Thursday, November 13, 2003

A marriage made in protest

The marriage between French foreign policy and the anti-globalization movement was a marriage waiting to happen. From today's Financial Times:

The second European Social Forum opened yesterday in Paris, welcoming 50,000 people drawn from more than 1,200 organisations seeking to exchange ideas and find common ground to counter globalisation and the perceived dangers of the free market in Europe.

The three-day session of plenary meetings, seminars and workshops spread over four locations will test the strength and diversity of the anti-globalisation movement as it seeks to build on its first forum in Florence last year and the success of the original gathering at Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2001.

The main agenda will discuss propositions for an alternative "anti-liberal" development model for the European Union that is also more citizen-friendly. But attention will also focus on ways to challenge US "unilateralism".

The forum is being hosted and largely sponsored by Paris city hall, along with three of the capital's satellite cities. On President Jacques Chirac's instructions €500,000 of the €3.7m ($4.3m, £2.6m) organisational budget is coming from the French foreign ministry and the prime minister's office.

My only surprise at reading this is that it took this long.

posted by Dan at 05:53 PM | Comments (63) | Trackbacks (3)

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

I'm off to join another secret cabal

Blogging will be intermittent for the next week, as I'm travelling again. [Don't you have one of those fancy wifi laptops that lets you post at Starbucks?--ed. Alas, the big blogger money seems to escape me.]

This time, I'm off to the United Kingdom. First a brief lecture at the University Cambridge, followed by a four-day conference of the British-American Project (BAP), which is an organization that annually brings thirtysomethings from both sides of the Atlantic together to discuss issues of the day.

Or so they would have you believe. A quick Google search reveals that several conspiracy web sites allege sinister motivations behind this conference. For example, this site characterizes BAP as, "a small and extremely covert group." But wait, there's more:

The aim of these men [who founded the BAP] was to set up a group of rising elites, indoctrinate them with what was basically Bilderberg propaganda, and then pick the cream of them to become major players in the Bilderberg movement....

Nearly every BAP member during the eighties and early nineties is now in a position of considerable fame or influence, and a large proportion of these are inclined to support the kind of aims that Bilderberg strives for. In essence, BAP was an ingenious method of indoctrinating next generation elites.

For another good conspiracy-sounding descriptions of the BAP, click here.

Your intrepid blogger promises to infiltrate this suspicious-sounding organization and report the truth! [What if they offer you a "position of considerable fame or influence"?--ed. It would take a lot more than that to destroy my hard-earned reputation for intellectual integrity in the blogosphere!! What if they offer you a "position of considerable fame or influence" and a private candlelit dinner with Jennifer Garner?--ed. Yeah, that's about my price.]

posted by Dan at 05:46 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (2)

Is Howard Dean too extreme to win?

Both Josh Marshall and Nicholas Kristoff go after Howard Dean's chances of victory in both the primary and the general election. Marshall disputes the argument that Dean has locked up the nomination:

Okay, have to say it. I’m still not convinced. Everyone I know seems to think that Howard Dean is close to having the Democratic nomination all wrapped up. AFSCME’s apparent endorsement, for instance, seems premised almost entirely on the perception that Dean’s going to be the winner.

But I just don’t see it.

I’m not saying there’s another candidate who I’d say is more likely to win. I just think Dean’s strength is overstated....

I continue to think that Dean’s style of candidacy only has a real purchase on a portion of the Democratic primary electorate. And I think he has most of those people already. Yes, this is a standard criticism of Dean: he’s the candidate of the Starbucks crowd (not that that’s a criticism: I write about half of my posts from the neighborhood Starbucks) and so forth. And the endorsements of SEIU and AFSCME are supposed to change that --- giving his candidacy a broader demographic sweep.

But I remain unconvinced. I’m not sure Dean can break out of the very energized and mobilized constituency he already has. And that’s what strong showings out of Iowa and New Hampshire are supposed to accomplish.

Read the whole post (and this one too) -- he has additional arguments.

Of course, Marshall posted this before the slow-motion implosion of the Kerry Campaign. Which raises the one way in which Marshall could be proven correct -- if a number of the centrist Democrats drop out of the race in rapid fashion, it permits coordination around a challenger to Dean. Clearly, this was one of the rationales underlying Wesley Clark's entry into the race.

However, Bob Graham is the only one to drop out so far, and the others have more money in the bank. So, I guess I'm more sure of Dean than Marshall.

Kristoff, while never mentioning Dean by name, makes a similar argument about his supporters vis-à-vis the general election:

Liberals have now become as intemperate as conservatives, and the result — everybody shouting at everybody else — corrodes the body politic and is counterproductive for Democrats themselves. My guess is that if the Democrats stay angry, then they'll offend Southern white guys, with or without pickups and flags, and lose again....

The left should have learned from Newt Gingrich that rage impedes understanding — and turns off voters. That's why President Bush was careful in 2000, unlike many in his party, to project amiability and optimism.

Core Democratic voters are becoming so angry that some are hoping for bad economic figures and bad Iraq news just to hurt President Bush. At this rate, Democrats risk turning themselves into an American version of the old British Labor Party under Michael Foot, which reliably blasted the Tory government and reliably lost elections.

[Hey, you said this two months ago!!--ed. OK, so Drezner gets results from Kristoff... and I'm sure someone else posted on it earlier, getting results from Drezner. Sigh. I think I'm going to have to retire that catchphrase.]

posted by Dan at 03:16 PM | Comments (39) | Trackbacks (2)

How blogs affect politics

Pejman Yousefzadeh (who has lots o' good stuff on his blog) has a Tech Central Station essay on how blogs affect political debate. As a case study, he looks at Josh Chafetz's recent triumph at the Oxford Union. The highlights from Pej:

What Chafetz's success shows is the ability of Blogosphere to be used as an instrument to rebut fallacious and inaccurate arguments in all sorts of public forums. With search engines built into many blogs, it is easy for people to look up information on a topic of interest, and then reference that information when desired. The Blogosphere can be -- and increasingly is -- a tool of rapid response that can churn out counterarguments to assertions made by journalists, politicians, and other public figures. Although blogging began as being a tool through which people could publicly express themselves on issues of importance to them, it has evolved into being a virtual war room -- and thus has established itself as a formidable presence in any public debate....

It's no surprise to see that Josh Chafetz was praised for his speech and that he was considered an outstandingly well-prepared advocate for his side. But even those with natural talent benefit from help, and Chafetz had the considerable advantage of being able to use the information accumulated in the Blogosphere to back up and advance his arguments. In doing so, he demonstrated anew the fact that blogs can be a potent and effective tool in rebutting clichés and pabulum -- in stark contrast to the days before blogs hit the big time, when conventional wisdom often went unchallenged and was routinely recycled by a media unchallenged by the decentralization and alternative viewpoints that have been brought to the public discourse thanks to blogging.

As someone with an interest in this topic, I must thank Pejman for adding to my reference list. His reward.... a footnote!! [That's a reward?--ed. For a U of C graduate, yes, it is.]

UPDATE: Robert Tagorda has further thoughts on this.

posted by Dan at 10:24 AM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (4)

The battle over trade policy: it keeps going and going and going.....

In the wake of the WTO's ruling against the U.S. on steel tariffs, there are signs that the Bush administration might try to formally accede to the WTO while maintaining high levels of import protection. According to the Financial Times:

The US is considering a radical change to its laws on unfair trade that would severely penalise importers even if Washington bows to the World Trade Organisation's demands that it remove tariffs on foreign steel.

The complex methodological change would sharply raise the duties on steel imports that are also subject to separate anti-dumping tariffs.

The Commerce department, under pressure from the steel industry as well as lumber producers - who would also benefit significantly - gave notice in September that it is considering the change.

Alas, this is entirely consistent with my prediction of "hypocritical liberalization." This move would nevertheless increase the likelihood of triggering a trade war with the European Union. [C'mon, isn't that an exaggeration? The New York Times thinks everything Bush does will trigger a transatlantic row! OK, here's some more tangible evidence.]

In other depressing trade news, interest group pressure is mounting to renege on the planned end of Multi-Fibre Agreement on January 1, 2005. The Cato Institute's Dan Ikenson has more:

[T]he U.S. textile lobby has launched a rearguard campaign to preserve and expand import barriers. Recently, a coalition of textile producers filed petitions seeking new restrictions on certain Chinese exports. Talk of filing new trade remedy cases has become more pronounced. And the specter of job losses in the U.S. textile industry is once again being used to vilify trade.

The reality, however, is that American textile workers have had decades to adjust their expectations and seek new skills. Textile communities, and their leaders, have had ample opportunity to prepare for transition to employment in new industries.

Meanwhile, the enormous costs of textile protectionism have been borne disproportionately by America's lower-income families, who spend a higher proportion of their earnings on clothing. Textile protectionism has also deprived poor countries of export opportunities-precisely the kind of opportunities the Bush administration identifies as vital for promoting economic stability and security. Considering its burgeoning propensity to use trade policy to advance foreign policy and national security objectives, the administration should clearly articulate its support for freer trade in textiles and apparel by denying the industry's rearguard efforts.

Will the administration do so? For my money -- and the New York Times -- it's a coin flip.

The depressing fact -- that's still better than any of the Democratic candidates for president.

UPDATE: Drezner gets results from Andrew Sullivan! He posts:

Not even the White House can defend this attack on free trade in anything but the crudest political terms. The EU and the WTO are absolutely right to demand a reversal. If Bush sticks to his protectionist guns, he really should be pummeled by real economic conservatives.


ANOTHER UPDATE: For a nice background primer on the steel case, you could do far worse than the Institute for International Economics site. Here's a link to the latest backgrounder.

posted by Dan at 12:47 AM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (5)

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

What happened while I was gone?

Back from Berkeley. I had to get into a cab to race to campus to teach a class. Just sitting down now and catching my breath for the first time.

So, a very belated thanks to David Brooks for citing my recent Slate essay in today's column. I first heard about it via my brother, for those who care [You mean Brooks didn't give you a heads-up?--ed. It's funny, people who've congratulated me on this are assuming I know Brooks. I'd like to, but as of now we've never communicated.]

For those New York Times op-ed readers expecting to find more on the subject here, go to this post, which was the genesis of the Slate article. Then click over to this post, which elaborates on a few points that got cut from the Slate essay, and deals with the inevitable statistical contretemps that such essays produce. Finally, click here for a further discussion of Halliburton and Bechtel -- there's some stuff there that Brooks did not mention in his able op-ed today that nevertheless bolsters his case. [You know that David Adesnik already did this for you--ed. D'oh! Advantage: Adesnik!]

UPDATE: Via Tom Maguire, I find this letter to the editor of the Washington Post from Bill Allison, the "managing editor [?] at the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, responding to the Steven Kelman op-ed. A similar statement has now been placed at the bottom of my Slate piece. Among the key tidbits:

While we did not argue that there is a quid pro quo relationship between contributions and contracts, the public has a right to know who is trying to influence the government....

No one has a clear picture of what's going on with the awarding of contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some in the government have admitted as much. "Now the whole contracting procedure is confusing," John Shaw, deputy undersecretary of defense for international security, told a London conference in mid-October, when he announced a new office under the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq that is supposed to bring order to the process. "This new procedure we hope is going to bring greater accountability and transparency."

If CPI's story is now that there needs to be more transparency in the bidding process, that's fine with me -- I say, here, here.

However, while I will flatly concede that they never use the words "clear quid pro quo," that's what they're implying. Stating that, "There is a stench of political favoritism and cronyism surrounding the contracting process in both Iraq and Afghanistan" sounds like a completely different kind of accusation from one of a lack of transparency. The first charge implies disorganization and inefficiency. The second charge implies malfeasance and, well, quid pro quo corruption. The first graf of the CPI report reads:

More than 70 American companies and individuals have won up to $8 billion in contracts for work in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two years, according to a new study by the Center for Public Integrity. Those companies donated more money to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush—a little over $500,000—than to any other politician over the last dozen years, the Center found.

The link between campaign contributions and contracts was also the lead of all of the initial media coverage of the report. I'd say it was pretty damn clear that CPI was implying a quid pro quo.

posted by Dan at 04:09 PM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, November 10, 2003

Gone speakin'

I'm giving a talk today at the University of California at Berkeley. Talk amongst yourselves.

Here's a topic -- what do you do with Saudi Arabia?

posted by Dan at 12:06 PM | Comments (44) | Trackbacks (0)