Friday, July 18, 2003
Tyler Cowen is correct to praise Michael Lewis' Moneyball as "one of the best books about management I have read." Actually, this is his third excellent business book that Lewis has penned. The first two were Liar's Poker -- which perfectly encapsulates millieu of the Wall Street boom of the late 1980's-- and The New New Thing -- which perfectly encapsulates the dot-com explosion in Silicon Valley in the late 1990's.
It is worth noting, however, that this week marks the one-year anniversary of what will probably be the bravest essay Lewis ever writes. Give it a read and be amazed at the the guts it must have taken to publish it.
The official attack on Palestinian intellectuals
The mob assault on Palestinian political scientist Khalil Shikaki's center (see also here) has prompted some follow-up coverage on ways in which Palestinian intellectuals are threatened when they deviate from the Palestinian Authority's party line. The San Francisco Chronicle points out that Shikali is not the only Palestinian academic to feel the effects of the state-organized mob:
Read the whole piece to see the links between the Palestinian Authority and mob attacks. The article also points out that beyond the intellectual class, independent journalists are feeling the heat:
It is this kind of thuggery that makes Shikali's work so dangerous -- a fact that he and Arafat understand clearly. Shikali's follow-up interview in today's Chicago Tribune spells this out:
It should also be pointed out that Nusseibeh is not backing down either. He is currently spearheading an extraordinary petition drive with prominent Israelis to promote an alternative path to peace. In the span of six weeks, this effort has already garnered 30,000 signatures in Israel and the occupied territories.
Israelis have criticized Palestinian intellectuals for not speaking truth to power. However, a small slice of Palestinian civil society has spoken truth to power, espousing nonviolence and negotiation as the proper tools of resistance, despite the overwhelming pressure these individuals must face to toe the party line.
Shikali and Nusseibeh demonstrate that there are Palestinian intellectuals who are willing to challenge official doctrine. One can only hope that in the future, such challenges do not require the ample amounts of bravery these men clearly possess.
UPDATE: Judith Weiss posts on the emerging opposition to the Arafat's disastrous economic policies. Go check it out.
Thursday, July 17, 2003
Stephen Johnson is not an academic
The problem with this argument is that it fails to recognize that this process predates Google -- or the Internet, for that matter.
Johnson sets this up as an either/or question -- online papers or books. In point of fact, for most academics this is a progression. First you circulate your ideas in draft form, then as a conference paper, then as an article, and then -- maybe -- publish a book. The book stage depends on the discipline -- for example, they matter far less in economics than in political science. However, this was true long before Google. The only thing the Internet and its search engines has changed is widening the access to papers at the preliminary stages of development. [But what about writers not affiliated with universities?--ed. I'd argue that the process is similar. Good writers/researchers often publish the germ of an idea in a magazine before deciding that it has enough legs to merit writing a book. Often, the author will publish excerpts from the book in magazines or journals. For example, Michael Lewis published an excerpt of Moneyball in the New York Times Magazine this March. This applies to fiction-writers as well.]
Furthermore, there are good reasons for the process to work this way. Getting an idea/argument out in draft form has two advantages to just writing a book without posting or publishing bits of it online. First, for the author, making the ideas available in draft form permits greater feedback, which in turn helps to improve the ideas. Second, for the community of people interested in the topic, finding such ideas as early as possible lets them stay on the cutting edge of the latest work on the subject (it certainly helps with bibliography-hunting).
Is Johnson correct that with Google, fewer people prefer to read a researcher's book-length treatment of the topic over the Internet-accessible, condensed version of the argument? I doubt it. Busy people look for shortcuts, and a big shortcut for scholars is to read an author's article instead of his/her book (unless the topic or argument really hits home). This was true long before the Internet or Google ever existed.
David Adesnik's critique of the Washington Post's reporting on its own polls, and Colby Cosh's detailed dissection of Russia's role in making or breaking the Kyoto Protocol. Both links via InstaPundit.
Let them eat subsidies
That's the title of my latest Tech Central Station piece. It's a report on how the EU's inability to seriously reform its Common Agricultural Policy is derailing world trade talks and impoverishing lots of poor farmers. Go check it out.
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Let them eat yellowcake
I understand why Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, and others are so exercised about the "sixteen little words" meme. The uranium question -- and the blame game that has erupted along with it -- manages to undercut two pillars of strength for the Bush team. The first was the 2000 pledge to be straight-shooters, avoiding the waffling and legalese of the Clinton administration. The second was the notion that the wealth of gravitas in the foreign policy team would produce a well-oiled, professional foreign policy. Many people have hit the first pillar hard, which surprises me, because there are valid defenses to it. I'm waiting for the second one to come under attack.
My take on this, however, is akin to Tom Friedman's in today's NYT:
Look, Frank Gaffney overreaches when he says this is pure partisanship. It's perfectly valid to question the policy process that led to the SOTU screw-up, and part of me is grateful that it's happening.
I can't get exercised about it, however. My reasons for supporting an attack on Iraq had little to do with the WMD issue. The uranium question was part of one rationale among many the administration gave for pushing forward in Iraq. I'm not saying this should be swept under the rug, but the level of righteous indignation that's building up on the left is reaching blowback proportions.
ESPN's ESPY awards show -- which airs this evening -- is an exercise to fill airtime during one of the slowest sports days of the year, the day after Major League Baseball's All-Star Game. On the whole, it's a pretty silly event -- the only memory I have of it was Bill Murray doing a hysterical bit in the late 1990's about how Michael Jordan's career was complete now that he'd won an ESPY.
However, the event does has one authentic creation -- the Arthur Ashe Courage Award (click here to see the past winners). Last year's winners were the rugby players who battled the terrorists on United flight 93.
Click here for more information on the Tillmans.
Not everyone, by the way, is pleased about this. Kevin Blackistone writes in the Dallas Morning News:
I would never presume to speak for Ashe, but I suspect he would acknowledge that the oppressed and afflicted in Iraq have a better chance of seeing their human rights conditions improve with the toppling of the Baasthist regime.
Drezner gets results from the Chicago Tribune!!
Two days ago I blogged about the attack on Palestinian political scientist Khalil Shikaki. Today, the Chicago Tribune has an editorial about it. The key section:
Quote of the day
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
The Jose Bove follies
Back in November, I blogged about idiotarian José Bové being arrested for trying to destroy some genetically modified crop fields in France. Here's an update:
After being tried and convicted, Bové resisted government efforts to negotiate an appropriate sentencing -- such as community service. So, in late June, French police officers forcible entered Bové's home in what the BBC calls "a dawn commando-style operation" to serve a ten-month jail sentence.
Naturally this prompted protests in France -- calling for French President Jacques Chirac to commute his sentence on Bastille Day. Chirac did shorten Bové's sentence by four months -- but this failed to mollify Bové's supporters in the Confederation Paysanne, the militant union Bové heads.
So, they decided to sabotage the Tour de France, according to Reuters :
The BBC observes that this could trigger a backlash:
There's nothing left to say, except that:
a) This confirms my hunch that French farmers may be the world's exemplar iditotarians; and
Debating the regulation of annoyance
I'm quite certain that the sentence "Spammers and telemarketers comprise the lowest form of existence on the planet." would generate huzzahs across the developed world. Christopher Caldwell certainly feels that way about spam e-mail, and he's not alone. It's not too hard to find similar comments about telemarketing. These complaints are usually accompanied by the tagline "something must be done!"
In the case of telemarketing, something is being done. Congress passed and President Bush signed the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act -- which empowers the FCC to create a national "do not call registry" that would make it illegal for telemarketers to call your phone number -- with some exceptions. It would not be surprising to see a similar legislative effort to deal with spam.
In the interest of being completely contrarian, let me kindly suggest that legislative/regulatory efforts might not be the best way to deal with the problem. It's not that I like these activities -- it's that there are compelling arguments for relying on private measures to deal with these kinds of private interference. Mass annoyances generates demand for products to deal with them for minimal cost. This is one reason I'm enjoying my newly-installed Google toolbar so much -- 187 pop-up ads blocked and counting!! Arnold Kling points to multiple methods to filter out spam.
[But surely telemarketing merits regulation?--ed. Farhad Manjoo argues that the looming regulation carries significant costs, although her reliance on industry data suggests those cost estimates are exaggerated. Plus, even with telemarketers, services such as caller ID can bemore precise than the do-not-call registry. So this means you won't be using the do-not-call registry?--ed. Ummm... I didn't say that. Hypocrite--ed. No, just a mortal human demonstrating why the urge to regulate is strong, even if it's not the first-best solution to the problem]
Meet the IMF's new economist-in-chief
Earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund announced that Raghuram Rajan -- the Joseph L. Gidwitz Professor of Finance at the U of C's business school -- will be replacing Kenneth Rogoff as the IMF's chief economist.
The BBC -- in typical fashion -- is painting this as a blow to the United States:
Leave it to the BBC to eliminate any trace of nuance or background in their coverage. A closer look shows that Rajan probably agrees a lot more with American policymakers than BBC paleolibs when it comes to IMF policy. [What about other policies?--ed. Rajan opposes both the hike in steel tariffs and the removal of the estate tax. This makes him a friend to the BBC because that means opposing the Bush administration on high-profile issues.]
Go to the links above to read more on Rajan's views, as well as this precis of his latest book (co-authored Luigi Zingales).
Brink Lindsey, by the way, provides this review of : "Wide-ranging, idea-crammed case for free financial markets and analysis of why they seldom exist."
Fierce opposition to protectionism of any kind, combined with the conviction that globally integrated financial markets are the best way to help both poor countries and poor individuals, make Rajan an excellent selection to replace Ken Rogoff. The BBC's coverage of this replacement suggests just how one-dimensional their reporting has become.
Monday, July 14, 2003
Two takes on blogs
Kathleen Parker takes to the Blogosphere:
Fareed Zakaria's perspective is similar, if the language is less laudatory. From p. 254 of The Future of Freedom:
This strikes me as essentially correct. Most blogs, most of the time, do not generate news -- and it's not always a good thing when they claim to have new info. What most blogs excel at is the sifting, sorting, and framing of information that's already in the public domain.
The best blogs do this with rigor, wit, and alacrity. The rest of us just use long quotes as a substitute.
New York Times update
Bill Keller has been named the new executive editor of the New York Times. I saw Keller for the first time last month at a Council on Foreign Relations event, and I'll say this -- if the executive editor gig doesn't work out, Keller has a bright future replacing Bill Maher on HBOs schedule. Keller is both funnier and smarter than Maher [Not that impressive a compliment--ed. I meant well].
Meanwhile, Howell Raines has apparently decided on a Shermanesque approach in departing from the Times -- burning every bridge possible. For more on this, go to the Times story linked above, as well as Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus, and Mnoosweek.
The good news and bad news about Palestinian political science
The good news is that -- in contrast to many of its neighbors -- there exist Palestinian political scientists independent of the state and contributing to the stock of useful knowledge about the region. For an example, click here.
The bad news is, good political science is vulnerable to the rule of the mob, as this New York Times story makes clear:
Click here for the Voice of America report, which makes it clear that the idiotarians who ransacked the center don't seem to realize that the poll results suggest that the right of return issue is tractable rather than intractable.
Well, so long as this kind of behavior is not condoned by the public authorities, then -- oh, wait.
Uganda, Botswana, and AIDS, redux
That last graf is just devastating.
The FT article jibes with what Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist emphasized as necessary for fighting AIDS in Africa in a speech he gave last month at the Council on Foreign Relations:
It's all about the infrastructure.
And the crowd goes wild!!!
The blog just topped the 300,000-hit mark. Thanks to one and all for reading!