Saturday, August 7, 2004
A note from the management at danieldrezner.com
As the blogosphere keeps growing, competition has become cutthroat and civility seems to be on the wane. Although we are proud of our association with Professor Drezner, we have decided for the next week to launch a pilot project: outsourcing to two temporary guest bloggers. The fact that they're both Indian and willing to work for free should not be construed to lend any credibility to rumors of danieldrezner.com relocating its offices to Bangalore.
With that out of the way, meet your two quest bloggers for the week -- Reihan Salam and Siddharth Mohandas!! Their biographies:
(During his adult years, Reihan has also worked at the Council on Foreign Relations and The New Republic). Enjoy!!
[A brilliant cost-cutting maneuver!! This will triple your blog profits!!--ed. Happy Meals for everyone!! Oh, and did I mention that you've been outsourced indefinitely? You labor-hating bastard!!--ed.]
Just so long as it's campaign rhetoric...
Jill Zuckman writes in today's Chicago Tribune on how the Kerry-Edwards ticket responds to hostile and vocal Bush supporters at campaign events:
I'm sure Kerry supporters would say this is just campaign rhetoric -- exaggerated, distorted, and buffoonish campaign rhetoric.
UPDATE: Just for the record, like Pejman Yousefzadeh, I'm certainly not endorsing the booing in the first place. Indeed, one could argue that this kind of incivility merely encourages the response Edwards gave. What I can't stop wondering -- again -- is what this leads to if Kerry wins.
Friday, August 6, 2004
The UN weighs in on Darfur
Alexander Higgins of the Associated Press reports that the United Nations is not happy with Sudan's government:
Here's a link to the UN News account -- I looked for the actual report, but the UN website was not forthcoming.
In TNR Online, David Englin discusses the resources that would be needed should a military intervention be necessary.
Jobs and the election
I was trying to think of a way to phrase my post about the latest job figures.
Even Irwin Stelzer, in a Weekly Standard article that highlights the good news about the economy over the past month, concedes the following:
Back in the fall at a Right Wing News symposium, I was asked, "What does the
Keep that line in mind for the next three months [That would be easier if you hadn't assumed it was going to be Dean--ed. Hey, I was just responding to the question!! Besides, all the cool blogs thought Dean was going to win then!]
Have Americans stopped reading? Why?
While perusing Mark Edmonson's New York Times Magazine essay on reading I was alarmed to see a reference to a National Endowment of the Arts study suggesting that Americans were reading less literature than they used to.
Surfing over to the NEA's web site, I found the relevant press release from last month. The highlights:
I had two reactions after reading this:
Skimming the actual report, however, I came across this surprising finding on p. 15:
So maybe it's not the Internet.
There are two other facts worthy of note. First, it turns out that decline in total book reading -- as opposed to literature -- is not nearly as pronounced. The percentage of Americans who read a book did decline from 60.9% to 56.6% over the past decade, but the rate of decline was half that of literature readers.
Second, while reading may be in decline, writing is booming. From page 22 of Reading at Risk:
The obvious concern with a decline in reading is that such a trend causes critical thinking skills and one's imagination to atrophy. However, one could certainly argue that reading nonfiction, creative writing, and, hey, maybe even blogging (which for most people is a form of diary-keepng) helps to promote these skills as well. Well, that and a lot of solipsism as well.
To be sure, in terms of gross numbers, the increase in writing is dwarfed by the decline of literature reading. So I'm still worried that we're on the road to hell. But maybe the gradient to Hades isn't quite as steep as the NEA says it is. [I've still got questions about the study--ed. Then read the whole thing!]
One final, random thought -- why hasn't either presidential candidate seized on this report? This strikes me as the ultimate campaign issue if you're wooing middle-class suburban voters.
UPDATE: Jon H. notices something very important from p. 30: "Newspaper and magazine articles about post-September 11 developments and the war in Afghanistan may have hindered literary reading during the survey year." Actually, that's kind of important. If the survey year was anomalous, it could have thrown the trend line completely out of whack.
There will be more on this story soon.
Over 2,000,000 served
Yesterday danieldrezner.com passed the 2 million mark for the number of unique visitors since I started the blog.
Thanks to one and all for clicking!!
Thursday, August 5, 2004
What kind of intelligence reform is necessary?
Members of the 9-11 Commission are not pleased with President Bush tweaking their intelligence reform proposals:
Sounds like a bad omen for the administration, and more fuel for the left half of the blogosphere.
However, intelligence expert Anthony Cordesman argues in a Council on Foreign Relations interview that Bush did the right thing in his initial proposal:
As someone who urged the Bush administration to take the 9-11 Commission's policy recommendations seriously, this sounds about right to me.
Furthermore, Columbia sociologist Duncan Watts has a Slate piece that suggests the urge to centralize control/authority is mistaken:
Watts might be overestimating the extent to which even the 9-11 Commission wants to centralize inelligence. However, his points about the power of informal social networks and decentralized efforts sounds awfully familiar with James Surowiecki's arguments about intelligence reform.
The left half of the blogosphere seems exercised about the notion that the Bush administration suggests that it is implementing the Commission recommendations when it actually isn't. Re-reading Bush's Rose Garden announcement, I think they do have half a leg to stand on. However, I don't really care whether the administration is trying to spin the atmospherics on this -- duh, of course they are -- but I do care about whether the substantive recommendations are the right ones to make. There's an implicit assumption in much of the blogging on this that the Commission must be correct.
The more I think about it, the more I believe that the Commission has put forward a serious proposal -- but there should not be an a priori assumption that it's the best proposal.
UPDATE: I received the following e-mail this morning:
So what's going on in Saudi Arabia?
Well, the good news is that the Saudis have decided to hold national elections in a few months, according to Reuters:
At the same time, the Economist reports that the House of Saud remains sensitive to media criticism:
The most interesting take on the current Saudi situation comes from David Gardner's Financial Times survey. The section on education is particularly revealing:
Read the whole thing.
The grass is always greener...
Beyond the hideous pressures of trying to look chic, I've always said that being a professor at a quality academic institution is a fantastic day job if you can get it. Of course, Zach Braff -- star of Scrubs, director of Garden State, and newbie blogger -- reminds me that there are better jobs out there:
Blowing things up, hanging around with Heather Graham...:
Sniff. [No one, I repeat, no one feels sorry for you--ed.] Oh, did I forget to mention that Braff has had to work in close proximity with Sarah Chalke, Tara Reid, and Natalie Portman as well? And the fact that MSN Entertainment's Kat Giantis reports there are indications that Braff is now dating Natalie Portman? [OK, so no one feels sorry for him either--ed.]
Hillary Clinton does outsourcing
One of Bill Clinton's political gifts was to take at a divisive issue and frame it in a way that sidestepped traditional political faultlines. Quick example: his call for making abortion "safe, legal, and rare." That phrase epitomizes the vast American middle on the issue. One could argue that this is the core of "Third Way" politics in general -- Tony Blair's "tough on crime -- and tough on the causes of crime" would be another example.
Which brings me to Hillary Clinton and outsourcing. The good Senator from New York has managed to play both sides of the fence on this issue, blasting Treasury Secretary John Snow for suggesting that outsourcing helps the economy -- while simultaneously welcoming one of India's biggest outsourcing firms to Buffalo, NY. How to explain this? Some have accused her of lacking a firm grasp on policy issues -- but it could be that Hillary is stumbling around, trying to find a Third Way on the issue.
Which brings me to her Wall Street Journal op-ed of a few days ago. No stumbling here -- she comes up with a superior political response to offshore outsourcing -- that it's not as cost-effective as firms believe it to be:
The article then goes on to propose many of the things John Cassidy said wouldn't be discussed by politicians in his New Yorker essay. The political brilliance of this argument is that it allows the junior Senator from New York to blast the trend of offshore outsourcing without having to agitate for inane policy solutions like protectionism. Her argument is that if firms only realized the true costs, they wouldn't outsource to Bangalore, but to Buffalo instead.
Now, I'm pretty sympathetic to Clinton's argument -- it's a definite improvement over the position taken by the senior Senator from New York. It also buttresses a point I made in "The Outsourcing Bogeyman":
My one caveat: eager to learn more, I checked out the New Jobs for New York web site to find the Howard Rubin study. I found this press release and this summary of the Rubin report (co-authored with Patricia Jaramillo). What I did not find was any hard numbers to back up Rubin's findings. It's not that they don't necessarily exist -- I just couldn't find any copy of the full report, and the summaries provided no data on this point.
Lest I be accused of not doing enough shoe-leather reporting, I, like, actually picked up the phone and called New Jobs for New York. The executive director was very friendly, and suggested I contact Rubin directly. I've left a message with him.
Should I see hard numbers, the readers of danieldrezner.com will be the first to know.
In the meantime, consider this a case study of how Hillary is learning from Bill.
UPDATE: Rubin might have his own consulting prejudices -- according to Forbes, he's a VP for Meta Group.
Blogs threaten national security
Well, some of them do -- according to The Onion.
Or, is this just a power play by the CIA? You be the judge.
Wednesday, August 4, 2004
What the f#$% is going on at the FBI?
Let's say you're running the organization responsible for trying to track potential terrorists in the United States. Immediately after 9/11, let's say that one of your new employees tells you that some of the people doing necessary translating work (from Middle Eastern languages into English) are incompetent, helping to explain why relevant information never made it to the necessary links in the chain of command. What do you do?
Alas, in the case of FBI whistle-blower Sibel Edmonds, it appears that both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice picked option B. For more background on the story, check out this Boston Globe story by Anne E. Kornblut, as well as Fred Kaplan's justifiable rant in Slate. The FBI admitted last week that Edmonds' whistle-blowing was "a contributing factor" in her firing. [Last week? That's, like, a decade in blog-years--ed. Better late than never.]
The coverage of this story reveals the extent to which the FBI has resisted any efforts at reform. In a 60 Minutes story on Edmonds from October 2002, consider this section:
And then there's this New York Times account of another case study in FBI management:
Look, maybe the FBI has changed its ways and these examples are exceptions to the rule. And it should probably be acknowledged that there's probably a strong correlation between being a whistle-blower and generally being a royal pain-in-the-ass.
But they're still pretty scary exceptions. And this open letter from Edmonds to the 9-11 Commission doesn't make me feel any more sanguine. Particularly this part:
UPDATE: In the interest of fairness, here's a link to yesterday's testimony by the Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism/Counterintelligence to the Senate Government Affairs Committee on what the FBI thinks it has done right since 9/11. And here's the FBI's official response to the 9-11 Commission's report.
August's books of the month
Well, given that I've linked to it twice in recent days, my international relations book has to be American Soldier by Tommy Franks. Already the book has forced Don Rumsfeld to defend Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith against Frank's critique. In doing so, according to this AP report, Rumsfeld revealed the following:
One has to assume that Rumsfeld is referring to Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress -- which, given Chalabi's track record since, is not exactly the most effective endorsement of Feith.
The general interest book is James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations. The fact that I make this recommendation even though I can't stand ridiculously long subtitles is a further testament to how much I'm enjoying the book.
Surowiecki's argument is simple -- when left to their own devices, large numbers of people who have diverse talents and perspectives will be consistently better than all individuals at problem-solving, decision-making, and future predictions. The key, to Suroweicki, is how information is gathered nd processed from the crowd. On p. 78, he makes this point with regard to the very topical question of ntelligence reform:
A side note on the intelligence reform question -- Mark Kleiman and Amy Zegart raise some disturbing questions about whether Bush's proposals for a National Intelligence Director would have sufficient authority to improve our intelligence capabilities. Zegart's speculation is particularly troublesome: "my warning bells go off whenever I hear the word "coordinate" so much in one press conference."
I'm cautiously optimistic, for two reasons. First, I suspect Bush is trying to mimic the Goldwater-Nichols reforms of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1986 -- and if memory serves, the JCS is neither in the operational chain of command nor does it possess budgetary authority. Bush explicitly compared the two in the press conference.
Second, Surowiecki's argument is that although coordination at the higher levels matters less than methods to ensure that the information is properly aggregated. In that sense, the reforms at the top matter less than ensuring the transmission of information.
I'm not sure I completely buy Surowiecki's arguments about how crowds facilitate cooperation, but it's still a stimulating argument.
There's a final reason to recommend this book -- it's clear that Surowiecki doesn't just admire cowds in the abstract, he likes to participate as well -- if one defines the blogosphere as a crowd. He's commented on at least two blogs I'm aware of: Crooked Timber and Brad DeLong -- and hey, he just posted here. The blogosphere violate one of Surowiecki's underlying assumptions, which is that one member of the crowd can't influence other members. Still, while many prominent readers of blogs never deign to post a comment, Surowiecki has no problems doing so.
Go check them both out.
UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias thinks I'm misinterpreting Goldwater-Nichols, and has some links to offer up. The thing is, all of the JCS tasks listed in Yglesias' are "advisory." Replace "advisory" with "coordinating role" and it's not clear whether Bush's admittedly vague proposal is all that different.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reading up on Goldwater-Nichols some more, it's clear that the JCS lies outside of the operational chain of command -- the regional commander-in-chiefs (CINCs) report directly to the Secretary of Defense. However, Matt might be correct that the JCS has a larger budgetary role than I originally thought.
Beyond that, the key elements of Goldwater-Nichols was to endow the chairman of the JCS more authority vis-a-vis the service chiefs -- by giving the chair control over the Joint Staff and designating him/her as the principal military advisor to the president. Bush's proposed NID would have similar capacities.
More intruigingly, the Act also empowered the regional CINCs relative to the service chiefs, thus increasing local coordination among the various services. I haven't seen anyone discuss whether something like this would be advisable or appropriate in the case of intelligence -- well, except for those ubiquitous TNT previews for "The Grid."
Tuesday, August 3, 2004
The New Yorker does outsourcing
I got a lot of e-mail requests to discuss John Cassidy's New Yorker story from last week on offshore outsourcing. I resisted them because Cassidy's essay was not on the New Yorker website, so it seemed like it would have been weird. But the e-mails kept coming. So here goes:
What's weird about the piece is that it reads like Cassidy wrote it back in April and then put it in a desk until The New Yorker had some pages to fill. For example, the estimate Cassidy cites from Forrester Research on the number of jobs that will be outsourced was revised upwards in May -- which would bolster Cassidy's point -- but the older figure is used.
This paragraph is emblematic of the problems with the story:
OK, let's skip over the fact that 70% of those corporate execs have said they have no immediate or future plans to outsource. What's important is that Cassidy's small caveat about productivity gains allows him to commit a major fudge, blaming outsourcing for the larger, lackluster employment picture. This simultaneously ignores the importance of productivity and conveniently ignores the fact that the employment data doesn't back Cassidy up.
Both Schultze and Cassidy state that outsourcing and productivity gains can cause the gross destruction of jobs. However, Cassidy wants the reader to believe that outsourcing is the real villain -- Schultze shows that it isn't.
Cassidy closes with the following paragraph:
Brad DeLong has his own problems with this closing. For me -- beyond the dubious linkage between arts funding and outsourcing -- what's missing from the Cassidy piece is a recognition of American strengths in innovation for the future. Hell, even the Progressive Policy Institute -- in a policy brief on offshoring by Richard Atkinson that reads like Cassidy's wish list no less -- recognizes this fact:
When the Progressive Policy Institute agrees with the former head of the McKinsey Global Institute, it does suggest that this is kind of important.
Also on this point, Tammy Joyner has a long Atlanta Journal-Constitution story on the hidden costs that can come from offshoring -- in large part due to the infrastructure deficiencies that Cassidy elides in his essay.
Two other offshoring stories worth checking out:
1) Bruce Bartlett has a policy brief on insourcing vs. outsourcing.
2) William Bulkeley has a Wall Street Journal story on how IBM is adopting new policies to reduce layoffs due to offshore outsourcing. Key line: "IBM is increasing employment for the first time in three years. Earlier this year it said it expected to boost world-wide employment by 15,000 to 330,000 in 2004, including a net U.S. employment boost of up to 2,000, despite offshoring."
More from Tommy Franks
One interesting bit from this Nightline interview is that it wasn't only western intelligence agencies who were fooled on the WMD question:
Michael Kilian's Chicago Tribune story also provides a lot of ammunition for the Kerry campaign:
UPDATE: The Tribune story also makes it clear in the book that Franks has no love for either Douglas Feith or Richard Clarke:
Monday, August 2, 2004
Evaluating the threat from Al Qaeda
Dan Byman, a counterterrorism specialist at Georgetown, has a counterintuitive Slate essay on why the U.S. homeland is safer than commonly thought -- despite the recent terrorist advisory for certain East Coast locales:
There's another reason to believe that an Al Qaeda attack might stoppable. Although the U.S. might still not be prepared to protect critical infrastructure, this Washington Post story suggests that Al Qaeda isn't targeting it either. For all the talk about Al Qaeda's flexibility, they appear to be relatively orthodox in targeting symbols. The key paragraph:
More on this point from Knut Royce of Newsday.
None of this means that the Al Qaeda threat has been eliminated -- but it's still worth noting.
UPDATE: Douglas Jehl and David Johnston report in the New York Times that, "Much of the information that led the authorities to raise the terror alert at several large financial institutions in the New York City and Washington areas was three or four years old." However, both the Times account and this Chicago Tribune story make it clear that while most of the information was old, it was only in the past few weeks that it was obtained by U.S. intelligence. The Tribune report also states, "The senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that while much of the surveillance predated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, some information about one of the targeted buildings was from 2004."
Tom Maguire (who's been on a roll as of late) has some relevant thoughts.
George W. Bush violates the laws of bureaucratic politics
The Associated Press' Deb Reichmann reports that President Bush has embraced two key recommendations from the 9-11 Commission -- the creation of a national intelligence czar and counterterrorism center. Here's a link to the White House transcript of Bush's remarks and answers to questions.
The most startling change from the 9-11 Commission's recommendations was the decision not to place the NID inside the White House. On this point, Bush said:
Later on in the Q&A, he compares the structure he's proposing to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
I'll admit to being gobsmacked -- not because Karl Rove might be reading my blog, but because the Bush administration had an opportunity to centralize policy authority and passed. Their proposed reform might be even better, because it provides one layer of bureaucratic protection from the overt political manipulation of intelligence. However, for a White House -- any White House -- to decline placing an important bureaucracy inside the Executive Office of the President is unusual.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum offers a slightly darker interpretation for Bush's decision:
This is certainly possible -- one reporter said at the press conference that, "some of your [Bush's] own advisors oppose creation of a National Intelligence Director."
That said, bear in mind that even if true, Rumsfeld still lost a fair amount of authority. The President did outline the division of labor in this answer:
If the proposed NID has significant decision-making authority of resource allocation among the myriad intelligence agencies, that's a pretty significant transfer of power.
Laura Tyson vs... John Kerry
Here's an example of the difficulty in trying to nail down what a Kerry administration's trade policy would look like. On the one hand, Matthew Yglesias has a good American Prospect piece (expanding on this blog post) on what he learned in Boston about the Kerry economic team. The key part is his recount of what Kerry advisor Laura Tyson said:
This is music to my ears -- except that I then checked out the Kerry Edwards position paper on trade. On p. 2, I see this nugget of information:
Strictly speaking, the position paper does not conflict with Tyson's statement -- the former refers to "new free trade agreements," the latter to the WTO. However, Matt's implication that there's no wiggle room in a Kerry trade policy to use regulatory standards as a way of blocking trade liberalization is a bit overstated.
One final thought -- I'd like to see someone ask the Kerry economic team the following question: "It was recently decided to extend the deadline for the Doha round of WTO negotiations to the end of 2005. On p. 9 of your position paper on trade, the following is stated:
Does this review apply to Doha as well?"
The five W's and Nigerien yellowcake
Josh Marshall has a long post up detailing some of his investigation into the sourcing of the Nigerien yellowcake documentation: "[T]he Italian middle-man who provided the notorious Niger uranium documents to Italian journalist Elizabetta Burba (she later brought them to the US Embassy in Rome, you’ll remember) was himself given the documents by the Italian military intelligence service, SISMI."
Read the whole thing, and then read Tom Maguire's critical take on one section of Marshall's post.
For me, this is the key part of Marshall's post:
Marshall and Maguire are hashing out the "what?" question of journalism. My big question is why? Assuming Marshall is correct on the sourcing (and he posted this because the Sunday Times of London also has the story), what, exactly, was SISMI's motive in forging the documents and then passing them on to other western intelligence agencies?
Pamela Anderson, novelist
Pamela Anderson is the sort-of author of a forthcoming novel, Star, loosely based on her own climb up the celebrity foodchain. She discusses the book in an interview with Entertainment Weekly's Rebecca Ascher-Walsh. Here are the parts that appeared in the print version of the magazine:
Lest one think that Miss Anderson is the personification of a dumb blonde, read her longer interview with Amazon.com editor Daphne Durham. She's probably not going to be applying for Mensa membership anytime soon, but the contrast between the two interviews does reveal Miss Anderson's savviness at image manipulation and a healthy willingness to poke fun at herself.
And who knows, Star might actually be the perfect book for an August vacation. In an editorial review, Durham praised the book as, "funny, sexy, and utterly compelling--a must read for chick lit fans."
[So Star is going to be one of August's books of the month?--ed. Tempting, but no.]
The perils of excessive certainty
As for retaining cred on both sides, one shouldn't rule out the possibility of equally pissing off both sides as well.
On the latter point, I'm glad Atrios is so sure of himself -- I'll proceed with more caution this time around. Take the case of trade policy. I thought Bush was going to invest more political capiital into trade liberalization than he actually has (today's good news aside) and dismissed the campaign pledge to West Virginia steelworkers to provide protection as "campaign rhetoric." Whoops.
Kerry's rhetoric on outsourcing and trade has been more heated and more prominent than Bush's trade talk in 2000. His choice for vice president used even stronger protectionist rhetoric during the primary campaign. Even if the Senator from Massachusetts doesn't really mean it, there is the problem of "blowback" -- becoming trapped by one's rhetoric (See: George H.W. Bush, "no new taxes").
For the issues I care about, there's still a fair amount of uncertainty about what either a Kerry or Bush administration would look like come January 2005. At this point I'm not thrilled with my choice either way.
Bob Rubin's "probabilistic" decision-making style rested in part on deferring decisions until they were absolutely necessary. I'm happy to bide my time.
Sunday, August 1, 2004
What does Tommy Franks think?
In Plan of Attack, General Tommy Franks -- the CentCom commander and architect of both the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns who retired in the fall of 2003 -- was quoted as describing Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith as "The f***ing stupidest guy on the planet." With a quotation like that, I'm kinda curious what Franks will be saying in his soon-to-be-released book, American Soldier.
Mark Thompson has a Q & A with Franks in Time that suggests a, dare I say it, complex take on the Bush Administration. Some of the good parts (the ALL CAPS are Thompson's questions):
Read the whole thing.
Doha is back on track
Following up on Thursday's post, WTO negotiators have announced a successful "July package" that lays the groundworks for cobbling a successful trade deal. Lisa Schlein has a story for Voice of America:
As this WTO press release points out, this pushes the deadline back from the original January 2005 deadline, but that's to be expected. The WTO Secretary-General is clearly pleased:
[C'mon, it's a froggin' press release -- of course he's going to be upbeat!--ed. Actually, it's been my experience that compared to other international governmental organizations, the WTO press material is remarkably free of spin or artifice.]
You can take a gander at the text of the recent agreement by clicking here.
The contrast between the Bush administration's positive contributions to this step foward on trade and Kerry's praise of the "fair trade" shibboleth, does alter one of the four key factors in my voting decision come November. So, my probability of voting for Kerry has been lowered from .54 to .50.
UPDATE: Robert Tagorda provides plenty of links, including this New York Times story and the Kerry campaign's fatuous press release on the matter. From the latter, this part was particularly inane:
The first point is a non sequitur, since it has little to do with the Bush administration. Exports are largely a function of other countries' aggregate demand and the exchange rate. Under Bush, the dollar has depreciated in value. What's depressed exports has been the sclerotic growth of our major trading partners, not some failure of the Bush administration.
As to the second point, I look forward to hearing the Kerry economic team argue that, "We can expect to sell our goods and services, and create jobs, if America and our partners, trading partners, start raising barriers and closing off markets."
In contrast, USTR head Bob Zoellick said the following in his press release:
Here's a useful USTR fact sheet as well.
This does not excuse the myriad examples of protectionism committed by this administration -- but the past week has seen some substantive pluses for the Bush team and some rhetorical minuses for the Kerry team on trade.