Saturday, August 21, 2004
A multiple choice question for my readers
This strikes me as something of an exaggeration -- most of the blogs I originally put on the blogrolll are still quite active.
However.... for professional and personal reasons that will soon become apparent, I may be facing one of Krubner's three options relatively soon. Option one seems too radical, and I doubt I'll be pursuing it. So I have a question for my readers -- would you prefer irregular blogging from me alone -- à la the great Virginia Postrel -- or having danieldrezner.com expand into drezner&company.com?
I await your input.
UPDATE: Thanks for all the input!! I'll be reaching my decision soon.
Friday, August 20, 2004
Hi, my name is Dan....
Will Baude has an amusing post up about addiction over at Crescat Sententia. The good part:
The latest Iraq autopsy
Larry Diamond was a Senior Adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad from January to April of this year. A few months ago I blogged about his dissatisfaction with the administration's handling of the post-war occupation of Iraq.
Diamond has articulated that dissatisfaction into a lengthy essay in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs entitled "What Went Wrong in Iraq," that expands on this criticism at length. It's sobering reading. Here's how it starts:
Read the whole thing. And here's a link to the rest of Diamond's writings on Iraq.
Just how Wilsonian are Americans?
Patrick Belton links to the joint Pew/Council on Foreign Relations public opinion survey and comments as follows:
The Council on Foreign Relations seems to agree with Belton's interpretation, asserting, "Realpolitik does not play well with the American public."
The data that Patrick reports is correct but incomplete. Belton's numbers come from the "Beliefs" section. However, when you look at the "Foreign Policy Priorities" section, you get some different looking results. Here's the numbers on what should be a "top priority" of foreign policy (this is from p. 18 of the report). I've bolded the causes that could be clearly labeled as Wilsonian and italicized those that smack of a realist outlook on world affairs:
That's not a Wilsonian ordering of priorities. With the exception of the AIDS response, this is quite the realpolitik preference ordering -- including the (dispiritingly) robust popularity of protectionism.
These results bolster a thesis that I've been cogitating on for the past few months: despite claims by international relations theorists -- including most realists -- that the overwhelming majority of Americans hold liberal policy preferences, it just ain't so. Even if those beliefs are extolled in the abstract, when asked to prioritize among different foreign policy tasks, the realist position wins.
This observation about the shift in attitudes since October 2001 is also interesting (p. 19):
Thursday, August 19, 2004
Happy blogiversary to Eric Zorn!!
Read the whole thing. Jeff Jarvis is quoted, and he expands on his thoughts in this post, which closes:
UPDATE: Henry Copeland has some useful thoughts on this.
Blowback on charter schools
Diana Jean Schemo's New York Times front-pager on Tuesday about an American Federation of Teachers report claiming that charter schools are underperformers compared to public schools has caused Laura at the (newly moved) Apartment 11D to despair:
One possibility is that -- contrary to the fears of skeptics -- it turns out that charter schools do not merely skim the public student body's cream of the crop. As Harvard researchers Will Howell, Paul Peterson, and Martin West point out in their Wall Street Journal op-ed: "These results could easily indicate nothing other than the simple fact that charter schools are typically asked to serve problematic students in low-performing districts with many poor, minority children." Here's the graphical presentation:
Another problem with the AFT study -- it provides only a snapshot of performance, without any trend line. Even the Times story observes:
Here's a link to an extract from that report.
One interesting puzzle, however. The Times story says the American Federation of Teachers "has historically supported charter schools." Rotherham says, "how long can the AFT continue to trade on the notion that all this is more in sorrow than anger? They just don't like charter schools...." My instinct is to side with Rotterham, but I really don't know which assertion is correct. UPDATE: Robert Tagorda provides some clues.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Chester Finn, the charter school advocate quoted in the Times piece bemoaning the low scores of chater schools, blasts the underlying story line here.
Yeah, this'll probably need to go into the revised blog paper
Should Henry Farrell and I revise our blog paper -- and of course we'll be revising it -- Wednesday's White House Briefing by Dan Froomkin in washingtonpost.com will probably have to be cited.
Why? I'm glad you asked:
Bloggers are rightly accused of excessive navel-gazing, and according to the Washington Times' Chris Baker, blogs "have been the domain primarily of amateur political pundits, conspiracy theorists and pseudo-experts on any number of topics." Still, it is worth observing that both Orr's analysis of blogs -- as well as his reading preferences -- seem to buttress the arguments made in our blog paper.
[Hey, what about that WaPo contest?--ed. Readers should feel free to knock themselves out.]
I'd like some porn to go with my glass of red wine
The following is a public health posting from danieldrezner.com:
Much as I would like to say that it's scientifically sound to use porn, the social scientist in me has to observe two whopping caveats to this report:
[That analysis was so robust, so powerful!!--ed. Oh, shut up.]
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Tipping towards one side of the fence
Phil Carter has a lengthy and compelling post that looks at the Tommy Franks book, American Soldier, and highlights highlights just how f#$&ed up the policy process leading up to Operation Iraqi Freedom really was (link via Kevin Drum). Some of the disturbing parts:
I don't agree the sentence about "junking the UN process," -- Germany gets the first-mover prize in that regard -- but beyond that Zakaria makes a powerful case about the primacy of process.
But what about the objectives? Matthew Yglesias responds to my previous post in this way:
Carter, Zakaria, and Yglesias are persuasive -- very persuasive.
Persuasive enough to reduce my probability of voting for Bush down to 0.4.
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Does America suffer from a skills deficit?
One of the policy debates that emerges with the offshore outsourcing debate is whether greater investments in training and education would really address the shift in jobs demand that comes with greater technological innovation and international trade.
With that debate in mind, Timothy Aeppel has a Wall Street Journal front-pager on the current difficulties American employers are facing because of the dearth in Swiss-style machinists:
Here's a chart of the expected increase in demand for certain skill jobs for the future:
It should be noted that the story also says, "U.S. apprenticeship programs have dwindled as the large American companies that once provided the bulk of such training have cut back to save money and now outsource some of the work."
Why ultimate will not become an Olympic sport
In my life before spouse and child, your humble blogger was a halfway-decent ultimate frisbee player -- good enough to play for the Williams College men's team in the late eighties and Stanford men's ultimate team back in the early nineties. I loved the sport, loved the people who played the sport, and counted myself lucky that my only ultimate-related injury was a broken collarbone.
Ultimate has its own national organization and its own world organization as well; according to this census, over 38,000 people actively participate in the sport across the globe. It was always on the cusp of achieving greater mainstream success when I played. So it's with a slight twinge of sadness that I read Barry Newman's Wall Street Journal story explaining why ultimate is unlikely to ever become an Olympic sport. The key sections:
Full disclosure: I know Nob Rauch, as he also attended Williams and played ultimate there.
UPDATE: Zach Braff -- who's clearly hooked on the blogging -- has some really amusing thoughts on how to spiece up the Olympics. Surprisingly, my favorite idea of Braff's was not "Olympic Pole Dancing," but rather adding hedge-clippers to the synchonized diving competition!!
India's crisis of governance
Gurcharan Das has a Financial Times op-ed (subsciption only) that points out the biggest constraint India faces in its economic development: its own government:
Another Financial Times article by Edward Luce and Ray Marcelo highlights that these difficulties create macroeconomic as well as microeconomic difficulties:
At the state level, the Economist has an interesting story on the lack of accountability in Gujarat following the 2002 pogroms against the Muslim minority, and its aftereffects. And in Bangalore, poor infrastructure is causing leading IT firms to consider relocation.
April Witt attempts a sympathetic portrayal of Jessica Cutler -- a.k.a., Washingtonienne -- in the Washington Post Sunday Magazine and halfway succeeds. In the story, Cutler comes across as much less calculating than much of the press coverage of her earlier in the summer. She's also sounds more self-deprecating than in her previous interviews.
On the other hand, she also appears to be aimless, immature, and confident that her looks would open doors for her despite a checkered resume (and, to be fair, she was correct about this). Like others before her, she also foolishly believed that her blog would never be read beyond her circle of friends.
Read the whole thing. This part is particularly interesting:
Looks like Miss Cutler has been reading the blog.
Interestingly enough, a later contributer to the chat posted the following:
Monday, August 16, 2004
Hugo Chavez wins -- what now?
Hugo Chavez is declaring victory in the Venezuelan recall referendum with 58% of the vote. His opponents are declaring a "gigantic fraud."
Daniel Davies has a nice summary of Chavez's post-referendum conundrum over at Crooked Timber:
Davies' analysis leads to an interesting corrollary affecting the U.S. presidential election. Gas prices are one of the few economic indicators that voters care about deeply. If the Chavez result causes gas prices to fall, one has to assume it would benefit Bush and hurt Kerry.
Hugo Chavez providing a political boost to George W. Bush? We certainly do live in interesting times.
UPDATE: The Organization of American States and the Carter Center announced that, "their results agree with the preliminary results announced by the 'Electoral National Council' on the presidential recall referendum."
Sunday, August 15, 2004
The merits of mindless movies
Matthew Yglesias pans Alien vs. Predator, and I have every reason to believe him. Alas, a lot of Americans either disagrees or something, since it opened with a $38.3 million take this weekend -- roughly 50% more than the much-praised Collateral from last week.
On the other hand, AVP does have one virtue -- it prompted Dalton Ross to write a really funny Entertainment Weekly story on how other sci-fi movie franchises would do pitted against one another. Alas, its subscriber only, but here's his take on which movie is better -- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan or Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back:
Let the great geek debate commence!
UPDATE: The Associated Press suggests why Alien vs. Predator will not be raking in a lot more bucks:
LAST UPDATE: David Edelstein has a paean to "versus" movies in his review of AVP in Slate:
The shifting threat from Al Qaeda
The Economist has a good rundown of the latest intelligence about Al Qaeda and its altered post-9/11 state, reaffirming some points that Daniel Byman made a few weeks ago. The good parts version:
Brad DeLong, cartoonist extraordinaire
I must say I admire DeLong's Bush-like, straight-shooting rejoinder -- except for the fact that the entire post is so cartoonish in its treatment of Bush's grand strategy that it undercuts his point. So let's inject a little Kerryesque nuance into the discussion.
First of all, I'm puzzled that DeLong believes Gaddis is praising unilateralsm -- because that's nowhere in his Foreign Policy essay. Indeed, one of his points -- which DeLong quotes -- is that "even in these first few lines, then, the Bush NSS comes across as more forceful, more carefully crafted, and—unexpectedly—more multilateral than its immediate predecessor."
One could argue that Gaddis must have it wrong, and that the administration has, in practice, been astonishingly unilateral. I penned a counterargument to this back in February 2003 and I'll stand by it. The key point: "At worst, the administration can be accused of threatening to act [and eventually acting] in a unilateral manner if it doesn't get most of what it wants through multilateral institutions. Which is pretty much how all great powers have acted since the invention of multilateral institutions."
Yes, the Bush administration has acted more unilaterally than the previous administration, but the extent of its unilateralism is a question of degree rather than some revolutionary paradigm shift. Which is the point of distinguished diplomatic historian Melvyn Leffler in International Affairs. Leffler is hardly a full-blooded fan of the Bush NSS, but the main point of his essay is that the key components of the Bush grand strategy -- hegemony, preemption, democratization -- have appeared and reappeared throughout recent American history. To claim that Bush and/or the neoconservatives sudddenly invented what's in the National Security Strategy is to look at the history of American foreign policy wearing a really powerful set of blinders.
Leffler also underscores a point I made in March of 2003 about why democratization was not an unrealistic goal in Iraq.
Brad is enough of a historian to know better than this post. Once he reenters the land of the three-dimensional, the blogosphere will be a better place.