Saturday, May 22, 2004
Whither Russia, or when print beats the Internet
The Economist has a survey of Russia this week. Its core thesis:
Now, if you read this survey on the Internet, you come away with a cautiously optimistic picture of the country.
However, there is the rare moment with looking at something in print provides greater information than reading it on the Internet. This is one of those times, and that information suggests that Russia is worse off than the survey's author, Gideon Lichfield, suggests.
Why? In the print edition of the Economist, most country surveys like these are filled with advertisements from either large companies indigenous to the country in question, or large multinationals with significant amounts of foreign direct investment. Generally speaking, the number of ads is a rough indicator of the economic dynamism of the surveyed country. In February, for example, a survey of India had five full ad pages.
For this 16-page survey, there was only one half-page advertisement -- and that came from the state-owned export-import bank.
In contrast, when Ukraine had a survey a decade ago, it was a basket case of hyperinflation and ethnic tensions -- but there were at least two ads.
Russia's economy is more fragile than the Economist believes.
Wow, my second health care post in less than a year
Loyal readers of danieldrezner.com are aware that while I'm aware that health care is important, I find it difficult to maintain focus when the issue comes up.
I am dimly aware, however, that Canada's single-payer system is frequently cited by liberals as their preferred form of health care reform. Which is why I found the following Brad Evenson story in Cananda's National Post so interesting:
This may be an example of correlation and not causation. Still, a common assumption among the cognoscenti is that Canada's health care system is superior to America's -- and this study points out that this is not necessarily so.
John Kerry, man of action
Well, this Washington Post story by Dan Balz and Thomas Edsall ought to shore up John Kerry's robust reputation for taking clear stands and being resolute in his decision-making:
Readers are invited to submit guesses as to how long it takes Kerry to back away from this trial balloon.
Thursday, May 20, 2004
I'm off to mend the transatlantic relationship again!
No blogging for the next 48 hours -- I'll be at the University of Toronto for a roundtable conference on "International Security and the Transatlantic Divide." Yours truly is a discussant for Laurent Cohen-Tanugi, the author of Alliance at Risk: The United States and Europe Since September 11.
I promise to resist any and all urges to mention any contacts I've had with Said Ibrahim.
UPDATE: Home now. The conference was actually very illuminating -- more about it later this week.
Where are conservatives on Iraq?
Reihan Salam has a great TNR Online piece that breaks down where the various tribes of conservatives fall on Iraq -- or, as Salam puts it, a "Guide to the Right on Iraq Gone Wrong." The relevant categories (NOTE: I've added some names that Salam omits where I think they apply -- my additions are in italics):
For the immediate future, I'm interested in two things:
A) Will the latter two groups merge? What separates them is not the ends but the means of advancing those ends -- gentle vs. not-so-gentle criticism. I've been feeling myself shift slowly over this calendar year, and I strongly suspect others are as well (Matthew Yglesias shares my suspicions).
B) Who will be the last neo-neocon standing? To be fair, I haven't read Frum and Perle's An End to Evil -- and I'm sure there are a lot of ideas in there that the current situation in Iraq does not undercut. However, a key tenet of this group has been the inherent goodness of Ahmed Chalabi, and the U.S. decision to raid his headquarters today (plus the decision earlier this week to terminate his funding) may just signal a souring of the DoD-INC relationship [UPDATE: Chalabi's home was also raided]. If that doesn't do it, this anecdote from Salon's Andrew Cockburn just might:
Who will the neo-neos go with -- Bush or Chalabi? My money is on Chalabi.
UPDATE: Josh Marshall has further thoughts on Chalabi and the neo-neocons. One point he makes confirms my theory about which way the neo-neos go: "I don't doubt that some of Chalabi's Washington supporters have encouraged him to take a more oppositional stand toward the occupation authorities to bolster his own popularity."
ANOTHER UPDATE: Just got one of Laurie Mylroie's mass e-mails. She condemns "today's outrageous, and totally uncalled for, raid on Ahmed Chalabi's compound" and asks, "Just what is the U.S. doing in Iraq?"
Yeah, she's stickin' with Chalabi.
It gets worse in Darfur
I've blogged about the atrocities taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan before here and here. A few days ago, the Los Angeles Times' Robyn Dixon reported on the growing humanitarian crisis in Sudan:
Be sure to read the whole thing.
This was probably not the best week for the Bush administration to take steps towards lifting the arms embargo on the Sudanese government.
This is the kind of goof that someone responsible for public diplomacy -- like an Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, let's say -- could have caught. Oh, wait....
UPDATE: It should be noted that despite the PR screwup I alluded to earlier in this post, Human Rights Watch -- not exactly the most Bush-friendly organization -- has praised U.S. behavior on this front:
A really disturbing Iraq poll
The Financial Times reports on some unsettling poll results from Iraq:
The one piece of good news that skeptics and optimists about Iraq could agree upon was that Sadr did not command significant amounts of support among the Iraqi populace. This poll makes it much tougher to maintain that assertion. This isn't a question of media bias -- this is a very uncomfortable reality that must be acknowledged by policymakers and oundits of all stripes.
The one possible caveat, ironically, is that the poll was taken before the Abu Ghraib scandals [How the hell is that good news?--ed. Because that also means the poll was likely taken before a) U.S. troops demonstrated they were willing to take on Sadr's militia; and b) Grand Ayatollah Sistani vocally turned against Sadr. If Reuel Marc Gerecht is correct in saying that the prison scandals "have not elicited much condemnation from Iraq's Arab Shiites and Sunni Kurds, who represent about 80 percent of the country's population," then Sadr's popularity might actually have declined since the poll was taken.]
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Darn that competitive market
Then there's the competition that it's inducing among e-mail service providers. As the Motley Fool points out, both Yahoo! and Lycos Europe have recently expanded the memory in their mail services in response to Gmail.
Of course, if any of this competition comes from outside the United States, then it's just an example of how our country is being devastated by foreign competition.
Iraq and the media
Mickey Kaus and Glenn Reynolds have posts up on the difficulties of finding a coherent narrative in evaluating the situation in Iraq. Kaus points out that this is particularly true of those of us not in Iraq and have to rely on the Internet. This includes even well-known area experts as Juan Cole. Kaus also points out:
This ties into a different point made by Reynolds in his post:
Indeed, Josh Marshall made this very point (without the motivation) earlier this week in discussing a Washington Times excerpts of Bill Sammon's new book, Misunderestimated: The President Battles Terrorism, John Kerry and the Bush Haters::
My centrist instincts want to place a pox on both Bush and the mainstream media's houses -- the latter for not stepping back and looking at the big picture, and the former for thinking that excessive coverage of Abu Ghraib taints all negative media coverage of Iraq. It should be asked, however -- which is the greater sin? The media, for reporting the truth but not the whole truth? Or Bush, for ignoring distasteful parts of the truth because the whole truth is not being reported?
At last, my daughter Amiga will have a playmate
Gwyneth Paltrow has named her new baby girl Apple Blythe Alison Martin. According to ITV, "Paltrow named her baby girl Apple after the little girl of partner [Coldplay frontman] Chris Martin's North American booking agent."
For those tempted to tease Ms. Paltrow for her name choice -- and I've certainly teased Paltrow in the past -- do bear in mind that other celebrities have done far worse to their offspring, as Kat Giantis points out for MSN Entertainment. Consider that actor Rob Morrow agreed to name his daughter Tu Morrow. And Giantis filed her story before Geena Davis announced the names for her just-delivered twins -- Kian and Kaiis.
Furthermore, Paltrow can at least claim to some originality in her oddball choice. According to the Social Security Administration, 261 mothers decided last year to name their daughter "Journey." 5062 moms picked "Trinity," even though both of the Matrix movies released in 2003 sucked eggs. You can scan the most popular names from last year by clicking here.
In honor of Apple's birth, readers are invited to post the worst name choices they have ever heard or read about.
The Nation celebrates capitalism in spite of itself
Marc Cooper's essay in The Nation on Las Vegas takes the requisite number of poshots at the American variety of capitalism. That said, it's impossible for Cooper to hide his sneaking admiration for the place. Some highlights:
UPDATE: Megan McArdle points out that New York can rival Vegas in the area of conspicuous consumption.
Go take a survey!!
If you have a second [Of course they have a second -- otherwise they wouldn't be wasting their time reading your blog, dumbass!--ed.] please click over to BlogAds survey of reader demographics. There are a total of 22 questions, so it should be pretty painless. Be sure to answer "drezner" for question 22. And please answer by 9:00 p.m. Eastern time this (Wednesday) evening.
This is a win-win kind of deal. The more reader info BlogAds gets, the better they'll be able to solicit advertisers. The more of my readers who fill out the survey, the more accurate my information, which means better posts and more targeted ads for y'all.
I'm also asking you to respond because some of the questions would provide useful evidence for the blog paper I'm co-authoring with Henry Farrell.
It would also mean that during those ultracompetitive blogger sweeps periods, I won't have to resort to cheap or desperate ratings ploys to attract more readers like I've done before on occasion [Er, there is no such thing as sweeps in the blogosphere--ed. You mean there's no reason for me to link to Jennifer Garner pics on occasion? I didn't say there was no reason to do that--ed.]
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
The Weekly Standard takes on Don Rumsfeld
A bunch of interesting Weekly Standard articles this week.
Jeffrey Bell writes that the current Defense Secretary has been as deeply affected by Vietnam syndrome as the antiwar dobes -- and with far more deleterious consequences for the current campaign in Iraq:
In the same issue, Frederick Kagan blasts both the administration and Congress for playing shell games with overall Army troop strength. This example of short-run thinking is especially disturbing:
Finally, do check out Reuel Marc Gerecht's cogen argument that the scandals at Abu Ghraib will have no effect on the pace of democratization in the Middle East.
On the anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education
Whenever I start thinking, "Drezner, you've had a good run as of late," I always reflect on my colleague Danielle Allen. She is a full professor in both Classics and Political Science, and was recently appointed Dean of the Humanities here at the U of C. Allen holds two Ph.D.'s -- one in government from Harvard, one in Classics from Kings College, Cambridge. She has published two books -- one of which is The World of Prometheus: the Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens. I've perused enough of The World of Prometheus to know that although I may be a decent writer, I don't quite have her chops. She's also a published poet and documentary film producer. Oh, and she was a 2001 recipient of a MacArthur genius grant.
I could live with all of this if it weren't for two facts:
The reason I raise all of this is that Danielle Allen has written an essay commemorating the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education that is probably better than anything I could gin up. Here are the highlights:
UPDATE: Eugene Volokh is another academic who's smarter than me and has some interesting things to say about Brown.
Beware the ed school mafia
When I was in grad school at Stanford, there was an largely unspoken consensus that the education school was the weakest of the grad school programs in the university. They had the flimsiest pedagogy and the most "flexible" curriculum (in that pretty much any course on campus could somehow apply towards their degree). The fact that this program was training America's next generation of teachers troubled me a little back then, but now I share Alan Greenspan's fervor in boosting education in the United States.
Which is why it's so disappointing to hear that any scholar who questions the rigor of education school curricula in this country runs into difficulties. Eduwonk posts the following tale:
Education Week has further details (registration required):
Maybe they do things differently in ed schools, but for my classes, course syllabi are a pretty decent indicator for course content.
It's hard to ascertain the extent of any negative feedback Steiner is experiencing beyond Eduwonk's post. That said, if Steiner is really the subject of a whispering campaign, but if he is, it's emblematic of the difficulties the U.S. will face in education reform.
[C'mon, this contretemps just a stalking horse for standard left-right debates about education, right?--ed. Steiner's chapter is part of a book co-edited by scholars at the American Enterprise Institute and the Progressive Policy Institute. I'd call that pretty bipartisan. Plus, as Eduwonk observes, "Steiner's not a Lynne Cheney type or an ideologue, he's a lefty!']
Monday, May 17, 2004
The big leap
Modern American life has created a staggered series of events for people to acquire the trappings of a grown-up -- graduating from college, choosing a career, getting married, having children, etc.
Having experienced all of these (I did not bear the children, but you get my meaning), I actually think the scariest was the decision to become a property-owner.
Which is why I can identify with Laura of Apt. 11D, who may not be at that location for much longer:
What you've done, Laura, is take a very big leap. Sounds like the right thing to do, but a big leap is a big leap, even when you clear the chasm.
Brad Delong suggests: "I have one piece of advice: fixed-rate mortgage."
The real reason to boycott The Day After Tomorrow
Glenn Reynolds has a post up about the absurd environmentalism that undergirds The Day After Tomorrow, a disaster movie coming soon to a theater near you. MoveOn.org has touted the film as, "The Movie the White House Doesn't Want You to See."
We here at danieldrezner.com tend to cast a skeptical eye on the bashing of action movies for their political content -- mostly because all action movies have their built-in political absurdities. Any principled moviegoer choosing to abstain from action movies with political or factual absurdities would be unable to go to any of these movies. Since we here at danieldrezner.com also like to see explosions, chases, and digitally-enhanced mayhem on a regular basis, we cannot recommend boycotting The Day After Tomorrow because of silly envoronmentalism.
However, as a loyal Chicagoan, I can recommend that all current and former residents of this great city boycott the movie because of what director Roland Emmerich told Entertainment Weekly about setting the film in New York City as opposed to Chicago (subscription required):
I'll concede that New York City may be the most easily recognized city in the world.
But claiming that Chicago doesn't have any "worldwide recognition" smacks of provincialism.
When international relations gets bizarre
Nicholas Wood reports in the New York Times about a truly bizarre effort by Macedonia's effort to ingratiate itself to Washington in late 2001/early 2002:
This would be funny if it hadn't had real consequences:
UPDATE: A hat tip to my commenters, who point out that this story is not a new one.
Sunday, May 16, 2004
What's to be gained from more trade liberalization?
As part of its ongoing Copenhagen Consensus project on global issues, the Economist reports this week on the effect that the elimination of protectionist barriers would have on global economic growth:
Click here for links to Anderson's full paper, in addition to two "opponent note" rejoinders.
The last time I'll make fun of Dennis Kucinich
There comes a point in a politician's career when their future prospects appear to be so dismal, the best thing the observer can do is show some kindness, look away, and write about something else.
After reading Rick Lyman's New York Times article about Dennis Kucinich's ongoing campaign, I think that time has come for the good representative from the state of Ohio.
One last excerpt, however:
The one-upsmanship of conference presenters
For some of this weekend I attended an Olin conference entitled, "Tyranny: Ancient and Modern." Most of the presenters were quite illuminating, but there was one amusing monent. It centered on what role the Bush administration played in the release of activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim from an Egyptian prison (click here for more on Ibrahim).
The question was whether U.S. economic pressure (in the form of reduced foreign aid) hastened or delayed Ibrahim's release. The following is, to the best of my ability, a recreation of the factual debate between two of the presenters who shall go unnamed:
I was half-expecting an Annie Hall-like moment for Ibrahim to suddenly walk on stage and embarrass one or the other speaker.
The grand irony was that Ibrahim had been in that very room approximately thirteen months earlier. If memory serves, he did thank the U.S. government, although one would also have expected him to do this. [And, it should be noted that regardless of the effectiveness, both of the speakers applauded the administration for its efforts in this matter.]