Saturday, September 18, 2004
There's media bias and then there's media bias
The Economist runs an interesting story on the debate within Islamic societies about their future. This part stood out in particular:
Suddenly the raging debate about media bias in this country seems.... well, not insignificant exactly, but.... small. On the other hand, it would be an interesting question to see whether the growth of blogs in places like Iran help to correct flaws with the Middle Eastern "mainstream" media.
The article concludes on this vaguely hopeful note:
Friday, September 17, 2004
Your weekend debate on Iraq
What do you do with a country like Iraq?
Over at the Council on Foreign Relations, Anthony Cordesmann has a frank conversation with Bernard Gwertzman that makes it clear he's none too thrilled with his choice of major party candidates when it comes to Iraq. Here's his response to the question: "Regarding the mistakes you describe in the post-war military planning, were they honest mistakes or should the United States have anticipated the insurgency's resiliency?":
And here's his response to the question, "The president is caught up in his own election campaign and he is under heavy attack from Senator Kerry for his handling of the war. What do you think of Kerry's comments?":
Finally, here's Cordesmann's estimate of the chances of putting down the insurgency and establishing a democratic government in Iraq:
For more useful CFR information on Iraq, check out Sharon Otterman's summary of the Sunni insurgency and U.S. plans to deal with it.
Thursday, September 16, 2004
The five challenges to the global economy
Fred Bergsten writes in the Economist about the five looming challenges to the global economy over the next few years:
Read the whole thing -- and then check out John Williamson's lucid lecture to the Chinese on the merits of various exchange rate regimes. One conclusion:
Jagdish Bhagwati really doesn't like John Kerry
Over the past month, international economist Jagdish Bhagwati has started taking some serious pot shots at John Kerry's rhetoric on trade and outsourcing -- despite Bhagwati's self-proclaimed status as a Democrat. This past Monday he penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed (subscription required) that contained the following:
Juan Non-Volokh points out that in this op-ed, "Bhagwati is harshly critical of Kerry, but he does not celebrate President Bush's trade credentials." True enough. However, last month, Bhagwati did say much nicer things about Bush (and much harsher things about Kerry) as part of an interview he gave to Der Spiegel:
Question to Kerry suppporters who also support free trade -- if Kerry were to actually get elected, would he prove to be a prisoner of his own protectionist rhetoric, or be able to tack back towards a more trade-friendly position because he burnished his protectionist bona-fides with his campaign rhetoric?
Full disclosure -- Bhagwati is not my biggest fan.
UPDATE: It's all Bhagwati, all the time here at danieldrezner.com!! Click here for the transcript of a "debate" between Lou Dobbs and Jagdish Bhagwati on PAula Zahn Now earlier this week.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
This strikes me as really bad news
James Drummond and Steve Negus report in the Financial Times that the safest place in Iraq for U.S. personnel is no longer safe:
UPDATE: Douglas Jehl reports in the New York Times that the intelligence community is pessimistic about Iraq's future.
Orin Kerr pages the right half of the blogosphere
Astute readers may have observed that I have refrained from posting about Swift Boats, Kitty Kelley, typewriter fonts et al.
While I certainly understand why the rest of the blogosphere is exercised about this stuff, Orin Kerr says what I've been thinking:
Now, I take Ramesh Ponnuru's point that bloggers don't have an obligation to do anything -- though that is one reason why some journalists don't like them. And readers should feel free to post comments here on why they disagree or agree with Orin or why these matters are vitally important questions before the republic compared to Iraq or Russia. Really, post away.
But this is the first and last post you will read at danieldrezner.com about this subject. Because substantively,* I just don't care about any of it -- which is why I feel no desire to write about it.
My one and only political response to all of this stuff is very simple, and echoies Lawrence Lessig: does anyone seriously believe that this election should be decided by what either candidate did more than thirty years ago?
*For the blog paper Henry Farrell and I are writing, I'll confess to some interest in the role blogs have played in framing these stories.
UPDATE: TMH reminds me why I like my comments section, as he makes a decent point:
I don't buy (c) for a minute, but (a) and (b) have some traction.
Check out Baseball Crank, who makes similar points.
On the other hand... those who take the blogosphere as able to influence the media should read Telis Demos' TNR Online piece and ask whether blogs have been consistent in their media critique (though see David Adesnik's critique as well). [UPDATE: Hey, whaddaya know, bloggers have at this -- except that it turns out Demos' story was the one with factual errors. See Stuart Buck and Brian Carnell on this point (hat tip to Crow Blog for the links)]
Oh, and one final point: this post certainly shouldn't be interpreted as a defense of CBS. This Josh Marshall post -- which offers an interpretation that's most favorable to their reporting -- sums it up. "GotterDannerung" indeed.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Orin Kerr responds to his critics. The key part:
Why my probability of voting for Alan Keyes is zero
I've tried not to blog about the Illinois Senate race because it's just embarrassing to Republicans, but Noam Scheiber reminds me of this jaw-dropping story by Rick Pearson in yesterday's Chicago Tribune on how Alan Keyes plans to win the race:
Then there's this bizarre proposition:
There's now at least a 60% chance that in this general election I'm going to vote for John Kerry and Barack Obama.
Excuse me, I have to go lie down for a while.
The CIA's take on intelligence reform
Ted Barlow has a good summary of a talk given by deputy executive director of the CIA Marty Peterson. On Iraq:
Read the whole thing.
The academic kingdom
I don't have any problems with Rojas' two categories, except that they omit two other styles of (mostly) legitimate academic work that characterize a much larger fraction of the profession -- the Recycler and the Importer.
The recyclers are academics who come up with one big theoretical idea, and then try to use that idea to explain every possible phenomenon under the sun. If the idea is a good one, this can prove to be a very fruitful exercise in explanation, providing a sharp theoretical lens to examine puzzles that not been suitably explained. In economics, one could arguably make the case that this is how Gary Becker and Joseph Stiglitz earned their Nobels.
Of course, the problem with recyclers is that sometimes the idea isn't all that great -- and over time, fails to explain even the areas that originally inspired the academic. Alas, this is the more likely outcome for recyclers. The good scholars then go back to the drawing board and try to tweak their original idea, or come up with a new one. The bad ones -- well, they cling to their theories for dear life, often publishing the same idea over and over and over again. Even if the original idea has some merit, most academics recycle their ideas way past the point of diminishing marginal returns.
The Importer is the academic who engages in intellectual arbitrage. They develop an expertise outside their disciplinary boundaries, and then import the ideas, paradigms, and analytical tools culled from these outside areas to explain phenomenon within their discipline. Within political science, for example, most rational choice scholarship was imported from economics. The pioneers -- Anthony Downs, Thomas Schelling -- were economists.
As academic specialization increases, importers can serve a very useful purpose, ensuring that there is some diffusion of knowledge across the disciplinary fields. However, one could also argue that importers are not always discriminating in their tastes, leading to the spread of some dubious, non-falsifiable paradigms across the social sciences and the humanities.
Readers are invited to submit other legitimate styles of academic work -- "hack," "media whore," or "blogger" don't count.
(In next week's installment of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Academic Kingdom, Marlan Perkins and I will examine which of these species are carnivorous!)
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
WashTech's contribution to the outsourcing numbers
The Ford Foundation has sponsored a study by the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech), a local of the Communications Workers of America (an AFL-CIO affiliate union), in conjunction with the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois, Chicago, on IT employment since 2001.
Their press release paints a grim picture:
The sum total of the discussion about offshore outsourcing comes on p. 5 of the report:
That's it -- lots of data about the unemployment picture, one paragraph on the causal connection between offshore outsourcing and that employment picture.
Certainly, their analysis could be correct -- but I have my doubts. One of them is that it's not clear whether their data are accurate -- a point made in Ed Frauenheim's analysis of the report at CNET.com:
Why is that last paragraph so important? Because if you look at Frauenheim's story about the ITAA report, you find the following sentence: "ITAA said nearly 89 percent of new jobs came from non-IT companies, despite popular fears over mass job loss to outsourcing and globalization." If one really believes that offshore outsourcing is responsible for massive job losses in the IT sector, that last figure is a puzzling one -- because the line that management consultants continually push is that offshore outsourcing is great for firms that don't specialize in IT services and want to subcontract those operations to the lowest-cost provider out there.
If the UIC/CUED study omitted the strongest source of job creation, that's somewhat problematic.
Even the AP report contains the following:
Before angry IT workers start posting comments, let's make it clear that I'm not claiming that it's a rosy jobs situation for IT workers. But some of the unemployment numbers sound a bit overstated. And what this report does not say -- indeed, the quoted paragraph acknowledges that that the authors can't say -- is the extent to which offshore outsourcing is responsible. There's no attempt to parse out the relative explanatory power of each possible cause (dot-com bubble, Y2K overhiring, productivity gains combined with slack demand, offshore outsourcing, etc.)
UPDATE: Some of the press reportage of this study has been very good on pointing out the flaws in the report. Barbara Rose's story in the Chicago Tribune has the following:
This is from Diane Lewis' Boston Globe story:
Monday, September 13, 2004
This blog is two years old
Yesterday the blog celebrated its second birthday. Which means it's also the two-year blogiversary of both Jacob Levy and David Adesnik -- congrats to both of them as well. [UPDATE: Jacob is celebrating his anniversary by taking a sabbatical.]
Last year I was happy with a bunch of press mentions and my TNR Online gig. In the past year, the blog has directly or indirectly contributed to publications in the New York Times Book Review, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, and Slate -- not to mention multiple media whoring opportunities at ABC's World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News, CNN International, CNNfn, and a bunch o' radio shows. [That's it?--ed. Well, I got to share several bottles of wine with Laura McKenna and Wonkette as well.... and actually, there are few more items in the hopper that will be announced in the weeks to come. I'm sure there are tens of people who are very excited!!--ed.]
It's good to have the blog!
[So what's your goal for this next year?--ed. It's The Daily Show or bust for me!!]
There will be some slightly deeper meditations on this anniversary a bit later in the week.
Must-read interview of the day
Fafnir at Fafblog has an explosive, news-breaking interview with a very key player in a recent political/media scandal. You must check it out.
Must, I say.
Charter school update
Last month there was a kerfuffle when the New York Times splashed a shoddy American Federation of Teachers study suggesting charter schools were a buit on their front page. Click here for the roundup.
This month, EduWonk's Andy Rotherham alerts us to a more sophisticated study by Harvard economist Caroline M. Hoxby. This is the abstract:
As Rotherham observes:
I await with bated breath the NYT's splashy front-pager on this charter school study.
UPDATE: That breath will be bated for quite some time.
You say "Department of Homeland Security" I say "massive pork barrel"
Amy Zegart had a must-read op-ed in yesterday's Newsday on homeland security and intelligence reform. Here's one of the disturbing bits:
Read the whole thing.