Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Economist on philanthropy

The Economist runs a fascinating article on the current state of philanthropy in America and Europe. One highlight:

Even before George Bush senior sang the praises of “a thousand points of light”, Americans have never had any doubt. Many argue that community organisations and volunteering strengthen society. But, where public provision of social services is the norm, as in most of continental Europe, governments have been more ambivalent, seeing private provision as a sign of state failure. In America, says Felicity von Peter, who organised a workshop on giving for the Bertelsmann Foundation, donors believe that they can spend money more effectively than the state. In Europe, they are more likely to see private philanthropy as complementary to state action.

Now attitudes are changing, even in Europe. Everywhere, an ageing population is starting to stretch the capacity of the welfare state. So the motivation for bolstering philanthropy is likely to be pragmatic: to fill in the gaps in state provision and to widen the financial support of non-profits, which are frequently channels for state cash. But that is an uninspiring vision compared with Mr Bush's points of light and an appeal to community spirit....

On a continent where being very rich still carries faint implications of impropriety, many Europeans feel uneasy with the idea of competing to demonstrate public generosity. That has all sorts of implications. For instance, Britain's donors, argues Lord Joffe, often do not know how much they should give. In a recent debate in the House of Lords, he argued for a benchmark, though perhaps not one as high as the biblical tithe, to give the wealthy some idea of what was appropriate. He described a meeting at which people were asked to raise their hands if they gave more than 1% of their incomes to charity. Hardly any did. But after the meeting, many apparently raised the amount they donated.

Even more important is the attitude of would-be beneficiaries. Because they are generally new to the game, Europeans tend to be embarrassed about fund-raising. For example, few of Europe's impoverished universities employ professional fund-raisers. Top American universities typically employ hundreds. At least two of Britain's best university fund-raisers, at the London School of Economics and at Bristol University, are American imports.

Because they do not understand fund-raising, Europeans do it badly. Bertelsmann's Ms von Peter has a string of horror stories about European recipients. In one ghastly case, a would-be donor (with an instantly recognisable name) rang a charity to ask whether he could visit. He was told firmly that he could not, but he was welcome to send a cheque.

This does not mean that Europeans are less charitable, but rather that there's a substitution effect at work. Most Europeans devote more time (i.e., voluntering) than money compared with Americans. Here's a graph and everything:


One caveat -- the data in this graph does not cover donations to religious congregations, which depresses the American figure. The Israeli figure might actually be inflated, because it includes charitable gifts from abroad.

The article goes on to observe that the organization of the philanthropic sector is also changing -- for the better:

The new wealthy want to make sure their money is properly used, and so want to be involved in its expenditure. Bill Gates argues that you have to work just as hard at giving away your money as you do at making it.

This calls for a different approach by those who run foundations. A few years ago, there was much talk of “venture philanthropy”: the idea that Silicon Valley's entrepreneurs would transfer their creative skills to the foundations they were setting up. They built partnerships and insisted on exit strategies. Today, the best foundations are increasingly businesslike. They want clarity and accountability. They often see their task not just in terms of handing out money, but of forging alliances and building networks: with government and industry, or among fragmented groups of charities.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 10:47 AM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (1)

Friday, July 30, 2004

The perils of a good trailer

Surfing around the web, I stumbled across this Heather Havrilesky interview with actor Zach Braff in Salon. Braff stars in Scrubs, which is currently the funniest (non-animated) show on network television, (admittedly not a difficult bar to reach).

The interview was about Braff's directorial debut, Garden State, opens today. At one point, they discussed the trailer of the move, and Braff said it was a big Internet hit:

We didn't imagine that the trailer would become the hit on the Internet that it has. At IMDb there's like this theory: People are like, "Yeah, I'm a 'Garden State' teaser-holic, I've watched it 30 times today."

We here at pride ourselves on being up on this "Internet" trend, and felt chagrined at not having seen the online trailer. So we checked it out.

The result? I've only checked it out only ten times in the past 24 hours, thank you very much -- but' it's still pretty damn hypnotic. It's as much a video for the Frou Frou song "Let Go" as it is a movie trailer, but I can't get the song out of my head -- in a good, not-going-crazy kind of way. Plus, it doesn't reveal any crucual plot points, a rare trailer treat.

Of course, this makes me even warier about seeing the actual movie. In my experience, there is often an inverse correlation between good trailers and good movies. The only trailers that ever made me want to see a movie I wouldn't have been interested in anyway have been Throw Momma From the Train, Tim Burton's Planet of The Apes, and The Triplets of Belleville. The last movie was great, but the first two sucked eggs.

Fortunately, Garden State has a stellar cast (Peter Sarsgaard, Natalie Portman, Ian Holm) and has been receiving more promising reviews. Plus, Braff has a blog about the movie that gets more comments than yours truly. So maybe I'll check it out.

Maybe I'll check out that trailer one more time....

posted by Dan at 03:36 PM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (4)

Why this is a tough campaign to read

John Harwood and Jacob Schlesinger have a nice summary in the Wall Street Journal of why it will be difficult to reach the undecideds during this election season. Here's the gist:

By spending some $2.3 million on television advertising over the last five months, John Kerry has fought George Bush to a near-draw in Seattle as he courts affluent suburbanites who share his social liberalism but lean toward Republicans on taxes and trade.

At the same time, Mr. Kerry has aimed some $550,000 in advertising at Bluefield, W.Va., outgunning Mr. Bush by nearly $100,000. The target: blue-collar workers who favor economic populism but are culturally conservative.

These disparate battlefields highlight Mr. Kerry's strategic conundrum as he leaves his party's nominating convention today. Among the small pool of swing voters in this fall's election, there are two groups with diametrically opposed political views. Mr. Kerry's plan for winning this seemingly deadlocked race turns on whether he can appeal to both sets simultaneously.

It's a tough job since most battleground states encompass both types of voter. If Mr. Kerry can't attract enough people from each camp -- and win states that fell beyond the Democrats' grasp in 2000 -- he can't win the White House.

The Kerry team is banking on fixing the dilemma by focusing on one concern that appears to be common to both groups: Iraq. The war that once loomed as a Republican trump card has become a critical element in Democrats' attempt to piece together a 270-electoral-vote majority. The campaign hopes it will allow Mr. Kerry to scale the otherwise unbridgeable gap between the two sets of undecided voters.

Because of discontent over the war, "we're getting an open door from people who wouldn't talk to us before," says Ted Gudorf, a Kerry delegate at the Boston Democratic Convention and a mayor from the swing state of Ohio....

The tensions between two seemingly irreconcilable camps have already given Mr. Kerry heartburn. After a Senate career in which he consistently backed trade expansion deals, Mr. Kerry began criticizing those deals and "Benedict Arnold CEOs" who ship jobs overseas, as part of an effort to court the union voters that loom large in Democratic nomination fights. Eyeing the general election -- and more affluent undecided voters -- he recently started emphasizing business-friendly stances, such as opposition to runaway deficits.

The Bush campaign has exploited Mr. Kerry's balancing act to press its charge that the Massachusetts senator flip-flops depending on political circumstances. Mr. Kerry, who has blamed the Benedict Arnold line on "overzealous speechwriters," says changing economic circumstances have steered him toward different positions on issues, such as trade, than he had advocated in the past.

For their part, Kerry strategists hope that U.S. woes in Iraq will help their candidate appeal to a decisive bloc of undecided voters. They hope to make the Bush administration's handling of Iraq a symbol of broader Democratic criticisms: "a harsh ideology, a rigidity, a disdain for any kind of dissenting point of view, dismissing any opposition whatsoever," says John Sasso, a top Democratic National Committee official and Kerry confidant....

There are tentative signs the strategy might work. In a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll last month, Mr. Bush continued to enjoy a wide lead among veterans. But he and Mr. Kerry split the votes of active-duty soldiers and their immediate relatives -- slightly more than 10% of the electorate -- as well as the votes of immediate relatives of veterans. That's one reason Kerry strategists see a chance to win Colorado, a Republican-leaning state Mr. Bush carried by eight percentage points in 2000. The Kerry campaign has run television ads in conservative Colorado Springs, home to both the Air Force Academy and the Fort Carson army base.

Headway among military families would brighten Mr. Kerry's prospects in states including Florida, Arizona, Virginia and Mr. Edwards's native North Carolina.

But while independents say they're keen to listen to Democrats talk about national security, it's not clear Mr. Kerry's message has inspired them. Ken Hamel, a 47-year-old print-shop manager in North Dakota, says he's paying closer attention than ever to the election because it will determine who leads the U.S.'s war on terrorism for the next four years. But "how do you judge anybody on that score?" he asks. "How do you fight terrorists who are willing to kill themselves?"

posted by Dan at 12:21 PM | Comments (39) | Trackbacks (1)

Forget Kerry -- this is serious!!

The Associated Press reports the Miss America pageant is making some changes:

The Miss America pageant is pulling the plug on its talent competition, eliminating the amateurish two-minute routines that have come to feature cheesy stunts such as tractor driving and trampoline jumping....

The talent routines, introduced in 1935 to help make Miss America something more than a beauty contest, became mandatory in 1938 and have been ever since. But the routines -- sometimes spectacular, more often not -- have generally turned off viewers.

Most typical were the baton twirlers, opera singers and piano players. But through the years, contestants have ridden horses on stage, stomped on broken glass, jumped on trampolines or driven tractors.

The talent routines once accounted for 40 percent of a contestant's score; they were 20 percent by last year. The routines will still be included in the three nights of preliminary competition leading up to the televised Saturday night crowning.

The casual wear, swimsuit and evening wear elements of the contest, which last year counted for 10 percent of a contestant's score, will each count for 20 percent this year, McMaster said.

Tractor driving? I'm going to miss tractor driving?

Well, there's always the Mrs. America pageant -- which is just a convenient way for me to link to Emily Yoffe's amusing account of how she won the Mrs. Washington, D.C. pageant.

posted by Dan at 10:50 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Kerry's speech

Here's what struck me about Kerry's speech:

1) Given the emphasis on a positive message emanating from this convention, Kerry took harder shots than I expected at Bush -- but I thought his foreign policy critique hit home. I was obviously sympathetic to the line, "You will never be asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace." This is the section that the Bush team will have to rebut:

Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn't make it so. Saying we can fight a war on the cheap doesn't make it so. And proclaiming mission accomplished certainly doesn't make it so.

As President, I will ask hard questions and demand hard evidence. I will immediately reform the intelligence system - so policy is guided by facts, and facts are never distorted by politics. And as President, I will bring back this nation's time-honored tradition: the United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to.

2) At one point, Kerry said, "I know there are those who criticize me for seeing complexities - and I do - because some issues just aren't all that simple." Funny, then, that his comments on outsourcing seemed completely simplistic and devoid of facts.

And yes, I saw Bob Rubin strategically placed next to Theresa, but I really would have liked a camera to have caught his reaction to those sections of the speech.

3) I was underwhelmed with his delivery. He seemed uncomfortable with the teleprompter -- it reminded me of Bush's speech immediately after Gore conceded.

4) The part of the speech when Kerry seemed the most engaged was when he talked about the sixties generation changing the world. That's great, but I'm not sure how it applies now.

5) The articulation of Kerry's "liberal hawk position seemed to me as the most fleshed-out part of the speech:

As President, I will fight a smarter, more effective war on terror. We will deploy every tool in our arsenal: our economic as well as our military might; our principles as well as our firepower.

In these dangerous days there is a right way and a wrong way to be strong. Strength is more than tough words. After decades of experience in national security, I know the reach of our power and I know the power of our ideals.

We need to make America once again a beacon in the world. We need to be looked up to and not just feared.

We need to lead a global effort against nuclear proliferation - to keep the most dangerous weapons in the world out of the most dangerous hands in the world.

We need a strong military and we need to lead strong alliances. And then, with confidence and determination, we will be able to tell the terrorists: You will lose and we will win. The future doesn't belong to fear; it belongs to freedom.

And the front lines of this battle are not just far away - they're right here on our shores, at our airports, and potentially in any town or city. Today, our national security begins with homeland security. The 9-11 Commission has given us a path to follow, endorsed by Democrats, Republicans, and the 9-11 families. As President, I will not evade or equivocate; I will immediately implement the recommendations of that commission. We shouldn't be letting ninety-five percent of container ships come into our ports without ever being physically inspected. We shouldn't be leaving our nuclear and chemical plants without enough protection. And we shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them down in the United States of America.

The line, "I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation - not the Saudi royal family." was also pretty shrewd.

This section papers over some tricky foreign policy tradeoffs, like exactly how he would get our allies to contribute to Iraq, but I will say this -- the speech convinced me that Kerry gets the fact that this election is about foreign policy and the war on terror.

So where do I stand on the fence? I promised Tyler Cowen I'd start assigning a probability of which side of the fence I'd land. At this point, if p = (probability of voting for Kerry), then my p = .54.

THE MORNING AFTER: James Joyner has a nice collection of links. Matthew Yglesias is just as pissed as I am about Kerry's crap rhetoric on outsourcing -- Robert Tagorda even more so. Robert Hochman was thoroughly underwhelmed -- Virginia Postrel even more so.

The parts of Kerry's speech that appealed to me were the parts that made the same criticisms of the Bush administration that I've made in the past. I can't say the speech made me want to vote for Kerry anymore than I did before the speech -- but those sections reminded me why I'm not too thrilled with the Bush administration at the moment.

LAST UPDATE: Will Saletan seems to be channeling me this week -- or vice versa, as he makes a similar point about Kerry's speech:

The power of the speech, reflected in a deafening series of ovations that consumed the FleetCenter tonight, came not from Kerry's biography or the themes he brought to the campaign two years ago. It came from his expression of widespread, pent-up outrage at the offenses of the Bush administration....

In his determination to unite the right, Bush hasn't just united the left. He has lost the center. Look at last week's New York Times/CBS News poll of registered voters. "Do you think the result of the war with Iraq was worth the loss of American life and other costs of attacking Iraq or not?" Fifty-nine percent say it was not. "Which do you think is a better way to improve the national economy—cutting taxes or reducing the federal budget deficit?" Fifty-eight percent say reducing the deficit. "When it comes to regulating the environmental and safety practices of business, do you think the federal government is doing enough, should it do more, or should it do less?" Fifty-nine percent say more.

One more Bush voter on the right, balanced by one more Kerry voter on the left, plus the tilting of one more voter in the middle toward Kerry, is a net loss for the president. That's the lesson of this administration, this election, and this convention. Kerry doesn't have to write any good lines. He just has to read them.

posted by Dan at 11:31 PM | Comments (63) | Trackbacks (9)

Tyler Cowen gives me an assignment

Over at Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen makes a request:

Daniel Drezner remains on the fence, concerning the next Presidential election.

He writes about supporting Bush, Kerry, or perhaps a third party candidate (unlikely). But why should he restrict himself to "pure strategies"? Why can't he support some candidate with some positive probability? How about, for instance, "I support Bush with p = 0.63." Or "I support Kerry with p = 0.57", and so on. That way we would know how strong (or weak) his current view is.

Chris Lawrence's doubts aside, this seems fair to both me and my readers. I'll be posting my first p-value after Kerry's speech tonight. Obviously, this value will likely fluctuate over the next few months.

One thing the probability that I will vote for someone either than Kerry or Bush is zero.

posted by Dan at 09:50 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)

Does a fear of hell lead to economic growth?

Timothy Perry links to a paper by two Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis economists suggesting that religious piety (operationalized as a fear of hell) could contribute to economic growth. The key section:

There might, therefore, be two parts to the link between religion and economic growth: a belief in hell tends to mean less corruption, and less corruption tends to mean a higher per capita income. The first part of the link is illustrated by the first chart below. It uses the 1990-1993 World Values Survey, which asked people in 35 countries whether they believed in hell, and the Corruption Perceptions Index produced by Transparency International, which surveyed many countries’ residents about corruption.9 The first chart plots the rankings of 35 countries’ percentages of people who believe in hell against the rankings of the countries’ perceived levels of corruption. As the chart shows, there is a tendency for countries in which a larger percentage of the population believes in hell to have lower levels of corruption.

The second part of the link is illustrated by the second chart, which plots the GDP-per-capita rankings of the 35 countries against their corruption rankings.10 It shows a strong tendency for countries with relatively low levels of corruption to have relatively high levels of per capita GDP.

Combining the stories from the two charts suggests that, all else constant, the more religious a country, the less corruption it will have, and the higher its per capita income will be. Of course, these charts are only suggestive. However, they are nonetheless consistent with Weber’s argument and the Barro and McCleary result that religious beliefs can influence economic outcomes.



The graphs would seem to be convincing -- except for the fact that the authors omitted a discussion of any direct correlation between a fear of hell and per capita income in their data. There's a good reason for that -- when you crunch the numbers, it turns out there's a correlation coefficient of -.21 between the two variables, which means there's a very weak negative correlation between a fear of hell and income status.

The authors' hypotheses might be correct, because this kind of correlation is not a ceteris paribus test. But the aggregate effect would seem to be pretty weak.

Another thing -- for a paper concerned with economic growth, it's odd that they're using GDP per capita instead.

Readers are invited to suggest alternative ways to test this hypothesis.

UPDATE: Interesting -- it looks like the authors have eliminated all the graphical evidence. And now there's an editor's note that explains:

It is the second revision that has been posted. In both the original version and the first revision, the article ended with a discussion of simple correlations between countries’ religiosity, levels of corruption and per capita incomes....

Thanks to the keen eyes of a number of readers, however, we have discovered that the charts used in both of these versions of the article contained errors. Consequently, the version below does not include discussions of the correlations between religiosity, corruption and per capita income. It is important to note that this has no bearing on the results in the literature that are discussed in the article.

Kevin Drum is less kind than the editor: "In other words: this was just simplistic crap and it wasn't even computed correctly at that."

This has not stopped media coverage of the paper. Greg Saitz wrote it up in the Newark Star-Ledger, but bless his heart, he was smart enough to ask some atheists about it:

"I cannot imagine what the belief in mythological beings or things that don't exist can do for business," said Ellen Johnson, president of Cranford-based American Atheists. "What about the pornographic industry? That is probably very good for growth."

Of course, Glenn Reynolds would reply that the consumption of pornography does not necessarily lead to antisocial behavior.

[You started with piety and ended with porn -- you are so going to hell!!--ed.]

posted by Dan at 12:48 PM | Comments (30) | Trackbacks (4)

My last metablogging post for a while

I know I've been blogging about blogging too much as of late -- but I can't resist these two links.

The first is Fafblog's "interview" with Wolf Blitzer. For those of you sick to death of the convention blogfest, this is the link for you. This is from the opening paragraph:

Here at the convention there isn't that much to do right now other than eat tiny quiches an finger sammiches an hang out at panels drinkin wine but we're still havin an ok time with that. Me an Giblets have been hangin out at such panels as "Blogging: Transforming the Medium of Media" an "Blogging: A Radical New Media of Blogging" an "Blogging: Blog Media Bloggity Blog Media Bla-blog" where we have lent our expert advice to confused broadcast journalists whose minds are dazzled by the oh so confusin world of computer wizardry.

It's a damn good thing Henry and I changed our paper title, because our first choice was "Blogging: Blog Media Bloggity Blog Media Bla-blog."

More seriously, Jonathan Chait has a great TNR Online essay about why he's covering the convention from home (alas, subscriber only free link for everyone!!). Chait makes a great point how and why the conventional wisdom among journalists about what makes great journalism is heavily skewed:

But what's so bad about sitting around? You can learn a lot sitting behind a desk, mining the papers for interesting factual nuggets, reading political commentary from every perspective, poring through books and reports, and using the Nexis database to compile enormous stacks of newspaper stories. Most journalists scorn this kind of research because they're obsessed with uncovering new facts, not synthesizing them....

Part of the problem is that journalism terminology glorifies "shoe-leather reporting," whereby you pound the pavement so often you wear out the soles of your shoes. Yet there's no widely used term of approbation for the other kind of reporting. For this very reason, my New Republic colleague Franklin Foer and I decided a few years ago to coin a phrase: ass-welt reporting. It means you've sat in your chair for so long reading books and documents that you've worn a welt the shape of your backside into your chair. I'm not saying that every news story could be reported without leaving one's desk. (Bernstein: "Woodward, look! I found a clip from 1971 in which President Nixon tells the Omaha World-Herald he plans to order his goons to break into Democratic headquarters in the Watergate Hotel!" Woodward: "I'll cancel that meeting with Deep Throat.") I'm simply saying that, sometimes, laziness can be the better part of valor.

Not only is this true, it's the best refutation of Alex S. Jones' tired tirade against bloggers. Jones complains that:

[B]loggers, with few exceptions, don't add reporting to the personal views they post online, and they see journalism as bound by norms and standards that they reject. That encourages these common attributes of the blogosphere: vulgarity, scorching insults, bitter denunciations, one-sided arguments, erroneous assertions and the array of qualities that might be expected from a blustering know-it-all in a bar.

The best bloggers link to opposing views, excel at Chait's "ass-welt reporting," and perform Google and Nexis searches ad nauseum.

As Chait points out, reporting is about more than shoe leather, it's about decent research skills -- a fact one would have expected the director of the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy to comprehend. Instead, Jones seems to have divined all of his knowledge about blogs from reading Matt Drudge and Wonkette.

It's a shame he didn't do more research for his op-ed.

A BELATED POSTCRIPT: Many of the commenters to this post have defended either Drudge or Wonkette, assuming that I was attacking them. That wasn't my intent, as I consume both of them on a regular basis. My point was that most bloggers do not provide the same type of content as either Cox or Drudge. Jones (or blog-grouch Tom MacPhail) would have had a leg to stand on if the rest of the blogosphere was akin to either of these sites. In moderation, however, both of them serve a useful purpose.

posted by Dan at 12:13 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (1)

Outflanking Bush on the right

My latest TNR Online essay is up. It picks up on Andrew Sullivan's point about the Democrats hitting Bush from the right as well as the left.

Go check it out.

posted by Dan at 11:03 AM | Comments (52) | Trackbacks (0)

A step forward on agriculture?

Richard Waddington has a Reuters story suggesting that the Doha round of trade talks has overcome the agriculture obstacle:

Five core members of the World Trade Organisation have ended hours of hard bargaining with an accord that could open the way to a deal on a trade pact by the full membership, a leading negotiator says.

"It brings the possibility of an agreement (of the full membership) nearer," the negotiator, who had been involved in the talks, told Reuters on Thursday.

The five are the United States, the European Union, Australia, India and Brazil, who are considered to represent a wide range of trade interests within the 147-state body.

The WTO has set itself until midnight on Friday to seal outline deals in four key areas - farm and industrial goods, services and a new customs' code - in a bid to put its troubled Doha Round of free trade negotiations back on track.

However, a number of other members, including Switzerland, suspicious at the leading role assumed by the five, have warned that they will not be railroaded into a deal just because the big trading powers back it.

The negotiator, who declined to be named or to go into detail, said that the ideas accepted by the five covered all points of the hotly disputed text on agricultural reform, which is widely seen as crucial to an overall pact....

Although there were still problems in the other issues, diplomats said that there was a good chance that they could quickly be overcome once the all-important question of agriculture had been decided.

"The feeling is that they are all doable," said one diplomat, who asked not to be named.

It's worth noting that 15 years ago, when the Uruguay round was being negtiated, the "core members" of the world trade body were called the "Quad" -- the U.S., European Union, Japan, and Canada. The fact that India and Brazil need to be consulted at this level is a testament to how the balance of power has shifted within the WTO.

posted by Dan at 09:53 AM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Watch this space

As part of my TNR Online assignment for tomorrow, I'll be live-blogging the convention speakers -- so this post will be updated on a regular basis for the rest of the day.

Here's today's speaker schedule -- you can follow along with me.

4:20 EDT: Ah, here's Harold Ford Jr. -- my commenters are correct, he's not quite in Obama's league as an orator. Not a lot of passion, and I'm distracted by his startling resemblance to Derek Jeter.

4:23 EDT: This is the first time I've actually watched the convention this year -- is it me, or did the DNC get the same announcer as the Academy Awards? With the musical cues, that's the feel I'm getting. I keep expecting the speakers to say "the nominees for outstanding position paper by a liberal think tank are..."

4:28 EDT: Free advice to the Kerry team -- having a speaker like U.S. Rep. Tom Allen (D. - Maine) repeat the phrase "John Kerry hears your voices" over and over is not comforting to the average voter. It's too easy to confuse with the more unsettling "John Kerry hears voices."

4:35 EDT: Steve Westly, the California State Comptroller, actually gives a good speech praising both immigration and the entrepreneurial culture of Silicon Valley.

4:46: U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D -- Pennsylvania) is now speaking -- I'm just impressed he got elected with that name.

4:54: Frank Lautenberg is making a staunchly pro-Israel speech, and bashing the International Court of Justice for its recent ruling on the security barrier. I can hear the occasional "boo" in the background.

5:04: Representative Ike Skelton blasts Republicans for using those serving in the military as political props. OK, I'll grant Bush was guilty of this during his carrier landing last year -- but I'm to believe that John Kerry is not engaging in something similar throughout this entire week? Consider who caught his opening pitch at Sunday's Sox-Yankees game....

5:15: My four-year-old son comes into room, not feeling well -- wants to watch Cyberchase. Blogging suspended for a while.

7:00: Wycleaf Jean is performing. What, you might ask, would he do as president?

If I was President,
I'd get elected on Friday
I'd sign a peace treaty on Saturday
Stop the war on Sunday
Send the troops back on Monday

Oh, I feel much better.

7:54: I never thought I would say this, but Dennis Kucinich gives a pretty good speech. His delivery is better than anyone's I've heard today. He started off like he was lecturing eighth-graders, and there's hints of loopiness in the background, but it's not ba-- oh, wait, here we go: "Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction!! Homelessness is a weapon of mass destruction!! Racism is.." you get the idea.

7:55: Hmmm... Bravo is showing an old West Wing episode with Matthew Perry as a guest star....

8:15: A satellite feed from a Colorado VFW post. "Veterans are joining the Kerry campaign in unprecedented numbers. He's one of us, one of our band of brothers." That Daily Show bit about talking points is beginning to gnaw at me.

8:33: The Reverend Al Sharpton says that if Bush were president in the fifties, he wouldn't have picked a Court that ruled the right way in Brown Vs. Board of Education. This is both overreaching and amusing. The only reason Brown came out the way it did is because in between the two serts of oral arguments, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren to replace Truman appointment Carl Vinson -- who would have led to a very different ruling. EduWonk has more on this.

8:45: Al has a brilliant riff in the closing, touching on Ray Charles' rendition of "America the Beautiful." And then the song comes out on the loudspeaker. Gotta give props to anyone who can get the DJ to play Ray Charles.

8:53: Do you have trouble falling asleep? Insomnia? Try a Bob Graham speech!! Good Lord, the hall was louder four hours ago. This isn't a poke at the substance of his speech -- homeland security. But Lord, does he have a dull delivery.

9:27: Do I agree with Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm on economic policy? Good God, no -- As I type this Granholm is stoking outsourcing fears and blathering on about "fair trade." (alas, Michigan Republicans are just as bad on this issue). But my word, she's a good-looking politician.

10:04: Xinhua is already running a story on John Edwards' speech -- a half hour before he delivers it.

10:30: Edwards is delivering his speech -- apparently, he's the son of a mill worker and was the first person in his family to go to college.

11:00: There was a lot of his stump speech in Edwards' speech tonight, but he seemed to be rushing it. There were some high points -- the discussion of racism, the vignette of the woman staying up in her kitchen -- but the rest was a bit forced.

Off to write the TNR piece.

posted by Dan at 03:47 PM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (2)

This won't tip me off the fence -- but it does make me hungry

Jacob M. Schlesinger has a front-pager in the Wall Street Journal on ther contrasting management styles of John F. Kerry and George W. Bush (subscription required). The article is really all about Kerry's decision-making style, both pro and con.

Not much of note, except for this section where methinks Kerry doth protest too much about being more than just a legislator:

Mr. Kerry bristles at unfavorable comparisons to Mr. Bush's management experience. "I think I have far more executive leadership than this president," he says, referring to his stint in Vietnam "leading men into and out of war."

Mr. Kerry touts his other management experience as well. In Massachusetts, he briefly helped run the Middlesex County district attorney's office -- "one of the 10 largest district attorney's offices in America," he notes. Mr. Kerry also said that over the past year he has "put together a multimillion-dollar campaign operation," that has generated revenue, in the form of campaign donations, of more than $200 million, a record for his party. The campaign currently employs several hundred people. At times he also has pointed to his late 1970s foray into the private sector, when he cofounded a small Boston cookie shop. (emphasis added)

Whoa -- he started a cookie store? That tips the scales for me!!

Actually, if the cookie shop in question was Rosie's Bakery, that would be persuasive evidence for Kerry (this is where Erika and I got our wedding cake made). Convention bloggers, be sure to check it out!! Or, you can order online.

Seriously, here's some poll results from the Annenberg Public Policy Center on where Bush and Kerry stand on the leadership question:


UPDATE: Hmmm... Brad DeLong has thoughts on the story, but mysteriously omits any reference to cookie shops.

Somewhat more seriously, Janet Hook, Mary Curtius and Greg Miller have a blow-by-blow account of Kerry's decision-making process in the votes on Iraq in the Los Angeles Times.

posted by Dan at 03:18 PM | Comments (28) | Trackbacks (1)

Your environmental post for the day

There's a global warming initiative designed to reduce greenhouse gases by creating a tradeable market in methane, an important contributor to global warming (though not as important as carbon dioxide). The idea is for poorer states to harvest their methane emissions and sell them as energy.

Such a plan would require multilateral cooperation and political leadership. It's too bad the current administration hates the environment so much-- oh, wait, this is the Bush team's idea!

From the Associated Press:

The United States will help poorer nations harvest their methane emissions and turn them into clean-burning fuel, which will reduce pollution that contributes to global warming, Bush administration officials announced Wednesday.

The heads of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Department, along with President Bush's senior environmental adviser, said the plan would tap the power of the market to reduce release of methane, a heat-trapping atmospheric gas that largely goes to waste.

The plan involves spending up to $53 million over the next five years as part of an agreement with seven countries to help poorer nations harvest emissions of methane primarily from landfills, coal mines and oil and gas systems.

Methane is already captured from coal mines and landfills in the United States and used to generate electricity, officials said. Because of this, U.S. methane emissions in the United States were 5 percent lower in 2001 than in 1990....

Methane represents 16 percent of global greenhouse emissions; carbon dioxide is 74 percent, according to the administration.

The United States is joining with Australia, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Britain and Ukraine to develop the methane market. Canada and Russia also sent representatives to consider joining the group.

Mike Leavitt, the EPA administrator, cited significant energy, safety and environmental benefits.

He called it "a partnership that has the double benefit of capturing the second-most abundant greenhouse gas and turning it to productive use as a clean-burning fuel."

Here's a link to the EPA's press release -- and here's a link to the Methane to Markets website at the EPA.

posted by Dan at 02:33 PM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (0)

Not to rain on Barack Obama's parade, but....

By all accounts, Barack Obama gave a great keynote speech last night. Both the Sullivans -- Amy and Andrew -- loved it. Amy liked the Patriot Act references because, "not only a good energizing issue for Democratic voters, but it taps anger and suspicion among conservatives and swing voters as well." Andrew liked the conservative tinges of the speech: "Obama struck many conservative notes: of self-reliance, of opportunity, of hard work, of an immigrant's dream, of the same standards for all of us.... He framed his belief in government with a defense of self-reliance and conservative values."

Of course, it doesn't hurt that the rest of Tuesday's lineup wasn't too inspiring.

Obama is pretty far to the left of me, but I'm always pleased to see someone affiliated with the University of Chicago do well on the national stage.

That said, before everyone gets caught up in Obama hype, let's reflect on a recurrent pattern regarding the Democratic Party and promising African-American politicians. As Bob Novak points out today in the Chicago Sun-Times:

The importance of the black vote for Democrats is seen in the fact that African Americans now have been keynoters at four of the last eight conventions. The late Rep. Barbara Jordan of Texas, a sonorous orator, was the first black to deliver a keynote address in 1976 in New York. She repeated in 1992, also in New York. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee, only 30 years old at the time, keynoted the 2000 Los Angeles convention.

Ford, Ford... that name rings a faint bell -- how is the 2000 keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention doing? Like Obama, Ford was the recipient of a media blitz for being an attractive minority face for the Democrats (side note: I'm getting really sick of hearing the word "articulate" used constantly whenever an African-American politician speaks in a tone that sounds more responsible than Al Sharpton). Since that speech, he was anointed as a future leader of the Democratic Party.

So where's Harold Ford Jr. on the DNC speaker schedule this year? He's not talking during prime time.

Ah, here he is -- he's got the 4:20 PM slot today. Hell, Dennis Kucinich has a better time slot.

My point is that Democrats have a recent tendency at conventions to promote a young African American politician as the Next Great Black Hope. It makes for some great TV footage -- and then these politicians recede into the background.

Maybe Obama will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2012 -- or maybe, eight years from now, he'll have that 4:20 PM time slot.

UPDATE: Will Saletan makes the same observation about Harold Ford, and also raises a point that touches on my free trade qualms with the Dems:

Obama, like other speakers at this convention, complains about "companies shipping jobs overseas" and workers "losing their union jobs at the Maytag plant that's moving to Mexico." At the same time, Obama holds himself out as a symbol of a diverse, welcoming America. How can Democrats be the party of diversity at home but xenophobia abroad, the party that loves Mexican-Americans but hates Maytag plants in Mexico, the party that thinks Obama's mom deserves a job more than Obama's dad does? I understand the politics of it. But what about the morals?

posted by Dan at 01:22 PM | Comments (36) | Trackbacks (4)

Disagreeing with Arnold Kling

Via InstaPundit, I see Arnold Kling has a TCS column critiquing the 9-11 Commission's recommendations on how to wage the war on terror. Here's the gist of Kling's critique:

After articulating the threat in no uncertain terms, the Commission's recommendations for dealing with militant Islam amount to proposals for the international equivalent of midnight basketball programs. These recommendations are contained in a section of the Report called "Preventing the Continued Growth of Islamist Terrorism," on pages 391-400. The flavor of the proposals can be tasted from the following excerpt (p. 393):

"How can the United States and its friends help moderate Muslims combat the extremist ideas?...We should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors."

To see what is wrong with this approach to what the Commission calls "the struggle of ideas," imagine if we had used it to fight World War II. Instead of bombing Tokyo or Berlin, we would have have tried to stop Japanese and German aggression by offering "an example of moral leadership."

In my view, moderate Muslims today are in a position that is analogous to that of ordinary Germans and Japanese in World War II. Although they may not be personally committed to the rabid ideology that is behind the behavior of the warmongers, they are in awe of it.

For all practical purposes, most of the Muslim world is undecided between Islamism and America. If we adopt a more aggressive approach, some of these Muslims will jump off the fence and onto the other side. But passivity and weakness on our part would be even worse. To regain support of moderate Muslims in the long run, we will have to take steps in the short run that risk upsetting them.

The Commission would like to see us win the hearts and minds of moderate Muslims. That is certainly a laudable objective, but it could easily become an excuse for pacifism and paralysis. We could not have won World War II with "soft power," trying to win the hearts and minds of ordinary Germans as a way of defeating the Nazis. By 1945, we had in fact won the hearts and minds of ordinary Germans, to the point where very few of them admitted to ever having supported Hitler. But we achieved that result only after obliterating the Nazi military and, incidentally, killing a large number of ordinary Germans.

The Commission rightly says, in the paragraph quoted at the beginning of this essay, that calling this a "war on terrorism" with no mention of Islamist ideology serves to blur our strategy. But it equally blurs our strategy to say that the way to stop the spread of Islamist ideology is to "be generous and caring to our neighbors."

I read this same section of the report, and I think Kling is being a bit unfair in his interpretation of the Commission's recommendations.

To see why, you have to go back to the Commission's diagnosis of the problem. Kling opens his essay with a quote to that effect, but it's too truncated. Here's what's said on pages 362-3:

“[T]he enemy is not just “terrorism,” some generic evil. This vagueness blurs the strategy. The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is more specific. It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism—especially the al Qaeda network, its affiliates, and its ideology….

It is not a position with which Americans can bargain or negotiate. With it there is no common ground—not even respect for life—on which to begin a dialogue. It can only be destroyed or utterly isolated….

Our enemy is twofold: al Qaeda, a stateless network of terrorists that struck us on 9/11; and a radical ideological movement in the Islamic world, inspired in part by al Qaeda, which has spawned terrorist groups and violence across the globe. The first enemy is weakened, but continues to pose a grave threat. The second enemy is gathering, and will menace Americans and American interests long after Usama Bin Ladin and his cohorts are killed or captured. Thus our strategy must match our means to two ends: dismantling the al Qaeda network and prevailing in the longer term over the ideology that gives rise to Islamist terrorism. (emphasis added)

This is a useful distinction, but one that Koing blurs. Certainly the 9-11 Commission does not recommend passivity in the face of the Al Qaeda threat. On p. 364, it states quite clearly: "Certainly the strategy should include offensive operations to counter terrorism. Terrorists should no longer find safe haven where their organizations can grow and flourish."

The war against radical Islam, however, cannot be won quickly and cannot be won with force of arms alone. Kling's metaphor here is World War II, but the better metaphor is the Cold War. Saying that one set of ideas is bad isn't enough -- a compelling alternative must be presented. On this front, the United States has done a piss-poor job at public dilpomacy -- and the Commission is right to raise this as an issue.

Kling worries that engaging in a hard-fought war of ideas could lead to passivity. Look, we've gone to war against two Muslim countries in the span of three years -- compared to that, anything will look passive. These uses of force were necessary -- the first to eject Al Qaeda from its base of operations, the second to inject the notion of democratic rule into the one region of the world where it has failed to emerge indigenously. Despite missteps, the public in both sets of countries seem increasingly receptive to western ideas of democratic representation. Iraq is moving towards a provisional assembly. Afghanistan has a constitution and a populace that's enthusiastic about exercising their democratic rights (a fact I blogged about two weeks ago).

Promote, that, consolidate that, and in a generation, radical Islam takes a dive. The popularity of Islamic fundamentalism fades very quickly in an open society. It's the job of the United States to promote the virtues of such a society, and consolidate the regimes in the region receptive to such a message.

In the war against radical Islam, Kling is correct that we need hard power. But we do need soft power as well.

posted by Dan at 11:37 AM | Comments (26) | Trackbacks (1)

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Don't rush me off the fence, part V

One of the key factors behind my indecision over who to vote for is that I don't know which candidate will have the better trade policy. If you gauge American public opinion, this is a tough sell. The Bushies are all about hypocritical liberalization -- getting the big trade picture correct but offering as many exceptions as possible below the radar -- see Alex Tabarrok for the latest idiocy on this front.

So what about Kerry and the Dems? Ryan Lizza says I have nothing to worry about, that Kerry will be Rubinomics redux -- except Lizza is referring to fiscal policy and not trade. Although Rubin has always been a staunch free-trader, there's reason to believe that Kerry might ignore his advice on this matter. Michael Crowley voices this concern in his TNR Convention Blog post:

When I asked a Democratic speechwriter about it last night, he told me that with polls showing economic-competition issues like outsourcing to be "off the charts," as the campaign progresses "there's going to be a lot more of that [anti-globalization sentiment]."

Even Brad DeLong sounds gloomy on this point:

"You said the Democrats will have problems doing some things. What will they have trouble doing?"

"Well, dealing with outsourcing for one thing. It's coming--it's coming over the next generation. And the Democratic Party will have a very hard time figuring out how to deal with it constructively. It's likely to begin thinking that people in India who want jobs processing document-images for U.S. companies are our *enemies*. We can't afford to do that--a world in which Indians and Chinese in fifty years are taught that the U.S. tried to keep them poor will be a very unsafe world. A world in which we try to block expanded world trade will be a world in which we will be much poorer than we need to be. And as long as people see themselves as being pulled into better-paying jobs in other industries (rather than being pushed out of where they want to be by cheap foreign competition), we can make the coming generation's expansion of world trade--the coming generation's "outsourcing" boom--a source of wealth and development. But Democrats will have a hard time doing this.

Sigh. I should be used to being out in the political wilderness on these issues. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

I'll close with a link to Brink Lindsey's great July 2004 cover story in Reason, "10 Truths About Trade", which nicely debunks a lot of the horses#&@ that masquerades as policy debate on this topic.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias posts about a Laura Tyson speech at the National Democratic Institute's International Leaders Forum being held at the convention. The key grafs:

"When people say, 'well, listen to what the Kerry campaign has said about trade in some of the primaries, we are concerned that Sen Kerry will move US away from trade integration.' To which I say, well, think about the issue of national campaigns in the US. Recognize that what might be said in one primary . . . is not an indicator of the future." The thing to look at "is Sen Kerry's very courageous, very consistent, very long-term record on trade and global economic integration." A man who has consistently voted for a pro-trade, pro-integration agenda. His career has been oriented in this direction. He has shown "courage in this direction because a significant part of my party's base is a voice of concern about trade . . . and is consistently asking for policies that would take the US backwards." Kerry has consistently heard those voices, "and consistently voted a pro-trade record."

Every country must find a way to ensure that those dislocated by economic integration find support for that dislocation. Globalization creates aggregate benefits for countries, but internal distribution of costs and benefits is uneven. "It must be taken entirely seriously as a policy agenda what to do for those who are not better off." The voices of protectionism in America are the voices of those who have lost, a Kerry administration would do a better job of taking care of those people which will make their voices grow less stridently anti-trade. Thus, Kerry would be better for free trade.

"I want to assure you that a Kerry-Edwards administration will continue in the great American tradition of leading the way on global economic integration. Thank you very much." (emphasis in original)

Here's the thing -- does Kerry's relatively protectionist rhetoric during the primaries innoculate provide him an only-Nixon-can-go-to-China kind of leverage if he's elected -- or does it politically constrain him from following an instinctive preference for an open economy? Remember that one reason George W. Bush slapped tariffs on steel in 2002 is that he essentially promised he'd do this during the 200 election campaign.

Tyson wants to dismiss Kerry's primary rhetoric -- I wish I could, but still have my doubts.

posted by Dan at 06:19 PM | Comments (67) | Trackbacks (2)

So how's European integration going?

The OECD just released its economic survey of the Euro area for 2004. Here's the first bullet point fromthe executive summary:

Income per capita is lower in the euro area than in the best performing OECD countries and the gap is widening. Moreover, although the epicentre of many of the adverse shocks that prompted the global downturn since 2001 was in the United States, slack has been more persistent in the euro area. Key challenges are to reduce the persistent underutilisation of labour resources, to boost productivity growth and to bolster the area’s resilience against shocks.

In the Financial Times, Scheherazade Daneshkhu has more. :

Membership of a single currency has failed to inject dynamism into the economies of the eurozone or to raise their long-term growth rate, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said on Tuesday.

In its most critical report on the eurozone's economic performance, the Paris-based body said the first five years of European monetary union had been "more challenging than expected".

The eurozone had been "disappointing" in its lack of resilience to shocks, and its income gap against the OECD's best-performing countries remained large and widening. The differences between individual euro-area countries was even more striking, the OECD said.

Laurence Boone, one of the report's authors, said: "There's a huge potential for the euro area to gain from economic integration but not enough has been done to reap the benefits."

....Labour mobility was low and unemployment "stubbornly high". But the structural reforms needed to move the euro economy closer to the ambitious targets set at the Lisbon summit in 2000 had been "hesitant and piecemeal".

The need for reforms to boost non-inflationary growth and strengthen the public finances in the face of ageing populations had gained urgency with the accession of the 10 new members this year.

The OECD lamented the failure by countries to take advantage of the last economic upswing to improve their budgets. "Countries should avoid past fiscal mistakes by rooting their budgets in medium-term frameworks," the OECD advised. "More ambition in consolidating budgets is needed, independent of the fiscal rules enshrined in the Maastricht Treaty and the Stability and Growth Pact."

For those who believe this is me gloating about European stagnation, it's not. Sclerotic European growth reduced demand for U.S. exports, which widens the trade deficit, which increases protectionist sentiments in the United States (although protectionist sentiment in the EU is all too alive and well). I'm much rather see the Euro area growing like gangbusters.

[Well, yeah, but the Europeans have a higher quality of life than Americans, right?--ed. Not according to the latest UN Human Development Indicators, which incorporates health and education measures along with per capita income (link via the Economist). The United States ranks eighth; the average rank of the Euro 15 countries is 14, and eyeballing where the countries are, that looks like what their weighted average would be as well.]

posted by Dan at 04:59 PM | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (1)

The future of party politics?

John Harwood's front-pager in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) covers almost the exact same ground at Matt Bai's New York Times Magazine cover story about the organizational revolution taking place among Democrat-friendly interest groups.

Harwood's story focuses more on what these interest groups and 527 organizations are doing in this election cycle:

Rebecca Barson pulled up a chair alongside a tattooed young man sporting a black T-shirt and earring and squinted into a computer screen. "OK," Rob O'Brien told her, "let's cut turf."

And then, with a few keystrokes, the two opened another tiny front in the ground war to defeat George W. Bush -- and the quiet revolution under way within Democratic politics. Ms. Barson, a 27-year-old official at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, wanted to track down potential voters motivated by support for abortion rights. She asked Mr. O'Brien, a techie from a new liberal turnout machine called America Coming Together, to summon names and addresses of Democratic and independent women aged 18 to 30. Republicans wouldn't be worth the time.

Within seconds, her quarry popped up: 812 Concord-area women, their addresses marked with dots on a street map that Mr. O'Brien, a Democratic activist, printed out. Then it was up to Planned Parenthood -- and a host of affiliated liberal organizations working with ACT to divide up terrain -- to reach the voters, assess their political inclinations and cajole supporters to vote on Nov. 2.

All this represents a big change for the nation's Democrats. In the past, the various constituent and special-interest groups sympathetic to the party tended to go their own ways, often overlapping and sometimes even competing with each other. This time they are systematically collaborating, dividing up tasks and target audiences in an attempt to maximize impact.

Their cooperation isn't part of the Kerry for President campaign or the Democratic Party. But the turnout work that's going on here and in 14 other battleground states will almost surely have more influence on the presidential race than anything Democratic delegates do at this week's convention in Boston.....

While workers in Boston readied the Democratic convention stage last week, Ms. Barson and people from other groups pored over a map showing where they'd had an effect so far. Purple dots showed events staged by New Hampshire for Health Care, an arm of the Service Employees International Union. They included events in the state's more conservative and rural north country. Blue dots depicted activity by a state teachers union. Those cluttered the more populous and moderate south.

The division of labor isn't so much geographic as ideological. It stems from a simple insight about America's evolving political culture: Specific issues motivate people far more than political parties do.

So ACT began creating its turnout blueprint in New Hampshire by purchasing voter files from the state Democratic Party, and then beginning to cross them with membership lists from groups such as Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club. To refine the approach further, volunteers and paid organizers have knocked on 25,000 doors seeking information designed to categorize voters by their top-priority issues and inclination to oppose Mr. Bush.

That information, in turn, helps the consortium decide which liberal ally is best positioned to persuade an individual voter to turn out on Election Day. Backers of the approach argue -- and Mr. Kerry's advisers hope from a distance -- that it might prove more powerful than anything Democrats have tried before.

"It's a different kind of communication and a different kind of relationship than with a party," says Cecile Richards, president of the consortium linking ACT with its affiliated groups. "People give more credibility to ... organizations that work on issues they care about."

Meanwhile, Bai focuses on the long-term strategy of wealthy Democratic backers. Some of the highlights:

In March of this year, [venture capitalist Andy] Rappaport convened a meeting of wealthy Democrats at a Silicon Valley hotel so that they, too, could see [DEmocratic operative Rob] Stein's presentation. Similar gatherings were already under way in Washington and New York, where the meetings included two of the most generous billionaires in the Democratic universe -- the financier George Soros and Peter Lewis, an Ohio insurance tycoon -- as well as Soros's son and Lewis's son. On the East Coast, the participants had begun referring to themselves as the Phoenix Group, as in rising from the ashes; Rappaport called his gathering the Band of Progressives. More recently, companion groups have come together in Boston and Los Angeles.

What makes these meetings remarkable is that while everyone attending them wants John Kerry to win in November, they are focused well beyond the 2004 election. The plan is to gather investors from each city -- perhaps in one big meeting early next year -- and create a kind of venture-capital pipeline that would funnel money into a new political movement, working independently of the existing Democratic establishment. The dollar figure for investment being tossed around in private conversations is $100 million.

For the ideological donors... the new era seemed quite promising. McCain-Feingold left untouched and unregulated a vehicle that had been little used on the national level up to that point: the 527. And last fall and winter, the surprising success of Howard Dean's campaign convinced a lot of wealthy liberals that a new ideological movement could be nurtured outside the constraints of the Democratic Party. By controlling 527's, donors believed, they could determine, to a greater extent than ever before, the message and the strategy of a Democratic presidential campaign. ''This is like post-Yugoslavia,'' Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, told me. ''We used to have a strongman called the party. After McCain-Feingold, we dissolved the power of Tito.''

Having financed projects in the former Communist bloc, Soros understood the opportunitites that political tumult can create. He and the more reclusive Peter Lewis began by contributing about $10 million each to America Coming Together (ACT), the largest of the new 527's, which was designed to do street-level organizing for the election; the donations enabled ACT to expand its canvassing campaign from five critical swing states to 17. ''I used 527's because they were there to be used,'' Soros said bluntly during a conversation in his Manhattan office.

Soros's and Lewis's donations made it possible for longtime leaders of Democratic interest groups to do something they had never done in the modern era: work together. Now the insular factions have begun to form alliances. The founders of ACT included Ellen Malcolm and Carl Pope, the heads of Emily's List and the Sierra Club respectively, Andy Stern from the service employees' union and Steve Rosenthal, the former political director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. Suddenly, because they no longer had to compete with one another for contributions -- and because they had such a galvanizing villain in Bush -- the leaders of the party's most powerful adjunct groups were able to look beyond the more limited interests of their own membership....

It is, perhaps, futile to try to predict what the Democratic Party -- or much of anything in politics, for that matter -- will look like in 2008 or 2012. Terry McAuliffe, the party's chairman and one of the best fund-raisers in its history, says the party's continuing relevance in American life is assured, no matter how many rich donors establish their own competing groups or how many factions vie for dominance. With a new high-tech headquarters, $60 million in the bank and 170 million names in a voter database, McAuliffe said, the old party apparatus isn't going anywhere. ''In 30 years, the institution of the Democratic National Committee will be stronger than it has ever been,'' he said with characteristic bluster.

And yet implicit in Dean's prediction are two possible outcomes worth considering, if only because they lend themselves to historical precedent. The first is that the new class of Democratic investors could conceivably end up skewing the party ideologically for years to come. A lot of the political venture capitalists were strong supporters of Dean in the primaries, in the fervent belief that his campaign -- which became, in effect, a classic liberal crusade, in the Jerry Brown mold, only with more money -- was leading the party back in the right direction. Although several donors described themselves to me as ''pragmatic'' in their worldview, the moderate Kerry seemed to elicit in them all the passion of an insurance actuary (Soros labeled him ''acceptable''), and they manifested a pointed distaste for Clintonism as a political philosophy. The way they look at it, centrist Democrats spent a decade appeasing Republicans while the right solidified its occupation of American government. The donors see themselves as the emerging liberal resistance, champions of activist government at home and multilateral cooperation abroad.

There is, of course, a striking disconnect between the lives of these new Democratic investors and those of the party's bedrock voters: laborers, racial minorities and immigrants, many of whose faith in sweeping social programs has been badly shaken and who tend to be more culturally conservative than the well-off citizens of New York and Silicon Valley. But if the multimillionaires harbor even the slightest doubts about their qualifications for solving social and geopolitical ills, they don't express it.

What's striking about both stories is that, both in this electoral cycle and in their plans for creating an idea machine, these organizations aren't talking about appealing to centrist voters -- if anything, there's a disdain for the Clintonite policies of the nineties. The goal in the short-term is to motivate those latent voters symapthetic to a liberal/progressive agenda. The goal in the long term is to generate the ideas that will pull the country in a leftward direction.

More power to them -- I like to see a competition in ideas. That said, these stories contradict Noam Scheiber's suggestion from last week that the Republican interest groups are more likely to coordinate than Democratic interest groups, and as a result, "a politician on the left can repeatedly buck various interest groups without triggering an outright rebellion among his base. Politicians on the right enjoy much less leeway in this respect."

Maybe that was true in the past, but it's not going to be true in the future. And while I like to see ideational competition, the moderate in me frets about the long-term implications on policymaking.

UPDATE: Jonathan Cohn has a TNR Online story about Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and a key player in this political transformation. A lot of what Stern says reinforces the stories above:

But what, exactly, do folks like Stern want out of this election--and beyond? It's often said that the left nurses a grudge against Bill Clinton for his efforts to shed the party's ideological baggage from the 1960s, and Stern does, indeed, express a profound dissatisfaction with the Clinton years (something you didn't hear around these parts much on Monday, what with Clinton giving the keynote speech). But Stern's dissent isn't quite along the lines you might expect. For example, when it comes to welfare reform, the issue perhaps most likely to split groups like SEIU from the party's consensus, Stern isn't picking any fights. ("It may be that people were right, that welfare really was a cyclical problem," he says.) He'd like to see the government put more money into child care, but he's not particularly interested in seeing welfare reform as a whole repealed.

No, Stern's problem with Clinton is that, after the disastrous defeat of his health care plan and the election of the Gingrich Congress in 1994, Clinton didn't "push the envelope" enough: "I think he became an incredibly successful politician but he also became incredibly risk-averse." In addition, Stern says, Clinton spent very little time building the party into a vibrant grassroots organization--something that is happening now more or less on its own, thanks to the Internet, the 527s, and SEIU's own organizing--instead using the Democratic apparatus as his own "personal consulting firm." Clinton could get away with this, Stern notes, because his personal magnetism captured hearts and minds on the left. Kerry, to state the obvious, simply isn't as talented. Put another way: If Kerry wants to keep his supporters on the left happy, he's going to have to do it with more than his personality.

Stern doesn't expect Kerry to deliver universal health care--SEIU's top issue--overnight. But he and his members do expect Kerry to make a real effort on that and other domestic priorities, even if it means stretching the boundaries of political conversation. "They expect him to fight. They don't prefer losing to winning, but they don't like not showing up, either." Indeed, Stern says he has a certain admiration for President Bush, Newt Gingrich, and Tom DeLay precisely for that reason: their willingness to stake out more extreme positions and fight for them, even if the polls suggest public support hasn't caught up to them yet.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kevin Drum picks up on a point that kept nagging me as I was reading the Bai story:

But what really surprised me is that in an 8,000-word story about these people, there wasn't so much as a single sentence about what they believe in. It's all about the infrastructure and the fundraising and the message machine — but nothing about the message itself. What are they doing all this work for?

To be fair, Bai describes the ideological orientation of these groups, but Kevin's right -- there was nothing in the story about specific policies, or even a desciption of the underpinnings behind modern-day liberalism.

posted by Dan at 10:02 AM | Comments (32) | Trackbacks (2)

Monday, July 26, 2004

Off to get my GOAt

I have to run and debate U.S. foreign policy in a bar. I'll be sure to provide an "after action" report.

If you're still jonesing for convention blogging, you could do far, far worse than the convention blogs from Reason and The New Republic.

UPDATE: That was a blast. A great crowd and a good debate. What truly amazed me was that 120-150 people showed up for this on a Monday night during the convention -- 50 people stood up for the entire ninety minutes. And nary a boo was heard.

ANOTHER UPATE: Paul Noonan provides an accurate summary of the debate here. Good to know the Clinton impersonation still wows the crowd.

One correction -- when I made the statement about answering a question as a real expert and not a pseudo-expert, that crack was NOT targeted at my debating partner, but rather myself -- the previous question or two had covered areas where I felt uneasy making authoritative statements.

posted by Dan at 06:12 PM | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (1)

The credit debit-card boom

On Friday Jathon Sapsford has a fascinating Page One story in the Wall Street Journal on the revolution in how Americans purchase goods and services (subscription required). Some of the interesting bits:

For the first time, Americans used cards -- credit, debit and others -- to buy retail goods and services more often than they used cash or check in 2003....

By letting consumers buy things with unprecedented convenience and speed, cards have transformed the economy. They have helped keep consumer spending strong even through terror attacks and recessions. When people pay with plastic, they tend to spend more -- often more than they have in the bank. Thus, credit cards also have fueled an explosion in consumer debt. It is expected to hit $838 billion this year, an increase of 6.8% from 2003 and more than double what it was ten years ago.

The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman went completely cashless earlier this year. The Navy issued MasterCards to all 5,000 sailors aboard. On payday, seamen insert cards into a machine that electronically loads money stored onto each card. They then use the cards for all onboard purchases.

The Navy estimates sailors on the Truman buy 250,000 soft drinks monthly. When it was a cash ship, somebody had to collect half a ton of quarters each month from all the Truman's vending machines. Those coins then had to be redistributed. Now it's all settled electronically.

An added benefit: Shipmates can use the same cards while visiting nightclubs or movie theaters on shore, as well as to send money home. The Navy has even put a swiper by the door of the chapel as a substitute for the Sunday church-service collection plate, says Cmdr. Boyle McDunn, a chaplain aboard the Truman....

Some Christians see the pervasive use of plastic as part of a dark biblical prophecy. Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, has said that plastic may signal the cashless society of the end times foreshadowed in the Bible. Mr. Robertson's network accepts contributions from supporters on both Visa and MasterCard....

For roughly 60 million Americans without bank accounts, however, living without cards is getting harder. They can't easily rent cars or stay in hotels, among other things. "You're effectively locked out of the American Dream if you don't have some kind of plastic, and it's going to get worse," says Mr. Simmons, the hip-hop mogul, whose RushCard lets holders put their paychecks onto plastic.

U-Haul International Inc., the truck-rental company, has begun issuing "payroll cards" to about 3,000 of its employees, or about 17% of its work force. They are mostly hourly workers who lack bank accounts. Workers can withdraw cash once a week from any automated teller machine without paying a fee, and they can use the cards wherever Visa is accepted. They can even get cash back after a purchase from the supermarket without any charge. The company, meanwhile, says it is saving about $500,000 a year in costs associated with issuing checks.

The only odd thing about the piece is the large number of paragraphs devoted to warning that the explosion of credit has led to a similar explosion in personal debt. I'd accept that, except for this piece of information contained in the story:

Last year, cash was used in 32% of retail transactions, down from 39% in 1999. Credit-card usage has remained stable, accounting for about 21% of purchases during that time. Meanwhile debit cards, which take money out of checking accounts immediately after each purchase, shot up to 31% of purchases last year, from 21% in 1999.

An increase in debit card puchases, unlike an increase in credit card purchases, would not necessariy lead to an increase in household debt.

One possibility is that the use of any kind of card automatically increases purchasing size, so expenditures via debit card are larger than those with cash. If credit card expenditures remain constant, that would increase debt.

UPDATE: Bruce Bartlett has an interesting and related NRO essay on why, despite the proliferation of plastic, the use of cash persists at all in the advanced industrialized states. His theory -- gray market economies:

According to the Treasury Department, in 1990 there was $1,105 of currency in circulation for every American. By March of this year, that figure had risen to $2,455, an increase of 122 percent. It is highly unlikely that all of this increase is due to the needs of consumers to buy more goods and services, because per capita personal consumption expenditures only rose by 79 percent over the same period. This suggests that at least 35 percent of the increased demand for cash was for underground economic activity.

A further indication that this is the case is shown by looking at the composition of currency in circulation. Since 1990, 84 percent of the increase in currency is accounted for by $100 bills. Such bills now represent 71 percent of the monetary value of all U.S. currency, up from 52 percent in 1990. Average people do not ordinarily use $100 bills, but they are used heavily in the underground economy, which includes drug dealing and other illegal activity. Hence, it is reasonable to assume that the increased demand for $100’s is due almost entirely to an increase in the underground economy.

Read the whole thing.

posted by Dan at 02:07 PM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (0)

A hypothesis about blog coverage

The extent to which the mainstream media has simultaneously embraced and covered the blog phenomenon for the Democratic National Convention has overwhelmed even a skeptic like Josh Marshall:

I buzzed by the MSNBC convention coverage site (probably through the ad link they're running on this and other blogs) and was flabbergasted to see that they've absorbed the blogging model to something like a mind-bending degree....

I've never been much for the blog triumphalism that seems always to be so much a part of the blog universe. Blogs make up a small, specialized niche within the interdependent media ecosystem -- mainly not producers but primary or usually secondary consumers -- like small field mice, ferrets, or bats.

When I see the mainest of mainstream outfits buying into the concept or the model I really don't know what to think. The best way I can describe my reaction is some mix of puzzlement and incredulity.

Indeed, the Jennifer Lee has a story in the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal has gone all out -- it's topic A of John Fund's column; Carl Bialik and Elizabeth Weinstein provide an exhaustive report on the convention bloggers, and I just got a call from another WSJ reporter for another story.

Even though I've written about the ever-increasing connections between the blogosphere and mediasphere, I must also confess surprise at the intensity of coverage over the past few days. What's going on?

Here's a quick-and-dirty hypothesis -- the media abhors a news vacuum, and a nominating conventions is one whopper of a news vacuum. There are no real surprises awaiting reporters in either Boston this week or New York come Labor Day. The only moderately interesting question this week is how well Edwards and Kerry deliver their speeches. Even that's not news as much as interpretation.

This is a perfect scenario for the media to increase their coverage of blogs. They are an undeniably new facet of convention coverage, which makes them news. They're a process story rather than a substance story, which the media likes to write about. Finally, one of the blogosphere's comparative advantage is real-time snarky responses and interpretations of media events.

Just a thought.

UPDATE: David Adesnik reinforces the point Henry Farrell and I have made about the skewed distribution of the blogosphere:

I've also noticed that the same few bloggers are getting all of the attention. Since one of them is Patrick Belton, I think that's just great. But it means that other blogs are getting left out and that journalists are limiting their own supply of information. For example, all but one of the bloggers mentioned in Howard Kurtz's convention-blogging round-up also get mentioned or quoted in Jenny 8-ball's round-up at the NYT.

And here's a subsciption-only link to the Christopher Conkey story in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal.

LAST UPDATE: Lindsay Beyerstein at Majkthise offers another excellent hypothesis explaining media coverage of convention bloggers:

I would also argue that media are primarily fascinated by the credentialling of bloggers, rather than the medium itself. Extending press credentials to non-journalists is a bold move by mainstream political parties. Effectively, the subjects of news unilaterally expanded the media by extending access.

Journalists see themselves as professionals. Self-regulation is one of the distinctive features of a profession. Just as doctors reserve the right to decide who can practice medicine, many journalists feel entitled to decide who gets to make the news.

posted by Dan at 01:43 PM | Comments (7) | Trackbacks (5)

Thanks for reading, Karl!!

Last week, when the 9-11 Commission report came out, I offered some free advice to Karl Rove: "Karl, tell Bush to own this report. Make it clear to the American people that he gets it, and takes the issue seriously."

Mike Allen reports in today's Washington Post that someone at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. got the message:

President Bush plans to begin making decisions about restructuring the nation's intelligence machinery within days and may enact some changes by executive order or regulatory action without waiting for Congress, White House officials said Sunday.

Aides suggested for the first time that despite the opposition of some in the administration, Bush is headed toward backing some variation of the Sept. 11 commission's call for a national intelligence director who would report directly to the president. Some White House officials have questioned whether the intelligence director would be considered independent if the position were under White House control. Aides said Bush is considering mechanisms to make the job less political, such as a term that does not overlap the president's....

The urgent pace, and the White House's willingness to discuss it, reflects the realization by Bush's aides that he is now vulnerable to charges that he could be doing more to protect the nation against terrorism, when claiming leadership on the issue was central to his reelection strategy, Republican advisers said.

Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry released his plans for intelligence reform six days ahead of the commission report, and he plans to argue at the convention that he would be more effective than Bush at guarding the nation against terrorism....

The White House, which had initially responded by saying Bush would take the recommendations under advisement, is facing pressure from commission members of both parties, who are making the rounds of talk shows to say that swift work is needed and that another attack is probably coming. Republican leaders in Congress once had said they would not get to the matter until October, but said Friday that they will hold hearings in August, between the two political conventions.

Bush's aides said that the White House staff worked over the weekend to figure out what it could do on its own, and that it was looking for changes that would not cost money and thus require authorization from Congress. Specifically, the White House is looking at the commission's call for the creation of incentives for agencies to share intelligence about transnational terrorism, with the report saying the " 'need to share' must replace 'need to know.' " The White House contends the president has already taken action to tighten access to ports, airports and borders, and to crack down on terrorists' funding sources. But the commission report says more must be done, and Bush's aides said announcements may be made in those areas.

Bush's aides said that the panel's most ambitious recommendations, including creation of the counterterrorism center and national intelligence director, are likely to require approval from Congress. But with Republicans controlling both chambers, Bush's endorsement could prod action before the Nov. 2 election.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice is to arrive at the ranch on Monday to work with Bush on his response to the report. Last week, Bush directed White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. to convene a task force of national security and homeland security officials to work on intelligence changes.

Thank you, Mr. Rove.

[Er, you do realize that lots of other people proffered this advice, right?--ed. Yeah, but did any of them use as many exclamation pointsas I did in their message? No, I didn't think so.]

posted by Dan at 10:37 AM | Comments (23) | Trackbacks (1)

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Blogs are feeling the convention love

A while back I was ambivalent about bloggers covering the conventions. As the Dems converge in Boston, however, I must confess to a surprising giddiness about the role that blogs and bloggers have earned for this election season [You're just happy because this provides more fodder for your blog paper--ed. Hey, I'm rarely on top of a trend. Let me savor this!] Consider the following:

1) MSNBC's Hardball has set up their own weblog called HardBlogger. So far the posts have been mixed. In Andrea Mitchell's first post, she recounts her experiences at past conventions, concluding with, "the biggest 'get' of my last Democratic convention. Not former presidents, governors or senators, but Sarah Jessica Parker, on the convention floor." Now that's hard-hitting journalism!

On the other hand, this David Shuster post does contain some good inside info on what speakers see when they're at the podium.

2) Not to be outdone, CNN has teamed with Technorati to provide "real-time analysis of the political blogosphere," as David Sifry phrases it. Here's a link to CNN's press release.

3) MTV has also decided to co-opt the bloggers by hiring Ana Marie Cox -- a.k.a., Wonkette -- to cover the convention. MTV says "her 'unabashed style and irreverence' will galvanize young voters," according to the Washington Post's Reliable Sources. Cox posts her own thoughts on the matter here. Me, I'll have to tune in just to see whether Ana Marie can get through four days without saying "a**-f***ing" on basic cable.

4) Finally there are the credentialed convention bloggers themselves. Dave Winer has set up a special site for the DNC Convention Bloggers. The Los Angeles Times has a story on the bloggers who thought they got credentials but then had them yanked (link via Glenn Reynolds). Kevin Drum astutely observes about the article, "I think it's a milestone: a story related to blogging that's not about the phenomenon of blogging itself and that just assumes you know what a blog is."

The Democratic National Committee has set up their own blog called Boston Party. Even the old-school Associated Press has brought out legendary reporter Walter Mears to help blog the convention (link via Eric Schnure)

I'll close with Patrick Belton's proclamation at OxBlog:

The 2004 conventions will be remembered as the conventions of the blog; just like the 1952 Republican convention was the convention of the television, and the 1924 conventions were the conventions of the radio. Each symbolised the rise of a new technology to mediate between the political space of the public square and the personal, domestic space in people's living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchen counters.

That's probably a bit too triumphalist for me -- but then again, with the nets embracing the blogosphere for its form and content, even I'm feeling a bit triumphalist today.

[I notice you're not going to be Mr. Media Whore for the upcoming week. What does this mixture of political conventions and blogging mean for you?--ed. It is because of what the Lord did for ME when I came out of Egypt oh, sorry, wrong answer. First, notice that I'm getting quite the ad clientele -- MSNBC is just the latest. Second, I'll be making my own small contribution to The New Republic's convention coverage next week.]

UPDATE: Howard Kurtz has a round-up of convention bloggers in his Media Notes Extra column. And John McCormack talks about blogs forming a "para-media" in the Chicago Tribune. Kurtz reports this Oscar-the-Grouch quote:

University of Missouri journalism professor Tom McPhail told USA Today that bloggers "are certainly not committed to being objective. They thrive on rumor and innuendo" and "should be put in a different category, like 'pretend' journalists."

Blogs are not objective? Someone alert Daniel Okrent, stat!! And some convention blogger better score an interview with Sarah Jessica Parker -- it's the only way blogs will be taken seriously by the mediasphere!

posted by Dan at 11:39 AM | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (6)

"This is your kind of Book Review"

There's a clear division of labor in the Drezner household when it comes to The New York Times Book Review -- I read the nonfiction reviews and my wife peruses the fiction reviews. This morning, she glanced at the table of contents and said to me, "This is a Dan Book Review today."

She's right -- the review looks like it's been outsourced to the Yale History Department. Be sure to check out John Lewis Gaddis' mixed review of Niall Ferguson's Colossus [What could he say that you missed in your review of Ferguson?--ed. Well, Gaddis had a longer word count than I did, and manages to go after some of Ferguson's inconsistencies that I omitted because of space constraints.]

Then go and peruse Paul Kennedy's favorable review of Hugh Thomas' Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire, From Columbus to Magellan. When you're done with that, enjoy Francis Fukuyam's deft dismissal of Michael Hardt and Antinio Negri's Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (their follow-up to their execrable Empire).

Then, and only then, enjoy for dessert the debate between Gaddis and Kennedy over American grand strategy and the difference between being imperial and imperious. Gaddis -- who's more sympathetic to the Bush administration's strategic ambitions than Kennedy -- closes the discussion as follows:

I'm angry that the current administration thought creatively about the situation it confronted on Sept. 11 and responded with a serious reconsideration of American strategy, but then they screwed it up in Iraq. They violated a really fundamental principle. It's the dog-and-car syndrome. Dogs spend a lot of time thinking about and chasing cars. But they don't know what to do with a car when they actually catch one. It seems to me this, in a nutshell, is what has happened to the Bush administration in Iraq.

posted by Dan at 10:29 AM | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (1)

I'll take bureaucratic politics for $300, Alex

Brad DeLong is puzzled by something:

Those of us who worked in the Clinton Treasury have been amazed at the remarkable loss of the U.S. Treasury's power within the U.S. government that took place on January 21, 2001. The Treasury's staff resources--both quantity and quality--are enormous. Its institutional memory is deep. Its links with its counterparts in other countries are strong. And it is not as though there was anyone in the Bush White House with both significant power and strong views on what economic policy should be.

Thus we have been very surprised at the inability of the Bush Treasury to make its mark--either in domestic or in international economic policy.

Brad then offers some explanations -- none of which flatter to the Bush White House.

Having been at Treasury during the transition, and having ruminated about this question, Brad's stacking the deck here. Focusing on international economic policy, what's striking about the second Clinton term is how much of an outlier it looks compared to what took place before and since. This wasn't only because of the strength of the Treasury team, but also a) the extent to which foreign economic policy impacted national security issues; and b) the relative weakness of Clinton's national security team.

Part of the reason Rubin/Summers were heavyweights was how they looked in comparison to Allbright, Berger et al. In December 2001, David Sanger wrote a lengthy New York Times retrospective on Clinton's foreign policy in which one State Department official admitted, "The State Department was simply not equipped to handle the new [foreign policy] challenges, so it stuck to the traditional ones.”

Fast-forwarding to the Bush team, a spate of stories came out pre-9/11 in which Powell, Rice, and Rumsfeld all said we're going to take back some slices of the foreign policy pie from Treasury. Combine that with:

a) A Treasury Secretary who had no, repeat, no grasp of the international dimensions of his job -- or any grasp of executive branch politics, for that matter;

b) A national security team well-versed in the bureaucratic dark arts and with closer personal ties to Bush; and

c) 9/11

It's not that shocking to see Treasury's relative influence waning.

posted by Dan at 01:29 AM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

Your must-see movie of the day

If you've already seen Spider-Man 2, click here.

If you like Legos, click here.

OK, actually, it just doesn't matter -- just click and see.

posted by Dan at 12:34 AM | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (2)