Thursday, April 22, 2004

My network news debut -- mark two

My media whoring continues. Tune in to NBC Nightly News tomorrow (Friday) to see me on network television. Again, possibility this will fall through.

[More on outsourcing, huh?--ed. Nope -- this appearance has nothing to do with outsourcing. You're gonna have to watch to find out.]

UPDATE: Well, they apparently used it (What, you didn't see it? Don't give us that false modesty BS!--ed. No, I haven't seen it because I'm in Hamburg, Germany for a conference).

And to answer a commenter question, yes, they found me via the blog. An NBC researcher told me as much.

I can actually make a valid claim to expertise here, since I've read all the collections and been reading the strip on and off since 1980.

posted by Dan at 02:48 PM | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (1)

A very important post about... who would sleep with me in the blogosphere

Daniel Drezner... he's intelligent and cute, and I'd sleep with him.

This according to Meryl Yourish.

Woo-hoo! Yes, I'm happily married -- but as a complete geek who could never get girls in high school, this kind of information always nice to know.

Oh, wait... Yourish was just satirizing this John Hawkins post of the top ten bloggers he would want to be stranded on a desert island with. Yourish was just kidding.

I feel so... cheap and used. Sniff.

Excuse me, I gotta go watch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan again.

posted by Dan at 02:17 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

Shafting the Palestinians?

At the risk of posting on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict again, Walter Russell Mead made a trenchant point in yesterday's New York Times op-ed page:

or the last five weeks I have been traveling through the Middle East, meeting diplomats, officials, policy experts, military leaders, students and ordinary citizens. I learned something very important: the greatest single cause of anti-Americanism in the Middle East today is not the war in Iraq; more surprisingly, it is not even American support for Israel, per se. Rather, it is a widespread belief that the United States simply does not care about the rights or needs of the Palestinian people.

"The Palestinian issue is really what discredits the United States throughout the region," a senior Western diplomat with years of experience in the Middle East told me. Or, as one student after another put it after the university lectures I conducted across the region: "Why do Americans have to be so biased?"

In Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and other countries, the large majority of people I spoke with are ready to tolerate the Jewish state — most even understand that the final boundaries of Israel will include some of the heavily settled areas beyond the pre-1967 borders. They also understand that few if any Palestinians will return to the homes they lost after the war that erupted when Israel declared its independence in 1948. And they are prepared to accept, though not to relish, America's close relations with Israel. Beyond that, they want increased American support for their domestic political reforms and for initiatives to enhance regional cooperation for economic growth and fighting terrorism.

But one thing sticks in their craw: Why doesn't America care more about the Palestinians' future?

They have a point. America's Middle East policy is unnecessarily zero-sum. We can be more pro-Palestinian without being less pro-Israeli. Indeed, to the degree that American policies help create support for compromise among Palestinians, pro-Palestinian initiatives can help Israel too. (emphasis added)

Read the whole thing for Mead's policy prescriptions.

Greg Djerejian also has a lengthy post on the Bush-Sharon summit that elaborates on this point in much greater detail. Shorter Djerejian: It's one thing to favor the Israelis in the conflict -- it's another thing to do it while simultaneously kicking the Palestinians in the balls.

posted by Dan at 11:53 AM | Comments (94) | Trackbacks (2)

China cuts a trade deal

The Financial Times reports that China has made numerous trade concessions in a deal with the United States:

China agreed to delay indefinitely a plan to impose a security standard for wireless communications that would have forced US telecommunications companies to license the technology from Chinese competitors. The US believed the plan signalled that China was clinging to government-led industrial policies designed to aid its own technology companies at the expense of US rivals.

China also agreed to renew efforts to crack down on illegal pirating of US movies, software and music, with Beijing pledging to step up criminal actions against companies that produce, import or export counterfeited goods. China presented US trade officials with an action plan designed to "significantly reduce" infringement of intellectual property rights.

In addition, China agreed to accelerate plans to make it easier for US companies to export and sell directly into China by eliminating laws that forced foreign firms to work through Chinese state trading enterprises.

The agreement is the strongest sign yet of the countries' maturing trade relationship. Unlike the US-Japan trade talks of the 1980s and early 1990s in which Japan would grudgingly accede to pressure to open its markets to US goods, yesterday's deal involved concessions on both sides.

The Chinese won US agreement to ease national-security-related export controls on sales of high-technology goods to China. Beijing has argued that the US is hurting its exports by refusing to sell China products such as machine tools.

Chinese central bank officials have also indicated that they plan to shift the renminbi from a fixed rate to a floating rate:

Guo Shuqing, administrator of China's foreign exchange reserves of $440bn, told the Financial Times Beijing no longer favoured a fixed exchange rate and would move toward a floating system as part of reforms to loosen up capital controls and give market forces more scope.

"We don't think that a fixed system is good. We think that a floating system is good," said Mr Guo, head of the State Administration of Foreign Exchange and a deputy governor of the central bank. He did not specify a timetable for the shift to a new exchange rate mechanism.

Question to those advocating greater protectionism towards China -- are these concessions sufficient? If not, what else?

posted by Dan at 11:45 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

The effect of school vouchers in Milwaukee

Given how important education is in the global economy, it's worth finding out whether school choice/vouchers/greater market competition can improve the quality of primary and secondary education in the United States.

Over at Crooked Timber, Harry Brighouse links to a Caroline Minter Hoxby paper in the Swedish Economic Policy Review that examines the effect Milwaukee's voucher program had on school performance. Brighouse has some questions about the paper, but closes with the following:

[V]ouchers and choice are increasingly hard for the left in the US to dismiss. The second best objection to well-designed and targeted voucher programs is that they leave the children remaining in the public schools worse off. If that objection can be met, progressives are left only with the best objection – that they will set in train a dynamic that will undermine the principle of public schooling. But in America, where public schooling is savagely unjust in its internal workings, that objection rings a bit hollow unless coupled with a substantial and politically feasible plan for improving the public schools which the least advantaged Americans attend.

posted by Dan at 12:55 AM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (1)

Wednesday, April 21, 2004 -- the musical!

Blender magazine has compiled a list of the 50 worst songs ever, according to bad melodies, bad performances, or incoherent lyrics. According to the Associated Press:

Starship's "We Built This City," from 1985 topped the list.

"The truly horrible sound of a band taking the corporate dollar while sneering at those who take the corporate dollar," the magazine said of the tune.

Billy Ray Cyrus' "Achy Breaky Heart" was second, followed by Wang Chung's "Everybody Have Fun Tonight." "If this song was a party, you'd lock yourself in a bathroom and cry," quipped Blender.

Rounding out the top ten worst songs ever are Huey Lewis and the News with "The Heart of Rock and Roll," "Don't Worry, Be Happy," by Bobby McFerrin, Eddie Murphy's "Party All the Time," "American Life," by Madonna and "Ebony and Ivory," the duet by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney.

Fine entrants, all [C'mon, admit that you like the Wang Chung song!--ed. Well, yeah, if I'm appropriately liquored up.] However, I'm not sure the folks at Blender have children -- in which case there's a whole new list of galactically cloying songs that make "We Built this City" sound like Beethoven's Fifth. How 'bout the Barney theme? The Dragon Tales theme? Raffi's completed works?

Readers are invited to submit their worst songs. And, while being in a musical mood, go check out Brad DeLong's post about songs where the cover version is superior to the original. You can see my contribution in the comments section.

posted by Dan at 09:25 PM | Comments (27) | Trackbacks (1)

Why aren't mutual fund investors freaked out?

The Chicago Tribune reports a puzzling finding regarding investors attitudes towards mutual funds in the wake of scandals involving late trading and market timing:

While mutual fund trading scandals have captured the attention of regulators, investors remain relatively unconcerned, according to a study released Tuesday by a Chicago-based consulting firm.

In a survey of 402 mutual fund investors by the Spectrem Group, less than half said they were at all concerned about allegations of improper trading in the mutual fund industry. A little more than 20 percent said they were "very concerned."

Just over one-third of investors said they were "concerned" or "very concerned" about late trading and market timing, the two practices that have spawned the scandal roiling the $7.6 trillion mutual fund industry. Meanwhile, nearly 1 in 5 investors said that as long as they earned a high rate of return on their investments, they didn't care about claims of favoritism for big investors.

"There's an overall lack of knowledge on the allegations," said Ann Mahrdt, a director at the Spectrem Group, and one reason for the lack of concern is "they don't see it affecting their bottom lines."

In fact, nearly 60 percent of investors said they were concerned about fee disclosures, compared with 37 percent for market timing or late trading.

For the record, I haven't been following the scandals/investigations involving mutual funds, even though all of my stock investments are in such funds. Mostly that's because these funds haven't tanked -- and even if there was a downturn, I try not to get too exercised about fluctuations in the short-term.

Those who have more information about this scandal should comment away -- I'm hoping that this is one of those episodes in which the system actually worked, and these abuses were caught before they could dramatically affect market integrity.

[You're just an assistant professor -- maybe people with real money do care about this?--ed. Not according to the Trib piece:

The wealthiest investors--those with incomes of over $100,000--display significantly less concern over improper trading allegations, and are less likely to demand action, such as seeking reimbursements from improper trading or participating in class action lawsuits against fund companies.

You can take a look at Spectrem's press release about the survey by clicking here.]

posted by Dan at 01:03 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (0)

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Why I have no plan of attack on Plan of Attack

I just received the following e-mail from an avid reader:

Ok, Dan, it's been 3 days now. How come no response to Woodward's Plan of Attack ?

The plain and simple answer is, I'm swamped. These books are coming fast and furious, and I only have so many hours in the day. I'll try to get to it sometime soon. [Oh, sure you're swamped -- on things that don't sit well with your political views--ed. No -- I haven't had time to blog about either the oil-for-food scandal or Iran's role in the Shiite uprising. Really, I'm swamped.]

Parenthetically, there is another reason -- they're expensive to get in hardcover, dammit. Thankfully, one or two publishers have started sending me the occasional review copy -- and have I mentioned recently Ivo Daalder and James Lindsey's America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy (Brookings, 2003) is a hell of a good read? However, publishers are unlikely to send bestsellers like the Susskind, Clarke, or Woodward books to bloggers -- they don't need us. [Jayson Blair needs you!--ed. Yes, but we don't want him.]

Apparently, I'm in the minority on even getting the occasional review book. David Bernstein's not getting review copies -- and he thinks that since he blogs at the Volokh Conspiracy, book companies should be sending him gratis review copies. Tyler Cowen points out that there may be a reason why this won't happen:

[I]f you read about a book on a blog, you may think you don't need to read the book. If I think about myself, I now read more blogs and (slightly) fewer books as a result. You can tell all the stories you want about complementary uses of books and blogs, but at some margins differing activities are likely to be substitutes.

Kevin Keith offers an amusing but illegal solution to the problem.

Back to main point: feel free to discuss the Woodward book here.

UPDATE: The Weekly Standard's Richard Starr e-mails a useful suggestion on the question of review copies:

I suspect bloggers waiting for review copies to show up in the mail are going to wait a long time. However, they might want to try what publications do, which is asking the publicity department of a publisher for a review copy of titles that interest them. Then they should make sure when they write about a book (for good or ill) to send a copy back to those same publicists.

Eventually stuff might start turning up unbidden, but I suspect the direct ask will bear fruit sooner. Also helpful is to get oneself added to the mailing lists for the publishers catalogues of future titles, which usually include a check-off sheet to be returned to the publisher noting the titles one is especially interested in.

posted by Dan at 08:58 PM | Comments (38) | Trackbacks (2)

The FCC's unintentional f$%&-up

Stuart Benjamin has a great post over at the Volokh Conspiracy on how the ratcheting up of FCC fines could actually lead to a long-term reduction of government censorship:

In recent years broadcasters have refrained from bringing judicial challenges to the regulation of broadcast indecency precisely because the fines were small, and rare, enough that broadcasters decided it was not worth the costs of antagonizing the FCC and Congress. Now, with heavy fines (and maybe even license revocation) on the line, broadcasters are more likely to do so. Indeed, that process began yesterday, when both NBC and a coalition of media groups filed petitions asking the FCC to reverse its decision. It looks like those groups are girding for a judicial challenge to the indecency regulations.

This is significant, because the Supreme Court probably would – and in my view should – find these indecency regulations unconstitutional. With respect to newspapers and magazines, telephones, and cable television, the Supreme Court has held that the government may not reduce the adult population to viewing only what is fit for children. As the Supreme Court noted in the 2000 Playboy case on cable indecency, a core principle of the First Amendment is that “The citizen is entitled to seek out or reject certain ideas or influences without Government influence or control.”

Broadcast has been the glaring exception in the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence, but its special status is no longer tenable. The Court ruled, 5-4, in the 1978 Pacifica case that broadcast indecency could be penalized because broadcasting is uniquely pervasive and uniquely accessible to children. The problem is that broadcasting no longer has that distinction Broadcast's pervasiveness and accessibility are not significantly different from, for example, cable television. Indeed, for the 88 percent of television households who use cable or satellite, a broadcaster is just another cable station. It further bears noting that the V-Chip embedded in television sets allows parents to choose what sorts of material they want to block (if they so desire), giving them control over what their children see and further undermining the case for state regulation.

Does this mean NBC will replace the Today Show with Jenna Jameson Live!? Hardly. Broadcast networks would still be beholden to advertiser preferences.

If Benjamin is correct, and the short-term kerfuffle over broadcast standards erodes the government's long-term censorship powers, I have only this to say -- thank you, Janet Jackson!!

posted by Dan at 04:27 PM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (0)

Forget TV -- listen to the rado

My debut on international TV experienced some technical difficulties -- so it's back to the radio for me!

I'll be on the hot seat on KERA's Glenn Mitchell Show from 1:00PM to 2:00 PM Central time on the subject of tawdry and unsubstantiated rumors involving Salma Hayek's infatuation with offshore outsourcing.

You can listen into the broadcast by clicking here. We'll see if I can simultaneously blog about the experience as well.

UPDATE: So far, so good -- no belching on air yet.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I love doing call-in shows with access to the Internet -- make me sound like I've memorized a lot more information than I actually have.

FINAL UPDATE: That was most enjoyable. Lots of great questions, and all of them civil and well-reasoned.

posted by Dan at 10:40 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Encouraging news from Pakistan

The New York Times reports that Pakistan is having some success in its spring offensive against the remnants of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Northwest frontier:

The commander of American-led forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David Barno, said Monday that Pakistan had successfully disrupted the Qaeda network in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and had significantly affected its ability to support a suspected Taliban insurgency across the border in Afghanistan.

In an interview in Kabul, the Afghan capital, General Barno commended the Pakistani military for its "bold moves" against foreign fighters in the Pakistani tribal area of South Waziristan in March. He said it had so far prevented an anticipated offensive this spring in Afghanistan by the remnants of Taliban fighters who are suspected to have taken refuge across the Pakistani border in tribal areas.

"There have been some tough fights, so I give them great credit for making some bold moves over there," he said. The Pakistani operation since January has been larger and more intense than the previous level of enforcement in the border area, he said. He added that it appears to have disrupted what had been a very stable area for Al Qaeda's foreign fighters and senior leadership, where they are believed to have lived and operated for two years.

"That has had a significant unsettling effect on their organization over there and to some degree on their ability to support the Taliban as well," he said of Al Qaeda. "But clearly they are concerned about what is going on over there."....

The Pakistani authorities estimate that 500 to 600 foreign Qaeda fighters are in the tribal areas, including top Qaeda leaders. In fighting in March, Pakistan said it killed about 60 people and captured 160 more, including Uzbeks and other foreigners. Nevertheless, there was no sign that any Qaeda members had escaped into Afghanistan, he said.

American forces positioned on the Pakistan-Afghan border to catch any fighters escaping the Pakistani operation, in what the general has described as a "hammer and anvil" tactic, had seen little movement across the border into Afghanistan, he said. "Our sense is that anyone who is there, is still there," he said.

There was every sign that the Qaeda fighters would stay in the Pakistani tribal areas and fight, partly because they knew it was "extraordinarily dangerous" for them to operate in Afghanistan because of the presence of American troops, he said.

posted by Dan at 10:34 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

The Copenhagen Consensus and financial instability

Back in March, the Economist, along with Denmark's Environmental Assessment Institute (which is run by environmentalist bete noire Bjorn Lomborg), announced the Copenhagen Consensus project. As their March story phrased it:

Policymakers face enormous demands on their aid budgets—and on their intellectual and political capital as well—when they try to confront the many daunting challenges of economic development and underdevelopment. Climate change, war, disease, financial instability and more all clamour for attention, and for remedies or palliatives that cost money. Given that resources are limited, the question is this: What should come first? Where, among all the projects that governments might undertake to make the world a better place, are the net returns to their efforts likely to be greatest?

You can go to the Copenhagen Consensus' main site by clicking here.

This week, the magazine reports on the report prepared by Barry Eichengreen on the costs of financial instability in the developing world. The costs are significant:

The typical financial crisis claims 9% of GDP, and the worst crises, such as those recently afflicting Argentina and Indonesia, wiped out over 20% of GDP, a loss greater even than those endured as a result of the Great Depression. According to one authoritative study, the Asian financial crisis of 1997 pushed 22m people in the region into poverty. For developing countries, currency crises are an important subset of financial crises. Mr Eichengreen, while cautioning against taking the precision of such estimates too seriously, reckons that the benefit which emerging-market countries would reap if such crises could be avoided altogether would be some $107 billion a year.

Bring on the capital controls!! Oh, wait, it's a bit more complicated:

Wherever financial markets are absent or repressed, savings go unused, productive economic opportunities go unrealised and risks go undiversified. If India's banks and stockmarkets were as well developed as Singapore's, India would grow two percentage-points a year faster, according to one study.

To grow fast, and keep growing quickly, countries need deep financial markets—and the best way to deepen financial markets, most economists agree, is to liberalise them. Does this mean that countries must open their financial markets to foreign capital, thus exposing themselves to the risk of currency crises? Or should they impose capital controls, confining the perversity of financial markets to national borders, where the central bank retains the power to offset it? Foreign direct investment aside, China's capital markets are still largely closed to outsiders. Yet it has no shortage of credit. For other countries, though, the evidence is mixed. A fair reading of the studies, and there have been many, suggests that, for most countries, opening up to foreign capital will deliver faster growth in most years—punctuated by a damaging financial crisis about every ten years. Some economists argue that periodic credit crunches are the price emerging markets must pay for faster growth.

[So you're saying we should just shrug off the $107 billion as the cost of doing business in a global economy?--ed. Absolutely not. More importantly, Eichengreen doesn't shrug it off either, and he's a real economist with some intriguing proposals up his sleeve -- though I'm not completely convinced they would work.]

You can download Eichengreen's paper here.

posted by Dan at 12:45 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

The weird psychology of the untenured

Henry Farrell was also at the Midwestern Political Science Association meetings, and picked up some interesting cocktail chatter about the life of untenured faculty at prestigious universities:

Several of the top universities (Harvard, Yale, Princeton etc) are notorious for how rarely they give tenure to assistant professors in the social sciences and humanities. Smart young people come to the university as assistant profs, teach for several years, are refused tenure en bloc, and depart for other jobs, usually at less prestigious institutions.... This creates a very strange atmosphere among junior faculty - they all know that the odds are against them getting tenure, hope that they will be among the rare exceptions, and point with admiration to the few who have managed to buck the system.

Be sure to read the comments to the post as well.

I have no idea where Henry got this impression -- the fact that I may have met him in the cocktail bar is the smallest sliver of a coincidence.

For the record, the University of Chicago is not quite as sado-masochistic a mistress as the aforementioned Ivies when it comes to getting tenure -- but this place sure as hell ain't a walk on the beach either.

posted by Dan at 12:07 AM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Monday, April 19, 2004

Offshore outsourcing creates American jobs, redux

The Chicago Tribune reports today on how offshore outsourcing is aiding in the creation of more small business start-ups -- which help to create American jobs. The story focuses on one Chicago entrepreneur:

While offshore outsourcing has come under political fire in a tough job market, entrepreneur Jai Shekhawat said the approach has enabled him to create jobs in Chicago.

His business-to-business Web-based software start-up, Fieldglass Inc., wouldn't be employing 66 people in the U.S., most in Chicago, if not for the company's decision to outsource overseas from the get-go, he said. In fact, without outsourcing, he said, "I wouldn't have started the business."

In a difficult economy, offshore outsourcing has become essential for many emerging companies, experts say.

"I can't think of one of our portfolio companies that doesn't use offshore outsourcing," said Travis Winkey, general partner at BlueStream Ventures in Minneapolis, one of five venture capital firms investing in Chicago-based Fieldglass. "As a start-up, you care about getting as much mileage out of every dollar. A great tool to leverage is offshore," he said....

While politicians may bemoan offshore outsourcing as a missed opportunity for domestic tech workers, venture capitalists often take a different view.

They see its potential in stimulating new businesses, which in the long run will help companies add jobs domestically. "If you outsource 10 positions, it might help you employ 20 in the U.S. It has a multiplier effect," said Deborah Farrington, partner at StarVest Partners in New York and a Fieldglass director.

Developing new software such as Fieldglass' InSite is a perfect example of how cross-border employment can pay off, said Winkey, who is also a director of Fieldglass. "If we had to build out that same kind of engineering, we would have had to sacrifice in other areas. It allows us to hire more skilled positions here," he said.

Which helps to explain the continued expansion of small business hiring that I alluded to several months ago.

Virginia Postrel posts another example of how (onshore) outsourcing facilitates small business growth.

posted by Dan at 10:31 AM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (4)

Your critical reading assignment for today

First, read this New York Times story on NAFTA's tribunal system and their supposed encroachment on state judiciaries.

Then, read Brad DeLong's takedown of said article.


posted by Dan at 12:23 AM | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Dedicated to the international readers of

This evening I'll be giving a live interview on CNN International at 6:30 PM Central Daylight Time on -- what else -- offshore outsourcing. It's for their CNN Today show.

UPDATE: Well, that was fun -- all 104 seconds of it!! The satellite feed cut out during the middle of the interview and that was that -- that or Ted Turner reeeeaaallly doesn't like me telling the truth and it was a grand conspiracy. [You're sounding like some of your commenters -- snap out of it!--ed. OK -- but I think it's an awfully big coincidence that this happens less than 24 hours before Lou Dobbs inks a contract to write a book on outsourcing for Time/Warner's book division]

Reviewing the tape, however, I learned the following things about doing live, remote interviews:

1) Against all natural instincts, pretend that the camera that you're staring at is actually a person talking to you;

2) Don't count on follow-up questions -- give the entire answer in one shot;

3) Cut out the fried food a week before so the big honking pimple on your forehead is not visible from Mars with the unaided eye;

4) Smile.

I'm moving down the learning curve -- very, very, slowly.

posted by Dan at 05:59 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)