Saturday, June 19, 2004

Who's buying T-bills? Why are they buying T-bills?


One of the concerns that Niall Ferguson raised in Colossus: The Price of America's Empire about the long-term financial strength of the United States was the huge amount of U.S. government debt that Asian central banks were purchasing. Daniel Gross has more details about this phenomenon in Slate:

At the end of the first quarter, according to this Federal Reserve report, foreigners owned about 40 percent of outstanding Treasury securities, up from 30 percent in 2000 (see Line 11 in table L.209). Foreigners own $1.65 trillion in Treasury securities, up from $1.03 trillion in 2000.

Foreign central banks are on a spending spree. As recently as 2001, central banks bought just $10.7 billion in Treasury securities on a net basis. But their net purchases have risen dramatically: to $43.1 billion in 2002 and $128.5 billion in 2003.

With each passing quarter, foreigners have become more significant consumers of U.S. government debt. In 2002, non-Americans accounted for about half of net purchases of Treasury securities. But in the first quarter of 2004 they accounted for 150 percent! That is—the rest of the world bought a net $679.8 billion in Treasury securities while U.S. brokers and dealers sold a net $202.7 billion.

As interest rates rise, smart investors tend to flee bonds. But the foreigners are still buying despite rising rates.

Gross goes on to observe that central banks are purchasing a rotten investment -- T-bills currently have low rate of returns and are denominated in a currency that has been slowly losing its value compared to the euro or other major currencies.

Tyler Cowen offers seven possible explanations. My vote is for a mixture of reasons three, four, and six -- mostly three ("China and Japan want to keep the value of the yuan and yen low, as part of a mercantilist export-promotion strategy.")

There is another possible explanation, but I don't seriously believe it. As Gary Shilling points out in Forbes in an essay downplaying foreign ownership of U.S. government securities, the moment Chinese capital markets are liberalized, the Chinese central bank won't be the only Chinese actor interested in greenbacks:

China can't abandon its dollar buying. It needs a strong dollar--a weak yuan, that is--to keep its exports competitive and to keep its underemployed population busy. The day may come when the Chinese government stops being the lender of last resort to America, but if it does stop, there are a billion or so Chinese citizens ready to take up the cause. Given the legal right to do so, they would yank deposits out of the Chinese banking system and invest in U.S. securities.

So, one possibility is that the Chinese central bank is buying Treasuries in advance of capital market liberalization. But that would be such a complex undertaking -- given the fragility of the state-owned Chinese banking system -- that I can't think that's what's going on.

With that possibility unlikely, what I find so interesting is the parallel between what Asian central banks are doing now and what Japanese private investors did back in the late 1980's -- make lousy investments in overpriced assets. I don't think there's any correlation between the two phenomenon -- private investors and central banks are like apples and oranges.

posted by Dan at 01:51 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (2)

Friday, June 18, 2004

What sustains the barriers to globalization in the Middle East?

Marcus Noland and Howard Pack have written a must-read policy brief for the Institute for International Economics on why the Middle East appears to be suffering from relative economic stagnation. They lay out the challenge in stark terms:

[T]he region as a whole will experience labor force growth of more than 3 percent for the next 15 years or so. On current trends, according to an Arab League report, unemployment in the region could rise from 15 million to 50 million over this period. Under plausible assumptions about the rate of productivity growth and required investment levels, the economies of the region will have to maintain investment rates on the order of 30 percent of GDP and income growth of 5 to 6 percent a year to absorb all this labor. This is a very tall order. And recent history is not reassuring....

Yet the implications of not achieving rapid growth to absorb the rising number of entrants to the labor force could be dire. In the Zogby (2002) poll of Arab attitudes, Saudi males stand out as uniquely dissatisfied and pessimistic about their children’s future. Presumably these feelings are rooted in the reality of dwindling employment prospects, the 40 percent decline in per capita income from its peak in 1982, and the lack of political voice. Dissatisfaction and pessimism about the future are mildly correlated with age, education attainment, and internet access. The youngest, most advantaged sections of society have the bleakest appraisal of the future. It goes without saying that 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudi males.

The authors dismiss the simple argument that Islam retards receptivity to capitalism. Rather, Noland and Pack's key finding is that "public attitudes toward foreigners and globalization" more generally is the greatest barrier to foreign investment. Their operationalization of this kind of attitude is most intriguing:

Three of the many questions posed in the Pew [Global Attitudes] poll have particularly high correlations with measures of risk in economic exchange, especially FDI that involves a local physical presence. The regional pattern of responses to three issues—the necessity of closing large, inefficient factories; the need to protect their way of life against foreign influence; and the desirability of societal acceptance of homosexuality—are displayed in figures 2 through 4. Relative to most respondents in the rest of the world, the Arabs were less willing to close inefficient factories, more committed to protecting the local way of life, and less tolerant of homosexuality. The picture that emerges from the pattern of responses to the full set of Pew survey questions is of local populations that are relatively averse to change, instead favoring the maintenance of existing economic and social arrangements—especially if the forces of change are regarded as emanating from foreign or nontraditional sources.

Controlling for economic fundamentals such as the level of per capita income, macroeconomic stability,and corporate taxes across a broad sample of countries, these responses have some explanatory power with respect to measures of interest such as the level of inward FDI, sovereign debt ratings, and local entrepreneurship. Although the precise channels of causality are ill defined, it is plausible that the attitudes manifested in the survey responses
are underpinning behaviors and practices that may impede successful globalization. The question about closing of factories could be interpreted as a straightforward question about the priority placed on efficiency. The questions about protecting against foreign influence and accepting homosexuality could be interpreted as capturing the extent of entry barriers to human capital from nontraditional sources. (emphasis added)

From this finding, the authors return somewhat gloomily to the role of Islam and conclude:

Islam may matter—not in the simple sense that belief in Allah dooms one to a low personal saving rate or that Islamic banking systems handicap financial efficiency—but rather in a more subtle way. Today there are Muslim communities in the Middle East that are relatively discomfited by aspects of ongoing social change. To the extent that adherence to Islam is a significant component of personal and communal identity, Islamic teachings will be one prism through which these developments are evaluated. This pattern of apprehension may be reinforced if Islam itself is regarded as being part of this contested terrain.

Read the whole brief.

posted by Dan at 11:58 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (1)

I'm not feeling the love from Russia

CNN International reports that the Russia Federation warned the United States about Iraqi plans for terrorism against the United States:

Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country warned the United States several times that Saddam Hussein's regime was planning terror attacks on the United States and its overseas interests....

"I can confirm that after the events of September 11, 2001, and up to the military operation in Iraq, Russian special services and Russian intelligence several times received ... information that official organs of Saddam's regime were preparing terrorist acts on the territory of the United States and beyond its borders, at U.S. military and civilian locations," Putin said.

The Russian leader did not elaborate on any details of the warnings of terror plots or mention whether they were tied to the al Qaeda terror network.

Putin, one of the strongest critics of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, also said Russia had no information that Saddam's regime had actually committed any terrorist acts.

The United States never cited Russian intelligence when it was making its case for the war and Putin said the information did not change his country's opposition to the war. (emphasis added)

I wouldn't want to speculate on the quality of Russian intelligence, but that last sentence provokes a question to President Putin -- why didn't the information change your mind about the war? You have intel saying that one sovereign state is planning to commit acts of aggression against another sovereign state in violation of the laws of war.

If that's not a justification for preventive action, what is?

posted by Dan at 01:32 PM | Comments (20) | Trackbacks (2)

Does John Kerry have moles in his campaign?

Mickey Kaus, June 17, 2004:

Q.: If you were a mischievous Bush person and wanted to make some trouble for John Kerry, what would you do? A.: Start a rumor that Kerry has picked John Edwards as his running mate. That will ratchet up the current press buzz that Edwards is the inevitable, obvious choice, due to his charismatic brilliance as a campaigner. Then, if Kerry doesn't want to choose Edwards, he will a) be faced with annoying unwanted pressure and b) look like a vain man who doesn't want to be upstaged. If Edwards is the pick, then a) the pre-emptive rumor will blow the big surprise of Kerry's announcement and b) Kerry will look like he's been stampeded. It's win win! And it won't be a hard rumor to start. (emphases in original)

Jim VandeHei and Lois Romano, "Kerry's Search: In Depth, In Secret." The Washington Post, June 18, 2004:

Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) has emerged as the favorite of many Democratic senators and Kerry friends and advisers. Edwards's stock has shot up in recent weeks as private polling shows the freshman senator providing a boost to the ticket in key states because of his southern appeal and perceived likeability, two sources close to the campaign said. "The delay in announcing someone has helped Edwards," a Democrat close to Kerry said....

Kerry's competitive streak, which has run deep throughout his career, is also coloring his decision, friends say. Kerry, they say, sometimes appears conflicted when talking about his desire to find a strong leader, or a peer, who could without a doubt run the nation in wartime and his concern of being upstaged or unfavorably compared with his running mate, stylistically or professionally. (emphases added)

posted by Dan at 12:45 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (0)

My very own cabinet reshuffle

Brad DeLong has been urging "grown-up Republicans" for the past year to force Bush and Cheney's resignations. In latest post on this theme, DeLong expresses his half-serious wish that "the presidential succession passes to Colin Powell."

Now, besides the fact that Brad's theories of political science rest on shaky ground, and besides the fact that the only time I can think of either party forcing a sitting president not to run again was Johnson in 1968 (and even then it wasn't "grown-up Democrats" doing the pushing), I'm a bit puzzled by DeLong's embrace of Colin Powell. Maybe Powell is a moderate Republican, but that doesn't seem to have made him a particularly good Secretary of State. As the New York Times and Washington Post pointed out last year in their autopsies of the diplomatic run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom, and as I highlighted in this post, the Secretary of State did not exert a lot of diplomatic effort. This is from the Times account:

Throughout the last several months, one of the puzzles at the State Department and throughout the administration is why Mr. Powell, one of the best-known and best-liked Americans in many parts of the world, never engaged in a campaign of public appearances abroad as energetic as the telephone and broadcast interview campaign he pressed from his office, home and car.

'His travels abroad are too few and far between,' said an official, noting that the only trips Mr. Powell made to Europe since the beginning of last year were to accompany the president or to attend short-lived conferences....

Mr. Powell is known to dislike travel. 'I think I have a right balance between phone diplomacy, diplomacy here in Washington, and diplomacy on the road,' he said recently when questioned about his schedule. (emphasis added)

A secretary of State who dislikes travel -- my kind of diplomat.

However, Brad's post did get me to thinking about Bush's foreign policy team and my own qualms with their performance. Tenet and Negroponte have recently left their positions. Rumsfeld should resign. Powell is lackluster. Fairly or unfairly, Ashcroft as Attorney General has been an automatic campaign contribution machine for Democrats. Foreign policy professionals are thoroughly disenchanted with the current team.

Since Bush and Cheney themselves aren't going anywhere, I've got an idea -- how about a cabinet overhaul now instead of November!!

Of course, this presents an exciting but challenging task -- picking a new foreign affairs cabinet that meets the following criteria:

1) They have solid Republican bona-fides;
2) They're effective administrators (for cabinet officials);
3) They have gravitas;
4) They can play nicely with each other;
5) Those needing Senate confirmation could get it with a minimum of fuss

With those criteria in mind -- and do bear in mind that this is a blog post, so it's not like I've thought every detail of this out -- what's my new cabinet look like?

Secretary of Defense -- John McCain. It's worth remembering that back in 2000, John McCain was the preferred candidate for a lot of prominent neocons. Here's a way to snuff out all that Kerry-McCain mumbo-jumbo and make McCain's star quality work for the Republicans. Plus, he knows a thing or two about defense matters.

Attorney General -- John Danforth. This position is a lightning rod for social conservatives -- but no one could doubt Danforth's adherence to conservative values or his sense of duty. Danforth commands respect on both sides of the aisle for his Senatorial record as well as his recent efforts to end the civil war in Sudan. This pick would please conservatives and not piss off moderates at the same time -- not an easy task.

Director of Central Intelligence -- Brent Scowcroft. Let's face it, the intelligence community is a mess right now -- what's needed is a technocrat's technoract, someone who can clean house while commanding the respect of intelligence professionals. Scowcroft has experience in just about every policy position in Washington, and currently chairs the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. [Why would he leave a lucrative consulting group to go to take a position lower than NSC advisor?--ed. Er, a sense of duty.]

Secretary of State -- Kenneth Dam. Dam was Deputy Secretary of State under George Shultz and Deputy Secretary of the Treasury under Paul O'Neill. To my knowledge, no one in DC has ever said a bad word about him. I'm going to go out on a limb and say he's got sufficient experience for the job.

National Security Advisor -- Bob Blackwill. By all accounts, Blackwill is the Republican version of Richard Holbrooke -- an arrogant SOB who gets the job done. The NSC advisor needs to be someone who can be an honest broker in the policy process, unafraid of large egos, and able to be candid with the president. Blackwill's perfect for the job -- besides, as Lawrence Kaplan points out, Blackwill seems to be evolving into a shadow NSC advisor anyway.

Treasury Secretary -- Robert Zoellick. In the spirit of keeping one current Bush appointee, promote this guy and finally have a Treasury chief that understands there's an international component of the job.

Secretary of Homeland Security -- Rudoplh Guliani. If you think the intelligence community has problems, consider this monstrosity of a department for a second. This job is much tougher than DCI -- at least the CIA has some sense of esprit de cotps. DHS is a conglomeration of smaller agencies that have been discarded by other departments. What's needed here is a centralizer, someone who can meld an awkward organizational chart into something resembling a functional bureaucracy. I think Guliani fits that mold.

United Nations Ambassador -- Robert Kagan. This is always an awkward slot, because it usually goes to someone who lost out in the Secretary of State/NSC Advisor Sweepstakes. Plus, the UN ambassador needs to be someone who can play nicely with other countries, but still accepts the original neoconservative principle that the U.N. is a bastion of anti-Americanism and general silliness. Alas, Daniel Patrick Moynihan is neither Republican nor alive. But Kagan comes the closest to embodying those principles.

Seems like a nice mix of responsible realists and responsible neoconservatives to me. Someone get me David Broder's private line to float this trial balloon!

Readers are hereby encouraged to submit alternative candidates -- provided they meet the criteria listed above.

posted by Dan at 12:55 AM | Comments (34) | Trackbacks (13)

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Eugene Volokh triggers a gay civil war

Well, not really. Eugene's original quotation of Marilyn Zielinski's theory about what it takes for a man to be sexy was quite interesting:

I think almost any man can be sexy, can become a good flirt, can learn to attract women, if he is truly willing to. Like most social skills, the general principles aren't that mysterious, and are quantifiable if you pay attention....

But most men don't really want to be sexy; they want sexy to be them. I don't mean to man-bash, men are one of my favorite genders, but it's such a waste of resources. Like you, I know tons of great women. They're (list of all the good adjectives), and people want to be around them.

And I know a fair number of (good adjectives) single men, but [it's generally] also clear why they're single. They don't listen, and won't; they won't get a real job; they're boring but don't want to acknowlege it or do anything about it. Hey, if that shirt was "in" when they were in high school, no need to see if any ads/mannequins/humans under 60 wear it today.

I don't have a single female friend who hasn't asked herself, "What am I doing wrong?" and been totally open -- often too open, in a self-blame-y way -- to the answer, and to changing the answer, often with great success. But I almost never find that men ask that question, or are even willing to hear the answer, let alone do anything about it. Instead, single men in my experience behave as if the only life possibilities are being the way they are, or acting. The idea of growth and change don't make the radar.

This has inspired two very different responses from two different gay men.

First, Andrew Sullivan weighs in:

If women weren't so damn forgiving of slobbiness, if they weren't prepared to look for the diamond buried in the rough of a man's beer-belly, men might have to shape up a little. The only reason gay men are - on the whole - better turned out than straight men is because they have to appeal to other shallow, beauty-obsessed males to get laid, find a mate, etc. The corollary, of course, are lesbians. Now there are many glamorous lesbiterians, but even the most enthusiastic Sapphic-lover will have to concede that many are not exactly, shall we say, stylish. The reason? They don't have to be to attract other women; and since women find monogamy easier, they also slide into the I'm-married-so-what-the-hell-have-another-pretzel syndrome. When straight women really do insist on only dating hot guys, men will shape up. Until then, it's hopeless.

For a somewhat different take, Eugene follows up his original post with the following reprint of Geoffrey Murry's Queer Eye view:

I find it is often a man's resoluteness in the face of what I shall call here adversity that makes him sexy. It is his adamantine surety of place as he strides into a room that makes him noticed. Were he to be engaged in the constant questioning of himself that Marilyn suggests, I reckon it might be more difficult for him to pull this off.

As an example, I offer what an observer of gay male culture might call the fetishization of the straight man. It is not that he, the straight man, is so much more attractive or well dressed than a gay man. Quite often the opposite is true, with the average gay man perhaps being better groomed and tailored than the average straight man. Rather it is the sheer *effortlessness* with which an attractive straight man can achieve his attractiveness that makes him sexy; his insouciance wins the day.

Gay men simply try too hard, often attempting to look perfect, which always fails and leaves him looking simply . . . false, stilted, fabricated. The straight man (the metrosexual and Marilyn's dream men aside) rarely goes to this length, and it is the imperfection in his appearance that gives it the veracity of the virile.

The one thing I'm sure of is that Sullivan and Murry should probably not date each other.

We here at welcome any and all contributions to this pressing debate, regardless of sexual preference.

posted by Dan at 06:12 PM | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)

Should Rummy resign, part III

Last month I posted here and here on why Donald Rumsfeld should resign. I'll just cut and paste this Eric Schmitt/Thom Shanker story in the New York Times for why I stand by that belief:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, acting at the request of George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, ordered military officials in Iraq last November to hold a man suspected of being a senior Iraqi terrorist at a high-level detention center there but not list him on the prison's rolls, senior Pentagon and intelligence officials said Wednesday.

This prisoner and other "ghost detainees" were hidden largely to prevent the International Committee of the Red Cross from monitoring their treatment, and to avoid disclosing their location to an enemy, officials said.

Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, the Army officer who in February investigated abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison, criticized the practice of allowing ghost detainees there and at other detention centers as "deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine, and in violation of international law."

This prisoner, who has not been named, is believed to be the first to have been kept off the books at the orders of Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Tenet. He was not held at Abu Ghraib, but at another prison, Camp Cropper, on the outskirts of Baghdad International Airport, officials said.

UPDATE: This Reuters story doesn't comfort me much either:

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged on Thursday that he ordered the secret detention of an Iraqi terrorism suspect held for more than seven months near Baghdad without notifying the Red Cross....

"We should have registered him (the prisoner) much sooner than we did," Pentagon Deputy General Counsel Daniel Dellorto told the briefing.

"That's something that we'll just have to examine, as to whether there was a breakdown in the quickness with which we registered him," he said....

Rumsfeld said the man's case was unique, but he was vague when reporters asked whether the United States was holding other "ghost" prisoners without Red Cross knowledge in Iraq....

In March, Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who investigated abuses at Abu Ghraib, criticized the holding of "ghost" detainees as "deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine, and in violation of international law."

Rumsfeld was asked how this case differed from the practice Taguba criticized. "It is just different, that's all," he said.

Sorry, that last answer doesn't cut it for me.

posted by Dan at 05:55 PM | Comments (26) | Trackbacks (3)

Suggest a guest-blogger for!!

Josh Marshall is taking a vacation, but not before dropping a coy reference to a journalistic venture "that I and several colleagues have been working on a story that, if and when it comes to fruition --- and I’m confident it shall --- should shuffle the tectonic plates under that capital city where I normally hang my hat."

More intriguingly, Marshall will be having a guest blogger at Talking Points Memo [UPDATE: Marshall made a fine choice in TNR's Spencer Ackerman.] Which got me to thinking that even though I often fill in as a guest-blogger for the Higher Beings of the Blogosphere, I haven't had a guest blogger here at -- with the singular and laudatory exception of my wife.

Due to some impending events that will become public in due course, I may need the services of a guest-blogger or two in the coming months. I've thought on occasion about who could be able to fulfill my mandate of "politics, economics, globalization, academia, pop culture... all from an untenured perspective"? All too often I draw a blank.

Sooooo..... readers are hereby invited to submit suggestions -- from the blogosphere or the scholarly community -- as possible short-term substitutes (for those shy academics in the audience who are interested but would rather not post that fact on the blog, contact me directly).

posted by Dan at 11:46 AM | Comments (37) | Trackbacks (1)

It's not easy keeping up with the Oxbloggers

I see that Josh Chafetz has published his first essay in the New York Times Book Review this past Sunday.

David Adesnik's praise to the contrary, we here at often feel powerless in the wake of the Oxbloggers' relentless stream of publications. It's not just their ability to publish in so many tony outlets -- it's the fact that they're more than a decade younger than me and publishing in so many tony outlets. Just who do these young whippersnappers think they are, writing such high-quality copy on such a regular basis?

[Is it because they haven't completed a Ph.D. yet and therefore haven't had their writing skills crushed into a sticky paste?--ed. From an epistemological standpoint, that's a nonfalsifiable hypothesis and lacks any counterfactual analysis. Thank you for proving my point--ed.]

But today the advantage is mine. My review of Niall Ferguson's Colossus: The Price of America's Empire is on page D7 of today's Wall Street Journal. You can see the online version by clicking here. Here's the part of the book that I found most interesting:

What comes through most clearly in his account is that the troubles in Iraq are hardly unique. Empire, even the American kind, has always involved moral quandaries, confused planning and shifting tactics. About a century ago, there was enthusiasm over the U.S. victory in the Philippines, a distant theater in the Spanish-American war. The enthusiasm was soon tempered, though, by the news that American military officials "had ordered the summary execution of Filipino prisoners."

In the case of Japan, one of the architects of the country's postwar constitution admitted: "I had no knowledge whatsoever about Japan's history or culture or myths." In the case of Germany, Gen. Lucius Clay, the military governor of the U.S.-administered zone, planned to cut his staff by half in the six months following V-E day and to transfer power to a civilian government by July 1946. He did neither, of course. But in the end, America's "empire by improvisation," as Mr. Ferguson calls it, worked well because the Cold War required the U.S. to stay in those two countries indefinitely.

The ball's in your court, Oxblog... oh yes, the ball is most definitely in your court.

[Ummm... didn't Adesnik and Chafetz already publish something in the Wall Street Journal?--ed. Arrggh!! I'd have a greater sense of self-esteem if it wasn't for those meddling kids!!]

posted by Dan at 11:20 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (2)

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Are successful blogs correlated with successful campaigns?

Back in the winter when Dean crashed and burned in Iowa, I asked:

To paraphrase an old Jewish aphorism, is this good for the blogs? Regardless of one's political stripe, the blogosphere embraced Dean's Internet campaign as a kindred spirit, emblematic of the same phenomenon that propelled blogs into prominence.

Now, the reason I asked this was obvious -- most people associated campaign blogs with Dean, and if Dean flamed out, surely that meant that having the most successful blog around didn't mean all that much even in primary campaigns.

The unstated assumption behind my question was that Blog for America was actually the most successful campaign blog out there. Even though campaign blogs are different from other kinds of blogs, and even though I had criticized its content in another venue, I certainly believed it to be the most professional.

However, I may have been in error. [Again--ed.] Gene Koprowski, UPI's telecomminications reporter, reports on an interesting study about campaigns and blogs:

Most of the information about the influence of blogs is qualitative -- anecdotal, based on what readers say about the sites. But before the Democratic primary season was completed this past spring, one software developer tested the reliability of blogs run by political candidates and gleaned some interesting results that may continue to play out in the fall.

"Blogs run by the campaign of President George W. Bush and Sen. Kerry were the most effective," said Joe Alwan, vice president of marketing at Empirix Inc., a Web applications software developer in Waltham, Mass. "They had a 100 percent reliability. The blog run by the campaign of (Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C.) had only a 50 percent reliability," he told UPI.

Former Vermont Governor Dean maintained about a 98 percent reliability rate for his Web blogs, the study demonstrated.

Empirix tested the sites by sending electronic queries to them during a set period of time, and often received error messages saying, for example, the "Apache Web server was down" for Edwards, Alwan said.

This could have been interpreted as a signal to some Internet savvy voters that the candidate just did not care enough about reaching them online, in the way in which they wanted to be reached. The reaction is similar to the way customers become turned off if an e-commerce site is not working properly, said Pete Cruz, director of Web applications management for Empirix.

"The point is that blogs are now important in politics, and they need to make sure that their sites are working," Cruz told UPI. "For Edwards, the blog became a liability to his campaign. Users who visit expect performance. A lack of performance is more likely to alienate users."

Another interesting point: Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., did not have a blog on his site and did not perform well in any of the Democratic primaries, the Empirix survey concluded.

Now, a few caveats -- first, I can't find a press release or an executive summary of this study on the Empirix web site (see below for an update). Second, the difference between Dean's 98% effectiveness and Kerry's 100% effectiveness is not huge. Third, Edwards outperformed Dean in the primary campaign even though his blog was only half as effective.

Still, this is the first (report of a) study I've seen in which Kerry's blog comes out on top by any metric.

By the way, if you read the entire UPI report, you'll find a mention of -- clearly, Greg Wythe was not the only person impressed with my ability to fold in a Kristin Davis reference to a post about Sarbanes-Oxley.

UPDATE: Drezner gets results from UPI and Empirix! After an e-mail query, the good people at Empirix were nice enough to send me their study, which was done at the behest of Baseline magazine -- though it doesn't appear to have been cited in their December 2003 package on campaign blogs. But for those who care, their study was conducted from "October 31, 2003 at 1:00pm Eastern through November 7, 2003 at 1:00pm Eastern." It looks quite proper.

posted by Dan at 09:45 PM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Someone's been in the ivory tower too long

I've haven't been following the scandals involving the University of Colorado at Boulder's football program too carefully. What I have read about it is at a welcome distance. As someone who used to teach there, I can't say I'm particularly shocked by the catalogued behavior.

The tendency of CU-Boulder university officials to say idiotic things hasn't helped matters. One of the triggers for the mess was when coach Gary Barnett, in responding to questions about the alleged rape of female placekicker Katie Hnida by a teammate, called Hnida an "awful" player who "couldn't kick the ball through the uprights." Barnett was suspended pending an investigation, and later reinstated.

Alas, CU-Boulder's president, Elizabeth Hoffman, seems determined to follow Barnett's ability to put one's foot in one's mouth. From the KUSA (NBC's affiliate station in Denver) web site:

In a sworn statement, University of Colorado President Elizabeth Hoffman said she has heard a four-letter word used toward women as a "term of endearment."

The comment comes from Hoffman's latest sworn testimony in connection with a federal lawsuit against the university. 9NEWS received a copy of the passage in question from the university after sources both outside and inside CU told us about it.

The suit was filed by women who say they were sexually assaulted by CU football players and recruits.

A lawyer for one of the women asked Hoffman about former CU kicker Katie Hnida being called the "c- word" by a teammate.

That player was later disciplined by coach Gary Barnett for making the remark.

In the deposition, Hoffman was asked whether the "c-word" is "filthy and vile."

She said she knows the word is a swear word, but "It is all in the context of what--of how it is used and when it is used."

She was asked, "Can you indicate any polite context in which that word would be used?"

Hoffman answered, "Yes, I've actually heard it used as a term of endearment."

A CU spokeswoman said President Hoffman is aware of the negative connotations associated with the word.

But, the spokesperson said, because Hoffman is a medieval scholar, she is aware of the long history of the word. She said it was not always a negative term. (emphasis added)

You can see the relevant portion of the transcript by clicking here.

Now Hoffman is etymologically correct -- at least according to this site, "the word wasn't always considered derogatory, even though it is today." (Click here for more than you would ever want to know about this word.)

And in further defense of Hoffman, here's a statement released by a university spokeswoman:

There should be no doubt that President Hoffman knows the meaning of the word in question and its current usage. She was in an extremely adversarial deposition with attorneys who have brought federal litigation seeking monetary damages from the university. In an effort to not allow the attorney to dictate to her a definition of the word, she defined it herself as a swear word. She was then asked if she was aware of a non-negative definition. She replied from her scholar's knowledge.

Unfortunately for Hoffman, this is one of those questions for which common sense suggests the obvious answer -- no matter how adversarial the situation. Responding as she did makes her seem way too detached from the real world.

posted by Dan at 09:43 PM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (3)

There's realism and then there's realism

I liked the way Lawrence Kaplan starts his cover story in The New Republic (subscription required) on the resurgence of realism in American foreign policy circles:

In Washington, being a member of a "coalition" or a "committee" is to a foreign policy wonk what being a supernumerary at the Metropolitan Opera is to a New York arts patron or a good seat at the Ivy is to a Hollywood mogul: an emblem of status.

It gets better from there:

Indeed, it appears nearly everyone in Washington is a realist now. Neatly summarizing the revised wisdom, The Washington Post's George Will recently argued that America's errors in Iraq flow not so much from the bungled implementation of the democratic idea as from the idea itself--"the Jeffersonian poetry of democratic universalism." The new realism, moreover, has already been enshrined in official policy. The Bush team still employs high-minded rhetoric about America's democratic mission abroad, but, in practice, it has reverted to a more humble focus. The Kerry campaign, too, has abandoned any pretense of democratic idealism. Strategic chokepoints, oil wells, alliances--these are the things that animate Kerry's "realistic" vision of the world. Which is too bad. Because, no matter what you think of Iraq, realism can't win the war on terrorism.....

[T]he very realists whom Bush decries are now running his foreign policy. The Pentagon's neoconservative democratizers have been losing influence for months now. The nadir came three weeks ago, when the National Security Council (NSC) signed off on a raid on the home of former Pentagon favorite Ahmed Chalabi--without informing the Pentagon beforehand. The neoconservatives' decline was already apparent last October, when, in an attempt to centralize Iraq policy at the NSC, Condoleezza Rice formed the Iraq Stabilization Group--again, without consulting the Pentagon. The official chosen to chair the group, Rice's boss in the first Bush administration, Robert Blackwill, has "reduced the Defense Department's influence to zero," says a senior administration official. Iraq czar L. Paul Bremer, who worked with Blackwill under Kissinger, now reports to his fellow realist at the White House rather than to the Pentagon. On the NSC itself, Blackwill, who shares the title of deputy national security adviser with Stephen Hadley, a Pentagon ally, "has sucked the air out of" his colleague, according to a White House official. As for the other locus of democratic idealism in the White House, the Valerie Plame investigation has consumed the vice president's foreign policy team. Meanwhile, Dick Cheney has been soliciting advice from Kissinger, and members of the Bush team claim that Rice, chastened by her prewar foray into the world of democracy promotion, has been doing the same from Scowcroft....

The genesis of the new realism is, of course, America's problems creating democracy in Iraq. But today's problems in Iraq do not derive from failures of democracy. They derive from failures of security, which have made democracy difficult to achieve. Those failures owe to a well-chronicled fact--the United States lacks the troop levels required to provide security. It should be axiomatic that, as former Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) adviser and democracy expert Larry Diamond puts it, "you can't have a democratic state unless you have a state, and the fundamental, irreducible condition of a state is that it has a monopoly on the means of violence." In Iraq today, not even the U.S. Army, much less the interim government, possesses such a monopoly.

Nor is it clear that the Bush team's particular recipe for building a democratic Iraq amounted to much more than a cartoon version of democratization. "The distinction between liberation and democratization, which requires a strategy and instruments," says former U.S. Information Agency Director Penn Kemble, "was an idea never understood by the administration." Indeed, it was precisely the equation of the absence of oppression with the existence of democracy--exemplified by Donald Rumsfeld's infamous "freedom's untidy" comment during the postwar looting--that underpinned the White House's assumption that it could rapidly draw down U.S. forces after toppling Saddam. It took the United States years to transform Germany and Japan. In Iraq, by contrast, the CPA already has its bags packed....

A recent study by Princeton's Alan Krueger and Czech scholar Jitka Maleckova analyzed data on terrorist attacks and measured it against the characteristics of the terrorists' countries of origin. The study found that "the only variable that was consistently associated with the number of terrorists was the Freedom House index of political rights and civil liberties. Countries with more freedom were less likely to be the birthplace of international terrorists." Unfortunately, according to the U.N.'s Arab Human Development Report, not a single Arab state offers such freedoms. One could plausibly have argued before September 11 that this was none of America's business. But, on that day, the Arab world's predicament became our own--thrusting the United States into a war of ideas to which realism has no adequate response.

Kaplan makes some good points -- but I have two moderate carps with the piece:

1) Not everyone who opposes the administration is a realist. The Committee that Kaplan fronts the piece with is entitled "The Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy." Semantic as this may sound, "realistic" is not the same thing as "realist." A quick glance at the coalition's statement of principles reveals that what binds this coalition together is an opposition to American empire -- but that can come from several sources. For example -- as I argued a few months ago in TNR Online -- realists dislike the neocon enthusiasm for nation-building, whereas liberal institutionalists dislike the neocon disdain for multilateralism. While realists and liberal institutionalists might disagree with neoconservatives on empire-building, they don't agree on a lot of other dimensions of policy. The list of signatories paints a similar picture -- while there are a large number of true-blue realists on the list, there are also people, like Charles Kupchan, who would not fit that label (though, admittedly, most of the other people on that list are realists).

Kaplan doesn't help matters by labeling G. John Ikenberry in the essay as a "prominent realist." No offense against John -- who's a fine scholar and a star in the discipline -- but that ain't right. If you read Ikenberry's principal work, After Victory, it's clear that he's quite the fan of multilateral institutions as a binding mechanism on hegemonic powers. This is hardly a controversial position to adopt in the gamut of international relations theory -- but it flatly contradicts all varieties of realism. As someone in the same department as "today's premier realist," John J. Mearsheimer, let me put it this way: I've served with realists (on committees). I know realists. Realists are friends of mine -- and John Ikenberry is no realist.

Kaplan's confusion of "realistic/pragmatic" with "realist" reveals a small but telling weakness among some neoconservatives -- their tendency to lump all of their intellectual adversaries into the same undifferentiated box. It is only through appreciating the nuances of alternative points of view that one can hone one's own arguments and policy proposals -- and I don't think a lot of neocons do this all that much.

Which brings me to a related point:

2) Kaplan wants to absolve the neocons of all blame: Kaplan's essay rightly excoriates administration realists (read: Rumsfeld) for failing to follow through on nation-building. And it is certainly true that some neocons (Kagan, Kristol, Pollack) wanted the U.S. to be large and in charge in Iraq. However, Kaplan is way too quick to dismiss the errors of the neocons who were actually in power. It was not just Rumsfeld that believed we could do nation-building on the cheap -- it was Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Richard Perle as well. Perle in particular thought that it would be easy to topple the Baathist regime and hand the keys of government to Chalabi. Kaplan seems to adopt a similar position in his TNR essay when he scolds the Chalabi raid.

Kaplan is correct to point out the faulty assumptions made by administration realists in the post-war administration of Iraq. But he is incorrect not to say that many of those assumptions were generated by the neocons.

posted by Dan at 01:11 PM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (1)

Who's the biggest budget-cutter of them all?

Brad DeLong rises to the bait and blasts the AEI report I linked to in my last post -- not for inaccuracies, but for sins of omission:

[T]here are some numbers that the American Enterprise Institute is very careful not to mention, and that Cowen and Drezner ought to make sure to tell their readers. They are:

Federal Spending as a Share of GDP:
21.6%: Last Carter budget (FY 1981)
20.7%: Last Reagan budget (FY 1989)

-0.9%: Change over Reagan terms

21.0%: Last Bush I budget (FY 1993)
18.3%: Last Clinton budget (FY 2001)

-2.7%: Change over Clinton terms

20.4%: Forecast FY 2005 budget

+2.1%: Change over Bush term*

Why doesn't the AEI report these numbers? Because it doesn't want you thinking. It doesn't want you thinking that the axe Reagan took to the discretionary domestic side was largely offset by increases in defense spending that had relatively little effect on the strategic balance vis-a-vis the tottering Soviet Union (more submarines, anyone?) and by the explosion of interest payments on the debt produced by the Reagan deficits. It doesn't want you thinking that Clinton-era reductions in the size of the government were three times as big as Reagan-era reductions. And it doesn't want you to really focus on exactly how profligate the Bush budgets have been.

If I were Brad, I'd bring out these numbers as well -- and I think he has half a point. In examining a president's record of fiscal probity, it's not enough to look at whether department budgets were cut -- the magnitude of the cuts matter as well.

However, the point of the AEI report was to examine the efforts by presidents to cut government spending, not government spending as a percentage of GDP. A big reason Clinton does so well in Brad's figures is not because of Clinton's containment of government growth (the numerator) but because of the economic boom of the 90's (the denominator). Clearly, Clinton had some role to play in the latter as well -- but to go back to Pearlstein's WaPo article:

In this country, presidents don't "preside over" economies, and they certainly don't control them. They can implement a limited range of economic policies that affect the economic cycle at the margin.

For example, if you go to Brad's post on the Cinton administration's fiscal legacy, his "rough numbers" for how America's fiscal situation improved during the nineties give about 64% of the credit to events beyond Clinton's control (the end of the Cold War, Bush I's 1990 budget deal, the information age boom). The Clinton team gets credit for most of the rest of the improvement -- which sounds about right to me.

[You just put that last WaPo quote in there to see if Brad goes medieval on Pearlstein, didn't you?--ed. I have no idea what you're talking about.]

UPDATE: Be sure to read Tyler Cowen's response to DeLong as well. Cowen makes a point that covers this blog as well: "is writing, and there is linking. A link does not itself constitute a specifically inferable opinion on what is being linked to."

posted by Dan at 11:48 AM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (3)

Comparing Reagan with Bush & Kerry

Tyler Cowen and Virginia Postrel both have posts up on how Reagan affected the size of government. Tyler links to this AEI report that lists the number of department and agency budgets that each president tried to cut during their term:

Johnson, 4 out 15
Nixon, 3 out 15
Carter, 5 out 15
Reagan 1, 8 out 15
Reagan 2, 10 out 15
Bush 41, 2 out 15
Clinton 1, 9 out 15
Clinton 2, 0 out 15
Bush 43, 0 out 15

Sigh. Be sure to check out Postrel's post as well.

[So this is the last straw, right? Now you're ready to jump on the Kerry bandwagon, right?--ed. It's not like Kerry is closer to inheriting Reagan's mantle. Henry Farrell's observations at a Kerry fundraiser don't fill me with a lot of confidence:

[Bill] Clinton tried to sell Kerry as a caring Democrat, by talking about Kerry’s commitment to helping deprived youth during Clinton’s Presidency. This wasn’t very convincing - there wasn’t any specific information, or even anecdotes, about what exactly Kerry had done. All in all, it served to confirm my overall impression that the Democrats are still having difficulty in selling Kerry as a positive quantity, rather than as an alternative to the (undoubtedly execrable) incumbent. Some of this could be my bias as a non-US lefty who has no emotional commitment to the Democrats, but it seemed to me that Kerry still has a lot of work to do if he’s going to maintain his narrow lead, let alone extend it.

Steven Pearlstein is not exactly thrilled with Kerry's rhetoric in the pages of the Washington Post:

Kerry's campaign has dredged up the old "middle-class squeeze," which emphasizes rising costs for energy, health care and college tuition. This analysis conveniently ignores falling prices for other basics like food, clothing, airfare or phone service, or lower monthly payments for homes and cars. It also suggests that the president is largely responsible for price increases largely outside his control.

For Kerry, the danger in playing this economic blame game is that voters will come to see him as no different than a president who has used exaggeration and selective use of facts to justify a war against Iraq. Rather than offering a contrast to the Republicans' highly partisan, attack-dog approach to political discourse, Kerry mimics it -- potentially turning off moderate, independent voters. (emphasis added)

Not exactly a replica of Regan's opimism, eh?]

posted by Dan at 12:50 AM | Comments (25) | Trackbacks (2)

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Tim Berners-Lee finally makes a buck

Victoria Shannon has a nice story in the International Herald Tribune about how the inventor of the World Wide Web is finally reaping some rewards from his marvelous invention:

If Tim Berners-Lee had decided to patent his idea in 1989, the Internet would be a different place.

Instead, the World Wide Web became free to anyone who could make use of it. Many of those who did became rich: Jeff Bezos (, Jerry Yang (Yahoo), Pierre Omidyar (eBay) and Marc Andreessen (Netscape).

But not Berners-Lee, 49, a British scientist working at a Geneva research lab at the time.

That is why some people think it is fitting - or about time - that he finally becomes wealthy, with the award Tuesday of the world's largest technology prize, the Millennium Technology Prize from the Finnish Technology Award Foundation. The E1 million, or $1.2 million, prize for outstanding technological achievements that raised the quality of life is supported by the Finnish government and private contributors.

"It was a very nice surprise," Berners-Lee said in an interview Sunday as three days of ceremonies began here....

Because he and his colleague, Robert Cailliau, a Belgian, insisted on a license-free technology, today a Gateway computer with a Linux operating system and a browser made by Netscape can see the same Web page as any other personal computer, system software or Internet browser.

If his then-employer, CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, had sought royalties, Berners-Lee believes the world would have 16 different "webs" on the Internet today.

"Goodness knows, there were plenty of hypertext systems before that didn't interoperate," Berners-Lee said. "There would have been a CERN Web, a Microsoft one, there would have been a Digital one, Apple's HyperCard would have started reaching out Internet roots. And all of these things would have been incompatible."

Software patenting today, Berners-Lee says, has run amok.

Read the rest of the article to find out why.

We here at salute Mr. Berners-Lee for finally making a profit off of the Internet.

posted by Dan at 05:56 PM | Comments (5) | Trackbacks (1)

Who's going to the moon?

Victoria Griffith reports in the Financial Times that NASA proper won't be responding to President Bush's call for a manned mission to the moon or Mars anytime soon. That doesn't mean it won't happen:

The future role of Nasa has been thrown into question by a high-profile report that concludes the agency is not able to send crewed missions to the Moon and Mars on its own.

The study - published officially on Wednesday - comes out just days before a private rocket in the California desert is poised to perform the first manned commercial space flight. Nasa has not launched people into space since the Columbia shuttle disaster last year.....

A commission appointed by George W. Bush, US president, and headed by Edward Aldridge, a former US air force secretary, will recommend an overhaul of Nasa that would force it to rely more on the private sector and expertise from foreign space agencies.

The 60-page study supports the use of cash prizes and tax incentives to encourage innovation by small companies. It names 17 technologies that are lacking in order to send men to the far side of the Moon and on to Mars, including better space suits and affordable heavy lift capability.

The commission also calls for Nasa to be streamlined - a process that has already begun - and for greater oversight of space budgets by the White House and Congress.

Mr Bush asked the group to provide a blueprint for Nasa after he called in January for further human exploration of the solar system. The president set out a goal of returning humans to the moon by 2020 and then going on to Mars....

"It could be that by 2020, private enterprise could be reaching the Moon, which is about the same as Nasa's timetable," says Eric Anderson, president of Space Adventures, a space tourism group.

posted by Dan at 05:44 PM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)

It would have helped if I had actually read the Chatham House rules

Some of you may have noted that I deleted a Sunday post about my impressions after attending a Council on Foreign Relations meeting. The reason is that I completely blanked on one aspect of the Chatham House Rule:

When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed; nor may it be mentioned that the information was received at a meeting of the Institute. (emphasis added)

While I was quite scrupulous about the first parts of the rule, I was in flagrant violation of the highlighted segment.

My profound apologies to all for the error.

posted by Dan at 05:29 PM | Comments (27) | Trackbacks (0)

The ironies of President Lula

The Economist examines the effects of Brazil's increasingly assertive foreign policy. The results may surprise you:

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the country's left-leaning president, is carving out a role for Brazil as spokesman for poor countries, most notably by founding the G20 group which lobbies for rich countries to open up farm trade. His government is playing a more active role across South America. And it is seeking a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. “Brazil has begun to flex its muscles as a regional superpower,” says Miguel Díaz of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think-tank.

If so, it is a paradoxical one. On the one hand, Brazil's fondest wish is to mitigate the United States' dominance of global affairs and thereby to enhance Brazil's influence. The foreign minister, Celso Amorim, calls for “a more balanced world” and justifies the Haiti mission in part as a step towards it. “You can't be a supporter of multilateralism and when it comes to act say it's [too] dangerous,” says Mr Amorim.

On the other hand, Brazil's new activism often, though not always, coincides with the interests of the United States. Both countries want democracy and stability in places in the Americas where these seem fragile. In some of those places, Lula's Brazil has more friends and influence than George Bush's more abrasive United States. The two sometimes back rivals in these countries, but that is one source of Brazil's usefulness....

Brazil is taking “more responsibility for calming things down in the region, which the United States finds fantastic,” says Alfredo Valladão of the Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Paris. That is one reason why Brazil has not been shunned by Mr Bush, despite Lula's opposition to the war in Iraq.

Read the whole thing -- there's a disturbing bit at the end about Brazil's nuclear program.

posted by Dan at 11:12 AM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (1)

Monday, June 14, 2004

The effect of Sarbanes-Oxley

The Hackett Group has an interesting finding on the effect of Sarbanes-Oxley -- you know, the corporate governance bill passed in the wake of the 2002 corporate scandals. The results are pretty interesting. [How interesting can that be?--ed. Definitely less interesting than speculation about possible future roles for Kristin Davis, but more interesing than your average post about corporate governance.]

Where was I? Oh, yes, here's a summary of the findings:

Largely as a by-product of their Sarbanes-Oxley compliance efforts, companies have dramatically improved the reliability of their financial forecasting over the past year, according to 2004 Book of Numbers research into world-class finance performance from The Hackett Group....

Findings from The Hackett Group's 2004 Finance Book of Numbers show that more than two thirds of all companies said they were now confident with their financial forecasting and reporting outputs. Only 9 percent of average companies made the same claim just a year ago.

But the improved forecasting capabilities have not come easily, and companies are also struggling with Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. In a reversal of long-term trends, companies were for the most part unable to reduce their overall finance costs, and monthly closing cycles have actually extended slightly over the past two years. Median companies now spend 1.08 percent of revenue on finance, according to Hackett. While that number has come down by 43 percent since Hackett began its research in 1992, median companies have seen little to no net cost reductions over the past few years. Companies are still finding ways to cut costs, but increased spending on compliance is largely offsetting these savings, according to Hackett. In addition, Hackett's research showed that a long-term trend towards shorter closing cycles saw a clear reversal in 2004, with both median and world-class companies now taking more than a week to close their books each month.

While perusing the Hackett web site, I came across another Hackett study on the outsourcing (both onshore and offshore) of finance operations:

A total of 74 percent of the companies surveyed by Hackett do not currently outsource any complete finance processes. In addition, 60 percent state that their outsourcing levels have not changed in the past three years. When asked to break down their current use of outsourcing of four major finance processes (accounts payable, accounts receivable, general accounting and payroll), only payroll showed any significant number of companies (26 percent) using outsourcing. Another five percent of the companies indicate that they outsource accounts payable, while no companies outsource accounts receivable or general accounting.

Looking forward, most companies report that they are unlikely to outsource any of the four processes in the next three years.

"There's no question that outsourcing is a very hot discussion topic right now in the finance world. But our research provides compelling evidence that perception far exceeds reality," said Hackett Senior Business Advisor Penny Weller. "Companies may be comfortable outsourcing sub-processes such as rekeying of vendor invoices or other data, check printing, or managing freight payments. Yet when companies have already expended significant time and energy to centralize complete processes such as accounts payable and accounts receivable within shared services, they are unlikely to consider outsourcing these processes today unless the economic benefits of doing so become overwhelmingly clear."

posted by Dan at 11:53 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (2)

The door decorations of North American professors

James M. Lang has a droll dissection of why professors decorate their office doors the way they do in the Chronicle of Higher Education. My personal favorite:

A theologian who wears a pious and serious demeanor around campus, but who will occasionally allow colleagues glimpses of a wicked sense of humor, features just two items on his door: a postcard memorializing the martyrs of his religious order, and a cartoon in which a man is ordering dinner for himself and his dining companion, a large fly, in a French restaurant. After he places an elaborate order of gourmet cuisine for himself, the man in the cartoon finishes with: "and bring some shit for my fly."

Alas, the only mention of my discipline is not exactly a favorable one:

Some professors, for example, clearly use their doors to send messages to their colleagues or to the administration about their productivity.

Witness, in this vein, the political scientist whose three postings all concern events at which he served as one of the keynote speakers.

[What about your door?--ed. Compared with most of my colleagues, I have a relatively flamboyant office door. Three Onion headlines (my favorite: "Intensive Five-Year Study Finds Five Years a Long-Ass Time"), two drawings by Sam, two New Yorker cartoons, and one Weekly World News headline.

My favorite door hangings, however, are culled from Vivian Scott Hixson's He Looks Too Happy to Be an Assistant Professor, a must-have collection of cartoons for academics. Front and slightly off-center on my door is a cartoon showing one graduate student whacking another with his briefcase, while two students comment on this in the foreground. The caption reads, "None of that wishy-washy relativism in this seminar!"]

posted by Dan at 10:42 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (2)

Sunday, June 13, 2004

I promise this is my last outsourcing post for a while

With the BLS report, I suspect I'll have little need to post on offshore outsourcing for some time -- no doubt inspiring a sense of relief among regular readers.

However, before I get off my outsourcing high horse, it's worth noting that the phenomenon is not limited to the for-profit sector -- now the Catholic Church is getting in on the act. Saritha Rai has the details in the New York Times:

With Roman Catholic clergy in short supply in the United States, Indian priests are picking up some of their work, saying Mass for special intentions, in a sacred if unusual version of outsourcing.

American, as well as Canadian and European churches, are sending Mass intentions, or requests for services like those to remember deceased relatives and thanksgiving prayers, to clergy in India....

In Kerala, a state on the southwestern coast with one of the largest concentrations of Christians in India, churches often receive intentions from overseas. The Masses are conducted in Malayalam, the native language. The intention - often a prayer for the repose of the soul of a deceased relative, or for a sick family member, thanksgiving for a favor received, or a prayer offering for a newborn - is announced at Mass.

The requests are mostly routed to Kerala's churches through the Vatican, the bishops or through religious bodies. Rarely, prayer requests come directly to individual priests.

While most requests are made via mail or personally through traveling clergymen, a significant number arrive via e-mail, a sign that technology is expediting this practice.

In Kerala's churches, memorial and thanksgiving prayers conducted for local residents are said for a donation of 40 rupees (90 cents), whereas a prayer request from the United States typically comes with $5, the Indian priests say.

Bishop Sebastian Adayanthrath, the auxiliary bishop of the Ernakulam-Angamaly diocese in Cochin, a port town in Kerala, said his diocese received an average of 350 Mass intentions a month from overseas. Most were passed to needy priests.

In Kerala, where priests earn $45 a month, the money is a welcome supplement, Bishop Adayanthrath said.

Thanks to alert reader R.S. for the link.

posted by Dan at 05:04 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)