Saturday, August 28, 2004
China's growth as a regional power, redux
Almost exactly one year ago, the New York Times ran a story on China's growth into a world power, about which I blogged here -- I thought it made some stupid historical analogies.
Today Jane Perlez -- one of the Times' best foreign correspondents, in my book -- has a similar story. This one has no dumb analogies and a lot more meat on it:
Read the whole thing. It remains the case that China's power is only felt at the regional level -- and Perlex asserts rather than proves her argument about America disengaging because of the war on terrorism.
Still, it's worth chewing on.
Friday, August 27, 2004
I'm 1% certain that I'm 1% smarter than Chris Bertram
I'm guessing we're equally chagrined at our performance, however (I can't believe I was that far off on the GDP of Great Britain-- wait, yes I can: in my head I used the inverted exchange rate between the two currencies to get from dollars to pounds).
Go take it for yourself and report back.
This is what happens when you appease terrorists
Last month the Phillipine government's decision to evacuate all nationals out of Iraq after a truck driver was taken hostage. At the time, Arroyo said she was proud of her decision: "she was unrepentant Tuesday, saying the hostage, Angelo de la Cruz, had became a symbol of the 8 million Filipinos who have left their poor country to send home money from hard and sometimes dangerous work abroad." Arroyo subsequently banned Filipinos from working in Iraq.
There's something wrong with this argument
There's something bothering me about this line of argument -- namely, that it applies with equal force to George H.W. Bush. Before he got elected in 1988, Bush Sr. was widely viewed as a resume looking for a position to fill. And he was a mighty fine president in my book.
I'm not saying that John Kerry is George H.W. Bush. I'm just saying that Lileks ain't persuading me.
UPDATE: Before adding a comment to this post, re-read it very carefully -- yes, that's right, I'm comparing Kerry to Bush 41, not to Bush 43.
This post is dedicated to parents of toddlers...
Sarah Ellison has a must-read front-pager in today's Wall Street Journal. Well, actually it's only a must-read if you have small children -- if you don't, just skip to the next post.
OK, now that the appropriate demographic has been selected, here's Ellison's account of the most daunting challenge parents of two-year olds face -- toilet-training them before they start pre-school. The good parts:
As much as I occasionally rag on journalists, Ellison deserves dome props for this piece. It manages to offer slice-of-life vignettes while simultaneuously addressing larger issues -- day-care regulations, child-rearing philosophies, and product innovations.
UPDATE: Over at Galley Slaves, Victorino Matus has more information about the role that toilets can play in larger questions of public policy.
Bush is losing Wall Street -- will he lose Main Street as well?
David Wighton and James Harding report in the Financial Times that George W. Bush has alienated former supporters among the financial folks:
This jibes with the disaffection felt with the Bush economic team by Republican-leaning policy wonks. And from the other side of the Republican spectrum, David Kirkpatrick reports in the New York Times that traditional conservatives aren't pleased with the Republican party platform (link via Noam Scheiber).
The interesting question will be whether any of this will affect the election. In another post, Scheiber asks the key question:
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Lazy media stereotype continued
Oh, wait, I got that wrong -- replace "op-ed columnist" with "blogger" and then you get Canfield's lead paragraph.
My point here is not (only) to pick on Canfield -- the substance of his story is to discuss the limits of the blogosphere's influence -- but rather to re-emphasize a point I made when George Packer's blog essay came out: "conduct a mental experiment -- replace the word 'blogosphere' with 'New York Times op-ed columnists' or 'David Broder. See if the criticism[s]... still hold up."
Also, it's not like there aren't theories out there explaining how blogs influence politics.
Amy Zegart goes medieval on Fred Kaplan
I think it's safe to say that intelligence reform expert Amy Zegart really dislikes Fred Kaplan's take. She e-mailed me the following reaction:
Post your own thoughts below.
UPDATE: Esther Pan has compiled an excellent backgrounder on the different reform proposals at the Council on Foreign Relations web site.
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Offshoring creates jobs in California
Yesterday, Virginia Postrel posted and linked to several stories about a Public Policy Institute of California study on the effect of offshore outsourcing on the Californian economy. Postrel wrote, "The study found that outsourcing actually increases employment in California. Now the Assembly is sitting on the study."
The Assembly may have sat on the study, but it now appears to be available to the public. I clicked over to the PPIC web site and found the report by Jon Haveman and Howard Shatz, which is dated today. Some of their analysis sounds awfully familiar. The good parts (from p. 22-24):
I look forward to the California state legislature's efforts to impose a tariff on services from Arizona.
Here's the report's conclusion regarding the bills designed to block the offshore outsourcing of government contracts (from p. 31):
[Sure, that's California. The rest of the country is losing jobs, right?--ed. Not according to this Business Week story from earlier this month]:
UPDATE: Ashish Hanwadikar has more links on this.
Josh Elliott beats me to the rant
Josh Elliott posts a fine rant in Sports Illustrated's blog about the Olympics that echoes my own thoughts on the matter:
One could argue that there is some degree of subjective judgment in any sport -- umpires calling balls and strikes, officials determining if a runner jumped the gun, etc. However, it is exceedingly rare for the subjective elements in these sports to overwhelm the objective components. In gymnastics or ice skating, the entire competition is based on subjective judgments.
This doesn't mean that judged competitions aren't exciting. Gymnastics, diving, ice skating can be entertaining, and they demand physical excellence -- but they're not sports.
I fully recognize that this will never happen, but that doesn't change the fact that Elliott is right.
UPDATE: Hmmm.... I'm not sure Laura McKenna would approve.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias and Belle Waring weigh in with some counterarguments. Belle is misinterpreting my post in think that I was laying out a necessary and suifficient condition for an activity to be labeled a sport -- I was just articulating a necessary condition.
Matt raises an interesting point:
I'll confess one source of bias that went unmentioned in my original post: it could also be that the Olympic sports I consider to be dubious require musical accompaniment.
Headlines from the future
Read the whole thing.
William Sjostrom has taken a look at the American Political Science Association's (APSA) press release announcing the highlights for its annual conference next week. Sjostrom thinks the deck of high-profile speakers is stacked:
Sjostrom has half a point. I flipped through some of the previous APSA programs, and though there are some exceptions -- William Kristol is an APSA regular -- most of the guest speakers range from mainstream Democrat (Rep. John Lewis, Amitai Etzioni) to radical leftist (Noam Chomsky). And I'll certainly acknowledge that the APSA membership and structure is probably skewed slightly to the left.
Over time, this is undoubtedly a self-reinforcing equilibrium, as conservative-minded political scientists abandon conferences like APSA for the think tank world or for parallel organizations like the Eric Voegelin Society. The assumption that all academics are leftists probably makes it difficult for APSA to obtain top-flight speakers that are right of center.
However, before anyone gets too excited, a brutal, unvarnished truth must be acknowledged -- at most, 5% of APSA participants attend these talks. APSA has about 6,000 attendees, and a crowd of 300 for these kind of talks would be impressive. These speakers influence no one, but are rather preaching to a small and committed choir.
The reasons for the poor attendance are several. First, these kind of talks are usually held during the vital hours of eating and drinking, where the real business of APSA is conducted: power-schmoozing. Well, that and reconnecting with old grad school friends. Second, after a long day of presenting, discussing, and listening to political science, the last thing most people want to do is go to a lecture about politics.
Which is the other dirty secret about my profession -- there's a difference between political science and politics. Most of the presentations and papers given at APSA do not address normative debates about the way politics should be. Instead, they are more detached analyses of why things are the way they are. Sometimes the answers can be ideological, but most political scientists just care about whether their answer is correct -- or more precisely, whether someone else can demonstrate that their preferred answer is wrong.
Anyway, now is as good a time as any to link back to my tips for conference rookies attending APSA for the first time this year.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Open intelligence reform thread
Feel free to comment here on Senator Pat Roberts' proposed plan for intelligence reform. As I've said before, I'm leery of the pushes towards centralization made in the 9/11 Commission report, and Roberts' proposal goes further in some ways. On the other hand, I really do like the idea of splitting up the analytic and clandestine components of the CIA, an I really like the idea of rotating intelligence officers through different agencies.
My opinion don't count for much on this, however. On the other hand, Amy Zegart's opinion does count for a great deal -- intelligence reform is what she studies. So check out what Zegart said last night on Aaron Brown's NewsNight:
UPDATE: I think it's safe to say that Fred Kaplan doesn't like the proposal.
My kind of president
Screw Bush or Kerry -- why can't someone like Mikheil Saakashvili run for president in the United States? As someone who witnessed first-hand the Soviet-style traffic police in action when living in Ukraine, I could only weep with joy after reading C.J. Chivers' account in the New York Times of Saakashvili's police reforms. The good parts:
Read the whole thing. And here's a backgrounder on Georgia's current situation.
Finally, a president who actually wants to shrink the state!
The rest of the story explains why this schedule may be just a tad optimistic -- but damn, do I like this guy's instincts.
Finally, a leader for the lower-right quadrant!!
LAST UPDATE: Gavin Sheridan has lots of posts on Georgia.
Monday, August 23, 2004
Deciphering Lou Dobbs
Lou Dobbs has just published a book, Exporting America : Why Corporate Greed Is Shipping American Jobs Overseas. To promote it, Dobbs gave a long interview to Bill Moyers on the latter's PBS program.
The interview provides a field day of contradictions and economic illiteracy, but the one thing that came through loud and clear is that Lou Dobbs is not the best writer in the world. Moyers quotes the opening passage from Exporting America:
I'm pretty sure I know what Dobbs meant by that second sentence -- but I can't swear complete certainty.
UPDATE: Thanks to alert reader gw, who actually went into the bookstore and discovered that the underlined sentence is written as: "Never have there been fewer business leaders willing to commit to the national interest over the selfish interest for the good of the country over that of the companies they head."
Slightly more intelligible, but I think the Pulitzer committee will be underwhelmed.
Singing the deficit blues
Over at Time's web site, Perry Bacon Jr. declares a pox on both Bush and Kerry when it comes to deficit reduction:
This mirrors a point Steve Chapman made last week in the Chicago Tribune:
I've said it before and I'll say it again -- I've never been more underwhelmed with my choice of major party candidates.
If I haven't depressed you already, go check out the Concord Coalition's latest report on fiscal responsibility. The quick summary: