Saturday, February 7, 2004

For Chicago readers only

The Chicago chapter of the Nathan Hale Foreign Policy Society -- devoted to discussing foreign policy topics in, "as bipartisan, idealistic, and nuanced fashion as possible," will be meeting a 7:00 PM Sunday evening at Cosi. The address is 116 S. Michigan Avenue. That's roughly across the street from the lovely Art Institute of Chicago. Make a day of it!!

This first meeting of the Chicago chapter will be led by Will Baude. The topic is Homeland Security:

1. What do we assess is knowable vis-a-vis the threat?
2. What does the homeland security community need to look like to 'deter, defend and defeat'?
3. Where do we go from here?

Click here for suggested readings.

posted by Dan at 11:33 PM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Blogging for dollars

John Hawkins provides a run-down on possible ways that bloggers can make a buck off their blogs. There's an excellent discussion of all the possible revenue streams, but his first point is the most salient: "if your primary motivation is to make money, don't bother with blogging."

James Joyner adds: "The short answer is to either 1) become Andrew Sullivan or 2) forget about it."

[Hey, you became Andrew Sullivan for a spell. You should be set!--ed. I've been less aggressive on this front than I could be -- mostly because the opportunity costs of caring outweigh the paltry amounts I suspect such efforts would generate. The Amazon click-throughs do generate enough money to pay for the site, however.]

posted by Dan at 10:55 AM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (3)

Friday, February 6, 2004

Gorbachev, Bush, Kohl... Hasselhoff?

The BBC reports about a man who feels slighted by history:

Baywatch star David Hasselhoff is griping that his role in reuniting East and West Germany has been overlooked....

Barely a month after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, the city that had been divided by politics for more than 40 years was united in song.

And leading the chorus of several hundred thousand voices was a man hitherto known to the rest of the world for driving a talking car....

Speaking to Germany's TV Spielfilm magazine, the 51-year-old carped about how his pivotal role in harmonising relations between the two sides of the divide had been overlooked.

"I find it a bit sad that there is no photo of me hanging on the walls in the Berlin Museum at Checkpoint Charlie," he told the magazine.

Read the whole story to get Hasselhoff's side of the story.

Indeed, let us all hope that sometime soon, all of the former stars of Baywatch receive their proper due in museums.

Yasmine Bleeth, Nicole Eggert, and Brande Roderick -- your days will come!!!

[Thanks to alert reader S.P. for the tip.]

posted by Dan at 09:43 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (8)

The EU turns further inward

There are inherent tensions in the phrase "liberal democracy." The liberal part implies the protection of individual rights. The democracy part implies that those areas of policy requiring collective decision making will reflect majoritarian preferences. The tension is over what spheres of social, political, and economuc life should be protected against democratic rule -- or, to turn it around, what constraints should be placed on individual freedoms for the good of the whole.

I bring this up because the European Union's trade commissioner is considering a wholesale rejection of the liberal part of this equation. According to the Financial Times:

Governments would be allowed to ban imports from countries that did not share their national values and standards under proposals for radical changes to global trade rules being studied by Pascal Lamy, Europe's trade commissioner....

The paper says legalising curbs on imports that do not meet individual societies' "collective preferences" would promote global economic integration by reducing international tensions....

[T]he paper says the WTO rules give too much weight to science and too little to local social and political sensitivities.

The paper does not detail what kinds of imports the European Union might want to restrict. However, it says divergent national regulations and public attitudes worldwide threaten to create growing trade frictions over environmental policy and in sectors such as agriculture, services, software and pharmaceuticals.

The paper insists it is not seeking a pretext to erect new import barriers. However, it acknowledges that economic liberals and developing countries - long hostile to efforts to link trade and social standards - might attack the idea as protectionist and Eurocentric. (emphasis added)

The highlighted section reflects just how Eurocentric this report would be. If the EU chose to implement this policy, it probably would promote greater European integration (via trade diversion). It would also probably reduce European tensions over trade.

However, it would also succeed in reducing global economic integration -- as well as pissing off just every other country in the world. How the papers' authors believe that this step would actually boost integration and reduce tensions outside of Europe is beyond me.

Unless they think that Europe is the world.

UPDATE: Rich Kleinman offers a thoughtful rejoinder:

[Y]ou don't pay enough attention to the fact that the reasons the tariffs could be imposed are actually barriers to democracy. The extreme example that I am thinking of here is slavery. If another nation was selling goods to Europe that were produced by slaves how would limiting that trade be a problem.

Rich makes a valid point, and in the abstract I agree that on trade matters, circumstances exist in which broad-based democratic values should trump individual liberties.

However, three things frost me about this story:

1) When one considers recent EU trade history -- it's hard not to believe that this policy would not do much more harm than good -- both to the European and global economy;
2) The stated policy would have collective decision-making always trumping individual choice;
3) The paper's reported argument that the EU decision to jack up tariffs willy-nilly will somehow promote integration and reduce conflict is so completely wrong-headed that I'm amazed that it's being advanced.

posted by Dan at 11:04 AM | Comments (56) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, February 5, 2004

Breaking Plame news

UPI's Richard Sale has breaking news on the Plame investigation:

Federal law-enforcement officials said that they have developed hard evidence of possible criminal misconduct by two employees of Vice President Dick Cheney's office related to the unlawful exposure of a CIA officer's identity last year. The investigation, which is continuing, could lead to indictments, a Justice Department official said.

According to these sources, [Deputy Assistant to the Vice President
for National Security Affairs] John Hannah and Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, were the two Cheney employees. "We believe that Hannah was the major player in this," one federal law-enforcement officer said. Calls to the vice president's office were not returned, nor did Hannah and Libby return calls.

The strategy of the FBI is to make clear to Hannah "that he faces a real possibility of doing jail time" as a way to pressure him to name superiors, one federal law-enforcement official said.

A little further down in the story is this quote about the White House's reaction to the triggering event, Joseph Wilson's op-ed bebunking the Niger yellowcake claim:

According to one administration official, "The White House was really pissed, and began to contact six journalists in order to plant stories to discredit Wilson," according to the New York Times and other accounts.

Hat tip to Josh Marshall, who promises more soon.

UPDATE: Robert Tagorda has blogosphere reaction, as well as a link to a Newsweek story Hannah's prior involvement in Iraq intelligence.

If this pans out,* I tend to agree with Mark Kleiman:

[I]f this stays in the VPs office, I'd call that very good news for Mr. Bush. The staff guys can be fired. If necessary, Cheney can be dumped from the ticket (which might not be a bad move anyway).

Chris Lawrence has further thoughts on Cheney.

*One thing does trouble me: why haven't the other wire services -- AP, Reuters -- picked this story up? [UPDATE: Josh Marshall comments on this as well, suggesting the following:

Yesterday I talked with an emissary from neoconland who pushed back heavily on the story, at least as regards John Hannah. No mention of Libby. But Hannah, this person insisted, is simply not a target of the investigation.

Let me add another point. There are lots of people I know (of many political persuasions) who aren't surprised Libby would be involved in this and won't be shedding a tear if he gets brought down by it. But they feel the opposite on both counts about Hannah.

None of this means Hannah is or isn't in the clear. I'm just trying to give you a feel for the reaction to the mention of his name as a potential target of this investigation.]

ANOTHER UPDATE: This Asian Times piece has the rundown on Cheney's travails as of late. This graf stands out:

According to recent polls, Cheney's approval ratings, hovering around 20 percent, are already far below Bush's, which have themselves sunk below 50 percent for the first time in his presidency. Even Halliburton, whose public image has become so tarnished that it has launched a controversial television ad campaign to boost its image, last week listed Cheney's association to the company as a "risk factor" for its shareholders.

The approval rating argument seems bogus -- but the Halliburton story is true.

posted by Dan at 05:24 PM | Comments (40) | Trackbacks (3)

More on job growth

As I said in my last outsourcing post, anecdotes about large corporations laying off workers can crowd out information about smaller firms (traditionally defined as less than 500 employees) that are hiring more workers. Since two-thirds of all new jobs are created by small firms, the latter can more than compensate for the former.

MSNBC's Martin Wolk makes this points in a must-read story on the role that small businesses play in the economy (link via Virginia Postrel). Here's the part I found interesting:

A study of net job growth in 1996 suggested why small can be beautiful. Firms that were at least two years old that year cut employment by 7 to 36 percent overall, with the biggest job losses coming at the oldest firms. Meanwhile, job growth of nearly 150 percent was seen both at small firms that were less than two years old and at new branch offices and stores opened by larger firms.

“For employment growth, it looks as if the more important factor is age and not size,” said the study by economists John Haltiwanger and C.J. Krizan. “One clear pattern that emerges is that net job creation rates decline with plant age.”

That was 1996 -- what about the present? Let's go to the National Federation of Independent Businesses and see what they're saying about the economy and job creation. The economy first:

[T]he nation's small-business owners' outlook bubbled up 1.6 points to 106.9 in December, less than a point shy of the National Federation of Independent Business's (NFIB) Index of Small-Business Optimism's 1983 record and the fourth highest in the survey's history.

As for employment:

Operating small firms added a seasonally adjusted average of 0.19 employees per firm, nearly double the November figure. As a result, the entire fourth quarter was in the black for job creation. Over the past three months, 17 percent of all owners reported increasing employment a seasonally adjusted average of 3.9 employees, and 13 percent reported reducing employment by a seasonally adjusted average of 2.5 employees.

Until now, rising productivity and some uncertainty delayed the step-up in hiring that rising sales demand. This productivity cushion has been exhausted and job creation must now fill the gap to ensure that production keeps up with demand.

The percent of firms with at least one “hard to fill”job opening rose two points to a seasonally adjusted 20 percent of all firms. This reading is well below the 35 percent reading reached in 2000, but above recession readings of 10 percent reached in 1991. Eighteen (18) percent reported at least one opening for a skilled employee and 3 percent reported at least one opening for an unskilled employee.

Overall, it appears that there was substantial job creation in the fourth quarter and that job creation is poised to pick up speed early in 2004. The unemployment rate should fall a few tenths of a point by mid-year.

Obviously, this optimism must be seriously tempered by the shedding of jobs among large firms. Still, one hopes that this is a harbinger of healthy job growth across the board.

UPDATE: Hey, Technorati is hiring!!

ANOTHER UPDATE: The employment numbers for January are out:

Employment rose in January, and the unemployment rate, at 5.6 percent, was little changed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 112,000, with job gains in construction and several service-providing industries. Manufacturing employment continued to trend down, but the rate of job loss has moderated in recent months.

Not great, but a definite improvement over the 1,000 jobs created in December. Here's the AP report.

FINAL UPDATE: The Chicago Tribune has a story on the rise of self-employment. Most of it is quite informative, but see if you can spot the error that will drive Brad DeLong round the bend and post another "Why oh why can't we have a better press corps" post!!

posted by Dan at 03:53 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

The debate over the European Union, continued

Over the past six months Henry Farrell and I have had a friendly debate over how to define the European Union. It it a supranational organization transforming itself into a state -- as Henry argues? Or is it a garden-variety international organization that is managed by its most powerful member states -- as I have argued?

Henry's last post on this matter argued that what really mattered was the Euroopean Court of Justice:

[T]he real evidence that the EU is not the mere plaything of its more powerful member states can be found in the rulings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The ECJ has succeeded in effectively ensuring the primacy of EU law over the law of the member states, which is not something that you would expect if the European Union were a simple international organization. Even big member states such as France and Germany, have complied with ECJ rulings that went against their interests.

Henry makes a valid point -- but if the ECJ acts strategically, it will be reluctant to issue rulings that powerful states would flout, weakening the ECJ's repitation.

Which brings me to this Financial Times story suggests that beyond the ECJ, compliance is tough to come by:

Brussels delivered a double blow to the French government on Wednesday, combining a legal challenge against a French law on awarding government contracts with an order to repay more than €90m in farm subsidies.

France will now have to defend its public procurement code in front of the European Court of Justice, Europe's highest court, amid allegations that tendering procedures fall below European Union standards.

In a separate development, Paris will also be forced to re-examine the way it distributes the billions in farm aid it receives every year, after the Commission found that payments to cattle farmers had not been properly supervised. As a result, France will have to repay €91.12m ($114m, £62m), almost two thirds of the total farm subsidies recovered by the Commission in the most recent period.

The two decisions are likely to reinforce France's position as one of the worst performers on implementing EU legislation - a standing that has led to clashes between Paris and Brussels.

France's poor record on this front is matched only by Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg, all of which are founding members of the EU and frontline supporters of a two-speed Europe led by Paris and Berlin.

Their poor record in following EU law has led some to question whether these countries can provide the leadership required. Earlier this week, Frits Bolkestein, the internal market commissioner, launched a thinly-veiled attack on this drive for a two-speed Europe. In a speech in London he said: "It is about time certain member states put their money where their mouths are. The self-appointed vanguard should begin at home by implementing existing community law."

Paris and Berlin, traditionally the Union's leaders, were also berated last month for their poor record in implementing EU law, as well as for running big budget deficits and for their failure to push through reforms.

posted by Dan at 02:03 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (1)

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

The war of anecdotes

One of the problems in the outsourcing debate is that those who defend the practice lose the war of anecdotes. [What about economic models and statistical evidence?--ed. Then the arguments in favor of outsourcing win hands down. You'd think those pieces of information would be more important for public policy debates, but that's not the way it works. Between econometric models showing that trade is good for the economy and tangible anecdotes of job losses due to import competition, most citizens go with the anecdotes.]

It is easy to point to large multinational corporations laying off American workers because of offshore outsourcing -- cue IBM. However, the jobs that are either saved or created from outsourcing seem less impressive. In the case of jobs created, it's because a healthy share of new hiring takes place among smaller firms, the anecdotes of job creation seem much less convincing -- even though there may be more examples of the latter than the former.

In the case of jobs saved, the difficulty is that such statements require counterfactual reasoning -- "If outsourcing had not occurred, then a greater number of jobs would have been lost." Counterfactuals are extremely difficult to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt.

So, in the debates over trade and unemplyment, protectionists have juicy media stories, while those who favor an open economy are often left sputtering.

Bruce Bartlett tries to address "anecdote gap" on offshoring with this anecdote:

A Jan. 30 report in the Wall Street Journal illustrates how this works, using the case of a computer mouse manufacturer called Logitech. It sells a wireless mouse called Wanda for about $40 that is assembled in China. Of the $40, China gets only $3. The rest goes to suppliers, many based in America, which make components for the mouse, and to domestic retailers. The biggest component of Logitech's cost is its marketing department based in Fremont, California, where the staff of 450 Americans makes far more than the 4,000 Chinese who actually manufacture the product.

Those 450 Americans, making good wages in California, might not have jobs at all if Logitech wasn't able to stay competitive by outsourcing some of its costs. Studies have also shown that workers displaced by outsourcing are often retrained for better jobs within the companies doing the outsourcing. Cisco, for example, is a leader in outsourcing, but has not reduced the number of its domestic employees because they have been redeployed into other areas, doing higher value-added work. These jobs often pay better than those that were outsourced.

I know that this is no solace to those who have lost jobs due to outsourcing. But the nation as a whole will be worse off if outsourcing is restricted.

UPDATE: More on this over at the Marginal Revolution. And Steve Verdon had a great post from last month that's worth reading.

FINAL UPDATE: I've posted more on job growth here.

posted by Dan at 05:54 PM | Comments (47) | Trackbacks (3)

I love the eighties... strikes back!

Looking for more information on whether Bush is Reagan redux on foreign policy?

On foreign economic policy, Virginia Postrel ably makes the case that the current outsourcing phenomenon is a replay of the fears of "Japan, Inc." from the eighties. The Morgan Stanley quote is courtesy of this joint effort by Stephen Roach and Richard Berner (link via Brad DeLong). Stephen Roach takes the opposite position on outsourcing.

Reagan's forced reversal on taxes is covered in this Bruce Bartlett essay from last October. For a blow-by-blow description of Reagan's fiscal policy, the obvious source is David Stockman's The Triumph of Politics.

The Mary Matalin quote is courtesy of Chris Sullentrop's Slate article on Bush's campaign reelection strategy.

On Reagan's policies towards the Soviet Union, an accessible primer is Strobe Talbott's The Master of the Game, which is simultaneously a biography of Paul Nitze and a discussion of Reagan's attitudes towards arms control. It's also worth a re-read to see how Richard Perle reacts to Reagan responding to Gorbachev. And to understand the strains that existed within NATO in the early eighties due to Reagan's perceived belligerency, I'll shamelessly recommend Chapter Three, pages 80-88 of The Sanctions Paradox, authored by yours truly. [Wouldn't George Shultz's Turmoil and Triumph work as well?--ed. Er, yes, but that book is much too long for your busy TNR Online reader.]

On whether it is possible to create a democracy in Iraq: I argued pre-invasion that there were reasons to be optimistic with regard to democratization. For a counterargument, see today's Los Angeles Times op-ed by George Downs and Bruce Bueno de Mesquita* (link via Kevin Drum). This post from a few weeks ago contains links to arguments by George Will, Ken Pollack, and Francis Fukuyama on the subject. Today's Chicago Tribune provides a story on the perils and promises of human rights in Iraq. To my knowledge, Michael Desch was first compared Iraq to Lebanon.

I say Bush is hoping to emulate Reagan; Jonathan Rauch says that Bush is actually emulating Reagan's childhood idol, FDR in a July 2003 essay from The National Journal.

posted by Dan at 10:18 AM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (1)

I love the eighties!!

My latest TNR Online essay is up. It's a meditation on whether we're experiencing 1984 all over again. [You mean in that Orwellian doublespeak kind of way?--ed.] No, I mean in terms of the costs and benefits out our foreign policy.

posted by Dan at 10:14 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Primary analysis continued

I was going to post some thoughts, but Will Saletan pretty much wrote what I was thinking (link via RealClearPolitics:

First Clark squashed Edwards' official campaign kickoff in September, leaking word that very day that he would get into the race. Then, a week ago, Clark beat out Edwards for third in New Hampshire by a fraction of a percentage point. That cost Edwards the ability to claim plausibly that he had continued his momentum from Iowa. Tuesday night, it happened again: Clark eked out a margin over Edwards in Oklahoma so narrow that the state election board will have to review the ballots before declaring an official winner....

I think Edwards would be the strongest Democrat in the general election. Nobody expected him to do this well in Oklahoma. But when the history of the 2004 race is written, my guess is that we'll look back at Oklahoma as Edwards' Stalingrad. He had to kill off Clark. The media were itching to write off Clark, and a no-win night would have given them license to do so. Now they can't. Clark will go on to Tennessee and Virginia, where he'll do what he did in Oklahoma: split the non-Yankee vote and keep Kerry in the lead. Maybe Edwards will win Tennessee and Virginia, and Clark will fade. But by then it may too late to stop Kerry....

Kerry's biggest achievement is that he's now the only candidate who's running strong everywhere. I winced when he claim to have finished "enormously close" to Edwards in South Carolina; I don't recall Kerry aides treating Dean's finish in New Hampshire, which was nearer to the top than Kerry's finish was in South Carolina, as enormously close. But Kerry legitimately pointed out that he's the only candidate who campaigned in all seven of the Feb. 3 states, and he won five of them. Who else can make such a claim?

John Kerry is doing well, and the candidate deserves some credit. However, he's also benefiting from some unbelievable luck. Richard Gephardt, in his last moment on the national stage, drags Howard Dean down with him. Now it looks like Clark will do the same thing to Edwards.

posted by Dan at 10:10 AM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Primary analysis

I'll be on Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg show tonight from 10:00 PM to 12:00 PM Eastern time to discuss the primaries. Tom Bevan from RealClearPolitics will also be on the show.

You can listen in online by clicking here.

UPDATE: That was fun!! From now on I'm going to demand Internet access when I'm doing a radio show -- it makes me sound much more erudite! Tom Bevan of RealClearPolitics managed to pull that off without any help from the Web whatsoever.

posted by Dan at 06:15 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (0)

Take these for what they're worth...

Both The Corner and Taegan Goddard's Political Wire have exit polls from five of the states voting today:

AZ: Kerry 46, Clark 24, Dean 13.
MO: Kerry 52, Edwards 23, Dean 10
SC: Edwards 44, Kerry 30, Sharpton 10
OK: Edwards 31, Kerry 29, Clark 28
DE: Kerry 47, Dean 14, Lieberman 11, Edwards 11

As Kos points out about exit polls: "the NH ones were totally off." However, the key is the Oklahoma number. If Edwards actually wins it, he knocks Clark out of the campaign and forces Kerry to -- at a minimum -- share the front page.

UPDATE: Campaign Desk is just a wee bit annoyed by the leaking of the numbers. While there is some evidence that early poll reporting has a marginal effect on turnout in general elections, I'm not sure if that still holds for these primaries:

1) Exit polls do not have the best track record as of late, so informed voters discount the information. Uninformed voters are unlikely to actively search for the information.

2) Primaries allocate delegates on a proportional basis provided the candidate reaches a minimum threshhold. So, even if a poll shows a candidate losing, the vote can still matter if it gets your preferred choice to place or show.

3) What's startling about these exit polls in particular is that Oklahoma looks like a nail-biter. Might that not boost turnout in that state?

posted by Dan at 03:35 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (1)

The graduate school crisis

The Chicago Tribune runs a story today on the high dropout rate of graduate students pursuing Ph.D.s:

Nationwide, about half of doctoral students drop out, many after devoting years to their studies and spending tens of thousands of dollars in student loans and fellowships. The attrition rate for doctoral students compares with 42 percent for undergraduates and 10 percent for law and medical students.

[Ellen] Stolzenberg, who is writing her dissertation on the role that faculty advisers might play in the high dropout rate, is among a growing body of researchers, administrators and students focusing attention on the issue.

For years the problem, though recognized, received little research attention or action. In the sink-or-swim climate of many universities, most of the dropouts were written off as lacking the commitment or capability necessary for the rigors of independent research.

Now universities across the country are conducting studies to determine why so many doctoral students quit and are introducing programs to stem the tide, including better orientation sessions, requirements for faculty advisers to stay in closer contact with students and the linking of department funding to student retention.

The efforts are being driven largely by tight budgets. Some university administrators fear the dismal retention rates will make doctoral programs more susceptible to cuts, threatening the quality of education and the schools' prestige.

Concerns are being raised over the use of financial aid money and other resources for students who ultimately drop out, and over losing talented doctoral candidates who are playing a larger role in conducting research and teaching undergraduate students.

"What research has shown is that the students dropping out are not less academically qualified or experiencing a cut in their funding. Many do not feel a sense of belonging," said Stolzenberg, 28, adding that she maintains daily contact with her faculty adviser.

There are other academic bloggers who have and will comment on this, but I'm afraid that I'm (mostly) old school on this one. Hand-holding sounds great -- except that part of the job of being an academic is being enough of a self-desciplined self-starter that one can focus on research instead of distractions like... er.... blogs.

Plus, if the retention rate improves, it's not like there's a booming academic job market out there eager to hire -- as Bart Simpson recently pointed out.

So, if there's to be reforms to ensure a higher yield of graduate school entrants earning their Ph.D.s, there would also have to be a radical change in the culture of most academic departments. Faculty would have to tell their Ph.D.s that it's OK to get a job in the private sector. That won't happen soon -- for tenured faculty, a key measure of prestige is how well they place their students. The more students that get jobs at top-tier institutions, the better it looks.

However, for those political scientists contemplating what to do if academia is not for you, go read Ian Bremmer's Slate diary of a political scientist who's outside of academia. [Full disclosure: Ian was two years ahead of me in the Stanford poli sci program).

posted by Dan at 10:42 AM | Comments (34) | Trackbacks (5)

Monday, February 2, 2004

My Super Bowl post

Josh Chafetz has castigated me for having "dropped the ball on his usual scantily clad celebrities beat " My sin -- not mentioning Janet Jackson's "technical difficulties" during the Super Bowl.

While this blog has rarely shied away from discussing the important political ramifications of scantily clad celebrities, in this case I felt it inappropriate.

Why? Because what mattered far more was that this year's Super Bowl was a GREAT FRIGGIN' GAME, that's why!!! Punch!! Counterpunch!! Great defense!! Explosive offense!! Clutch plays!! Five changes in the score in the last quarter!! Jake Delhomme getting his butt kicked in the first half and throwing three touchdown passes in the final quarter!! Adam Vinatieri missing two kicks in the first half and then drilling the game-winner!! [Allen Barra says the game sucked!--ed. Then Allen Barra is a very hard man to please. I take his point about the high number of penalties (though most of them were on special teams) but I'm intrigued that Barra thinks that the well-executed defense of the first and third quarters were boring but that the high-octane offense of the second and fourth quarters was an example of incompetent defenses as opoosed to the offenses making adjustments.]

I'm sure some astute sports commentator could observe why three of the best Super Bowls ever played took place in the last five years. Me, I'm just grateful as a sports fan.

One additional fact courtesy of Peter King that's worth mentioning:

The NFL has something called a performance pay scale, in which low-paid players who log significant minutes are compensated an additional amount out of a league pool at the end of the season. This is very good news to [New England Patriots center Dan] Koppen, a rookie and fifth-round draft pick who started the final 15 games of the season at center for the Patriots.... Koppen will get the largest percentage increase from the performance-pay pool, a 40 percent bump from his 2003 base salary of $225,000. According to an NFL Management Council source Koppen will receive a bonus of approximately $90,000 from the pool, which will likely be the most money allocated any player in the league when the system is finalized after the season.

Not bad for the kid -- a hefty bonus, plus the winner's share from the divisional playoff game, AFC title game and Super Bowl, collectively, of $122,500. Koppen almost doubled his salary with money he never expected to make -- $212,500 in performance and postseason bonuses not in his original contract.

For the fallout over Jackson's... er... fallout, see this Washington Post story. However, Scrappleface has the better spin.

Oh, and Beyoncé Knowles has a lovely singing voice.... as well as many other fine qualities:


posted by Dan at 05:03 PM | Comments (18) | Trackbacks (2)

How high up will this go?

The New York Times reports that the godfather of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program has spilled the beans:

The founder of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, has signed a detailed confession admitting that during the last 15 years he provided Iran, North Korea and Libya with the designs and technology to produce the fuel for nuclear weapons, according to a senior Pakistani official and three Pakistani journalists who attended a special government briefing here on Sunday night.

In a two-and-a-half-hour presentation to 20 Pakistani journalists, a senior government official gave an exhaustive and startling account of how Dr. Khan, a national hero, spread secret technology to three countries that have been striving to produce their own nuclear arsenals. Two of them, Iran and North Korea, were among those designated by President Bush as part of an "axis of evil."....

The Bush administration offered no public comment on the Pakistani announcement on Sunday. But in recent weeks, administration officials have said that they forced the government of President Pervez Musharraf to confront the evidence, after Iran and Libya made disclosures that showed their reliance on Pakistani-supplied technology.

"This is the break we have been waiting for," a senior American official said. But the account provided by Pakistani officials carefully avoided pinning any blame on General Musharraf, the army or the Pakistani intelligence service, despite the fact that some of the material — especially what was sent to North Korea — appeared to have been transported on government cargo planes.

Pakistani and American officials have said senior Pakistani Army officials would have known if nuclear hardware had been shipped out of a tightly guarded nuclear facility.

Quick hits:

  • Give the Bush administration some credit for pushing Musharraf into taking action;

  • One wonders whether the information culled from Khan's confession will be useful in severing what appears to be a well-developed black market in nuclear technology.

  • One really wonders whether any Pakistani officials will be implicated. The story suggests that this should happen but won't.
  • UPDATE: Several commenters are assuming that I'm accepting the Pakistani investigation at face value, when in fact the Musharraf government knew about this all along. Actually, what I think is worthy of mention is that the government has finally admitted that there's a problem. Until two months ago they weren't even willing to do this.

    posted by Dan at 01:50 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)

    Open Kerry thread

    Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus are teeing off on John Kerry. Neither of them have a comments feature, so discuss the validity of their critiques here.

    Given Kerry's populist message, this Washington Post story seems particularly troublesome:

    Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who has made a fight against corporate special interests a centerpiece of his front-running campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, has raised more money from paid lobbyists than any other senator over the past 15 years, federal records show.

    Kerry, a 19-year veteran of the Senate who fought and won four expensive political campaigns, has received nearly $640,000 from lobbyists, many representing telecommunications and financial companies with business before his committee, according to Federal Election Commission data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

    For his presidential race, Kerry has raised more than $225,000 from lobbyists, better than twice as much as his nearest Democratic rival.

    UPDATE: Kevin Drum is mystified by Kerry's ability to escape mainstream media criticism: "It's unprecedented for a clear frontrunner to be treated so gingerly by practically everyone. Does Kerry have secret files on all these guys, or what?" Calpundit has dueling Time covers to underscore his point.

    Speaking of Time, Joe Klein disagrees, believing that that the intense primary competition to date has sharpened the Democratic message:

    This primary campaign is the best thing that has happened to the Democratic Party since Bill Clinton. It is reborn and feisty, thanks in large part to the partisan jolt provided by Dean. The leading Democrats are now making strong, sharp arguments against the President's most fateful decisions: the blind rush into an elective war, the economic and legislative tilt toward the wealthy. If recent performances are any guide, the President hasn't developed an adequate response yet. He will have to break free from his cocoon and reacquaint himself with the public, if he hopes to find one.

    posted by Dan at 12:45 PM | Comments (41) | Trackbacks (1)

    Differentiating between outsourcing and offshoring

    Chuck Simmins makes an important distinction (link via Glenn Reynolds):

    Most outsourced jobs don't go to India. They stay right here in the good, old U.S.A. That clerk from Accountemps or secretary from Kelly. That RN at your hospital. The cleaning crew in your office. Outsourced jobs.

    That's why I worry as the rants go on and on about the evils of outsourcing. For the few jobs that go overseas, the correction potentially stands to bite a whole bunch of good people here in the United States.

    Most outsourcing is done in the United States and Americans work for outsourcing firms.

    He also criticizes those on the right who complain about "offshoring" which is outsourcing done overseas:

    The discussion is about outsourcing jobs overseas. I see many conservatives and libertarians abandoning their principles here to oppose the transfer of any jobs overseas.

    "Good" jobs are being sent overseas. "Good" is code for high paying jobs. And the hidden yet primary argument is that Americans deserve to have high paying jobs, no matter what the circumstances.

    I understand unions pushing this point, but I don't understand the many conservatives and libertarians who are. Job entitlement is not a conservative nor a libertarian position. And that is what the argument about outsourcing overseas boils down to; "we" are entitled to those jobs.

    Simmins is conflating libertarians and conservatives on this issue. The former are free market advocates and the latter are economic nationalists. Economic nationalists value social stability and relative gains more than maximizing either static or dynamic economic efficiency. With this set of preferences, it's not surprising to see this group of pundits ract bash offshoring.

    posted by Dan at 10:58 AM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

    Sunday, February 1, 2004

    A record month

    January was a good month for According to Sitemeter, the blog attracted more than 200,000 unique visits last month.

    Thanks to one and all for clicking!

    posted by Dan at 11:34 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)