Saturday, September 27, 2003

Krauthammer fisks Kennedy -- film at eleven!

In his latest Washington Post essay (link via Andrew Sullivan), Charles Krauthammer fisks Ted Kennedy's statement that with regard to Operation Iraqi Freedom:

This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud.

To which Krauthammer responds:

There are a host of criticisms one might level at Bush's decision to go to war -- that it was arrogant, miscalculated, disdainful of allies, lacking in foresight, perhaps even contrary to just-war principles. I happen not to agree with these criticisms. But they can be reasonably and honorably made. What cannot be reasonably and honorably charged, however, is that Bush went to war for political advantage....

A year ago Bush was riding high. He decided nonetheless to put at risk the great political advantage he had gained as a successful post-9/11 leader -- an advantage made obvious by the Republican gains in last year's elections -- to go after Saddam Hussein.

Politically, the war promised nothing but downside. There was no great popular pressure to go to war. Indeed, millions took to the streets to demonstrate against it, both at home and abroad. Bush launched the war nonetheless, in spite of the political jeopardy to which it exposed him, for the simple reason that he believed, as did Tony Blair, that it had to be done.

You can say he made a misjudgment. You can say he picked the wrong enemy. You can say almost anything about this war, but to say that he fought it for political advantage is absurd.

It's worth comparing Iraq to the Clinton administration's deecision to intervene in Bosnia in the summer of 1995.

If you read Richard Holbrooke, Samantha Power or David Halberstam, it's pretty clear that Clinton acted in Bosnia because he wanted to avoid the political fallout from either further massacres or having to rescue French and British peacekeepers, particularly during a presidential election year.

Now, there were risks to intervention as well, and it's to Clinton's credit that he took the appropriate action. However, at the time, I don't recall (correct me if I'm wrong) accusations that Clinton was acting in a political manner in his use of force, even though there was an element of this to his actions. And, as I pointed out before, the Republican leadership at the time supported Clinton's actions.

They didn't accuse him of waging the war to win the election.

P.S. If you check my aforementioned post, you'll see that Thomas Friedman made Krauthammer's point back in March with even greater force:

Anyone who thinks President Bush is doing this for political reasons is nuts. You could do this only if you really believed in it.

posted by Dan at 12:20 AM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, September 26, 2003 gets results from Eric Zorn!!

In a previous post on j-blogs, I wrote:

I agree that it's a shame that Weintraub's blog is being muffled -- but I also think that this incident is endemic to the unstable nature of the j-blog phenomenon. [How do you know -- you're not a journalist!!--ed. Call it my "right now" take. But I may be wrong. Eric Zorn, I'm looking in your direction to correct me if I am] And I'm not sure that anything can be done about it.

In response, Eric has written an excellent blog post. You should read the whole thing, but Zorn provides a new and interesting analogy on how editors should think of j-blogs:

In reality, what needs to emerge here if the j-blog isn't going to die at birth, is an understanding on the part of editors and readers that, procedurally, a blog is much more like an appearance on a TV panel program or talk-radio show than it is a fully sanctioned, completely vetted declaration in cold type.

My fellow columnists and I frequently appear on radio and television and offer live (and in many cases broadcast on the internet), unedited statements under the color of our publications. Several Tribune staffers even have their own radio shows. We give speeches. We respond to e-mail and letters in writing. We give interviews to the New York Times.

And almost never is the substance and wording of such communication approved in advance by minders or editors....

The difference is that media consumers intuitively understand the difference between a published thought and one that's shouted at Bill O'Reilly. And they don't -- yet-- intuitively understand where a thought published on the web log fits into that spectrum.

Because we in the institutional media don't understand and can't agree on it yet.

The reason why l'affaire Bee seems so pivotal to so many in the blogging world is that the controversy is pushing us toward formalizing such understandings and agreements at a time when many of us -- me included and especially -- are still exploring and experimenting in this format.

And if we're too cautious in our conclusions, we risk losing a marvelous opportunity in what I remain convinced will be an increasingly important medium in the coming decades.

Really, I'm serious, read the whole thing.

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

The Iraqi free trade zone

It appears that after a day of wavering, Iraq's Governing Council is now endorsing Iraqi Finance Minister Kamil Mubdir al-Gailani's plans for sweeping liberalization of the economy. This includes allowing 100% foreign ownership of Iraqi businesses in all economic sectors except oil. Among the proposals:

Six foreign banks will be permitted to take over local Iraqi banks completely in the next five years, al-Gailani said. Other foreign banks will be allowed to purchase 50 percent stakes in local banks.

This plan has drawn criticism from the usual quarters -- namely, Palestinians and the left -- as somehow generating a fire sale of Iraq for Western looters. Actually, the big winners here are the Iraqis themselves.

Since the fall of Saddam, Iraq has essentially functioned as a free trade zone. The benefits of this of this for Iraqis are readily apparent in the explosion of consumption over the past five months. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on this over the summer, and now USA Today follows up with a report indicating that the rise in cobsumption is also sourring entrepreneurial activity (link via Glenn Reynolds and Virginia Postrel). The key grafs:

Iraq's new finance minister, Kamil Mubdir al-Gailani, announced sweeping economic changes this week that will allow foreign ownership of companies in every industry except oil and other natural resources. The 25-member Iraqi Governing Council hopes that Iraq's 24 million people will be an attractive market and workforce for global businesses willing to invest in the country.

But merchants such as [Kurdish merchant Massoud] Mazouri already are cashing in. Television sets, refrigerators and boxes of satellite receivers are stacked 10 feet high on the sidewalks of Baghdad's shopping districts. Shoppers who have waited for years to be able to spend their hoarded dollars are out in force.

''When I started in late April, I was receiving one container of DiStar goods per month,'' Mazouri says. ''Now, I am getting five to six containers.'' Each container holds about 270 television sets or 3,800 satellite receiver units. He says he is grossing $20,000 a day. ''All the sales are done in cash.''

There was plenty of pent-up demand. Sanctions imposed by the United Nations after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 kept a lot of goods out of the country. Before that, an eight-year war with Iran drained the life from Iraq's economy. For nearly 20 years, there was little to buy. And during three decades of rule by Saddam's Baath Party, virtually all companies were state-owned or state-controlled. In 2001, Iraq's gross domestic product was $27.9 billion, compared with $47.6 billion in 1980.

Since the collapse of Saddam's regime, police Officer Gailan Wahoudi, 31, has bought a new television, a refrigerator and an air conditioner. ''It is a new freedom I never had before,'' he says.

The buying spree has been helped by the suspension of customs duties, import taxes, licensing fees and similar surcharges for most goods entering and leaving the country. The U.S.-led coalition's order on June 7 that suspended such charges has made Iraq a virtual free-trade zone at least until the end of the year. The coalition authorities had little choice: Iraq lost its ability to adequately control its borders when Saddam's government collapsed. Immigration and customs controls are only now being restored.

For consumers, the bottom line is lower prices.

Opening up investment to foreigners is crucial to preventing Iraq from reverting back to the statist nightmares that Egypt, Syria, Iran, et al are currently experiencing. Permitting foreign ownership of banks helps ensure that capital markets won't be repressed by the state as an act of political favortism. The policies being put forward to liberalize Iraq's economy are an excellent first step to installing the proper restraints on state intervention in the economy.

As a coda, I'm always amused by people who simultaneously supported the anti-globalization movement and condemned the sanctions against Iraq. In one case, the exchange of goods and services is evil -- in the other case, the exchange of goods and services is essential.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall links to a Guardian story suggesting that even with a small Iraqi state, there will still be favortism. And check out this Chicago Tribune story on the Iraqi entrepreneurial class.

posted by Dan at 11:43 AM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (2)

Thursday, September 25, 2003

An ode to lunch

The Chicago Weekly, an independent student paper that appears to have no online home, asked me to write a small essay for the returning students. So, reprinted here, is my ode to the leisurely lunch:

New York Times columnist David Brooks (U of C, class of 1983) has penned several essays in recent years arguing that the current generation of college students is unique in its preference for jam-packed schedules. Every minute of the day is accounted for with classes and extracurricular activities. As a professor, it would be the height of churlishness to complain about such industrious habits. However, as the school year starts, let me plead my case for the leisurely lunch.

I’ve actually held jobs outside of the academy, and the thing I found most dispiriting about them was the predilection for eating alone at one’s desk, the meal completed in under half an hour. To be sure, sometimes work makes that necessary. However, many people do this out of habit, or to give off the impression that they are such workaholics that they never have time for a real meal.

At an institution where great respect is conferred on those willing to study twenty hours a day, U of C students can fall into a similar trap of discarding lunch for more study time. To which I say, feh. No one is so busy that they can’t devote an hour to a social meal a few times a week.

Why bother with such an indulgence? Because it is not only an indulgence. Lunch at the U of C is an opportunity to share with others what you have been reading or discussing in class, and for your friends to reciprocate. If your fields of study are different, all the better. The cross-pollination of ideas is an important mechanism through which the humanities and the sciences make advances in knowledge. Lunching with one’s classmates can help the undergraduate develop a sense of perspective about their studies.

If this makes a long midday meal sound like an obligation, consider this reason: lingering at lunch permits the mind to relax as well as work. University study is not a wind sprint, it’s a multiyear intellectual marathon. The students who thrive are the ones smart enough to pace themselves. Letting one’s mind wander playfully at the noon hour is excellent preparation for the mental rigors that are sure to come in the post-meridian hours. The mind at play is often able to generate the counterintuitive ideas that would never occur otherwise. Nine out of ten of these ideas will turn out to be rubbish, but the ones that stick are special. Many a professor, myself included, will acknowledge that some of their most original ideas came not while staring at a computer monitor or at a blackboard, but while munching on a superior deli sandwich with friendly colleagues.

If none of these reasons tempt you, there’s always the obvious: with any leisurely lunch, dessert is sure to follow.

[Yeah, but do you practice what you preach?--ed. In fact, this very day I had an exquisite lunch at a lovely restaurant in the Loop with two esteemed colleagues, one of whom blogs at some conspiracy site. Though in this case, it was a last blast before classes start.]

One final thing -- the two other profs who contributed were Martha Nussbaum and James Heckman.

Bloggers are definitely moving up in the world.

posted by Dan at 05:21 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (0)

No coherent narrative

A lot of bloggers have linked to it already, but in case you haven't seen it yet, USA Today ran a story earlier this week on media coverage of Iraq that confirms my "no single narrative" argument from last month.

Go check it out.

After that, click over to a sound bite from Terry Gross' interview with Salam Pax (link via Bargarz.

To quote David Brooks:

Nation-building is too grand a phrase for much of the work that is being done; it's neighborhood-building in all its granular specificity.


posted by Dan at 04:51 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (1)

Ladies and gentlemen, your counterweight to the United States

It is the belief of prominent Europeans -- and some Americans -- that the European Union will emerge as the primary rival to the United States in world politics. Of course, this requres that a) most of the member states have a common set of preferences; b) EU institutions acquire greater material capabilities; and c) EU official competently administer those resources.

I've stated my skepticism on point (a) recently. This Financial Times piece makes me really wonder about point (c):

Romano Prodi, European Commission president, on Thursday said he saw no reason to ask any commissioner to quit over the Eurostat affair, amid new evidence that financial irregularities continued long after he took office in 2000.

"On the basis of the facts I have outlined, after careful thought and in full awareness of the issues, I consider there is no reason to ask any Commissioner to assume the political responsibility and resign," Mr Prodi said in a speech to European Parliament leaders, who were questioning him over the affair.

Three reports into the financial scandal released on Wednesday night reveal a saga of fake contracts, secret slush funds and huge waste which went unchecked in the Commission for many years.

They tell how millions of euros disappeared into the secret accounts, ostensibly to fund additional statistical research. Large sums simply vanished while some money was used to fund staff perks.

This is the continuation of an ongoing scandal from the late 1990's. It's not the only scandal involving EU officials, however. Two years ago, Europol -- Europe's top police agency -- was raided by Dutch police after it was discovered that some officers had engaged in money laundering. When the leading anti-money laundering unit in Europe is busted for laundering money, you do begin to wonder about the competency of European officialdom.

No government is corruption-free. But if Eurocrats can't handle a €98 billion budget, what happens when their state capacity starts to expand?

posted by Dan at 12:03 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Why David Adesnik is really wrong

When I started reading David Adesnik's "jeremiad" against political science while he was guest-blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy, I started to cringe. Then I got mad.

David is a very smart guy, but there's a lot in this post that Adesnik either distorts or gets flat-out wrong. Chris Lawrence has already taken him to task -- though Laura of Apt. 11D sympathizes with Adesnik -- but there's so much that's wrong with his post that I'm going to have to indulge in a quasi-fisking here. Adesnik's post is in italics and indented:

The secret to success in America's political science departments is to invent statistics. If you can talk about regressions and r-squared and chi-squared and probit and logit, then you can persuade your colleagues that your work is as rigorous as that of a chemist, a physicist, or (at worst) an economist.

There's a very big difference between creating new data and using new statistical techniques to analyze old data. I strongly suspect Adesnik's source of irritation is the latter. The former is way too rare in the discipline, especially in international relations. Mostly that's because building new data sets takes a lot of time and the rewards in terms of professional advancement are not great, whereas relying on old data has no fixed costs.

This is one reason why Pape's article is worthy of note -- he actually collected new data, which leads to results that Adesnik himself admits are "surprising."

David mistakenly conflates creating new data with the use of fancy statistical techniques when they're not necessary. The latter can be a occupational hazard -- though I'd argue that the greater danger is the proliferation of sophisticated regression analysis software like STATA to people who don't have the faintest friggin' clue whether their econometric model corresponds to their theoretical model.

And unsurprisingly, in the rush to invent statistics, political scientists have made whatever assumptions they needed to justify their work. As historian John Gaddis has shown, political scientists actually have a very poor understanding of what science is. As a result, their work has suffered considerably.

Sigh. Of all the social sciences -- including economics -- I'll bet that political scientists actually spend the most time discussing what constitutes proper scientific work. This is partly due to insecurity, but it's also due to a refreshing humility about the difficulty of the enterprise. For good examples of this sort of debate, click here for one example, and here's another. And, for good measure, click here, here, and here. Note that some of these works disagree with each other -- and I certainly disagree with some of them. [So, has any good come from these books?--ed. Sometimes I think this has generated a healthy debate within the discipline, and other times I think it's just navel-gazing.]

While I haven't read Pape's APSR study, the points he makes in the NYT are pretty much nonsense. For example in support of the assertion that suicide attacks are not connected to religion, Pape points out that...

[quote here about the Tamil Tigers being responsible for the most suicide terrorist attacks--DD]

The [Tamil] Tigers' behavior only reinforces the belief that suicide bombing is a product of ideological extremism. But since you can't put a number on extremism, political scientists have hard time studying it. (Which is why there are historians and anthropologists.)

I have no doubt that historians can, through closely argued scholarship, identify which groups are extremist -- ex post. The key is to find descriptive characteristics that can be identified ex ante. Without ex ante markers to identify proper explanatory variables, theories degenerate into tautologies. Islamic affiliation is a descriptive category that can be identified ex ante, and Pape's discovery that it's not correlated with suicide attacks is a relevant and counterintuitive finding.

To be fair, Pape has some good points. As his study shows, democracies are the almost exclusive targets of suicide attacks, because liberal political systems are vulnerable to terror. Moreover, he is probably right that there is an element of rational calculation behind such attacks, since even extremists have an interest in success. Still, it is absolutely impossible to explain the tactics of Al Qaeda or Hamas without reference to their perverse ideologies.

This is a nice summary of Pape's value-added. On the "perverse ideologies" question, I don't think Pape would disagree. Without the ideology, it's impossible to delineate these groups' substantive preferences.

The real problem is that Pape, like so many political scientists, abandons all nuance in deriving policy programs from his work.

As I see it, the cause of this unsubtle approach is political scientists' obsession with statistics, a pursuit that dulls their sensitivity to the compexity of real-world political events. If numbers are your thing, you're going to have a hard time explaining why Israelis and Palestinians have spent five decades fighting over narrow tracts of land.

I agree with Adesnik that one can draw different conclusions from Pape's findings than he does -- and this is a weakness in the paper. However, to attribute this to Pape's obsession with statistics is amusing on a number of levels, many of which Chris Lawrence explained. Let's just say that Bob Pape would not be considered welcome at a meeting of the large-N brotherhood at APSA. Indeed, Pape fully supports the Perestroika movement that I've discussed previously.

So then, what is to be done? As you might of heard, many political science programs require training in statistics but not foreign languages. That trend has to be sharply reversed. Learning foreign languages promotes immersion in foreign cultures and ideas, which in turn make it hard to ignore the role of those cultures and ideas in the realm of politics. Given that politics is an art rather than a science, there is no substitute for getting inside the minds of those we study.

I'm perfectly happy to see more cultural immersion, but the notion that such training will automatically induce greater understanding is horses@&t. Witness the self-criticisms -- or rather, the lack thereof -- within the Middle Eastern Studies community in the wake of 9/11. These people are deeply immersed in the culture and language of the Arab peoples. Is Adesnik really suggesting that people like Edward Said can enlighten us about the region?

In conclusion, politics is an art and a science, a simple fact that many people within and without political science seem incapable of understanding.

And for Pete's sake, read the whole paper before penning a jeremiad like that.

UPDATE: Adesnik continues on his jeremiad in this post (though he's right on Moneyball). He gets it wrong again when he says:

The great flaw of modern political science is its desire to imitate microeconomists (and share in their prestige) by developing theorems that explain and predict the behavior of rational actors. Of course, that is exactly the wrong way to go about things. It is only when political scientists recognize that ideas and values are what drive politicians and voters that they will begin to produce something worthy of the name "science".

Chris Lawrence explains what's wrong with this statement.

ANOTHER UPDATE: David Adesnik responds in non-jeremiad fashion. See also Josh Chafetz.

posted by Dan at 12:48 AM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (4)

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

What Arnold hath wrought

I am willing to bet that in entire blogosphere -- hell, the entire mediasphere -- no one predicted this as an outcome of Schwarzenegger's gubernatorial campaign:

Martina Navratilova plans to get into public service after she stops serve-and-volleying in 2005.

Navratilova, who turns 47 next month, said Wednesday at the Sparkassen Cup tournament that she plans to play through the end of next season. Then, she wants to get involved with American politics, perhaps running for office.

"If Arnold Schwarzenegger can run for governor in California, then who knows? I have the muscles," said Navratilova, a Czech-born U.S. citizen who lives in Colorado. "I will be involved, especially the way things are going right now. The conservative party is too strong."

She ranks among the greatest tennis players ever, with a total of 58 Grand Slam titles: 18 in singles, 31 in doubles, and nine in mixed doubles.

Colorado, eh? Well, Navratilova vs. Owens could be an interesting race. It would be much more interesting, however, if the Republicans found a more formidable opponent.

posted by Dan at 06:04 PM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

The Sacramento Bee responds

At least one reader responded to my suggestion [You mean my suggestion--ed. It's all good] on how to respond to the Sacramento Bee's ombudsman Tony Marcano's distaste for letting Daniel Weintraub's blog go unedited -- they e-mailed Marcano.

To which the ombudsman replied:

My policy is to ignore readers who feel it necessary to resort to insults. There will be no further responses from this office to your e-mails.

I'm not going to reprint the reader's entire e-mail to the ombudsman, but the only thing in it that was remotely close to insulting was the final question: "When did the the Bee turn so gutless?"

Now I'll admit that I probably wouldn't have phrased it that harshly, but given that the ombudsman's job is to hear complaints, doesn't this response suggest someone too thin-skinned for the job?

Undeterred, our trusty reader pressed forward in his search for a response. He finally succeeded in getting a real reply from David Holwerk, who is Weintraub's editor. Here's his reply:

As the guy who edits Dan Weintraub's column and his blog items, I have to say I disagree with your contention that it is "crystal clear to all readers that Weintraub speaks for himself in his blog." My experience is that many readers regard the blog and all of our on-line content as an extension of The Bee.

My aim as Dan's editor is not to change his opinions or alter his viewpoints, but to make sure that his blog items are clearly written and adequately explained and do not engender reactions he does not intend. That is what editors do. If they do that well, they can actually make writers more effective. That's what I and other editors at The Bee try to do every day. You can judge for yourself to what degree we succeed.

This is a pretty decent response in my book. Good editors deal with good writers by improving the form of the writing so that the content is clear. I'm not a regular reader of Weintraub's blog, so only time will tell if this is what actually happens. As a statement of what an editor does, however, Holwerk's reply sounds like a promising start.

Of course, Mickey Kaus has his own thoughts on the matter:

Weintraub is a Bee editorial-page employee, not a news employee. Apparently the news side of the Bee has never liked his blog, for some obvious reasons--e.g. he's been beating the pants off them. His provocative anti-Bustamante comments were enough to trigger a newsroom-led bureaucratic Thermidor. (It was as if he was criticizing affirmative action!) Executive editor Rick Rodriguez says "folks on the staff brought" the issue to him after Weintraub's posting. They "wanted to know if it was edited," he says, though he adds he suspects they mainly wanted to "yell at some editors" about it. Rodriguez volunteers the ethnic makeup of the angry newsroom "folks": "Some were Latino, some Anglo, some black." The result was a review of Weintraub's status. "Our policy at the Bee is that everything's edited," Rodriguez declares.

Hmmmm.... given that the Bee's editorial staff also has created their own group blog, this may be a case of newsroom subcultures clashing.

Definitely click on the Kaus link, by the way. It's a long and information-rich post.

posted by Dan at 09:44 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (5)

A very special survey

As part of the paper I'm co-authoring on the power and politics of blogs, I am making a humble request to those who are employed as journalists, columnists, commentators, producers, or editors for newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations. Please take two minutes and send me an e-mail* (be sure to include the media outlet you work for as well as your job title) at with answers to the following five questions [Oh, sure, then you'll broadcast their answers to your friends!--ed. All responses will be treated as confidential unless you give me permission to do otherwise in your e-mail]:

1) How many blogs do you read a day?

2) Please name the three blogs you read most frequently. [What if they read less than three?--ed. Then just name the ones you do read.]

3) Why do you read the blogs you read? In other words, what makes those blogs worth checking out on a regular basis?

4) Have you ever read something on a blog that affected your decision-making on what to air/publish? If the answer is yes, can you give an example?

5) How much influence do you think blogs have on political discourse? A lot, a little, or none at all? Why?

Thank you!!

UPDATE: In the first 24 hours, I've already received 50 relevant responses. Many thanks to everyone who linked to the request, particularly Glenn Reynolds, Kevin Drum, Cory Doctorow, Howard Bashman, James Joyner, Josh Chafetz, Scripting News, and Jim Romenesko.

ANOTHER UPDATE: We're almost at the 100 mark!

If you fit the criteria and haven't responded yet, please do so!! Pretty please!!

*Do NOT post your answers in the comment box below. It's been disabled for this post -- because otherwise, your answers would be available for all the world to read!!

posted by Dan at 04:54 PM | Trackbacks (6)

A new blog project

Over the past year, I've been asked whether blogging can contribute to scholarship. While I've been positive about the effect of blogging on my academic writing style, I'm otherwise leery of mixing the two. Hell, last week I told the Chicago Tribune:

I would be reluctant to have blogging factored into tenure decisions. The whole idea of scholarship is to meditate on an idea, to test it critically and . . . to have your idea peer-reviewed. It's slow, but your ideas are tested in the most rigorous way possible. Blogs are often about spouting off what you're thinking without 10 minutes of reflection, and 30 minutes later you're sometimes wondering, `Did I really write that?'

I suspect my aversion to mixing the two is akin to the "worlds colliding" idea that was done to perfection on "The Pool Guy" episode from Seinfeld: I'm worried about whether Blogger Dan and Scholar Dan can co-exist in the same world.

To test out what happens when worlds collide, I've decided to co-author a scholarly paper on the power and politics of blogging with fellow political scientist and fellow blogger Henry Farrell from Crooked Timber. The idea will be to present this paper at the 2004 American Political Science Association annual meeting. Henry and I are hoping to chair a roundtable on blogging; some heavy-hitters in the blogosphere who shall remain nameless for the moment have already committed.

In the ensuing months, we'll make drafts of the paper available to the blogosphere and invite comments or criticisms. For this post, however, we're just looking for two things. The first is feedback on the definition of a blog. Our working definition -- partly inspired by the feedback from this post -- is as follows:

A weblog is defined here as a web page with minimal to no external editing, dedicated to on-line commentary, periodically updated and presented in reverse chronological order, with hyperlinks to other online sources.

Whaddaya think -- too vague? Too specific? Too wordy? Comments or suggestions for improvement are welcomed.

The second request is for links to working papers or journal articles on the political effects of blogs. I'm NOT talking about the articles that appear every six months like clockwork in the major dailies with headlines like "Americans Are Agog About Blogs!!" I'm talking about papers with more substance.

Here's our limited bibliography:

  • Rebecca Blood, The Weblog Handbook (New York: Perseus Publishing, 2002).

  • Rebecca Blood, “Weblogs: A History and Perspective,” in We’ve Got Blog: How Weblogs are Changing Our Culture (New York: Perseus Publishing, 2002).

  • Joel David Bloom, “The Blogosphere: How a Once-Humble Medium Came to Drive Media Discourse and Influence Public Policy and Elections.” Paper presented at the 2nd annual pre-APSA conference on Political Communication, Philadelphia, PA, August 2003.

  • Christine Carl, “Bloggers and Their Blogs: A Depiction of the Users and Usage of Weblogs on the World Wide Web,” M.A. thesis, Georgetown University, April 2003

  • Rebecca Mead, “You’ve Got Blog,” The New Yorker, 13 November 2000.

  • Clay Shirky, "Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality,", February 2003.

  • Clay Shirky, "Weblogs and the Mass Amateurization of Publishing,", October 2002.

  • Matt Welch, “Blogworld,” Columbia Journalism Review, September/October 2003.

    Jeffrey A. Henning, "The Blogging Iceberg," October 2003.

    Pejman Yousefzadeh, "The Rt. Honorable Blogger," Tech Central Station, November 12, 2003.

  • Any readers who know of any papers beyond those listed, please let me know about them.

    I look forward to your comments.

    UPDATE: Here's a web page replete with newpaper stories on blogs. Thanks to alert reader K.M. for the link!!

    posted by Dan at 03:27 PM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (7)

    Listen to the radio

    Interested in the connections between war and trade?

    From 12-1 PM Central time, I'll be on Odyssey, nationally syndicated radio show hosted by Gretchen Helfrich and produced by WBEZ, Chicago Public Radio.

    Tune in on your radio dial, or listen via the Internet by clicking here. FYI, there is a call-in segment towards the end of the hour.

    UPDATE: Well, that was easily the most enjoyable experience I've had doing a radio program. Good conversation, deep without getting too jargony or off-topic, nicely managed by Gretchen, and quality production. It helped, of course, that the other "expert" was Eugene Gholz. Eugene and I did not agree so much that we were always on the same page, but we did agree on enough Big Things to be in the same book.

    posted by Dan at 11:53 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

    Monday, September 22, 2003

    Your John Edwards moment

    Whatever the merits of Wesley Clark's decision to seek the Democratic nomination for President, Clark did succed in one area -- hogging the spotlight from John Edwards' formal announcement that he was also seeking the nomination. I don't care what Edwards says about this -- though no fault of the Edwards campaign, the timing sucked.

    We here at don't think that's fair. [We don't? Does this mean we're endorsing Edwards?--ed. Absolutely not. However, I've admired some of the things he's done during the past year, and I do think the Dems are prematurely slighting his candidacy.] In response, we bring you this cornucopia of John Edwards information:

  • Edwards has now set up a weblog. Not bad looking, mostly written by staff and volunteers. However, here's Edwards' post on his official announccement.

  • Evidence that Edwards will carry out his promises -- back in the fall, he promised Jon Stewart that he would announce his candidacy on The Daily Show. Then he actually did it. Here's a link to the streaming video, which is pretty funny and demonstrates that Edwards is perfectly willing to poke fun at himself.

  • Slate has a treasure trove of John Edwards information. This Chris Sullentrop story seems to capture the strengths and weaknesses of Edwards as a candidate.
  • Enjoy!!

    posted by Dan at 06:16 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

    Why the Red Sox will win it all

    In the wake of my last Red Sox post, Tom Maguire has been teasing me about my baseball loyalties. So with the final week of the regular season upon us, this post -- a few thoughts and a bold prediction -- is just for him:

    1) Statistical indicators indicate that the Red Sox have a 97.4% chance of reaching the postseason. Woo-hoo!!

    2) A few weeks ago one of my commenters recommended Bill Simmons from ESPN's Page 2 as a sportswriter worth reading. After reading this column, I'll second that emotion. The highlights:

    Have there been some painful times for Red Sox fans? Absolutely. We lost seventh games in 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986. We also lost the most dramatic game of all time -- the playoff game in '78 against the Yanks, which deserves its own column some time. All things considered, Game Six of the '86 World Series was one of the most painful, agonizing defeats in the history of sports, maybe even the worst. And as I mentioned before, we're terrified that we may never see this team win a World Series, at least in our lifetime.

    But plenty of sports fans battle similar demons, don't they? What about Cubs fans closing in on the 100-year mark? What about Bills fans losing those four straight Super Bowls, including the horror of the Norwood Game? What about Browns fans losing their team, for God's sake? Who's more tortured than Maple Leaf fans? You think Astros fans have had tons of fun over the past four decades? You think the Bengals and Cavs have been laughing it up?

    For the most part, Sox fans have been pretty fortunate. Including me. Over the past three decades, I watched an inordinate amount of winning teams (more than any other franchise in baseball), as well as stars like Lynn, Fisk, Tiant, Rice, Yaz, Eckersley, Evans, Mo, Nomar and Manny. I was blessed with the chance to see Clemens and Pedro in their primes -- two of the best pitchers of the past 50 years. Dave Henderson's homer against the Angels remains one of the great sports moments of my life. Same with Pedro coming out of the bullpen and blanking Cleveland in the '99 playoffs (conspicuously missing from the documentary, of course). And for all its faults, Fenway (in the right seats) is still the best place in the country to watch baseball.

    Indeed. This is the attitude of a true Red Sox fan. As opposed to this sort of behavior.

    3) Just to jinx the team as they try to clinch a playoff spot this week, here's my explanation for why this team will win the World Series this year: they're better prepated prepared for overcoming temporary disasters than any other team in baseball.

    According to Tom Tippett, in all of Major League Baseball, the Red Sox have endured the greatest number of defeats this year in situations where they should have won (by generating more total bases than the other team). He concludes: "Boston hasn't taken full advantage of its opportunities this year." I'd be even harsher -- factor Tippett's criteria in with Sox' second-worst bullpen in the American League, and one can only conclude that the Red Sox lead the league in "heartbreaking losses."

    However, it's worth quoting Tippett more extensively:

    After they blew the August 20th game against Oakland, I thought the Red Sox were done. Time after time, they had been able to bounce back from tough losses, and they've earned a lot of praise for being a resilient team. But you can only dig a hole and climb out of it so often, and I thought they may have used up their quota.

    To their credit, they won the series finale against Oakland, swept the Mariners at home, and took two of three from New York in Yankee Stadium the next weekend. During the toughest part of the schedule, they played their best baseball of the season.

    The key to the Red Sox success this year is that they have refused to allow heartbreaking losses to affect their overall equilibrium. It would obviously be better if they had no such losses. The key, however, is that such reversals don't cause the team to go into a tailspin.

    This is why the Red Sox will win the whole shebang -- playoff baseball is all about heartbreakingly close games. The team that wins the playoff series is the one that can live with temporary disappointment and then come back the next day and play better baseball.

    The obvious example is the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks. Despite two dramatically blown saves by Byung-Hyung Kim in Yankee Stadium, a manager that had no touch in terms of pitching changes, and a powerful symbolism that suggested the Yankees should win in the wake of 9/11, Arizona gutted out the series and won in it in seven games.

    Most teams that enter the postseason are used to success and unaccustomed to staggering reverses. The 2003 Red Sox, on the other hand, are veterans of this sort of emotional workout.

    Of course, they also have Kim as their closer.

    [If you're wrong, you're setting yourself up for a world of hurt--ed. Yeah, but if I'm right, this post will ring throughout the ages... or at least make up for my disastrous political predictions.]

    posted by Dan at 03:31 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (2)

    The unstable equilibrium of j-blogs

    The Sacramento Bee has decided to "edit" Daniel Weintraub's blog. According to their ombudsman:

    Weintraub wrote that Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante "certainly owed his elevation to the job of Assembly speaker to his ethnic background and to the support he received from fellow Latinos. If his name had been Charles Bustmont rather than Cruz Bustamante, he would have finished his legislative career as an anonymous back-bencher."

    Further, he alleged, "it's indisputably true that the Legislature's Latino Caucus advocates policies that are destructive to their own people and to greater California, in the name of ethnic unity." The caucus protested in a letter to Bee Publisher Janis Besler Heaphy.

    Make what you will of Weintraub's statement, and of the caucus' protests. No matter what I or anyone else thinks, he has every right to analyze the political scene and reach those conclusions. But no newspaper should publish an analysis without an editor's review. That doesn't necessarily mean that Weintraub's blog should have been reworded, but an editor should at least have had the opportunity to question his conclusions.

    Since these incidents came to light, The Bee has instituted some reforms. Weintraub's blog now goes to the editorial page editor or his deputy before it's posted on Editors will not be allowed to write items for the Web without another editor's review.

    This has prompted much gnashing of teeth across the blogosphere. The usual suspects -- Mickey Kaus, Glenn Reynolds, and Robert Tagorda -- are all over it. Kaus does the best job of identifying the problem with the Bee's "reform":

    So now readers of Weintraub's blog are not getting his unfiltered, up-to-the-moment thoughts. They're getting the thoughts that are approved by an editor--an editor who is now well aware of how sensitive the Bee is to complaints from powerful constituencies. ... Or some powerful constituencies, at least.... The whole point of blogging is that you get someone's take right now, when it can make a difference. What if Weintraub has a good idea at 7:30 P.M. and the editors have gone home? By the time they come back in the next day to "review" his idea, history may have moved on--the idea will be stale, even if it might have actually made a difference if it had been posted in time.... As long as nobody's libeled, why not publish analyses without an editor's review?

    That's a lovely sentiment, but my strong suspicion is that newspaper editors will be congenitally incapable of following through on it. Editors, like many managers, tend towards risk-averse behavior. Editing a blog lowers the probability of stepping into an unwanted controversy, while allowing a journalist to roam unfettered in the blogosphere has little upside.

    I agree that it's a shame that Weintraub's blog is being muffled -- but I also think that this incident is endemic to the unstable nature of the j-blog phenomenon. [How do you know -- you're not a journalist!!--ed. Call it my "right now" take. But I may be wrong. Eric Zorn, I'm looking in your direction to correct me if I am] And I'm not sure that anything can be done about it.

    [What if bloggers and their readers e-mailed the Bee's ombudsman to point out that controversy swings both ways?--ed. What a subversive thought!! And you, an editor no less!!]

    UPDATE: Well, it does appear as if bloggers have the power to get sportswriters fired at the Sacramento Bee (link via David Pinto).

    posted by Dan at 11:32 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (3)

    Jacques Chirac flunks international relations theory

    Today is the beginning of comprehensive exams for some graduate students in my department at the University of Chicago. To those students -- good luck, and stop wasting time reading this drivel!!

    I thought about the exams after reading the New York Times' exclusive interview with Jacques Chirac (see also the accompanying news story). For Chriac, I could provide a set of customized questions after reading the interview. Three samples:

  • In your interview with the Times, you said:

    So in our opinion that’s what will calm things down and get us back on the road to stability in Iraq. How can this be done? Right now, we must show the way, that is, the transfer of sovereignty. This should be done through discussions at the U.N., which will take responsibility for transferring sovereignty.... Now, what is Iraq? It is its currently existing bodies, that is, the Council of Ministers and the current Governing Council. Yes, because they do exist. Once that decision is made, we must then proceed concretely with its implementation, that is to say the transfer of responsibility, which will take a little time.

    In what way will the transfer of de jure sovereignty without de facto responsibility accelerate statebuilding in Iraq? Is sovereignty without responsibility merely an example of organized hypocrisy, or is there normative content to this concept?

  • Another excerpt from your interview:

    I think that the world is gradually moving towards major blocs, but I think that among these blocs, there are at least two such blocs - Europe and the U.S - that should show solidarity for each other, vis à vis the others, which have a different culture. This is because these two have the same overall culture, the same values and the same overall interests. So even if we are irritated by this or that, it can only be superficial, and the fact is we do share the same values, and as the world changes, it will be even more important tomorrow than today that there should be a strong degree of solidarity between Europe and the United States. Hence the importance I attach to trans-Atlantic ties.

    Please reconcile your theory of emerging blocs with the statement that the U.S. and Europe share the same values and interests.

  • A final excerpt from the interview:

    Q: Was it a mistake to overthrow Saddam?

    A: No, absolutely not. I did not approve of the way he was overthrown. I felt it could have happened in another way.

    Q: Without a war?

    A: I think he could have been overthrown without a war. I think that political pressure would have led to Saddam’s disappearance.

    Given the history of uprisings against Saddam Hussein prior to 2003, please identify a theory -- any theory -- of world politics that would be consistent with your prediction.

  • Alas, I fear Chirac would not pass the exam. His international relations worldview is about as clear as.... as.... Salma Hayek has been on what she wants in a man. [Where the hell did that come from?--ed. If you read Salma's comments, you'll see that it's an apt analogy!!]

    UPDATE: Kevin Drum and Robert Tagorda have more on the policy implications of Chirac's interview. And Spartacus points out that Salma Hayek majored in international relations while at university!!

    posted by Dan at 10:53 AM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (5)

    The William Jennings Bryan of Israel

    The New York Times reports on a gala 80th birthday party for Shimon Peres, the grand old man of Israel's Labor Party. Some highlights:

    Bill Clinton serenaded him. Mikhail S. Gorbachev saluted him. And the comedian Jerry Seinfeld, in a video greeting from his home, suggested that Mr. Peres extend his peacemaking horizons beyond the Middle East, to include "the Far East, and here, in East Hampton."

    The elder statesman of Israeli politics and the country's leading dove, Mr. Peres has a world-class set of friends. From Austria to Angola, they flew in to join several thousand Israelis for the birthday event....

    Tonight's slickly produced program resembled a show-business awards ceremony. Video testimonials came from Henry A. Kissinger, Barbra Streisand and Woody Allen.

    Presentations included children singing peace songs, parodies of Mr. Peres and tearful testimonials from terror victims.

    Mr. Clinton, who is wildly popular among many Israelis, received a standing ovation whenever he was introduced. He reviewed Mr. Peres's lengthy résumé, which includes two stints as prime minister, and almost every senior cabinet post. Mr. Peres was the architect of Israel's nuclear program in the 1950's, and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his role in the first Israeli-Palestinian peace deal a year earlier.

    It is, perhaps, indecorous to point out a man's flaws on his 80th birthday. [If you were a high-falutin' op-ed columnist, maybe. You're just a blogger--ed. Well, that does make me feel better.] Peres' legacy in Israeli history will probably not be as sparkling as his birthday party suggests.

    Although Peres has been Prime Minister twice, he may be the most incompetent politician in Israel's short history. How incompetent? Peres, when leading the Labor Party into a general election, never won an electoral victory over the Likud party. The closest he came was in the mid-1980's when, despite the previous Likud government contributing to hyperinflation, Peres was only able to get Labor to win enough seats to enter a power-sharing deal with Likud. In the mid-1990s, despite a Nobel Peace Prize and a martyred leader in Rabin, Peres lost to Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Peres may be respected worldwide, but in Israel he's the William Jennings Bryan of politics. Bryan was a three-time Democratic nominee for President and a three-time loser in the general election. Bryan may have achieved the ultimate Pyrrhic victory when he successfully prosecuted the Scopes monkey trial but lost the larger public debate on evolution.

    I hope I'm wrong, but I fear that the Oslo accords will be Peres' monkey trial. Perhaps the most telling sentence in the NYT article, and the one that regretfully consigns Peres to a minor place in the annals of history: "No prominent Palestinian or Arab figures were present, though Mr. Peres has many longstanding relationships in the Arab world."

    posted by Dan at 10:15 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)