Saturday, November 1, 2003
An interesting survey and a depressing fact
At the end of the survey, this page says:
Here's the chart:
Here's the depressing fact -- not a single political leader listed is in the same quadrant as me (the lower-right one).
Can anyone think of a head of state who would fit in that category?
* For those who care about my exact score: 4.38 on the "Economic Left/Right" axis, and -2.77 on the "Libertarian/Authoritarian" axis.
A very important post about.... porn
Joyner's absolutely right. I mean, after looking at Salma Hayek pics online, it starts to get boring, tedious, mundane.... which is why I'll switch to looking at Alex Kingston pics. And then Ashley Ju-- [we get the idea--ed.].
My point is not to suggest that Joyner's completely off-base -- despite what was just said, I have the same preferences regarding the sensory advantages of real women. However, my sneaking suspicion that some men prefer two-dimensional fantasy to three-dimensional reality. David Amsden makes a similar point in his recent New York Magazine cover story. An example that eerily echoes Wolf:
This is not a reason to adopt Andrea Dworkin-style attitudes towards porn, or even Katie Couric-style attitudes for that matter. However, perhaps Hugh Hefner was a bit off-target as well.
This is at the University of Chicago??!! Sara also highlights the fact that Protection From Pornography Week just ended.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Michelle argues below that bloggers are equally to blame for the dysfunctional dating scene. Heh. [Of course, she posted that comment at 11:00 PM on a Saturday night!--ed. Yes, and you read it at 11:15 on the same Saturday night. D'oh!!--ed.].
YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has tons of links on the relationship between sex and blogs. Alan K. Henderson points out that those who love porn and those who despise it haved more in common than you would think. Via Lauren's Blog, I found this Cleveland Plain Dealer story about how women are also into Internet porn. This graf must be quoted in full:
[Three updates in less than twelve hours? You're a machine!--ed. Well, I must confess that I am endowed with what I am told is an extremely large.... appetite for information.]
Friday, October 31, 2003
Is this a real story?
The top national story in today's Chicago Tribune, "War contractors are big donors," is about the correlation between those firms receiving reconstruction contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the political contributions such firms made. Here's the first few paragraphs:
If you want to see the whole report, it's available here.
Sounds pretty damning? Well, yes, until you consider the following facts:
Is that how the Center for Public Integrity or the media sees it? Nope. Here's the Washington Post paragraph:
This is mathematically true, but overlooks the fact that the overwhelming majority of these contributions come from only three of the firms on the list -- Bechtel, Dell, and Kellog, Brown & Root (yes, they're a subsidiary of Halliburton).
More on this soon.... and now it's here.
UPDATE: While the allegations of systemic corruption appear to be bogus, that doesn't mean that the reconstruction process is being efficiently managed. This Newsweek story (hat tip to mc_masterchef for the link) suggests that incompetence is a much bigger problem than malfeasance when it comes to reconstruction. The first two paragraphs:
ANOTHER UPDATE: Tom Maguire has a newsbreak on another Center for Public Integrity study.
Thursday, October 30, 2003
A note on civility
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has an update on the Atrios/Luskin episode that contains a slightly different take.
So you're dissing your own readers now?--ed. Actually, no, because A) 99% of the comments have been civil; and B) None of the readers agrees is on "my side" consistently enough fall into this category. If I had Glenn's traffic, though, I'd probably abstain from having a comments section as well.
Andrew Northrup has a good post on this as well.
Wesley Clark, whipping boy of the blogosphere
David Adesnik and Josh Marshall go after Clark with a vengeance today.
Meanwhile, Josh Marshall, who was at the speech where Clark made his accusations, has a different beef with the candidate:
UPDATE: Marshall has more on Clark.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Mark Kleiman thinks Adesnik's off base:
Are gray skies clearing up?
You could say that the economy picked up a little in the last quarter. The Associated Press reports:
Reason for celebration? Absolutely. Does this mean the economy is going to start generating more jobs? Slate's Daniel Gross is skeptical:
Irwin Stelzer also sounds some cautionary notes.
I understand their wariness, but a closer look at the third-quarter data suggests that much of this concern is misplaced. For example, on the role of government spending, the AP report observes, "Federal government spending, which grew at a 1.4 percent rate, was only a minor contributor to GDP in the third quarter. Spending on national defense was flat."
Clearly, the tax cuts played a more important role, but the Financial Times suggests that business investment is just as important:
Is 7.2% growth sustainable? of course not. But, if the FT is correct that "growth is expected to cool to about 4 per cent in the final quarter of the year," that is sustainable.
Hey, if Brad DeLong is optimistic, then so am I.
UPDATE: James Joyner makes a great point that really applies to all presidents:
Nation-building in Afghanistan
The Chicago Tribune reports on the latest success in restoring stability to Afghanistan, courtesy of a British-led Provincial reconstruction team. The vital grafs:
This follows up on previous Tribune reports indicating that PRTs can succeed in the nitty-gritty of stabilization.
For those readers skeptical of nation-building -- think of it as town-building.
Catching up on my correspondence
Two quick notes for today (go read this Mark Kleiman post for some background):
What I said last week about anonymous blogging?
Daniel W. Drezner
Dear Donald Luskin,
But dude, you need to chill. Legal action and the blogosphere do not mix well. At this point, your criticisms of Krugman are so over-the-top that they are counterproductive. Take a day off. Get some perspective.
Daniel W. Drezner
P.S. I've glanced through your blog. Intellectually, yes, you're stalking Paul Krugman.
That's stalking!! STALKING, STALKING, STALKING!!!
Goldberg tries to explain Luskin's actions as a result of being new to the medium:
Goldberg is right about Krugman but dead wrong about Luskin. He's not new to the web. In fact, today is the one-year anniversary of Luskin's blog. In terms of the blogosphere, that's a pretty long time to be around. Long enough to know the very simple rules of the game -- no tears, no legal action.
Camille Paglia's grandstanding narcissism
Camille Paglia's latest interview in Salon must be consumed in its entirety to appreciate the title of this post.
At one point, she characterizes Maureen Dowd as "that catty, third-rate, wannabe sorority queen." I can't read that without a chuckle, because Camille Paglia is Maureen Dowd gone to grad school.
I mean that with all its positive and negative implications. Paglia's rants are riveting when she talks about celebrity. When she talks about politics the first two adjectives that come to mind are "inane" and "dyspeptic."
Oh, and here's her take on blogs:
It is truly breathtaking to see someone take down the genre she claims to have invented. Paglia joins Darrell Hammond as the only people to successfully mimic Al Gore. Or, to use the pungent prose Paglia prefers:
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Inside the numbers on U.S. foreign aid
Tyler Cowen at the Marginal Revolution links to Carol Adelman's new Foreign Affairs essay, "The Privatization of Foreign Aid: Reassessing National Largesse." The key paragraph:
Longtime blog readers are aware that I agree with much in quoted paragraph, which was why I took the Center for Global Development (CGD) to task for calling the U.S. a miser earlier this year. However, my Tech Central Station article on this -- which did get results from the Center for Global Development -- did not mention the factoring in of private aid flows as a measure of generosity. On this, Adelman says:
Was I just thick-headed in not raising this point? Well, no. If you read p. 32 of the primary technical paper that supported the CGD rankings -- they do deal with this:
Now, the key question is whether private aid flows are in the $15-23 billion range -- which don't seem to affect the rankings all that much -- or are nearly double that at $35 billion -- which one would expect to have a more appreciable effect. I went to the referred source, USAID's "Foreign Aid in the National Interest," specifically Chapter 6, p. 146. What I found is that Adelman's figure is accurate if you include foreign remittances, and the CGD's figure is correct if you don't include them.
Remittance flows are clearly important, but counting them as examples of American generosity strikes me as a bit off-kilter. Americans aren't remitting this money -- foreign nationals are. The U.S. deserves a measure of credit for permitting foreign workers into the country and sending money back -- indeed, I agree with Tyler Cowen that remittances are, "the most effective welfare programs ever devised." However, this policy is of a different kind than either public or private aid.
I don't think Adelman is incorrect in her core thesis. But lumping remittances in with charity flows exaggerates the generosity of Americans as a people.
Links on Latin America
Wondering how I know what I know about Latin America in my latest TNR Online piece?
For my gloomy mood on the Bush administration's foreign economic policy, see my previous TNR Online column on "hypocritical liberalization." On the current state of the WTO, Philippe Legrain sounds a pessimistic note (subscription required).
A good source on Brazil's behavior during the WTO and FTAA talks is Peter Hakim's Financial Times op-ed on Brazil's trade policy from a few weeks ago. Hakim is the president of the Inter-American Dialogue, which is a fine source on the politics and economics of Latin America. For example, their report on "The Troubled Americas" is typical of the concern mounting about Latin America's direction. On the rise of more market-suspicious leaders, see this St. Petersburg Times news analysis.
On Bolivia being an example for the anti-globalization movement, see this New York Times article, from earlier this month, entitled "Bolivia's Poor Proclaim Abiding Distrust of Globalization." Here's an even more effusive account from earlier this year.
Here's a link to the Washington Post editorial cited in the column. The information on Mexico came straight from Virginia Postrel's first-person account of a speech by former Mexican Finance Minister Francisco Gil Diaz.
Finally, Winds of Change has a link-rich briefing on the latest in Latin America. Go check it out.
Remember Latin America?
All those readers who suspected that I'd lost track of the global political economy while refereeing debates on Iraq will feel better by checking out my latest New Republic Online essay. It's on globalization and Latin America. Go check it out.
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Defending the idle rich?
My evidence? Consider the imminent onslaught of popular culture devoted to the idle rich. According to Newsweek:
Maureen Ryan writes in the Chicago Tribune that there's an excellent reason for this new-found attention:
Another example: this faux Hilton sisters blog -- at least, I think it's a faux blog.
These pop culture sneers do reveal a libertarian dilemma: to put it delicately, defending the right of the idle rich to inherit their wealth in its entirety is one of the knottier positions to advocate in public. This resentment of the inheriting class is particularly acute during a slow economy. It's easy to defend property rights in the abstract. It's harder to defend the property rights of those who are perceived to be dumb-ass dilettantes.
Take me. Readers of this blog know that I think concerns about economic inequality are misplaced. However, whenever I see a promo for the Hilton sisters on television, I find myself reflexively muttering under my breath, "they'll be the first ones up against the wall when the revolution comes." [Even when they're dressed like this?--ed. Bad, distracting editor!! Besides, they don't hold a candle to my celebrity of choice.]
Beyond the philosophical arguments in favor of property rights and against double taxation, are there pragmatic reasons to say that the sneering towards those who inherit vast sums of money is misplaced?
Oddly enough, Timothy Noah provides a partial answer in a series of Chatterbox columns during the debate over the estate tax, posted here, here, here, and here. I say this is odd because Noah starts off saying:
However, as Noah dug deeper into the question, he found mixed evidence for this assertion. There is limited evidence that inherited wealth contributes to social and psychological dysfunction. However, Noah also quotes the following from The Millionaire Next Door:
One final thought: after watching "Born Rich," it was harder to sneer at these people. Of the 12 individuals in the "Born Rich" documentary, I saw one raging asshole, three or four obnoxious but potentially redeemable personalities, and seven or eight nice but slightly withdrawn individuals. Drag a random dozen people in off the street, I'm betting you get the same distribution. It's true that the inheriting class has done nothing to "earn" their millions. But the people off the street haven't either.
There are valid arguments in favor of keeping an estate tax, and I'm not unsympathetic to all of them. However, part of me wonders if those sympathies are driven in part by our culture's occasional tendency to ridicule the idle rich.
Just a thought.
UPDATE: Jay Drezner has some thoughts on this issue.
Monday, October 27, 2003
Rumsfeld gets results from Ray Odierno!!
At one point in the much-discussed Rumsfeld memo, the Secretary of Defense asks:
From the Associated Press:
Thanks to Tom Holsinger & Trent Telenko for the link.
Alex Massie has further thoughts on the subject.
Drezner to the right: stop whining about media bias
Now, this is a frequent lament for those on my side of the aisle. And it will not be an easy one to give up when it ceases to be true.
So I suspect that conservatives will encounter some trepidation reading the latest City Journal article from Brian Anderson, "We’re Not Losing the Culture Wars Anymore." The first paragraph:
You should read the whole article, but to suym up: Anderson's three seismic changes are:
For good measure, Anderson adds the following:
So does this mean that conservatives need to quit whining about media bias? Not exactly. Anderson's closing:
I'm too suspicious of a free lunch to be told that I can bitch about media bias even though things are improving in my favor. However, I'm sure we will find such cake-eating in our trusty comments section.
Why I'll never be the RNC chairman
Last night I participated in an online interactive chat at John Hawkins' Right Wing News. The other participants were Steve Martinovich, the editor and chief of Enter Stage Right, Bryan Preston from JunkYardBlog, and Mike Hendrix from Cold Fury.
Here's the link to "A Blogger Symposium On The 2004 Election." Go check it out.
You might notice I'm the most pessimistic of the bunch. Bearing in mind my track record on predicting elections, however, I'd listen to the others more carefully.
Sunday, October 26, 2003
The division of labor in the blogosphere
The problem with this debate is that it's not an "either-or" situation. A while back I wrote that there were two types of blogs:
A glance at the Blogosphere Ecosystem suggests this division of labor is more stable than Cowen's post suggests. Consider the top ten blogs:
I'd characterize five of these blogs (Instapundit, Atrios, Daily Kos, N.Z. Bear, and LGF) as primarily portals or focal points. The other five (Marshall, Sullivan, Drum, Den Beste, and Volokh) are more commentary than portal. [C'mon, Atrios and Glenn offer commentary!--ed. Yes, but I'm using a simple dichotomy. Drudge would be an example of the perfect portal, but beyond him most blogs have a mix of links and commentary.] Given that by definition one would predict portal blogs to be clustered among the top ten, it looks like commentary blogs aren't going anywhere.
If you think about, this makes sense, and like most divisions of labor improves the productivity of both sides. Without commentary blogs, there would be less of a demand for the skills required to be a portal blog. Without portals, those specializing in commentary would face higher search costs in developing their topics and arguments.
Baude is also correct that newcomers to the blogosphere will have to go the commentary route. For example, here's a new blog that's worth checking out, especially for Californians. I particularly like this post critiquing Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem.
Some minor historical revisionism
Peter Wallison has an op-ed in today's New York Times exhorting George W. Bush to be like President Reagan (Wallison was Reagan’s counsel in 1986 and 1987). The key sections:
Three thoughts on this:
1) Wallison doesn't need to worry about Bush acting like Reagan on sticking to his principles. As I pointed out in August, stubborness is simultaneously Bush's greatest strength and greatest weakness as president.
2) Wallison also engages in a bit of revisionist myth-making. It's certainly true that Reagan stood firm on foreign policy issues. However, in the wake of deficit projections in 1982, Ronald Reagan signed the largest tax increase in history a year after enacting the largest tax cuts in history. In other words, Reagan didn't stick to his principles as much as Wallison alleges.
3) Wallsion's advice is of cold comfort to Bush. Reagan's low point came at the midway point of his first term. Two years later, in 1984, the economy had recovered to the point where Reagan was able to win 49 of 50 states. The point is, Reagan's trough came early enough in his presidency to ride out.
For Bush, the window for such a turnaround is shorter. The current election is only a year away. While the economy is growing, net job creation remains anemic at best. My hunch is that the economy will pick up steam, but that may be too late for it to be an asset to the Bush campaign.
The aftermath of a brilliant military victory in Iraq is proving messier than many thought, and the economy is still sluggish. At this point none of the Democratic contenders looks like a particularly formidable candidate against President Bush. However, winning primaries can often generate gravitas on its own.
Wallison wants everyone to think it's 1982 all over again. The problem is, it may be 1991 instead.
UPDATE: Drezner gets results from Bruce Bartlett!!