.
None of this, "I'm sorry if someone else thought my comments were offensive." He knew he'd screwed up, and he owned up to it.

posted by Dan at 02:28 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Are market forces emerging for pundits?

I presented my paper on public intellectuals and the blogosphere earlier today, and received some very useful feedback.

One particularly interesting point in response to my paper is that while my paper focused on bloggers as public intellectuals, it might be the case that bloggers serve an even greater good by engaging in quality control of other public intellectuals. In Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline, Richard Posner argued that one reason for the decline was that increased demand for pontificators was not matched by any market discipline for poor quality. Even if public intellectuals and pundit royally screw up, the public is sufficiently disinterested and disengaged for it not to matter.

To some extent, blogs and YouTube are changing this. Consider the following as a test case. Here's a YouTube clip currently making the rounds of conservative radio host Kevin James on Hardball:

Now if James had been that stupid and only those watching MSNBC live had caught it, I'm not sure it would have mattered all that much. Given the proliferation of this clip on the blogs, however, it can have two effects.

First, that many more people see James acting like an ill-informed boob. Which means that the odds of him getting booked on prestige shows shrinks.

Second, as much as Hardball's producers like the proliferation of the clip, I'm not sure how many of these they want to see cropping up. As Josh Patashnik points out on The Plank:

[I]t's not like this reflects very well on Chris Matthews, either. Why is he inviting such an obnoxious moron onto his show? There are plenty of people who could represent the conservative position here with some intelligence and class. Why not try to schedule them?
See Michael Brendan Dougherty for a kindred argument.

Of course, if James is asked back onto Hardball or other similar venues after this episode, then I'm wrong.

posted by Dan at 01:45 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My first take on sovereign wealth funds

I have an article in the latest issue of The American entitled, "The Sovereigns Are Coming!" The main point:

No question, the growth of SWFs puts advocates of open capital markets in a quandary. During debates over what to do with the Social Security trust fund a few years ago, there was deep resistance to the idea of having a U.S. government fund pick winners in the stock market. Why should foreign governments get to play?

Sovereign wealth funds do present concerns on the near and far horizons, but the predominant reaction at this point should be what is emblazoned on the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “DON’T PANIC.” To date, SWFs have acted responsibly, and there is no sign that their behavior will change soon.

A mixture of voluntary standards and additional surveillance by the salient authorities should deal with current concerns. With luck, they will also cause policymakers to focus on the bigger picture. SWFs are merely a small symptom of two bigger problems: the absence of proactive energy and exchange rate policies in this country.

Go check it out.

posted by Dan at 02:00 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It's not like the Year of the Boar was all that great either

In the wake of a deadly Chinese earthquake, The Associated Press reports that China has not had a great few months:

China hoped 2008 would be a yearlong celebration, a time to bask in the spotlight of the upcoming Beijing Olympics. Instead, the Year of the Rat has also brought a wave of troubles -- both natural and man-made -- that are putting a heavy strain on the communist leadership....

In March, huge anti-government riots erupted in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, sparking sympathy protests in Tibetan areas across western China. The violent protests were the biggest challenge to Chinese rule in the Himalayan region in nearly two decades....

The negative attention spilled over to the Olympic flame's around-the-world tour. Meant to be a feel-good kickoff event to the Beijing Games, the relay turned into chaos as pro-Tibet protesters mounted demonstrations from the very start of the ceremonial lighting in Greece, and at stops including London, Paris, and San Francisco.

The bad news kept coming. In May was China's worst train accident in a decade, leaving 72 dead and more than 400 injured when a high-speed passenger train jumped its tracks and slammed into another in rural Shandong province. Excessive speed was determined to be the cause, and five railway officials were promptly fired.

This month also brought a sharp rise in the number of reported cases of hand, foot, and mouth disease, a normally non-deadly viral infection that has killed 39 children this year and infected nearly 30,000 others.

Two thoughts on this.

First, it's worth pointing out that China didn't have a great 2007 either. A rash of health and safety scares affected China's brand image. Beijing began to experience signficant blowback from its investment footprint in Africa. The Saffron Revolution in Burma made things very uncomfortable for Beijing as well. So this isn't just about 2008.

Second, none of these PR reversals is inconsistent with China's continued rise. It's worth remembering that, during the latter half of the nineteenth century, the United States became the economic hegemon at the same time it was recovering from Reconstruction and enduring a twenty-year recession/depression.

posted by Dan at 01:32 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Your book review of the day

Robert Farley reads Strobe Talbott's The Great Experiment so you don't have to:

To sum up, if you have trouble sleeping but can't get another prescription, check out The Great Experiment. If not, avoid it like the plague.

posted by Dan at 12:47 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

But, but, but.... what will Mickey Kaus and Lou Dobbs have to complain about now?

The Washington Post's N.C. Aizenman reports on how the large wave of immigrants coming to the United States over the past three decades have adapted. Turns out, the answer is -- more quickly than one would expect:

In general, the longer an immigrant lives in the United States, the more characteristics of native citizens he or she tends to take on, said Jacob L. Vigdor, a professor at Duke University and author of the study. During periods of intense immigration, such as from 1870 to 1920, or during the immigration wave that began in the 1970s, new arrivals tend to drag down the average assimilation index of the foreign-born population as a whole.

The report found, however, that the speed with which new arrivals take on native-born traits has increased since the 1990s. As a result, even though the foreign population doubled during that period, the newcomers did not drive down the overall assimilation index of the foreign-born population. Instead, it held relatively steady from 1990 to 2006.

"This is something unprecedented in U.S. history," Vigdor said. "It shows that the nation's capacity to assimilate new immigrants is strong."

The full report can be accessed here. The key point:
Immigrants of the past quarter-century have assimilated more rapidly than their counterparts of a century ago, even though they are more distinct from the native population upon arrival. The increase in the rate of assimilation among recently arrived immigrants explains why the overall index has remained stable, even though the immigrant population has grown rapidly.
Hat tip to Matthew Yglesias, who makes a shrewd point:
[A] lot of people seem to have exaggerated ideas about past assimilation and simply don't realize that 100 years ago, just like today, major American cities had foreign language newspapers and things like Yiddish theater that were the equivalent of Univision. There never was a time when people got off the boat, immediately enrolled themselves in English-immersion classes, and gave birth to perfect little Anglo-Saxon children. It was always the case that linguistic, social, and economic integration was a complicated multigenerational process.
Matt is actually underestimating the extent to which 19th century immigrants retained their distinct identity -- a point I made a few years ago:
[Samuel Huntington] also contends that Hispanic immigrants are more likely to retain ties with their country of origin. But he conveniently overlooks that nineteenth-century immigrants often did the same thing. According to O'Rourke and Williamson, U.S. officials estimated that between 1870 and 1914, 30 percent of immigrants emigrated back to the country they came from. Among Italians, the rate approached 50 percent because young Italian men went back and forth between the new world and the old country in search of work.

posted by Dan at 11:20 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Blogs, public intellectuals and the academy

For the millions thousands close relatives who are interested in my musings on the state of public intellectuals in America, you can read a draft of "Public Intellectuals 2.0" which I'll be presenting at a conference later this week at Boston University's Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs. While the dominant trope about public intellectuals is that they ain't what they used to be, I'm relatively bullish. The thesis paragraph:

[T]he growth of online publication venues has stimulated rather than retarded the quality and diversity of public intellectuals. The criticisms levied against these new forms of publishing seem to mirror the flaws that plague the more general critique of current public intellectuals: hindsight bias and conceptual fuzziness. Rather, the growth of blogs and other forms of online writing have partially reversed a trend that many have lamented – what Russell Jacoby labeled the “professionalization and academization” of public intellectuals. In particular, the growth of the blogosphere breaks down – or at least lowers – the barriers erected by a professionalized academy.
Go check it out, and don't be afraid to e-mail me about what I got wrong!

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

Monday, May 12, 2008

Please tell me this is a very late April Fool's joke

I've een cautiously optimistic that John McCain would choouse a Ron Paul -type Republican (minus the conspiratorial bigotry) since the Huckabee wing of the party is much less likely to vote for Obama.

Now James Pethokoukis reports the following on his Capital Commerce blog:

Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and defeated contender for the GOP presidential nomination, is currently at the top of John McCain's short list for a running mate. At least that's the word from a top McCain fundraiser and longtime Republican moneyman who has spoken to McCain's inner circle. The fundraiser is less than thrilled with the idea of Huckabee as the vice presidential nominee, and many economic conservatives—turned off by the populist tone of Huckabee's campaign and his tax record as governor—are likely to share that marked lack of enthusiasm.
Based on what I know of Huckabee's policy views, my reaction to this piece of information:

posted by Dan at 01:11 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Hillary Clinton's inexcusable bigotry

So I see that this quote from Hillary Clinton is now making the blog rounds:

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article "that found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."
Naturally, the debate is over whether Clinton's linkage of "hard-working Americans" to "white Americans" carries just the teensiest tinge of racism.

That's not my concern. My concern is that she links "hard-working Americans" to those "who had not completed college." The notion that college-educated workers do not work hard is, I'm sorry, complete and utter horses**t.

[So, have you finished your grading for the semester?--ed. Er, yes. Are you teaching this summer?--ed. Not really, no. Do you see where I'm going with this?--ed. Sure -- if you don't count editing one book, writing part of another book, prepping two grant proposals, drafting two additional articles I've committed to writing, and refereeing a few articles and book manuscripts, I have no real work to do. I think I've made my point about your "job," Mr. Hey-Look-At-Me-I'm-A-Full-Professor!--ed.]

For some reason, whenever I'm told that I don't work that hard, my mind drifts to end of this scene:

posted by Dan at 03:54 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

So Tuesday was a pretty good day....

Earlier this week I received official word that I've been promoted to full professor, after a remarkably transparent and stress-free process.

So how does it feel? Pretty damn good. After all, this happened just two and a half years years after the late unpleasantness. Despite that, it happened before I turned forty (I was genuinely surprised how pleased this last fact left me).

The real reason this is great news, however, are the benefits that come with being a full professor. The benefit of being promoted to associate professor* -- tenure -- is pretty friggin' obvious. What's the difference between associate and full?

Unless you're actually a full professor, you would never know. Now that these fools esteemed colleagues have let a full-blooded blogger into their priesthood, however (suck on that, Ivan Tribble!!), I shall fearlessly reveal the great benefits of this kind of promotion.

By some interesting quirk of fate, there are exactly ten benefits that emanate from the promotion to full professor.....


10) You get to pig out. More attractive professors tend to do better in student evaluations and other metrics to rate professors. This is not surprising -- after all, the attractive receive a similar dividend across professions.

There's no rank beyond full professor, however. So, that's it for me. My fight against my expanding waistline was rapidly turning into a quagmire anyway. From now on, it's not going to be an either/or choice with me -- I'm going to both Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks whenever I see one on the road!!

9) Cameo appearances in bad science fiction movies/television shows. You know those scenes where a protagonist must make some appeal to a futuristic "Council" of some kind? All those council people are full professors -- it's the closest most of them come to exercising actual power.

This perk used to be a well-kept secret, but Cornel West ruined it for everyone.

8) Free Awesome Blossoms at Chili's. This makes #10 that much easier to achieve.

7) Superdelegate status in the Democratic Party. Well, them or the Greens -- curiously, those appear to be the only possible choices.

I'm also holding out for $20 million for my endorsement, by the way.

6) Something better than that stupid f@#%ing pen ceremony. As this site observes, "The scene in the movie A Beautiful Mind in which mathematics professors ritualistically present pens to Nash was completely fabricated in Hollywood. No such custom exists."

In the actual ceremony, colleagues ritualistically present signed and notarized statements in which they confess that they were in error when they labeled your research as "putrid swill" back when you were a post-doc.

5) I can now pursue my hobbies with a vengeance. Some colleagues write about UFOs when they get promoted to full. Others write novels or musical careers. Me, I'm finally going to indulge my hobby of collecting refrigerator magnets with a resoluteness that would scare a Clinton.

4) When required to wear full academic regalia, full professors get to wear swords. Nobody better mess with me at commencement.

3) I'm now gently encouraged to -- on occasion -- publish in more widely read outlets. Apparently this will let me acquire "a public voice" or something.

2) Bobblehead night in my honor at next faculty meeting.

1) When the moon is full, I get to kill a student.

UPDATE: This list should have gone to 11, as Tyler Cowen points out. Also, apologies to everyone trying to post a comment -- they're still down. Now that I'm full, however, I promise to blow off important committee work and get cracking on fixing the problem.

*For the purposes of this post, we're just going to ignore the rather bizarre Ivy League system of being assiciate without tenure.

posted by Dan at 12:39 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

The best commencement address you'll never hear

Tis the season for commencement addresses. In the Los Angeles Times, P.J. O'Rourke provides advice you're unlikely to hear elsewhere. My favorite bit:

Here we are living in the world's most prosperous country, surrounded by all the comforts, conveniences and security that money can provide. Yet no American political, intellectual or cultural leader ever says to young people, "Go out and make a bunch of money." Instead, they tell you that money can't buy happiness. Maybe, but money can rent it.

There's nothing the matter with honest moneymaking. Wealth is not a pizza, where if I have too many slices you have to eat the Domino's box. In a free society, with the rule of law and property rights, no one loses when someone else gets rich....

Don't chain yourself to a redwood tree. Instead, be a corporate lawyer and make $500,000 a year. No matter how much you cheat the IRS, you'll still end up paying $100,000 in property, sales and excise taxes. That's $100,000 to schools, sewers, roads, firefighters and police. You'll be doing good for society. Does chaining yourself to a redwood tree do society $100,000 worth of good?

Idealists are also bullies. The idealist says, "I care more about the redwood trees than you do. I care so much I can't eat. I can't sleep. It broke up my marriage. And because I care more than you do, I'm a better person. And because I'm the better person, I have the right to boss you around."

Get a pair of bolt cutters and liberate that tree.

posted by Dan at 11:48 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Some final thoughts on Hillary Clinton

In the wake of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign being declared effectively dead by one and all, it is worth reflecting on what she gained by staying in the race for the past two months and change.

Primarily, she managed to graft Bill Clinton's reputation as the indefatigable fighter who can always come back from the dead onto herself. There's also the working class hero thing, though I suspect that will fade. Finally, she's managed the rare reverse Greenhouse Effect, earning Strange New Respect from Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and Patrick Buchanan.

These are not insignificant gifts. When her political fortunes are discussed from here on out, they will frame the media's perception of her. She will always be painted as someone who should not be ruled out in a political fight, and it will surprise no one if she mounts another presidential candidacy.

There's a more important reason why these past six weeks have helped her immeasurably. Had she dropped out of the race back in early March, the narrative frame would have been how Hillary Clinton blew the nomination in spectacular fashion.

Stepping back, it's hard to overstate the advantages she brought to the primary race. She possessed unbelievable name recognition, a well-oiled fund-raising machine, a strong association with the most successful Democratic president of the past 50 years, an, er, Clintonian grasp of policy detail, strong ties to the women's vote and (until very late in this electoral cycle) the African-American vote, and tight connections with the Democratic party establishment. In the aftermath of New Hampshire, she could claim, plausibly and simultaneously, to be the most experienced candidate and a candidate that would represent a real change from the staus quo. With no appreciable domestic policy differences among the Democratic candidates, there was every reason to believe that Hillary Clinton was going to win.

Despite all this, Hillary Clinton did not win the nomination. Her failure to win says less about her defects than Barack Obama's strengths. But if nothing else, her performance over the past few months has managed to shift perceptions about her in ways that salvage her reputation as a politician of national standing.

posted by Dan at 10:36 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, May 5, 2008

America's awesome influence over the G8

From today's Financial Times:

Dan Price, the international economics official at the White House National Security Council, said the Group of Eight rich countries must “lead by example”. Mr Price, one of the key officials preparing for the July G8 summit in Japan, told the Financial Times that the group should issue “a strong . . . statement on open investment and trade policies”. This should be “aimed not only outward but to the G8 countries themselves”.
Also in today's Financial Times:
In one of his last acts as Russian president, Vladimir Putin on Monday signed a long-awaited law restricting foreign investment in 42 “strategic” sectors, including energy, telecoms and aerospace....

Russian officials claim the rules are more liberal than those in many other countries. But some foreign investors have said the list of restricted sectors is too long – by some estimates, accounting for more than half the economy – and that the language leaves too much scope for interpretation.

Analysts also warn that the law leaves the door open for more sectors to be included in the future....

Under the new rules, foreign private investors will have to seek permission from a committee chaired by the Russian prime minister – set to be Mr Putin after he stands down as president this week – to take more than 50 per cent of companies in strategic sectors.

Foreign state-controlled companies will be barred from taking a controlling stake in strategic companies, and will have to seek permission for a stake of more than 25 per cent.

As well as energy, aerospace and defence, sectors defined as strategic include mining, space technology and nuclear energy. “Dominant” fixed-line telecommunications companies are also included.

Broadcast media covering at least half the country are deemed strategic, as are large-circulation newspapers and publishing companies. Some eyebrows were raised at the late inclusion of the fishing industry.

posted by Dan at 11:38 PM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Hillary Clinton's contribution to the all-purpose excuse genre

To date, this blog has observed the political innovation of the All-Purpose Excuse -- the signature line that can be used to justify anything. Two examples:

1) "If we don't do it, the terrorists will win."

2) "If we don't do it, the Republicans will do it in the fall."

Hillary Clinton came up with a new one yesterday on This Week:
"I’m not going to put my lot in with economists."
Try it around the house -- it's easy and fun!:
Honey, you should really brush your teeth before you go to sleep.

I’m not going to put my lot in with dentists.

Will we have enough money to pay our bills this month?

I’m not going to put my lot in with accountants.

That cop has his sirens on... maybe you should pull over.

I’m not going to put my lot in with the heat.

posted by Dan at 08:49 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, May 2, 2008

What I said at the London conference

Is summarized in blog post.

And I might have been the most upbeat person on the panel!

posted by Dan at 10:38 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Why I'll be (relatively) mute this week

I'm in London for the latter half of this week attending a Global Leadership Forum conference entitled America and the World Beyond 2008: Future Challenges and Possibilities. The campaign panel was certainly not boring -- for me, the entertaining highlight was when Peter Wehner unironically compared John McCain to Pericles of Athens.

There's a blog devoted to the conference as well -- click there to see panel highlights.

I was asked to contribute a pre-conference entry -- here's the link. The key point:

As the presidential campaign has worn on, each candidate has managed to annoy, alienate, or anger other parts of the globe. Part of this is due to the odd dynamics of this particular campaign. Between the Democrats, Obama and Clinton need to highlight their differences even though they agree on 95% of their domestic platforms. This leaves foreign policy as the obvious battleground. Meanwhile, Senator McCain's perceived comparative advantage is his foreign policy resume -- although his grasp of foreign policy details is not as sharp as it should be. This combination guarantees future quote-worthy material.

A lot of these contretemps will subside once the Democrat's nominee is determined. Some of them will persist, however. The rising tide of protectionist sentiment will likely lead the Democrat to continue to bash trade deals. McCain's need to secure the GOP base will give him cause to talk tough on the Middle East. Neither gambit will play well abroad.

posted by Dan at 06:54 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

Bitter academics, tenure, torture, and pie

These are all topics for conversation in my latest diavlog with Megan McArdle. Go check it out!

For a dissent on the pie-throwing question, click here. Apparently I'd understand it -- if only I had a soul.

posted by Dan at 06:50 AM | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)