Friday, January 30, 2004

Up for grabs

A week ago, Roger L. Simon wrote the following:

For me one of the hallmarks of a good weblog is the honesty of the blogger--or at least the decent attempt at honesty because no one can be honest all the time, as Molière has shown us. So in keeping with that limited principal, I am going to open my ballot on here, revealing my votes in the Presidential election and primary and how they change (if they do). I call upon all bloggers--Democratic, Republican and 'Metropolitical'--to do the same to the extent they can (although the 'Metros' should be most interesting because they are the true 'swing' voters).

Well, one way to find out who I'm going to support is this Presidential Match site. According to their survey, my top three candidates were Bush, Lieberman... and Al Sharpton!! So I'm not placing a whole lot of faith in that site.

Here's my position -- I'm genuinely unsure of who I'm going to vote for. More and more, Bush reminds me of Nixon. He's not afraid to make the bold move in foreign policy. On domestic policy, Bush seems like he'll say or do anything, so long as it advances his short-term political advantage. If Karl Rove thought imposing wage and price controls would win Pennsylvania and Michigan for Bush, you'd see an Executive Order within 24 hours. Andrew Sullivan and others have delivered this harangue, so I won't repeat it.

If -- a big if -- the Democrats put forward a credible alternative, then I could very well pull the donkey lever.

posted by Dan at 11:53 AM | Comments (91) | Trackbacks (9)

The Trippi post-mortems

We had really geared up for what we thought was going to be a front runner's campaign. It's not going to be a front-runner's campaign. It's going to be a long war of attrition. What we need is decision making that's centralized. (emphasis added)

That's Howard Dean quoted in the New York Times story on Joe Trippi's resignation. The piece also observes that Dean only has enough cash on hand for another week of campaigning.

For more on the Trippi angle, go see Noam Scheiber's exercise in self-criticism.

Three thoughts on that quote:

1) If you're John Kerry you're feeling very, very happy right now. Kerry has co-opted a lot of Dean's message without Dean's baggage, leaving the Good Doctor little to do but sound like he's declaring war on the Democratic Party. The best thing for Kerry is to have Dean continue to make statements like this.

2) If you're John Kerry you're feeling slightly ambivalent about the long haul. On the one hand, as Scheiber puts it:

[T]he perfect stormers probably scared off a significant number of Iowans, who took one look at their nose-rings and their died hair and decided that they had nothing to talk about.

On the other hand, Kerry will need those voters in battleground states come November, especially if the South doesn't matter. Will Deaniacs retreat from the system as if their candidate flames out? Or will they go and vote for Kerry?

3) The Feiler Faster Thesis strikes again!! In the span of a month, Howard Dean has gone from looking like William Jennings Bryan to..... Harold Stassen. [So he's gone from looking like a three-time loser to an eight-time loser!--ed.]

posted by Dan at 10:35 AM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (1)

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Who wants caffeine?

Think you consume caffiene? See Brad DeLong.

Unimpressed? Then go read Jacob Levy's post on his caffeine consumption.

Neither of them, however, comes close to approaching the caffeine consumption of Paul Erdos. As he once said, "A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems."

UPDATE: James Joyner has more, including this very funny comment.

Relative to these people, I have a very mild habit. I didn't really drink coffee until I was in graduate school (Itried as an undergraduate, felt like my stomach lining was being ripped to shreds, and stopped soon afterwards). Even then, my gateway drug was the Starbucks mocha.

However, what got me to one cup a day was neither graduate school nor my job -- it was parenting.

posted by Dan at 02:54 PM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (2)

The political economy of outsourcing

[UPDATE TO MSNBC READERS: If you're interested in all of my outsourcing posts, click here]

Virginia Postrel has two posts up today on the political economy of outsourcing.

The first post appears to reflect the limited power of

As a faithful reader of Dan Drezner's blog, I knew about Catherine Mann's important policy paper on the future of info-tech outsourcing (.pdf download here) almost as soon as it came out. I somehow assumed everyone else did too, equating blog awareness with widespread media coverage. Then I met Mann... and I also learned that Dan's blog and the New York Sun pretty much accounted for all the press attention the paper had gotten.

So I devoted my latest NYT column to Mann's work.

Two thoughts: first, to be fair, Bruce Bartlett also picked up on the Mann study. Second, Virginia, you're one of the people that helps translates blog awareness to wider media coverage. Counterintuitive ideas don't travel without your help!!

Postrel's column expands upon the Mann study I discussed here. Some good parts:

Compared with the end of 1999, which was still a good time for programmers, December 2003 data show a 14 percent increase in business and financial occupations, a 6 percent increase in computer and mathematical jobs, and a 2 percent drop in architecture and engineering jobs. New programming jobs may be springing up in India, but they aren't canceling out job growth in the United States....

These projections aren't much comfort, of course, to unemployed programmers. While their skills may be in demand, Dr. Mann explains, those jobs may be in new industries - a hospital, for instance, rather than at I.B.M. - and therefore be harder to find. Or programmers may need new training to move into systems integration jobs.

Read all of it.

Later in the post, Postrel criticizes Glenn Reynolds for hyping the outsourcing meme. Glenn responds here. [UPDATE: Virginia responds to the response.]

Meanwhile, Virginia's other post follows up on Paul Craig Roberts. Outsourcing opponents have embraced him as one of their own since he co-authored an op-ed with New York Senator Chuck Schumer in the New York Times last month.

Eugene Volokh gets to the root causes of Roberts' protectionist rhetoric. It's not a pretty picture.

That said, it would be equally unfair to assume that everyone who agrees with Roberts about outsourcing shares the same root causes. Thirty years ago, Roberts was a supply-side nutball. He's just morphed into a protectionist nutball. [UPDATE: Tyler Cowen defends some of Roberts' earlier work.]

posted by Dan at 11:28 AM | Comments (36) | Trackbacks (2)

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Damn that Jack Balkin!!

Jack Balkin celebrated his blogiversary by writing not one, but two great posts about whether the blogosphere is an example of what Cass Sunstein called "cyberbalkanization" in the tendency for those engaged in political debate to ignore other points of view. I've heard some bloggers refer to this as "cocooning."

Balkin argues that the case of blogs falsifies this hypothesis:

[M]ost bloggers who write about political subjects cannot avoid addressing (and, more importantly, linking to) arguments made by people with different views. The reason is that much of the blogosphere is devoted to criticizing what other people have to say. It's hard to argue with what the folks at National Review Online or Salon are saying unless you go read their articles, and, in writing a post about them, you will almost always either quote or link to the article, or both. Ditto for people who criticize Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, or Kos, or Atrios. If you don't like what Glenn said about Iraq, you quote a bit of his posting, link to it, and then make fun of him. These links are the most important way that people travel on the Web from one view to its opposite. (And linking also produces a good check on criticism because you can actually go and read what the person being criticized has said.)....

Nevertheless, one might object, this argument is premised on the idea that the blogosphere has customs of linking that encourage give and take. What is to guarantee that these customs will continue? Obviously bloggers could give up their customs, and stop linking to each other. But I doubt this will happen; the customs make sense given the way the technology works. And worrying about whether people will or won't continue to link absent a government regulatory apparatus that encourages linking completely misses the point about how Internet speech works: The fact that these customs developed says a lot about the health and vibrancy and pluralism of the public sphere in cyberspace.

In his second post on the topic, Balkin then goes on to effectively critique the Sunday New York Times article on cyberbalkanization that I linked to here.

Balkin's posts are so good that Henry Farrell and I will have to cite him in our own blog paper -- as we're making many of the same arguments.

posted by Dan at 03:47 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (4)

Dramatic developments in Pakistan?

The Chicago Tribune breaks a big story about U.S. plans for a military offensive inside Pakistan:

The Bush administration, deeply concerned about recent assassination attempts against Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and a resurgence of Taliban forces in neighboring Afghanistan, is preparing a U.S. military offensive that would reach inside Pakistan with the goal of destroying Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, military sources said.

U.S. Central Command is assembling a team of military intelligence officers that would be posted in Pakistan ahead of the operation, according to sources familiar with details of the plan and internal military communications. The sources spoke on the condition they not be identified.

As now envisioned, the offensive would involve Special Operations forces, Army Rangers and Army ground troops, sources said. A Navy aircraft carrier would be deployed in the Arabian Sea.

Referred to in internal Pentagon messages as the "spring offensive," the operation would be driven by certain undisclosed events in Pakistan and across the region, sources said. A source familiar with details of the plan said this is "not like a contingency plan for North Korea, something that sits on a shelf. This planning is like planning for Iraq. They want this plan to be executable, now."

The Defense Department declined to comment on the planned offensive or its details.

Such an operation almost certainly would demand the cooperation of Musharraf, who previously has allowed only a small number of U.S. Special Operations forces to work alongside Pakistani troops in the semi-autonomous tribal areas. A military source in Washington said last week, "We are told we're going into Pakistan with Musharraf's help."

Here's the follow-up from the Associated Press.

Just last week at Davos, Musharraf appeared to reject this strategy:

He vehemently rejected a suggestion that Pakistan invite a large U.S. force in to patrol the Pakistani side of the border.

"No, sir, that is not a possibility at all,'' said Musharraf. "It's a very sensitive issue.''

Pakistan has a large, experienced army and has no need of foreign forces on Pakistani territory, he said.

"We have a very strong, effective, quick-reaction force who take action whenever we spot any al-Qaida elements,'' Musharraf said.

"Everyone is very satisfied with whatever we've done. On our side, Pakistan operates. On the Afghan side, it is ISAF and U.S. forces which are operating.''

"There is total cooperation of the two sides, and things are functioning very well operationally. There is no need of change now.''

Other reports confirm this statement, with Musharraf saying Al Qaeda was "ineffective" and "on the run."

I'd offer some cogent analysis at this point, but I'm torn between two diametrically opposed viewpoints:

1) It's about friggin' time. If the biggest cluster of high-level Al Qaeda operatives are in the mountains of Pakistan, that's where U.S. forces should be.

2) Musharraf clearly feels more secure in his domestic situation than the Western media feels about Musharraf's domestic situation.

If this weren't enough for Musharraf, he's also going to face a backlash regarding the nuclear investigation. The Washington Post reports:

Pakistani investigators have concluded that two senior nuclear scientists used a network of middlemen operating a black market to supply nuclear weapons technology to Iran and Libya, according to three senior Pakistani intelligence officials....

The officials said the findings arose from an investigation being conducted by the Pakistani military's Inter-Services Intelligence agency. The probe, which officials say is nearing completion, was begun after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) presented Pakistani officials late last year with evidence that Pakistani technology appeared to have played a role in the clandestine nuclear weapons programs of both Iran and Libya.

As a result of the probe, Khan has been confined to his house in an elite neighborhood in Islamabad, one of the officials said, and Farooq has been in detention since late November. Telephone calls to Khan's home seeking comment went unanswered on Tuesday....

Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, acknowledged last week that some of Pakistan's nuclear scientists appeared to have sold their expertise abroad. Musharraf and other officials have said the scientists acted without authorization and have vowed to take action against those involved. That, however, could provoke a political backlash in Pakistan, where many people regard Khan and his colleagues as national heroes.

Meanwhile, this report suggests that the Pakistani government is split on what to do about this. Here's the closing graf:

Analysts, however, believe Washington will apply more pressure than what the regime in Islamabad can endure. Musharraf, they say, had been the most trusted US ally in the Muslim world since 9/11. Compelling Musharraf to do more on the nuclear issue, diplomats believe, will enhance domestic unrest against Musharraf, which might destabilize his regime. “And the US does not want this to happen - at least for the time being,” a western diplomat said requesting anonymity.

If I was CNN, I'd be locking in South Asia experts pronto.

UPDATE: The comments here and on other interesting blogs question the motivation behind the story -- did someone leak it as an act of sabotaging the planned operation?

There is another possibility -- that the leak was a conscious choice designed to flush bin Laden out of hiding. Some suggested last month that the heightened terror alert was an example of Al Qaeda trying to pulse out U.S. intelligence. This could be an attempt by the U.S. government to mirror that strategy.

The one thing that mitigates against this line of thinking is that it would have made more sense to leak such a story to the Washington Post or New York Times. The Tribune is an odd place to plant this [Which makes it more credible as an unintentional intentional leak?--ed. This is the kind of hypothesis that makes me reach for the aspirin]

ANOTHER UPDATE: Darren Kaplan has more context and background.

posted by Dan at 10:22 AM | Comments (70) | Trackbacks (19)

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

New Hampshire thread

Well, I did get the 1-2 correct -- that said, I was more wrong than right in my New Hampshire predictions, so I have no right to discuss the results.

Talk amongst yourselves, however. I'll open with the following: did Dean and Clark do well enough to have a viable chance of winning the nomination?

UPDATE: OK, I posted an additional comment at Instapundit. That's right, InstaPundit.

LAST UPDATE: Jacob Levy in junkie mode; Josh Marshall in detached analysis mode.

posted by Dan at 10:13 PM | Comments (30) | Trackbacks (1)

Not letting up on outsourcing

Two new stories on the web today about the outsourcing phenomenon, about which I've blogged here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and ... er, here. [Why don't you just create a new category for these posts?--ed. Hey, good idea!]

The Washington Post has an editorial blasting the Democrats for demagoguing the outsourcing issue (link via David Adesnik). The last paragraph:

It's true that the shift of service jobs to countries such as India, like other trade-related dislocation, adds to the temporary pain of structural unemployment. But, as Mr. Greenspan says, new jobs will be created. If a U.S. firm shifts employment abroad, the savings flow back to the United States in the form of lower prices for consumers and higher dividends for shareholders; the consumers and shareholders will direct their new spending power at things that create employment. Meanwhile, the fall in prices will allow the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates lower, boosting the job-creation engine. At its meeting today and tomorrow, the Fed is almost certain to keep short-term interest rates at a rock-bottom 1 percent because forces such as "offshoring" are keeping inflation in check despite a rebounding economy. Offshoring, like trade, creates winners and losers, which is why open trade should be accompanied by social safety nets. But the winners will outnumber the losers, because the adjustment creates new efficiencies. Each worker can produce more, meaning that he or she can be paid more. Do the Democrats really mean to oppose that?

Meanwhile, Wired has an in-depth cover story (and a few sidebars) on the outsourcing phenomenon (thanks to axiom for the link). One the one hand, the main piece by Daniel Pink gets at the core of current frustrations:

A century ago, 40 percent of Americans worked on farms. Today, the farm sector employs about 3 percent of our workforce. But our agriculture economy still outproduces all but two countries. Fifty years ago, most of the US labor force worked in factories. Today, only about 14 percent is in manufacturing. But we've still got the largest manufacturing economy in the world - worth about $1.9 trillion in 2002. We've seen this movie before - and it's always had a happy ending. The only difference this time is that the protagonists are forging pixels instead of steel. And accountants, financial analysts, and other number crunchers, prepare for your close-up. Your jobs are next. After all, to export sneakers or sweatshirts, companies need an intercontinental supply chain. To export software or spreadsheets, somebody just needs to hit Return.

What makes this latest upheaval so disorienting for Americans is its speed. Agriculture jobs provided decent livelihoods for at least 80 years before the rules changed and working in the factory became the norm. Those industrial jobs endured for some 40 years before the twin pressures of cheap competition overseas and labor-saving automation at home rewrote the rules again. IT jobs - the kind of high-skill knowledge work that was supposed to be our future - are facing the same sort of realignment after only 20 years or so. The upheaval is occurring not across generations, but within individual careers. The rules are being rewritten while people are still playing the game. And that seems unjust.

On the other hand, Chris Anderson makes the most trenchant point:

For US workers, the path beyond services seems uncertain. But again, history provides a guide. Thirty years ago, another form of outsourcing hit the US service sector: the computer. That led to a swarm of soulless processing machines, promoted by management consultants and embraced by profit-obsessed executives gobbling jobs in a push for efficiency. If today's cry of the displaced is "They sent my job to India!" yesterday's was "I was replaced by a computer!"

Then, as now, the potential for disruption seemed infinite. Data crunching was just the start. Soon electronic brains would replace most of the accounting department, the typing pool, and the switchboard. After that, the thinking went, the modern corporation would apply the same technology to middle management, business analysis, and, ultimately, decisionmaking. If your job was emptying an inbox and filling an outbox, you were begging for someone to draw the I/O analogy - and act on it. Indeed, computer terminology is littered with traces of what were formerly jobs: printers, monitors, file managers; even computers themselves used to be people, not machines.

Computers have, of course, reshaped the workplace. But they have also proved remarkably effective at creating jobs. Bookkeepers of old, adding columns in ledgers, are today's financial analysts, wielding Excel and PowerPoint in boardroom strategy sessions. Secretaries have morphed into executive assistants, more aides-de-camp than stenographers. Typesetters have become designers. True, in many cases different people filled the new jobs, leaving millions painfully displaced, but over time the net effect was positive - for workers and employers alike.

At the same time, we learned the limits of computers - especially their inability to replace us - and our fear of a silicon invasion diminished.

Comment away.

posted by Dan at 04:38 PM | Comments (121) | Trackbacks (4)

Quote of the day

From Ryan Lizza's campaign journal at TNR:

If Dean's events sometimes look like the bar scene from Star Wars, Edwards's traveling show has the feel of an Abercrombie and Fitch fashion shoot.

If you click over to the Abercrombie & Fitch site, you start to understand the whole "growing male crush" phenomenon with regard to Edwards.

posted by Dan at 02:02 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, January 26, 2004

Dissecting the outsourcing hypothesis

Clay Risen takes a hard look at outsourcing fears in The New Republic and finds them overblown:

While offshoring is definitely an economic trend, there is no statistical evidence pointing to the massive employment drain activists call the "coring out" of America's best jobs. In fact, recent studies show that the opposite is true: While offshoring may displace some workers in the short term, in the medium and long terms it represents a net benefit for both domestic businesses and their workers. In fact, the greatest threat from outsourcing is that its opponents will use it to force a new wave of protectionism.

The frenzy over offshoring got going in late 2002, when Forrester Research released a startling study showing that 3.3 million white-collar jobs would move overseas by 2015. Then, in July of last year, the research firm Gartner trotted out its own study saying that as many as 5 percent of all information technology (I.T.) jobs could move abroad between mid-2003 and the end of 2004. And a 2003 report from Deloitte Research said that the top 100 financial-services firms plan to move $356 billion in operations and two million jobs overseas in the next five years.

But those numbers aren't as scary as they sound. For one thing, while offshore outsourcing is definitely occurring, it's difficult to say just how large a trend it is at present. The Forrester research is based primarily on surveys of business leaders who are merely speculating about future offshoring decisions they might make: "There is no objective data to prove all these jobs are going overseas," says Michaela Platzer of the AeA (formerly the American Electronics Association). "There's just a lot of anecdotal evidence." Some point to the jobless recovery as evidence of offshoring's impact, but the lack of jobs is just as likely the result of booming productivity and the economy's (until recently) anemic pace. "I think people are confusing the business cycle with long-term trends," says Daniel Griswold, an economist at the Cato Institute. "People are looking for someone to blame. They say, 'Aha, it's because our jobs are moving to India.' If you look at the late 1990s, though, all these globalizing phenomena were going on." In other words, it wasn't that offshoring practices changed; it was that the economy slowed.

Risen doesn't even mention the Catherine Mann study, which provides some hard data to back up Risen's conterarguments.

Another story suggests that reports of the outsourcing of call centers has also been greatly exaggerated.

posted by Dan at 05:57 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (3)

My final thoughts on New Hampshire

John Ellis reports that the media covering the NH primary is at sea:

It's clear that the national political press corps is flummoxed by New Hampshire. They have no idea what's going on, although they all agree that Kerry will win. Novak has been reduced to quoting "an elderly couple" in his hotel lobby. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal both seem whipsawed by all the tracking polls.

I'm feeling energized by the fact that I was right about Iowa, so I'm taking advantage of the Mediasphere's confusion to make bold, half-assed predictions for tomorrow!! [As bold as Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, who has actual percentages?--ed. Not that bold!!]

Clearly, the tracking polls are going to be of little help. Compare the ARG with the Zogby and you start to appreciate the concept of "standard error" in a whole new way (a point Mark Kleiman made in the past week).

So, I'm basing my prediction on one ironclad historical fact -- Granite State voters like to mindf#&k the pollsters and the pundits. Sometimes they'll do this for the sheer fun of it -- remember, Pat Buchanan won the state in 1996.

So, pooling that fact in with the assorted polls and reportage, here are my predictions:

1) Kerry
2) Dean
3) Edwards
4) Lieberman
5) Clark.

I'm not so bold as to be able to predict a Dean victory. But let's face it, the scream effect has worn off, for the same reason that the cops tried for the Rodney King beating received a not guilty verdict -- watch the video repeatedly, and the visceral effect starts to wear off. As ABC's The Note notes: "Many of his supporters here are angry at the media and the process and are fighting back (unlike in Iowa, where they seemed more angry at Dean)."

As for Kerry, I'm going with Jacob Levy and Mickey Kaus that Kerry wears out his welcome over time.

Finally, as John Ellis (again) points out, the national media want to bury Dean in New Hampshire. The best way for the Granite State to stop that is for Dean to play the Clinton angle post-primary. So I'm saying Dean will finish within five points of Kerry -- I'm just not sure of which side of him he'll finish. [Your readers want something more specific--ed. Fine -- Kerry by 3%]

The other steady drumbeat coming out of N.H. is that Wes Clark's campaign couldn't organize a proper bake sale. Democrats are suspicious of him. Republican- leaning independents are more likely to vote for Lieberman than Clark; Democrat-leaning independents are more likely to vote for Edwards than Clark. The debate performance didn't help. So, I'm saying he finishes fifth. [But wait, doesn't going with the media flow this time violate your rule about New Hampshire voters?--ed. Above all else, New Hampshire voters expect to be wined and dined. Clark's organization looks like its not capable of performing even that function.]

I was only partly right about the media spin after Iowa, but here goes anyway -- they help Edwards again. A revitalized Dean is going to go after Kerry with a vengeance, and Kerry's anti-Shermanesque motto -- "I will lose the South" -- will cause Kerry's upticks in the polls to melt away in the South. If Edwards makes a credible showing in New Hampshire, he'll be able to attract sufficient strength in the South to stay in the race for a while.

Of course, this is all predicated on Dean pulling close enough to Kerry to make things interesting, and Edwards beating Clark. I could very easily be wrong, in which case the current Senator from Massachusetts will start to resemble a former Senator of Massachusetts. If I'm right, however, then the Kerry balloon could pop, and the current Senator from Massachusetts will start to resemble... a former Senator from Massachusetts.

posted by Dan at 01:23 PM | Comments (22) | Trackbacks (5)

John Kerry, political idiot

Jake Tapper reports for ABC that John Kerry said he doesn't need the South:

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., is discounting notions that any Democratic candidate would have to appeal to Southern voters in order to win the presidency, calling such thinking a "mistake" during a speech at Dartmouth College.

Kerry's remarks Saturday were so starkly antithetical to how many southern Democrats feel their party should campaign for the presidency, that a former South Carolina state Democratic chairman told ABCNEWS that Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C., who endorsed Kerry last week, perhaps "ought to reconsider his endorsement."

During a town hall meeting on the Dartmouth campus, Kerry noted that former Vice President Al Gore would be president if he'd won any number of other non-Southern states in 2000, including New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Ohio.

"Everybody always makes the mistake of looking South," Kerry said, in response to a question about winning the region. "Al Gore proved he could have been president of the United States without winning one Southern state, including his own."

"I think the fight is all over this country," Kerry said. "Forget about those red and blue states. We're going to change that now, and we're going to go out there and change the face of America."

Simple question: what the hell was John Kerry thinking?

Let's acknowledge at the outset that Kerry is correct on the facts. If Gore had won just one more state, he would have become president.

Politically, however, this is just stupid. As I've argued previously, the best way for Kerry to knock Edwards and Clark out of the race is to win South Carolina. How is this statement going to help that? Even if Kerry gets the nomination, this regional "f#$k you" is going to haunt him regardless of how many mea culpas the Kerry campaign churns out.

There's a more substantive point, however -- does anyone want a president elected without support across regional boundaries? This applies to Bush as well as the Dems. You want a president to be able to say they command support in the Northeast, South, Midwest and West.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan asks:

The cultural divide between the South and the rest of the country is getting pretty yawning. Isn't it equally true that the Republicans have given up on most of the Northeast?

Gotta disagree on both counts. On the former, read Daniel Urman's first-person account of going door-to-door in New Hampshire. As for the Republicans and New England, the Republicans hold five out of the twelve possible Senate seats and five out of the six governors seats. Bush won New Hampshire in 2000. It's Democrat-friendly territory, no doubt, but the Republicans still need to do well there.

UPDATE: Tom Maguire reinforces Tapper's point that Kerry has said this before.

posted by Dan at 11:12 AM | Comments (58) | Trackbacks (5)

When populism can work

One of the things that struck me the night of the Iowa caucuses was that all of the Democratic candidates were using the same kind of populist themes of "special interests vs. your interests" that worked so well poorly for Al Gore in 2000. And George W. Bush is always at the center of those special interests.

I've defended the administration from the more outlandish set of charges. However, stories like the one in today's Chicago Tribune on Boeing's fueling tanker follies are going to hit home this fall. The deal would have let the Pentagon lease airplanes from Boeing to bolster its own refeuling fleet. By leasing rather than buying, the Defense Department was reducing costs in the short run but vastly increasing them in the long run. Boeing got its way, however:

Mitch Daniels, then President Bush's budget director and now the Republican candidate for Indiana governor, thought the tanker deal violated government accounting rules.

"The central problem was that the tankers were not on [the] Defense Department's wish list until somebody [at Boeing] came up with this idea," an administration source said.

Faced with Daniels' objections, Boeing did what only a handful of American businesses can do: It went over Daniels' head and straight to Bush. Through a series of meetings among the president and his staff and key members of Congress--including House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.)--Boeing applied enough pressure at the top to push its contract through in May.

Today, however, those hardball tactics have backfired. The lobbying campaign is the subject of criminal, congressional and Pentagon investigations....

Inside the White House budget office, the political pressure applied by Boeing was keenly felt.

"What made this thing to so very difficult was that it had enormous political overtones," said one budget office veteran involved in the issue. "I'm talking about Boeing mustering up every congressman who had five employees in his district and beating on everyone in sight."

If you read the whole thing, you'll see that Democratic as well as Republican congressmen lobbied vigorously for the deal, so this ain't just the executive branch and it ain't just Republicans. And, to be fair, the system worked eventually, with the contract being withdrawn.

Still, this is the kind of story that makes the populism angle work. And it's going to hurt the majority party way more than the minority party.

Populism always scares me because it's joined at the hip to trade protectionism. If the economy continues to struggle with job creation, however, I fear it will be a more potent tactic than in 2000.

posted by Dan at 10:54 AM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Laura Kipnis on marriage

The occasionally droll Laura Kipinis -- author of Against Love: A Polemic -- puts on her serious hat for today's New York Times op-ed on the state of marriage. The highlights:

More and more people — heterosexuals, that is — don't want to get or stay married these days, no matter their income level. Yes, cohabitation is particularly prevalent in less economically stable groups, including the women counted as unmarried mothers. But only 56 percent of all adults are married, compared with 75 percent 30 years ago. The proportion of traditional married-couple-with-children American households has dropped to 26 percent of all households, from 45 percent in the early 1970's. The demographics say Americans are voting no on marriage.

The fact is that marriage is a social institution in transition, whether conservatives like it or not. This is not simply a matter of individual malfeasance; in fact, it may not be individual at all. The rise of the new economy has gutted all sorts of traditional values and ties, including traditions like the family wage, job security and economic safety nets. Women have been propelled into the work force in huge numbers, and not necessarily for personal fulfillment: with middle-class wages stagnant from the early 70's to the mid-90's, it now takes (at least) two incomes to support the traditional household.

But as the political theorist Francis Fukuyama has pointed out, the changing nature of capitalism since the 1960's also required a different kind of work force; it was postindustrialism, perhaps even more than feminism, that transformed gender roles, contributing to what he calls the "great disruption" of the present. The increasing economic self-sufficiency of women has certainly been a factor in declining marriage rates: there's nothing like a checking account to decrease someone's willingness to be pushed into marriage or stay in a bad one. And interestingly, welfare reform has played the same role for lower-income groups: studies have shown a steep decline in marriages among women in welfare-to-work programs, for many of the same reasons.

So how about a little more honesty and fewer platitudes on the marriage question.

Honesty would be good. Kipnis knows a lot more about this subject than I do, but some of her facts seem shaded.

For example, Fukuyama did posit in The Great Disruption that the post-industrial society had a deleterious effect on marital status. However, he also argued that the effect was temporary and reversible: "Social order, once disrupted, tends to get remade again." Fukuyama argued that the institution of marriage was rebounding -- not that there was an inexorable erosion of the institution.

This jibes with data suggesting a modest turnaround in marriage rates starting in the mid-1990's. John Leo noted back in 2001 that:

The liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed 1995 to 2000 data and concluded that the move away from marriage "really seems to have come to a halt," in the words of Wendell Primus, a poverty expert at the center. The proportion of children under 18 living with a single mother declined by 8 percent in five years, according to a report written by Primus and Allen Dupree. Working with an early copy of the report, Jonathan Peterson of the Los Angeles Times wrote that "some of the newest evidence suggests that the tidal flow away from two-parent families peaked years ago and may even be starting to change course."

Mickey Kaus also commented on this phenomenon at the time.

Finally, as to whether marriage is worth defending, go read this excellent summary of University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite's research on the benefits of marriage. It explodes more than a few myths on the subject:

While pundits, politicians, and moralists weigh the pros and cons of gay marriage, Linda Waite is still focused on traditional American couples, countering messages from the “antimarriage” culture and championing marriage’s benefits: specifically, that marriage itself is good for your physical and mental health, good for your financial stability, good for your sex life, good for your kids—good for almost every aspect of what many Americans consider a happy life....

[M]arried men, rather than trading their libidos for lawn mowers, have more sex than single men. And married women are less depressed than single women, contrary to feminist sociologist Jessie Bernard’s explosive 1972 book arguing that wives were more phobic, depressed, dependent, and passive—findings that have shaped cultural conceptions ever since. More recently Waite has shown that divorce does not make unhappily married people any happier. In a study released in July 2002 she and five colleagues analyzed data from the University of Wisconsin’s National Survey of Family and Households. When the adults who said they were unhappily married in the late 1980s were interviewed again five years later, those who had divorced were on average still unhappy or even less happy, while those who stayed in their marriages on average had moved past the bad times and were at a happier stage. After controlling for race, age, gender, and income, Waite’s group found that divorce usually did not reduce symptoms of depression, raise self esteem, or increase a sense of mastery over one’s life.

UPDATE: More venting by Laura at at Apt. 11D.

posted by Dan at 10:33 PM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (0)

Give me the Drysdale!

I see I've been nominated for "Best Non-Liberal Blog" for the 2003 Koufax Awards.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't tell you good readers to vote for me [Yes, you would!--ed.] but in the interest of marital balance I'm going to ask this time. Erika writes one pithy post and gets a Bloggie nomination!! My lovely wife has been lording it over me ever since, unimpressed with the meager success I've had with prior awards.

So, even the score and vote for me!! [Is this a reason or a rant?--ed. There's a reason you don't get nominated for anything]

posted by Dan at 03:42 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

The blogging of the President

Christopher Lydon will be hosting a radio show on NPR tonight from 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM (Eastern Time) entitled "The Blogging of the President." Of course, there's an associated blog. Here are links to multiple posts about tonight's show -- which has an impressive line-up of commentators from both the blogosphere (Andrew Sullivan, Jeff Jarvis, Atrios, Joshua Micah Marshall) and the mediasphere (Gary Hart, Kevin Phillips, Richard Reeves).

To listen in online, go to Minnesota Public Radio's home page.

For background reading, check out this AP story on blogs and campaigns from earlier this week, and today's essay about political "cyberbalkanization" from the New York Times.

UPDATE: A few thoughts having just listened to the broadcast:

1) Christopher Lyudon is just a font of adjectives. My favorite for describing the blogosphere was "yeasty."

2) Great (paraphrased) exchange between Jeff Jarvis and Frank Rich:

JARVIS: Frank, I'd like to see you have a blog.

RICH: I can't -- I want to have a life!!

3) Jeff Jarvis also had the best line of the evening: "Bloggers don't replace reporters; bloggers replace editors."

4) Where the hell were Gary Hart and Kevin Phillips? [UPDATE: According to this post, "We can't get through to Gary Hart's number." I have that problem too.]

5) Atrios and Sullivan had a yeasty exchange towards the end. Andrew made the point that he was willing to criticize his own side of the political spectrum, whereas Atrios would not do the same on the left. Atrios replied that simply wasn't true, and it was clear Andrew had not read his blog. Sullivan asked Atrios to cite an episode when he had criticized someone on the left. Atrios paused and said, "Well, I can't think of think of one right now."

6) Scrappleface posted the following headline to a Blogging of the President real-time entry: "Public Radio Show Talks about People Who Write About What's Written About People Who Do Little Else But Talk."

7) A final substantive critique of the show -- Neither Lydon nor any of his guests made the crucial distinction between campaign blogs and independent political blogs. The former might be more prone than the latter to the cocooning phenomenon discussed on the show.

FINAL UPDATE: On a related subject, Billmon privides an exhaustive report on a Davos Economic Forum panel on the relationship between the blogosphere and the mediasphere.

posted by Dan at 01:08 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (1)

The dynamics of the Democratic race

Josh Marshall -- who's giving his readers their money's worth in New Hampshire -- introduces a complicating factor to the race after Tuesday:

[T]he two candidates with the most wind at their back -- Kerry and Edwards -- are also the ones who have the fewest resources in place to contest the primaries which will come rapidly, week after week, after next Tuesday.

Dean, of course, has spent the last couple months using all those Internet dollars to build up organizations and infrastructure in states across the country. And Clark, though to a lesser extent, has done the same.

Here's the thing -- I'm not sure how much organization matters. The Internet has made it very easy for candidates to translate monentum into contributions and volunteers (though not top-shelf organizers). Organization matters for get-out-the-vote efforts -- but this time around, the horse-race dynamic is boosting turnout anyway.

Once the race reaches the multi-state primaries phase, what matters more than organization are free media and paid media. The former goes to the candidates with momentum (though the Dean obsession this week could prove me wrong on that one). The latter goes to the candidates with money, which helps Dean and Clark. However, if both Kerry and Edwards do well in the Granite State (and Jonathan Cohn argues that Edwards will do much better than expected in New Hampshire) then the margin of that advantage will shrink dramatically as new money rushes to both of those candidates.

UPDATE: Via DailyKos, The ARG polls in three February 3rd primary states (Arizona, South Carolina, and Oklahoma) highlight the fluidity of the race, but they also support my argument. Dean, for all his vaunted organization, is running no higher than fourth in all three states, and is only polling in double-digits in Arizona. Clark's numbers are relatively strong -- but if he doesn't do well in New Hampshire I can see that support fading. Meanwhile, Kerry is leading in the Arizona poll and second in South Carolina. Edwards is leading in South Carolina and second in Oklahoma.

posted by Dan at 12:55 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (2)

Hunting spam

I've written previously that my preference for dealing with annoyances like e-mail spam has been through technological rather than regulatory recourses. It's not that I necessarily think legal options are wrong; they're just not my first choice.

We've been through this regarding phone solicitations, in which the regulatory outcome seemed to win. Intriguingly, the battle for Internet spam might be a case of technological solutions mattering more than regulatory ones.

The New York Times reports that increasingly sophisticated filtering software is eroding the "quality" of spam:

Measured in bits and bytes, the sheer volume of spam may not have diminished. But advanced filtering software, which learns to recognize the mercurial traits of junk e-mail, is having an effect. The spammers' messages are becoming harder and harder to decipher. Sense is inevitably degenerating into nonsense, like a pileup of random mutations in an endangered species gasping its last breaths.

Earlier this month, when Internet experts met in Cambridge, Mass., for the 2004 Spam Conference (available as a Web broadcast at, they showed just how far the science of spam fighting has come. For all the recent talk of suing spammers and compiling a national do-not-spam list, most speakers were putting their hopes in technological, not legal solutions. The federal government's new junk e-mail law, the Can Spam Act, barely rated a mention....

Many experts believe that solving the spam problem will require a combination of [legal and technological] approaches. But laws take forever to pass and amend. Technological fixes like sender authentication and electronic stamps would also take time to carry out, but filtering is already here - and it is reducing the spammers' messages to feeble signals swamped by a roar of alphanumeric noise.

Meanwhile Bill Gates is now weighing in on the issue:

Microsoft chief Bill Gates has vowed to make spam emails obsolete in two years’ time, sources confirmed tonight.

Mr Gates admitted spamming, which usually relates to pornography, pyramid schemes or financial scams, was innovative.

But, he revealed that Microsoft was investigating three solutions to rid in-boxes from the clutter of unsolicited bulk emails....

Filters could be used to sift real mail from spam but would not be the “magic solution” as spammers used random words in subject headers and replaced text with pictures to go undetected.

“Human challenges”, forcing the sender to solve a puzzle or the computer sending the email to do a simple computation, would be easy for a machine sending a few emails, but expensive and difficult when dealing with lots of spam.

posted by Dan at 12:16 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)